Thursday, March 31, 2005

The War Has Begun in Earnest

by Shakespeare's Sister

As I mentioned earlier, I intended to write more about the article in which Teddy Kennedy swiftly and adeptly rebuked Tom DeLay’s outrageous statement that was issued shortly after Terri Schiavo died. I want to start by clarifying exactly what the GOP’s agenda regarding the judiciary is:
Republicans, many of whom led the charge to focus federal attention on Terri Schiavo, are vowing to hold the judiciary system responsible for rulings in the case that some believe were tantamount to murder.

[…]

While Democrats on Thursday lamented Congress' intervention in the ordeal, some Republicans vowed to cure what they considered to be a moral injustice.

"This is almost a declaration of war from conservatives against the judiciary," said Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon.
A declaration of war against the judiciary. That is indeed an apt assessment. Leading the charge are, unsurprisingly, Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum.

DeLay:
Speaking with reporters later in Houston, DeLay said lawmakers "will look at an arrogant and out of control judiciary that thumbs its nose at Congress and the president."
Can someone please sign Tom DeLay up for a remedial social studies course, so he can learn that the judiciary isn’t meant to bow to the will of Congress and the president?

Santorum:
"As you look at the judges who are activists in the manner I've suggested, those judges are not conservative, but liberal and not [following] the law," said Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. "To suggest this was unimportant is a judicial creation ... not how the law is intended to be interpreted. President Bush is putting forward judges who don't do that."
That the judges ruling in the Schiavo case were liberal activists is, of course, an outright lie. That a US Senator has no compunction about advancing such a demonstrable falsehood in furtherance of his party’s agenda is not only indicative of their dependence on Americans’ ignorance and apathy, but also borders on quite a remarkable pathology, the contemplation of which makes my brain hurt.
In a later conference call with reporters, Santorum said the courts had practiced nothing less than "judicial tyranny" in this case and took aim at those who say Congress overstepped its bounds.

"[This is] routinely done by the courts — deciding they are now a super-legislature," Santorum said. "I'm not sure if the press realizes how serious this conflict is between the branches of government and how gravely concerned members of Congress are with [the] kinds of judicial tyranny we've seen."
I’m not sure if the press realizes it, either, not to mention the American people, although I’m concerned for entirely different reasons than Santorum.

Social progression in America has always worked like the stock market—you’ve got ups and downs, but the net is always upward over a long period of time. If the GOP has their way, eliminating the filibuster, stacking the courts with conservative ideologues, and rendering the judiciary impotent, we’re looking at the social equivalent of a major market crash.

Historically, we have depended on the judiciary to make decisions about the application of Constitutional guarantees in spite of popular opinion, and many times, they have secured protections for marginalized groups literally decades before the legislature, which more closely tracks public opinion, would have enacted legislation affording the same protections. Recently, I quoted a statistic provided by John Rogers of Kung Fu Monkey that epitomizes that of which I write:
... when the Supreme Court struck down the bans against interracial marriage in 1968 through Virginia vs. Loving, SEVENTY-TWO PERCENT of Americans were against interracial marriage. As a matter of fact, approval of interracial marriage in the US didn't cross the positive threshold until – sweet God – 1991.
Clearly, waiting for the whole of society to be on board with granting equal rights to everyone is not always in our collective best interest. The judiciary is ostensibly blind to the prejudices which would otherwise stem the natural flow of progressive social movements, which is what makes them so very, very important.

We take their essential role in the promotion of equality for granted. The conservatives, on the other hand, have (correctly) identified the judiciary as the last obstacle against free reign to realize their radical agenda, from criminalizing abortion, to codifying discrimination against gays and lesbians into the Constitution, to eradicating protections for individuals against corporate malfeasance. Hence, the war against the judiciary with which we are now confronted.

I’ve never been an alarmist, or I wasn’t, before the Bushies pitched their terrifying tent at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But this is fucking alarming. If the GOP is successful in this wicked undertaking, we will officially be living in a dictatorship, with little more than kangaroo courts stripped of all power—the last shreds of our system of checks and balances completely decimated. If the courts are in their pocket, forget fair elections. Wave goodbye to equal rights. Bid adieu to the middle class. If they conquer the judiciary, nothing stands between them and ultimate and unlimited control. Don’t expect the feckless, ineffective mess that is the Democratic Party or the fading remnants of an objective media to save us. If the judiciary is effectively subverted, it’s over.

They have been laying the groundwork for this day for thirty years or more, but the war has now begun in earnest. Make no mistake—fighting the losing battle over Terri Schiavo was a strategic move to launch this attack, and the blatant lie associating the judges involved in the case (who had the support of the American people) with the judges who rule against bans on gay marriage (who don’t), by lumping them together under the banner of “activist judges,” is the next step in convincing the electorate that the judiciary is out of control and must be stopped.

There is a part of this government that is out of control and must be stopped, but it isn’t the judiciary. And we must fight tooth and nail to stop them from sabotaging that which stands between the America we know and the America of their diabolical dreams. If you think that’s a fine little bit of dismissible hyperbole, then you tell me: if the judiciary is removed from the equation, what is left to stop them?

They’ve signaled their intentions, and I’m signaling mine. I will keep this issue front and center, and I request that anyone with her or his own blog do the same. Talk to people; inform them. Write to your Democratic Senators and Representatives and let them hear your concerns. And get fucking angry.

Too many of us speak in calm and measured tones when there’s so much at stake. You won’t find that here. I’m not sure why there aren’t more liberal bloggers who aren’t ready to storm the capitol, but I will not respond to a declaration of war against the future of my country with plaintive posts or serene epistles. This blogger, this American, is as mad as hell, and she’s not going to take it anymore.

[On a related note, fearing that we face a whole new level of bullshit about which we will, and should, be visibly angry, and preparing myself thusly, comments and emails composed specifically to tell me to stop using bad language or to start being less aggressive, less hostile, less antagonistic, less bitchy, less arrogant, less belligerent, less vitriolic, less nasty, less acerbic, or less of a poopyhead, are as welcome as any other, but I feel obligated to inform all potential authors of such missives that they are, however, a waste of time.

If I get my facts wrong, let me know. If you don’t like my tone, tough. At my bus stop in the blogosphere, I’m Queen Cunt of Fuck Mountain, and I’m mean for a reason. Once we get our country back on the right track, there will plenty of time for nursery rhymes.]

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)


What this Country Needs is a Good Colonic!

by JJ

Politicians in both parties are now a liability to this country. As evidence of this, most Americans no longer vote for a candidate whom they support out of respect for their actions or compatible ideals, rather, they merely vote AGAINST a candidate who is worse.

We need to flush bad politicians out of office like a good long colonic! (insert sound effects here) We should have a pool of honorable men and women who demonstrate a core set of progressive values representing us in the Democratic Party. I can only think of a handful of Democrats who have not had a scandal of some kind, accepted outrageous amounts of campaign contributions from corporations or follow through on progressive ideals without buckling to Republican pressure.

The Democratic Party has traditionally been the party of progressives. We have to ask ourselves “Today, does the Democratic party still represent us as progressives?”. I have searched high and low and found the best representation of progressive values at the Center for Policy Alternatives.


First, progressives are resolved to safeguard our individual freedoms. For two centuries, America has been defined by its commitment to freedom. We must fervently guard our constitutional and civil rights, and keep government out of
our private lives.

Second, progressives strive to guarantee equal opportunity for all. America’s historic success has come by providing all citizens, not just the privileged few, with the opportunity for a better life. We must vigorously oppose all forms of discrimination, create a society where hard work is rewarded, and ensure that all Americans have equal access to the American Dream.

Third, progressives are determined to protect our security. To make us truly secure, America must not only stop domestic crime and foreign invasion, it must also promote our health and welfare. While forcefully continuing to protect lives and property, we must strengthen programs that insure the sick and vulnerable, safeguard the food we eat and products we use, and protect our environment.

Fourth, progressives take responsibility for the future. America’s strength is rooted in its history of investment for the benefit of future generations. We are determined to carry on that proud tradition, building a better nation and a better world for our children and their children.

Are these values in line with the values of the Democratic party of today? I have taken a look at the primary DNC website www.democrats.org. I only found an outline of a platform that pre-dates the election of last year. The rest of the site is filled with Bush did this, Bush did that, Delay did this, Delay did that, its like being in kindergarten and listening to a 6 year old tattling on the kid who ate glue! Who gives a shit what the other guys are doing? We already know this from the news and real journalism that occurs in the blogs! I want to know what WE are doing!!! This website is more information about Bush and his agenda than any Democratic agenda.

There is a link with a slew of petitions to sign, all of which have been sent to thousands of people via email. Dean’s plan for America is listed and his plan is to:

Show Up! Never concede a single state, county, district, or voter. Build a truly national party that wages a permanent campaign in all 50 states.

Strengthen State Parties and the Grassroots. Better integrate state and national party operations and support Democrats organizing in local communities.

Focus on Our Core Values. Articulate core Democratic values strongly and clearly, and show people how our agenda for reform reflects those values.

Take Advantage of Cutting-Edge Technologies. Leverage the Internet and cutting-edge technologies to better organize, empower, and communicate with
people.

Train Tomorrow's Leaders. Strengthen our leadership institutes so we can recruit new talent, cultivate new leaders, and elect Democrats at every level of office.


His plan is composed of a “Focus on Our Core Values” component but no where on the site did I find any values. Why aren’t the values of the Democrats posted on the home page of this site in big bold font that says “The Democratic Party Stands For…”

In my opinion, in the above progressive values, you should be able to substitute the word “progressives” with Democrats. I am not so sure we can do this anymore as the Democratic Party leans more toward the middle, pandering to the right like some sycophant in heat (prime example - Joe Lieberman). How much farther can Democrats move to the right before a Democrat is nothing more than a Republican by a different name?

I know there are a number of third parties out there but none seem to represent true progressive values. I summarized information from Ron Gunzburgers "Politics" . I only included parties that had candidates in 2004.


American Reform Party - The ARP, formerly known as the National Reform Party Committee, was founded in September 1997. The ARP is a splinter group that broke away from Ross Perot and Russ Verney's Reform Party, claiming the Perot organization was unfocused and anti-democratic when the memberships' views clashed with Perot's views. (…)

Christian Falangist Party of America - The CFPA appears to be the more active of the two Falangist political parties in the US (the American Falangist Party (AFP). As for the ideology, they share the general historical and ideological roots expressed by the AFP -- although the CFPA seems more closely affiliated with the Lebanese branch of the Falangist movement.(…)

Constitution Party - Former Nixon Administration official and Conservative Coalition chairman Howard Phillips founded the US Taxpayers Party in 1992 as a potential vehicle for Pat Buchanan to use as a third party vehicle -- had he agreed to bolt from the GOP in 1992 or 1996. (…)

Green Party of the United States (Green Party) - The Green Party -- the informal US-affiliate of the left-wing, environmentalist European Greens movement -- scored a major achievement when it convinced prominent consumer advocate Ralph Nader to run as their first Presidential nominee in 1996.(…)

Libertarian Party - The LP, founded in 1971, bills itself as "America's largest third party." Libertarians are neither left nor right ... they believe in total individual liberty (pro-drug legalization, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-home schooling,
anti-gun control, etc.) and total economic freedom (anti-welfare, anti-government regulation of business, anti-minimum wage, anti-income tax,
pro-free trade, etc.).(…)

Natural Law Party - The Natural Law Party was a New Age entity founded and run by followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the founder of the TM movement -- a movement that some have labeled as a cult). The NLP -- under the slogan "Bringing the light of science into politics" and using colorful imagery -- advocated holistic approaches, Transcendental Meditation (TM), "yogic flying," and other peaceful "New Age" and "scientific" remedies for much of our national and international problems.(…)

Peace & Freedom Party - Founded in the 1960s as a left-wing party opposed to the Vietnam War, the party reached its peak of support in 1968 when it nominated Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver for President. Although a convicted felon, Cleaver
carried nearly 37,000 votes (ironically, Cleaver ultimately became a Reagan Republican in the early 1980s -- then a crack addict in the late 1980s -- before
emerging as an environmental activist in the late 1990s).(…)

Reform Party - Once of rapidly growing, populist third party, the Reform Party shifted far to the right in recent years -- but then experienced massive waves of conservative defections away into the Constitution Party and the new America First Party in 2002.(…)

Socialist Equality Party - The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) was originally named the Workers League (WL). The WL was founded in 1966 as a Trotskyist communist group closely associated with the electoral campaigns of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).(…)

We The People Party - Former town councilman Jeffrey Peters founded this small party and ran as the WTP's write-in nominee for President in 2000. A politically centrist entity, the WTP bills itself as "the American People's Party."(…)

There are some very amusing alternative third parties listed on this website but none have a simple set of progressive values, and the ones that come close have morons or lunatics as their leadership. This lack of a third truly progressive party is because Democrats are supposed to be representatives of progressive ideals not just pandering to the right in order to get elected.

We progressives are obviously not going to get anywhere if we rely on the Democrats to stay to the left. So my question is this:

Is it time to create a legitimate third party that represents the core values of progressives? Or should we rely on hopes and dreams that the Democratic party will find its progressive roots?



Your tax dollars at work: Army transport vehicle puts troops at risk

by Pam


Soldiers emerge from a Stryker during a battle with insurgents in Mosul, Iraq, in February. An Army study criticizes the vehicle's performance. (Jim Macmillan/AP)

It's unfortunate that when you sign up to serve your country, the military sends you out with resources like this. Troops are at risk from rocket-propelled grenades because the Army's new troop transport vehicle, the General Dynamics-built Stryker, is riddled with defects -- and the taxpayers' wallet is $11 billion lighter. The Washington Post (reg req'd, excerpts at Raw Story) has a obtained a copy of the classified Army study that spills the beans.
...the Army's Dec. 21 report, drawn from confidential interviews with operators of the vehicle in Iraq in the last quarter of 2004, lists a catalogue of complaints about the vehicle, including design flaws, inoperable gear and maintenance problems that are "getting worse not better." Although many soldiers in the field say they like the vehicle, the Army document, titled "Initial Impressions Report -- Operations in Mosul, Iraq," makes clear that the vehicle's military performance has fallen short.

The internal criticism of the vehicle appears likely to fuel new controversy over the Pentagon's decision in 2003 to deploy the Stryker brigade in Iraq just a few months after the end of major combat operations, before the vehicle had been rigorously tested for use across a full spectrum of combat.
It should be noted that Army has no data in this report that confirms the number of soldiers that have been wounded while riding in the Stryker deathtrap. Some of the facts revealed in the report are almost beyond comprehension; how can the Army explain this laundry list of negligent manufacturing and testing issues to taxpayers, let alone military families:

* an armoring shield installed on Stryker vehicles to protect against unanticipated attacks by Iraqi insurgents using low-tech weapons works against half the grenades used to assault it.

* The shield is so heavy that tire pressure must be checked three times daily. Nine tires a day are changed after failing, and the current figure is "11 tire and wheel assemblies daily."

* The main weapon system, a $157,000 grenade launcher, fails to hit targets when the vehicle is moving, contrary to its design.

* Its laser designator, zoom, sensors, stabilizer and rotating speed all need redesign - it does not work at night. Some crews removed part of the launchers because they can swivel dangerously toward the squad leader's position.

* The vehicle's seat belts cannot be readily latched when troops are in their armored gear, a circumstance that contributed to the deaths of three soldiers in rollover accidents.

* On the vehicle's outside, some crews have put sand-filled tin cans around a gunner's hatch that the report says is ill-protected.

It sounds like there was about as much attention paid by General Dynamics to the vehicle's design and engineering as a five-year-old's to a Lego creation. But the river of denial runs deep in the Army, even as its most precious resource, its soldiers, are placed in all-American harm's way.
Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, the Army's director of force development, said that when he rode in the Stryker for the first time, he "marveled at how much nicer it was" than riding in a Bradley vehicle or an older troop transport, the M113, which he likened to being inside an aluminum trash can being beaten by a hammer. He said the Stryker was "amazingly smooth" and quiet by comparison.
I think troops would trade off a smooth ride for a rough one if it raised the chances of getting back to base alive.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend and Facing South


Dead Wrong

by John

Given the timing of Terri Schiavo's death, it is very unlikely that this report will get the attention it demands.

A scathing report made public this morning concludes that American intelligence agencies were "dead wrong" in almost all of their prewar assessments about the state of unconventional weapons in Iraq, and that on issues of this importance "we simply cannot afford failures of this magnitude."

It adds, "The harm done to American credibility by our all too public intelligence failures in Iraq will take years to undo."

The report concludes that while many other nations believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, "in the end, it was the United States that put its credibility on the line, making this one of the most public - and most damaging - intelligence failures in recent American history."
Ouch. Of course, if you've been following along at home, you already knew this. While I don't deny that the intelligence community must be held responsible for being so wrong, I can't help but see this report as passing the buck from the Administration to the "non-partisan" CIA and NSA. That's a big problem, since as the article notes, "in the end, it was the United States that put its credibility on the line, making this one of the most public - and most damaging - intelligence failures in recent American history."

This shouldn't be forgotten: It wasn't the intelligence community that decided to take the country to war. That decision was ultimately made by the Bush Administration, and it should be forcefully noted that it was their responsibility to make sure that the intel was not "dead wrong." By all indications, the decision to go to war was made with little or no deliberation. The question was never, "Should we go to war?", but "When will we go to war?" Moreover, the Administration pretty much ignored or criticized any contradictory theories on what Iraq possessed, and rushed and manipulated the UN's weapons inspection process all because the war was a foregone conclusion. From the beginning, there was never any doubt, intelligence be damned.

So while the conclusion of the report may be correct, it certainly shouldn't be interpreted as absolving the Administration of its responsibility for taking us to war on faulty intelligence. The Commander-in-Chief is the ultimate decision-maker, and the one that should be held most accountable. These guys were so hardup for war, that once they heard what they wanted to hear, they didn't give a damn if it was right or not. It served their purposes, and that was all they were ever worried about.

(cross posted @ blogenlust)


R.I.P. Terry Schiavo

by Shakespeare's Sister

Link:

Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman at the heart of a bitter right-to-die dispute that drew in the U.S. Congress and President Bush, died on Thursday, 13 days after a court halted her tube feeding, a spokesman for her parents said.


A Resounding Theme - Dubya Thugs "Handpick" His Audience

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Do you remember this post on Julien's List from March 22?

UA Young Democrat Banned from Forum

An excerpt:

A UA student was banned from attending President Bush's Social Security forum at the Tucson Convention Center yesterday.

UA Young Democrat Steven Gerner, a political science and pre-pharmacy sophomore, said he and three other Young Democrats had been waiting in line with their tickets for about 40 minutes when a staff member approached him and asked to read his T-shirt.

Gerner was the only one of the four wearing a UAYD T-shirt, which read, "Don't be a smart (image of a donkey, the Democratic Party symbol). UA Young Democrats."

Gerner said the staffer, who refused to provide his name, asked for Gerner's ticket and crumpled it up.

The staffer walked away, returned in 20 minutes, and told Gerner his name had been added to a list banning him from entering the convention center for the speech.

Well, it has happened again - if DUMBYA is a prez for the American People - how come only those "people" who like him and not and smile at everything he says are allowed to see or hear him?

Bush Critics Blocked from Presidential Events

by Ron Hutcheson

WASHINGTON -- Some of President Bush's supporters seem to be going overboard in their efforts to stifle dissent when he comes to town to talk about changing Social Security.

In Denver, three people say they were booted out of a presidential event last week even though they never uttered a peep, apparently because their car bore a bumper sticker denouncing the war in Iraq.

In Fargo, N.D., last month, local Republicans developed a blacklist of more than three dozen residents, including a city commissioner, who were to be banned from Bush's visit.

White House officials say they have nothing to do with the exclusions, which they blame on overzealous supporters.

"We welcome a diversity of views at the events," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday, although in fact participants at the events are carefully screened and dissenting voices are rare.

There was no welcome mat for Alex Young and his two companions when they showed up to see Bush on March 21 in Denver. Bush was there for one of a series of "conversations" about his plan to change Social Security.

Young and his friends, Karen Bauer and Leslie Weise, had barely gotten in the door before they were unceremoniously shown the exit by a man who refused to explain his actions. They thought he was a Secret Service agent because he had an earpiece and an official-looking lapel pin.

Young said he was later told by Secret Service officials that he and his friends had been ejected by a local Republican volunteer who'd been spurred to action by the bumper sticker on their car: "No More Blood for Oil."

"The thing that set them off was the bumper sticker," Young said in a telephone interview. "It was completely unprovoked. ... The whole time he was really pushing and shoving me. We were never told that only Republicans were invited."

Complaints about tight restrictions at Bush's events have become common. His presidential campaign used tight crowd-control screens last fall, and similar tactics now seem to be employed at official presidential stops, which unlike campaign events are paid for by taxpayers' dollars.

During Bush's Feb. 3 visit to Fargo, the local newspaper published a list of about 40 local residents who were supposed to be barred from the White House-sponsored event. City Commissioner Linda Coates, a Democrat, was on the list, along with her husband, Mike, but she got in anyway.

In a follow-up letter to the Fargo Forum newspaper, she called the attempted exclusion "one of those small dumb things" that is a symptom of a larger problem.

"It was jarring to realize that someone, somewhere, thought that making this list was the right thing to do. Sadly, the climate of keeping voices of disagreement at bay has become a well-known characteristic of this administration," she wrote.

In Denver, Young, a 25-year-old information-technology worker, acknowledges that he and his friends had initially intended to protest Bush's appearance. All wore "Stop the Lies" T-shirts under their outer clothing. They had planned to expose their shirts while shouting the slogan.

"It was kind of juvenile. When we got inside, we decided not to do that," he said.

Young said the man who ejected him had no way of knowing about the aborted protest because they kept their opinions to themselves during their brief time at the event. They got tickets to Bush's appearance through Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., who handed them out without asking about party affiliation.

Still unclear is precisely who was behind the decision to eject the three people. Colorado Republican Party officials, the Secret Service and a spokesman for Beauprez all said they had nothing to do with it.

White House spokesman McClellan said: "My sense is that the volunteer felt that these individuals were coming to the event to disrupt it. If people are coming to the event to disrupt it, naturally they are going to be asked to leave."

But Dan Recht, a Denver lawyer says he's considering legal action on behalf of the ejected critics for what he sees as a violation of their free-speech rights. "They were punished for the speech that was on their bumper sticker," Recht said. "It just feels so un-American."

© 2005 Knight Ridder


This sounds a LOT like the way the communists used to keep two classes - those who signed up for the "party" and those that didn't ... this should be illegal. The people mentioned in the article above pay taxes, and their tax dollars are paying for the security, the transportation, and even the coffee and koolaid that Bush drinks to freshen his lying palate...

If this is not illegal, it is certainly WRONG!

Ms. Julien



Leaders of the three faiths unite in support of homo-hating

by Pam


Religious leaders met on Wednesday in Jerusalem in a united protest against a gay pride festival planned there in August. From left: Sheik Abed es- Salem Menasra, deputy mufti of Jerusalem; the Rev. Michel Sabbagh, the Latin patriarch; the Rev. Aris Shirvanian, the Armenian patriarch; Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi; and Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi. The man at right was not identified. (European Pressphoto Agency)

This is a sad landmark event -- faiths at the center of wars and countless deaths over the millennia because of conflicts with one another unite to bash gays. Jerusalem WorldPride 2005 (the theme: "Love Without Borders,") is under attack by major leaders of Christianity, Judaism and Islam in a way that suggests some kind of fall of civilization will occur if the event takes place. (NYT):
"They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable. It hurts all of the religions. We are all against it."
-- Shlomo Amar, Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi


"We can't permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem."
-- Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik


[It's] "the spiritual rape of the Holy City. This is not the homo land, this is the Holy Land."
-- Rev. Leo Giovinetti, an evangelical pastor from San Diego's Mission Valley Christian Fellowship, author of the petition against the festival, "Homosexuals to Desecrate Jerusalem"


[It's an] "offense to the Christian values of a city that is so dear to the hearts of Catholics across the world."
-- Pope John Paul II, in reference to the first WorldPride festival, held in Rome five years ago.

WIth all the ills and suffering in the world today, this is what leaders of diverse faiths can come together over in the spirit of brotherhood. Perhaps they should focus and speak out on these kinds of problems with equal vigor:

* Chief Rabbi accused of sexually harassing 4 males
* Rise of Extremism, Islamic Law Threaten Iraqi Women
* Priest faces 29 child sex charges

Aside from the supporters of this bigotry, why is there little response by American religious leaders to this sad statement of unity overseas? At some in the thick of things are speaking out.
"That is something new I've never witnessed before, such an attempt to globalize bigotry," said Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Jerusalem Open House, a gay and lesbian group that is the host for the festival. "It's quite sad and ironic that these religious figures are coming together around such a negative message."

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, co-chairwoman of the festival and the rabbi of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, a gay synagogue in New York City, said the controversy was another sign that each religion had become polarized between its liberal and conservative wings.

..."I reject that they have the right to define religion in such a narrow way," Rabbi Kleinbaum said of religious leaders who denounce homosexuality. "Gay and lesbian people are saying we are equal partners in religious communities, and we believe in a religious world in which all are created in God's image."
Thanks to B3 reader (and Julien's List contributor) Holly for the pointer.


Murder By Starvation

by John

Paging Tom DeLay, the Bush Brothers, and Joe Scarborough! People are being starved to death!
Increasing numbers of children in Iraq do not have enough food to eat and more than a quarter are chronically undernourished, a UN report says.

Malnutrition rates in children under five have almost doubled since the US-led intervention - to nearly 8% by the end of last year, it says.

The report was prepared for the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

It also expressed concern over North Korea and Sudan's Darfur province.

UN specialist on hunger Jean Ziegler, who prepared the report, blames the worsening situation in Iraq on the war led by coalition forces.
[...]
Overall, Mr Ziegler says, he is shocked by the fact that hunger is actually increasing worldwide.

Some 17,000 children die every day from hunger-related diseases, the report claims, which it says is a scandal in a world which is richer than ever before.

"The silent daily massacre by hunger is a form of murder," Mr Ziegler said. "It must be battled and eliminated."
Of course, the difference between this and Tubegate is that Terri Schiavo's condition is irreversible, whereas these people could live with just a nominal amount of our assistance and attention. Where's the outrage?


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Question of the Day (Already Going To Hell Edition)

by John

Who goes first? Terri, Jerry, or Johnny?

Looks like Jerry's getting better, and Johnny will probably outlast Terri, who mathematically is running out of time--unless Jerry and Johnny get their Big Buddy to intervene.



Culture of Life: Plasticized Remains Edition

by Shakespeare's Sister

I’m no professional profiler or anything, but something tells me that investigators might want to check anyplace religious wingnuts like to hang out to find their suspects on this one:
Police in Los Angeles were searching on Wednesday for two women observed via security cameras taking a plastic-coated human fetus from the traveling "Body Worlds" exhibit at the California Science Center over the weekend.

The 13-week-old "plastinated" fetus was part of Gunther von Hagens' popular and controversial "Body Worlds 2: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies."

Von Hagens, a German anatomy professor, preserved 200 donated human bodies and body parts by replacing body fluids with plastics, then placing the skinless forms in sometimes whimsical poses.

The fetus, which had been in an unlocked case, was a taken early on Saturday morning while the science center was open around the clock to accommodate crowds on the last day of the exhibit, police said.

More than 16 million people worldwide have viewed the traveling exhibits. The theft was the first associated with the exhibits, Los Angeles police said.
What a shocker that only in America would a plasticized fetus be stolen from an art exhibit.

By the way, if you haven’t seen this exhibit, or pictures of it, although it may sound gruesome, it’s really quite amazing. (AP Photo.)

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)


'A Megaphone For Fraud'

by thatcoloredfella

At this point, only a highly sought after Fox News Channel viewer would not have noticed the ‘tabloidization’ of CNN and MSNBC, as they lurch from the 24/7 coverage of only one sensational story to the next. And, no doubt, those same Fox viewers would be oblivious to the fact that this is all being done for their benefit, as well.

As TCF previously mentioned, in February, CNN lost 21% percent of its viewership compared to the previous year, while MSNBC lost 18% percent of its viewer base. In stark contrast, Fox picked up 15% percent in the same period. I proudly attributed these results as the frustration of the Kerry Minority voters abandoning the complicit cable news networks for more substantive pastures – the Internet. And, I soon found confirmation of my theory.

Every Monday, the New York Times’ Business Section publishes a Media & Advertising roundup of the previous weeks charts, such as the Billboard music charts, Nielsen cable programming ratings, movie box office receipts, etc. This past week, the chart tracking visitor hits to the websites of the cable news networks told a very different, off-air story. CNN.com placed first, with 17 million hits for the week, and MSNBC.com placed second, with 15 million hits.

Fox News.com was not even in the Top 5.

During the recent coverage of the Atlanta Courthouse murders on CNN, I was angered by the constant placement of the menacing mug shot of the Black male suspect, on the lower left-hand part of the screen. On the other hand, during the Schiavo cable news coverage, the unsettling images of her current condition soon gave way to more empathetic photos taken before she was stricken.

Such imagery works very well with the one-sided coverage of this travesty, currently being driven and exploited by the 24-hour cable news networks. TCF finds no need to chronicle the complicity of the MSM (Murdoch Seduced Media), when you can find it in detail at Media Matter.org, or laugh at the hypocrisy and absurdity with The Daily Show.

But, TCF wants you to remember the words of the constantly disheveled curmudgeon/scribe Christopher Hitchens, who verbally bitch-slapped MSNBC’s Scarborough Country’s blatantly, biased coverage, for being a ‘megaphone for fraud’.

Though, my main point here is two fold. Such slanted coverage that I just described, is aimed directly at one single group of viewers – a group that makes up all that is left of the total, potential cable audience, for Fox, CNN and MSNBC to do battle over.

This is an audience that demands the news coverage they watch be driven by the emotionality of the story, the facts be damned. The adversaries need to be drawn in simple, partisan terms, their motivation and justifications framed as starkly as ‘savior’ vs. ‘murderer’.

Yet, as the Schiavo tragedy may have illuminated, there may be a difference between what they will ‘watch’, and what they will ‘believe’. TCF finds it hard to accept as true that with the distortions of the Republicans, the pro-Life Conservatives and their media co-conspirators, an overwhelming majority of Americans stood fast to their opposition to such intrusions into personal, private matters.

It’s almost enough to restore one’s faith in the American people.


The GOP's Existential Crisis

by John

Ezra's correct to extoll the excellency of Bill Bradley's op-ed on the Democrats' need to build pyramids of influence, and be sure to read his entire post for his thoughts on this issue.

However, I thought John Danforth's parallel op-ed was even more interesting, because here we have a recent Bush Administration official openly worrying about the direction of the GOP under the Bush family and the Religious Right. Here's Danforth's conclusion:
But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

The historic principles of the Republican Party offer America its best hope for a prosperous and secure future. Our current fixation on a religious agenda has turned us in the wrong direction. It is time for Republicans to rediscover our roots.
He's absolutely right [update: he's right about the fixation problem, not which party is best for America's future :)], and I don't think anyone should underestimate the importance of his observation, particularly Republicans. Going into a 2008 election with no standard bearer, Danforth identifies the biggest existential problem facing the GOP in a generation: can the traditional Republicans continue to sleep in the same bed with the increasingly powerful and increasingly extreme Religious Right?

Probably too early to tell, but determining the answer should make for some good entertainment for our side. Of course, it won't matter unless the Democratic Party starts to heed Bradley's (and others') suggestions, and start getting their stuff together.


It's official: Pope's on a "rope"

by Pam


Pope John Paul II attempts to talk from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 30, 2005. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

Yeah, the headline is in bad taste, but since I'm apparently going to "hell" anyway, I've got nothing to lose. As the Pope John Paul II Deathwatch continues, word is out from the Vatican that he is officially on a feeding tube (through his nose). (AP):
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said John Paul was fitted with a nasogastric tube to "improve the calorie intake" and help him recover his strength.

The statement was issued shortly after the pope tried unsuccessfully to speak to the crowds in St. Peter's Square for the second time in a week. After managing just a rasp of his voice, he blessed well-wishers by making the sign of the cross with his hand and withdrew from his window.
Pope Politics

Since we're in between election cycles here, why not play horse race with papal candidates? Speculation about possible successors has been going on for a while, even though JPII hasn't kicked it yet.

There is a piece in the London Observer that gives thumbnail sketches of possible successors. Because 97% of the 120 cardinals were appointed by the Pope, there's not a chance in good old hell that a more moderate Pope is on the horizon. The "traditionalists" are closing ranks to ensure any movement on female priest, celibacy, homosexuality and reproductive rights will be quashed.

The fact that nearly 65 percent of Catholics live in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the article notes, may influence the pick, since the northern hemisphere has seen a loss in followers. The contrary view is that they need another white guy in place to stop the hemorrhage. I will be surprised if they go with a Pope of color; it would generate an interesting response in this country, to be sure.

* German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: The 78-year-old is a hardline conservative and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church's chief think tank, which has dominated discussions on sexual morality and birth control, and prevented liberals from gaining ground. Even though he is in the inner circle, he is considered a long shot.


* Cardinal Francis Arinze, 72, of Nigeria. He would be the first black African pontiff since Gelasius I (492-496). Arinze is said to take a hardline position on abortion and contraception and denounces homosexuality.


* Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, 62, from Honduras, who teamed up with Bono to campaign against third-world debt


* Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels, 71 is seen as too liberal.


* Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, 58, is a favorite of the European traditionalists but is seen as too young (!).


Also, it looks like there was some sort of Pope Derby going on in Ireland even back in 2002, on the BBC News site. Someone nominated Father Dougal McGuire of Craggy Island, a scatterbrained priest character in a popular sitcom, Father Ted. His odds with the bookmakers are set at 1000-1.


Cry-Baby AmTaliban feels like it's "in the closet"

by Pam


A flaming cowpile of crap -- Peter LaBarbera of the Illinois Family Institute: "It is time for Christians like Pinney to "get out of the closet" and get involved in politics and government." Have I missed something -- who's in charge these days?

Are we supposed to feel sorry for the AmTaliban when they drop a 300-foot-high pile of flaming crap like this? The Illinois Family Institute feels the Anti-Defamation League is intimidating a Christian school board candidate for her homo-hating beliefs, which she says is grounded in her religion. Lesley Pinney is crying that she is being told in a letter to "refrain from political appeals based on religious faith."

Let me ask you -- when was the last time any of these fundamentalists held back on expressing their "Christian values" (or acting upon them, for that matter)? If religious zealots had any more control over our government and culture I'd be walking around in a burqa. After reading this nonsense from the right-wing propaganda organ AgapePress, you'd think pagans, atheists and homos were in charge of everything and that the fundies are being persecuted.
Pinney, a candidate for the District 214 school board in Arlington Heights, had informed local pastors her decision-making while on the board would be based on her Christian beliefs. In a letter to the pastors, she asked for support as a "Christian engaging the culture."

Peter LaBarbera with the Illinois Family Institute says it is apparent that homosexuals have come out of the closet -- but that they want to push Christians into the closet. "It seems that liberals are afraid of Christians who will run for office as Christians," LaBarbera says. "It's ironic that a group that fights discrimination is willing to basically foment discrimination against people of faith. I just found it shocking."

But LaBarbera sees the ADL's reaction as consistent with a tactic typically employed by liberal groups. "The liberal strategy these days on social issues is to create sort of 'front church groups,' which are basically religious organizations that, in my view, support immoral causes," he explains. "For example, there's Catholics for a Free Choice, which is [a] pro-abortion [group] -- and they're not really Catholic of course; they're promoting abortion. Then there's the Interfaith Alliance, which supports homosexual special rights."


Wingnuts Fear RFID Chips Could Herald 'Mark of the Beast'

by Pam



While I'm a firm advocate of privacy rights, leave it to the religious wingnuts to take "caution" to the next level. Satan is around the corner, and you better be ready for The Rapture. This is another "I'm not sh*tting you" post.:
A Christian group is calling for a nationwide boycott against the use of radio frequency identification devices, or RFID, to track students in schools.

AgapePress recently reported on a California school that not long ago used RFID technology in a test of an experimental attendance monitoring system (see related story). While the company that introduced the system is continuing to develop and market the technology, one religious group is denouncing RFID as a dangerous herald of the advance of a demonic "new world order."

...John Conner is a spokesman for "The Resistance for Christ," a group that opposes the formation of the so-called new world order. He believes one day every student in the world as well as the population at large will be forced to wear tracking devices under the premise of security.

"What these devices are going to do is just, ultimately, turn over ever last bit of privacy that we have to this global system," Conner says. Potentially, he warns, RFID will become a form of technological oppression that "dehumanizes every student and every person who is forced -- mind you, forced -- to take these beastly tracking devices, and this opens the door for limitless abuse."

..."This is the precursor to the 'mark of the beast' -- the 666 Satanic mark that the Bible talked about," Conner says, "and [the proponents of the RFID technology are] implementing this system under the guise of security and [saying] it's going to keep your children safe." But, ultimately, the San Diego activist warns, "what it's going to do is it's going to turn every single one of us into a piece of inventory -- not a human being -- a piece of inventory, a number."

Conner says even though born-again Christians will be "raptured" from the Earth before the tribulation reign of the anti-Christ, they should resist the use of RFIDs and other Orwellian influences in society.
Check out the Resistance Manifesto for a good laugh.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Woman Sues Over Tar Heel Anti-Cohabitation Law

by Pam


Debora Hobbs was "living in sin," and her boss forced her to pick her boyfriend or her job as a 911 dispatcher; Sheriff Carson Smith says it was a moral issue as well as a legal question.

Ass-backwards, redneck laws...It's A-OK for Kate and I to live together here in the Tar Heel state (guess they didn't have queer people in mind 200 years ago), but if you're straight and living with your opposite-sex partner, you're breaking the law. Even more insane, since many laws like this go unenforced, is that an employer actually had the Taliban cojones to pull it -- he gave a worker an ultimatum to marry her boyfriend, move, or give up her job. What the f*ck does it matter who you are living with when it comes to your freaking job? (AP/Herald-Sun):
A former sheriff's dispatcher who quit her job after her boss found out she lived with her boyfriend is challenging North Carolina's law against cohabitation. Debora Hobbs said she was told to get married, move out, or find another job after her boss found out about her living situation. The legal arm of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina filed the lawsuit Monday on her behalf.

The lawsuit seeks to abolish the nearly 200-year-old -- and rarely enforced -- law that prohibits unmarried, unrelated adults of the opposite sex from living together. North Carolina is one of seven states with such a law.

Convicted offenders face a fine and up to 60 days in jail. "The government has no business meddling in the private relationships of consenting adults," said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the ACLU-NC Legal Foundation.

Hobbs had been living with her boyfriend for about three years when she was hired as a Pender County 911 dispatcher in February 2004. The couple decided they didn't want to marry; Hobbs quit last May rather than be fired.

Sheriff Carson Smith said last year that Hobbs' employment was a moral issue as well as a legal question. He said he tries to avoid hiring people who openly live together, but that he doesn't send out deputies to enforce the law.


Johnnie Cochran kicks it

by Pam


"If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."

Yep, the one that got away. Too bad Johnnie didn't live long enough to see O.J. catch "the real killer." Right.

Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., died today of a brain tumor, at 67. Rather than spending time on the above travesty of justice (there's plenty to find the Web on O.J.), there are other cases Cochran handled that are worthy of praise. (MSNBC):
He also represented former Black Panther Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. When Cochran helped Pratt win his freedom in 1997, he called the moment "the happiest day of my life practicing law."

He won a $760,000 award in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Ron Settles, a black college football star who died in police custody in 1981. Cochran challenged police claims that Settles hanged himself in jail after a speeding arrest. The player's body was exhumed, an autopsy performed and it revealed Settles had been choked.



His clients also included Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, who was tortured by New York police, and Tyisha Miller, a 19-year-old black woman shot to death by Riverside police who said she reached for a gun on her lap when they broke her car window in an effort to disarm her.
The Louima case, which occurred in 1997, was a particularly brutal affair, it reinforced the opinion in many of the NY minority community that a segment of the NYPD took pleasure in brutalizing people of color when taken into custody.

Abner Louima was arrested outside a nightclub in 1997, was cuffed and taken Brooklyn's 70th Precinct. It was there that Officer Justin Volpe sodomized Louima with a broken broomstick; other officers continued "shoving a wooden stick into his rectum and mouth while his hands were handcuffed behind his back." Louima suffered a torn bladder and intestine and required several surgeries. Officer Justin Volpe pleaded guilty and is serving 30 years. Another officer, Charles Schwarz, guilty of pinning Louima down during the brutality, and four other officers were convicted of lying to authorities.

Abner Louima received $8.75 million settlement from the city due to Cochran's efforts. (CNN):
"I hope that in the future that it puts police brutality to rest and there will be no more victims," said Abner Louima. The agreement was the largest police brutality settlement in New York City history. Louima attorney Johnnie Cochran said his client's lawsuit was not about money.

"It was about trying to bring about some change. It was about the future. It was about a society in which Abner Louima feels his children will be safe, safer then he was." Cochran said. "I hope that will be the legacy."


Bush Shows No Remorse for Fake Newscasts

by Ms. Julien in Miami

And the surprise here would be, uh...?? You know, when I was growing up, I remember my father emphasizing over and over how the "bad Communists" in Russia used propaganda to spread their message - as did the 3rd Reich, and some of the leaders of the biggest genocides in this century...well, this sounds a LOT like that propaganda ...

Attention oh ye of sheeplike mentality, why are you letting them get away with this?

From Inter Press Service, by William Fisher: bolding by Julien's List

Despite a rising chorus of condemnation from journalists and media critics, the George W. Bush administration shows no signs of abandoning its distribution of taxpayer-funded ”news” to U.S. newspapers, radio and television stations.

Free press advocates are up in arms about what they say is the covert dissemination of propaganda by government agencies.

In one case, the administration -- seeking to build support among black families for its education reform plans -- paid a prominent African American pundit, Armstrong Williams, 240,000 dollars to promote the ”No Child Left Behind” law on his nationally syndicated television show and through his newspaper column, and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

Two other nationally known journalists, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus, have also admitted accepting thousands of dollars to endorse government programs.

Since 2001, the Army and Air Force Hometown News Service has fielded 40 reporters, producers and public affairs specialists to create ”good military news” to be beamed to home audiences via local news stations. The service's ”good news” segments have reportedly reached 41 million Americans via local newscasts -- in most cases, without the station acknowledging their source.

More than 20 different federal agencies used taxpayer funds to produce television news segments promoting Bush administration policies. These ”video news releases,” or VNRs, were broadcast on hundreds of local news programs. without disclosing their source.

This is charming...

Regarding the VNRs, Pres. Bush said the government's practice of sending ”packaged news stories” to local television stations was legal and he has no plans to cease it.

His defense of the packages, which are designed to look like television news segments, came after the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a Congressional watchdog agency, called them a form of covert propaganda.

The administration responded that, ”Executive Branch agencies are not bound by GAO's legal advice” but should be guided by the views of the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, part of the executive branch.

Here is who you SHOULD be listening to, oh Middle Americans - and what about our university and high school students - our future leaders? Thirty-odd years ago they would be all OVER Washington protesting this...

Norman Solomon, a syndicated columnist on media and politics and founder of the Institute for Public Accuracy, said in an interview that the subterfuge involved was the most dangerous aspect.

”The 'video news releases' put out by the U.S. government are pernicious because the TV broadcasts often do not tell the viewers that the government is funding and controlling those supposed 'news' reports,” he said.

Of course, most of today's students, woefully "left behind" and with brains whittled to a single standardized test mentality, would not even know the definition of "pernicious..."

Ms. Julien pulls a "Dark Wraith" and sighs over the dumbing down of our students - and the apathy of the mainstream public.


Reverse Renditions

by John

Wonderful.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Yemeni intelligence officer was kidnapped by Egyptian authorities in Cairo in 2002 and sent to U.S. jails in Afghanistan and Cuba entirely outside the rule of law, a human rights group said on Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch called the case of Abd al-Salam Ali al-Hila a "reverse rendition," a twist on the U.S. government practice of "rendering" certain prisoners to third nations for interrogation and, in the view of rights activists, torture.

Al-Hila was the latest of about 10 known cases of men seized by other countries not on a battlefield and handed over to the United States for indefinite detention as an "enemy combatant" without legal process, Human Rights Watch military affairs researcher John Sifton said.
[...]
"One thing that we're trying to point to here is the way in which these reverse renditions occur entirely outside the rule of law," Sifton said. There had been no extradition process, no criminal suspicion based on probable cause, and no ability to challenge the detention, he said.

"These renditions result in people disappearing," Sifton added.
[...]
Al-Hila's fate was unknown for more than a year and a half until a letter he wrote was smuggled out of Afghanistan and disclosed by Yemeni authorities in April 2004, Human Rights Watch said. His letter, written in January of that year, stated he had been detained by the CIA in Afghanistan after being kidnapped in Cairo by Egyptian intelligence.

Human Rights Watch quoted the letter as stating that "my only crime is that the Americans wanted information from me, but couldn't find any."

Al-Hila's family received a letter from Kabul via the International Committee of the Red Cross dated May 2004, then received another dated in July 2004 from Guantanamo, the group said.

This contradicts how the President defended renditions at his March 16th press conference:

Q Mr. President, can you explain why you've approved of and expanded the practice of what's called rendition, of transferring individuals out of U.S. custody to countries where human rights groups and your own State Department say torture is common for people under custody?

THE PRESIDENT: The post-9/11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. That was the charge we have been given. And one way to do so is Linkto arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won't be tortured. That's the promise we receive. This country does not believe in torture. We do believe in protecting ourselves. We don't believe in torture. And --

I wonder how he'll defend this now?

Think about what this means. Countries like Egypt are sending us their prisoners to "interrogate." Freedom be marching!

(cross posted @ Blogenlust)



No Legitimacy; No Surrender

by Shakespeare's Sister

Paul Krugman has an excellent column in the NY Times today about the dangers of letting the religious right continue to strengthen their stranglehold on the government unfettered. Connecting the dots between Congress’ intervention in the Schaivo case, “conscience legislation” (i.e. pharmacists legally able to refuse to fill prescriptions based on their religious beliefs), and the encroachment of religion into the public educational system, he isn’t really saying anything that one hasn’t been able to find on blogs such as this one for quite some time, but it’s a good sign (I think, I hope) that we’re starting to see from people in positions like Krugman’s a determination to quash this radical uprising before it gets completely out of control.

The notion Krugman poses, that we’re collectively wary to address the threat to our nation’s future posed by the extremists within our own borders, goes back to what I wrote earlier in the month about the need for selective intolerance. Cloaked in the protective chain mail of their religion, Christian fundamentalists, and more importantly their political ideas and objectives, have become unassailable.

Any criticism of the increasingly voracious appetite of the religious right for power within and over the government is denounced as religious intolerance, irrespective of the source of the criticism; even other Christians, moderates and liberals alike, are held in contempt by their conservative counterparts, dismissed and vilified as “false” Christians—a denouncement the media is strangely willing to embrace as it fans the flames of this culture war, conjuring elaborate stories of Christmas-haters out of the thinnest of air, and inevitably juxtaposing the godly conservative Christians and the heartless, bah humbug secularists. If one only existed in the false reality of television news, one would never know there were plenty of Christians who respect the public sphere, and the non-Christians with whom they share it. So it becomes a Christian versus non-Christian (or, if you’re watching Fox, anti-Christian) argument, a specious and likely deliberate misconstruing of reality; two sides indeed exist, but they are comprised of those who have respect for the public sphere and everyone who travels in it, and those who have no respect for anything but satiating their ravenous hunger for control.

After 9/11, and the disclosure that its perpetrators were Islamic fundamentalists, great pains were taken by government officials, the media, moderate and liberal religious leaders of all religious, and lots of average Americans, to carefully and thoughtfully address the difference between Islam and its teachings, and radical Islamic fundamentalists and their (mis)interpretations of its teachings. Over and over we heard, as we collectively wrung our hands and hoped against backlash attacks on our Muslim neighbors, Fundamentalists do not represent the tenets of Islam; most Muslims are not like that. It was an important distinction to make; liberals were keen to see it made, as well we should have been. Yet within our own borders, we cower from the ideological brethren of the perpetrators of 9/11—a radical element seeking to advance an agenda designed to undermine the American democracy, operating under a shroud of religion, both as their protection against censure and the justification for their radicalism.

Krugman notes, ominously, that we are seeing with escalating frequency “politicians willing to violate the spirit of the law, if not yet the letter, to cater to the religious right. … And the future seems all too likely to bring more intimidation in the name of God and more political intervention that undermines the rule of law.” As politicians bow every more willingly to the demands of the radicalized Christians, the latter become further emboldened in their goals and strategies, howling for the involvement of a state governor, Congress, and the President himself, who jump to attention at their behest on behalf of a woman whose live they want saved.
"Christians are a lot more bold under Bush's leadership, he speaks what a lot of us believe," said [pastor and parent Ray Mummert, 54, of Dover, PA, a town currently deeply at war over teaching Darwin or Christian creationism in its schools].
They got a mandate, too, you see.
"We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture," he said.
Though such a comment seems, well, fairly amusing, the truth is—it’s quite unnerving. They don’t need intellect; they’ve got faith. They don’t need education; they’ve got the Word of God. Intelligence and education can be challenged. Faith and the very word of God Himself, however, are untrumpable.

Or so we allow them to be, resisting categorical denunciations of such manifest lunacy, because that’s just what they believe is still an acceptable excuse for good Christians, no matter how unChristlike and indefensible their behavior. But is it really acceptable that these alleged supporters of the nebulously-named “culture of life” have murder on their minds because they aren’t getting what they demand? How far are they willing to go…if we aren’t willing to stop them?

These people deserve to be regarded with the same disdain we reserve for the other dregs and bottom-feeders who endlessly scrabble around in the muck, yowling sanctimoniously about how right they are and eating each other alive—the white supremacists, the neo-Nazis, Ralph Nader. They don’t deserve a place at the table of ideas at which the national debate is commenced. They don’t deserve to have one of their members substitute on news shows. They don’t deserve legitimacy in any way.

If we continue to consent to offering it, we must brace ourselves for a grim future indeed.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)


Old Habits Die Hard

by John

One of my biggest concerns about Bush's foreign policy is that it is being conceived and enforced by people that were bread into power with a Cold War mentality. The defining feature of this mentality is to examine, understand, and react to events stricly on a state level. A good example of what I'm talking about is the domino theory. The Vietnam War was fought on the premise that if we didn't stop communism in Vietnam, it would spread throughout the rest of the region and continent. Similarly, there is the reverse domino theory. Democratic reforms in Eastern Europe helped spread democratic reforms in other Eastern European countries, subsequently resulting in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. (This, incidentally, is also the template for the Freedom Be Marching Tour, but more on that below.)

Now, if you were on the front lines of US foreign policy between the years 1970 to 1990, as many of Bush's foreign policymakers were, you'd probably have strong feelings about the effectiveness of both domino theories, and the importance of state-level analysis and response. This isn't a problem unless you refuse to re-evaluate whether this mindset is appropriate for each new threat that arises. Unfortunately, such refusal is precisely what is happening today with our foreign policy, and I think it is a big mistake.

On the surface, the Bush Administration has made it known that we are currently facing a new threat, and that we are fighting a war that is fundamentally different than the traditional wars we've fought in the past. Both of these are true, but our actions have defied the reality that our rhetoric has described. The primary premise of the Iraq War was that Saddam Hussein possessed dangerous capital (WMD) that terrorists might be able to get their hands on, which would then be a threat to our national security. So the response we decided to take was to invade and occupy Iraq, when responding on a different level might have been a more prudent and effective way of achieving our objective--national security.

Of course, we soon found out that Iraq didn't have the dangerous capital we thought they might be able to give to some terrorists in the indeterminate future. Thus, the original secondary premise of the war became the primary premise: Establishing a democracy in Iraq, which would inspire a reverse domino theory in the Middle East. Sounds great on paper, but pretty messy when implemented. The truth is, as this article points out, these things take a lot of time and planning, and our approach might not result in our intended consequences:

CAIRO (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has alarmed many reformist Arabs with comments suggesting a new U.S. approach that promotes rapid political change without regard for internal stability.

Rice said in an interview with the Washington Post last week the Middle East status quo was not stable and she doubted it would be stable soon. Washington would speak out for "freedom" without offering a model or knowing what the outcome would be.

"This a very dangerous scheme. Anarchy will be out of control," said Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University and an advocate of gradual change.

A liberal Arab diplomat, who asked not to be named, said: "They seem to be supporting chaos and instability as a pretext for bringing democracy. But people would rather live under undemocratic rule than in the chaotic atmosphere of Iraq, for example, which the Americans tout as a model."

The problem with Rice's proposed approach (and our actions, thus far) is that it assumes as fact that the results of our induced "rapid change" will be as favorable as they were in Europe in the late '80s and early '90s. This, I think, is the big mistake. If terrorism is our number one national security threat, then promoting a policy of rapid change could create a chaotic environment where terrorism and terrorists can flourish. You only have to look to Iraq--where terrorism has a major foothold that was non-existant before the war--to see the likely consequences of such assumptions.

Instead, a better approach might be to listen to the Arab reformers who speak from the perspective of personal experience and first-hand knowledge of the issues facing the Arab public.

Hala Mustafa, editor of the Egyptian quarterly publication Democracy Review, said reformers must have a clear agenda for where they want to go and that instant change would favor the Islamists, who dominate the political culture.

"If we start without any agenda, it will end in confusion ... We are talking about comprehensive reform that would lead to the change we need, not to turmoil or chaos," she added.

The point is that you can't do what we've been doing without also paying close attention to the domestic political and social fallout of our actions. We totally blew this when it came to Iraq, and the cavalier stance taken by Rice suggests that we're willing to blow it off again. Terrorism has state sponsors, but it is a problem that must not be addressed exclusively at the state level.

That, in a shell casing, is the problem with the Freedom Be Marching Tour (a name that suggests more promise then its reality entails): it's too much of a one-dimensional response to a very multi-dimensional problem. It might be easier to apply our out-dated mentalities to current threats, but in the end, I think it will prove counterproductive.

(cross-posted @ Blogenlust)



Mary, Mary, quite contrary

by Pam


Mary Matalin sucks up to the Cheneys by landing Gay Hypocrite™ Mary a book deal. Wonder if Cheney's partner Heather Poe will get swept under the rug in Mary's account of Campaign 2004?

[Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.]

The Sludge Report has info on what is destined to be one of the great white-wash books of all time -- Mary Cheney is going to do her tell-all about working for her dad Darth in last year's campaign. She's certainly got a lot of explaining, er, spinning to do.
The curious and bold first acquisition of former Cheney adviser Mary Matalin in her new position at publisher SIMON & SCHUSTER is valued in the mid-six figures, top sources reveal. A top executive at VIACOM, parent of SIMON & SCHUSTER, who asked not to be named, was initally alarmed the deal would be seen as a "Thank You" from Matalin to the Cheneys.

"It's so not the case," said a SIMON & SCHUSTER insider. "This was a great opportunity to secure a great political story. Period."

Mary Cheney, who during the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns served as a top aide to her father, will write from her unique perspective as both a campaign senior staffer and as a daughter. Her book will offer a behind-the-scenes look at the high intensity world of political campaigns. It will also offer her account of what it was like to become an issue in the 2004 presidential election.

...Matalin, editor in chief, said about her inaugural acquisition: "Mary Cheney was smack-dab in the middle of every major event at the highest level on the last two national campaigns."
Perhaps she will give us the back story about what happened at the GOP convention, when Dick concluded his speech and was joined on stage by his wife Lynne, his straight daughter, Elizabeth (along with her husband, and their children) -- and Mary and Heather were hidden away on another side of the arena far away from the action, as if they had the plague. Oh, that's right, the GAY plague.

I'd like to see her comment on her mom's unhinged and breathless "cheap and tawdry political trick" remark after John Kerry mentioned Mary in one of the presidential debates. She can address the notion that the "GOP outrage" following Kerry's comment was orchestrated by Gay Hypocrite™ Mary herself.

Or maybe she'll fill us in on what it felt like to be called "a selfish hedonist" by fellow Republican Alan Keyes.

It would be interesting for Mary to give her perspective on it's like to be "out" as a professional queer for Coors, traveling the country, trying to persuade owners of gay bars to sell the company's beer, and then later having to re-closet herself for her bigoted party. What was it like, Mary, to sell your soul to the American Taliban?

For extra fun, check out Mary Cheney's formerly invisible partner Heather Poe in a series of AP/Reuters photos with captions at the blog The Pryhills.


Boy Scout director: child porn creep

by Pam



Douglas S. Smith Jr., who is expected to plead guilty, is still active in troop activity in Texas.

(via Raw Story Q). Upstanding gay scouts are tossed from this organization, yet among Boy Scout leadership is this creep, a soon-to-be-convicted-felon. It's about character, not orientation, but they just don't get it. They put the man on paid leave when this broke; at least he had the sense to step down. (MSNBC):
The national director of programs for the Boy Scouts of America has been charged with receiving and distributing child pornography, the U.S. Attorney's office here told NBC News on Tuesday.

Douglas S. Smith Jr. was charged with one felony count of having photos that show "minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct." Sources in the U.S. Attorney's office told NBC that Smith was expected to plead guilty. The images were of young boys and the investigation started in Germany, the sources added.

In a statement Tuesday, the Boy Scouts of America said it had no indication of prior criminal activity. "We are dismayed and shocked to learn of the charge," it said. "Smith was employed by the organization for 39 years, with no indication of prior criminal activity. He was not in a leadership position which involved working directly with youth."

...Smith, 61, would not comment when reached by phone at his home. He was expected to appear in federal court Wednesday morning. If tried and found guilty, he faces prison time ranging from five to 20 years. A resident of Colleyville, Texas, Smith is still active in troop activity and is himself an Eagle Scout.


Monday, March 28, 2005

Wankers

by Shakespeare's Sister

In reference to Linnet’s post, below, on the pharmacist versus patient bullshit, how long do you think it will be before those healthcare providers who accept commonly discriminated-against patients raise their fees? How long before the insurnace industry hikes up their premiums? I mean, what greater health risk is there than being someone a whole slew of doctors refuses to treat?

Hell, how long before insurance companies are allowed to deny you coverage altogether, even if it’s on an employee-sponsored plan?

The really awesome part about it is that if you’re, say, a lesbian, working in a state like Indiana, where they’re currently in the process of passing a law that forbids businesses from extending partner rights to your significant other, and they're also considering the legislation of which we’re speaking, then it’s a real double whammy. You both have to have individial coverage, and you might both get stuck with insane premiums. Of course, if you happen to live in an area where no doctors will treat you, or no pharmacists will dispense drugs to you, it doesn’t make much fucking difference if you have insurance or not, does it?


Important Action Item for Fellow Bloggers

by Shakespeare's Sister

In reference to Pam’s post below…

Go here. You’ll know what to do. And John’s got more info at AMERICAblog.


Which blogger is slated to appear at the National Press Club?

by Pam


Let's see...John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, or Jeff "White House Rent Boy" Gannon?

What a pathetic state of things. Does it take a rocket scientist to figure out which of the above men is an actual blogger, able to speak to the issue of blogging and journalism?

The National Press Club has come to the conclusion that the most qualified people are cub reporter/prostitute Jeff Gannon/James Guckert and Wonkette. No slam on Wonkette, but that is a humor column, not blogging-as-journalism. This outrage is confirmed by Editor and Publisher. I need a barf bag. NOW.
Yes, the same day that the prestigious Washington, D.C., journalism organization plans to present a lunch talk by former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, it will also allow the former White House reporter/sex site operator to be on a panel discussing bloggers and online journalism.

Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, resigned his job with the conservative Talon News last month after it was revealed he had used a pseudonym, had little journalism background, and had ties to male escort Web sites.

Still, Press Club leaders will include Gannon on the panel April 8 that includes Wonkette.com editor Ana Marie Cox, National Journal's John Stanton, and others.

Gannon told E&P today that he always considered himself a legitimate journalist, and "perhaps their invitation is recognition of that."
Perhaps JG/JG had a little help from his friends in the White House to get this gig...



As John says over at AB:
Not a single actual journalist-blogger is even on the panel that will be discussing blogging-journalism, and most certainly not anyone representing the "other" side of the GannonGuckert credential issue.

Look who's on the panel:

1. Gannon, who thinks he's an acceptable journalist.
2. Wonkette, who thinks we should err on the side of accepting him as a real journalist, per her own quotes to Howard Kurtz in the Wash Post, and
3. Then there's Congress Daily, whose sister publication, the Hotline, wrote a scathing editorial against our role in the GannonGuckert story.

So, the august National Press Club is holding a panel on the issues surrounding the GannonGuckert story and the only person they invite who was actually involved in the story is GannonGuckert himself.
You can contact the National Press Club and offer your opinion about this sham. They can do better than this -- and invite John A. to actually represent the blogosphere, which he has ably done many times during Propagannon.

National Press Club Front Desk
202-662-7500


Did the BK folks see "Super Size Me"?

by Pam


First came the Hardee's Monster Thickburger (1,420 calories), now you can start loading the arteries in the AM, thanks to BK's Enormous Omelet Sandwich.

Wake up to a mouthful of breakfast with the Enormous Omelet Sandwich. Two slices of melted, American cheese, two fluffy eggs stuffed with three crispy strips of bacon, and a sizzling sausage patty, piled high on a toasted bun. The Enormous Omelet Sandwich from BURGER KING®. So big, breakfast will never be the same.
--from the Burger King web site


I caught Super Size Me on cable and it was enough to give me agita. I do not know how the filmmaker could stomach McDs for that many days in a row. Apparently the good folks at Burger King don't think you have have too many heart attacks on a bun if they are unleashing this beast. Whatever happened to a good bowl of Kashi in the morning? (AP):
Burger King began offering two new breakfast sandwiches Monday, including one that packs more calories and fat than a Whopper.

The Enormous Omelet Sandwich carries 730 calories and 47 grams of fat and comes with two eggs, sausage, three strips of bacon and two slices of melted American cheese on a bun. It's heftier than a Whopper hamburger, which weighs in at 700 calories and 42 grams of fat.


Good old Russ Klein, pushing more food porn for BK.

..."By expanding our indulgent breakfast sandwich menu, Burger King restaurants now offer even more alternatives for our guests who want a convenient and filling breakfast," said Russ Klein, Burger King's chief global marketing officer.


Conscience

by Lanoire

The Michigan House passed some interesting legislation yesterday that would allow health care providers to refuse treatment to individuals on "moral, ethical or religious grounds."

Not only does this violate the rights of women in need of birth control and reproductive health services, but there are other implications as well:

Opponents of the bills said they're worried they would allow providers to refuse service for any reason. For example, they said an emergency medical technicians could refuse to answer a call from the residence of gay couple because they don't approve of homosexuality.

Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) the first openly gay legislator in Michigan, pointed out that while the legislation prohibits racial discrimination by health care providers, it doesn't ban discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation.

"Are you telling me that a health care provider can deny me medical treatment because of my sexual orientation? I hope not," he said.


This is telling. The Michigan legislature thinks it is perfectly acceptable for a healthcare provider to deny medical treatment to homosexuals.

The supporters of this bill have their own take on the situation:

Paul A. Long, vice president for public policy for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said the bills promote the constitutional right to religious freedom.

"Individual and institutional health care providers can and should maintain their mission and their services without compromising faith-based teaching," he said in a written statement.


I love how "religious freedom" has been redefined as the freedom to deny people basic healthcare if they don't follow your religious beliefs.

It's also interesting that they specify that individual healthcare providers have this right, not only institutional ones. So not only are you allowed to form your own We Hate Women and Gays Pharmacy--you're also allowed to refuse to treat women and gays while you're in the employ of the Decent and Sane Pharmacy.

This type of legislation raises some interesting questions.

If someone has a moral objection to anesthesia, can they give a desperate person unanesthetized surgery?

If a Jehovah's Witness is a healthcare provider of some kind, can they deny people blood transfusions?

If a conservative Christian is a healthcare provider, can he refuse to treat a woman without her husband's permission? The Bible does say that the husband is the head of the wife, after all.

Can a doctor refuse to give a woman in labor an epidural to relieve her pain because of its possible effect on the baby?

Can an Orthodox Jew refuse to treat a dying woman who happens to be menstruating?

I remember once reading a National Geographic article by an American woman who lived in Japan and whose friend (also American) had given birth there; the friend, when she asked for pain relief medication during childbirth, was chided by the doctor for her selfishness which was unbecoming in a woman. If such a doctor from such a culture came to the States, would he be within his rights to refuse medication to the woman in labor?

How about if we apply this principle outside the realm of healthcare? Does a biology teacher have the right to refuse to teach evolution? Can a Hindu work at a fast-food place but refuse to serve beef? Can a Republican politician refuse to lie?

Or, you know, maybe we could all exercise our common sense and say that if your conscience gets in the way of an integral aspect of your work, you should choose another line of work.

ETA: This is actually a bill that was passed in April 2004 in the Michigan House but killed in committee in the Senate; in light of recent trend like this one, there's been talk about how the bill might get re-introduced.


Unfortunately Named Defense Contractors

by John

Not surprisingly, corruption is out of control in Iraq, and as Cursor points out (via Newsweek), the United States hasn't joined efforts to clamp down on it. Why? Because the corruption is coming from contractors the US hired, many of which in no bid competition. MSNBC details the saga surrounding one unfortunately named defense contractor:

April 4 issue - By many accounts, Custer Battles was a nightmare contractor in Iraq. The company's two principals, Mike Battles and Scott Custer, overcharged occupation authorities by millions of dollars, according to a complaint from two former employees. The firm double-billed for salaries and repainted the Iraqi Airways forklifts they found at Baghdad airport—which Custer Battles was contracted to secure—then leased them back to the U.S. government, the complaint says. In the fall of 2004, Deputy General Counsel Steven Shaw of the Air Force asked that the firm be banned from future U.S. contracts, saying Custer Battles had also "created sham companies, whereby [it] fraudulently increased profits by inflating its claimed costs." An Army inspector general, Col. Richard Ballard, concluded as early as November 2003 that the security outfit was incompetent and refused to obey Joint Task Force 7 orders: "What we saw horrified us," Ballard wrote to his superiors in an e-mail obtained by NEWSWEEK.

Yet when the two whistle-blowers sued Custer Battles on behalf of the U.S. government—under a U.S. law intended to punish war profiteering and fraud—the Bush administration declined to take part. "The government has not lifted a finger to get back the $50 million Custer Battles defrauded it of," says Alan Grayson, a lawyer for the two whistle-blowers, Pete Baldwin and Robert Isakson. In recent months the judge in the case, T. S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court in Virginia, has twice invited the Justice Department to join the lawsuit without response. Even an administration ally, Sen. Charles Grassley, demanded to know in a Feb. 17 letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales why the government wasn't backing up the lawsuit. Because this is a "seminal" case—the first to be unsealed against an Iraq contractor—"billions of taxpayer dollars are at stake" based on the precedent it could set, the Iowa Republican said.

Of course, Custer Battles is not to be confused with Custer's (Last) Battle, in which an arrogant military commander overestimated the resistance of his enemy, for which he and his troops paid dearly. Although, you would be forgiven if you noticed the unfortunate symbolism.



Just When You Thought…

by Shakespeare's Sister

…Ralph Nader couldn’t get any batshit crazier, he finds yet another way to prove that there’s just no limit to his lunacy (link):
Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith, author of the award winning book "Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America" call upon the Florida Courts, Governor Jeb Bush and concerned citizens to take any legal action available to let Terri Schiavo live.

"A profound injustice is being inflicted on Terri Schiavo," Nader and Smith asserted today. "Worse, this slow death by dehydration is being imposed upon her under the color of law, in proceedings in which every benefit of the doubt-and there are many doubts in this case-has been given to her death, rather than her continued life."

[…]

"This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, it has ordered her to be made dead," Nader and Smith assert.
Okay then. Buh-bye now.


Who Needs Dick?

by Shakespeare's Sister

At the discreet and sophisticated soiree thrown by Mr. Furious this weekend, at which there was absolutely no alcohol consumption and certainly not any bad behavior from the collection of urbane, dignified professionals who had gathered for a tranquil evening of genteel conversation and cucumber sandwiches, there happened to be a quite a bit of political conversation, much of which (fearfully) focused on who the ’08 GOP nominee might be. As it turns out, no one, regardless of how much Earl Gray had passed his or her lips, believed that it would be Cheney; there was more support for the idea that he would be replaced sometime over the next three years than for the thought he might run himself.

It so happens that back in the blogosphere, the same discussion was taking place, with Jonathan Chait weighing in here, and Yglesias weighing in here, both in support of the possibility that Cheney will run. Ezra, on the other hand, disagrees (with them, and agrees with the party-goers); it won’t be Dick (emphasis mine):
First of all, no party intent on self-preservation is going to hand Cheney the baton. Sure Bush and a few party bigfoots might give it a shot, but there's not a less appealing candidate out there, the operatives dedicated to advancing the movement would never, ever buy it. Hunting trips with Scalia? Closed door meetings with Enron? Connections to Plame? Cussing Leahy out on the Senate floor? And a scowling visage that makes him look hungry for human flesh? This is the party of Reagan and Bush Jr., these folks aren't going to abandon their taste for outdoorsy, handsome balls of reg'lar guy charisma to give the physical manifestation of greed a shot at the crown.

More to the point, even if Bush did decide Dick was the way to go, he'd only split the party more. Cheney was picked for a number of reasons, but one of the most overt was to calm the many potential presidents in the party by publicly refusing to pick an heir apparent.

[…]

McCain, Frist, Giuliani, Graham, Santorum, Hagel, Allen, etc have no interest in letting Bush pull the tube from their presidential chances. If he tries, they'll pull the plug on his agenda.
Two key points there: Cheney’s uniquely unlikable, and though the whole ties-to-Halliburton thing didn’t stick to the VP, it’d be a lot harder to shrug off as candidate for the higher office, particularly as support for the war continues to dwindle. By ’08, if the people are looking for someone to blame for that mess (and they well may be), you don’t want the guy with ties to the biggest war profiteer leading the charge to the White House.

Second, we’d all do well to remember, as Ezra noted, that one of Cheney’s “draws” was that he wouldn’t be seen as a presumed successor—of which he was all too aware, having, let’s recall, chosen himself.

It’s unlikely he’s developed designs on the presidency in the interim. He might be many things, but he’s not a fool. He knows what a mess there will be to clean up when Bush is through, and Cheney strikes me as the kind of man who leaves cleaning messes to the maid. No, Cheney will leave the business of running the country (into the ground) to some other schlub; his Halliburton stock options are worth a lot these days, and he’s ready to enjoy his retirement.

(On a side note: major props to Ezra for slipping in the line even if Bush did decide Dick was the way to go, he'd only split the party more. That’s one of the finest double entendres I’ve seen in a while…even if it was unintentional. Which I doubt.)

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)


Can Anybody Explain Why...

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Why do many, if not all, medical insurance plans (and MEDICARE, for that matter) cover Viagra for men (of all ages) to enjoy a full sexual life, but most women must pay for birth control pills out of their own pockets?

Would love to hear your thoughts as I ponder this on a very early Monday morning...

Ms. Julien


The 21st Century: Opus One

by Dark Wraith

During the 1990s, neo-conservatives were crafting a vision of the world they wanted to create for the 21st Century. Embodied in its fullest, this vision was made a blueprint by the Project for the New American Century, which set forth objectives, goals, means, and motivations for an array of actions in the foreign policy arena that had deep repercussions in domestic affairs, as well.

Were the pre-emptive Iraqi War the only fully achieved accomplishment of the neo-conservatives, the United States could probably recover, move on, and learn valuable and cautionary lessons from the bloody, expensive, and disastrous fiasco. But for the neo-conservatives, Iraq was only a small, beginning step in a broad framework of actions to brace for what they see as the world just around the corner.

The Wall Street Journal set forth, in a series of articles, an outline of a hard plan that is already in play for purposes of strategic planning at the Pentagon, a fully fleshed-out design that makes broad, sweeping assumptions about the threats and opportunities with which the United States will have to deal with little time to spare. "Hard planning" means documentation, and this can be fragmented across anything from working papers to internal memos, and even to computer presentations and software models used for scenario analysis. In the case of the neo-conservative plan for the 21st Century, though, what the Pentagon possesses something far more specific: it has a single system of documents, stunning in scope not merely of plans for the American military over the coming decades, but also in the modeling of the nations of the world and how they will behave and react internally with respect to their citizens and externally with respect to one another. A survey of the mechanics of this plan may be viewed at rense.com.

What follows below is extensive scenario description. It is based upon assumptions in the Pentagon's neo-conservative blueprint document, augmented by known facts and, where appropriate, rumors of greater or lesser reliability, which will be flagged as such where necessary.

Europe
Because the United States will build and maintain a massive military/industrial engine for the 21st Century, the Europeans will be induced to do so as well, primarily as a non-adversarial, but nonetheless competitive, bulwark against the military and economic hegemony of the United States. Both the U.S. and Europe will move the production of consumer goods to Third World countries so that the domestic economies can be focused on comparative advantage in industrial and military goods and services.

Whether or not the Europeans want to do this is irrelevant. In a world where vital resources flow along trade routes that could be managed and even choked by the U.S. axis of military and economic influence, European countries will be compelled to respond in kind lest they become victim to de facto economic, military, and even ideological blockade.

Many progressive American Europhiles will reject as outrageous the very idea that the European Union will dispense with social programs, infrastructure, and peaceful productivity in favor of a build-up of a war machine rivaling that of the United States. The arguments against the reshaping of Europe into an American-style military state can be categorized as coming from one or the other of two arguments: first, the Europeans could simply reject the American model of neo-liberal world engagement through military dominance; second, the American model is far too weak on specifics—especially financial viability projections—for it to be taken seriously by others.

Both of these arguments are foolhardy. The Europeans will be forced to play the American game for two reasons: physical resources and global dominance. Even if America were to drive itself into bankruptcy reconstructing itself into a military empire, no state could postpone reactive military build-up on the excuse that the Americans will soon go bankrupt. Whether or not that would happen, the European state would be long gone or irreparably damaged by the chokehold the United States would maintain even with its last gasp.

Despite the talk about how Europe is making the transition to a post-fossil fuels age, the reality is that it is every bit as dependent upon oil in the core of its massive industrial and consumer infrastructure as is the United States.

In terms of global dominance, the Europeans won't be dealing merely with a dangerous, albeit possibly somewhat weakened, American military machine. The United States will have a small but not meaningless cluster of traditional allies that have shown their allegiance in the current Iraqi War; and the United States will also have a very new, gargantuan ally for the coming decades.

China
Despite the few remaining voices in the United States that regard China uni-dimensionally as being run by the "Butchers of Tiannanmen," the Bush Administration has aggressively warmed relations with China as part of an overall axis construction.

China has trillions of U.S. dollars acquired through years of running enormous trade surpluses with the United States. China routinely uses these greenbacks to finance the deficit-ridden neo-conservative policies of the Bush Administration. The idea among some Bush Administration critics that China is going to sooner or later cut off that gravy train is sheer fantasy: China is, in fact, funding the U.S. side of an emerging Sino-American power axis that has every intention of controlling resources across the globe to feed the ever-growing hunger for energy of both countries. It is no accident that Paul Wolfowitz, a central architect of the neo-conservative plans for the 21st Century, has been tapped to head the World Bank, which will become even more than it is now a captive vehicle for focusing global capital flows into projects that will largely satisfy the energy and other resource demands of the emerging China/U.S. production matrix. The extensive environmental damage that will be caused by projects like continent-spanning pipelines, petroleum resource exploitation fields, and hydro-electric dams is entirely irrelevant: the world community of environmentally concerned citizens is not even now a match for the hurricane of global energy demand, and the higher such commodities as gasoline go in price, the more Alaska National Wildlife Refuges will be plowed under.

This does not mean that U.S. and Chinese foreign policy will always coincide. For reasons both of internal political appeasement and of real geo-political differences in incentives, bones of contention will appear from time to time, as is evident in provocative sales of weapons and key materials by China to Iran. But these issues are minor and cannot be expected to derail the growing solidarity of the trans-Pacific alliance between an authoritarian regime becoming comfortable with and embracing domestic capitalism and a capitalist regime already comfortable with and increasingly imposing domestic authoritarianism.

Some might point out that all will not be well between the Chinese and the Americans if the situation turns ugly in one particular spot in China's backyard, and that small irrelevancy must be addressed next.

Taiwan
Last week, China set forth in formal policy that it would attack Taiwan if the latter provisional state were to once and for all declare its independence from the former. Freedom loving democrats around the world see Taiwan as a bastion of both capitalism and democracy, and the prospect of the giant dragon swallowing the little island's statehood whole is a source of concern on a philosophical level as much as on a geo-political level. Arguably, Taiwan is meaningless in the large scheme of things; but those who see brutal, realpolitik about to swing into action are wholly misguided.

Taiwan very well might be a nuclear state. If it is, China would pay an unacceptably high price for the luxury of finally dealing with the irritant: certainly, a nuclear Taiwan would level Beijing; but it would also have every incentive to level Hong Kong, too, and that would be a nation-crushing blow to China, which uses that former British colony as its national banking system as well as the personal depository institution for the spoils of its corrupt, fossilized leaders.

Of course, it's pure, mad speculation that Taiwan has nukes. How would it have gotten the technology? And what possible other example is there of a nation that has nuclear weapons, but has never declared that it does, has never done a live-fire test, and is never discussed in the press or halls of government as being a nuclear state?

Israel
Rumors have flown for years that Israel, Taiwan, and a certain South American country long ago formed an axis of trade in nuclear technology. Israel had the know-how; Taiwan had the money and Asian connections—possibly through Malaysia—to Pakistani nuclear parts merchant Dr. A.Q. Khan; and the South American country had raw materials and incredibly challenging terrain to frustrate surveillance by the Americans, the Russians, the Europeans, and the Chinese.

No one doubts that Israel has not just nuclear weapons-building technology, but also an impressive stockpile of warheads and delivery vehicles, some of the latter being compliments of the United States and the Europeans. But that leaves open the question of why Israel would ally itself with nations on other, far-flung continents. The answer to that is straight-forward: balance of power. Like it or not, Israel—small as it is—has been a global player since the day it was born in 1948, affecting the economies, policies, and strategic calculus of the community of nations at just about every turn in the road of the last half of the 20th Century. Especially with China constructively engaging dangerous nations like Iran to gain influence in the Middle East, Israel has every incentive to build a quiet but credible alliance with a rival state in close proximity to China, itself. If China is going to be influential in the Middle East, then Israel must be influential in Asia. But this returns the entire story back to the Middle East and its most important agent provacateur in the early years of this century.

Iran
Iran will soon be a nuclear state.

The hope that the Europeans will talk the mullahs into doing something else with their centrifuges and yellowcake is folly. The Europeans have a whole lot of incentive to stop Iran's nuclear program, but they don't have a whole lot of incentives to offer: Iran has the oil that Europe needs; and soon, Iran will have its own oil bourse upon which no small amount of petroleum will trade, thereby making whatever currency Iran chooses for denomination a world standard without rival.

Iran also has something else about which the Europeans can be all kinds of excited: it has developed and put on display the third generation of its intermediate-range missile called Meteor. Although Iran denies the technical specification, the range of this rocket as it is currently configured can be extended to put capitols of Europe within reach, making this version of the Meteor a Mark IV-class delivery vehicle.

As an aside, the hope that Israel will wipe out the nuclear facilities in Iran is folly, too. Israel may very well try, but it won't succeed: right now, speculation has it that the Israel doesn't have the bunker-buster bombs to get to the hardened, underground, core facilities the Iranians have constructed and are using for the enrichment and bomb-building phases of their nuclear program.

It seems that the Iranians, in designing their weapons construction facilities, kept in mind the Osirak reactor in Iraq that the Israelis turned into rubble two-and-a-half decades ago.

Then again, Israel could up the ante by using a low-yield nuclear device from its inventory. In a subsequent installment of this series, the consequences of that choice will be explored in the context of near-apocalyptic scenarios.

Back to the Homeland
And so the neo-conservative world of the 21st Century is emerging; and it is doing so against the curtain of a national economy flat on its back from huge federal deficits, the armed forces backed to the wall in a messy skirmish on the other side of the globe, and a careening world where events are running miles ahead of strategies.

This sounds like a prescription for political disaster for the ruling party in Washington, but it isn't. Once set in motion, a plan like the Project for the New American Century is almost impossible to stop, regardless of which party controls the White House and the Congress, regardless of which assumptions are wrong, and regardless of how far actual events on the ground come to deviate from predictions.

And therein lies the key: the plan has already been set in motion.




The Dark Wraith welcomes you all to the new American Century.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

For Gays, It Happens All the Time

by Ms. Julien in Miami

This is too good to be excerpted. I am going top post it in its entirety. I hope that this will help those who continuously "wonder" why homosexuals may seem a bit "angry" at the U.S. right now, why we may embrace the "rainbow" flag, colors, or signage...

by Tina Susman
As the fight over Terri Schiavo's fate played out in court, gay and lesbian organizations watched quietly from the sidelines, aware that any outcome would speak to one of the key motivations in their quest for same-sex marriage: the right to make medical decisions for a partner.

It's an issue faced regularly by same-sex couples, and the battle that Michael Schiavo waged with his in-laws as he sought to remove his wife's feeding tube only underscored their difficulties, said David Buckel of the New York-based gay rights group Lambda Legal.

"It certainly resonates with us," said Buckel, director of marriage-related activities for Lambda Legal. "If folks look at this situation and see that a spouse is struggling to carry out the wishes of his loved one, imagine what folks face when they don't even have access to the spousal relationship because they can't get married."

Just such a situation landed a lesbian couple in the national spotlight 20 years ago, after a drunk driver slammed into a car driven by Sharon Kowalski, then 27, leaving her comatose. Kowalski's longtime partner, Karen Thompson, then 37, a physical education teacher at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, sued Kowalski's parents for guardianship after they refused to recognize the women's relationship, blocked Thompson from visiting Kowalski, and disagreed with Thompson on Kowalski's care.

After a bitter legal battle lasting nearly a decade, a court sided with Thompson. She still cares for Kowalski, who emerged from her coma with severe brain damage and other physical problems.

Gay-rights groups had hoped the case would mark a turning point in their effort to have more say over partners' medical treatment, but it hasn't always worked that way. While some states such as California, Vermont and New Jersey grant medical decision-making rights to registered domestic partners, most, including New York, offer limited rights or none at all.

Partners of gay hospital patients often can't even visit, much less make life-and-death decisions for their loved ones, particularly if blood relatives object, said Carissa Cunningham of Gay&Lesbian Advocates&Defenders, a Boston-based group.

GLAD is representing several couples in a lawsuit to try to force the Connecticut Department of Public Health to recognize same-sex marriage. Two of the women involved, Carol Conklin, 51, and Janet Peck, 53, of Colchester, Conn., have been together nearly 30 years but say they still are not ensured access to each other in the hospital.

After Peck underwent major surgery, Conklin was initially denied permission to visit her in intensive care. When she identified herself as Peck's partner, the attending nurse said she did not know what that meant. Conklin was not allowed to designate herself Peck's next of kin during another hospitalization.

"It's very routine. It happens all the time," said Cunningham.

Such cases rarely make headlines, but they are no less tragic than the Schiavos' situation.

Two years ago, a Baltimore jury rejected a claim by Bill Flanigan, 38, of San Francisco, who sued Baltimore's Shock Trauma Center of the University of Maryland medical system after it did not let him visit his partner, 32-year-old Robert Daniel, as he died of AIDS. "By the time he finally got into the hospital room, his partner had lost consciousness and never regained it, and they never had a chance to say goodbye," said Buckel.

The hospital denied the accusations of discrimination.

Two of the women involved in the landmark lawsuit that led the Massachusetts Supreme Court to clear the way for same-sex marriages last year said they were prompted by medical concerns. When 59-year-old Linda Davies learned that she required double hip replacement surgery, she and her partner of more than 30 years, Gloria Bailey, 63, discovered that there was no guarantee Bailey would be allowed unfettered access to Davies during her 11-day recovery.

"Some hospitals said they could not guarantee Gloria would be allowed in," said Davies, who lives with Bailey in Orleans, Mass., and queried several hospitals before choosing one for the operation. "We realized how much we really needed to be married when I went into the hospital. That's when we realized how vulnerable we were."

Opponents of gay marriage say same-sex couples can opt to register as domestic partners or enter civil unions, but such partnerships don't always include the power to make major medical decisions for each other.

In addition, because such rights differ by state, there is no guarantee that a couple will be able to share in each other's medical decisions should disaster strike far from home. Flanigan and Daniel, for example, were from California, but they were in Maryland when Daniel fell ill.

And gay activists say even if they have gone through the legal machinations of having their partners declared health-care proxies, hospitals might be unfamiliar with such rights or simply refuse to respect them. If the partners don't happen to be carrying the paperwork to prove their status, they can similarly be refused their rights, said Buckel.

© Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.



Mortgage companies illegally strong-arming military families

by Pam


Guess Wells Fargo thinks its patriotic duty is to run the wagon train over servicemen and women, then claim ignorance of a 65-year-old law.

Nothing like your friendly neighborhood bank and mortgage company, breaking the law, trying to strong-arm military families to pay up or begin foreclosures. You know the system is broken when a person has to get on the horn to elected reps and call the media dogs on a company like Wells Fargo before they finally let up.

The question is, how many families don't take charge and assert their rights in time to stop these greedy maneuvers? You cannot tell me that mortgage companies are unaware we are at war or even a corporate drone cannot look up the law -- this is yet another end-run to preserve their bottom lines. They should, at the very least, be publicly shamed so that business is not driven their way. (WashTimes):
When Army Reservist Steve Welter was called up for active duty in Iraq last August, his wife never thought she would face her own fight to save the family's home from foreclosure. A 65-year-old federal law, which Congress expanded last year, provides protections for activated reservists and for Guard members called up by the Pentagon.

Those protections include a 6 percent cap, under certain circumstances, on consumer and mortgage interest rate debt incurred before activation; protection from eviction or foreclosure; payment deferral for federal taxes; and a stay on civil proceedings, including divorce and bankruptcy.

Keira Welter knew the law was supposed to protect a soldier's property from creditors during active military service. But for months, she said, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Co. did not seem to care about the law, no matter how many times she explained her case. "We had worked so hard to own our own home, and while my husband was over there serving our country it was going to be taken away," said Mrs. Welter, 31, of Osawatomie, Kan.

After Wells Fargo started foreclosure proceedings in February, Mrs. Welter contacted the state attorney general's office and members of Congress. It was not until a local television station aired her story and Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, intervened that the company finally backed off.

The Welters are not the only ones who faced hurdles seeking protection under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Lt. Col. Bruce Woolpert, a legal adviser to the Kansas National Guard in Topeka, said he fields desperate calls every week from soldiers and their families trying to understand their rights. "We had a foreclosure that was actually going to occur the next day," Col. Woolpert said. "It was going to happen until we could generate the letters and get them to the company and say, 'Please stop this, it's not a valid foreclosure.' Wisdom prevailed and it was stopped."

Kevin Waetke, a spokesman for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Co. in Des Moines, Iowa, said the company has apologized to Mrs. Welter and dismissed the foreclosure action. Mr. Roberts, outraged by Mrs. Welter's story, took the issue to the Senate. "I remain concerned that those responsible for complying with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act are not fully educated about their obligations and that the problem is nationwide," he said.


Happy Easter!!!

by John

Terri is the reason for the season!

Pinellas Park, Fla. -- An unlikely Passion play unfolded outside Terri Schiavo's hospice on Saturday as protesters adopted Christian imagery to portray Schiavo's fate and condemn the people they blamed for it.

Although Schiavo's parents decided to end federal appeals to intervene on behalf of their daughter and the state Supreme Court dismissed a motion to have the feeding tube reinserted, those keeping vigil likened the prospect of her dying of dehydration to Jesus Christ's suffering on the cross.

For days, a life-size crucifix has been dominating the growing congregation of protesters outside the Woodside Hospice. Streaks of red paint symbolizing blood stained the points of the horizontal arms of the cross. On the top of the vertical arm, where a traditional Catholic crucifix bears the letters "I.N.R.I." -- for the Latin phrase "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" -- someone had substituted a sign that read "Terri Schiavo."

Michael Schiavo, Terri Schiavo's husband and legal guardian, says his wife would not have wanted to be kept alive by artificial means, and doctors removed her feeding tube on March 18.

The protesters are comparing Michael Schiavo to Judas, who betrayed Jesus to the Romans. "Betrayed by a kiss: Jesus, Terri," read one handmade poster, apparently alluding to the fact that her husband was the first man Terri Schiavo had ever kissed. "Judas = husband," read another.

Two other posters, hanging side by side from the orange plastic mesh fence that surrounded the protester pen, likened both President Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who allowed Christ to be crucified, citing their unwillingness to intervene more than they already have. Both men signed laws enacted to prevent the termination of Terri Schiavo's life support, but both the state and federal laws were overturned by court rulings.

And on cards the demonstrators were passing out, the portrait of Schiavo -- her eyebrows raised, her mouth wide open -- was superimposed onto a portrait of Jesus, rays of blue and red light shining from behind their amalgamated heads. The cards contained a prayer and a verse from the Gospel of Matthew.

"I don't think it's a coincidence," said Paul O'Donnell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan friar, of this popular near-canonization of Schiavo, who has been in a persistent vegetative state since 1990.

"That this is happening during Holy Week -- God does everything in his time for his purpose," said O'Donnell, a spiritual adviser to Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who are devout Roman Catholics.

David Vogel, 47, a protester who came here from Steubenville, Ohio, agreed.

"The parallels are there with what happened to Jesus Christ," said Vogel, who was arrested for trespassing last week when he tried to enter the hospice to bring a symbolic cup of water to Schiavo. "He was condemned to death, an innocent man. She's an innocent woman."

Why does God hate Terri? Or, on the other hand, why do these people hate God's will? The mind boggles.



Religious wingnuts training to control Ohio politics

by Pam


Rod Parsley: "We're calling people to act, not just wring their hands in the pews." Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring trains pastors in conservative political activism; Secretary of State Ken Blackwell plans to profit from the support of the fundamentalists in his race for governor of Ohio. NC embarrassment Rep. Walter Jones is pushing H.R. 235, which would allow pastors to endorse candidates without jeopardizing church tax exemption. (Blackwell photo: Greg Sailor for The New York Times).

This is a clear example of why the Democrats cannot be complacent about the religious black vote. The Right is mobilizing, organizing and training its religious leaders to help get conservatives elected at all levels of government by politicking over the sheeple. I've been posting on this for quite some time (here, here, here, and here for starters), primarily watching the trickle and later the flood of black pastors to Bush's faith-based trough. It's like the Dems are in caught in quicksand over the party's relationship to the faith community, as the sink even deeper into intransigence over whether to deal with it. Keep waiting and watching, because the GOP has no fear of the issue.

Even more outrageous is the effort by NC Representative Walter Jones, who has submitted H.R. 235, which would allow political endorsements from the pulpit. After they obliterate this line, the goal is to get a federal marriage amendment "through the back door" by electing a flood of zealots into Congress, as well as a full adoption of the AmTaliban agenda. Jones has been courting black ministers -- because many believe they should be allowed to discuss political matters without jeopardizing the tax-exempt status of their churches -- as a cover for this effort. The folks in Ohio clearly have support at all levels of the government. (NYT):
In a manifesto circulated among church leaders and on the Internet, the group, called the Ohio Restoration Project, is planning to mobilize 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic leaders to register half a million new voters, enlist activists, train candidates and endorse conservative causes in the next year.

The initial goal is to elect Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a conservative Republican, as governor in 2006. The group hopes to build grass-roots organizations in Ohio's 88 counties and take control of local Republican organizations.

"The establishment of the Ohio Republican Party is out of touch with its base," said Russell Johnson, the pastor of the Fairfield Christian Church and the principal organizer of the project. "It acts as if it lives in Boston." Johnson's challenge to the party establishment could have far-reaching consequences in a state dominated by Republican elected officials but still considered a bellwether in presidential politics. Conservatives in other swing states are watching closely.

"In Ohio, the church is awakening to its historic role as the moral voice in the community," said Colin A. Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, a conservative group based in Pennsylvania that trains ministers in political activism. "Ohio is in the vanguard of that nationally. I very much want Pennsylvania to be with them."

The church leaders say they will try to harness the energy of religious conservatives who were vital not only to President Bush's narrow victory in Ohio but also to the passage of an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. The amendment, known as Issue 1, was credited with drawing large numbers of rural and suburban conservatives to the polls and increasing Bush's support among urban blacks.


Saturday, March 26, 2005

White supremist/homo-hater runs for Montana school board

by Pam

These white supremacist morons make me sick. Most of the time, you can't take their quasi-Nazi sh*t seriously, but every once in a while, one of them slips through and does something newsworthy that makes you think "what were they thinking." In this case I'm referring to the 39 residents of Bozeman, Montana, since Kevin McGuire is now one of four candidates who will vie for three open seats on the Bozeman school board in the May 3 elections. They signed his petition to allow him on the ballot, so he will garner at least that many votes in May.

Hopefully people will come to their senses, since he has proudly spewed his enlightened views to the local paper: "Our children are taught about the histories and cultures of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Jews and Native Americans but any sense of White racial solidarity or White racial pride is condemned as White racism; and that is not right."

He belongs to some group called the National Alliance, which made its presence known in Bozeman last summer after fliers were dropped anonymously in several neighborhoods at night warning that the future of the white race was in peril -- McGuire is the group's spokesman. The local paper, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, says McGuire is peeved that he is called a Nazi or white supremacist. If the shoe fits...go to the National Alliance's Web site and you will read the following:
* the goals of education are to teach ideas, useful skills and "those traits of character valued by a healthy Aryan society."

* it calls for a new educational system, like one that "enjoyed an all-too-brief revival earlier this century in National Socialist Germany, before being outlawed by the advocates of permissiveness."

* By ensuring that each child born to our race grows into the strongest, most capable, most responsible, and most conscious future citizen that his genes make possible, we will gain an enormous advantage over any race without such an educational system.

* In spiritually healthier times our ancestors took as theirs those parts of the world suited by climate and terrain to our race: in particular, all of Europe and the temperate zones of the Americas, not to mention Australia and the southern tip of Africa. This was our living area and our breeding area, and it must be so again.

* We must have White schools, White residential neighborhoods and recreation areas, White workplaces, White farms and countryside. We must have no non-Whites in our living space, and we must have open space around us for expansion.

* (from its handbook): Feminism is a threat to our race for two principal reasosns: it divides the race against itself (which is the principal reason for its practically unanimous support by Jews), robbing us of solidarity and weakening us in the struggle for racial survival; and it reduces the White birthrate, especially among educated women, and undermines the family by taking women out of the home and leaving the raising of children to television and day-care centers.
Well, that's pretty clear. I didn't see anything about white supremacy, did you?

I came across a Montana blogger who has been following this joker. Wulfgar, whose blog is called a Chicken Is Not Pillage, has something to say on this.
I think it's gonna' be a hoot! It seems that Kevin McGuire, our local outspoken white supremacist, is going to run for the Bozeman schoolboard. The article refers to Kevin as a "white separatist", but I personally reject that terminology. A Giraffe is not a horse, private sector accounts controlled by government mandates are not personal accounts, and someone who believes that the white race is superior to others is not a "separatist". Yes, I would dearly love to argue that out with Kevin some time ... and blog about it afterwards. But, I digress.

You can read more about Kevin McGuire here, here and here.  It seems that Kevin, emboldened by his recent celebrity, has decided to take firm political action against the mudification of our fine white minds, by making sure that Bozeman school children will receive a proper white education.

...Personally, I don't think this is going to play that well with Mr. and Mrs. Bozeman Parent, but you never know. The National Analliance is on the move, you know.
Before folks start feeling superior, that perhaps it's just a "fly-over" country thing -- that the National Alliance is a tiny organization, there's a page with a list of phone numbers for their branch organizations, and it isn't short. Here are the ones in NC:

Benson, NC (919) 207-2047
Charlotte, NC (704) 559-6402
Laurinburg, NC (910) 384-4226
Raleigh, NC (919) 785-0600
Siler City, NC (919) 742-2438
Wilmington, NC (910) 509-2312

You can also find contacts in Baltimore, Tampa, Seattle, New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit.


Tar Heel company markets log homes to gays

by Pam



Does this make them Log Cabin Republicans? Just kidding. Businesses should take note; Log Homes for Us realizes pink dollars = green dough in the bank. All those homophobes that don't want our money, fine. We'll give our disposable income to companies that acknowledge us. This NC-based company won't have trouble finding queer buyers in this area, I assure you. The other company in this story, Carefree Cove, has already sold out all the lots in its developed phase in the mountains near Asheville. That tolerant city is also known as A-SHE-ville because of its sizeable lesbian population. :) (Advocate):
A month-old company based in Rocky Mount, N.C., hopes to find success in the very niche market of gay and lesbian buyers of log homes. Justin Porter, founder of Log Homes for Us, said he noticed a market to sell the homes to gays and lesbians while working for a larger company, of which his firm is now a division. At log home exhibitions, "I realized one out of every 10 to 15 couples was a gay or lesbian couple," Porter said Friday. "And I realized there was no company catering to that demographic."

He guessed--correctly, he says now--that the salespeople in the log home business, which he describes as "a very good ol' boy industry," lost interest when they learned they were dealing with gay couples.

Porter, who is gay, describes the response to the limited advertising placed by Log Homes for Us as "unbelievable." "We're just getting call after call," he said.

Log Homes for Us is a division of the Original Log Cabin Homes Ltd., which began in 1973 and moved its headquarters to Interstate 95 in Rocky Mount in 1987. President Tom Vesce says he envisions Log Homes for Us selling 300 to 400 homes in its first year and accounting for as much as one sixth of overall sales. "We've had over the years many, many gay and lesbian customers," Vesce said. "This is an opportunity to acknowledge them publicly and salute that segment in the marketplace."


Carefree Cove's partners, Gina A. Razete, president, and Cathy L. Groene, vice-president, are working with Log Cabins for Us to build a gay community in the N.C. mountains, near Boone; one of the completed cabins.

Log Homes for Us has contracts for more than 75 homes, he said. And the company is working with the developers of Carefree Cove, a private community for gays being built in Zionville. All the homes in the community, located north of Boone, must have log or cedar siding. Developer Gina Razete said CJR, the company she owns with her partner, Cathy Groene, is building spec homes from Log Homes for Us kits. In addition, the developers will recommend Log Homes for Us to property owners. So far, CJR has sold 54 lots and plans to sell the last 30 or so lots this summer.

...Log Homes for Us markets itself with ads that are sleeker and more contemporary than those the parent company uses, said Porter, adding that gay and lesbian couples tend to buy larger homes than straight couples. Its Web site makes oblique references to why log homes should appeal to gays and lesbians, saying the Americans who settled the West "owned their own land and were free, both politically and economically."


The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

by Shakespeare's Sister

Shaker and fellow blogger (of Daily Mendacity) Patrick directed me to this DKos diary which reports that the Pentagon has decided to take “no action” on the ongoing problem of sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy (which is, of course, only one place where female soldiers face the threat of being sexually assaulted by their male cohorts).

(See here for a previous post on women in the war zone dealing with the same.)

From the press release issued by Rep. Louise Slaughter, included in the referenced diary:
Washington DC. The following are excerpts from a response letter released yesterday by Acting Secretary of the Air Force Mr. Peter Teets:

"The Acting Secretary of the Air Force has reviewed the Department of Defense Inspector General's (DoD/IG's) report and the Fowler report on sexual assault problems at the AF Academy. After considering all the facts and weighing all the interests at stake, the Acting Secretary found that no administrative action is warranted against those officers identified in those reports as bearing some responsibility for Academy's sexual assault problems.

The Acting Secretary gave significant weight to their uniformly excellent and lengthy service and to the fact they were not intentionally or willfully derelict in their duties. He also found that any mistakes or misjudgments some of them may have made are mitigated by the complexity of the issues faced, the necessity of policy tradeoffs and compromises, and the difficulty of measuring program effectiveness."

Congresswoman Slaughter reacted to the announcement by making the following statement:

"It is reprehensible that the rights of sexual assault victims are so easily sidelined by the Pentagon as `too complex' to address. This is the kind of `head in the sand' approach we would have expected from the military in the 1950's; in 2005 it is an abomination. Where is the accountability?"

"What the Pentagon clearly doesn't want to discuss, and what all Americans should know, is that women are being sexually assaulted on an ongoing basis in the military and at our nation's military academies by their colleagues. Action must be taken. Until the Pentagon insists on accountability, there can be no real change and as a result, our women in uniform will continue to suffer. Is this the best we can do for young Americans who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom?"
I’m not even really sure where to begin with this, but let’s start here: I am a rape victim.

When I was 16 years old, I was (in all that all-too-pleasant vernacular) date-raped by someone whom I had briefly dated. It was the first event in a series stretching across three very long years, during which I attempted to get various authorities involved to no result. Though the attacks were horrific in ways I cannot describe, the loneliness and futility of trying to put an end to the nightmare are what have had the most lasting effects on me, having changed me forever in ways that I am still realizing years later.

It is terrible to be a victim of sexual assault; it is unbearable to be revictimized by being left to deal with it on one’s own, to watch as the offender goes unpunished, to hear the actions of those who enable such abuses to continue be excused. When I found myself in dark moments, opening my skin with my own fingernails or the methodical scraping of an emery board in the same spot, until I bled and bled, to numb my anguish by finding solace in a pain I could control, it was not my rapist who filled my thoughts. The question I wanted answered was why does no one care?

To be sure, it was hard to believe the champion swimmer and honors student who was the monster under my bed could have been capable of the things he did—just as it is, to many, inconceivable that some of the same men who would bravely put their lives on the line in service of their country could be the perpetrators of such horrific acts against fellow soldiers. And it is this disbelief, and the somehow uneradicatable suspicion with which rape victims are regarded, that allowed what happened to me to happen, and allows now what is happening to our female soldiers who have been victims of sexual assault. That the problem is “complex” should not be a deterrent but instead a cause for resolve to find a solution.

I am disgusted and enraged by the Pentagon’s reaction to this problem. It is indeed not the best we can do for our female soldiers, and it is a poor message to send to women outside the armed forces, too. We don’t care about rape victims. It’s no different than the apathetic authorities I encountered, and to know that this no-accountability precedent is being set from the country’s leadership is discouraging, and speaks, sadly, to the fact that women’s bodies are still not seen as their own, still given less value than the careers of their male counterparts.

I am angry, yes. I am angry about what happened to me, and I am angry about what continues to happen to female soldiers. And yet, I am mostly sad—sad for the women who are only beginning the journey I have been on for the last 14 years—and hopeful that they will continue to speak out, and that women like Rep. Louise Slaughter will continue her fight to see things change, and that by telling my story, I will let someone one there know that they are not alone, even though it most certainly feels that way.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)


Former Judge Roy Moore -- Alabama's next governor?

by Pam


Rense.com

(via Media Matters). This is the man that wants to run Alabama. He's not officially announced his run for governor yet (he's praying on it), but ousted Judge Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore is now pontificating on evolution:
From the March 22 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MOORE: There's no scientific evidence of evolution. Evolution is a theory and has been recognized so by many. You have always heard of the missing link, haven't you?

MATTHEWS: Right.

MOORE: It is still missing. In other words, they can't explain how male and female came and every species from one atom or one amoeba.
The amateur scientist and biblical scholar has been in the news lately, since the monument of the Ten Commandments that cost Roy his job wrapped up its nationwide tour as of yesterday. The tour included rallies at state capitols, churches and courthouses; Moore gave permission to a group called American Veterans in Domestic Defense and named the project American Veterans Standing for God and Country "because he felt that veterans had a stake in the preservation of our godly heritage and the protection of our religious symbols."

He's also got a new book out, I suppose to bolster him on the campaign trail, outlining his opinion that the separation of church and state may be a credible and legitimate tenet, it has been largely misconstrued and abused during the last forty years -- and it's up to him to restore order. He'll be hawking this AmTaliban manifesto for quite some time to come.

He may sound like a crackpot, but he has significant support in Alabama. A Mobile Register-University of South Alabama poll of likely Republican primary voters shows Moore with a lead of 8 percentage points over Riley in a hypothetical primary matchup. Moore drew support from 43 percent of respondents, while the governor garnered 35 percent. Remember, however, that an Alabama law mandating racially separate classrooms is still on the books -- a state amendment to repeal the Jim Crow-era law was defeated last November. Roy Moore was leading the fight. As he said at the time regarding the amendment: "This is the most deceptive piece of legislation I have ever seen and it is simply a fraud on the people of Alabama." Supporters of the measure said it was not about taxes — but about erasing the last vestiges of Jim Crow provisions from Alabama law.

To get a flavor of the level of intolerance and backward thinking in this state, read my post: Is Alabama really the worst place to be a gay person in Bush's America?"

***

In a diary on DKos about this, there was an excellent post by Corncam, that I want to repeat here...
I remember Wallace (4.00 / 2)

I am an Alabama native, and I can remember when George Wallace was governor of our fair state. I hope that y'all will forgive me for such a negative posting, but I am virtually certain that Roy Moore will win, and I'm afraid that he will bring back the reign of terror that characterised our state for nearly 100 years, up until 1964.
When I moved out of state twenty years ago, I thought that racism was a dying way of life, and that Alabama would soon rejoin the rest of the modern world, but I have begun to doubt that conclusion. The rejection of Amendment 2 in November was especially alarming, because I know how sensitive Alabamians are to any suggestion that they are intolerant rednecks.

Roy Moore's hatred of gays, and extreme religious intolerance are, unfortunately, right in tune with Alabama's mainstream. If he is elected, I expect to see police raids on known same-sex families, and increased profiling & harassment of religious minorities, especially Muslims. I wouldn't even be surprised if lynchings started up again.

The idea that a Democrat might win is just a forlorn hope, and anyway, no one to the left of Zell Miller could possibly be elected. Gov. Riley has been the best man to hold that office in 20 years, and he is a far better man than Alabama deserves right now.

The fact is that most Southern conservatives don't believe in the US Constitution, and once they are confident that Washington won't step in to enforce its provisions, then they will begin to flagrantly violate the basic rights of their fellow citizens, just like they did during the Jim Crow era.

"The past isn't dead, it isn't even past." - Faulkner


What is Life???

by Ms. Julien in Miami

I am having a little trouble this morning, folks. I simply cannot understand why it is "olay" to obliterate the "sanctity" of marriage and deny a husband the right to speak for his long-brain-dead wife, in the process completely obliterating the governmental processes that true "patriots" (not the neocons) hold so dear...

In fact, today we learn in the Miami Herald that there was nearly a showdown between a team of state agents and local police over the Schiavo fiasco - historically, in "showdowns" there is a pretty good potential for loss of life...

Police 'showdown' averted




cmarbin@herald.com

Hours after a judge ordered that Terri Schiavo was not to be removed from her hospice, a team of state agents were en route to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted -- but they stopped short when local police told them they would enforce the judge's order, The Herald has learned.

Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told police in Pinellas Park, the small town where Schiavo lies at Hospice Woodside, on Thursday that they were on the way to take her to a hospital to resume her feeding.

For a brief period, local police, who have officers at the hospice to keep protesters out, prepared for what sources called ``a showdown.''

The thing is, folks, while this circus is going on, with all of its "extended" coverage, I wonder how many people fighting for LIFE will even read - much less care - about this:

Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in

Prisoners' Deaths

By DOUGLAS JEHL

Published: March 26, 2005

WASHINGTON, March 25 - Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.

So, my question is, what is life? Which LIFE is worth fighting for?? A woman who has been brain-dead for 15 years, now the pawn of a nasty political game (which indeed is exploiting not only Terri, but her parents and her husband and family) - or the fact that the second headline above - which people outside our country (like in the Middle East and Europe) certainly DO read - will most certainly increase the contempt that is held for "Americans" world wide, and will mean that we are even less safe when traveling abroad...

Ms. Julien


News Break
Dramatic Turnaround: Stock Markets Close Unchanged for the Day

by Dark Wraith

In a new twist on the three-week plunge in stock prices, every stock on the boards closed unchanged from yesterday. The exciting development led Bush Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, to gloat that "...we're finally seeing daylight here." When asked if stock prices might have stopped falling because the markets were closed today for Good Friday, one of the officials said, "This is just more of that reality-based bias the news media tries to use to criticize the great work of this Administration in protecting the profits of American companies." Stock traders were not available for comment, although several thousand were seen at Manhattan bars drinking themselves blind over the losses they've suffered in the recent downturn in stocks. One investment analyst was quoted off the record as saying, "We'll sure be glad when those private Social Security accounts start. At least then some serious sucker money is going to plow into this market so we can cash out and head for the Riviera." Asked if any Wall Street institutional investors were concerned about future retirees living in poverty because of this plan, the investment analyst responded, "And that's my problem because...?"

In other news today, it was revealed that the Bush Administration plans to sell advanced F-16 fighter planes to nuclear-armed adversaries Pakistan and India. Pentagon officials indicated that, with the pinpoint airstrike capabilities of these jets, neither side will need to continue research on and development of intermediate-range ballistic missiles just so they can bomb each other back to the Stone Age. When it was pointed out that many, if not most, of the people in both Pakistan and India are so poor they already live in nearly Stone Age conditions as it is, the Pentagon officials quickly moved on to recent photographs of alleged nuclear weapons development facilities in Iran. One reporter at the press conference asked why the United States was selling advanced weapons systems to Pakistan, the country that had tacitly supported its leading nuclear weapons expert, Dr. A.Q. Khan, who for years covertly sold both plans and parts for building nuclear weapons to Second and Third World nations, including Iran, North Korea, Libya, and a certain South American country. The reporter was quickly disappeared, with rumors swirling that he had been taken to the Gannon Re-education Training Camp currently located on a converted cruise liner called The Raging Muscle floating in the Gulf of Mexico.

In related news this afternoon, hospital officials in the capitol revealed that Joe Lieberman is pregnant with Ann Coulter's love child. More news on this breaking story as tolerance for unspeakable news parodies increases.

This is The Dark Wraith Forums news network.


Friday, March 25, 2005

Big Brother is unhappy

by Lanoire

He wishes he could spy on us more efficiently, and he's taking steps to that effect.

The Bush administration is considering a major restructuring of the Justice Department that would create a powerful new national security division in an effort to consolidate and coordinate terrorism and espionage investigations better, officials say.


This department would be the unholy love child of the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the CIA, and it would operate under the eye of the Justice Department.

Under the current Justice Department structure, the criminal division has primary responsibility for all counterterrorism prosecutions. But lawyers at a separate top-secret intelligence unit are the gatekeepers for foreign intelligence warrants authorizing wiretaps and other surveillance. Lawyers handling matters like immigration, civil rights and civil litigation in separate divisions can also become involved in national security matters on a regular basis.

The idea under discussion at the White House would move all national security functions into a new division overseen by an assistant attorney general.


So all these people, who before had their powers separated (how unAmerican!), will now be able to join forces with each other and pool information so that they can spy on American citizens for our own good. Of course there are some naysayers, probably all liberal traitors:

"I don't see a real benefit," said John L. Martin, a former Justice Department official who oversaw spy prosecutions for many years. "Creating a separate division, you risk detracting from the framework that's been built over the years, and that alone won't change whatever communication problems exist, no matter where you put the different pieces of the department."


But who cares what they say? We know the truth. The creation of this division is one small step for the American citizen, one giant leap for the Party.

(crossposted at Looking at the Stars)


Close Up

by John

If they zoomed in any closer, you wouldn't be able to tell if this was a picture referencing Terri Schiavo or Good Friday.

Picture 5

One thing I've noticed is that the Schindlers have done a much better job of using imagery and language to inspire sympathy for their side (and a lot of hate directed at Michael Schiavo). Their interpretation of Terri's condition is reinforced every time the media shows a picture of her, or reruns the four year old video. I'm not sure if other pictures exist, but the media doesn't seem to be too concerned that they're presenting a biased image of the story.


…and His Heart Ain’t In Great Shape, Either

by Shakespeare's Sister

Building on my last post about the president’s rather curious priorities, here’s yet another example of Bush’s selective concern for his electorate:
Native Americans across the country -- including tribal leaders, academics and rank-and-file tribe members -- voiced anger and frustration Thursday that President Bush has responded to the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history with silence.

Three days after 16-year-old Jeff Weise killed nine members of his Red Lake tribe before taking his own life, grief-stricken American Indians complained that the White House has offered little in the way of sympathy for the tribe situated in the uppermost region of Minnesota.

"From all over the world we are getting letters of condolence, the Red Cross has come, but the so-called Great White Father in Washington hasn't said or done a thing," said Clyde Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian who is the founder and national director of the American Indian Movement here. "When people's children are murdered and others are in the hospital hanging on to life, he should be the first one to offer his condolences. . . . If this was a white community, I don't think he'd have any problem doing that."
You know what, Clyde? I don’t think so, either. Unless, of course, it was a poor white community, or one which looked decidedly blue on an electoral map, or for any other reason didn’t tickle his political fancy. See, Bush just continues to prove that he doesn’t give a shit about anyone unless he’s going to garner more political capital that he can spend on behalf of furthering the agenda of his beloved corporatists or throwing a bone to the voracious fundies, who are so determined to claw their way to preeminence that they ignore the corporate monolith-favoring policies of which their great leader is so fond, that will eventually come back to bite them in their poor, bankrupt, minimum-wage, no-healthcare, no-legal recourse asses.
The reaction to Bush's silence was particularly bitter given his high-profile, late-night intervention on behalf of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman caught in a legal battle over whether her feeding tube should be reinserted.

"The fact that Bush preempted his vacation to say something about Ms. Schiavo and here you have 10 native people gunned down and he can't take time to speak is very telling," said David Wilkins, interim chairman of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota and a member of the North Carolina-based Lumbee tribe.
Yeah, it tells you what an absolute plonker he is.
Even more alarming than Bush's silence, he said, is the president's proposal to cut $100 million from several Indian programs next year.
Alarming. Right. Par for the motherfucking course.

Why is it that every time there’s some group that’s been offended, ignored, affronted, or otherwise slighted, or conversely, cynically celebrated as a cause de jour, by Bush & Co., a quick look at the budget shows massive cuts in funding to some sort of program or other that would have benefited them?
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, in an informal discussion with reporters Tuesday, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed."
How about instead of thoughts and prayers, you put that $100 million back into the budget? If you can’t, because your rampant warmongering and insistence on further padding the pockets of the already-wealthy with further tax cuts won’t allow such “discretionary spending,” maybe you ought to just shut the fuck up.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)


Brain Dead

by Shakespeare's Sister

In addition to the myriad of other hypocrisies of the Bush administration that the Schaivo case has pointedly highlighted, this might be the ultimate cherry on top of the gigantic sundae of unmitigated temerity (hat tip WTF Is It Now?):
According to doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., 60 percent of the wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq have traumatic brain injuries.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has recently completely zeroed out funding for the Federal TBI Act, which provides exactly this kind of help.
That’s right. Bush’s proposed 2006 budget includes cutting a $9 million program for treating people with traumatic brain injury, which completely eliminates the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Traumatic Brain Injury Program. The Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 1996 was passed
To amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for the conduct of expanded studies and the establishment of innovative programs with respect to traumatic brain injury, and for other purposes.
This endeavor, however, was considered expendable by the President who now undermines the checks and balances of our system of government, issuing an edict from the executive branch to direct the legislative branch to undermine the judicial branch. Willing to subvert one of the fundamental tenets of our democracy, he was not willing to earmark $9 million for the continuation of a program that studies traumatic brain injury—despite its importance in developing possible treatments for fully 60% of our returning soldiers. Support the troops indeed.

And note—the program did not require a specific amount of funding to keep it alive. Indicating a $1 million budget, or even a $100,000 budget, for the program would have sealed its reauthorization, but refusing to fund it at all was its death sentence.

I guess there are some plugs worth pulling when nobody’s paying attention.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)


Military Recruiting

by John

Francesca notes the arrival of two new television stations: The Pentagon Channel (from the producers of Toppling Saddam and Saving Private Jessica Lynch) and the Military Channel, courtesy of the Discovery Channel.

I'm always interested in learning more about military history and tactics, so I don't mind the latter as much as I'm worried about the former. I'd rather have the Pentagon focus more on fighting and winning wars, then having to sell them. Unfortunately, the reality of our armed forces' recruiting woes (more here, and here) has forced the Pentagon to go on the offensive by spending more time, energy, and money on finding people to fight and staff the war effort. The Pentagon Channel is just another front in the ongoing battle for more recruits.

Personally, I don't think it's going to work. It might entice a few more people to consider the armed forces, but the military's problem is nothing that they can fix. The problem is the Administration, and the lack of management they've demonstrated over the course of the last few years. Military recruiting largely depends on trusting the people to whom you're signing a few years of your life away. If you don't trust that the political leadership will support, protect, and use you in honest ways, you're probably not going to sign up.

I think there is a lot of evidence--from both military families and former and current soldiers--that this Administration is not doing a good job of instilling trust in recruits and its soldiers. I don't think the reason for the lack of new recruits is the war, or the increased danger associated with being in the military. From 9/11 until fairly recently, recruiting hasn't been an issue. Yet, as the war drags on, and it becomes more apparent that the reasons for going to war were less than clear, and that the management of the war was less than stellar, people otherwise interested in joining the military are having second thoughts, and erring on the side of their life.

Some people might be surprised to know that I've been thinking very hard over the last year about signing up as an analyst. The number one thing preventing me from doing so is this Administration. If Kerry had won, I might have already signed up. The bottom line is that I don't trust this Administration to learn from its mistakes, and I don't trust them with my life, even if I wouldn't necessarily be in harm's way. I have to believe that I'm not alone, and that no matter how many channels the Pentagon produces, or how much sexier they make the recruiting process, the bottom line is that it comes down to whether you trust the leadership to do the right thing. I don't, and I think there is a growing consensus that agrees with me.

(cross posted at Blogenlust)



Why are 8 Year Olds the Only Ones Who Get It?

by JJ

There is a lively debate going on over at Shakespeare’s Sister about the question of religion here, here , and here. If you read nothing else today you should read the comments in these posts! Very interesting debate the likes of which I have not seen on any other blog.

This brings me to an article from the Seattle PI about Perry Ortiz-Williams, an 8 year old whose actions are both noble and heart warming.


Little boy with big heart raises money to 'help ceep people worm'

"Last week in the newspaper was a story about a group of people who want to make an old hotel nice and shiny for people who are homeless. These people have coleckted a lot of money but thay still need 2 milleon dollars to make it nice and new. I an riting this leter because it makes me sad that so meny people have to live on the streets," he said in the handwritten letter to potential donors. His pitch?

You can give $50 or $1 doller all the money will help ceep lots of people worm and safe," he stated in neat, blocky letters.

In three months, Perry Ortiz-Williams raised $2,000 (…)

This 8 year old is raising money for the homeless in Seattle without any expectation of reward or recognition (although he has certainly obtained some). His motivation? Compassion.

Is this boy a good Christian or representative of an inherent goodness in all humanity without the corrupting influence of the Bible or Christianity? This is the epitome of what is wrong with the religious right who only perform deeds of “perceived” kindness in areas where they can achieve the most political and financial gains while imposing their beliefs on others.

It is the people who do great things for the benefit of society and their community who go unnoticed, without reward or the expectation of reward who are in my opinion not great Christians but simply great humans. Those who ask for nothing in return for their generosity and willingness to help are found in every society and every religion. It is not a religious act to help people in need, it is an act of compassion, an act of empathy, a uniquely human act. Why is it that only the 8 year olds get it?


Friday Blogrollin'

by Shakespeare's Sister

Please welcome:

Preposterous Universe

Liberty Street

Alas a Blog


The Limitless Depths of the Rights Hypocrisy

by JJ

So what is happening in wingnutville? According to our favorite AMTaliban leader Jan LaRue, the liberal media and liberal civil rights activists are not performing to her liking:


Too Bad Terri’s Not a Terrorist or a Condemned Murder
Where are those who file suit when some terrorist detainee in Guantanamo Bay didn’t get a cookie on his lunch tray or suffered the “torture” of having a guard dog growl at him? Where are those who file every motion, brief or appeal based on any and every argument they can think of in order to save the life of a serial murderer or a child-killer? Why aren’t they making arguments and filing briefs for Terri? They’ve either become mute or they’re in the media arguing against the kind of zealous advocacy on behalf of Terri that they regularly engage in.
Yep, she went there… How do we liberals attempt to refute these arguments that are completely irrational? There is a HUGE difference between Terri Shiavo and a human being forced against his will to be subjected to torture and depravation without due process. I have to point out that 26 judges have now found that the sanctity of a husband and wife relationship needs to be cherished and upheld. So she addresses the issue of the judges in an exceptional bit of wingnuttery:


There’s constant harping about how many judges have reviewed Terri’s case. So what? None of them has reviewed the evidence to see if, as a matter of law, it’s sufficient to sustain the court’s orders. That’s what Congress ordered to be done in “Terri’s law.” But it wasn’t.

She accuses federal judges and the supreme court of not reviewing the case after they had seen it 5 times already? “So what?” Are you 2 years old Jan or just suffering from dementia in your dotage? Jan seems to think she knows the law better than 26 judges appointed primarily by republicans? Wow! I wonder if her neck gets sore from watching the world revolve around her.

And the other wingnut Robert Knight makes an attempt to spin the nearly unanimous results from dozens of polls:


The ABC Poll was quickly echoed throughout the media, on broadcast networks and in major newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. Word grew on Capitol Hill, where Republicans were rushing to enact legislation to protect Terri’s right to a federal court hearing, that the American people were not with them. The figures also were noted in Tallahassee, where the Republican-controlled Senate refused to approve a bill to reinstate Terri’s food and water while legal issues were being fought.
What he fails to mention is that all of the polls were done indepently of the one from ABC. For some reason the wingnuts have an issue with ABC, (I assume it is because they are now done with CBS since Dan Rather has left). Wingnut Daily weighs in on the ABC poll here ABC News deceptive in Terri Schiavo poll?

I am sure their on staff doctors have fully reviewed, examined and successfully diagnosed Terry in the last 24 hours to make the claim that ABC used the incorrect wording in their question.

The wingnuts go so far as to demand that Gov Jeb violate the law and steal Terri away with whatever force necessary.

D. James Kennedy says governormust 'disregard' judge to save Terri

With all legal remedies apparently exhausted, a prominent evangelical Christian leader is urging Jeb Bush to disobey a judge's order barring the Florida governor from intervening to save the life of Terri Shiavo. Kennedy, president of Coral Ridge Ministries, said Bush "must act and he must act immediately on her behalf."
"He must disregard the order of Judge Greer," Kennedy said. "He has both the authority and the duty to do so under the state constitution."


Apparently Kennedy is a constitutional scholar, who knew? These are the leaders of the religious right demanding that a state governor act in direct violation of the law! Be afraid for the life and well being of all of the court justices and parties invloved in the decisions regarding the last wishes of Terry Shiavo. If a person feels justifed in demanding that a governor break the law then what is to stop them from breaking the law themselves? I am afraid that as the end of Terrys life draws near the passions of the protesters will degrade into violence.

The scariest part of this entire sordid affair is that these people do not even recognize the limitless depths of their own hypocrisy.


Thin skin of the Technorati Testosteroni

by Pam

[Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.]


Perhaps Atrios is using the "Chief Brody technique" of writing -- throwing chum at his readers in an attempt to keep them hungry and coming back -- while he takes a creative breather.

Sometimes being polite (and astute) doesn't get you anything but grief. Talk to Jesse of In Search of Telford, who made the ungainly mistake of noticing that Atrios is coasting on his Big Blogger reputation with some pretty thin commentary on Eschaton. I don't know Jesse, and have never been to Telford before today, but a whole mess of folks have been over to visit now because of a little electronic dust-up.

As I said, Jesse wasn't exactly flogging Duncan Black for being a dimwit or gum-flapping fool on Eschaton; he has a lot of respect for the blog and the man:
Atrios is a heavy-hitter in the blog landscape. He deserves respect for simply being so successful. I read Eschaton daily and have now for a couple of years. He is a true pioneer in this medium and, for that, I praise him.
The fun begins when Jesse tells it like it is...call it what you may...lethargy setting in, the smell of death, reaching the point of "jumping the shark", you know what we're talking about...
One "open thread" after a cryptic, one line link, followed by another "open thread" smooshed in between a post about "Bobo's World" or "Big Media Matt". The total amount of thought put into the blog appears to be next to zero.

...He didn't become a full time blogger who lives off ad revenue by doing what he's doing now. He did it by fostering a community on his blog and supporting Democratic causes. He did it by developing a knack for getting right to the heart of a matter. He did it by not resting on his laurels.

My point is, he seems to have lost a step on his blog.
The response of Atrios to this mild criticism was to get his panties wadded up in a bit of snark:
Open Thread

Just to annoy the people who don't think I'm keeping it real anymore.
-Atrios 8:34 PM
That's a pretty lame, flip-the-bird response, but it's truly disturbing and petty of Atrios to take it to the next level and point his band of "progressive Freepi" regulars over to Jesse's blog to cut loose instead of giving a thoughtful response to the question of whether Eschaton is in creative hibernation.

Maybe Atrios is waiting for the next election cycle while he recharges, but damn, he could at least pass the baton to those with a tad more energy to take on the cause of political commentary, for crying out loud. The plight is simple -- there are plenty of issues out there that people would like to see Atrios's commentary on, but if he doesn't have the time or inclination to do so, there are plenty of bloggers out there, as Jesse points out, toiling at their blogs for zip, trying to get their voices recognized. [And, no I'm not whining for an addition to a blogroll, a link or anything of the sort -- as if writing a post like this is going to garner it!]

Eschaton has the feel of a blog that's "done," is all Jesse is saying, and I have heard this from many others around the blogosphere -- they just aren't posting about it. The fork is in it, people. No one is saying Eschaton can't be meaningful again, but there isn't a whole lot of cutting-edge politics/activism going on there right now. It's coasting time. The saddest aspect of all is that the Atrios minions really did sink to Freeper mode, unleashing juvenile comments worthy of Freeperland...

Actual Atrios Creatures Quotes™
"WaWaWa....dickhead"

"We're all deeply sorry that Atrios has ignored you. Reminds me of my only lonely years being unable to get a call back from Brittney Spears. Why won't she call?! Waaaaaahhhhhhhh!"

"fuck u cum junkie"

"Whoa - now *there's* a concept: get mega-hits by taking a candy-assed slap at someone very well-established in the same field, then revel in the echo-chamber comment-section slobberings of a gang who would probably be bested in a ninth-grade civics flash drill."

"Shorter Jesse: "Atrios didn't kiss my feet! Waaahhhh! (But at least my whining conned people into visiting my site! Go me!!!!)"

"m coming oh god im coming oh yes fuck me oh god yes fuck im coming, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh put it in me oh yeah put it in me oh god oh oh oh fuck me oh yes oh god im coming oh yes oh fcuk oh god im coming im coming ohhhh ohhhh ohhhh ohhhh"
Are we back in kindergarten? So much for polite discussion about a legitimate topic in the growing, diverse, progressive, online political commentary community. The most embarrassing comment of the Atrios regulars that bombarded Jesse's site belonged to none other than fellow big blogger bat Steve Gilliard, who picks on the guy's blog design.
Boy, blogging is so easy. I mean, it's so easy I'd have time to worry about how other people run their blogs. Take this blog, for instance. It really needs a new, easier to read design. Then it needs some art, yet art would help. I mean, how much time did you put into this design? You know they have other designs in blogger. Try using them.
Note to readers: Gilliard's News Blog uses a tired Blogger template, so I'm not sure how this places him in an exalted position to throw design stones. C'est la vie.

Atrios only a couple of days ago, in his post Whiners, took Dem members of Congress to task (specifically Adam Schiff) for being babies over Dave Sirota's critical letter that pointed out political contributions trumped constituent interest in the bankruptcy bill vote. The Dems lamely cried "personal and inappropriate." The response of Atrios to Jesse's post feels strangely similar...oh, the irony. It really is unseemly for a big blogger to send his "Frist!" faithful over to harass a smaller blogger.

Personally, I feel for Atrios. I mean it's got to be hard to keep fresh content up all the time with all those readers to please -- it's a lot of pressure. You feel like you're letting folks down if you don't have something to say every day, or point to some new nugget or story that is flaming hot that might require mobilizing the next big move for progressives. When you have as large a readership and as high a profile as Eschaton, he has to feel like Amity Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) in Jaws, sitting on the Orca, shoveling bloody chum overboard to draw in the shark to Captain Quint's boat. It's hard to keep 100,000 daily visitors (and those advertisers) coming back, right?

The bottom line is that while keeping a blog current and relevant is hard, Eschaton is whatever Atrios wants it to be; he's entitled to change the format or approach of the blog, or to simply call a content "time out" between election cycles. What is disingenuous is saying he's "keeping it real" when there has been a change in tenor and content at the blog. Jesse's criticism wasn't exactly a foaming-at-the-mouth rant; it deserved a response of equal courtesy. If Atrios didn't want to bother responding, he didn't have to link to him. By linking he knew full well his minions would follow the link to respond, not surprisingly, inappropriately. That's being a baby, er, passive-aggressive, my friends.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Passion of Terri

by John

Thanks to Heraldblog for the latest, and perhaps toughest, submission in the Who Can Nail Terri Schiavo to Jesus' Cross (so to speak) Sweepstakes!

From Spirit Daily: "Schiavo Woman Is Victim Soul Journeying With The Christ This Week To Golgotha"
And so, yes, Terri Schiavo and her parents are brought this week in the most excruciating fashion with Christ to Golgotha. Woe to those who do not see the evil. Woe to those who have washed their hands of this like Pontius Pilate.Hmm. Is that a threat?
Of course, with his recent act of treason against the Religious Right, John Cole is making a hard play for the role of Judas in The Passion of Terri (Robert Novak's words, not mine).

I'm so going to hell.


Bush and Political Opportunism, Part 9,826 and Counting

by Shakespeare's Sister

The Sun-Sentinel reports (link via Raw Story):
As the second hurricane in less than a month bore down on Florida last fall, a federal consultant predicted a "huge mess" that could reflect poorly on President Bush and suggested that his re-election staff be brought in to minimize any political liability, records show.

Two weeks later, a Florida official summarizing the hurricane response wrote that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handing out housing assistance "to everyone who needs it without asking for much information of any kind."

[…]

Democrats in Washington said the records confirm suspicions that the federal government used the hurricanes to funnel money to Florida, a key battleground state in the presidential election. "They weren't really asking for information, yet they were just doling out this money like it was Christmas," said Lale Mamaux, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton.

"It's not surprising to learn that [Republicans] played politics with the hurricanes that tragically affected hundreds of thousands of Floridians last year," said Josh Earnest, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.
No, it’s not surprising at all. Because this administration is patently incapable of doing anything that isn’t resolutely politically motivated. I am hard-pressed to think of anything executed by the Bush administration that was done out of any sense of obligation to the American people as a whole, rather than a cynical and pandering ploy to one of their two bases—the corporatists or the fundies.

Of course, FEMA officials, Jeb Bush, and the White House have denied that the driving force behind the distribution of hurricane aid was politics.
"The men and women at FEMA don't give a patooey about who the president is or who the governor is," FEMA Director Michael D. Brown told the newspaper's editorial board in October. "Whenever people say stuff like that … we're just offended by that because that's just not how we operate."
Huh. That’s an interesting claim, because it turns out that a three-page memo authored by FEMA consultant (oh, it’s always a consultant, isn’t it?) Glenn Garcelon on Sept. 2, titled Hurricane Frances—Thoughts and Suggestions, sort of undermines that theory. In a big way.
The Republican National Convention was winding down, and President Bush had only a slight lead in the polls against Democrat John Kerry. Winning Florida was key to the president's re-election. FEMA should pay careful attention to how it is portrayed by the public, Garcelon wrote in the memo, conveying "the team effort theme at every opportunity" alongside state and local officials, the insurance and construction industries, and relief agencies such as the Red Cross.

"What FEMA cannot afford to do is back itself into a corner by feeling it has to be the sole explainer and defender for everything that goes wrong," he wrote. "Further, this is not what the President would want. Plenty is going to go wrong, and his Department of Homeland Security does not want to assume responsibility for all of it."

Garcelon, a former FEMA employee, recommended that "top-level people from FEMA and the White House need to develop a communication strategy and an agreed-upon set of themes and communications objectives."

"Communication consultants from the President's re-election campaign should be brought in," he wrote. "Above all, everybody's got to understand that no amount of flogging DHS/ FEMA will insure that the recovery will go perfectly. This is going to be a huge mess. The public needs to be prepared for it."
But then again, the public does tend to be more forgiving when they’re handed large sums of money, even if they weren’t victims of the hurricane.
FEMA has been under scrutiny since the Sun-Sentinel first reported in October that the agency was awarding millions of dollars in disaster funds to residents of Miami-Dade County, even though the county did not experience hurricane conditions. At Nelson's urging, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is investigating. Earlier this month, 14 Miami-Dade residents who received assistance were indicted on fraud charges.

As of March 16, FEMA had given $31 million to 12,891 applicants in Miami-Dade for damage claimed from Frances.

The grants are intended to help people find temporary housing, repair damage to homes and replace personal items, such as TVs, microwaves, computers and furniture.

[…]

FEMA acknowledged that in Miami-Dade County and in other areas of the state, however, the agency took the rare step, given the magnitude of the disaster, of awarding $726 in "expedited" housing assistance to people who asked for it, without immediately sending inspectors to verify damage.

In a Sept. 13 memo to Gov. Bush and other top state officials, Orlando J. Cabrera, executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corp. and a member of the governor's Hurricane Housing Work Group, wrote after a meeting with FEMA that the agency was allocating short-term rental assistance to "everyone who needs it, without asking for much information of any kind."

Other so-called "standard housing assistance," of up to $25,600, he wrote, is "liberally provided without significant scrutiny of the request made during the initial months; scrutiny increases remarkably and the package is far more stringent after an unspecified time."
The White House denies any responsibility—what a shocker—instead directing inquiries to FEMA. But it’s difficult to believe that an email message from Labor Secretary Elaine Chao sent to Governor Bush and immediately forwarded to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was never brought to the President’s attention.
Even state officials were surprised at how quickly money flowed to Florida.

The day after Hurricane Charley hit the west coast, the state's labor chief, Susan Pareigis, asked for a federal grant for unemployment assistance for storm victims.

Four days later, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao "was down personally" to award the money, Pareigis wrote in an Aug. 24 e-mail to the governor. "Please express our sincere thank you for such an instantaneous response."

The governor forwarded her e-mail to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card in less than 10 minutes.

"Please tell the President and your team how grateful we are," Gov. Bush wrote. "The response has been awesome from FEMA and other departments."
Translation: you’ve just bought yourself Florida. Well done.


Slippery Slope

by Shakespeare's Sister

Rook:
Oh, and if you want one reason, one solid reason why abortion should not be made illegal, this whole Schiavo case is it. Abortion has been nothing more then a long, stretched out version of what is happening with Terri Schiavo. And in both cases, it is the body of a woman that is being used for base political gain.
If you’re thinking, Hey, Shakespeare’s Sister—why should I listen to that Rook fella? He’s a crazy liberal just like you are!, well then how about giving conservative John Cole a listen?
And that is what this is- politics and symbolism on the right to life battlefield. I have said it before- this is jihad for these folks. They don't give two hoots in hell about Terri Schiavo- this is about abortion, religion, and most of all, about power and control. Their concept of morality is king, you see- your behavior in the bedroom, your choice in sexual partner, your desires about end of life decisions, abortion, even the medication you use to ease the pain when you are dying of terminal diseases- their religious text should have authority over you, and if all these 'small-government strict constructionists states right's advocates' have to attain that through government proxy, so be it.
So there.


Go Nads

by Shakespeare's Sister

The Economist on Bush’s “young and irresponsible” years, via The Hamster:
“INTELLECTUAL” is hardly the first word that springs to mind when you contemplate George Bush. Mr Bush glided through the best education that money can buy without acquiring much in the way of “book learning”. At school, he formed a stick-ball team called the Nads (providing him and his pals with a chance to shout “Go Nads”).

Sure, but were they big brass ones?



Read-Ems

by Shakespeare's Sister

Busy today, but here are a few of my recommendations from around the blogosphere:

Rox Populi on Wolfowitz’s girlfriend (oy!), who it just so happens works for the World Bank. Huh.

Amanda at Pandagon on the unlikelihood of an uproar if Terri Schaivo were, instead, a man.

Echidne on professional screeching harpy Peggy Noonan’s assertion that the Dems are the pro-death party. (Yes, the Dems—which is far, because we did lead the country into a war of choice based on cooked intelligence. Oh wait. That wasn’t us at all, was it?)

Tangentially, Body and Soul on the unfortunate side effects of torture…like death.

The Green Knight wants to know What’s the Matter with Florida? (Paging Ms. J….)

And Bark Bark Woof Woof makes a good point about the Dems:
The Democrats, wisely or not, have been largely silent in the Schiavo case itself. …[T]hey have probably learned their lesson that when your opponent is going out on a limb, the best thing to do is let him carry his own saw while you stand back and watch. That may draw the ire of some, but in the long term it may just work.
Originally, I was fairly certain that the Dems were stealing defeat from the jaws of victory again, but the longer this goes on, the more I think that this is a case of giving the GOP enough rope with which to hang themselves if ever I saw one. It would have been nice if no Dems had voted for intervention, but failing a unanimous opposition, just keeping their collective mouth shut and letting other Republicans (like John Warner and Chris Shays) point out how far the party has fallen, is a damn fine idea.

(Also, there’s an interesting debate about religious liberals going on over at Shakespeare’s Sister across three separate posts, if anyone cares to weigh in.)


Maine moves to extend anti-discrimination laws to gays

by Pam


Martin Ripley of Augusta delivers emotional testimony during a hearing on LD 1196 Wednesday. He said he has experienced workplace discrimination because he is gay. Right: Opponents of the bill, (from left) Glyneta Thomson of Surry, John Linnehan of Ellsworth, Matt McDonald of Bangor and Charla Bansley of Ellsworth. Bansley is state director of Concerned Women for America of Maine. Photo: John Clarke Russ.

Tell me how reasonable (supposedly Christian) people in this day and age to think that it's just fine for a worker to be harassed and forced out of a job simply because they are gay. Oh that's right. We're under the scornful eye of the AmTaliban-types such as the Concerned Women for America, which is providing the opposition in Maine to a bill backed by the governor to add sexual orientation to its human rights laws. (BangorDailyNews):
Gay rights supporters squared off with religious conservatives in an emotional, standing room only public hearing Wednesday about whether Maine should extend its anti-discrimination laws to homosexuals. "The long and short of why I am here is this: I am a hard worker and enjoy having a job. But it's been very hard for me to keep a job since I came out nine years ago," Martin Ripley of Augusta told members of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee during testimony on Gov. John Baldacci's gay rights bill, LD 1196.

Ripley said he was subjected to death threats while working at Bath Iron Works and decided to quit after he was struck in the back with a bolt. He said his sexual orientation caused him to be fired from subsequent jobs, although he now has a decent occupation.

"At times, I've slept in my car for weeks at a time or camped out in a tent because I could not afford any rent," said Ripley. "I am a hard worker. I have moved on because I have had no choice."

But opponents argued that other factors must have been at play if gay workers were fired and that there is no need to extend "special" rights to any class of people. They also believed supporters had another agenda.

"Don't kid yourselves. If enacted, this legislation will ... open the door to civil unions and same-sex marriage," Glyneta Thomson of Surry, a Christian and a social conservative, told the committee.

...On a fast track through the Legislature, the bill would amend the Maine Human Rights Act to add sexual orientation as a class protected against discrimination in employment, credit, housing, education and public accommodations. Race, gender, religion, age, and physical and mental disabilities are among the classes already protected by the act.

Supporters far outnumbered opponents at the hearing, which lasted for four hours in an upstairs committee room, overflowing with people and television cameras.


Yumm Yum

by JJ

Fast food is one of the 4 main food groups that keeps me alive. I have tried dieting but just can't get past my recommended daily allowance of cheeseburgers. However, this makes me think twice about the quality of food that I am consuming.

Californian finds finger in bowl of fast food chili

SAN FRANCISCO - A diner at a Wendy’s fast food restaurant in San Jose, California, found a human finger in a bowl of chili prepared by the chain, local officials said.(...)

“This individual apparently did take a spoonful, did have a finger in their mouth and then, you know, spit it out and recognized it,” said Ben Gale, director of the department of environmental health for Santa Clara County. “Then they had some kind of emotional reaction and vomited.”(...)


No kidding...

The most recent bad experience I have had was at a McDonalds in the Dulles Airport on a layover to Hartford. I bought a burger and soda, finished the soda and opened the lid to crunch on the ice and to my surprise there was a cockroach in the cup. He was a little soggy but alive nonetheless. This experience left me a bit queasy and of course my flight was 2 minutes from boarding so I could not return to the restaurant to complain. I have not flown through Dulles, nor have I eaten airport food in any shape or form since this unfortunate incident. In addition, I no longer open my soda cups to munch on ice. Ignorance is bliss in this case!

Not much can compare to noshing on a severed human finger but tell us what has been your worst fast food experience?


Too Many Choices

by John

It's really hard to pick the most outrageously disgusting development of Tubegate. So many choices: President Bush rushing home from his vacation, Congress calling Terri to testify, Bill Frist making medical judgments from a four year old video, the Palm Sunday Compromise, comparing Terri's ordeal to the Passion of Christ, Governor Jeb Bush trying to send in the state police to confiscate Terri, the list goes on and on.

But for me, it was the dumbass parents who, with their children, tried to bring Terri water yesterday. Of course, they were subsequently arrested. Nice family values.
Cris Keys was among about a dozen people who stood in front of the hospice to bring water to Schiavo. He and three of his children were arrested as his 2-year-old daughter watched from her mother's arms.

His 14-year-old daughter said she was "a little nervous," but that she was sure she was doing God's bidding. She and her 12-year-old brother were cuffed and taken away.
Oh wait, reading on I found something even worse:
Police arrested one woman after she made a long statement in which she suggested that allowing Schiavo to die would bring the country more disasters like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and natural disasters. Before her arrest, Eva Edl also said, "If we let this happen to her it will be happening to others."
Remember, this is the Republicans' base. All the things mentioned above were done with only one thing in mind: kissing these peoples' ass. That's a pretty fucking scary thought, no?


Nyah, Nyah....

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Here's what happens when you start going overboard in messing with the bedrooms of citizens...The marriage amendments are going TOO far - and in overturning them, as will have to happen (now that the apathetic "it doesn't affect me" heteros' rights are indeed being affected), we will have our own wedge in which to work in our rights... Ms. Julien

Ohio Gay Marriage Ban Protects Accused In Domestic Abuse Cases
by The Associated Press

(Cleveland, Ohio) Domestic violence charges cannot be filed against unmarried heterosexual couples because of Ohio's new constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman changed a felony domestic violence charge against Frederick Burk to a misdemeanor assault charge.

Prosecutors immediately appealed.

Judges and others across the country have been waiting for a ruling on how the gay marriage ban, among the nation's broadest, would affect Ohio's 25-year-old domestic violence law, which previously wasn't limited to married people. (story)

Burk, 42, is accused of slapping and pushing his live-in girlfriend during a January argument over a pack of cigarettes.

His public defender, David Magee, had asked the judge to throw out the charge because of the new wording in Ohio's constitution that prohibits any state or local law that would "create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals."

Before the amendment, courts applied the domestic violence law by defining a family as including an unmarried couple living together as would a husband and wife, the judge said. The gay marriage amendment no longer allows that.

John Martin, who supervises appeals in the public defender's office, said the office was pleased with the ruling but would not comment further because of the appeal.

Because Burk had a prior domestic violence conviction, the latest charge was a felony that could have resulted in an 18-month jail term; a misdemeanor assault carries a maximum sentence of six months.

"This case is a good example of why we need a domestic violence law. A misdemeanor assault doesn't carry with it a significant enough penalty for repeat domestic violence abusers," said Matt Meyer, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor.

Some opponents of the amendment have said they hope the conflict over the domestic violence law would result in the gay marriage ban being repealed.

Seventeen states have constitutional language defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Ohio's is regarded as the broadest marriage amendment of those passed by 11 states Nov. 2 because it bans civil unions and legal status to all unmarried couples and gay marriages.




Families of birth vs. families of choice

by Lanoire

Via Digby, I've discovered that Charles Krauthammer has surpassed himself in pure idiocy regarding the Terri Schiavo case.

Digby deals with much of the column's weaknesses, but there are a few additional points that I think are important:

In this case, the loved ones disagree. The husband wants Terri to die; the parents do not. The Florida court gave the surrogacy to her husband, under the generally useful rule that your spouse is the most reliable diviner of your wishes: You pick your spouse and not your parents, and you have spent most of your recent years with your spouse and not your parents.

The problem is that although your spouse probably knows you best, there is no guarantee that he will not confuse his wishes with yours.


And this is not a problem at all with parents. Parents never confuse their own wishes, hopes, desires and beliefs with those of their children. On the contrary, those of you with children will be happy to know that on becoming a parent, you were gifted with a capacity to read your children's minds without any of your own personal bias getting in the way. This is a relief to me as well, since it conclusively proves that none of my angry fights with my parents actually ever happened at all.

Terri's spouse presents complications. He has a girlfriend, and has two kids with her. He clearly wants to marry again. And a living Terri stands in the way.


Except that there's this little thing called a divorce court. If Michael Schiavo wanted to move on with his life, the easiest thing to do would be to stop fighting and just let his wife's parents have their way--not to go through all this hassle.

Krauthammer's legal opinions are even stranger:

There is no good outcome to this case. Except perhaps if Florida and the other states were to amend their laws and resolve conflicts among loved ones differently -- by granting authority not necessarily to the spouse but to whatever first-degree relative (even if in the minority) chooses life and is committed to support it.


This is utter nonsense. Your spousal relationship is by definition the most intimate and most important one--that's what marriage means. Krauthammer is saying that if you've got some highly religious sibling or parent who cares nothing for your wellbeing or your opinion but wants you to languish on your deathbed for years because of their religious notions, that person should have ultimate control over your life-or-death decisions. Krauthammer would probably say that "choosing life" ought to be the default position--but what's "life"? Terri Schiavo wouldn't qualify for it in my book. The fact is that the line between life and death is blurry and that every person has the right to live by their own opinion on when life turns into death. Determining and then respecting the patient's wishes, not choosing Krauthammer's definition of life, ought to be the highest priority in a situation like this. If a patient designates a spouse as legal guardian, that means that she trusts him to make the best decision for her, and that she wants his decision to be accepted over those of her "first-degree relatives." Krauthammer considers her choice of guardian irrelevant; he thinks it should be immediate family who "choose life," and if she disagrees, too bad.

Krauthammer appears to believe that first-degree relatives--the family you don't choose--are automatically a) as important as, and b) more pure of motive than spouses--the family you do choose, the family you create on your own. This case is all about autonomy, not only in the matter of Schiavo's wishes vs. those of the Schindlers, but also in the matter of whether Schiavo has the right to form her own family. Is Terri Schiavo entitled to decide who she trusts the most? Or will Krauthammer and Congress make that decision for her? Are we entitled to create our own families, or do we have to abide by the wishes of pundits who say that the families we're born into are the most important if and only if they agree with the pundits?

Marriage is a condition for adults. Our spouses and children are the families we consciously, actively choose. Our parents, on the other hand, are the families we're stuck with. We enter into marriage voluntarily and freely, as adults. We don't have a choice about whether or not to be a daughter or a son to our parents; we enter into that relationship completely powerless. Our relationships to our parents are formed when we are young, vulnerable and helpless. Not so for our spouses and children (at least, that's not the way it's supposed to be). Sometimes our unchosen families turn out great. Sometimes they don't. By placing our unchosen families (the ones we relate to as vulnerable children) over our chosen families (the ones we relate to as autonomous adults), Krauthammer is saying that we are all permanent minors: we're stuck with the state definition of who our nearest and dearest are, regardless of what our wishes may be.

Now that's family values for you.


Guantanamo detainees face drumhead tribunals

by Lanoire

(crossposted to Looking at the Stars)

NY Times headline: Guantanamo detainees make their case.

Actuality: Guantanamo detainees, without legal counsel or knowledge of the evidence against them, face military panels who make unfalsifiable accusations against them.

It's ridiculous to think that any detainee could hope to prove his innocence when he doesn't even know why the US thinks he's guilty. It's also ridiculous to think that any detainee could prove he didn't break the law when he doesn't have anyone telling him what the law is.

To be released, they must persuade the board that no matter their history, they are not a threat to the United States or its allies.


Got that right? The US military has the legal right to round up whoever it feels like, and it's up to the prisoners to prove that they're not a threat.

They consist of panels of three military officers conducting hearings at which detainees, none of whom are allowed to have lawyers present, can tell their stories and dispute accusations that they were part of the Taliban or allied with Al Qaeda.


Here's a question: what does it mean to be "part of the Taliban," a loose organization which was the Afghan government (and therefore with authority for its citizens) at the time? And what does it mean to be "allied with Al Qaeda"? Being a conspirator or a saboteur or a murderer seems like a clear-cut definition. But just about anyone can be an "ally." Hell, some conservatives would say I'm "allied with Al Qaeda."


Torture: Please pass the outrage.

by John

Even more evidence that our "systematic torture policy" is really our systematic torture policy:

Senior defense officials have described the CIA practice of hiding unregistered detainees at Abu Ghraib prison as ad hoc and unauthorized, but a review of Army documents shows that the agency's "ghosting" program was systematic and known to three senior intelligence officials in Iraq.

Army and Pentagon investigations have acknowledged a limited amount of ghosting, but more than a dozen documents and investigative statements obtained by The Washington Post show that unregistered CIA detainees were brought to Abu Ghraib several times a week in late 2003, and that they were hidden in a special row of cells. Military police soldiers came up with a rough system to keep track of such detainees with single-digit identification numbers, while others were dropped off unnamed, unannounced and unaccounted for.

The documents show that the highest-ranking general in Iraq at the time acknowledged that his top intelligence officer was aware the CIA was using Abu Ghraib's cells, a policy the general abruptly stopped when questions arose.

And the Geneva Conventions? Never heard of them.

According to investigative statements by some soldiers, such detainees were left in isolation cells for weeks without being interrogated, they were sometimes registered under fake names and essentially lost, and the rules that applied to thousands of other detainees did not always apply to them.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: When can we stop acting like our "widespread torture policy" is not really our widespread torture policy? What is X, where X equals the number of prisoners (both guilty and not guilty) that have to be tortured to death so that someone in this Administration will be held accountable for this illegal and counterproductive policy?

As a society, it's telling what we save our outrage for. A brain dead woman in Florida? Stop everything! Systematic torture of inmates that might not be guilty? Cue the fucking crickets.

(as seen at Blogenlust)



The Homosexual Challenge

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Tonight I am watching The Scarlet Letter while working on some projects - the "witch hunters" are so like the religious fundies it is like looking at today (without the SUVs...). I think I saw decendants of DeLay and Frist in the witch trials...

Our challenge? To rise above today's headlines:

Alabama May Ban Gay Adoption

Singapore Nixes AIDS Concert Over US Gay Singers

Gay Cruise Stopped By St. Kitts

NY Court Rejects Workers' Comp Claim By Same-sex Partner

Kansas Conservatives Build War Chest To Fight For Gay Marriage Amendment

Indiana House Approves Anti-Gay Amendment


And remember that life is a pendulum - it swings one way and the other - right now it is swinging in the way of hatred, intolerance and ignorance. It will naturally swing the other way again.

We just have to ride it out.

In the meantime - there is some indication of what is to come - we must continue to work toward more of these headlines:

Maryland Gay Partner & Hate Crimes Bills Move Forward

Support Gaining For Washington Gay Rights Bill



Ms. Julien


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Big Brass Blog Site Maintenance

by Dark Wraith

The Dark Wraith has spent much of the day trying to make this blog compatible with a range of both display resolutions and browsers.

In one ugly episode, the entire Website turned into a catastrophe of cascading errors that crashed my computer (and not incidentally, wiped out the original code that was parked in an open file that I had not yet saved); and I could not for the life of me see where I had made the coding mistake. It was at that point that I nearly became a Satan worshipper.

After several more hours, the error was resolved and the blog finally came together looking right both in Preview mode and, after saving and publishing the results, in standard browser mode. Then I happened to check the blog on another computer running the same browser, the same operating system, the same display resolution, the same everything, except for a different-sized monitor; and there it was: catastrophe with a capital Dear God, These Other Bloggers Are Going To Hunt Me Down Like A Dog And Beat Me With A Rake.

It is now closing in on midnight. Having spent another round of hours and barrels of coffee doing everything of which I can think in my enfeebled state, I can now see nothing wrong with the blog (other than the graphic at the top, which still makes me feel sort of weird; but that's more of a cultural upbringing/artistic kind of thing, mind you). On my computer monitor, the site renders well at 1024x768, and it degrades gracefully at 800x600. The column bars are gone for now, but they can be brought back later. None of the three columns of text are overlapping; and there is no "Error" or "Done but with errors" message in the browser's lower frame.

For God's sake, people, talk to me, here. Does the blog look right from where you're sitting, tonight? Your answers will determine whether or not I stay on this continent or move to another one that has rules against beating wraiths with rakes.


The Dark Wraith awaits some feedback.


Army to miss recruiting targets, sibling combat policy on the table

by Pam


By serving the country and protecting our freedoms, your son or daughter will be building a better future for others as well as for him or herself. A future full of pride, honor and opportunities.

But the benefits don't end there. Your son or daughter can also earn money for college, gain training in a multitude of skill areas, receive excellent healthcare benefits and take advantage of a wide variety of career options, just to name a few.
-- GoArmy.com Web site

Have you seen the sorry-ass commercials for the Army lately? The latest campaign is a naked appeal to parents' patriotism, and so far, I've seen ones featuring white, black and Latino families, each with young people (men and women) talking to their parent about "making a commitment" or "doing something to make a difference in the world" -- all soft-sell stuff -- the punch line is the Army logo up onscreen. The bottom line is that the kid is "doing the right thing to make their folks proud of them." Take a look at one of the PR efforts here.

It's such transparent bullsh*t that you realize how desperate the situation must be. The Army is so hard up that it has already raised the maximum age for the National Guard and Reserve to 39. Even the limit on the amount of siblings from one family they will allow in harm's way is under discussion. Anything to avoid the draft. (Boston.com):
The Army missed its recruiting goal for February by 27 percent, and that was the first time it had missed a monthly goal since May 2000. The last time it missed its full-year goal was 1999.

As of Feb. 28, the regular Army was 6 percent below the number of recruits it had expected to sign up at that point in the recruiting year, the Army Reserve was 10 percent off and the Army National Guard was 25 percent off.

The Army is forecasting that all three elements -- active, Guard and Reserve -- will fall short of their targets for March and April. That means they will have to make up the lost ground this summer -- traditionally the best recruiting season -- in order to meet their full-year goals.

One of those new approaches is designed to persuade more parents to steer their children to the Army. "We're going to appeal to patriotism," he said. That might be done through a new advertising campaign, he said. He also is encouraging more members of Congress as well as senior Army leaders and Army boosters to spend time in local communities touting the benefits of military service.

The Army also has increased the number of recruiters on the street by 33 percent and is offering bigger signup bonuses. Last week the Army announced that the National Guard and Reserve were raising the maximum age for recruits from 34 to 39 in order to expand the pool of potential enlistees. The regular Army could not raise the maximum age without congressional approval.

...Harvey also disclosed that the Army is "looking at" changing its policy on having more than one sibling in a combat zone at the same time. He did not say how the policy might be altered, and he declined to say more about the subject, other than to indicate that it came up when he visited the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where wounded U.S. troops are treated.

The current policy is that if one of two siblings in a combat zone is killed, the Army will consider removing the remaining one from the combat zone if the surviving soldier or his parents request it, according to spokeswoman Hart. She said she was not aware of any planned change.


Me and You and God

by Shakespeare's Sister

I consider myself an atheist, in the sense that I have no relationship with or belief in any type of anthropomorphic god. I believe there is plenty about this existence that is outwith the capacity for human understanding, much of that falling into a category that might best be described with that muddy and imprecise word "spiritual," but I am, for all intents and purposes, an atheist.

That said, I have respect for those who are religious, as long as they don't wield it like a weapon and regard my beliefs with the same respect I extend to them—a reciprocity generally determined by one’s opinion about whether religion belongs in the public sphere. Once it starts creeping beyond privacy and into a place where I am expected to conform to religion’s expectations of its adherents, that’s when the problems begin.

There have been a lot of problems with just that sort of invasiveness lately, and, consequently, the intensity of the response of the nonreligious to such incursions has escalated. To that end, the Green Knight, a liberal Christian blogger, whose contributions on religious topics are invaluable, has written an interesting piece on the intolerance of the Left toward religion, questioning, quite fairly, whether much of the contempt shown toward religion (and, by association, religious people, irrespective of their politics) was birthed by possible injustices meted out by the religious (or just plain old intellectual snobbery), and noting, quite rightly, that we’re going to have to excise those demons if we don’t want to alienate potential allies.

It’s a dialogue we need to have on the Left; undeniably there is a backlash against religion as a result of the insurgence of religiously driven wingnuttery that has become such a prominent part of the national debate, but many liberals have become incapable of tolerating the merest presence of godspeak. And not all religious people are intolerant; indeed, some of the kindest, most inclusive, most welcoming people I’ve known have been devoutly religious, letting a belief in God inform a rare and wonderful empathy, rather than narrowly construe their boundaries of acceptance into something odiously judgmental and unrecognizable as an intention of the tenets of any major religion. It is tempting, and easy, to cast the religious in together as a uniform lot, especially when the most vitriolic of their numbers are the ones who seem to have the loudest voices. But good godly people dissociate themselves from that garbage, and we should be willing to do the same.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)



McCain’s Slide into Irrelevance Continues Unabated

by Shakespeare's Sister

Not to be all Seinfeldian about this or anything, but what is with this guy?!
Sen. John McCain said Tuesday the conclusions of a commission investigating intelligence failures on weapons of mass destruction should not lead to new questions about whether the Iraq war was justified. "America, the world and Iraq is better off for what we did in bringing democracy," McCain said.

The Arizona Republican is a member of a commission formed by President Bush over a year ago after the chief weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay, resigned saying "we were almost all wrong" about the pre-war estimates that Saddam Hussein possessed banned weapons.

[…]

In a recent interview, McCain said the report by the panel led by Republican Laurence Silberman and Democrat Chuck Robb was worth the $10 million Congress dedicated to it.

"I think questions had to be answered as to why we were so wrong," McCain said. "We needed to have recommendations as to how to prevent something like this from ever happening again."
Okay, you got that? $10 million has been spent. Conclusions have been drawn. Those conclusions should not lead to new questions. Even though the assertion that “America, the world and Iraq [are] better off for what we did in bringing democracy” is widely debatable, from its key premise about whether any of the above are, indeed, better off, to whether democracy has actually been brought to Iraq, no more questions are allowed. Forget it. Whatever that commission says about intelligence failures, missing WMDs, or anything else, you’d better get prepared to accept it, because ain’t no more questions gonna be allowed. $10 million buys a lot of answers, and you’re gonna like ’em, got it?

Now for my favorite part:
McCain, in appearances with Bush at Social Security events in the West the past two days, has been offering a glowing endorsement of the president's second-term push for democracy around the globe. In two states Monday and here on Tuesday, he ticked off changes in Afghanistan, Ukraine, the Middle East and Iraq as proof that Bush "is on the right side of history" and deserves credit for advancing freedom throughout the world.
Oh yes. Freedom, freedom everywhere. Everywhere I look—nothing but freedom!

Freedom here.

Freedom there.

A little bit more freedom thisaway.

A little bit more freedom thataway.

Look all around you—freedom!

It’s everywhere!

As far as the eye can see.

Freedom.

Thanks, Bush. And thanks, McCain. As a former resident of the Hanoi Hilton, you would definitely know how to spot freedom, so thanks for pointing out how we owe all this awesome freedom to the Pres. GO FREEDOM!!!

(Crossposted at Ezra’s juke joint.)


Brain-Dead Ploys and Heartless Republicans

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Excellent article by Fran Schor.

Linked above in its entirety, I particularly liked this paragraph (bold added and cross-posted on Julien's List):
So, what does one make of this past week's Congressional activities and the Republican agenda? Passing the Bush Budget in the House, Tom DeLay and his wretched crew just terminated aid for food stamps for 300,000 working families with children. Low income families lost out on child care assistance involving close to 300,000 children. Cuts in health insurance for children were passed with nary a tear being shed by a single Republican. Capping off this mean-spirited attitude towards children and the working poor was a profligate package of tax benefits for the very wealthy. One can only assume that Republicans want the poor to die off even in the face of their dramatic efforts to rescue the brain-dead Terry Schiavo.


Slow Queer Boat to Nowhere

by Pam

What do you say about dumb sh*t like this? The best part of this article, about a cruise ship denied entry to St. Kitts because of the homos on board, is the name of the person explaining the issue -- Oral Brandy. It can't get better than that, huh? (365Gay.com):
The Windjammer Barefoot Cruises ship is carrying 110 passengers. The clothing optional cruise was organized by Source Events.

A police patrol boat stopped the S.V. Polynesia, a 248-foot schooner carrying 110 passengers on a six-day cruise, as it was approaching Charlestown, Nevis, the ship's captain Cornelius Plantefaber told the Associated Press. Plantefaber said three officers boarded the ship and demanded he accompany them to a meeting onshore. The meeting lasted about an hour and port authority, police, customs and immigration officials were present, he said.

'We do not want to allow people on the island who from what I've heard could be naked and carry a certain lifestyle and practices,' said Oral Brandy, acting general manager of the Nevis port authority. 'We don't want it to be a part of our culture ... It's not a practice society likes here.'

Sodomy is illegal in St. Kitts and Nevis, punishable by a jail term.

The ship put out to sea late Wednesday afternoon, head for St. Barthelemy.
The refusal to allow the ship into harbor on Nevis was met with surprise by an official at the St. Kitts Tourism Authority.

'We have had gay passengers and cruise ships and there has never been any problem in the past,'' said Randolph Hamilton, a senior manager at the tourism authority. "


Absolutely FU*kING Unbelievable....

by Ms. Julien in Miami

As my dear friend Pam says, you just can't make this SH*T up...particularly apropos considering the post just below about the wackos in the Say-outh....

Ugandan Bishop Refuses AIDS Funds From Pro-Gay Diocese In US
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) A gift of more than $350,000 to fight AIDS in Uganda has been rejected by an Anglican bishop because the Episcopal diocese which offered it supported the election of a gay bishop in New Hampshire.

Uganda has one of the highest per capita rates of HIV/AIDS in the world.

Jackson Nzerebende Tembo, the Bishop of South Rwenzori in Uganda, said the money was tainted.

The donation had been sent by the diocese of Central Pennsylvania. Tembo said the Ugandan Anglican Church would not accept any money from any American diocese that had supported the election of Gene Robinson.

Bishop Michael Creighton was one of a majority of Episcopal bishops who endorsed the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

The Ugandan branch of the Anglican Church has been one of the chief opponents to Robinson's elevation and part of a group of African Churches which have threatened a schism over the role of gays in the Church.

Homosexuality is a crime in Uganda, punishable by life imprisonment.

Tembo's announcement was not made directly to Chreighton. The Ugandan Church refuses to talk to the Episcopal Church. Instead, it was given to a conservative Episcopalian group which posted it on its website.

©365Gay.com 2005

This is cross-posted on Julien's List.


The Bozo Show

by Shakespeare's Sister

All right. I have just about had it with these plonkers (link via AMERICAblog):
IMAX theaters in several Southern cities have decided not to show a film on volcanoes out of concern that its references to evolution might offend those with fundamental religious beliefs.

[…]

The film, "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," makes a connection between human DNA and microbes inside undersea volcanoes.

[…]

IMAX theaters in Texas, Georgia and the Carolinas have declined to show the film, said Pietro Serapiglia, who handles distribution for Stephen Low, the film's Montreal-based director and producer.

"I find it's only in the South," Serapiglia said.

Critics worry screening out films that mention evolution will discourage the production of others in the future.

"It's going to restrain the creative approach by directors who refer to evolution," said Joe DeAmicis, vice president for marketing at the California Science Center in Los Angeles and a former director of an IMAX theater. "References to evolution will be dropped."


Seriously, get with it, people! This ain’t the fucking dark ages. Nitwits!

By the way—my disagreement with something never stopped me from learning about it (which is why I can always out-debate fundies on the topic of what’s actually in the Bible, for example). In fact, I’ve always found that challenging my own beliefs by investigating alternative theories to be an enlightening experience. It’s called knowledge; check it out sometime.

And if your faith is so fragile as to warrant your avoidance of anything that might challenge it, it’s not really much of a faith at all, is it?


Liberals and Gods Creation

by JJ

Finding common ground between liberals and conservatives certainly seems impossible in our 50/50 red/blue country. How do Democrats pull in religious conservatives without sacrificing the core ideals of the party? Hillary thinks it’s a relaxed stance on the abortion issue which goes against core democratic beliefs of freedom of choice. Kerry thinks it is religious freedom in the work place which is a middle finger in the face of work place discrimination. Howard Dean thinks it is the financial plight of Middle America who are leaning more towards the red side due to the “family values” argument.

The question of “Where do the Democrats stand?” has been raised over and over in the blogs and media. Everyone has an opinion but no one has an answer.

Shakespeare’s Sister has an excellent start with the post below on corporatism in America and a call to action to re-take our government. I would propose as part of the war against corporate influence and the retaking of our government, and something that both the right and left can agree on, is the destruction of environmental protection laws. I have not seen many posts on the environment. Where do democrats stand on the issue of ANWR oil exploration? Where do the liberals stand on the rape of environmental controls that benefit big business while simultaneously harming people and destroying habitats and the earth itself?

I would suggest a strategy to the democratic leadership to begin promoting the protection of the environment as protecting a creation of God. This will identify a core value of the Democratic Party with a core value of the religious right (as distasteful as that might sound).

An argument for an audience of Christian Conservatives or red staters would go something like this:

We have an inherent obligation as the dominant species on the planet to protect and cherish Gods creations. In order to do this we have to stop big business from raping the land, we have to find alternate, less harmful fuel sources. We have to stop pollution from entering our seas, lands and our atmosphere. We have to take every measure to preserve what God has created for our children and grandchildren. We have to re-take control of our government to be by the people and for the people.

The GOP takes the opposite stance on the environment and Gods creations, they believe that by debilitating environmental laws, not joining the Kyoto treaty they are performing a service to their constituents. This is true because the only constituents that the GOP serves are the ones that donate the most money to their campaigns. That’s not you, that’s not me, that’s big business, the largest corporations, the largest contributors to the GOP are the largest beneficiaries of the destruction of the environment.

The American people are creations of God and the GOP supports corporations over and above the health and welfare of the American people. This administration has demonstrated this lack of regard for the people and for God over and over again in the policies put forth, the reduction in fines and the weakening of environmental law.


Who else is served by the weakening of environmental law? Only big business profits are helped by this abuse of Gods creation, this rape of the land, sea and air, only the CEOs of companies that make billions in annual salaries and bonuses, only the GOP who receives donations from these big businesses, these are the only people served by the laws that have been removed and destroyed by this administration.

By associating the environment as a creation of God that needs to be cherished and protected some of the right will fall into the fold of the left. Perhaps the healing of this divided nation and the re-introduction of a government that is truly for the people can begin.


Bookmark It!

by Shakespeare's Sister

"These questions are not the business of Congress," [Bob Levy, a fellow with the Cato Institute] said of the Schiavo dispute. "The Constitution does not give Congress the power to define life or death. The only role for the court is once the state legislature establishes what the rules are, the court can decide if the rules have been properly applied." (Link.)
Can we all keep hold of this quote and have it at the ready the next time the Right starts screaming about “activist judges” after the next time a ban on gay marriage is rightfully ruled unconstitutional?


Tubegate and Holy Week: A Coincidence?

by John

Yesterday, I began looking for comparisons between Tubegate and Holy Week, and was initially surprised that I hadn't already heard or read any. After all, Terri Schiavo turned into the personification of a crucified Jesus is a connection that is just begging to be made!

Of course, it wasn't until after I posted that I did a Google search for "Terri Schiavo Jesus Easter" and found this:

Good Friday will be the seventh day of Terri's physical starvation, but, please God, she may still be alive. If she is, her agony on Good Friday will be similar to that of Christ during His Passion.
[...]
As Easter arrives and Jesus rises from the tomb, Terri Schiavo rises from her hospice bed completely restored to health. The world witnesses a miracle.

Wows. A 2005 Catholic Blog Award Finalist--in both the Most Devotional and Best Blog by a Priest categories-- sees the connection, too. Check out Poetic Leanings for a more detailed look at the comparisons.

While these are certainly good examples of the overall insanity of the issue, I was really hoping to find someone like Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, or George Bush making the point. I imagine that as they get more desperate, so too will their rhetoric. So be on the lookout!


Republican Renaissance?

by Shakespeare's Sister

On Monday, I asked where all the “real Republicans” are, and, if there are any of them left, whether they could be bothered to try to reclaim their party from the lunatics who have hijacked it. Well, it seems like the tenuous stitching that holds together the mangled remains of the party of Lincoln may well have been put under enough pressure by the Schiavo case that the unholy alliance between the corporatists and the Jesus freaks, upon which the GOP depends for its supremacy, is beginning to tear at the seams.
Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, the sole Republican to oppose the Schiavo bill in a voice vote in the Senate, said: "This senator has learned from many years you've got to separate your own emotions from the duty to support the Constitution of this country. These are fundamental principles of federalism."

"It looks as if it's a wholly Republican exercise," Mr. Warner said, "but in the ranks of the Republican Party, there is not a unanimous view that Congress should be taking this step."

In interviews over the past two days, conservatives who expressed concern about the turn of events in Congress stopped short of condemning the vote in which overwhelming majorities supported the Schiavo bill, and they generally applauded the goal of trying to keep Ms. Schiavo alive. But they said they were concerned about what precedent had been set and said the vote went against Republicans who were libertarian, advocates of states' rights or supporters of individual rights.

"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing," said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility."

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy," Mr. Shays said. "There are going to be repercussions from this vote. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them." (Emphasis mine.)
(So much to exploit…if only the Democrats had had the sense to not vote right along with it! Yeesh.)

The truth is, there’s not much room left in the Republican party for “real Republicans,” who don’t want their president’s policy to be a balancing act between catering to corporations and their highly paid lobbyists and mollycoddling the religious wingnuts. But DeLay and his cronies might just have pushed things one step too far this time, and Bush’s leap into action on behalf of a politically expedient symbol has rendered ridiculous their past defenses of his lackluster response to the Aug. 6 PDB, the events on the morning of 9/11, the 9/11 commission, the tsunami, and every other reaction he’s bungled. He’s made a mockery of their belief in him. Worse, he’s proved us right and them wrong.

The hold-your-nose voters who cast their ballots for Bush, despite the deficit and despite the social conservatism, and justified their support for him on the basis of his alleged integrity and consistency (his ability to “stay the course”), always looked like fools to us—one day you’ll find out, we thought—and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to defend him as anything but the ineffectual minion of Rove’s Machiavellian machinations that we’ve said he is all along. Welcome to reality, folks.

Now go take back your party and we can get back to the business of debating policy like grown-ups.


It's Du-MAH

by Shakespeare's Sister

Cool:
The mystery of who killed Admiral Nelson is to be explained in a previously unknown novel by Alexandre Dumas, author of "The Three Musketeers," discovered by a French researcher and going on sale in June, the book's publisher said.

"Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine" (The knight of Saint-Hermine) is a classic Dumas adventure story about the start of the Napoleonic empire and includes a swashbuckling account of the battle of Trafalgar, according to Jean-Pierre Sicre of Phebus press.

"The description of Trafalgar is undescribably brilliant. And in it we learn that it is the hero of the book - the chevalier himself -- who shoots Nelson," he said.

[…]

The 900-page book appeared in serial form in a French newspaper and lacked just a few chapters when Dumas died in 1870. Claude Schopp, the Dumas specialist who made the discovery, has added a short section to bring the tale to its conclusion.

"The first clue goes back to 1988," said Schopp.

"I was trying to check a detail for an article and after months of research had to look through copies of 'Le Moniteur Universel.' Imagine my surprise when among the spools of microfiche I came across an almost completed serial signed Alexandre Dumas," he said.

"For a quarter of an hour, in contact with this treasure, I had the feeling I had the world in my hands," he said.

[…]

The opening lines of the novel are classic Dumas:

"'Here we are in the Tuileries,' said first consul Bonaparte to his first secretary Bourrienne, as they entered the palace where Louis XVI made his penultimate residence between Versaille and the scaffold. 'We must make certain that we stay here.'"

The grandson of a Haitian slave, Dumas was a hugely prolific writer, producing more than 250 works including plays, novel and even a cookbook. He remains today the most widely read French writer around the world. He died in 1870 at the age of 68.
Get ready, Barnes and Noble. Here I come.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Mobilize

by Shakespeare's Sister

In all of the coverage of the Schiavo fiasco across the liberal blogosphere, I’ve seen a lot of outrage (as well there should be) and a lot of frustration (as well there should be) and a lot of shock (as well there should be) with the government’s astonishing decision to get involved. What I haven’t seen is much mourning for how truly tragic a day it was for the American democracy.

I have been called a conspiracy theorist, a pessimist, a radical, and every name in the book for sounding alarms about what this administration is doing to our country, and yet, yesterday, we saw the legislative branch acting against the will of the people (by a significant majority, according to any poll one reads) at the behest of the executive branch to supercede the decisions of the judicial branch. Two fundamental breaches of the major tenets of democracy—overtly acting against the will of the people and a complete disregard for our system of checks and balances. And bear in mind, this was indeed a bipartisan decision.

I despair for the future of America that the trust between the people and our elected representatives is regarded with such apathy by the former and treated with such contempt by the latter. Opportunism has always been a part of the political landscape, but never has it come at the price of sacrificing the very principles of democracy; never have the precepts upon which this country was founded been subverted with such cynical proclamations of goodness when the motivation was sheer avarice, the unmitigated desire to retain power at all costs.

Yes, that is reason to be outraged, and frustrated, and shocked. But it also reason to grieve. That in which we believe, that love of country and democracy which motivates us each day to do what we do, to inform ourselves and others, is slipping away from us, and in large part, we react with the jaded sense that nothing really surprises us anymore. The resignation to such insufferable behavior is frightening.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, call me a pessimist, call me a radical, call me every name in the book. But it doesn’t change the reality that we are on the brink of losing that which is dear to us, perilously close to going over the edge, where the damage to our democracy becomes irreparable.

America is so big, and more importantly, so wealthy, that the average American experiences little difference in his or her day-to-day life regardless of who is president. It takes so very, very long for the reality of bad (or good) policy to affect personal circumstances—and even then, often such changes are untraceable for those who are not immersed in politics. Most people do not see, nor care about, the changes that are happening in our government; most people wouldn’t believe you if you tried to tell them. By the time they “get it,” it will be too late.

So what are we to do? We’ve recently discovered our ability to push stories into the mainstream media. It’s really our only chance. We must repeat over and over and over again that we will not let this stand; we must point out that this maneuver was not simply foolhardy or politically expedient, but in fact seditious; we must identify those who seek to destabilize our system of checks and balances as the treasonous opportunists that they truly are; we must make noise. There are traitors among us, but it is not we on the Left, who rightfully question bad policy and are branded as such for our refusal to toe another party’s line in furtherance of the mindless nationalism they substitute for new and good ideas. It is instead the ruling party, who promote a radical ideology wrapped in a flag that used to stand for the very principles they disdain. We must recapture that flag from these scornful interlopers, and with it, everything it is meant to represent.

We must make noise about their intentions, before it is too late.


UA Young Democrat Banned from Forum

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Why does this university student hate America?

A UA student was banned from attending President Bush's Social Security forum at the Tucson Convention Center yesterday.

UA Young Democrat Steven Gerner, a political science and pre-pharmacy sophomore, said he and three other Young Democrats had been waiting in line with their tickets for about 40 minutes when a staff member approached him and asked to read his T-shirt.

Gerner was the only one of the four wearing a UAYD T-shirt, which read, "Don't be a smart (image of a donkey, the Democratic Party symbol). UA Young Democrats."

Gerner said the staffer, who refused to provide his name, asked for Gerner's ticket and crumpled it up.

The staffer walked away, returned in 20 minutes, and told Gerner his name had been added to a list banning him from entering the convention center for the speech.

"I was certainly shocked," Gerner said. "Everyone should have access to this information."

Gerner said he obtained a free ticket to the speech from the office of Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. The ticket had his name printed on it.

"I really wanted a chance to hear the Bush side of the Social Security debate," Gerner said. "Unfortunately, I won't hear all the facts now, first-person."

I love this part:

"If this would have been paid for by the Bush-Cheney campaign and they discriminated entrance, it would have been unethical, undemocratic and wrong, but they would have had the right," Cani said. "The distinction is that this was paid for with taxpayers' dollars - some of the money even comes out of Social Security."

Cani said the tax-payer-funded public forum was supposed to be about sharing ideas and helping people learn, not blocking specific people from attending.

"It's not very democratic, and this is the type of action that dissuades young people from being interested in politics," Cani said.

Gerner said after he was refused entry, he proceeded to Armory Park to attend a rally with other Democrats and then to the protest on the west side of the TCC.

Entire article HERE.

Article cross-posted on Julien's List.



Ann Coulter can be popped into a DVD player

by Pam


Something's going to be blown, no doubt.

The bony ass, bed-worn, intellectually bankrupt b*tch of the Reich is the focus of a brand-new documentary, "Is it true what they say about Ann?". The breathtaking "special offer" on WingNutDaily is such a barrel of laughs that I had to post a snippet...
The most controversial political commentator of our day, Ann Coulter has sparred with Katie Couric on the "Today Show," faced down Alan Dershowitz on "Geraldo" and sparked stormy confrontation on scores of college campuses. The author of four New York Times bestsellers, Coulter has a mad-cap mouth and an allergy to political correctness.

But who is the woman behind the stinging barb and the quick wit? [and the packs of pathological lies?] And what does she really believe when you strip off the rhetoric?

"Is It True What They Say About Ann?" - a new documentary DVD by Patrick Wright and Elinor Burkett - takes you behind the bombast through original interviews with the woman Al Franken calls "the reigning diva of the hysterical right" and who George magazine selected as one of the 20 most fascinating women in politics.

The DVD includes:

* "Is It True What They Say About Ann?" 40 minutes
* Watch an additional 40 minutes of exclusive interviews with Ann
* Delight as Ann lets loose with her fans at the Conservative Political Action Caucus [Is this some kind of wingnut porn?]
* Watch Ann eviscerate a special issue of the New York Times
* Go up close and personal with Ann at a Clare Boothe Luce event
* Flip through an Ann Coulter Photo album

Who wouldn't want to see even more images of our favorite racist, homo-bigot man-vessel of the right wing elite?

I hope that they got a chance to interview Ann about her spirited defense of White House Hooker "Jeff Gannon", and her Helen "Old Arab" Thomas comment that had to be edited out of her syndicated column (but appears in its original glory on Coulter's web site).

Oh, and if you hand over your $22.50 for the pleasure of owning this DVD, WingNutDaily will send you three issues of its "acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine."


Caption Condi...hair politics edition

by Pam


This is a perfect example of a woman that hates her natural hair texture. She's been applying the lye for years to that mess; she probably doesn't even know what her real hair actually feels like.

You will never see Condi with a kink in her hair. For all her political power, she too has bought into the "good hair/bad hair" mentality (that kinky hair is unfeminine, uncultivated, unclean -- it goes on and on) and chooses to wear this asinine, conked style in order to "assimilate" into the dominant culture.

Would Condi have acheived the political power and position she holds today if she sported a short natural, braids or locs at the start of her career? Think about it. In the GOP? Good grief. Not when you have ads like the one below that feed into the mentality...



Why We Torture

by John

Ezra raises a good question: Why do we use methods of torture if we've already concluded that torture doesn't work (via Tapped)?

The linked report concluded that "harsh techniques" produced "no better information than traditional law enforcement methods." While I have no doubt that is true, I'm skeptical that intel is the real reason we employ torture.

In reality, intelligence gathering is just the most palpable and acceptable excuse proponents of torture can use without coming across as vengeful psychos. I think the real reason we use torture is to intimidate and terrorize individuals and populations into submission. Arguing for torture on those grounds is a lot harder since it puts us on the same level as the terrorists we're supposed to be fighting. Nevertheless, it's the only reason I can think of that could possibly explain the widespread and indiscriminate use of "harsh techniques" by the CIA and military personnel. Of course, it's also ultimately counterproductive to the goals we hope to achieve, but when has that ever stopped us from doing anything?


Selling Social Security

by Shakespeare's Sister

Over in one of the Dark Wraith’s always fun and informative comments threads, LindiBee left the following:
I was just reading an article in which Dick Cheney and Bill Thomas are promoting the Social Security overhaul as posted here and was struck by the following statements of Thomas and Cheney:

"The one thing people should not be concerned about is that in creating personal accounts you are going to exercise any significant risk,...It will be structured in a way that you can get the benefit without a serious risk of losing money."

Cheney said the performance of stocks and bonds over the course of history proves those younger than 55 should "bet on America" and fully expect to win. "In effect, what we are saying is we are going to tie your future as you retire to the overall health and function of the American economy."

Isn't it true that any financial advisor or broker offering these kinds of assurances to prospective clients on a possible investment would be running afoul with the Federal Securities Act of 1933 (and possibly various State Securities acts as well, unless a disclaimer was made later in the presentation)?
The Dark Wraith replied, in part:
My God.

Not only is making a representation of that kind potentially unlawful and in violation of rules laid down by the National Association of Securities Dealers (at least, it was in my day, and it sounds like it was in your day, too), but it is also irresponsible to the point of outrageous.

"[Y]ou can get the benefit without a serious risk of losing money..."

My GOD. That dumbass.
Dumbass indeed. Barely over a month ago, after President Dimwit made similarly outrageous claims in the State of the Union address, I raised the same point LindiBee is raising now, and, in my usual pedantic way that will surprise none of my regular readers, even went so far as to research the exact NASD regulations that were applicable:
According to rule 2210-(a)-(5), any licensed financial representative who communicates with the public through a public appearance, defined as “participation in a seminar, forum (including an interactive electronic forum), radio or television interview, or other public appearance or public speaking activity,” is subject to the rules governing communications with the public…

The applicable standards regarding such communications include the following (2210-(d)-(1)-(A, B and D)):

All member communications with the public shall be based on principles of fair dealing and good faith, must be fair and balanced, and must provide a sound basis for evaluating the facts in regard to any particular security or type of security, industry, or service. No member may omit any material fact or qualification if the omission, in the light of the context of the material presented, would cause the communications to be misleading.

[…]

No member may make any false, exaggerated, unwarranted or misleading statement or claim in any communication with the public. No member may publish, circulate or distribute any public communication that the member knows or has reason to know contains any untrue statement of a material fact or is otherwise false or misleading.

[…]

Clearly, if Bush were a licensed financial advisor, he would have been in violation of the NASD rules. Instead he gets away on a technicality—he’s not a financial professional presenting a potential investment to a client; he’s just the President of the United States, trying to convince the American public to buy into his radical plan for their collective financial future.
The same can now be said for Cheney and Thomas. (Read the whole original post if you’re interested in the exact quotes that violated the statutes.) I still have yet to understand how the likes of these deceitful blokes are able to get away with making claims about a security investment that an average Joe Schmoe broker would lose his license for making.

Chalk up the NASD as just another impotent entity when it comes to protecting the American people when it really counts.


I Got Your Culture of Life Right Here

by Shakespeare's Sister

Via WTF Is It Now??
Fun fact: The uber-moral "sanctity of human life" assclowns have been sending death threats to the judge who ordered the feeding tube removed.

The real question is, if one of these wingnut loony fuckers shot that judge, but he didn't die and instead ended up in a persistive vegetative state, would Tom DeLay step in to prevent anyone from pulling the plug?


Jesus Smells

by JJ

This was just too funny to pass up. Someone has created a candle that smells like Jesus. For the bargain price of $19.99 you can have your house smell like Jesus! But WAIT theres more...
You can earn 20 Grandmas Under the mattress...
FOR FREE!

Now I love grandma but not that much.

SO here is the question, if some nutjob out there captured the Essence of Bush (that would be G.W. Bush, get your mind out of the gutter) what would it smell like and how much would it cost?


Two More Questions

by John

First Question:
Barring any extraordinary legal injunctions, it appears that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube will not be reinserted. This makes it certain that she will pass over the next week or so.

Now you just know that at this very moment, producers from every single cable news channel are sitting in a meeting debating whether to air her funeral or memorial live. My question is, do you think they'll be able to resist their pathetic urge to do so?

I'm leaning towards no.

Second Question:
Will Tom DeLay...

a) Have a front row seat, next to the Schindlers, at the service.

b) Be a pallbearer.

c) Offer a gut wrenching eulogy about how Terri was the victim of "medical terrorism," and reminisce about how just last week he had a nice conversation with Terri, who was talking, laughing, and in fact, expressing likes and discomfort.

d) A, B, C, and probably something else incredibily disgusting that we can't even begin to imagine.

e)___________________________________ (write-in)

I'm leaning towards D.




The Heretik is a Fine Bartender

by Shakespeare's Sister



Place your orders here.


Damn

by Shakespeare's Sister

What to even say about this?

The suspect in the worst U.S. school shooting since Columbine smiled and waved as he gunned down five students, a teacher and a guard, asking one of his victims whether he believed in God, witnesses said. The teen's grandfather and his grandfather's wife also were found dead, and the boy killed himself.

[…]

The death toll at the Red Lake Indian Reservation in far northern Minnesota made it the nation's worst school shooting since the rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in April 1999 that ended with the deaths of 12 students, a teacher and the two teen gunmen.

The victims included the gunman's grandfather; the grandfather's wife; a school security guard; a teacher; and five other students. At least 14 others were wounded, and two of them remained in critical condition Tuesday at MeritCare in Fargo, N.D., officials said.

[…]

The shooter was Jeff Weise, a 17-year-old student who had been placed in the school's Homebound program for some violation of policy, said school board member Kathryn Beaulieu. Students in that program stay at home and are tutored by a traveling teacher. Beaulieu said she didn't know what Weise's violation was, and wouldn't be allowed to reveal it if she did.

There was no immediate indication of Weise's motive. But several students said he held anti-social beliefs, and he may have posted messages on a neo-Nazi Web site expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler.

Apparently, the kid had two handguns and a shotgun.

He was bullied, he was an outcast, his father had killed himself years earlier, his mother was in a nursing home for brain injuries sustained in a car accident, he had been kicked out of school for behavior problems, and he was left with grandparents who likely weren’t monitoring his internet usage (or locking up their guns) and maybe felt he was too much to handle—and now they’re dead, too.

About the only thing I can say for certain is that this kid probably showed enough signs of trouble that he ought to have been identified as being in need of some intensive help, but instead he was pottering about at home all day with a tutor occasionally swinging by. (At least, that’s how it sounds.) I really don’t enjoy using heartbreaking stories like this to make a point that I know will sound flippant, but this certainly seems like a child that got left behind by the system at some point.

And to those who would say it isn’t the government’s responsibility to provide counseling or some equivalent attentive care to a kid like this, go tell that to the parents of the five kids he just slaughtered. This is exactly the reason we fund school-related social programs, and why underfunding them is such a bad, bad idea.


Abstinence Makes Dick Get Creative

by JJ

There are oodles of posts on the failures of abstinence only programs so I thought as my first post I would try to summarize a tiny bit of information and mis-information out there.

According to the Concerned Women of America, “Abstinence Education's Amazing Progress” .
The CWFA version of “Amazing Progress” is the amount of money, time and energy put into abstinence programs by the Bush administration not the results. This seems typical of the wingnuts take on abstinence programs. The only REAL statistic related to teens and abstinence in this drivel is the reference to a one year marketing program in New York that took place during the Clinton administration in 1995. This is the ONLY reduction in teen pregnancy that they reference in their “Amazing Progress” report.

Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation documents 10 community programs that are widely successful in reducing teen sexual activity. One such program is "Not Me, Not Now," a community-wide abstinence-intervention program in Monroe County, New York. In a massive marketing and communications strategy, "Not Me, Not Now" addresses the targeted 9- to 14-year-old age group through paid TV and radio advertising and other media and educational materials available throughout the community. The sexual activity rate of 15-year-olds in the county subsequently dropped 15 percent during the intervention period, from 46.6 percent to 31.6 percent.

The reality check shows us that abstinence only encourages teens to get creative. According to “Study: Abstinence Pledgers May Risk STDs”

The latest study, published in the April issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that teens pledging virginity until marriage are more likely to have oral and anal sex than other teens who have not had intercourse. That behavior, however, "puts you at risk," said Hannah Brueckner, assistant professor of sociology at Yale and one of the study's authors.

But it’s OK to give a blow job and take it in the ass because that’s not really sex right? Because of abstinence only teaching, teens think you can only lose your virginity from having sex and sex is only vaginal intercourse therefore if you do not lose your virginity you are not in fact having “sex”. I am good with that, I have avoided losing my virginity at least a dozen times in the last couple of weeks.

So what if you “accidentally” lost your virginity through some uncontrolled acts of lust? Well the religious right says that’s OK because you can be a Secondary Virgin and start your virginity all over again or become a Card Carrying Virgin which apparently works something like a Visa card, simply swipe and POOOF you’re a virgin again. I wouldn’t mind having a set of these, I could pass them out like business cards with my phone number on the back.

Everyone would agree that there are too many teen pregnancies and too many abortions in the United Sates, so, what is the solution? It is just like running a business, take a look at a business model that works and mimic it. We have to take a trip to the Netherlands to see a “wildly successful” abstinence and pregnancy prevention program. The Netherlands has the lowest adolescent pregnancy in the world, 8.1 per 1000 women, conversely, the United States has one of the higher rates at 93 per 1000 women Link.

Why is the Netherlands so low? An experiment by Alex R Mellanby, medical research fellow, Fran A Phelps, education research fellow, Nicola J Crichton, lecturer in statistics, John H Tripp, senior lecturer in child health titled “School sex education: an experimental programme with educational and medical benefit “ gives us some insight.

Objectives: To develop and teach a school sex education programme that will lead to a decrease in sexual activity.

Design: A matched internal and external control experiment, comparing control populations which received their own sex education programmes with populations which received a novel sex education intervention that included medical and peer led teaching.

Subjects: Schoolchildren were taught from age 12 to 16; three successive cohorts of students were evaluated in school year 11 (mean age 16.0).

Main outcome measures: Questionnaire conducted under "examination conditions" and invigilated by the research team and other trained medical staff.

Results: In the intervention population, progressive increase in knowledge related to contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, and prevalence of sexual activity ( 2 (trend) P<0.001>1.00 with 95% confidence limits not including 1.00 for all series and for comparisons with both control populations); odds ratio (control v programme) for sexual activity of 1.45, controlling for sociodemographic variables.

Conclusion: School sex education that includes specific targeted methods with the direct use of medical staff and peers can produce behavioural changes that lead to health benefit.

You can’t really argue with science unless you are “divorced from reality”. I guess if you believe that the earth is 3000 years old and that some alien intelligence created the eyeball then you can make yourself believe that abstinence only programs work. As for the rest of us, call and email your Department of Education and demand they implement a comprehensive sexual education program for the sake of our youth.



Question of the Day (Political/Fun)

by Shakespeare's Sister

Which former world leader does President Bush most remind you of and why?

(Be serious, be fun, or a little of both.)


Question of the Day (Practical)

by Shakespeare's Sister

Have you written your living will yet?


Note

by Shakespeare's Sister

We have repairs going on to try to sort out some of the viewing and scrolling issues, so if at any point things are looking funny, please forgive us. We appreciate your patience as we work out the glitches.


Finally, Peace?

by Shakespeare's Sister

Judge Won't Order Schiavo Tube Reinserted

Good.
Michael Schiavo said he was outraged that lawmakers and the president intervened in a private matter.
Yeah, well, you’re not alone.


Fallujah: The Safest City in Iraq

by John

Which is sort of like saying San Quentin is the safest city in California. Link:

American forces claim that Fallujah is now "the safest city in Iraq" - an assertion that's impossible to verify, though it's clear that the once-terrifying insurgency has been seriously crippled, mounting only small, scattered attacks in the city.
[...]
"We can't do business here," said Ali Muhammed Hussein, as he waited with his elderly father to receive a compensation check. "It's the safest city in Iraq because it's a prison."

That's not a metaphor.

Juan Cole has more on the current state of the city, and why it might indeed be the safest in Iraq (hint: everyone's dead or left the city):

Readers often write in for an update on Fallujah. I am sorry to say that there is no Fallujah to update. The city appears to be in ruins and perhaps uninhabitable in the near future. Of 300,000 residents, only about 9,000 seem to have returned, and apparently some of those are living in tents above the ruins of their homes. The rest of the Fallujans are scattered in refugee camps of hastily erected tents at several sites, including one near Habbaniyyah, or are staying with relatives in other cities, including Baghdad.

The scale of this human tragedy-- the dispossession and displacement of 300,000 persons-- is hard to imagine. Unlike the victims of the tsunami who were left homeless, moreover, the Fallujans have witnessed no outpouring of world sympathy. While there were undeniably bad characters in the city, most residents had done nothing wrong and did not deserve to be made object lessons--which was the point Rumsfeld was making with this assault.
[...]
However much a cliche it might be to say it, the US military really did destroy Fallujah to save it.



Monday, March 21, 2005

The Rotting Cryptkeeper Phelps goes after Judy Shepard tomorrow at Ole Miss

by Pam


The hate-filled roadshow stops in Mississippi to spew on Matthew Shepard's mother Judy, who is speaking at an event sponsored by the University of Mississippi Gay Straight Alliance. Click on the document to see the awful WBC release (PDF).

There's no end to the filthy behavior of the Westboro Baptist Church's Reverend Fred Phelps. The Rotting Cryptkeeper's next public display of intolerance will be tomorrow. As his "press release" states:
WBC to picket the sodomite whorehouse (Ezek. 16:24) masquerading as the University of Mississippi, the Ole Miss GSA feces-eaters, and the Mother-from-Hell Judy Shepard - Fulton Chapel on the Ole Miss campus at 7 p.m. Mar. 22...Judy Shepard as God sees her: the morally-diseased witch living like an ugly carcass of her dead faggot son.

...All the fag candlelight vigils, memorials and maudlin speeches by his vulture mother (at $10,000 a pop) combined, can't buy Matt a drop of water to cool his tongue in Hell's flames.



Children being poisoned by the hate of Fred Phelps.

Fortunately, that sideshow isn't going to stop her appearance, which is warmly welcomed by the university. (Daily Mississippian):
J. Thomas Vasser Jr., vice president of the GSA, organized the effort to bring Shepard to Ole Miss. He said her availability and the power of her message influenced the GSA’s choice to have Shepard speak here. “First of all, Judy Shepard’s mission and lecture reflect the theme of this year’s national Women’s History Month, which is ‘Women Change America,’” she said, “Secondly, the Center’s gender studies courses analyze the existence and causes of the ignorance and hatred that Shepard brings to our attention.”

“Homophobia and sexism, for example, reinforce each other. Homophobia usually insists on rigid gender roles that may prevent us from achieving full personhood.”

Marc Showalter, director of the University Counseling Center, believes events like Shepard’s lecture bring up topics that can positively affect diversity on campus.

“Events like Mrs. Shepard’s lecture begin conversations that ask about her message and what she’s trying to say,” he said, “It’s important to have these conversations even if they’re uncomfortable or controversial.”


Think these pious cheerleaders want to square off against the TX rump-shakers?

by Pam


The Fellowship of Christian Cheerleaders are unlikely to offend Texas State Rep. Al Edwards, who's extremely concerned about "bumping and grinding on the sidelines."

Here's a nice bookend to yesterday's post, Buffy in Texas better not bump and grind on the football field. A Texas legislator wanted to pass legislation because he was outraged by the way cheerleaders are "shaking their behinds and going on, breaking it down." In Georgia, we have a group of gyration-free cheerleaders for Christ that might pass State Rep. Al Edwards's muster for "booty call-free" action on the field. (AgapePress):
A Georgia-based organization is bringing together cheerleaders who have a passion for Christ and a desire to be servant-leaders.

It was nearly 20 years ago when the Fellowship of Christian Cheerleaders (FCC) was formed. Since then the Lawrenceville, Georgia-based organization has sponsored numerous competitions each year throughout the nation, summer camps, and other activities. John Blake, national event coordinator for FCC, says there are many cheerleaders who want to honor God with their talents and gifts.

"We want to use cheerleading as a way that we can reach out," Blake explains. "Cheerleaders are supposed to be servant-leaders -- people who reach out to other people, not people who want the spotlight on themselves; and that's what we want to equip them to do. We want to equip them to be servant-leaders, to be leaders who lead by example -- not in a negative light, but in one that's positive and uplifting like a cheerleader should be."


Nonprofits targeted by Bush goons at the IRS, government agencies

by Pam


James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a group that does not fully support President Bush's program advocating abstinence only. (Matthew Cavanaugh for The New York Times)

Chris Kromm at Facing South highlights the unseemly behavior of various government agencies, including the IRS, of targeting nonprofits for alleged "political activity," or threatening to pull (or pulling) funding from organizations that don't tow the line on conservative policies like abstinence education. The organization with the highest profile of late is the NAACP, which is refusing to hand over internal documents to Bush's bureaucratic henchmen that intend to revoke its tax-exempt status. From today's NYT:
...While it is rare for an organization to defy the I.R.S. openly, the N.A.A.C.P. is not the only group that believes it is being made a government target for its positions on issues.

Roughly a dozen nonprofit organizations have publicly contended that government agencies and Congressional offices have used reviews, audits, investigations, law enforcement actions and the threat of a loss of federal money to discourage them from activities and advocacy that in any way challenge government policies, and nonprofit leaders say more are complaining quietly.

"In previous administrations, there's been the occasional instance of what might appear to be retaliation, but when it started happening in a serial way, it began to look like a pattern to us," said Kay Guinane, counsel for the nonprofit advocacy project of OMB Watch, a government watchdog group that has published two reports on the issue.
Some of the other non-profits targeted include (Facing South):
On the wingnut side Jerry Falwell actually ran afoul of the IRS several times for mixing preaching and political activity. In 1993, his television ministry, the Old Time Gospel Hour, agreed to pay $50,000 in tax penalties for political activity in 1986 and 1987.

In July 2004, The Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a complaint with the IRS asking for an investigation of Falwell's Jerry Falwell Ministries, which is not supposed to engage in political activity, and his political organization, Liberty Alliance. The Bush administration didn't initiate action against this flagrant nose-thumbing at the IRS by Falwell:
“...every political conservative, every evangelical Christian, every pro-life Catholic, every traditional Jew, every Reagan Democrat, and everyone in between to get serious about re-electing President Bush.”


ACLU challenges Michigan gay marriage ban

by Lanoire

Link here.

From the article:

Last week, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox issued his first legal interpretation of the amendment, saying that Kalamazoo's policy of offering health and retirement benefits to same-sex partners violates the amendment.


It's vital to understand the exact nature of this ban. Not only does it ban gay marriages or domestic unions, but it also forbids employers from giving same-sex partners health and retirement benefits that married couples enjoy. Not only does the state of Michigan refuse to protect gay unions, but it also forbids private employers from protecting gay unions.

Again, from the article:

Proposal 2, which Michigan voters approved 59 percent to 41 percent in November, said a union between one man and one woman "shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose."

The ACLU says in the lawsuit, which names Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm as the defendant, that U.S. courts have held that providing health insurance to same-sex domestic partners does not constitute recognition of a marriage or a similar union and is necessary for employers to attract qualified workers.

The ACLU also argues in the suit that the intent of voters was not to deny the families of gays and lesbians health insurance or other benefits. The suit says the ballot committee that sponsored Proposal 2 "consistently and repeatedly" assured voters that the initiative was only about protecting marriage.


This is not only heartless, but a violation of the supposedly conservative principle that the government ought to stay out of businesses as much as possible. It is an infringement on the free market. I would ask where's the conservative outrage, but I know all too well that conservatives are perfectly okay with big government so long as big government occupies itself with the persecution of those who aren't rich straight white men.


Culture of Life: Africa Edition

by John

(This was written before SS's recent post, but I think it builds on what she's talking about. Still getting used to this collaboration stuff! )
***************************************

"Everyone recognizes that time is important here. This is about defending life," White House press secretary Scott McClellan, not talking about the 4 million preventable deaths that have occurred in Central Africa over the last 7 years.


One of the aims of this blog is to address issues that are often presented as "secondary issues" by the media, politicians, and even other bloggers. In the case of what's happening in the Congo and the Sudan, it would be nice if these situations were even considered secondary issues. Sadly, though, even for those of us who stay abreast of the latest developments, the seriousness and magnitude of the destruction in these two countries is rarely conveyed through news reports.

Thankfully, yesterday's New York Times provided a brief, but telling glimpse of the disasters. Check out these numbers:
The numbers who die in Africa's wars are almost too high to contemplate. The fighting in Congo - an amalgam of rebel insurgencies, tribal rivalries, competition for resources and just plain butchery without a cause - has taken an estimated 3.8 million lives since 1998, making it the most deadly conflict since World War II, the International Rescue Committee estimated. Another two million lives have been lost in southern Sudan, where a war between the government and rebels ground on 21 years before a peace deal was signed in January. And Sudan's Darfur region, in the west, has lost more than 200,000 additional lives over two years of tribal pillaging. Fighting in northern Uganda, where rebels who purport to fight for the Ten Commandments abduct children to reinforce their ranks and chop off the lips and ears of those who dare resist, has taken an estimated 100,000 lives.

Gathering health data in war zones is obviously a risky enterprise. But the I.R.C. was able to conduct four mortality surveys in Congo over the last five years, each a little more extensive than the last. In the most recent one, covering January 2003 to April 2004, investigators surveyed 19,500 homes spread over every Congolese province (although they skipped some especially insecure parts of the country). They estimated that 31,000 people die every month from causes connected to conflict, most of them in the unstable east and most of them from disease. They found a mortality rate in eastern Congo that was 80 percent higher than the average rate for sub-Saharan Africa, where it is high in the best of times.

Most deaths, the survey found, were due to maladies that are easily preventable and treatable in other parts of the world, such as malaria, diarrhea, respiratory infections and malnutrition. Less than 2 percent of the deaths were caused by violence.

If this level of destruction occurred on any other continent, the demand for action and assistance would be deafening. But why not in Africa? Is it racism? Shamefulness? I guess I don't know the answer, but I have a feeling that racism and shamefulness play at least a small part in why we often fail to react and even care about what happens on a continent where our reactions and care are most needed.

The magnitude of these numbers, and how much death and illness could have been prevented with basic levels of medical assistance provide a stark contrast to the political "culture of life" movement that has thrown itself into full gear over a brain dead woman in Florida. I would like to think that this "culture of life" extends to everyone, regardless of their religion (does anyone really think we'd know who Terri Schiavo is if she weren't Christian?), race, nationality, politics, or sexual preference, but time and time again, I'm disappointed. The piece in the Times just highlights the latest example. Where has the moral outrage been over 4 million preventable deaths?

The outrage doesn't exist because it's not politically expedient. Tubegate illustrates how the "culture of life" referenced by politicians is really just a ploy to establish a life for a culture that is clearly out of touch with most Americans. That culture, of course, is founded on an agenda of extreme notions of homogeneity and prejudice, but is publically presented under the guise of Christian moral virtues. The politicians' sanctimony is only intended for those that think and look like them, which is to say they're pandering to their base.

It's who the Republicans have decided to make their beds with, and it's had an effect on shaping our foreign policy, too. Why else is attention (there should be even more attention, of course) only on Darfur ( because it's Christians vs. Muslims), while the Congo goes unnoticed? Until our political leadership ceases to pay lip service to the worst of its political base, they'll continue to fall all over themselves to protect their "culture of life" only when it is in their own political interest, and continue to ignore real issues where even the most basic efforts to get involved mean the difference between life and death.



Culture of Life: "Whose Life?" Edition

by Shakespeare's Sister

The following is, I want to acknowledge, so not the most important aspect of the entire Schiavo debacle, but since it's being dissected into the finest of minutiae across the entirety of cable news and 99% of the political blogosphere, I hope you’ll forgive me this little foray into something slightly more trivial.

In addition to the myriad other reasons our federal government getting involved in this mess is just a bad, bad, bad idea, I would like to add this to the list: it’s embarrassing. I am totally mortified that this story is being beamed out to the rest of the world—American government calls emergency session to stop peaceful death of woman who has been in persistent vegetative state for 15 years. Not only am I embarrassed because it makes us seem incredibly stupid and patently unable to understand what a term like persistent vegetative state means, further evidencing our increasing disregard for science and embrace of superstition, but I am ashamed because we are sending the message that this one woman’s life—this poor, drooling, mindless, unhelpable woman, who will never be anything more than slowly deteriorating tissue kept alive by extraordinary measures (which, though that may sound cruel, is just the grim, tragic fact of Terri Schiavo’s existence)—is important enough to have brought our very government to a standstill.

This, on a day when, as John noted, we find out that “at least 108 people have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them violently...”

…when we have just celebrated the two-year mark of the start of the war in Iraq, where we’ve lost over 1,500 of our soldiers and, depending on who’s counting, killed between tens of thousands and a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians…

…when we have recently learned we were keeping children in Abu Ghraib…

…when our government continues to seek ways to undermine the Geneva Conventions, showing a total disregard for the rights of those we deem enemy combatants, despite many of them stubbornly continuing to be innocent of those charges…

…when our president took days to make a public statement about the 100,000 lives lost in the tsunamis…

…when we persist in ignoring Africa, letting civil unrest, genocides, and an unrivaled AIDS crisis carry on unfettered, resulting in millions of deaths every year…

…when we show such a fundamental contempt for the lives of people the world over.

What do you expect the rest of the world thinks of a country that delivers shock and awe upon an unwitting Iraqi civilian populace and celebrates its victory with a million-dollar photo op, that causes the deaths of those in our custody by violent means, that promotes to the highest position of law enforcement in the land a man who finds “quaint” the prohibitions against torture, that ignores the genocide of millions while their Vice President visits Auschwitz in ski cap to murmur solemnly Never again, but here, here in America, stops the goddamned presses to protect the life of a woman who has not a thought in her head, and never will again, who has no quality of life or any sentient awareness of her place in the world?

I’ll tell you what, even from where I’m sitting inside our own borders, I think it’s pretty fucking appalling.

And as an aside, I wonder if, like the many murdered wife stories that haven’t dominated various news cycles over the past few years, this, too, would have never caused the furor it has if Ms. Schiavo had had the bad taste of not being white.


Where’s Dumbo?

by Shakespeare's Sister

In today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a former teenage Republican wonders What happened to real Republicans?

It’s a damn good question (and a fine piece), which reminded me of a post from Kung Fu Monkey’s John Rogers from back in December called I Miss Republicans:
No, seriously. Remember Republicans? Sober men in suits, pipes, who'd nod thoughtfully over their latest tract on market-driven fiscal conservatism while grinding out the numbers on rocket science. Remember those serious-looking 1950's-1960's science guys in the movies -- Republican to a one.

They were the grown-ups. They were the realists. Sure they were a bummer, maaaaan, but on the way to La Revolution you need somebody to remember where you parked the car…

How did they become the party of fairy dust and make believe? How did they become the anti-science guys? The anti-fact guys? The anti-logic guys?
When I originally excerpted John’s post, I wrote about my frustration with GOP voters and their continued allegiance to an administration whose policies seem counterintuitive to every Republican principle as I understand them:
I'm not sure why it seems to be only people on the Left screaming bloody murder about how the Republican Party has been hijacked by total fuckwits. It’s akin to the moderate Christians I know who seem relatively unfazed by the radical element that, if left unchecked, will forever define American Christianity as a religion of intolerant zealots. No one on the Right appears moved to try to prevent this steady slide into political and religious extremism.

I was disgusted by some traditional Republicans I know who held their nose and voted for Bush, simply because they wouldn't vote for a Democrat. No matter how much you pointed out to them that - as bizarre as it may have seemed - the party of fiscal responsibility, smaller government, states' rights, and conservation (particularly environmental) was, this time, the Democrats, they still cast a vote for Bush.

Their party is slipping (has permanently slipped?) away from them, but they say nothing, do nothing. When America has fallen into the inevitable morass that is its unavoidable destination with Bush at our helm, I won't blame the Democratic voters, and I won't even blame the wingnuts on the Right, who at least voted as they believe, foolish as it is. I will blame the large swath of traditional Republicans who refused to acknowledge that their party had left them, and made no noise about its failed leadership, choosing instead to keep handing new strings to Nero for his fiddle.
So where the hell are you, real Republicans? Are you holding your breath and biding your time, hoping we can just get through this until one of your own gets passed the baton? Despite there being no heir-apparent to this administration’s throne, it’s increasingly unlikely that it’s going to be one of your boys (or girls). I hear names like John McCain and Richard Lugar less and less frequently, replaced instead with names like Bill “Cat Killer” Frist (boo) and Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum (hiss).

Maybe you’re thinking that your party needs a good sound trouncing to get back on track, and maybe it really does. But when the time comes, don’t be an ass; vote for the donkey until that elephant stops dropping its massive piles on shit on everyone’s lawn.

(Related reading: Me4President on how the GOP’s insistence on Congressional involvement in the Schiavo debacle is further evidence of their departure from traditional Republican tenets—and, with any luck, their own eventual irrelevance.)

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)


Abortion Must Remain Legal

by Shakespeare's Sister

Amidst more discussion of the "Culture of Life," RampagingPMS has an excellent post on why abortion must remain legal (hat tip Heretik). A must-read for women and men. Be cautioned—strong imagery.


The Art of Hypocrisy

by Shakespeare's Sister

This administration has provided limitless fodder for those who love to call bullshit when they see it, but this Schiavo case seems to pull so many threads together that the cumulative hypocrisy is nothing short of artful.

First, there’s Bush’s willingness to drop everything he’s doing on his vacation to run back to D.C. to sign legislation that will, once again, prevent Schiavo from finally getting some peace, which is referenced both in the Quote of the Day published by Ms. Julien, below, and explored in even further detail by Michael at AMERICAblog.

Second, and more importantly, is the way this case ties up so neatly many of the Bush policies about which we in the Lefty blogosphere have been writing for years now. For a great take on this, I’ll turn it over to Digby:
By now most people who read liberal blogs are aware that George W. Bush signed a law in Texas that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient's family's wishes. It is called the Texas Futile Care Law. Under this law, a baby was removed from life support against his mother's wishes in Texas just this week. A 68 year old man was given a temporary reprieve by the Texas courts just yesterday.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are also aware that Republicans have voted en masse to pull the plug (no pun intended) on medicaid funding that pays for the kind of care that someone like Terry Schiavo and many others who are not so severely brain damaged need all across this country.

Those of us who read liberal blogs also understand that that the tort reform that is being contemplated by the Republican congress would preclude malpractice claims like that which has paid for Terry Schiavo's care thus far.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are aware that the bankruptcy bill will make it even more difficult for families who suffer a catastrophic illness like Terry Schiavo's because they will not be able to declare chapter 7 bankruptcy and get a fresh start when the gargantuan medical bills become overwhelming.

And those of us who read liberal blogs also know that this grandstanding by the congress is a purely political move designed to appease the religious right and that the legal maneuverings being employed would be anathema to any true small government conservative.
Of course, those of us who read (and write) liberal blogs didn’t vote for Bush and his rabid pack of feral hounds who feast on the flesh of those who have fallen from that great but thinning herd known as the middle class. We’re just stuck watching as ever more egregious amounts of bullshit are sold by these snake oil salesmen, and eagerly bought by those who trust only in faith, blinded as they are by the heavenly glow of sanctimony.


26 or 108...Give or take 80.

by John

Last week I wrote about how the deaths of 26 inmates in US military custody "might" have been homicide. Unfortunately, that number has been raised..."slightly":
At least 108 people have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them violently, according to government data provided to The Associated Press. Roughly a quarter of those deaths have been investigated as possible abuse by U.S. personnel.
As Roachblog notes, 114 American POWs were killed, from all causes, during the entire Vietnam War. But, as we know, Iraq is not Vietnam, right?

It's really too bad that these inmates weren't already clinically dead for 15 years, otherwise they might have had a chance.

(crossposted at Blogenlust)


Private Social Security Accounts: First Buster, then Bertha

by Dark Wraith

This article is cross-posted at The Dark Wraith Forums

Those of you who are regular readers of The Dark Wraith Forums know that a number of articles and comments on threads have been written about various proposals to partially privatize the Social Security system. But nothing in these extensive writings has been quite as personal as the story of Buster Bluerhoid in A Look at Private Social Security Accounts, published last month. Buster's story touched the hearts of many readers as he lived out his productive life and came to retirement facing a public pension system that had become partially privatized. As the story unfolded, Buster's fate in retirement had already been defined only to a small extent by the choices he had made during his working years. Unfortunately for Buster, much of what would constitute his financial fate upon retirement was dependent upon principles of finance, circumstances, and rules beyond his control.

To recap the prequel to the issue before us now, Buster was a man who made $40,000 in constant-dollar earnings a year throughout his entire working life. He neither gained ground on inflation, nor did he lose ground to it. He worked for 50 long years, beginning at the age of 20 and retiring at the age of 70. He chose to use the opportunity for a private Social Security account to the maximum he was allowed each month for every month of those 50 years.

Now, the way the system works is that Buster is not actually investing his own Social Security withholdings; instead, the government deducts Social Security tax as it always did in the olden days; but then, if a worker wants to have a private, personal Social Security account, the government will lend him or her up to four percent of earnings subject to Social Security taxation to invest in the stock and bond markets. This is what might be called a "credit facility," with the accumulated principal and interest due upon retirement from the money that has been invested in the markets. Keeping inflation out of the picture, the proposals floating around Washington put the interest rate the government will charge on this credit facility at three percent.

Buster is permitted to invest four percent of his monthly income every month for 50 years. That means every month Buster borrows from the government $133.33, and he puts that cash to work in a private investment portfolio. At the end of those 50 years, the portfolio gets liquidated, and the government is paid back. Whatever remains, Buster must use to buy from a private merchant a pension plan that will pay him a monthly check for the rest of his life.

Here's how the numbers worked out for Buster: at the end of his 50 years, having borrowed $133.33 every month from the United States, he owes Uncle Sam $185,243. (If that number makes your hind leg twitch, you're not alone.) Whatever remains from the portfolio liquidation, Buster must use to buy a pension annuity. The third party provider has to calculate how much it can make on what Buster is paying, and it must determine how long it will have to send him those monthly annuity checks. Assuming that the pension provider can make the same three percent in real terms at which the government is lending money to Buster, and assuming that Buster is expected to live to the ripe old age of 85, the calculations reveal that the annuity plan will cost $144,805 per $1,000 of monthly annuity Buster wants to purchase.

In other words, for Buster to get a $1,000 check from his private plan every month from his time of retirement until the time of his death, he has to pay the pension company almost $145,000. Remember, though, that Buster must first pay Uncle Sam $185,243. In total then, for Buster to get a thousand dollars a month check throughout his retirement, he must have a portfolio worth $184,243 $144,805, which comes out to $330,049. Simply put, Buster must invest $133.33 every month for 50 years and end up with just a little over three hundred grand at the end of his working life.

Finally, what annualized rate of return would Buster's portfolio have to pull to end up with this much money? Doing that calculation (for which we can thank financial calculators and spreadsheets, which make the number crunching a whole lot easier), Buster needs to make just a fraction under five percent annually in real terms.

Earning a real rate of return of five percent might not sound too hard. Historically, the stock market has been able to earn, on a well-diversified portfolio, about seven percent; and even taking into account the shift of some fundamental parameters that will affect future market performance, some mainstream economists see the long-term rate of return on a diversified stock portfolio as being somewhere right around five percent.

Well, happy days. Buster should be able to pull this off, if only by a whisker. He can pay back his $184,243 loan from the U.S. government, and he'll be able to pay a private pension annuity seller the sum of $144,805 so that he can receive a check every month for $1,000.

In the interest of full and fair disclosure, though, it should be noted before we go on that, as of last Friday, a portfolio based upon the Dow Jones Industrials has earned, since the first full day of the Administration of George W. Bush in 2001, an annualized return of a whopping 0.12%. That's right: before even taking into account how inflation has eroded purchasing power, investing in a portfolio of stocks like the Dow would have earned a little more than a tenth of a percent per year.

Investing in a broader, but still blue-chip, portfolio like the Standard & Poor's 500 would have earned an annualized rate of return of -2.88%, again, even before taking into account inflation eating away at the purchasing power of the dollars in the market. And finally, going with a widely diversified index mirroring the giant NASDAQ would have brought an annualized rate of return before inflation of -7.36%.

Still think Buster's going to have an easy time pulling off an annualized rate of return of five percent over the next 50 years?

If the neo-conservative geniuses now driving our economy have done something permanently adverse to the way stock markets appreciate investment capital, Buster won't have enough in that portfolio on the day he retires even to pay back his dear Uncle, much less have anything to go buy himself a pension annuity.

And so we must now leave Buster and get to the point of this second half of our look at private Social Security accounts.

You might be wondering what else there could possibly be, and you might also be wondering how much longer this article can go on about such a depressing topic. Not to worry: it will end shortly, but we must first give at least a brief bit of attention to Buster Bluerhoid's twin sister, Bertha Bluerhoid.

Yes, Bertha was born at the same time as Buster, and they are alike in every way, except that Bertha is a woman, which means that she and Buster are not alike in every way. For the purposes of analyzing her prospects with a private Social Security account, two differences are quite important: first, Bertha, being a woman, will probably earn less money than Buster during her life, even though she is pretty much identical to Buster in skills, job performance, and other matters that should determine her income; and second, Bertha will probably live longer than Buster. Both of these factors—as well as a couple of others—are going to work against Bertha.

Just for the sake of example, let's say Bertha has a life expectancy seven years longer than Buster; and throughout her life, she earns 10 percent less than Buster. That latter assumption means she'll make $36,000 per year. Like Buster, she'll use the maximum four percent of her income, which comes out to $120.00 every month, to invest in the stock markets, mindful that this is money she is borrowing at three percent interest from the government, and she must pay this off in one lump sum by liquidating her investment portfolio upon her retirement. Anything she has left over, she must use to buy a pension annuity that will send her a monthly check for the rest of her life.

Here's how the numbers shake out.

The good news is that, since she was borrowing less than Buster each month from the government, Bertha will owe Uncle Sam only $166,719 on the day she retires. This is the future value of a monthly loan of a hundred and twenty bucks accumulating interest at three percent annually for 50 years. So, whereas Buster owed the government about $185,000, Bertha owes the government almost $18,000 less.

Oh, but here comes the bad news: Bertha must take the proceeds that remain from her liquidated portfolio and go buy an annuity that will pay her a monthly check for the rest of her life. The calculation will work the same way it did in Buster's case: how much should be charged up front so that a check can be sent every month for what is expected to be the duration of a person's life, given that the up-front money can be invested at a real annualized rate of return of three percent?

Before seeing the price per thousand dollars of the monthly annuity benefit plan, remember that Bertha is expected to live longer than Buster. That means, if she wants the same amount of money every month, she must be charged more. (Keep in mind that this is a private system; so unless the government imposes some form of fairness on it, Buster is not going to be made to pay more so that Bertha can pay less.)

Get ready for this. For each thousand dollars of annuity Bertha wants, she must pay $193,089.

You might want to go up and see what Buster had to pay for that same $1,000 a month check he'd get in the mail for the duration of his life as a retiree.

So, to pay back her loan to the government and to have enough remaining to buy an annuity from which she'll get a grand every month until she dies, Bertha needs a total of $166,719 $193,089, which comes out to be $359,808. This is what her portfolio needs to be worth on the day she retires.

To finish off the numbers, we need to see what annualized rate of return Bertha has to make, investing $120.00 every month for 50 years, for her portfolio to hit a liquidation value of $359,808. Again, using a handy spreadsheet to do the math that would otherwise take close to an eternity, Bertha's investments need to earn an annualized rate of return for fifty years of almost five-and-a-half percent. Recall that Buster needed to pull just a little under five percent to get his thousand dollar a month pension check.

In summary, then, here are the numbers, side by side, for our two friends.

Obligation to the United States:
•  Buster owes the government $184,243
•  Bertha owes the government $166,719

Price/cost at retirement of a $1,000 per month pension annuity:
•  Buster must pay $144,805
•  Bertha must pay $193,089

Total amount needed in private Social Security investment portfolio upon retirement:
•  Buster has to have a portfolio value of $330,049
•  Bertha has to have a portfolio value of $359,808

Required, 50-year annualized rate of return on investments to reach target portfolio value:
•  For Buster, 4.89%
•  For Bertha, 5.47%

Likelihood of achieving this:
•  In Buster's case, Diddly
•  In Bertha's case, Squat




The Dark Wraith has spoken.


Sunday, March 20, 2005

There must be a better way to spend $2 billion

by Pam



Barry Diller nears $2B buyout deal for Ask Jeeves (via Raw Story). Surely we can think of more useful things for Barry to do with his cash than this. Perhaps he was swayed by his uncanny resemblance to Jeeves.


Anger and Grief Mark Second Anniversary of Iraq W

by Ms. Julien in Miami


Demonstratorshold up placards during an anti-war demonstration in central London to
mark the second anniversary of the start of war in Iraq, March 19, 2005. Photo by Stephen Hird/Reuters



NEW YORK - Joining others around the world, tens of thousands of people in cities across the United States took to the streets Saturday calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq and immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from that country.


There's more - click above to read it all.

Cross-posted on Julien's List.


Freepers, feminism and the vote

by Pam

My first official Freeperland post to Big Brass Blog. As House Blenders already know, on occasion I venture over to The Free Republic to take the temperature of the fringe element. They are so off the charts these days that even grade A wingnut Sean Hannity disowned them (that made them go apesh*t).

Today's Freeper topic, interestingly enough, is about the controversy over Susan Estrich's tiff with Michael Kinsley over the lack of female representation on Op-Ed pages (his latest entry on this is here). Considering a good amount of the traffic to Big Brass Blog has been generated by the -- let's say -- interesting exchanges between fellow bloggrrl ShakesSis and some of the Technorati Testosteroni, I thought it would be equally interesting to probe the minds of our knuckle-dragging friends out there. My, my, I feel the clock winding back for women, even as I type...have barf bags at the ready.

Actual Freeper Quotes™:
"Feminists are always hysterical. It is the nature of the beast."

"Noisy feminists are the reason that sites like these are blossoming: AmericanWomenSuck.Com"

Back 10,000 years ago, women only had something like 10 menstrual cycles in their entire lives. This was due to menarche (the onset of having menstrual cycles) occurring over 3 years later than it does now, nursing infants more universally, being pregnant more of the time, and having much shorter life expectancies than now.

By comparison, the average Western woman has something like 400 menstrual cycles during her lifetime. That means that women are undergoing (and men are having to put up with the effects from) FORTY TIMES as much PMS as is supposed to be the case! No wonder women's heads are screwy in many cases so much of the time (divorcing for no real reason, etc.). Makes you think that maybe the Founding Fathers were on the right track when they excluded women from the vote and elective office; I'd hate to think of a woman President during "that time" having to make a decision about nuclear weapon use..."

"Feminists lost all credibility. Gosh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize they ever had any credibility."

"Makes you think that maybe the Founding Fathers were on the right track when they excluded women from the vote and elective office

Hold on a minute, buddy. I said feminists are stupid. I didn't say all women are stupid. I happen to be of the female persuasion, and I would put my voting record up against some dumbass union worker any day. Not only that, this country would be a whole lot better off with me in office than Kerry, Byrd or Reid."

"The rise in socialism in America tracks almost perfectly with women getting the franchise. Unmarried women have been proven to vote on average considerably more in favor of socialism than men do (married or not). Basically, in terms of how the country fares, it doesn't matter much whether married women vote or not. It matters very much whether unmarried ones do (it would be best if they did not).

Two other arguments against women having the vote:
1) Each complete household traditionally got one vote during much of American history, with even men often not getting to vote if they were propertyless and/or wards of the state (on welfare). Men who headed a household voted on behalf of the whole family, so arguably everyone was represented. Women not married are arguably between lives, not fully part of society. Too, unmarried women were traditionally still living in their father's homes for the most part, and were represented by him.

2) The right to vote historically accompanied the obligation to defend the nation as a combat soldier. Women are arguably unfit as a group for this role, whereas no nation can endure if its men shirk this role in time of need. Men as a group have this obligation (which women even now do not), so merit the vote that way. Allowing women the vote would be to give them something that they have not and never can earn.

(I believe that women only belong in the military in clerical and nonfrontline medical, but that's another story/)"

"Intriguing information. However, if we make any changes as to who is qualified to vote, I say we initiate a voter's test. If you pass, you get to vote. If you are stupid, you fail, and the rest of us are protected from your stupidity. Democrats would never hold office again. [Uh...If that's the baseline, there are a whole bunch of dumbf*ck Repugs that will be disenfranchised, my friend.]

I believe that women only belong in the military in clerical and nonfrontline medical, but that's another story.

I agree with you on this point. I also think the social and moral decline in our country directly corresponds to women leaving their families and going to work."

"Agreed re a voter's test. I would have it include all of the following:
1) Test of facility with spoken and written Standard English.
2) Proof of citizenship and born of citizens legally here (parents were never illegals).
3) Minimum intelligence (over an 85 at least); this would disenfranchise just over half of blacks, BTW...
4) Knowledge of American history and the Constitution.
5) No known moral turpitude, such as homosexuality, habitual drug use, advocating socialism or feminism, membership in PETA/ELF/Greenpeace or the like, membership in La Raza or the like, Muslim belief, not having divorced a spouse in a marriage with minor children without having PROVED pre-1960 legal grounds, etc.
6) Then, something like Heinlein's suggestion comes to mind. Put in a troy ounce of gold, and have XX seconds to solve a quadratic equation. Succeed, you vote and get your gold back. Fail, you get neither. Given the above, no minimum age to vote.

Oh, and anyone voting should not have been on welfare in the past 18 months, or birthed and kept an illegitimate child."

One thing I can give the Freepi props for -- at least they don't mind publicly stating what their private thoughts are.


No wonder Chimpy dragged his mommy out to pimp his SocSec sham

by Pam



Former first lady Barbara Bush spins for Chimpy as he advances his Social Security destruction proposal before a hand-picked audience at the Lake Nona YMCA Family Center in Orlando, Fla. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

[Feel free to add your own caption to this photo, btw.]

Let's see, since his plan has zero merit and it's going over like a lead balloon, how long do you think it will be before the White House engineers some sort of crisis to put fear into the sheeple and the media so they follow him like Homer Simpson after a rolling donut? (MSNBC):
Although President George W. Bush has been traveling the country touting a new plan to overhaul the Social Security system, campaigning in 15 states over six weeks, the majority of Americans remain unswayed, according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll.

Only one-third of all Americans (33 percent) approve of his proposal to create investment accounts under Social Security, the poll found, while 59 percent disapprove. More Americans (44 percent) trust Congressional Democrats with managing the 70-year-old program. The poll also found that, with the exception of his handling of terrorism and homeland security, his approval numbers are down across the board.


The politics of hair (again): school bans white girl with braids

by Pam


My kinky locs. Should I be fired for this hairstyle or refused service in a salon?

Or, as in this U.K. case, must a schoolgirl remove cornrows because she is white? Laugh at the U.K., but this kind of ignorant crap happens in the U.S. all the time, as you will see below. (Guardian):
Olivia Acton, 13, had her hair braided while on holiday in Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands, but she was turned away from classes in February because her new look broke her school's code. Her parents are angry that the headteacher, Allison Crompton, allowed two other pupils, with African-Caribbean heritage, to attend school wearing their hair in braids because of their cultural and ethnic background.

Olivia's father, Michael Acton, said: "Olivia asked why and [the headteacher] replied 'it's not your culture'. Olivia said to her that that was racist. The [school] policy only bans 'extreme' haircuts. How can she discriminate between a white person [with] a haircut like that and a black person? If it's extreme for one, it's extreme for another."

Ms Crompton said: "We don't allow any extreme hairstyles at the school. We are a high-achieving school with high standards. We don't allow any street culture into school. If we didn't allow some leeway for their cultural and ethnic background I think it would probably be discriminatory."

The Actons' MP, Jim Dobbin, said he was trying to break the deadlock by asking the governing body to mediate. "I think the parents and Olivia have a genuine complaint." The school said Olivia could return but only if she stayed on her own in the learning support unit. Her father insisted he would take the case to court. "If it has to go to court for racial discrimination that's what we will do."

Councillor Colin Lambert, Rochdale's education spokesman, said: "The school should concentrate on what goes into the students' heads not what is on their heads."
What kind of ass-hat thinking is going on here? Do they have a list of what is considered extreme -- are they talking about anything outside of the Western "norm"? As long as your hair is clean and groomed, what on earth does this have anything to do with learning?

As I said, there's plenty of this kind of thinking going on right here at home. I'm not even trying to present a cultural argument on this topic; it's simple common sense. Why does it matter what hairstyle you wear unless it gets in the way of you being able to do the job? How are locs an impediment any more than magenta hair, a long ponytail or a mohawk 'do? Take a look at these home-grown stories of discrimination.

* Dreadlocks don't cut it at St. Louis bar. The Cheshire Inn denied entry of two men into the bar because of their dreadlocs. Jack Lueders, president of the corporation that operates the Cheshire Inn said:
"You can't wash that hair, and it stinks, and we're a crowded bar, and we don't want stinky people in the bar," he said, explaining the policy. "If you look nice and you're obviously clean, nobody's going to go up and smell your hair."
Good god. What on earth is this man talking about? I wash my hair every day during the summer (every other day in the winter -- I have very dry, brittle hair). The ostensible reason for this policy is that it was to keep out a homeless man that had dirty dreads. Right. Two men dressed to attend a wedding = unwashed homeless man.

* Judge Upholds Public School Ban on Cornrows. U.S. District Court Judge Scott O. Wright in Kansas City, Missouri upheld a long-standing rule imposed by Boonville High School Coach Richard Smith that prohibits basketball players from wearing braided cornrows during games or practice. No reason is given in the story as to why this particular hairstyle is banned; only that the judge ruled citing federal appeals courts in general have deferred to the authority of the public schools.

* Dreadlock Lockout: The Dallas Police Department is firing employees based on their hairstyles. Two dozen police officers were stripped of their duties last spring when the Dallas Police Department decided to “crackdown” on dreadlock and other unconventional hairstyles. As the author of the opinion piece, Gjared Robinson, says:
The department claims that officers must look authoritative and assume a role of power. I don’t know about most people, but if I were pulled over by an officer, the badge he wears on his chest is all I need to see to know they have the power to arrest and charge me.
* Hair Cuttery Accused of Racial Discrimination. Monica Clark of Capitol Heights and Leslie Mercer of Reston claim in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, that they were mistreated because of their race repeatedly at several Hair Cuttery locations in the Washington area. In visits to separate stores, they tried to charge them $10 more for services because of their race, or were denied service.
When Clark complained, she said, the stylist refused to serve her. After having her hair done by another stylist, Clark said, she complained to a store manager. She alleges that the manager told her that "her kind of hair" was difficult to blow dry. Mercer, the second plaintiff, said that in August she went to a Hair Cuttery in Reston and requested a roller set. She alleges that she was denied service and was told that her "type of hair [was] too difficult to do."
The bottom line is that many black people are turning away from the chemical processes used to straighten kinky hair. Permanent chemical treatments, like perms, texturizers, alter the hair from its natural state. Sadly, the majority of black women don't even know what the texture of their hair actually is, because they have undergone the lye (and the lie) from the time they were young -- when they were told that kinky hair = bad hair. If they didn't get that relaxer as a young child, then they underwent the torture of the hot comb.



I was old enough to experience the "pleasure" of the thermal hot comb -- you rested it over the gas flame of the stove to heat it up. Then the grease was carefully applied to your hair and that comb sizzled through the kinks till it was bone straight, hissing as you prayed the comb didn't touch your scalp -- inevitably you got scalp burns because the "stylist" f*cked up. [By the way, the "stylist" for most folks was usually a relative, but in my case, everyone in my family had straight hair, so my mom had to take me to a salon till she figured out what to do.]

Once the chemical relaxer came into vogue it was the same problem with a different twist, it became a watch-the-clock endeavor to see how long you could leave the vile-smelling chemicals on to achieve maximum straightness before your scalp started to peel, burn and get open sores. Anything for that damn straight hair.

Why would anyone do this? It can't be because it's fun or easy to maintain. Black women who wear their hair in straight styles obsess about it all the time. Don't let it get wet, humid or exercise too hard because if you do, it will "go back" at the least opportune moment. At this point and time, the problem is two-fold:

1) an internalized self-loathing passed down through the generations of being told your natural hair is a "problem" and "fixing" it by using such extreme measures is a means to assimilate into the dominant culture (boy, that's working real well, considering the above stories, huh?); and

2) the dominant culture still has bigoted ideas about blacks and kinky hair that can profoundly affect the employment of, and treatment of people. This of course, means #1 will continue to occur.

If you want to read more about the serious politics of hair, click over to an earlier post of mine on Pam's House Blend, and check out more links here. If you want a laugh, click over to my Hair Journey, a visual chronicle of learning to love my natural hair.

And by the way, you can still buy those thermal hot combs. I saw one online for $9.50. Some poor child is still getting fried out there.


Quote of the Day

by Ms. Julien in Miami

So I was reading an open thread on America Blog, and I came across this post, from reader Will (no email or homepage so I couldn't contact him) - however it was too good to get lost in an open-thread haloscan...
Just got a chance to visit for the first time today and haven't read all of the comments yet. I did scan the AP and Reuters for updated news and I am just wondering if anyone else notices the irony in the Chimp rushing back to Washington to sign something the House may pass at 12:01 tomorrow while, when he was at the ranch, and received the famous August 6 PDB, he didn't concern himself with it because it was "historical information"?

If he would have rushed home that night to "err on the side of life", he would have had over a month to save the thousands of people killed by Bin Laden on September 11, 2001.

Can ANYONE answer the question of why MOST people don't get this?!??!?!??!?!?


This is cross-posted on Julien's List....


Fascism 101

by Shakespeare's Sister

Reporting for the BBC, Greg Palast reports (via Skippy) that the Bush administration made plans for Iraq’s oil…before 9/11 even happened. And while that should certainly put to bed any further dismissals of “No War for Oil”-chanting anti-war demonstrators as touting little more than radical Lefty hyperbole and the accusations against bloggers who suggest the Iraq War was about oil of promoting unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, I have bigger fish to fry at the moment (emphasis mine):
In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists".

"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.

Insiders told Newsnight that planning began "within weeks" of Bush's first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the US.

[…]

New plans, obtained from the State Department by Newsnight and Harper's Magazine under the US Freedom of Information Act, called for creation of a state-owned oil company favoured by the US oil industry. It was completed in January 2004 under the guidance of Amy Jaffe of the James Baker Institute in Texas.

Formerly US Secretary of State, Baker is now an attorney representing Exxon-Mobil and the Saudi Arabian government.

Questioned by Newsnight, Ms Jaffe said the oil industry prefers state control of Iraq's oil over a sell-off because it fears a repeat of Russia's energy privatisation. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, US oil companies were barred from bidding for the reserves.

Ms Jaffe says US oil companies are not warm to any plan that would undermine Opec and the current high oil price: "I'm not sure that if I'm the chair of an
American company, and you put me on a lie detector test, I would say high oil prices are bad for me or my company."

The former Shell oil boss agrees. In Houston, he told Newsnight: "Many neo conservatives are people who have certain ideological beliefs about markets, about democracy, about this, that and the other. International oil companies, without exception, are very pragmatic commercial organizations. They don't have a theology."
Well, that’s certainly comforting, isn’t it?

That consultants for the American oil industry were enlisted to help draft this latest plan is, of course, not the first time we’ve heard of such a thing in the Bush administration—the energy plan, environmental initiatives, etc., all with their Orwellian names, all drafted by lobbyists for the industries who will most benefit from the deregulations that will make Americans’ lives ever that little bit more difficult.

It’s not as benign as the inveterately annoying opportunism as which we often dismiss it, however. It’s called corporatism, and it’s one of the key characteristics of a fascist government:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

4. Supremacy of the Military

5. Rampant Sexism (including the suppression of divorce, abortion rights, and homosexuality in favor of a “traditional” family structure, with the state positioned as the ultimate guardian of the family institution)

6. Controlled Mass Media Using Propaganda and Censorship

7. Obsession with National Security Using Fear as a Motivational Tool

8. Intertwining of Religion and Government

9. Corporatism

10. Suppression of Labor Power

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

14. Fraudulent Elections

I dare say I need not point out the many examples of the other key traits listed.

Couple the above story with my earlier post referencing the release of the summary of a top secret Pentagon document, which sketches America's agenda for global military domination (see #4 on above list). Now you tell me: what the fuck is going on in our country?

Right after the inauguration, I wrote a piece called Time to Make Some Noise, which asked the question, When we will riot in the streets? At the time, I was referencing the uprising in Ukraine; since then we have seen protests against bad government around the world, including Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, Haiti, and Cuba, among others. Still, we do nothing as this administration seeks to control not just its own unwitting populace, but also those outwith its borders through a classic fascist model.

At best, we turn our collective gaze to the ’06 midterm elections, waiting for our chance to oust part of the ruling party, but, as I wrote before, democracy may well have become the new opiate of the masses:
Those who seek to make their voices heard by casting a vote for a challenger are subjected to questionable voting machines, prohibitive waits, and excessive challenges by controlling party operatives. With dissenting voices of the minority party's elected representatives silenced at every turn, and the rank-and-file relegated to casting a vote and hoping for the best, real opportunity for change remains elusive.

[…]

What better way to quell the threat of revolt than to offer the chance to effect change once every few years, through the simple and effortless act of casting a ballot. But when those ballots have lost any remnant of power, then they have also lost all sense of purpose, and the act of democracy becomes an impotent gesture, its sole meaning to stave off acts of rebellion against an increasingly centralized and exclusionary ruling class.

We are, to be sure, collectively reluctant to acknowledge that our democracy is slowly becoming little more than a useful tool to mollify and distract any element that would seek to impede the increasingly boundless control of the Right. We tell ourselves that all the things that contribute to the steady march toward authoritarianism—no checks and balances, media deregulation, weak and ineffectual opposition—will be solved as soon as we get another chance to vote. But the vote came and went, and the will of the authoritarians triumphed over the will of change. It will not get easier to undo the damage with the last shreds of our democratic system; it will only become more difficult, and more unlikely.

Yet our tunnel vision controls our response. We look to ’06 with blinders, ignoring the reality that focusing steadfastly onto a democratic solution is the very thing that will eventually render such a solution an impossibility. What will they accomplish in the next two years while we wait? What schemes will deepen their hold on us all while we depend on our votes to save us?

We must not give up on our right and our responsibility to vote, but voting alone will not solve the problems we face. Those of us who can look beyond our next chance to trek to the voting booth must find other ways of making our voices heard in the interim. When Ukraine’s government attempted to undermine their democratic principles, there was rioting in the streets. When will we riot in the streets? I wonder, anxiously, what it will take to shake us from our immutable belief that democracy will solve the problem of its own inevitable ruination so long as we depend exclusively on its fading potency.

Citizens of a democracy, we are taught, address their concerns and protest bad administrations and their dire policies on election days. We are polite and respectful as we register our dissent in quiet booths with drawn curtains. But maybe, just maybe, the pride we take in our civility will become our greatest shame.

We are slipping into a dark place where others have been before their governments took them, and those seen as enemies, to a place of grim despair. This is beyond liberal versus conservative. This is about the end of our democracy as we know it, about a place where “Democrat” and “Republican” have no meaning. It is our responsibility to start making some noise about the direction we are headed, in the hope that we will never arrive.


The liar, or the liar's lackey?

by Lanoire

Here in America, we have a head of government who's a crook. Over the pond in Great Britain, however, they have a head of government who's the lackey of our crook, so they're not much better off.

And now we know that Tony Blair knew that the US had 'fixed' the case for war in Iraq before he gave Bush his support.

Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, briefed Blair and a select group of ministers on America’s determination to press ahead with the war nine months before hostilities began.

After attending a briefing in Washington, he told the meeting that war was “inevitable”. Dearlove said “the facts and intelligence” were being “fixed round the policy” by George W Bush’s administration.


Compare and contrast this coverage with the US media's coverage of the Bush administration's propaganda. It's taken as a given in the Brit press (or by the Times, at least) that Bush was dishonest, as it should be since it's true. In the US press, it would be phrased as "Some Democrats claim that Bush's presentation of the intelligence was incomplete..."

The allegations against Blair just weeks before a general election are likely to reopen the feud between the government and the BBC that came to a head over the death of Dr David Kelly, the former weapons inspector. It led to the resignations of Gavyn Davies, its chairman, and Greg Dyke, its director-general.

The documentary — to be shown on BBC1’s Panorama tonight — reveals that Britain and America were anxious to present a united front on Iraq despite a paucity of new data on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

It quotes from a leaked memo on the presentation of intelligence sent by Peter Ricketts, political director of the Foreign Office, to Jack Straw, foreign secretary, in March 2002.

The memo says: “There is more work to ensure that the figures are accurate and consistent with the US. But even the best survey of Iraq’s WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years.”


"More work." Ah, yes, they had to work on creatively rearranging certain facts. You know, where I come from, we call that dishonesty. But then I'm just a shrill liberal blogger, so what do I know?

The programme argues that Blair had signed up to follow Bush’s plans for regime change in Iraq as early as April 2002. It quotes Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary who resigned as leader of the Commons over Iraq, arguing that the threat of WMD was not Blair’s true reason for going to war.

Cook says: “What was propelling the prime minister was a determination that he would be the closest ally to George Bush and they would prove to the United States administration that Britain was their closest ally. His problem is that George Bush’s motivation was regime change. It was not disarmament. Tony Blair knew perfectly well what he was doing.

“His problem was that he could not be honest about that with either the British people or Labour MPs, hence the stress on disarmament.”


Exactly like Bush. Pre-war, it was all WMDs, all the time. Now? We went in there to liberate the Iraqi people, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

There was actually a letter to the NY Times recently arguing that Bush was right to base his case for war on WMDs that didn't exist because the war in Iraq was the right thing to do and the ends justify the means, so it was okay to convince us plebes that WMDs were the reason when in fact they weren't. It's amusing how pro-war types are supposedly all for democracy abroad but are in fact bitterly opposed to it at home.

The intelligence services had little evidence to show that Iraq was a serious threat. At the meeting with Dearlove in July, Straw was still not entirely convinced. But, the programme claims, Blair had to keep talking up the threat posed by Iraq to justify his policy of supporting Bush. MI6 was then tasked to seek new information from its limited Iraqi network to make the case for war.

The little intelligence that could be gathered was seized upon by Alastair Campbell, Blair’s press secretary, and John Scarlett, the official leading a team drawing up the now notorious intelligence dossier.

The new material came mostly from two sources. The first, who was new and untried, reported that Iraq had restarted chemical agent production. The second, who had never previously provided details on WMD, was the source of the claim that Iraq was able to deploy WMD within 45 minutes.

When Dearlove briefed Blair on the first source, only days before he presented his dossier to parliament, the MI6 chief told him “the case is developmental and the source remains unproven”. Nonetheless, Blair told MPs two weeks later on September 24, 2002: “The intelligence picture they paint is one accumulated over the past four years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative.”
(my emphasis)

So MI6 was charged with selectively looking for facts that would fit Blair's theory. I suppose it's kind of comforting to know that we're not the only country with an intelligence agency that gets used as a political tool.

And when they didn't find the facts, Blair pretended like they had. Of course, we all know that it was really Blair's orders from Washington that were "extensive, detailed and authoritative."

Read the whole article. It's very informative, in a way that will make you want to hit things.


Buffy in Texas better not bump and grind on the football field

by Pam

I haven't been to a football game recently, but I can't imagine that high school cheerleading is the equivalent of a strip show or pole dancing. Who on earth is going to define what constitutes "sexually suggestive"? Try reading this without laughing. (Local6.com):
State Rep. Al Edwards of Houston is proposing a law to ban dirty dancing by cheerleaders. Edwards wants to put an end to "sexually suggestive" performances by cheerleaders at athletic events and other extracurricular competitions.

Edwards is outraged by the way cheerleaders are "shaking their behinds and going on, breaking it down."

"And then we say to them, 'don't get involved in sex unless it's marriage or love, it's dangerous out there' and yet the teachers and directors are helping them go through those kind of gyrations." He said it's hypocritical for educators to teach sexual abstinence, while condoning all sorts of bumping and grinding on the sidelines. Under the Houston Democrat's bill, the state education commissioner could reduce a school district's state funding if it knowingly permits sexy cheerleading.

Edwards said he filed the bill as a result of several instances of seeing such ribald performances in his district.
I think that last line is critical. Perhaps Mr. Edwards was getting a little too hot under the collar and "little Mr. Edwards" was getting a rise out of the on-field action. The abstinence argument is futile. Those kids in Texas are knocking boots despite the "don't do it" message.


Planet of the Dopes

by Shakespeare's Sister

Julie Saltman:
Brad Plumer has a post discussing Mormonism and some of its more bizarre practices. I'd just like to add one thing to his list, which I learned from a lapsed Mormon friend. She tells me that, under Mormon theology, if you are a really really good Mormon (and if you are male) then when you die you get to be the god of your own planet. Damn. How cool is that? That sounds way more fun than frolicking around on some cloud, playing a harp or singing hymns or something.

I've questioned a number of Mormons about this point, and it really does seem to be true…
This begs the question: are members of the Bush administration actually dead Mormons? Because they certainly seem to be living on a different planet than I am.

No explanation for Condi, though.


Gay Kids Under Threat

by Shakespeare's Sister

The Evil Petting Zoo’s Justin Cognito on another attempt to slide fascism in through the back door:
A Georgia school district is considering a rule saying that all kids must ask permission from parents before joining any extracurricular activities. Sounds innocent, right? Well, seeing as the proposal was put forth by some people who anted to squelch the school's GSA, it really isn't.

Cox contends the proposal is NOT intended to suppress membership in such [controversial] groups [as the GSA].

Really. Yeah, I guess all that uproar in White County is about the chess club, too.

Yeah, I'm sure that's it.


The 'Natural Family' vs. The Homo Agenda

by Pam


One of the authors of the "family manifesto", Alan Carlson of the Howard Center.

As I have been working hard on spreading word about the Homosexual Agenda, it looks like the wingnuts have working overtime to create "The Natural Family: A Manifesto." It was developed by the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society in Illinois, and the Utah-based Sutherland Institute. You can download the drivel, but you have to register and give your address. From American Family Association's propaganda organ AgapePress:
At a press conference this week, co-author Dr. Alan Carlson reported that the document is designed to remind society of the importance of the family unit for one reason: "Healthy family life and healthy societies advance and decline together," he stated. The "natural family," Carlson said, is viewed as "the union of a man and a woman through marriage for the purposes of sharing love and joy, propagating children, providing their moral education, building a vital home economy, offering security in times of trouble, and binding the generations."

Paul Mero, the other author of the document, said the pro-family movement needs the Manifesto. "The fact is that the side of the natural family is losing the culture war, and we have been for nearly 40 years," the Sutherland Institute president said. Anyone who doubts that statement, he added, "need only reflect on the battles we fight presently."
As Ms. Julien and others on Big Brass Blog have been noting, the Right cries about the sanctity of marriage and family until you have a case like Terri Schiavo, and then all bets are off. You get Tom DeLay in your hospital room, trying to call the shots over the legal rights of her husband. You see an indirect acknowledgment of this by one of the authors of the document, in reference to the elderly:
Mero described several of those battles. "Men and women care little about marriage and even less about having children. Sending a child to daycare is no more of a concern than sending a child out to the store to buy a loaf of bread. Divorce has become a 'healing balm.' And old folks, our aged parents, have become worthless burdens, encumbering our busy and convenient lives."
This crowd also has an unhealthy fixation on procreation, and you can easily see how the ultimate goal is rolling back reproductive freedom and women's rights under the guise of building healthy families.
Mero said he hopes the Manifesto will become a unifying tool that pro-family supporters can use it the struggle to bolster and rebuild the family. According to Carlson, the document offers an agenda to do exactly that.

"We will build a new culture of marriage where others would define marriage out of existence," he said. "We will welcome and celebrate more babies and larger families where others would continue a war on human fertility."
They want more women shooting out babies. Do I sense a feeling of desperation here? I don't think it's an overstatement to conclude that Mero and Carlson they are more concerned about white fertility, since that is the demographic where birth rates are not keeping pace to those of color.

These AmTaliban certainly have a pathetic, narrow and unrealistic view of what "family" is in today's world. No amount of manifesto writing is going to change the fact that women work, gays are raising children and more folks in bible-beating Red states get divorced than those in Blue states. It would be a lot of fun to see how far they would get in a push to make divorce harder, though.

Covenant marriage is already being touted, most publicly by Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (a state that has one of the highest divorce rates in the country, btw). Few couples in the state have taken up the offer to engage in covenant marriage, which requires pre-marital counseling and counseling if problems arise in the marriage. The only valid reasons for ending a covenant marriage include adultery, criminal behavior, physical or sexual abuse, "habitual drunkenness for one year," and "cruel and barbarous treatment."

Looks like the "Family Manifesto" folks have a lot of work ahead of them. I better get back to my Homo Agenda right away:
1) Assume complete control of the US Federal, State and local Governments as well as all other national governments
2) Recruit all straight youngsters to our debauched lifestyle
3) Destroy all healthy heterosexual marriages
4) Replace all school counselors in grades K-12 with agents of Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels
5) Establish planetary chain of "homo breeding gulags" where over -medicated imprisoned straight women are turned into artificially impregnated baby factories to produce prepubescent love slaves for our devotedly pederastic gay leadership
6) Bulldoze all houses of worship
7) Secure total control of the INTERNET and all mass media for the exclusive use of child pornographers.


Tutu: 'Celebrate Gays'

by Ms. Julien in Miami


Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu. (File, Beeld, Simphiwe Nkwali)

Sexuality was about creativity and self expression, and alternative sexualities should be celebrated, former archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu said on Thursday.

"Youshould love who you are," Tutu said in a film-clip message at the
opening of the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

Julien's List added the bold and italics in the quote above, but thinking about the abuse toward the LGBT community that has just been exhibited by the Catholic church, I have to wonder - why do some people just "get it" and some do not??

WHY??

Entire article is HERE....

Also crossposted on Julien's List.


Schaivo

by Shakespeare's Sister

Following up on John's post, below...

Awhile ago, I wrote the following about the Schiavo case:
I personally believe that Terri should be allowed to die. Those who are in a permanent vegetative state do not have any higher cognitive function, which frankly, seems like a blessing, as having self-awareness while trapped inside a totally nonfunctional body seems a fate worse than death.

This case seems to pit those who believe we should have the right to die with dignity at our own choosing, should we be faced with a terminal affliction (barring extraordinary measures) that allows no chance of recovery, with those who believe in a right to life at all costs—that "culture of life" our president (who signed the execution orders on over 100 people while governor of Texas) is so keen on talking about. However, what’s always missing, it seems, from right to life arguments is the concept of quality of life. Is a child that would be born into a life of atrocious abuse, for example, really better off being born? Is a person who will suffer endlessly until an inevitable death really better being off forced to endure unrelenting agony until their final day?

Quality of life means something; that’s what “pursuit of happiness” is all about. In a perfect world, parents who have no will or ability to properly care and love a child would give it up for adoption into a suitable home, and the practice of medicine would be so exact as to never leave anyone hanging in an earthly purgatory between life and death. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and so we must be responsible in our approaches to managing that imperfection.

In a perfect world, the gift of life should always be the answer, but in the flawed world in which we live, sometimes it isn’t.
Of course, that was before Congress got involved, which now makes this case about a lot more (via Atrios). (This article, by the way, right now has a picture of Terri Schiavo mislabeled as Zacarias Moussaoui. Way to go, CBS.)
QUESTION: So the years of state-court litigation would be wiped off the map, as if it never took place?

ANSWER: If Congress gets its way, yes. That's why the legislators in Washington put the words "de novo" into the legislation, so that the federal courts would not be bound by anything the state courts in Florida had done. Terri Schiavo's parents still would have to convince the federal judge that her rights are being violated, and they would have to have the medical evidence to back that up (which they did not have in the state case), but the state case would not act as a mandated precedent in federal court.

QUESTION: What does that concept do the regular give and take between the court systems, the idea of comity and cooperation between judges?

ANSWER: It destroys it. But that's the whole point of this Congressional action. Not liking a particular result in a case that has been litigated fully and completely by a court with competent jurisdiction, Congress now has said that the game must be re-done with new rules that heavily favor one side over the other. The implications of this move are astonishing. Just think about it. Anytime Congress doesn't like the result in a particular case, it could swoop in and call a "do-over," which is essentially what this legislation represents. And this from a Congress that has for a decade or so tried to keep all sorts of citizens-- including disabled employees-- out of federal court. If this law is declared valid, no decision in any state court in the country will be immune from Congressional second-guessing. It would throw out of whack the entire concept of separation of powers. The constitutional law expert Tribe calls it "trial by legislation" and he is right.
That “lot more” answers the question that lots of us are rightfully asking about the furor about Schiavo, and Congress’ decision to get involved, which is why this case?

Mark A. R. Kleiman:
Sun Hudson, a six-month-old boy with a fatal congenital disease, died Thursday after a Texas hospital, over his mother's objections, withdrew his feeding tube. The child was apparently certain to die, but was conscious. The hospital simply decided that it had better things to do than keeping the child alive, and the Texas courts upheld that decision after the penniless mother failed, during the 10-day window provided for by Texas law, to find another institution willing to take the child .

Where, I would ask, is the outrage? In particular, where is the outrage from those like Tom DeLay, who referred to the withdrawal of Terry Schiavo's life support as "murder"? If it's appropriate to Federalize the Schiavo case, what about the people being terminated simply because their cases are hopeless and their bank accounts empty?

Sun Hudson is dead, but 68-year-old Spiro Nikolouzos is still alive, thanks to an emergency appeals court order issued yesterday. However, his life support could be cut off at any moment. A nursing home is willing to take him if his family can show that he will be covered by Medicaid after his Medicare runs out. Otherwise, the hospital gets to pull the plug.

[…]

What I can't figure out is how someone could be genuinely outraged about the Schiavo case but not about the Hudson and Nikolouzos cases. Perhaps Mr. Bush, who says he thinks there should be a "presumption in favor of life," can explain that to us.
Pissed-Off Patricia at BlondeSense (quoting first from the Palm Beach Post):
"There is intense interest on the part of farmworker advocates and state investigators in exploring whether the births of the three Immokalee babies might be linked to pesticides."

[…]

"Herrera said she worked for the first part of her pregnancy in the fields, then continued to wash her husband's and brother's clothes when they came home from work.

She and her husband live in the same labor camp as the other two sets of parents who recently gave birth to malformed babies after working in the same fields. Jesus Navarrete was born Feb. 4 with Pierre Robin syndrome; his malformed jaw causes his tongue to fall back into his throat.

A second baby was born Feb. 6 with a missing nose and ear and without visible sexual organs. The infant was named Jorge, but later doctors told the parents their child was actually a girl, and so they named her Violeta. She died three days later.

Herrera and her husband don't know what to make of the three births, or, certainly, their future with their baby boy who has no arms or legs.

For now, they are coping only on a daily basis, shuttling between their Immokalee labor camp — where the father must keep working to make the weekly rent — and the brightly colored halls of Miami Children's."

Please, please read this story. While Congress plays badminton with Terri Schiavo's body, there are malformed babies being born and no one is all that upset about this situation. Would bush fly back to Washington today to sign a bill requiring a congressional investigation looking into why this baby and other babies of poor migrant workers are being born without arms and legs. I seriously doubt it. Why aren't the moral Christians in Florida raising hell about this?
Good question. But I guess the answer is that getting involved there wouldn’t conveniently destroy “regular give and take between the court systems, the idea of comity and cooperation between judges.”

As a final note, I’ll turn it back over to Atrios:
In 1999 then governor Bush signed a law which allowed hospitals to withdraw life support from patients, over the objections of the family, if they consider the treatment to be nonbeneficial.

Huh.


The World Will Be Ours

by Shakespeare's Sister

Via Dianne, from Pourquoi Pas, posting at the Alternate Brain:
The Pentagon has released the summary of a top secret Pentagon document, which sketches America's agenda for global military domination.

Michel Chossudovsky runs it down for us and things don't look good.
Doesn’t look good indeed. Michel writes:
There has been no press coverage concerning this mysterious military blueprint. The latter outlines, according to the Wall Street Journal, America's global military design which consists in "enhancing U.S. influence around the world", through increased troop deployments and a massive buildup of America's advanced weapons systems.

While the document follows in the footsteps of the administration's "preemptive" war doctrine as detailed by the Neocons' Project of the New American Century (PNAC), it goes much further in setting the contours of Washington's global military agenda.

It calls for a more "proactive" approach to warfare, beyond the weaker notion of "preemptive" and defensive actions, where military operations are launched against a "declared enemy" with a view to "preserving the peace" and "defending America".

The document explicitly acknowledges America's global military mandate, beyond regional war theaters. This mandate also includes military operations directed against countries, which are not hostile to America, but which are considered strategic from the point of view of US interests.
WTF?! Go read Michel’s whole synopsis, and you tell me if the phrase “world domination” doesn’t pretty much sum up the intent of this unfuckingbelievable scheme.

(Associated reading: Armchair Generalist on Two Years, 1520 Dead, and One Democracy Later.)


Quote of the Day

by John

Bob Schindler, father of Terri Schiavo, is elated:
"We're elated primarily that they (Congress) put politics to one side, and they're concentrating on the issue of saving Terri's life."
Yes, it is so great of Congress to put politics aside to save the life of Terri Schiavo.

...and I'd just like to add that this couldn't have come at a better time for Tom DeLay and the investigation into his Congressional ethics record.


(cross posted at Blogenlust)


Saturday, March 19, 2005

While GWB Struts His Stuff...

by Ms. Julien in Miami

... grinning into the cameras with that "ass-inine" little wave of his... so nobly cutting short his trip to Texas to completely mess with what I had thought the Fundies held so sacred - the bond between a married MAN and WOMAN...

Yep - our Dear Leader and all our Republican Friends have said that in this case it A-OK to completely obliterate the sanctity of marriage, disregarding the husband's wishes - and for that matter, those of Terri herself.

And as far as Harry Reid being a yep-yep man with above-mentioned lovelies, I can't say it any better than Linnet - in her post just below...

This post is also posted in a modified format on Julien's List.

Read, think, ACT!


Severe as Volokh

by Shakespeare's Sister

As a follow-up to Linnet’s outstanding post, below, on the truly shocking latest from Professor Eugene Volokh, I’d like to direct you to the Heretik’s take on the same.

What country am I living in? I know the answer; the name is the same but everything else, it seems, is different.


The dangers of a "pro-life" Dem leader

by Lanoire

Harry Reid supports Congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case.

By doing this, Reid is trampling over all of the following:

1) Separation of powers as delineated in the Constitution;

2) Medical science;

3) Terri Schiavo's rights, wishes and autonomy;

4) Michael Schiavo's right and responsibility to act as Terri's designated guardian;

5) The marriage relationship between Terri and Michael Schiavo;

6) The principle that the government should stay the hell out of personal decisions.

Remind me why the fuck this guy has control of the caucus again?

(crossposted to Looking at the Stars)


Prescient Moments

by Shakespeare's Sister

Way back in October, I wrote a post about my feeling that straight liberals have an obligation to defend gay marriage rights, in which I invoked one of my favorite quotes from the Reverend Martin Niemoller.

Yesterday, AMERICAblog’s John Aravosis posted the following:
Isn't it interesting how quickly the far-right's campaign to control gay marriage has turned into a campaign BY THE SAME PEOPLE to control YOUR marriage.

From bioethicist Art Caplan, PhD:

Remember the recent debate about gay marriage and the sanctity of the bond between husband and wife? Nearly all of those now trying to push their views forward about what should be done with Terri Schiavo told us that marriage is a sacred trust between a man and a woman. Well, if that is what marriage means then it is very clear who should be making the medical decisions for Terri — her
husband.


From Martin Niemoeller, Berlin Lutheran pastor arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau concentration camp in 1938; the Allied forces freed him seven years later:

In Germany, the Nazis first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, but I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.
Same quote. Same point. We’re all in this together. There’s just so such thing as secondary issues anymore, folks.


Bloggrrls: Armed with the Truth Edition

by Shakespeare's Sister

Well, I certainly didn’t believe that my little blog would create the furor it has over the past couple of days.

First, I need to say a couple of things about the intent of my original post, because as its contents were spread without context in some cases, the intent may have been lost. What I did not intend was to browbeat anyone into giving me a link or to embarrass anyone. My intent was to address the intellectual dishonesty of those who will privately espouse sexist views, and mask them in public with explorations of the disparity between male and female bloggers in the upper ranks without addressing their own complicity in that disparity.

Despite having asked for and received permission to reprint some of the email exchange that’s now been referenced both by Kevin Drum and myself, I had actually decided not to, and never would have if I had not read yet another post subtlety transferring the responsibility for the absence of women among the upper echelons onto others:
When we turn to the men, however, we mostly get either silence or stubborn denial. Manan Ahmed: "Huh?! There never should be a reason to link to anyone besides your appreciation for their content." Jeff Jarvis: " I'm white. I'm male. I blog. You got a problem with that? Tough." The Deacon over at Power Line: "The notion that [successful] bloggers are making decisions about linking based on gender, or race for that matter, seems quite far-fetched." Dave Winer mocks the whole idea that there's any kind of problem in the first place.

Right. No problem at all. No wonder so many women got pissed off at what I thought was a fairly unexceptional post last month. If this is the crowd I'm part of, I don't blame them.
If this is the crowd I’m part of. Having now admitted to being the author of at least some of the quotes I referenced, I wonder why Drum didn’t take the opportunity to admit that he is not a part of that crowd by virtue of his gender, but by virtue of having expressed similar views. Silence or stubborn denial indeed. It was an opportunity to come clean about the reality of how pervasive those attitudes really are, to admit that he, too, has felt the same way, and thereby begin an honest dialogue about change. Instead, he chose to hide his own collusion behind a mockery of others who hold those views, positioning himself as one of the enlightened.

Ironically, such posturing garnered him appreciative links from women bloggers. It was the frustration at seeing my fellow bloggrrls played for fools that prompted my post. Male bloggers who seek to sucker their female peers by investigative musings approximating support of their struggle, while playing a role, even if passive, in the suppression of their voices, should not be afforded such latitude, nor lauded for disingenuous behavior.

However, we now have the opportunity to begin an honest dialogue about male bloggers who struggle to find women bloggers to whom they are inspired to link, and we can begin with the question why? The answer is clearly not because there exist no women writing great commentary, coming up with new ideas, posting frequently, or any of the other reasons that have been cited. Surely that much is now evident. I’ve noticed, though, that many of the big male bloggers have said that they must make an effort to seek out women bloggers, and I don’t believe that’s a reference to women being difficult to find, but instead a revealing insight into the insidious and deeply ingrained sexism that still permeates our society. It is as if women, by nature of their femaleness and irrespective of the content of their blogs, are regarded as niche bloggers by many of our male cohorts. There are bloggers…and then there are women bloggers.

Similarly, there are "issues"—Social Security, Bankruptcy Bill, etc.—and then there are "women's issues"—fair pay, abortion rights, etc. (and then there are other secondary issues, like gay rights, civil rights issues, etc.). Ignoring the oft-asserted claim that women don’t blog about issues such as Social Security, which I hope by this point can also be put to bed after women across the blogosphere provided links to their plethora of posts on the subject, I’ve seen the argument made by male bloggers that an issue like Social Security is of concern to everyone because it affects everyone’s bottom line, but that “women’s issues” are somehow distinct to women. I would argue that women still making $.80 on the $1 affects the bottom line of every household that’s got a working woman in it, which as we know includes some of the big dog bloggers, yet it is relegated to the realm of “women’s issues,” and is not addressed with the regular frequency that Social Security is. Likewise, most of those things designated as “women’s issues” can clearly be seen as practically significant to both sexes; men are simply choosing to designate any issue that primarily effects women as a secondary issue.

The truth is, the whole “what are women’s issues and who should be talking about them” debate is specious, and is in fact little more than a red herring designed to deflect attention from the real issue—that sexism is still alive and well, even among some men who fancy themselves feminists. The contention that we must first define “women’s issues” belittles this entire quandary to a semantic argument. The truth is, women’s voices are still not heard in the upper echelons on most issues; suggesting they must be incorporated simply so that “women’s issues” are effectively addressed conveniently ignores that fact.

We must not let ourselves be bogged down in a debate about defining “women’s issues,” and women’s role in addressing them, to the exclusion of continuing to question why women’s thoughts in the upper ranks on any and every issue continues to be elusive. My challenge to male bloggers who find themselves struggling to include women’s voices is this: ask yourself honestly if you regard women-authored blogs in the same way as those written by men. If you do, then there are plenty of women writing great stuff out there; go find them. If you don’t, you need to figure out why. And the answer isn’t in the female blogosphere—it’s not in examinations of whether women like the “food fight,” or in the definition of “women’s issues,” or in the ratio of male to female bloggers, or in the topics women choose. The answer to that question can only be found within yourself.


Iraqi press gets it. US press? Not so much.

by John

Two years after the start of the war, it's nice to know that we still have to add the caveat "...but under Saddam it was worse" to every piece of bad news.

USA Today
is the source of the lastest example. In an article about how the Iraqi press is poking fun at Iraqi politics (how cute!), it is noted that,

Al-Sabah, one of Iraq's leading newspapers, featured a photograph of puffs of smoke rising from the mortar blasts outside the assembly during its opening ceremonies. The tongue-in-cheek headline: "They met, but they did not agree to meet again."

But pay no attention to the fact that the assembly was a joke, or that the politicians barely got out alive. What matters is that they're free! The very next sentence:

Such headlines would not have been tolerated under Saddam Hussein (news - web sites). Their brashness - in bold type - is among the surest signs of the country's new freedoms.

So, feel better that the Iraqi press is free to write tongue in cheek headlines about the patheticness of their new freedom and democracy, and just be glad that someone's press is doing so.



This is a Week of Mourning

by Ms. Julien in Miami

A beautiful soul, a true ally and visionary, Wanda Alston, was stabbed to death in her home on Wednesday.

Then last night, I heard about the Catholic Diocese of San Diego refusing to allow a funeral for a prominent gay businessman who died while on a ski trip.

I cannot beat the coverage on AmericaBlog...this particular blog was the first I ever read, back last summer. Moderated by John Aravosis, and stocked with a team of fabulous contributors, it has kept countless of readers in tune with what is really going on - from the war, to the elections, to the recent scandals in the White House press room, and now, this fabulous coverage of the heinous and discriminatory acts by the pedophiles in the Catholic church.

On the subject of the child-rapers, please visit the following posts (listed in chronological order) on that site.

Hateful bigoted Catholic leaders refuse funeral to gay man because he ran two gay bars

BASTARDS

San Diego reacts to Catholic Church banning funeral of gay man

San Diego Bishop who refused funeral for gay man settled high-priced sex suit

San Diego Catholic diocese smears dead gay man

Catholic Church gave convicted priest-pedophile full funeral after raping 150 kids

My sister converted to Catholicism about four years ago, and I watch her world get smaller and smaller every day, and I am trying now to mentally prepare for her vote of "YES" for Indiana's pending marriage amendment.

So, when I think of an argument that developed on Julien's List, concerning the question of why the LGBT community "needs" a flag or other unity types of symbols...

I guess when we no longer live in a world where a man is banned from being sent to rest by his own church, but a Catholic priest convicted of raping some 150 boys was given a full funeral in his own church, well, maybe we won't need them then.

A modified version of this post is also posted on Julien's List.

Read, think, ACT!

Ms. Julien


Two years and counting in Iraq...

by Pam


An Iraqi boy, Ahmed Muhsen, plays in the crater left after a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi Army patrol in southern Baghdad.(AP Photo/Mohammed Uraibi)

There's no end in sight. From the wonderful blog, Facing South, some sobering statistics:
Percent of U.S. soldiers that are from Southern states: 42
Percent of soldiers that are based in the South: 56
Number of U.S. soldiers that have died in Iraq: 1,520
Estimated number of soldiers wounded: 17,000
Percent in U.S. who think number of U.S. casualties has been "unacceptable": 70
Estimated number of civilian deaths in Iraq: 100,000
Cost of Iraq war to U.S. taxpayers, in billions: $157.9
Number of children that could have received health insurance for that amount: 94,000,000
Number of permanent military bases currently being constructed in Iraq: 11
Sources on file at the Institute for Southern Studies.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Liberals Will Save America

by Shakespeare's Sister

[After the recent NY Times article about the expansive use of what might quite fairly be called propaganda by the Bush administration, I thought it was a good time to revisit a post I originally wrote back in January. It received a good response at the time, but my readership has since expanded, and so I felt it was worth reposting at the top. Hope you enjoy.]

I am tired of hearing that liberals hate America. Making that fallacious claim is a regrettably effective tool of the Right, which is why it has become their most trusted and oft-invoked response to any criticism issued from an even remotely liberal source. While it was initially just an easily dismissed irritant, it has now become problematic to the point of costing us elections, and it’s time we laid this deceptive assertion to rest once and for all.

My immediate reaction to hearing a conservative say that liberals hate America is that the opposite is true. Conservatives in large part resist the very things that America is meant to stand for, including, as their base increasingly depends on the religious, a secular rule of law. Trying to undermine the separation of church and state, the separation of powers, and the democratic ideals upon which the country was founded has always seemed to me indicative of a distaste for what America really is. But the truth is, neither liberals nor conservatives hate America. What they hate is each other’s visions of America.

It comes down to the difference between strength and power, which are two very distinct things. I once addressed this notion in discussing the differences between Kerry and Bush as men, leading up to the election, but it did not occur to me at the time that it stood as metaphor for the differences between two vastly divergent political movements as well.

Bush and his conservative supporters celebrate America as a superpower. Her greatest strength in their eyes is the industrial-military complex, the capitalist model, her strong economy. And there is little argument that America is a world leader in these areas, that each of them has afforded her a position of leadership among nations. But that is not strength; that is power. And make no mistake, power is what they seek. Power, force, might, bring ‘em on, dead or alive—this is the language of the Right. It has little to do with strength, and everything to do with control.

Conservatives seek first and foremost to control ideas, which is why they are not above resorting to propaganda in the form of federally-funded videos masquerading as news stories, payoffs to media operatives to shill on behalf of their education policy, or using a federal agency to promote their agenda regarding its own future. Part of their control of ideas and the public discourse of their policies is continued efforts to control the media, whether through media consolidation and ownership (Fox) or intimidation (CBS). Journalists who ask tough questions are threatened with severed access, which makes for a difficult and uneventful career.

The media, in large part, is under conservative control, despite their constant claims to the contrary—the much ballyhooed liberal slant of the media is, of course, simply part of their ploy to ensure stories favoring their agenda. In the interest of fairness, and in an attempt to deflect criticism of liberal bias, media outlets find themselves in the position of equating a Democrat exaggeration with a Republican lie, in the interest of “balance.” The Right has learned that controlling the media is as simple as making repeated accusations of impropriety, until they are sufficiently cowed as to ignore always-plentiful Republican scandal in favor of searching out Democratic foibles so as to appear to give each side equal scrutiny. The result is that the Right is often left to wreak havoc upon the populace without much inquiry, while the Left finds itself stuck indefinitely under a looking glass.

Control of ideas, control of the media, control of weaker allies by promises of financial retribution to those who join our coalition of the “willing,” control of opposition by infiltrating groups of dissenters, squashing demonstrations, keeping Congressional Democrats out of meetings, and deeming filibusters as somehow inherently wrong…the list goes on and on, each individual tactic serving as an integral function of their primary goal: holding on to their ability to control. They will do anything to stay in power, from undermining elections, to stacking the courts with like-minded judges, to keeping money out of the hands of social service groups that don’t bend to their religious agenda. For Conservatives, it’s not about how you play the game; it’s only about how you continue to win at it.

And their definition of winning is one that liberals will never understand. Winning is not simply having control of all three branches of government, nor is it having the power to impede the steady march of progress that has seen liberals win battles from ending slavery to granting gays and lesbians the right to marry in Massachusetts; they will not be happy until we say they are right. Only complete and total acquiescence to their ideology will satiate them. Having been on the wrong side of every issue since the Revolution—including the Civil War, the New Deal…even rural electrification—doesn’t deter them in the slightest. They will never give up their fight for control until there is no one left to disagree; in other words, they will never give up.

In contrast, Liberals’ vision of America has everything to do with strength and little to do with control. Liberals argue that America’s greatest strength has always been her progressiveness, her awkward struggle for egalitarianism, her existence as a melting pot where all people are meant to be free. The opposite of control, the Liberal view is about personal freedom and finding the balance that ensures the expression of one person’s right doesn’t infringe on another’s.

Liberals want each person to have the freedom to develop his or her individual strengths, in the interest of making America as strong as it can be. Such a position requires nuance that is lost on our opposition. Take, for example, the debate over guns. The NRA sides consistently with Conservatives, who were quite content to let the ban on assault weapons lapse, which endangers us all, particularly our police who are most likely to come face to face with one of the previously-banned weapons in the hands of someone willing to use it. Liberals believe in a balance—allow the sporting rifles and handguns desired for hunting and self-protection, and ban the weapons that have no functional use other than the indiscriminate slaughter of other people. It is a reasonable position that seeks to ensure the protection of some while not impeding on the recreational and safety concerns of others. Yet this stance has been demonized by Conservatives as a backdoor attempt to undermine the Second Amendment—a fabricated bill of goods designed only to malign an idea that is in opposition to theirs, which is, once again, on the wrong side of the issue.

Liberals’ desire to facilitate personal freedom in a spirit of mutual cooperation extends to their views on providing a safety net for Americans, including access to affordable health care, workers’ rights, and Social Security. Taxation is a vital source of federal revenue to provide such programs, and the Conservatives’ inexhaustible barrage of complaint about taxes is not only tiresome but counter-productive. A society at the mercy of ill, unemployed, and/or destitute masses is not a strong society, and there but by the grace of the fates go any of us. Directing federal funds to keep the most vulnerable among us from falling off the edge is in all of our own best interests, for humanitarian and practical reasons. This is, unfortunately, an argument lost on much of America, the Conservatives having successfully denigrated this position as “tax and spend liberalism,” a waste of taxpayers’ money on those who deserve whatever lamentable fate befalls them.

Similarly misconstrued is Liberals’ position on religion in the public sphere, which came to a head during the holiday season, when it was repeatedly claimed that Liberals were trying to ban Christmas. Recognizing that there are significant numbers of Americans who are not Christians, Liberals want to acknowledge that perhaps the public sphere (i.e. government property) is not the most appropriate place for celebrations of Christmas. Asking Christians to contain Christmas to the private sphere (i.e. non-taxpayer funded arenas) does not demean Christmas. It simply does away with the notion that the government endorses one religion over another. Despite Conservatives’ suggestions otherwise, America was not founded as a specifically Christian country, and although the separation of church and state only provides for a prohibition on State-sponsored religion, compelling the use of taxpayer dollars for acknowledgement of one religion’s high holiday and not another’s is close enough to warrant concern. And one’s relationship with God (or lack thereof) should have no business dictating the flow of federal funds; if a Christian-identified group does good work for the poor, let them receive any and all appropriate grants, and if an atheist-identified group does the same, let them receive the same benefit.

Liberals do not want Christians to be unable to practice their religion; in fact, we want them to be able to practice their religion in any way they see fit…until, that is, it infringes on the rights of non-Christians to practice their religion, or non-believers to not practice religion at all. It is possible for all to coexist, so long as each is respectful of the others’ rights.

My rights end where yours begin. It’s such a simple but powerful concept, yet it is anathema to Conservatives, because it necessarily excludes their desire to control and force their dissenters to succumb to their will. It isn’t enough that they can change the channel when Queer Eye for the Straight Guy comes on; the show must be taken off the air altogether. It isn’t enough that they can put up Nativity scenes in their churches and in their homes and on their lawns; there must be one at City Hall, too. It isn’t enough that their children can pray and learn about creationism at home and at church; they have to be able to do it at school, too, and so must all the other kids, irrespective of their families’ views. It just isn’t ever enough.

And that is their vision of America—a country where their views are imposed upon everyone. (Differences among their own ranks, making this implausible even were all Liberals to disappear, do not register.) Only having rid the country of minorities, gays, feminists, evolutionists, atheists, pacifists, abortionists, stem cell researchers, the poor, the needy, the infirm, immigrants, environmentalists, animal rights activists, non-Christians, and anyone else who disagrees with them could they be happy. Or such is their claim. But without anyone upon whom to pass judgment, I wonder how long such contentment could possibly last.

In the end, most Americans love what they think America can be, whether that vision is of an oasis from racism, a world leader in humanitarianism, a capitalist beacon, a theocracy, or anything else. But there are two main views—that of a country full of opportunities for control and power concentrated in the hands of a few, or that of a country full of opportunities for individual freedom, from which a collective strength can be drawn.

The Conservative view ultimately benefits a very small minority; the Liberal view benefits us all. That’s why Liberals are right, and as soon as we learn to effectively communicate that message, it’s why Liberals will save America.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)


World Bank Staff Association Already Hates Wolfowitz...

by John

...And they don't even know him!
Staff Association Action. The World Bank Staff Association is fighting for its say on the Wolfowitz nomination, according to an internal email doing the rounds.

"While recognizing that the selection and confirmation of the next World Bank president is the prerogative of the shareholders, staff are asking that their views be taken into consideration and taken seriously by the decision-makers.

"The Staff Association is preparing to act as a conduit for these views, and the Executive Committee is urgently considering the most effective way to help staff be heard.

"A Staff Association delegation is meeting with Mr. Wolfensohn this afternoon, we are in touch with the Board, and we will get back to you as soon as possible on next steps.

"Please be assured that the Staff Association is prepared to take action and work to ensure that staff views are heard."

I've been wondering how Mr Wolfowitz is going to fare taking charge of an organisation whose staff seem - by and large - opposed to his appointment...
I doubt they'd be pissed if it were Bono. Who doesn't like Bono?

Be sure to check out the blog World Bank President, which dedicates itself to "shining a spotlight on the selection of the tenth president" of the World Bank.


Spike Lee, Essence Magazine speak out on the pimp/ho arm of hip hop

by Pam


Director Spike Lee recently spoke in Toronto and said enough is enough with the "pimp/ho" arm of hip hop's effect on black students, which glorifies bling and a piece of *ss over education. Essence Magazine's response to hip-hop's degradation of black women is Take Back the Music that began in January. Graphic: Essence Magazine.

Al Sharpton recently took on a subgenre of hip-hop that thrives on a violent image of its "artists" by calling for a 90-day ban on radio and television airplay for any performer who uses violence to promote albums. Spike Lee now joins the increasing number of voices that are seeing the wrong influences rewarded in the black community, and promoted by corporations that rake in the bucks off of the image. (Canadian Press):
Many black students today are failing in school on purpose because peer pressure via media images has convinced them that smart equals white and that it's cool to become pimps or "video ho's" says pre-eminent African-American filmmaker Spike Lee.

And Lee told an audience comprised largely of Ontario university students that people can vote with their pocketbooks to convince artists, record companies and media conglomerates like Viacom that the images in today's music videos or lyrics in gangsta rap are unacceptable.

"As African-Americans we let artists slide," Lee said in the Monday night speech. "(But) those days are over. I think that we have to start to hold people accountable." Lee was invited to speak in Toronto by the Ryerson University student administrative council to help mark the International Day For the Elimination of Racial Descrimination on March 21.

While known for his outspokenness, especially on issues of race, Lee seemed to aim his heavy guns at fellow black artists. He said that while he wasn't calling for a boycott, the father now of a 10-year-old girl said he could no longer listen to the music of R. Kelly because he saw the bootleg video of the rapper with some underage females.

"These artists talk about 'ho this, bitch this, skank this' and all the other stuff. They're talking about all our mothers, all our sisters. They're talking about their own mothers, grandmothers."
The question that is being asked now is why do these artists, and their corporate masters, feel it's OK to portray women this way, and where is that sentiment coming from? Why have women allowed this portrayal to remain popular and accepted? The sad truth is this music sells.

What this discussion of culturally-approved misogyny by a segment of the hip-hop community will bring to light is another view of the sad, seemingly widening gulf between black men and women in mutual trust and regard, and in education and economic opportunities. You see it in the disparity between college-educated black men and women, the incarceration and unemployment rates for young black men, and, if you read Essence regularly, the grim dilemma of women looking for "marriage material" with those long odds and concern about men on the DL.

Stanley Crouch, in a recent New York Daily News column, discussed Essence Magazine's "movement" to combat the image of black women in hip-hop. The way women are treated and depicted in some of the music videos is enough to make one sick. The pathology runs deep, as the women in these videos obviously don't mind degrading themselves in the 'ho vein.
The magazine is the first powerful presence in the black media with the courage to examine the cultural pollution that is too often excused because of the wealth it brings to knuckleheads and amoral executives.

This anything-goes-if-sells attitude comes at a cost. The elevation of pimps and pimp attitudes creates a sadomasochistic relationship with female fans. They support a popular idiom that consistently showers them with contempt. We are in a crisis, and Essence knows it.

When asked how the magazine decided to take a stand, the editor, Diane Weathers said, "We started looking at the media war on young girls, the hypersexualization that keeps pushing them in sexual directions at younger and younger ages."

Things got deeper, she says, because, "We started talking at the office about all this hatred in rap song after rap song, and once we started, the subject kept coming up because women were incapable of getting it off their minds."
The other issue, raised by Spike Lee, is the culture of ignorance that is glorified, the "Acting White" phenomenon. I wrote a Blend entry on this, NYT: The 'Acting White' Myth. A snippet here:
I grew up in Durham, NC and I attended Catholic school for K-6 . I had a culture shock when I attended public school for 7th grade (this was in 1975).

Boy did I get slammed by the kids for "talking white" and "acting white" because I was doing well in school -- they said so. It was made worse by the fact that I didn't have a southern accent.

The sad truth is, in a school that was at least 75% black, I was pulled over by one of the elderly black teachers one day and she told me that she was so proud of me -- I was the first black student to make the honor roll in that school.

If that isn't a sad reflection of the state of things in the 70s, I cannot imagine what it is like now growing up, with the saturation of anti-intellectualism and materialism foisted upon and soaked up as "culture" by some in the black community.


Conservatives in a Vacuum

by Ms. Julien in Miami

More and more people are living in poverty - the quality of life in America is NOT what it was even 30 years ago, proportionally-speaking...

Our infrastructure is indeed crumbling around us; the small town is disappearing, as is the middle class.

Most people do not really see it yet beyond their own backyard (whether looking out of a picture window from their manor house or out of a tenement window in the projects...)

Every time "most people" start to see it, they are bombarded with an elevated "terrah" threat, or told that allowing gay marriages means that they will have their bibles taken away from them...

Conservatives do tend to look only at today - the mind of the progressive does not think only of today...

The mind of the conservative is all about "me" (me, my kid, my job, my house, my retirement)...

The feeling of the conservative is that if I take care of me and mine, all will be right - I don't need anything or anybody - and especially not government.

The progressive does think of "me" - but also realizes that our existence does NOT happen in a vacuum...we are affected by the property values of our homes around us - by the incomes that are lost through overseas outsourcing which mean that schools and infrastructure of cities, roads, public works, etc. suffer from lack of revenue. If we don't educate our children properly they will not be able to take care of our generation when they are grown.

We are not isolated humans - we are not isolated "Amurkans" - most of all the other developed nations get this -

If we continue to be over-represented by Conservative decision-makers, it will indeed mean the end of the US as true world power.

Let's equate the US as IBM, and the rest of the world to Microsoft...look who is in power now...

And when it comes time to pay the piper (China, etc.) and we don't have the funds to do it, look who will be in power...

(That being said, I thought it was US policy NOT to do business with communist nations...hmm...how come we borrow so much from Communist China that we cannot even pay more than a bit o' lip service to China's recent threat to Taiwan...)

Once again, folks, nothing happens in a vacuum...

Ms. Julien


"Mr. Padfoot bids Professor Volokh good day, and registers his astonishment that an idiot like that ever became a professor"

by Lanoire

The title's a Harry Potter reference. Don't ask.

But seriously--how stupid do you have to be to become a UCLA law professor? Or maybe it's not stupidity. Maybe it's just really clever bullshitting, to take "I wanna kill and torture people because I wanna!" and dress it up with big words and make it sound like an argument to the careless ear.

Anyway, Volokh is peeved because people say that torture means sacrificing your humanity.

Why would my humanity be diminished by participating in the killing of a monster (he had sexually abused and then murdered at least about 20 children), or even by deliberately inflicting pain on him?


"Monster."

Volokh's use of the term "monster" is deliberate. It creates the impression that this man is not a man at all, that he is not a human being, that his DNA doesn't match up closely with our own, that his brain doesn't work the same way ours do.

Volokh wants to believe in a world divided into two categories: "monsters," to whom we have no moral obligation, and people like Volokh, to whom we do. His conception of evil is of something that's out there, embodied by other people. He doesn't recognize that evil is within himself as well, that he is very much akin to this monster--that we all are. We are all sinners.

If sadistically torturing someone makes you a monster, then why is Volokh not a monster? He would clearly like to torture and kill another human being. "Ah," Volokh's apologists would say, "but Volokh only wants to torture and kill monsters, who deserve it." But that's a circular argument. What makes these "monsters" different, that they "deserve" this? It's their sadism, their willingness to kill and torture--a trait that Volokh shares.

Volokh is basically saying this:

1. I would like to kill and torture this other human being.

2. This does not make me a monster, because this other human being deserves it.

3. He deserves it because he would like to kill and torture other human beings.

There is no universe in which this makes any kind of sense.

Volokh would probably also argue that this Iranian killer tortured and killed the "innocent," while he, Volokh, would only torture and kill the guilty. But not only does this make Volokh just as guilty as the people he would torture, it also creates a category of people designated as "innocent." And no one is innocent. There is no bright line between you and the Iranian killer, or me and the Iranian killer. There are only gradations of the same evil that is within all of us.

Volokh's view is childish, a world divided into the Good and the Bad, the persons and the non-persons, the elect and the damned. He views sadistic killers as something completely foreign to the rest of humanity, not realizing that his own willingness to accept the brutalization of the killers makes him their soulmate.

(crossposted at Looking at the Stars)


The Eagle is soaring into Pat Robertson's arms

by Pam



Will Ashcroft be composing hymns while he talks about how he invaded the privacy of U.S. citizens for our own good? Or perhaps he can share fashion tips on how to cover the boobies of statues at the Justice Department. (WAVY):
Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft plans to teach at Regent University. Officials at the Christian school founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson say Ashcroft will teach for two weeks a semester for the next five years. The topic will be national security law.

Ashcroft, a conservative Christian, was attorney general under President Bush until he left last month. He was known for spearheading the U-S-A Patriot Act, the nation's widely criticized anti-terrorism law.


Diocese of San Diego denies Catholic funeral rites to bar owner

by Pam

You cannot even leave this earth in peace if you're gay and you own a couple of bars. When will the gay-bashing stop? It's completely enraging to read crap like this. I doubt that a murderer or thief (or, might we say, a pedophile priest) would be denied a Catholic funeral service. Talk about big brass American Taliban balls. (SanDiegoDailyTranscript):
A member of the Greater San Diego Business Association and owner of two gay bars has been denied a funeral at the University of San Diego and in any Catholic church or chapel in the Diocese of San Diego.

John McCusker, 31, owner of Club Montage and ReBar, two local gay nightspots, died early March 13. McCusker suffered an apparent heart attack while at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort on vacation. The bars are closed indefinitely according to a notice on the Club Montage Web site.

The Mono County Coroner's Office said that an official cause of death is pending the outcome of a toxicology report.

A 1996 graduate of USD, McCusker's family wanted to have the funeral service there, but was denied after church officials received information about him and his businesses. Joyce Marieb, executive director of the Greater San Diego Business Association, called McCusker, "a great leader and the kind of guy that people love to see because he gives back and is very generous to the community."

"We all know what this is about," Marieb said, who knew McCusker for the past five and a half years. "They [the Catholic Church] claim they've buried other gay people and that it's because of the bar aspect."

A statement released earlier Thursday by Rodrigo Valdivia, chancellor for the Diocese of San Diego, explains the church's actions. "The facts regarding the business activity of John McCusker were not known by church officials when arrangements were requested for his funeral. When these facts became known the bishop of San Diego concluded that to avoid public scandal Mr. McCusker can't be granted a funeral in a Catholic church or chapel in the Diocese of San Diego."

[You want a public scandal? How about the hundreds of abused children, molested at the hands of priest that they trusted? The millions spent sweeping it all under the rug and the millions that are now being paid out in lawsuits? Good night!]

So what about McCusker would cause a public scandal? "His business is adult entertainment, which is inconsistent with Catholic teaching" Valdivia said. "People would be scandalized that the church granted a funeral to a person who had this type of business activity."

But, according to Valdivia, the Catholic Church does not consider all bars and clubs "adult entertainment "There's a lot of different things that can play into what would make a business activity something that was notoriously against Catholic teaching or not. It would not necessarily be if (the club) was gay or not."

When asked what about McCusker or his business goes against Catholic teaching, Valdivia said he couldn't say, for legal reasons.

...McCusker's memorial service is now planned for 11 a.m., March 18 at St. Paul's Cathedral, an Episcopal church.


So what was that about states' rights?

by Pam

How is the Schiavo case the concern of Congress? I want the Repugs to remember this when they talk about activist judges and intervention by the Federal government.
In a last-ditch effort to save Terri Schiavo's life, a House committee plans to issue subpoenas Friday to stop doctors from removing the severely brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.

The extraordinary legislative maneuver comes after the House and Senate failed to agree on legislation to keep the woman alive before leaving Washington for their spring break. House officials hope that the subpoenas will stop doctors from removing Schiavo's feeding tube at 1 p.m. EST Friday.

"We will issue a subpoena which will require hospice administrators and attending physicians to preserve nutrition and hydration for Terri Schiavo to allow Congress to fully understand the procedures and practices that are currently keeping her alive," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis said in a statement. "The subpoena will be joined by a Senate investigation as well.
ShakesSis pointed me to a great breakdown of this case by Majikthise that illustrates how this tragic situation has turned into yet another wingnut propaganda campaign. Poor Terri.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Couple Sells Candles That Smell Like Jesus

by Pam



A headline of the day. It seems like I have to keep saying this when I post these items, but I am not sh*tting you. The product is flying off the shelves. Perhaps this is the same market that is buying the Jesus chastity rings or gets Christian investment advice. This also sounds like the same demographic that's gullible enough to give their money to the phony pastor scams and televangelists -- and are often left so poor that they have to eat Alpo meatloaf. (NBC10.com):
You can find candles with just about every fragrance imaginable, from blueberry to ocean mist to hot apple pie. Now there's a candle that lets you experience the scent of Jesus, and they've been selling out by the case. "We see it as a ministry, " says Bob Tosterud, who together with his wife came up with the idea for the candle.

Light up the candle called "His Essence" and its makers say you'll experience the fragrance of Christ.

Bob Tosterud and wife Karen say the formula is all spelled out in Psalm 45. "It's a Messianic Psalm referring to when Christ returns and his garments will have the scent of myrrh, aloe and cassia," says Karen Tosterud. Wondering what that must smell like, Karen Tosterud ordered those oils, a combination that produces sort of a flowery, cinnamon aroma. Then she called on a friend who just happened to be a candle-maker.

"And in October, we got our first batch of 768 candles. We had no idea how it would go," Karen Tosterud says. But once word got out they went through 10,000 candles. "It's the only one on the market and everyone tells us it's very unique and nothing like it," says Karen Tosterud.

"We wanted people to be able to experience Christ in new ways and to be able to read a bible and have that scent and that candle as a reminder that he is with us all the time." "You can't see him and you can't touch him," says Bob Tosterud. "This is a situation where you may be able to sense him by smelling. And it provides a really new dimension to one's experience with Jesus."

The candles never stay on the shelves for long. The Tosteruds say each one that goes out is like a ministry in itself. The candles sell for about $18. They are sold in about 150 stores around the country. Or you can order them online at www.hisessence.com. You can also call this phone number: 877-psalm-45.


GQ: 'Ken Mehlman isn't gay', and Repug hypocrites on the Hill

by Pam


GQ pic via Raw Story.
"Ken Mehlman is not gay," Steve Schmidt, a senior official of the Bush campaign and a friend of Mehlman's told Jake Tapper, an ABC News correspondent who wrote the piece for the magazine.
(Raw Story via AmericaBlog). So I guess Schmidt saw Ken f*cking a woman as proof? How the heck is that a clearing of the air when the man himself won't say is he's gay or not...oh nevermind...It's all in the latest issue of GQ, including interviews with John Aravosis and Mike Rogers of RawStoryQ/BlogActive.

The more interesting aspect of the article is the kept-inside-the-Beltway fact that the Repugs are personally more tolerant than their constituents when it comes to their gay staffers. Hypocrites, all.
Republicans in Congress appear as ghosts in the piece saying they won't fire staffers who are outed as gay. Rogers began his campaign outing some staff members of prominent congressmen who voted against gay rights.

"One person related to me a story of Republican congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois joking that if he ever ran into Rogers, he'd punch him in the nose," Tapper writes. "Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina reportedly told her staff they had nothing to worry about, should any of them be outed. With the exception of Senator Inhofe parsing between his personal and committee staffs, no one has said anything to distance himself or herself from a gay staffer Rogers has targeted."

Inhofe, senator from Oklahoma, has said he would hire gays for his committee staff in Washington but not at his district office.

Barney Frank, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, comes to Rogers defense. Frank is one of three openly gay members of Congress. "There still is this official doctrine that we're immoral," Frank told Tapper for the piece. "But the Republican attitude is that they have now moved to the point where they accept the fact that you're gay as long as you act somewhat embarrassed about it."

One staffer tells Tapper a fact known inside the beltway but not widely reported-that some members of Congress posture as being more anti-gay than they actually are to please constituents. "We're a representative democracy," the staffer told GQ. "And while members may not have personal problems with having gay staff, they vote the way their constituents want them to."
It's the Mary Cheney syndrome. You're ok as long as you're quiet and hidden away like crazy granny in the attic.


They hate us for our freedom

by Lanoire

They hate us for our freedom. They hate us for our humanity. They hate us for the fact that we all have inalienable rights respected by our government. They hate us for the Bill of Rights, for the Declaration of Independence, for Common Sense, for every shout for liberty that Americans have voiced through the decades. They hate us because no matter what crimes we are accused of, we have the right to due process. They hate us because no matter what crimes we are convicted of, there are limits imposed on the state's power to punish us.

Who am I talking about?

This post by Digby alerted me to the fact that Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law professor and self-identified libertarian, believes this is okay:


Mohammad Bijeh, 24, dubbed "the Tehran desert vampire" by Iran's press, was flogged 100 times before being hanged.

A brother of one of his young victims stabbed him as he was being punished. The mother of another victim was asked to put the noose around his neck.

The execution took place in Pakdasht south of Tehran, near where Bijeh's year-long killing spree took place.

The killer was hoisted about 10 metres into the air by a crane and slowly throttled to death in front of the baying crowd.

Hanging by a crane - a common form of execution in Iran - does not involve a swift death as the condemned prisoner's neck is not broken.

The killer collapsed twice during the punishment, although he remained calm and silent throughout.


Volokh's response, which I will not link to, is this:

I particularly like the involvement of the victims' relatives in the killing of the monster; I think that if he'd killed one of my relatives, I would have wanted to play a role in killing him. Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging. The one thing that troubles me (besides the fact that the murderer could only be killed once) is that the accomplice was sentenced to only 15 years in prison, but perhaps there's a good explanation.

I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way.


Volokh also makes some incredibly weak non-argument about how all this is about moral intuition and that it can't be reasoned about. Translation: this is right because I say so and stop telling me it's wrong and you're mean and I want my mommy!

Matt Yglesias has a good post on this subject, but one of his commenters said something idiotic about how it was good that Matt actually "made an argument" against Volokh rather than merely indulging in "self-righteous" condemnation.

Volokh is saying that it's a good idea to torture people to relieve other people's feelings. We should be able to logically argue against Volokh's nonsensical "argument," sure, but we're under no obligation to waste breath arguing against it every single time some ivory tower refugee jacking off to the idea of torture posts it on the internet. When I say rape is wrong, do I have to follow it up with a treatise explaining why? Some things should already be accepted as wrong, and I have nothing but contempt for people who don't already think they're wrong without an argument.

But okay. You want an argument? I'll give you one.

For one thing, this about real love, real grief, and how it can't be soothed by hurting the person who caused that grief. Volokh thinks that it "slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families" if we respond to murders with anything other than the "deliberate infliction of pain." Wrong. It slights the pain of the families to think that a person's murder can somehow be made up for by hurting the murderer. If someone I loved was murdered, I'd certainly want to kill the murderer, slowly and painfully. But that wouldn't in any way redress my loved one's death. It wouldn't be "fair," and it wouldn't be "justice." There is no fair or justice in such a situation. It would just be me pointlessly inflicting pain on someone else--another human being, regardless of his actions.

And what of murder victims who have no family or friends? Volokh's argument implicitly equates the worth of a person with the number of people who like that person.

But that's only the weakest of arguments against Volokh's position. The real reason is that it doesn't matter if the victim's family wants the murderer dead. They don't have the right to judge another human being's life as worthless. They don't have the right to judge who gets to live and who gets to die. They don't get to judge who deserves pain and who doesn't. The murderer is in the wrong precisely because he made that kind of judgment himself. Eugene Volokh doesn't get to judge, either. Eugene Volokh doesn't have that kind of authority over another person's life, even if that person killed one of Volokh's family members. Nobody has that authority.

The state certainly doesn't have that authority. The state has no right to judge a person's moral worth. It has no right to judge whether or not a person "deserves" life, or whether or not a person "deserves" torture. It shouldn't have that level of power over an individual citizen. The power to kill, the power to torture--those are the ultimate powers, and no individual or state deserves to have such powers. This is why America was formed: because the government doesn't own you. And if it doesn't own you, it can't inflict pain on your body, or throw away your life as it sees fit. This principle is the keystone of our freedom.

And they hate us for this, people like Volokh. They hate us for the fact that even the worst thug among us deserves a fair trial and a civilized prison cell, according to our principles. They hate us for the fact that we step in and say "No. You don't get to act out your little vengeance fantasies because it makes you feel good." They hate us because we subordinate their hatred, their prejudices, and their fears to the rule of law. They hate us because we prevent them from lynching who they like.

They hate us for our freedom. And make no mistake, they will use every tool at their disposal to take it from us.

(crossposted at Looking at the Stars)


Number of The Beast

by Mr. Shakes

In The Dark Wraith’s market round up yesterday, he notes that when the recently released numbers for the fourth quarter of 2004 are added, America’s trade deficit for 2004 totals the rather portentous number of $666 billion dollars. As Wild Clover points out, the fact that George Bush’s policies contributed to the creation of this number could be construed as further evidence that he is indeed, The Anti-Christ.

Personally, I am not convinced that someone with Bush’s sorely obvious lack of intelligence could actually be said spawn of Satan, and that if he does in fact hail from the nether planes then he is far more likely to be a demon of the ball-licking imp variety, than anything that approaches the Great Architect of Evil’s malevolent grandeur. Also, from what I hear, The Dark Wraith is quite well informed of events in The Underworld, and I am certain he would have alerted us if Bush were anything more than the simple idiot he appears to be.

However, all this got me to thinking: while George Bush is almost certainly not from Hell, there is an excellent chance that he will be headed there once the time comes for him to depart this mortal coil. This begs the interesting question of what punishment will await him once he arrives. What torture could possibly balance such acts as Gulf War II, The Bankruptcy Bill and oilrigs in our Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, etc?

Well, Dante had some very imaginative ideas about the sorts of punishments that sinners would endure in the after-life. A brief tour of Dante’s Inferno follows:

Before checking in at The Hotel of Eternal-Pain (A subsidiary of The Holiday Inn group), our commander-in-chief will first have to face Minos, whose job it is to judge each individual as they pass the gates, and assign to them the torment that best meets their transgressions. Once judgment has been passed, the sinner will be transported to one of the nine circles of Hell, each of which is designed to house a particular type of sinner, and mete out the appropriate punishment.

The first circle, Limbo, is reserved for virtuous pagans – people that lived good lives but were not baptized.

The second circle is where those who were overcome by lust are sent, and here they will endure eternity trapped in violent storm.

The third circle is for gluttons, who are placed face down in the stinking mud, and gnawed upon by the three-headed dog, Cerberus.

The fourth circle is for those who either hoarded material possessions, or were profligate with them. So I suppose we’re talking about the intemperate, here. Sinners inhabiting this circle are made to push giant boulders for all eternity.

The fifth circle is for the wrathful, who must fight one another in the waters of the river Styx, and the slothful, who stay trapped beneath its surface (guess I better practice holding my breath).

The sixth circle is located in the catacombs beneath Satan’s city of Dis. This is where heretics are kept in fiery agony.

The seventh circle contains the violent, who are trapped in a river of boiling blood, the suicidal, who are turned into thorny trees (?!), and the blasphemous, who must wander a burning hot desert, while rains of fire fall upon them.

The eighth circle is where it gets really serious, and all sorts of evildoers are housed here. Corrupt politicians in rivers of burning pitch; hypocrites clad in cloaks that are made of solid gold on the outside and lead on the inside; thieves being chased by venomous snakes; sowers of discord, who are torn apart, only to heal and be torn asunder again – in short, you really don’t want to find yourself here.

And finally, the ninth circle, where traitors are kept frozen in a lake of ice.

From the sounds of things, Bush is going to enjoy quite the whistle stop tour. Would anyone care to comment on which circle they think ol’ George should be kept, or posit any devious punishments of their own?


Taking on the big, bad, blogging dogs so we can pee on the political hydrant too

by Pam

(UPDATE: Cross posted at Pam's House Blend, added response to reader comment at the end.)



This is the one time it's safe to say, that a dialogue about race is actually less of a minefield than talking about sexism, passive or not-so-passive, in the political blogosphere. I read the Steven Levy Newsweek article, Blogging Beyond the Men's Club, and instantly saw an acknowledgment of sexism.

Steve Gilliard responded to the Levy article in a way that shows the complete disconnect between men and women on this issue. He spends his entire response fixated on race, due to the quote from an unknown female blogger named Hailey Suitt, who gave the inflammatory bite, "It's white people linking to other white people!" But this is what Gillard obsesses over in his breathless analysis (my emphasis below):
Yet, there's a problem with the diversity of bloggers?

I like Steven Levy, but he's taking the circle jerk at Harvard way too seriously. I've never heard of Hailey Suitt. Wouldn't know her if she fell off a truck with a large screen TV on it. What A list? I've never seen this woman quoted once. Never. Not anywhere I read. I've never seen her linked to anyone I read. Quoted on the Daou report? Never. Mentioned in the sex blogs? Never. So exactly who's friend was she?

So exactly when did Kos become white? I mean, if you're going to have this discussion, you might want to mention our biracial friend with the wildly successful web site. But that's just me.

See, the problem was that the Harvard Circle Jerk was for the friends of the people who held it. Working bloggers`were NOT invited and we ridiculded the whole fucking thing. Is it my fault they don't read Rude Pundit and Black Commentator? They stick to their little cult of friends and Dave Weiner, who should get a trademark on the word asshole, it's used so often in connection with his name.
You want to talk about a circle jerk? Gilliard really doesn't see the irony. Check out the most trafficked blogs out there, and what do you see? I see a lot of big dogs linking to each other.

He's condemning the establishment media for the same kind of clubbiness that exists in the upper atmosphere of the blogosphere. The lack of curiosity and glass ceiling just take a different form.

No one is saying the "old boys network" is inherently evil -- of course you would link to your peers, I link to mine, and blogs that have something to say about I topic that I want to know more about. What is different is the defense floated out there that isn't a hierarchy in the major blogosphere. This is ludicrous -- there is passive resistance to acknowledge, seek out or promote new political voices, especially those that have something to say about gender politics from a perspective that is not white or male -- why wouldn't you want to bring something fresh to the table. You wouldn't if you didn't have a serious interest in those issues.

Our big boy bloggers have tended to gloss over the fact that the blogosphere is still, looking at sheer numbers, the domain of the Technorati testosteroni. Men currently rule the roost in terms of perceived bloggers of influence, and the article points that out. Guys arrived at the party first, and it's a remained a fairly closed system on the Left for reasons that are complicated, but not excusable.

We already have as evidence the revealing arrogant post by Kevin Drum that there is a dearth of worthy political bloggers out there. Drum's "investigative work" to find some estrogen consisted of: 1) looking for female bloggers on the TTLB Ecosystem, and 2) looking at his male peers' blogrolls. He also asserted that men are "more comfortable with the food fight nature of opinion writing."

OK. At least he's covering the topic again, but it still appears to be a papering over of the real problem. ShakeSis responds to KDrum's latest crack at addressing the issue. I'm going to quote her from a earlier piece on the Drum missive that captures were we both are on this; we've been discussing this topic at length for some time now, and it's spurred us on to create Big Brass Blog, so I guess we should thank KDrum, hahaha.
And there's the tiny challenge we face each and every day of men who like to think of themselves as egalitarian who clearly are not, and instead of ever facing up to their latent sexism, attribute disparities to inherent traits in women, thereby making it our collective fault for lingering inequalities and implying that said traits are immutable, with reasonable rebuttals dismissed as anecdotal. Spirited, but anecdotal.

It is inexplicable that otherwise intelligent men cannot wrap their minds around how such an attitude is insulting, nor grasp that women's issues are not tangential concerns of the overall progressive movement. The insistence upon marginalizing legitimate concerns of women is sexism at its very worst, and yet because dudes like Drum aren't lounging around in a beer-stained wife-beater ordering their bitches into the kitchen, they somehow manage to convince themselves that they are infallible supporters of feminism (and feminists). Suppressing women's voices, who are miraculously loud, plentiful, and in direct contradiction of the small-minded assertions that periodically bring them to the fore en masse, is not a minor thing, and continuing to feign innocence to its detrimental effects is not forgivable when there is so much evidence to the contrary.

There are plenty of boys who manage to be good to the girls in the blogosphere. The only difference between them and the boys who don't is that their heads aren't up their own asses. Maybe Drum and his ilk should consider coming out for a peek; they might be surprised by the plethora of interesting and amazing bloggrrls populating the landscape.
And what about Kos? Well, I had an interesting exchange with him on a thread back in Nov. 2004, when he was asking Kossacks about adding new guest bloggers, and the subject came up about hoping for more female voices and diarists of color...
definitely similar picks...and add diversity (none / 0)

pastordan rocks, as does kid oakland.

Also, I'd vote for a few more identified voices of diversity on the main page (women, people of color, GLBT, religious/non-religious). Speaking as someone who inhabits some of those categories, it was great to read those perspectives in the days immediately following the election (ihlin's "A minority evangelical speaks" comes to mind). It was also equally enlightening to hear "majority" reaction to those voices. The spirited debates resulted in the education of all of us.
OK. My post was quite benign. Here's his response:
No (none / 1)

I have never chosen anyone based on diversity. In the online world, no one knows your color or sex unless you volunteer it.

And yet, my crew of guest bloggers has been shockingly ethnically and racially diverse.

The exception is women. I chalk that up to overwhelming presence of men on the site (60-70 percent). And while that's something I would like to see change, I won't predicate any decisions on it.

The web is as close to egalitarianism as we can get. Where else can a Latino rise as quickly into prominence as I have?

I intend to keep that spirit alive.
I was not saying throw any minority up on the front page, or that there shouldn't be a meritocracy at Daily Kos, but whew, his panties wadded up in a bunch right quick, huh? I responded:
identified voices (none / 0)

The nature of this forum should remain a meritocracy. I wholeheartedly endorse that, Kos. That doesn't preclude a desire to hear from more identified voices of diversity.

I can always choose to post anonymously and establish an online political persona that has no bearing on my race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. It's someone's argument or counterargument that I always find engaging first.

However, I find that an opinion is definitely received differently by readers when someone self-identifies (particularly when they hold an opinion counter to the perceived "conventional wisdom opinion" of the group to which the author belongs). I see it all the time.

I find it's sort of like calling a business contact on the phone, developing a rapport and they build preconceived notions about what to expect when you meet -- the reactions can be priceless when you do. It happens all the time, it's mostly amusing.

It's good to shake up the mix, that's all. I'm always amazed at what I learn about human nature here
The big boys really don't get it, Houston, we have a problem. I am a hat trick - black, female and lesbian, and I write about all those topics, but not to the exclusion of general politics, or the very mundane. But my background, for what it's worth, informs those opinions. It's not all or nothing if you self-identify. In fact, by doing so you actually have an opportunity to show what common ground we all share, that we are more alike than different. We can pee on the political fire hydrant too.

UPDATE: A reader, anonymous coward, stated in the comments:
Are you saying you have something special to say that's not already being heard? If so, what is it? I've looked at your site. It's great, but I don't see anything here that would look out of place at Eschaton.

My response: I've written about plenty that you would see and wouldn't see on Eschaton. I write about general progressive politics, so yes there would be similar content, but have you ever seen Atrios talk about:

* the politics of having kinky hair
* being followed in a store while dressed up for the theatre by a store owner that thinks you're a shoplifter
* Southern politics, the black church and reframing gay rights
* what it's like to be a black lesbian in the South
* the 'Acting White' Myth

You get my drift (you can find those blog entries by scrolling down on this page to the 'Greatest Hits' section).

Atrios may have an opinion about those issues, but I certainly haven't seen them expressed on his blog, or any of the other big bloggers. I've seen them on Daily Kos, because I've written diaries on those topics.

My complaint isn't that they are all white males, since some of the big bloggers are of color. It's the closed nature of the hierarchy/circle jerk that the big boys don't want to cop to.

I'm saying that the big blogger responses to the Newsweek article conveniently gloss over the "male" aspect of the criticism. The silence in the responses of the big boys is deafening, or, in the case of KDrum, offensively dismissive.

As I've said before, major props to the guys out there that do link to women political bloggers; personal hat tips to two most deserving of big bloggerdom (is that a word yet?), John Aravosis and Mike Rogers, for taking the time to read and promote my work.

***

Read Shakespeare's Sister's take on Kevin Drum's latest missive on women and political blogging, here you go.


Get Real

by Shakespeare's Sister

Kevin Drum’s at it again.

I’m not going to pick on him today, because after the wallops he took last time he broached the subject, I’ve got to give him credit for having the balls to go after it again. Instead, I’m simply going to highlight his inclusion of the following from Dahlia Lithwick:
And so a clutch of women are left on the pink margins of the page, to wring our hands and, well, discuss among ourselves. The subtext will thus remain that anyone choosing to speak out on this is somehow hysterical or overemotional; that this is not a "serious" problem since serious people (i.e., men) aren't addressing it. All of which practically guarantees that nothing will be done about defining, measuring, or redressing the issue in the long term. Claims that no man wants to step on the landmine of political correctness, gender stereotyping, and identity politics should not justify bowing out of the conversation. Maureen Dowd, Deborah Tannen, and Anne Applebaum are smart, serious people. They have taken the time to initiate a conversation. They deserve serious responses from men and women alike.
Well, here’s my very serious response.

We’re not going to get anywhere as long as the male bloggers who post about this issue continue to do so with such appalling intellectual dishonesty. In private emails, male bloggers who publicly wring their hands about how to solve the problem of the dearth of women bloggers in the upper echelon, will admit that the reality is the difficulty of finding women worth linking to.

Women don’t give me much linkable material.

Women write on subjects that don’t interest me.

Women don’t know how to compromise on abortion rights.

Why don’t women post about Social Security? It affects them, too.

Women don’t write commentary, don’t come up with new ideas.

Gender politics is all secondary issues.


The day I see any one of those notions let loose for open debate on one of the blogs authored by a man who holds those opinions is the day we might actually get somewhere with this discussion. Until then, take all the disingenuous bullshit philosophizing about whether women can hack the blogosphere, the percentage of women in the blogosphere, and all the rest of it, and shove it up your asses.

I’m willing to have a long and interesting conversation with anyone who’s willing to tell me point blank that I and other women bloggers don’t write on subjects that interest them and don’t give them much linkable material. I’m willing to discuss it for as long as it takes to convince them that gender politics (including both women’s issues and gay rights issues) are not secondary issues to half their party, and that the idea of anyone calling him- or herself a political blogger who ignores political issues of primacy to large swaths of their party is patently absurd. I’m willing to have a talk about the deeply ingrained and insidious sexism that is really at the root cause of this problem.

But as long as there’s a collective reluctance to replace the faux suppositions with the real prejudices in the navel-gazing posts, there’s no one with whom to have that conversation. Except, of course, my fellow bloggrrls, none of whom ever actually believed it’s anything other than the same old tired biases, anyway. Being more creative at disguising them behind your wide-eyed mystification about where all the women are isn’t clever; it’s pathetic.


Phelps on James Dobson: "caving to the faggot juggernaut"

by Pam


Fred "The Rotting Cryptkeeper" Phelps (L) thinks James Dobson is an old heretic; Mel White of Soulforce is an "old fag preacher."

I laughed till I hurt on this one. Somehow, I almost feel sorry for James Dobson, the wingnut running Focus on the Family (nah). His AmTaliban credentials are outstanding; after all:

* Dobson has opined that "Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage," and "It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth."

* He, along with his fellow wingnuts of the Arlington Group, threatened Bush's kneecaps on Social Security if Chimpy didn't bend to their social agenda.



* FOF's head landed on Time's 25 Most Influential Evangelicals list.

* The organization is notorious for its promotion of pathetic "ex-gay" conferences, called Love Won Out.

Mel White, head of Soulforce, plans to take a delegation to confront Dobson about FOF's policy of gay-bashing in Colorado Springs on May 1. That should make for an interesting event. Soulforce's mission is the polar opposite of Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church. Its goal is to ensure "freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance."

For Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps, Dobson's wingnut cred is apparently not good enough. As far as he's concerned. Dobson is in bed with the homos and is going to burn in hell, so he's loading up a bus of his fundies and plans to picket at the event as well. That should make for some interesting fireworks. Take a look at the competing information sheets on the upcoming event. Phelps is in rare form with this one.

The Phelps approach to demonstrations vs. Soulforce's.

We understand that the old fag preacher -- Mel White -- who sloughed off his wife and children to "marry" a male jackass and anally copulate happily ever after -- is planning to bring equally depraved fags and dykes to Colorado for three days -- April 30-May 2 - to harass another old heretic -- James Dobson -- into caving in further to the faggot juggernaut.

Mel White calls his pitiful band of Hell-bound fag dogs and dyke sows, Soulforce. Dobson calls his brigade of equally heretical Hell-bound hypocrites, Focus on the Family...White and Dobson will both meet in Hell ere long, in pain, and amazed one at the other, and their faces shall be as flames...
Well, alrighty then, Fred. Guess Dobson won't be inviting you over to say grace over dinner.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Wolfowitz to Head World Bank

by Shakespeare's Sister

World says: “Thanks, we’ll just put our money under the mattress.”

Blogenlust:
If there was ever any doubt that John Bolton's nomination as UN Ambassador was anything but a big F.U. to the rest of the world, I submit to you Exhibit A--Karen Hughes to the State Department to improve relations with the Muslim world, and now, Exhibit B--Paul Wolfowitz to become the president of the World Bank…

In the immortal words of C-3PO, "We're doomed."
Ezra:
Bush is nominating Wolfowitz to head the World Bank. Wolfowitz. Sorry, just have to say that a few times to make it feel real. Wolfowitz. A guy who knows nothing about economics. Wolfowitz. A guy who's detested by Europeans as a main architect of our foreign policy. Wolfowitz. A guy who licks his comb.
Think Progress:
One of the primary objectives of the World Bank is to combat global poverty. Outgoing World Bank president James Wolfensohn understood the link between global poverty and global security. Paul Wolfowitz, however, remains blind to the impact poverty has on dangers like terrorism and civil unrest.

“If we want stability on our planet, we must fight to end poverty. Since the time of the Bretton Woods Conference, through the Pearson Commission, the Brandt Commission, and the Brundtland Commission, through to statements of our leaders at the 2000 Millennium Assembly - and today - all confirm that the eradication of poverty is central to stability and peace.” – Outgoing World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn, 10/3/04

VERSUS

These people are not fighting because they’re poor. They’re poor because they fight all the time. ” – President Bush’s nominee for World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, Congressional Testimony, 6/6/96

“We hear a lot of talk about the root causes of terrorism. Some people seem to suggest that poverty is the root cause of terrorism. It’s a little hard to look at a billionaire named Osama bin Laden and think that poverty drove him to it.” – Wolfowitz, 11/15/2002
Is there some regulation of which I’m not aware that says the president of the World Bank has to have “wolf” in his name? Maybe getting rid of that rule would be a good idea, so we could open up the nominations to include someone MORE FUCKING QUALIFIED AND LESS GLOBALLY REVILED THAN PAUL WOLFOWITZ!!!


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Christian abstinence program plans to 'Take the Town'

by Pam


A Jesus ring to help you say "I don't," before you say "I do". From Hall Jewelers.

There's no doubt that abstinence is the safest route for young people, given the rampant STDs, teen pregnancy, and poor-to-middling sex ed. However, when you have programs like this nonsense, which promotes abstinence-only education and virginity pledges instead of facts teens need to know about contraception and sexual health, you are asking for trouble.

In February, a study of Texas teens came out proving that abstinence-only programs, a major plank in President Bush's education plan, do not work. Over $130 million is being stolen from the taxpayer cookie jar to fund this crap. The study showed about 23 percent of ninth-grade girls had sex before receiving abstinence education. After the course, 29 percent of the girls in the same group said they had had sex. For boys the result was even more stark: for tenth graders (14 to 15 years old), jumped from 24 percent to 39 percent, after receiving abstinence education.

Despite these statistics, the religious right continues its chastity crusade. The marital purity movement marches on. (Agape Press):
A Christian abstinence program has launched an initiative designed to help communities find strategies for reclaiming and proclaiming the value of sexual purity among young people.

True Love Waits (TLW) is a youth-based international campaign that uses positive peer pressure to encourage teenagers to commit to remain sexually pure until marriage. And now, through its new "Takes the Town" initiative, TLW is encouraging cities around the United States to engage in a unified, community-wide approach to promoting abstinence.

Jimmy Hester, a co-founder of TLW, says the new initiative will encourage more of America's communities to embrace abstinence education in a comprehensive way. "And when I say community," he explains, "I'm talking about the different parts of the community, such as businesses, health organizations, education organizations or schools; also media, and maybe even so local government."


"Teach a man to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime. Give a girl a jesus head chastity ring, and her fish won't be eaten until she's married." (credit to ShakesSis). Factory79 Jewelers.

...TLW hopes to involve 50 communities during the first year of its "Takes the Town" initiative. The movement's co-founder says the abstinence education initiative will not only challenge those cities and towns, but will also encourage those students who have actively participated in True Love Waits programs and emphases in recent years.


Wingnut trouble brewing: if Repugs don't shape up, vote Dem or third party

by Pam



According to his bio, Adam Graham was Montana State Coordinator for the Alan Keyes campaign in 2000, and made his own bid for the Idaho State House. That would place him firmly on the winger edge. He has an interesting column on Keyes's Renew America web site that's a clear call to the disaffected bible-beater set that feels it's been short-changed on the cultural wars by Chimpy and Co.

The big news here is that Graham is calling for wingnuts to consider voting for Democrats, if they pass the anti-choice/anti-homo smell test. There are plenty of conservative Dems in the South and West, so there's fertile territory for a shift; he's not blowing smoke.

That's big bad news for queen Ken Mehlman, who has to attempt to pacify the Beltway elite of his party while holding on to the foaming-at-the-mouth American Taliban crowd. This guy is pissed.
Republicans love our votes. As the GOP has run on a platform of traditional values, Religious conservatives joined the GOP in droves. Without the votes of religious conservatives, Republicans would have a hard time in the South and much of the West.

However, there are Republicans and I'm sad to say a growing number of them, who want to take our votes and our hard work, and give us nothin in return. It should come as no great surprise that the first great promise of the campaign President Bush backed away from was his push for a Constitutional Amendment on gay marriage. Defenders of the President may point out that Bush is correct in stating that the Amendment has little chance of passage.

Granting that argument, why did Bush push it during the campaign? After all, the election of 2004 was a best case scenario for supporters of traditional marriage. There's no way he could have ended up in a better position to push the Amendment. The only reasonable conclusion is that the President said he'd push for the Amendment to get our votes.

...If Rudy Giuliani can remain a Republican and even be a top contender for the White House after backing Mario Cuomo's re-election in 1994, why should religious conservatives feel that supporting Republican candidates is a requirement of being in the GOP?

If a pro-family Democrat is running against an anti-family Republican, back the Democrat. If neither candidate is right on the issues than back neither or support a third party. If a socially conservative third party garners significant support and the Republican loses, a message will be sent loud and clear.
Keyes and his supporters may be the fringe, but look at how vocal and growing the fringe element of the GOP is. The establishment Repugs are going to have to figure out something other than the bait-and-switch plan...the sheeple are finally figuring out that they have been used. And they won't sit back and take it.

At least the bible-beating AmTaliban will make a stink about it -- unlike the many Dems that are willing to roll over and toss out progressive principles and chase the fraudulent "values" voter bloc.


Freepers react to California judge on gay marriage

by Pam

I compiled this from a couple of Freep threads, pulling out some of the funniest and most pathetic crap I've seen in a while.

Actual Freeper Quotes™

"What a $%^&ing twit!!!! outies go to innies...no outies to outies, no innies to innines...Is that RATIONAL enough for ya?"

"America is dead. The greatest country the earth has ever witnessed is now on the decline simply because we did not have the backbone to preserve such a great way of life and standard of living. My fellow Americans I wish you well."

"Here are some more threads about this vile idiocy:
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1362645/posts
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1362646/posts
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/1362648/posts"

"I am currently a judge (at a fourth grade science fair), and I say that sodomites cannot be married. My proclamation will have just about as much effect as that joker's, except no lawyer will make money on the appeal from my decision."

"only in EUROfrisco"

"Oh Goody! What's next, multiple spouses, someone marrying their mom, dad, sister or brother, their dog, their pig. Perversion is endless and it has obviously reached those in our courts."

"What the HELL is the point of voting if a g***amned judge is just going to run the state (and the country) by edict? Why bother with a republic when we have a dictatorship from the bench? America needs a revolution to restore the Republic. I never thought I'd say that."

"He clearly states in his opinion that the people's will, and their voices, are irrelevant and are not 'rational' values which should be considered in rendering his judgements. He should be impeached immediately, and then run out of the country. Cuba or North Korea are much better suited to his political and civic ideals."

"I see no rational reason why a woman couldnt marry her Grandfather. They are certainly in love. Not likely to have kids, she could get his pension when he kicks off. No rationality for someone not to be able to marry as many husbands or wives as they like either."

"No, of course not. Nor limiting to human beings. Nor sentient beings. Nor living objects either, for that matter. Marriage should be open to unions between cats and chairs, children and grandparents, ferrets and toilet bowls. Any limit at all is purely irrational and discriminatory."

"Let's not get carried away. They haven't gotten away with this YET. This could work in our favor. It will certainly increase the turn out of conservative Californians for an amendment to enforce the ban, which could translate into added power in the State Legislature for Republicans (which is sorely needed). Let's just see how this plays out."

"So, does this mean I can marry my kitty-cat and then use the "married filing jointly" tax tables on my IRS return?"

"This so called judicial ruling will have zero impact beyond this fudge packing Judge's hot tub and on Polk Street in Gayfrisco."

"This type of screw the voter mentality will only worsen until people begin to impeach these legislate from the bench elitists. People must hold accountable lawyers, judges, politicians, etc. or surrender their freedom now."

"And with the latest edict from the culturally-elite dictators-in-robes, another piece of America dies. President Washington, be glad you're in your grave, that you needn't see what has become of all your labors."

"Bring your cat to the courthouse. Have your friends all bring their pets also. Hold a rally and demand the court recognize your unions. If enough people did this across the country, people might finally get the idea of the magnitude of the problem they are creating here."


Another Straw Man Bites the Dust

by Shakespeare's Sister

Well, whaddaya know? Charges that the judge who ruled California’s ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional is just another one of those gosh-dern liberal activist judges might have trouble sticking. As it turns out, Judge Richard Kramer is:
a Catholic Republican appointed to the bench by a former GOP governor.
Yowza. Too bad for you, homobigots. Your straw man of the liberal activist judge who cares more about promoting gay marriage than a fair interpretation of the law just came tumbling down. Judge Kramer, possibly one of the last reasonable conservatives in the country, just kicked your prejudiced, whiny, hollering asses to the curb—and your “liberal activist judge” mantra, too.

As an aside, Judge Kramer also just seems like a generally interesting guy:
While he said he sought out a judgeship so that he could spend more time with his wife and daughter, he said he spent his first months as a criminal court judge reading the Penal Code cover to cover and driving through crime-ridden neighborhoods in San Francisco to get a sense of what was happening in the community.

"It's all fascinating to me," he told the Daily Journal. "What you have to do is figure out what the person did and what to do about it. And most of these cases require common sense and humanity."
Huh. What a concept.

And as an aside, of which I was reminded by Judge Kramer’s wise reference to the humanity of law, you’ll recall the Freepers who are worried that all hell will break loose because of this ruling, that it will open the door for “cats to marry chairs” and “ferrets to marry toilet bowls.” The leap from two men or two women who love one another to marriage with non-sentient things is indicative of a very real and very ugly contempt for even the most basic humanity of gays and lesbians.

I find all kinds of reasons to be disgusted by such an attitude, but the one thing I find most repellent about it is that you find this view most frequently among those who also revile Darwinism because they believe the concept of having evolved from apes devalues human existence. So make no mistake—when a Freeper compares a homosexual to a chair or a toilet bowl, it’s not just mindless hyperbole. It’s a calculated attempt to reinforce the dehumanization of lesbians and gays in the eyes of other like-minded human superiorists.

And that, my friends, is why sexuality- and gender-politics will never be considered “secondary” political issues on this blog.


Monday, March 14, 2005

Blogging Beyond the Men's Club

by Pam

Looks like Newsweek's technology writer Steven Levy might have come across Shakespeare's Sister's responses (here and here) to Kevin Drum's incredibly arrogant and lame post that there is a lack of good female political blogging out there.

A reminder -- Drum's "investigative work" to find some estrogen consisted of: 1) looking for female bloggers on the TTLB Ecosystem, and 2) looking at his male peers' blogrolls. That's going to be real effective at finding the new blood out there. His most ridiculous and dismissive assertion was that men are "more comfortable with the food fight nature of opinion writing." Oh, it's getting me angry all over again...

As the BlogAds survey illuminated, the Technorati testosteroni currently rule the roost -- 75% are men. Those numbers aren't scientific or comprehensive, but based on the local BloggerCon I attended, that seems about right, but I have no problems bumping into political gals in the blogosphere.

I'll have more to say about this topic later when I have some time (damnation - I have to work!), but I thought I'd point you to the column, so folks could share their thoughts. A snippet:
Does the blogosphere have a diversity problem?

Viewed one way, the issue seems a bit absurd. These self-generated personal Web sites are supposed to be the ultimate grass-roots phenomenon. The perks of alpha bloggers—voluminous traffic, links from other bigfeet, conference invitations, White House press passes—are, in theory, bequeathed by a market-driven merit system. The idea is that the smartest, the wittiest and the most industrious in finding good stuff will simply rise to the top, by virtue of a self-organizing selection process.

So why, when millions of blogs are written by all sorts of people, does the top rung look so homogeneous? It appears that some clubbiness is involved. [Female blogger Halley] Suitt puts it more bluntly: "It's white people linking to other white people!" (A link from a popular blog is this medium's equivalent to a Super Bowl ad.) Suitt attributes her own high status in the blogging world to her conscious decision to "promote myself among those on the A list."


Tick, tick, tick...

by Shakespeare's Sister

Oh, please please let this be the beginning of the end for the insult to our government that is the egregiously offensvie Tom DeLay. John Aravosis reports:

The Washington Post is reporting that Democrats smell blood in the water and Republicans are finally getting worried that Tom DeLay's endless ethical violations and refusal to clean up his act despite years of political embarrassment may finally be making him vulnerable to serious problems.

"With some members increasingly concerned that DeLay had left himself vulnerable to attack, several Republican aides and lobbyists said for the first time that they are worried about whether he will survive and what the consequences could be for the party's image," says the Washington Post.

Could the deLay in kicking his butt out finally be over?

Oh, how I look forward to the beautiful day,
That marks the end of his powerful sway,
When he’s found guilty as charged and taken away,
And the House can commence without further DeLay…


Perhaps this is what the American Taliban has in mind for homo control

by Pam

This happened in Saudi Arabia, but I'm pretty sure we could find a few members of our American Taliban that would see this as a good thing. It's a multi-pronged kind of justice from their perspective. The Saudi culture is hostile if you are openly gay - so for two gay men to kill another for threatening to expose their homosexuality is no surprise there. This story gets bonus points because the two men are then executed. That's three fewer homos to sully the Kingdom. (Independent Online):
Saudi Arabia has executed two men who beat to death a Pakistani to stop him exposing their "shameful" homosexual relationship, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

It said Ahmed al-Enezi and Shahir al-Roubli, both Saudis, ran over Malik Khan in their car, beat him on the head with stones and set fire to his corpse "fearing they would be exposed after the victim witnessed them in a shameful situation".

Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Saudi Arabia, a deeply conservative Muslim kingdom which implements a strict version of sharia Islamic law. Convicted murderers, rapists and drug traffickers are usually executed in public. The ministry said the two men were executed in the northern town of Arar, close to the border with Iraq.

Saudi Arabia has put to death at least 21 pople so far this year. At least 35 people were executed last year and 53 in 2003.
Lest we forget the American-style version of this kind of justice...


Renie Phillips, mother of murder victim Richie Phillips, chokes back tears as she testifies about her son.

* Richie Phillips: Beaten, strangled, stuffed into a suitcase and dumped into a lake in Elizabethtown, KY. His killer, Joshua Cottrell, 23, used the "gay panic" defense, claiming Phillips made an unwanted sexual advance on him after Cottrell lured the gay man to his hotel room (the murderer's own aunt said he killed Phillips on purpose).



* Billy Jack Gaither: In rural Coosa County Alabama, the 39-year-old was slashed with a pocketknife, beaten with an ax handle, and burned on a pile of tires by two guys because "he was queer." Steven Eric Mullins, one of his killers, said in a police confession "I had to 'cause he was a faggot.". At trial, however, a number of witnesses came forward to allege that Steve Mullins himself had been involved in homosexual acts, and may have, in fact known or been involved with Gaither (sounds terribly familiar to the revisionist smear on Matthew Shepard by ABC's 20/20).

* Scotty Joe Weaver: a gay 18-year-old that was tied to a chair in his trailer in rural Pine Grove, AL, where he was beaten, strangled, stabbed, mutilated, and partially decapitated over a period of several hours. His body was then dumped in the woods and set on fire, just like Gaither's. Detectives say the murderers’ primary motive was robbery, but that they did select Scotty as their victim because he was gay



* James Maestas: 21, attacked by five men, beaten to unconsciousness, after having lunch with several female friends at a Santa Fe restaurant. The five men followed the group to the hotel and along the way they "pumped" themselves up by talking about "fucking those faggots up".

And, of course, we have the recent gay-bashing in Chapel Hill.

It all points to the fact that we don't need sharia law here to get the same results in the good old US of A, as long as we have the Dobsons, Falwells and the like stoking the violence against gays, letting the violent cretins of society mete out their own sense of sick "justice" as they see fit. Same deal, same results.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Shillsville

by Shakespeare's Sister

When I have a brand new video
From Mr. Bush, it’s such a thrill
I float as the clouds on air do,
I enjoy being a shill!

When Rove says I’m cute and funny
And a reporter of the finest skill,
I just lap it up like honey,
I enjoy being a shill!

I flip when McClellan sends me pre-packaged
News reports to make their case,
I go on the air with no shame and
With a pound and a half of cream upon my face!

I’m strictly a useless hack’s hack
And my future I hope will be
To sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom’s sack
Where I’ll be enjoyed like a whore from gay Paris!

When I have a brand new video
From Mr. Bush, it’s such a thrill
I float as the clouds on air do,
I enjoy being a shill!


(with apologies to Oscar Hammerstein)


Can you blame me that, upon finding out, via Pam, that more faux news has been shilled out by Bush and the vast, fetid wasteland of indolent uselessness that passes as our media, I was inspired to song? Of course you can’t. The scheme is an exquisite muse, and generous, too, in her willing to just keeps on giving. It’s audacity, its bravado, is stunning. Forget Chicago’s ghost-payrolling scandals; this is the true embodiment of the American dream—the ultimate in getting paid for doing absolutely nothing.
"Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.," a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of "another success" in the Bush administration's "drive to strengthen aviation security"; the reporter called it "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The "reporter" covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications.
Gulp! said America. That was tasty! May I have another?

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.

Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the "reporters" are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government's news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration.

Some reports were produced to support the administration's most cherished policy objectives, like regime change in Iraq or Medicare reform. Others focused on less prominent matters, like the administration's efforts to offer free after-school tutoring, its campaign to curb childhood obesity, its initiatives to preserve forests and wetlands, its plans to fight computer viruses, even its attempts to fight holiday drunken driving. They often feature "interviews" with senior administration officials in which questions are scripted and answers rehearsed. Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy.

Some of the segments were broadcast in some of nation's largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.
Critics excluded, eh? Wait a minute, aren’t dissenting viewpoints supposed to be given equal airtime? Oh, that’s right. The Fairness Doctrine was crumpled up into a little ball, devoured by Reagan, and shat out into the Oval Toilet back in the ’80s.

The article offers example after example of this technique, including quotes from a television reporter who had no idea she was reporting on a segment for which interviews were conducted by State Department contractors. The administration got a hell of a lot of mileage out of its first-term PR budget of over $250 million.

The audacity of the administration, the complicity of the networks, and the unquestioning complacency of the American public have come together in an impressive triad of noxious disregard for honesty. The contempt which has been shown on all sides for the realities of the world in which we live has allowed a bubble to form, filled with disinformation, manipulation, and apathy, in which far too many Americans are only too happy to live in blissful ignorance. Meanwhile, anyone who might seek to discern and report the most basic of facts is summarily dismissed as a crackpot, tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist. How utterly, perfectly convenient for those who have nothing to gain and everything to lose from too close a look at the truth.

Let the propaganda machine roll.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

More faux news shilled out by the Bush White House and our lazy-ass media

by Pam


Is it real (news) or is it Memorex? A "report" on airport security improvements, courtesy of the Bush White House spin machine. Radio-Television News Directors Association's Barbara Cochran thinks some of the ethics codes might need tightening up, Bahahahaha.

Un-f*cking-believable. The NYT reports in a lengthy, detailed piece, that even more fake news reports are being created by the White House and are being released to (and played by) media outlets that are broadcast all or in part without vetting. These phony news reports give viewers the impression that they are watching journalism in action. The real crime is that there is no outrage about the slack-ass, disturbing lack of journalistic ethics (and utter laziness) by the news outlets that are showing these pre-digested shill pieces for Chimpy policy.

News outlets, bastions of that highly regarded and above-reproach profession we know as journalism, that look down their noses at bloggers.

You'll recall that the Bush administration spent over $250 million (in ithe first term) on public relations contracts. That, according to the Times, is nearly double what the last Clinton administration spent, so there's a wealth of this slickly-produced propaganda out there to sway the unsuspecting public.
Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.

Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the "reporters" are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government's news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration...Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy.

Some of the segments were broadcast in some of nation's largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.
The next section really grinds my *ss because it's clip-job journalism. These news stations/affiliates seem to have abandoned all pretense that they want to do original work, and actually welcome these pre-digested news bits. It makes you understand why broadcast journalism has become one big dung heap, a mass of waste product that's pawned off to the sheeple, who don't have critical thinking skills and that's one big set up for what happened in election 2004.
...Local affiliates are spared the expense of digging up original material. Public relations firms secure government contracts worth millions of dollars. The major networks, which help distribute the releases, collect fees from the government agencies that produce segments and the affiliates that show them. The administration, meanwhile, gets out an unfiltered message, delivered in the guise of traditional reporting.

...in three separate opinions in the past year, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that studies the federal government and its expenditures, has held that government-made news segments may constitute improper "covert propaganda" even if their origin is made clear to the television stations. The point, the office said, is whether viewers know the origin. Last month, in its most recent finding, the G.A.O. said federal agencies may not produce prepackaged news reports "that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials."
So you would think that maybe the news directors would self-police, making sure that their mission of their stations is not compromised. Apparently not, and the FCC hasn't stepped in to stop the corruption either.
"Clearly disclose the origin of information and label all material provided by outsiders."

Those words are from the code of ethics of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, the main professional society for broadcast news directors in the United States. Some stations go further, all but forbidding the use of any outside material, especially entire reports...the news directors association is close to proposing a stricter rule, said its executive director, Barbara Cochran. Whether a stricter ethics code will have much effect is unclear; it is not hard to find broadcasters who are not adhering to the existing code, and the association has no enforcement powers.

The Federal Communications Commission does, but it has never disciplined a station for showing government-made news segments without disclosing their origin, a spokesman said.


More on the Bankruptcy Bill

by Shakespeare's Sister

Another inevitable consequence of the bankruptcy bill, as noted by Seeing the Forest’s Dave Johnson, is that it will deter entrepreneurship. Starting a new small business generally necessitates incurring a significant amount of personal financial risk, and this new legislation makes such risk even riskier.

Tangentially, entrepreneurship is one of the reasons I have always supported socialized healthcare. In a country like Britain, for example, you don’t have to worry about health insurance. Starting your own company doesn’t mean losing insurance from an employer, nor designating some of the start-up costs for employee coverage. Imagine being able to start your own business without worrying about medical coverage. The rising costs of healthcare and health insurance in America, however, is making it increasingly difficult to start one’s own business. Coupled with making financial risk even more unappealing, owning a business becomes a much tougher proposition in America than elsewhere.

Because new small businesses generate new jobs, disincentivizing starting such businesses are unwise, as it could also have a grave effect on job growth. Poor job growth, higher unemployment, fewer people covered under employer-sponsored healthcare plans and hence dependent on social programs or burdened with high medical bills, more possible bankruptcies… It’s an economic nightmare waiting to happen.


Freepers pushing Jeb in '08, but still obsess over Condi

by Pam



Love the Freepers. I haven't pulled some quotes in a while. They started ruminating about Jeb-based tickets in '08 as a result of a squib in a Bob "The Prince of Darkness" Novak column. Strange thing is, they just can't stop talking about Condi Rice.

Actual Freeper Quotes™
"Rice/Bush?"

"Gingrich/Bush?"

"McCain/Bush????????"

"Tommy Franks/Jeb Bush"

"I'd like to see either:
Sanford/Bush
Pawlenty/Bush
Pence/Bush
Owens/Bush
Allen/Bush"

"If Jeb is anything like his brother I don't think we can afford the bill." [Bahahahahaha!]

"GOP politicians agree that five Bush presidential nominations out of the last six campaigns would be one too many for the country to take."

"I like girls. Especially the smart, experienced and very savvy ones like: Elizabeth Dole/Connie Rice That'll get my vote."

"Actually, Governor John Ellis Jeb Bush would actually make a great Republican Presidential candidate for the following reasons: 1. He's a governor of a very populous state. 2. He is well-liked and quite popular. 3. He speaks Spanish fluently, which means he can easily court the increasingly powerful Hispanic vote. That type of credentials is a major winning combination that is very hard to beat."

"Not unless he saves Terri!!"



"Condi won't pick Jeb - wouldn't be prudent -- but instead will look to Senator Santorum to shore up her conservative credentials, and lock up Pennsylvania which, as we have found out is an essential electoral collegel state. here you have it - the definitive 2008 inside scoop."

[OK, folks, read the following quote and tell me what the hell is this conspiracy they are talking about? WTF?]

"Elizabeth Dole was either too incompentent or too compromised to EVER even mention the fact one Bill Clinton had been definitively proven to have been the source for tainted prison plasma which infected countless recipients of various blood derivatives fractionated in Canada. She sat on the story through two election cycles, leaving the party to prattle about bimbo eruptions instead of the bad blood which might have blown a hole in one of his most shrill constituencies ... the Log Cabin sorts the GOP's been courting in earnest since 2000."



"Quayle/Bush" [OMG - is this person on crack?]

"Jeb Bush/Condi Rice 2008"

"A Jeb Bush/Condi Rice ticket would be my choice for two reasons: I really do think it would be great for the country and I think it's an unbeatable ticket."

"For the reasons that Jeb would be an excellent candidate, add to that brilliant, stylish Condi pulling the votes of women and blacks, and we'd have a landslide. Frankly, I can't think of anyone else who would come close to having that high probability of win."



"Now living in Florida, I've seen a lot of Jeb Bush. The man is PERFECT for the job of VP or P. There is something about him I can trust and I think many people, both on the left and right, feel the same way."

"I think Condi is great, but I am not sure she would be perceived as being ready to run for president. She may well be ready, but perceptions matter -- she would need to get elected. But 8 years as a VP under Bush, would make her a shoo-in afterwards. And if we would get 8 years of Jeb/Condi, then another 8 with Condi as president, by the end of that Democrats would be extinct -- they would have all moved to France."



"Rice probably could reduce the landslide margin by which Hillary would beat another GOP candidate among blacks, and possibly among women. But whose to say those gains wouldn't be offset by a loss of support from the base? We know she is liberal on racial preferences (like Bush), so that probably bodes ill for her stance on other social and cultural issues."

"Where is she on marriage? Abortion? Immigration? Second Amendment? Judges?"

"All this talk of femme candidates is sorta silly, though. The GOP will deliver the first openly-gay nomination before it backs a woman for President. That foundation was being laid as early as the 2000 convention when, instead of giving the slot to some pro-lifer like Keyes, they proudly featured their openly homosexual Republican speaker at the convention. Mark my words."

"Personally, despite his doing a fine job as FL Gov., I don't think he brings much to the ticket, other than the name. The lib media will have a field day with the whole "corrupt dynasty of stealing elections" crap."

"In the current political climate I agree with you. I just don't see a woman president anytime soon for America. Even Hilligula I dont' believe the dems will nominate. They'll run some white very high IQ, smooth talking, communist, wealthy elitist, male."


Friday, March 11, 2005

Self-Determination: Give Credit Where It's Due

by Shakespeare's Sister

Left Behind Child, in discussing a recent New Republic editorial called Grudging Respect, has a few problems with the key assertion of the piece:
More immediately, liberals must realize that they have to be willing to support the Bush administration in the Middle East if they want to have anything to say about democracy elsewhere in the world.
LBC makes some good points about the fallaciousness of this notion, with the help of Fareed Zakaria, and I would like to add my two cents about why liberals don’t need to realize anything of the sort.

Because it’s fucking racist.

Denying the efficacy of the peoples of the Middle East in favor of the illusory “domino effect” of Bush's policies is to suggest that it never would have happened without western (i.e. white) involvement. And that is something with which I refuse to go along—and so should any other liberal with a lick of sense. The notion that a country with a brown-skinned population will never see an organic growth of democracy within its borders is exactly the kind of bullshit contention that leads Bush and his cronies to believe they need to be the stormtroopin’ saviors of the Middle East in the first place. As I recall, there was no small amount of tut-tutting from Lefties when President Bush said:
[Some] people don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing or free. I'd strongly disagree with that.
Why were we annoyed by that? Because we wanted to know to whom, exactly, he was referring—what strawman was the alleged purveyor of such nonsense?

I certainly didn’t expect that it would be the New Republic to fill the role so adeptly.


Al Sharpton rips Bush (and Dems) a new one

by Pam



The guy is wacky and over-the-top, but he is saying all the things the establishment Dems should have said in 2004 and should be saying now. He is on target -- he has no fear. There are so many quotes to highlight in this article! (Capital Times):
The Rev. Al Sharpton compared George W. Bush's re-election a few months ago to a shell game in New York's Times Square where con artists separate tourists from their money.

"George Bush and Karl Rove engaged the public in a three-card political monte game last year," Sharpton told a revved-up crowd in a near-capacity Union Theater Monday night during his Distinguished Lecture Series "sermon." The Republican shell game included No Child Left Behind, an education program in which the administration "left the funds behind," Sharpton said. The Bush campaign never addressed the 45 million Americans with no health insurance or the 1.8 million people who were put on the poverty rolls in the past four years, he said.

"You would think that these and other domestic matters would have been debated and discussed. But they played the card game on us," Sharpton said.

"They had us debate gay marriage. Whatever your opinion of gay marriage is, it has nothing to do with being president of the United States," he said, to overwhelming applause. In fact, Sharpton, a controversial civil rights activist who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2004 election, received a rare pre-speech standing ovation that turned into a complete ovation by the end of his talk.

"The president of the United States has no say at all on the issue of marriage in this country. So how do we have a presidential election on an issue that has nothing to do with the presidency?" The election should have been about whether Bush had done his job right for the past four years, Sharpton said.

Instead, the election swung on two so-called moral issues dealing with sex: gay marriage and a woman's right to choose. "In their definition of values and in their definition of morals, poverty is not a moral," Sharpton said to cheers, adding that we live in a country where children go to school for 12 years and get five years' worth of education, and where senior citizens don't have enough money to afford prescription drugs.

"That's not immoral to them," he added.

"Even if you want to - and I don't - act as though their moral position is biblically based, then why are we limiting it to one or two items?" he asked. Sharpton said that on occasion he finds himself debating the Rev. Jerry Falwell. He is always amazed, he said, at how selective the religious right is with the Bible, pushing for a constitutional amendment on marriage.

"Why don't we have a constitutional amendment on lying, George Bush?" Sharpton said, drawing hoots and hollers. "Why don't we have a constitutional amendment on adultery? Adultery has split up far more marriages than gay marriages have."

It was absurd that the Democrats stayed on the defensive and allowed the Bush camp to define the issues in the campaign, Sharpton said.

Bush's attacks on John Kerry were equally absurd: "Where was he in Vietnam? When first of all, we are in Iraq. Who cares if he was on a Swift boat or slow boat or boat at all?" Sharpton said with a delivery that conjured comedian and fellow Brooklynite Chris Rock and elicited lots of laughter.

"We are engaged in a war right now. We are not voting based on where you were 30 years ago, we are voting based on why are our troops in danger's way right now!" Sharpton said.


Bye Blue, hello Green?

by Pam



Shakespeare's Sister is shaking the tree. I hope a whole orchard's worth of fruit doesn't fall on her head because she's asking the third-rail question -- why should progressives even waste their time on the Dems when our investment gets us little or nothing in return? A snippet:
If you are, like me, a true progressive, you're being let down by the Democrats. They can't pull together an effective opposition, they can't deliver a concise message, and they sell out liberal interests in a heartbeat as they make a break for a muddy middle, which they inexplicably remain convinced will help them win elections. I'm finding myself increasingly required to defend positions (such as gay rights or legal abortion)-to other Dems-that shouldn't even be in question. And to boot, many career Dems are just as beholden to special interests as the GOP and are motivated little by the needs of the people they are meant to represent.

Historically, we've insisted on sticking with the two-party system for understandable reasons. If we split the liberal vote, then the GOP will get control of everything. Well, look where our determined solidarity has gotten us. They control the White House, both Houses of Congress, and a large swath of the judiciary, with the Supreme Court looking to go more conservative in short order as well. So how much sense does it make, I wonder, to continue compromising on what we really want, only to end up with what we really feared.
Right on, Sister. I don't know how effective we can be at retaking the party either; I think it will be telling in how effective Howard Dean is as leader of the Dem party. If he becomes a Dem pod person, droning on about moderation that compromises gays, a woman's right to choose and commitment to the separation of church and state, I'd say the party is too f*cked to salvage. At that point going third party cannot do any worse for us than what we've witnessed in the last 15 years of Dem movement to the center and a Repug takeover of everything.


Is this Dean's future?

Remember, the party started going centrist with Clinton and he gave us DOMA and DADT. Gays have been cast to the wolves by both national parties, so there's not much to lose, other than to keep our bags out of the attic in case we need to flee to Canada before the AmTaliban loads us onto the boxcars headed for the "ex-gay" camps.

If you're a woman, you're quickly realizing that your womb is not your own, as far as this administration is concerned, and that the Dems are trying to curry favor with the anti-choice voters at the same time your rights are under attack. It doesn't sound like we're getting our money's worth for our commitment to the Democratic Party.

Centrist Dems (and even allegedly progressive ones in the blogosphere) have decided that "we have to choose our battles." The caving of party discipline over the bankruptcy bill perfectly illustrates that there isn't a sliver of daylight between the parties when it comes to allegiance over corporate money and campaign ambitions.

So far I haven't seen too many legislative battles that Dems have been willing to go to the mat for us on -- aside from Social Security, and Chimpy's plan is self-destructing -- that can hardly be considered a "victory", that would be a TKO.



The Establishment Dem's sh*t is starting to stink like a dirty baby nappy in the hot sunshine of a Tar Heel summer. They need to wake up and toss the crap out.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Global lesbian-baiting attempts to stifle women's activism

by Pam


Susana Fried of IGLHRC says women are silenced by gay-baiting. Executive Director Paula Ettelbrick sees the attacks directly hampering women in leadership from actively supporting gay rights issues.

Both the Village Voice and Planet Out have stories on the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission's report, "Written Out: How Sexuality is Used to Attack Women's Organizing." It's sobering news about the constant barrage of gay-baiting used to smear and discredit women that dare to challenge the status quo. It is sadly still the norm. (Planet Out):
"With the rise of fundamentalism in both the U.S. and abroad, we are seeing that women who take public leadership on any range of issues are on the receiving end of very calculated attacks," says Susana Fried, IGLHRC's program director. "We want to connect the dots to show how women's sexuality is manipulated in this specific and increasingly common way to discredit and silence women around the world."

The 189-page report, written by Cynthia Rothschild, documents examples of such attacks in countries ranging from the United States to Argentina, India, Thailand, Costa Rica and more. "If a woman is single, she's attacked as a lesbian," says Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC's executive director. "If she's married, she's attacked for neglecting her family. Either way, the issue becomes gender and sexuality rather than the merits of the issue under discussion."

One result, says Ettelbrick, is that it becomes more difficult for women's groups to support gay and lesbian rights. "It makes our natural allies more afraid," she says. "We see female politicians retreat into self-censorship. Not only do campaigns go down to defeat, but leadership and vision suffer as well."
The fact of the matter is that women organizing around the globe are hit with a level of hostility that American women cannot fathom. We may be fighting against our elected Cro-magnon representatives' attempts to roll back the clock on Roe v. Wade, but we are not in the type of mortal danger women in many third world countries are. It's disgusting. (Village Voice):
Lesbian- or feminist-baiting can turn threatening, even violent. Last month in Uganda, a coalition of women's organizations were eagerly preparing a staging of Eve Ensler's play The Vagina Monologues when the Ugandan government abruptly banned it.

Jessica Nkuuhe of Isis-Women's International Cross-Cultural Exchange, one of the organizations involved, recalled her government's rationale: "'You can't start addressing issues of the vagina. It's a vulgar issue.'" When the play's producers appealed the decision to Uganda's Media Council, they were greeted with vitriol from religious fundamentalists on the radio and television, and in print.

"One man came from one of the churches and said [on the radio that] feminists and homosexuals have a hidden agenda to destroy the culture of our nation and bring in the Western violence of homosexuality," said Nkuuhe. "Some of the our organizations were labeled as led by lesbians and promoting lesbianism." This is no small thing in a country where homosexuality is a deep-seated cultural taboo and remains a crime, offering gays virtually no protection.


FannyAnn Eddy, founder of Sierra Leone Lesbian & Gay Association, was strangled in her office in 2004.

Not all victims of lesbian-baiting are lucky enough to escape injury. Last September, FannyAnn Eddy, the founder of the first-ever gay organization in Sierra Leone was murdered as the result of her work.
To learn more about FannyAnn's work (she left behind a 9-year-old son), visit the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice's web site. An interview with her is here, and an update on the case is at Gay.com.


Women, sports and sexism - has anything changed?

by Pam


Ria Ledwaba, head of the South African Football Association:"At the moment you sometimes can't tell if they're men or women." Center: South African "lady" footballers; Right: The "Rockford Peaches" of A League of Their Own (1992).

It's like stepping back in time...to the days of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League of the 1940s and 50s (romanticized in the entertaining Penny Marshall flick A League of Their Own). The "girls" were professionally groomed, sent to charm school and expected to be a lady. From the charm school guide:
You should be the best judge of your own beauty requirements. Keep your own kit replenished with the things you need for your own toilette and your beauty culture and care. Remember the skin, the hair, the teeth and the eyes. It is most desirable in your own interests, that of your teammates and fellow players, as well as from the standpoint of the public relations of the league that each girl be at all times presentable and attractive, whether on the playing field or at leisure. Study your own beauty culture possibilities and without overdoing your beauty treatment at the risk of attaining gaudiness, practice the little measure that will reflect well on your appearance and personality as a real All American girl.
These young women, some of them lesbian, were allowed to play pro baseball - but all of them were forced to present a feminine image to the crowd, to assure that only heterosexual energy was radiating on the field. (Reader's Companion to US Women's History):
The Midwest-based All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), which drew over a half-million fans annually between 1943 and 1954, adopted a similar approach. The league employed what officials called the "femininity principle," a shrewd strategy designed to contrast athletes' "masculine skill" with their "feminine attractiveness." Dressed in pastel, skirted uniforms and forbidden by league rules to wear their hair in boyish bobs or to dress in masculine garb, AAGPBL players courted public approval with a wholesome girl-next-door image while thrilling their fans with stellar play. Although some players approved of the femininity principle and others found it ludicrous, all agreed that abiding by the rules was a small price to pay for the chance to pursue a dream—playing high-level professional sport before appreciative audiences. Women of color were denied this opportunity, since the all-white league management believed that African American players, in particular, might damage the league's "feminine" image.
That was history, but apparently nothing much has changed. From today's headlines: (Pretoria News):
The South African women's soccer team is to be coached in etiquette and given tighter T-shirts in a drive to soften its image and attract sponsorship ahead of a 2007 World Cup bid. A top official yesterday said female players who dressed and acted like men were giving women's soccer a bad name and they needed to nurture their feminine side.

"They need to learn how to be ladies," said Ria Ledwaba, head of the women's committee at the South African Football Association (SAFA). "At the moment you sometimes can't tell if they're men or women."

The national team would be given a more shapely kit to emphasise their femininity on the pitch and would swap dowdy track suits for skirts and jackets when travelling. "Obviously they can't wear skirts on the pitch. But they will be given outfits made for women, with female shirts that are shaped for breasts," Ledwaba said.

SAFA would also hold etiquette workshops to turn the players - often plucked from township streets and with little schooling - into national assets. "We need to teach them etiquette and the importance of being a role model," said Ledwaba.

"There are mothers out there who won't let their daughters play football because they think they'll start acting like boys."
Before you dismiss this extreme stupidity and knuckle-dragging thinking as a South African problem, it wasn't that long ago in NY that lesbian fans of the WNBA's NY Liberty team were carefully avoided when the camera panned the stands. The ardent base of support for the league, the paying customers filling the stands, were considered a liability for marketing the game, as experts chased the "family-friendly" demographic. (Gay City News)


Many lesbians have similar stories of how Madison Square Garden has tried to suppress any indication of lesbians in the arena. In 1999, Jess Dobkin recalls, “I made a banner that said ‘Lesbians For Liberty’ and brought it to the game on Gay Pride Day. I was so excited to be going to the Liberty game where there were so many lesbians.”

At the game, Madison Square Garden personnel demanded that she put the banner completely out of sight under threat of eviction from the arena. “There were other banners and signs” Dobkin says, “They wouldn’t let me have [my banner] open at all. They wouldn’t let me and several other people hold it on our laps. We asked if we could hold it during time-out, and they wouldn't let us do that.”
Have women made no progress on this front? Thankfully, due to Title IX of the 1972 Educational Act, which forced equal funding of women's and men's sports in educational programs that received federal funding, women are getting to pursue their dream of athletic competition as never before. But the above Liberty tale shows us that sexuality and women in sports are still a problematic combination for our culture to digest.

I mean, what on earth explains Anna Kournikova's endorsements -- it's certainly not her game, it's her booty. No one begrudges Kournikova for cashing in (at least I don't), it's the fact that she hasn't earned that reward for her athletic abilities, it's for her looks. Martina Navratilova never had lucrative deals on that scale despite her landmark impact on women's tennis, in fact, tennis overall.

So where does that leave us? I guess the dollars and cents of women's sports are still going to be a matter of balancing T&A for some time to come.



Bye, Blue?

by Shakespeare's Sister

I’m going to do it. I’m going to ask the question We Dare Not Ask. And it might piss some people off, and it might inspire others to ask me if I’ve lost my gourd. But it needs to be asked, and I’m going to be the one to do it.

Why the hell are we sticking with the Dems?

I don’t know about you, but I invested time, energy, and money into the Democratic Party during the last election, and I’m not getting much of a return on my investment. In fact, lately I’ve been feeling like the party to whom I’ve been loyal for my entire life is giving me the finger.

The confirmations of Condi Rice, Alberto Gonzales, and Michael Chertoff … the slow response to broaching voting accountability legislation … the passage of a measure to limit class-action lawsuits … the bankruptcy bill … the constant move toward the center … and on and on and on. I complain about the idiocy of the Dems almost as much as I do the Republicans, and I’m starting to get more than a little pissed off.

I once wrote about how the red-staters who vote against their own best interests don’t seem to understand their leadership, but that we on the Left seem to suffer from the opposite problem—our leadership doesn’t understand its base. The problem is only getting worse; I feel increasingly alienated from the Democratic leadership in Washington, and by the looks of things across the Lefty blogosphere, I’m not alone.

If you are, like me, a true progressive, you’re being let down by the Democrats. They can’t pull together an effective opposition, they can’t deliver a concise message, and they sell out liberal interests in a heartbeat as they make a break for a muddy middle, which they inexplicably remain convinced will help them win elections. I’m finding myself increasingly required to defend positions (such as gay rights or legal abortion)—to other Dems—that shouldn’t even be in question. And to boot, many career Dems are just as beholden to special interests as the GOP and are motivated little by the needs of the people they are meant to represent.

Historically, we’ve insisted on sticking with the two-party system for understandable reasons. If we split the liberal vote, then the GOP will get control of everything. Well, look where our determined solidarity has gotten us. They control the White House, both Houses of Congress, and a large swath of the judiciary, with the Supreme Court looking to go more conservative in short order as well. So how much sense does it make, I wonder, to continue compromising on what we really want, only to end up with what we really feared.

After the election, when the Dems decided not to push for any kind of investigation into voter fraud, Marc Sanson, co-chair of the United States Green Party issued a statement that I described at the time as a siren song for disillusioned Democrats:
If Senate Democrats allow George W. Bush's victory based on questionable numbers to stand, the Green Party will tell Democratic voters: you have wasted your votes and your campaign contributions on a party that will not defend your right to vote. Regardless of whether the recount effort or a challenge from Senate Democrats overturns Mr. Bush's 2004 election, Americans need to see that corrupt elections will not be tolerated. At the very least, a challenge will advance some sorely needed reforms: auditable paper records of all computer votes; equitable distribution of election equipment; assurance that legitimate votes aren't obstructed; removal of biased partisan officials from supervision of vote counts; clean election laws. This is what the Green Party stands for. Where do the Democrats stand?
I think we’ve wasted our votes and our campaign contributions on a party that refuses to defend more than just our right to vote. Yes, there are brief glimpses of what we shorthand as “balls,” but they are too few and far between. As an entity, the Democratic Party is not serving us well.

So why are we continuing to serve them? Why continue to throw money at an investment that offers diminishing returns?

Money talks. Maybe we need to stop buying blue and buy green instead. The biggest obstacle to an effectual third party is my unwillingness to support them.

Just a thought. Open for debate…


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Pro-Choice = Pro-Rights

by Shakespeare's Sister

Seeing the Forest’s Dave Johnson (who you really should be reading if you’re not already) posts today about the “conventional wisdom” that Democrats ban pro-life convention speakers, which has become a hot topic again with the whole Bob Casey issue (which anyone with the basic ability to Google knows is hogwash; he was barred from speaking because he refused to support the Clinton-Gore ticket), raising its head again as the possible choices for unseating Santorum are reviewed.

I know this may be an unpopular opinion, but I have a real problem with anti-choice Dem candidates, and here’s why: abortion rights is an issue for which one must distinguish between one’s personal belief from one’s political belief. One of John Kerry’s most eloquently stated positions was on this very topic, when, during one of the debates, he alluded to the fact that he is personally pro-life, but separates that from his position of being politically pro-choice.

Pro-life is one of those squirrelly Righty terms that doesn’t say what it really means. Most conservative pro-lifers are, in fact, anti-abortion, both personally and politically. Yet being personally anti-abortion and politically pro-choice are not mutually exclusive positions. It’s that whole “my rights end where yours begin” thing again. There are many people with unwanted pregnancies who do not opt for abortions, even though it is a legal option. Disagreeing with the concept of abortion is different from disagreeing with whether it should be legal, and that’s an important distinction, which we are somehow reluctant to make in the Democratic Party.

There are, of course, those who would argue that their pro-life position is rooted in a belief that abortion is murder, which is what makes this a difficult conundrum…until you look at what being anti-abortion really means. It means that you are telling women they are not autonomous beings, but instead
vessel(s) for whom no plan or hope or possibility or circumstance, however desperate, matters more than being a nest for that "itty bitty zygote."
It means telling women that you should have more control over their bodies than they do.

In what other circumstance would we tell women that they are required to submit their bodies to the whims of others? Why, if a woman’s body is not her own, is rape illegal? Despite the apocryphal stories of legions of women who use repeated abortions as a method of birth control, many of the women who seek abortions do so after taking all the necessary precautions, and if, after doing so, they find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy as a result of failed birth control, why is their right to make decisions about whether their bodies will effectively serve as incubators for the next nine months any different than their right to make a decision about whether they willingly have sex?

The argument that abortion is different because abortion prevents life is simply not tenable; you cannot extricate the (arguably) laudable goal of protecting all potential life from the oppressive nature of denying women an opportunity to control their own bodies and their own destinies.

Conservatives love going on about the “special rights” that groups like the LGBT community are “always asking for,” but it seems to me that demanding the right to have control over another human being’s body is exactly the definition of a “special” right indeed—so “special,” in fact, that it’s not to be found anywhere else among our many laws (excepting, perhaps, punitive law, such as capital punishment).

There is room in our tent for pro-life Dem candidates, but only those who are resolutely pro-choice in their voting. And as for the centrist bloggers who assert that abortion is an issue on which we should be willing to compromise, it’s very generous of you to be willing to sell my body to the GOP, but my womb—or any other part of me—isn’t for sale.


The most vulnerable part of the male body

by Lanoire

Amanda at Mouse Words has a great post talking about the importance of feminism to liberalism.

In her post, she touches on something that I think is particularly important:

Gender issues are not of secondary importance to conservative politics at all--they are front and center. Ultimately, the resentful NASCAR dad voters are voting for a return to unquestioned straight male dominance.


Her mention of NASCAR dads is what struck me. The culture represented by the NASCAR dads is one that's centered around patriarchy, combined with racism, as I pointed out in my recent anti-Marshall Wittman tirade. (I should clarify that I'm not implying all Southerners are racist and misogynistic. What I'm saying is that this ideal Red State culture--celebrated and encouraged by right-wingers, but not always reflective of all of the real live South--is racist and misogynist.)

This recent presidential election, as many others have said, was all about masculinity. In fact, all politics after 9/11 has been consistently about masculinity. People who opposed Bush were derided as girly in one way or another.

What many people, like Marshall Wittman and others who want Democrats to kiss some NASCAR dad ass in order to seem less "elite," don't realize is that the charge of elitism is just part of a larger accusation against liberals: the accusation of effeminacy. Calling liberal Democrats elite is just one way of implying that they're effete--that they're girly.

Don't believe me? Think about the stereotypical Red Stater and the stereotypical Blue Stater. Red Stater is tough and rugged and active--manly. Blue Stater is sensitive and squeamish and dithering--girly. Red Stater drinks good old American beer and likes his steak rare--manly. Blue Stater drinks French wine and is probably a vegetarian--girly. Red Stater is chivalrous to his wife but makes sure she knows he's the man and she's the woman--manly. Blue Stater has a loud-mouthed wife who keeps him whipped--girly. (Interestingly, archetypal Blue Stater is a girly man, not a woman. Probably because if Blue Stater was a woman, his squeamishness would be legitimate. As an effeminate man, though, he's got no excuse. Effeminate men sometimes come in for more scorn under patriarchy than actual women).

There were two narratives in the recent election: the national security narrative and the cultural values narrative. What tied them together? Masculinity. Liberals aren't tough and manly enough to protect you from the terrorists. That very same lack of masculinity is what prevents them from being right on values--because the values in question are patriarchal values that center around gender roles, which is why there's such a focus on reproductive rights (not only abortion but sexual health in general) and homosexuality. Only a real man can stop people from fucking around with their natural gender roles. Only a real man can ensure that men will stay men and women will stay women.

This is why people who advise liberals to become Southern or Western good ol' boys are way off base. Accusing someone of elitism is just one way of accusing them of effeminacy. And there are millions of other ways. So even if we start acting like good people of the heartland, and nominate candidates who can't be called elitist (doubtful--everyone has some quality that can be readily called elitist), we can still easily be called girly. It doesn't matter if we act all non-elite because the whole "elitism" cry is really just a way to say that we're acting like women, and it's always easy to accuse anyone of that. Yes, you. You can be called girly. I don't care if you're the manliest man who ever bench-pressed an ungodly number of pounds. Masculinity is a wispy, fragile construction and it can be blown to bits with the greatest of ease. A man's masculinity is the easiest and most vulnerable aspect of him to attack, much like a man's testicles are the most vulnerable part of his body and the most effective place to kick if you want to hurt him (there's a certain sick but poetic symmetry there). There is no man, no matter how tough his talk, no matter how Southern his accent, no matter how thick his biceps, who cannot be reduced to a woman. Show me a manly man and I will girlify him for you.

Not only that, but no matter how un-elitist and values-oriented we act, the conservatives will always be able to outdo us on that front. The conservatives will always be able to outdo us in the posturing faux-masculinity sweepstakes. If we veer to the right, we will look wishy-washy compared to them, because they will be further right. And being wishy-washy is--you guessed it--girly.

Plus, if we start acting more like conservatives, that gives people the impression that we're doing so because conservatism has the moral high ground, because conservatism is more mainstream than liberalism, and because we can't get votes without being more conservatives. Moving right in an attempt to gain votes legitimizes the right and makes us look worse. As Amanda says:

And when liberals ghettoize "women's issues" or suggest that they can compromise with the right-wing on what rights to "let" women have, it reinforces the belief that male dominance is the way of the world, and thereby weakens the liberal position.



So what do we do instead of frantically dodging intertwined charges of elitism and effeminacy?

We refuse to move right and play along with their "liberalism is elite" formula. We stay where we are and call them elite, call them weak. Disconnect "girly" from "weak". We need to portray feminism as a strong, clear stance, and assert ourselves without putting down women or exalting false notions of masculinity. If we are strong in our feminism and liberalism in generally, we will be perceived as strong people with a strong sense of right and wrong. Again, as Amanda wrote:

There's been a lot of ink spilled as of late bemoaning the lack of direction and lack of goals for progressives. This sort of thing really perplexes those of us who concentrate on feminist progressivism--I have no problem whatsoever stating what my direction and goals are for feminism. Feminists want full legal equality for women, parity between the sexes in every aspect of public life, social relationships between men and women based on equality, the rights of children to be acknowledged and respected, the right of women to use every tool science has to offer to maintain control over our bodies, wage equity, social policies to help parents, and healthy social attitudes towards sexuality. We also have tons of plans and ideas that we'd like to implement. You want goals and ideas? Feminists got 'em.


Feminists don't dither. And dithering makes us look weak. Embracing feminism is a great way to repulse the charge of weakness. The right is saying that our egalitarian notions of gender make us weak, that our championship of women's rights and gay rights make us like gays and women (and therefore, in conservative thought, weak). And we are helping them by acting like they've got a point. We need to stop this and assert our feminism. By proudly shouting our egalitarian viewpoint to the rooftops, we are refuting the charges of weakness. By hiding our egalitarianism under a napkin, we're confirming those charges. Here's Amanda again:

Liberal Democrats need to enthusiastically embrace feminism, and have the courage of our convictions. Courage is what attracts voters--if you don't think that's so, then look at all the women who vote against their own interests because they are lured by the confident way conservatives put the boot to the neck. Oh yeah, and in case we forgot, women are half the voters out there, but women voters are wishy-washy about supporting the Democratic party. Why? Well, because the Democrats are wishy-washy about standing up for what women want. Enthusiastic support for women's rights and women's needs is the best way to get the attention and support of women voters.


Not just women voters but all voters. All voters hearken to the sound of the loudest voice in the room, even if it happens to be a woman's voice or an East Coast or California accented voice. We need to be loud and proud about our feminism and liberalism, and avoid pitfalls like "pro-heartland, anti-elitist" posturing. Instead of being cheap knock-offs of David Brooks' ideal Red Stater, let's be unabashedly what we are.

(crossposted at Looking at the Stars)


Important Story for Lefty Bloggers: Clint Curtis

by Shakespeare's Sister

If you were following any of the post-election investigations into possible voter fraud, you were probably reading BradBlog, and you probably know who Clint Curtis is, and you might even know that the investigator from the Florida Inspector General's office who was investigating Curtis’ case committed suicide in 2003 two weeks after telling Curtis that the case was about the break open. Unless you’re still reading BradBlog, though, you might not know that the investigation into that suicide was reopened—and then quickly reclosed—by Georgia police, after speaking to someone in Florida.

Here’s a quick summary for those to whom this story is new:

1. In 2001, Clint Curtis filed a whistleblower complaint with the Florida Inspector General’s office, alleging that his employer, Yang Enterprises, Inc. (YEI), was also employing an illegal Chinese alien, Henry Nee, who was committing espionage out of YEI. He also charged that YEI was illegally over-billing the Florida Department of Transportation on a multi-million dollar contract that was brought to YEI by Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) (who now sits on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee but was then the Florida Speaker of the House and legal counsel / registered lobbyist for YEI). Ahem.

2. Henry Nee pleaded guilty; though, despite having admitted sending missile components to China “ten or twenty times” in the preceding year, he was sentenced to be released under a 3-year supervised probation and a $100 fine to be paid immediately. YEI was also found to have billed the Florida Department of Transportation for $248,255 of "questionable charges."

(If you’re thinking, Shakespeare’s Sister, I thought you said this had to do with voter fraud, and now you’re talking about Chinese spies—just where exactly are you going with all of this?!, just hold tight; I’m about to get there. Numbers 1 and 2 were important in setting up Curtis as a credible source who knows what he’s talking about.)

3. Clint Curtis has also alleged, most recently in a 2004 sworn affidavit, that he:
designed and built a "vote rigging" software program at the behest of then Florida Congressman, now U.S. Congressman, Republican Tom Feeney of Florida's 24th Congressional District … in 2000 while working … as technical advisor and programmer at Yang Enterprises, Inc.

[…]

Feeney, who had run in 1994 as Jeb Bush's running-mate in his initial unsuccessful bid for Florida Governor … inquired whether the company could build a "vote fraud software prototype".

[…]

Curtis says that Feeney "was very specific in the design and specifications required for this program."

"He detailed, in his own words, that; (a) the program needed to be touch-screen capable (b) the user should be able to trigger the program without any additional equipment (c) the programming to accomplish this needed to stay hidden even if the source code was inspected."

[…]

Upon delivery of the software design and documentation on CD to Mrs. Yang, Curtis again explained to her that it would be impossible to hide routines created to manipulate the vote if anybody would be able to inspect the precompiled source code.

Mrs. Yang then told him, "You don’t understand, in order to get the contract we have to hide the manipulation in the source code. This program is needed to control the vote in South Florida." [emphasis in affidavit]
So, for your consideration…a whistleblower whose complaint about his employer led to the outing of a Chinese spy and the revelations of bilking the state of Florida out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, also admits having designed a voter fraud program to be used in Florida at the request of a Florida politician who was once the running mate of the President’s brother and now sits on the Judiciary Committee.

Now ask yourself—why haven’t we ever heard the name Clint Curtis on the news?

Or, for that matter, the name Raymond Lemme.

4. Lemme was the aforementioned investigator from the Florida Inspector General's office who was assigned to Curtis’ case, and who, according to Curtis, said during a 2003 meeting that he (Lemme):
"had tracked the corruption 'all the way to the top' and that the story would break in the next few weeks and I would be satisfied with the results."

On July 1, 2003 -- just two weeks later -- Raymond Camillo Lemme was found dead in a bathtub, with his arm slashed twice with a razor blade near the left elbow in Room #132 of the Knights Inn motel in Valdosta, Georgia; a border-town some 80 miles from Tallahassee, Florida where Lemme lived and worked.
Lemme’s death was ruled a suicide. It is worth noting that Florida requires mandatory autopsies for suicides. Georgia, however, does not.

5. This prompted the reopening of the case by Georgia authorities:
[G]raphic and disturbing photos from the crime scene -- said in the original police report to have not existed due to a failure in the camera's "flash memory cards" -- have recently been published on the web!

[…]

The legitimacy of the photographs was confirmed by a spokesman from the Valdosta police. Capt. Brian K. Childress of Valdosta's Professional Standards Unit told us in our original conversation with him that, "the flash card initially did fail" but that they were able to recover them after they "reopened the case due to interest on the Internet."

"We recovered the photos with some software and were eventually able to get them," he told us, "sometime late last year around December." (Our original story on Curtis was published December 6th last year.)
Uh huh. Okay.

6. And this prompted the reclosing of the case by Georgia authorities:
Despite inconsistencies in the photos and other evidence that would seem to conflict with information in the police report, Childress informed us that while the case was re-opened last December after our original report, it was closed quickly thereafter.

"We spoke to someone at the Florida Department of Transportation," he explained, "and then closed the case again. It was either late '04 or early '05."
Who at the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) would have the authority to tell another state to close a case file on a possible murder? And why would they exercise that authority?

FDOT was brought as a client by Tom Feeney to YEI, who then proceeded to rip of FDOT, of which YEI was found guilty, based on the testimony of one of their employees, whose case was being investigated by a man whose subsequent suspicious death was not to be scrutinized per orders from someone at FDOT. What the fuck?!

Brad, who’s still trying to get answers, sums it up thusly:
[T]he continuing veracity of Curtis' claims, along with the continuing and documented collapse in credibility of both Feeney and YEI in this matter, have continued to give us reason to believe that some very bad people may well have done some very bad things. The reopening of the case in Valdosta, the sudden appearance of the photographs, the quick re-closure of the case after FDOT officials intervened, and the odd behavior of the Valdosta Police have added a newsworthiness to this element of the story, such that we are no longer able to keep from reporting it. As much as we truly might have liked to.
I agree completely, which is why I’m sharing the story here. Nothing was ever so rotten in the state of Denmark.

(But go read Brad’s more detailed post, too , as he has sections on the inconsistencies in evidence, the departure from the force of the investigating officer in Lemme’s death, and the stonewalling with which he’s being met as he tries to get answers to the numerous questions surrounding this case.)

People ask where are the Woodwards and Bernsteins of today. Well, we’ve found them—they’re called Brad, Aravosis, Susan G… The only difference between them and W&B is that it’s a lot harder for them to get their stories into the Washington Post. They need our help. We pushed Gannon into the mainstream media; now it’s time to do the same with Clint Curtis. Let’s go.


Laugh out loud time -- "You Wish"

by Pam



via Sully, hat tip to Oddjob.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Log Cabin couldn't wait to get back in bed with Bush

by Pam


Log Cabin's Political Director Christopher Barron has sipped the Bush Kool-Aid.

What a bunch of fools -- what does it take for them to see the light after this last election cycle? While they watch their party trash gays and lesbians, the deluded Log Cabin Repugs sign onto Bush's Social Security destruction plan. Their feeble reasoning is that it presents "an opportunity" for gay folks since you can will your private investment accounts to a partner, whereas traditional Social Security cannot.

Look people, the followers of Chimpy would love to recriminalize homosexuality, ensure you can be fired from a job, never adopt kids, and most certainly make the idea of getting married disappear. I think that's a tad more important than the backing the President's shell game on Social Security. (Log Cabin group backs Bush reform):
A gay Republican group that vehemently opposes President Bush's attempts to ban same-sex marriage has hired a top lobbying firm to back an administration effort it does support, Social Security private accounts.

...Christopher Barron, Log Cabin's political director, said the promise of Social Security reforms in the 109th Congress prompted the group to increase its profile on Capitol Hill. Barron, who wouldn't disclose how much the Log Cabin Republicans would spend on lobbying this year, said the possibility of private Social Security accounts provides a "tremendous opportunity for gay and lesbian couples.

That's so because when married heterosexuals die they can pass on Social Security benefits to their spouses but gay people cannot. Money accrued by participation in private accounts could be willed to one partner, however, even if gay men and women can't legally marry. "The ownership society that the president has talked about is empowering to gays and lesbians," Barron said, referring to the president's push to give Americans more control over their financial assets through a series of measures, such as Social Security reform or private health savings accounts."
Just so they know, the Freepers had their own reaction to the LCR cozying to the Chimperor...

Actual Freeper Quotes™

"The reason why I am posting this article is because DUers have said they will lurk here and post it on our forum because they know how anti-Gay we are. I hate the idea of a DUer troll posting something and drooling to see what our response will be. They think we will oppose Bush's plan because this group is for it. Freepers don't act like spoiled children - DUers do!"

"Since black conservative Republicans are not really black (according to black "leaders"), who from the left will step forward and claim that the LC Republicans are not really gay?"

"I wish they'd haul their logs over to the DemocRAT Party where they truly belong."

"I agree. The only reason that this group exist is to infiltrate the Republican party in an attempt to influence the party policy on thier agenda." [He also posted this link: Ex-Houston man jailed for killing Fla. deputy; Kenneth P. Wilk headed Houston Log Cabin club but was impeached]


Peachy Keen

by Shakespeare's Sister

Read this and this at Pam’s House Blend, and recall my post earlier in the week, You Can’t Claim to Love America if You Hate Americans, which focused on, among other things, the re-emerging white supremacist movement.

Well, I’m sick of it. I’m tired of foolish and deadly things being done by my country, crazy and hateful things being done by people of my sexuality to people of other sexualities, and white people who just can’t get along with anyone else and give all the rest of us a bad name. So I'm formally renouncing my whiteness. From now on, I am officially "kinda peachy." Any other Kinda Peachies who would like to join me are welcome*. The only requirement is that you will never utter the term "Kinda Peachy Power!" or hold the view that people of any other color are inherently inferior to you (including white folks, because there are plenty of good ones out there who don't make the news). And you gotta be flawed but inimitably diggable, baby.

As for me, I’m a fat, broke, godless, underachieving, overeducated, opinionated Kinda Peachy honorary dyke and raging red state liberal who’s married to an immigrant, still smokes an occasional cigarette, likes to say fuck a lot, and believes that everyone has the right to be just as fucked-up and as inordinately happy as I am.

You got a problem with that?

---------------------------------------
*Offer open to all races, creeds, colors, and nationalities, even those who aren't really kinda peachy at all; it should be noted that "peachy" was primarily selected for its double meaning.


Yes, I'm sure this "white racialist" moron just wants to send fed judges greeting cards

by Pam


Judge Joan Lefkow's picture was posted on Hal Turner's web site with the caption, "Gotcha." Nice.

While an inordinate amount of time and effort is being spent to boot gays out of the military, and to pass marriage amendments, you'd think there might be a better use of our tax dollars to fight terrorism. Domestic terrorism. We've got a home-grown threat to our way of life that you'd think would be a priority, given the level of animus toward our judicial system. However, you don't see the AmTaliban losing sleep over the kind of hate and violence being encouraged by people like Hal Turner. (NBC5):
A self-described "white racialist" Internet author is soliciting the addresses of three judges who ruled against white supremacist Matthew Hale, one week after the family of a federal judge was murdered.

One week ago, federal judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow's husband and mother were found murdered in her home. Lefkow is now under federal protection. There have been more than 600 tips to a special police hot line on the Lefkow case, while there have been more than 30 calls to "America's Most Wanted" television show, which featured the case this weekend.

On his Web site, Hal Turner makes references to all three 7th Circuit judges who ruled against Hale in a trademark solicitation case, NBC5's Phil Rogers reported. He then asks readers to provide their home addresses. Turner said he wanted the judges' addresses to apply pressure to them through protests, mail or other external means for their rulings.

"I can understand why people might think that's something to be concerned about," Turner said. "But certainly, I have no malicious intent -- I do not intend to hurt the judges or incite any harm to the judges, but have you to have faith in the American people."

The FBI is investigating Turner, Rogers reported, and paid a visit to him last week.

Turner's Web site is loaded with references to other judges who have been the subject of violence. Turner's Web site has posted a photo of Lefkow with the caption "Gotcha." Turner said he has the judges' addresses, but doesn't know if he will post him on the Web site.
Hal Turner is right up there with Fred Phelps in terms of intolerance and hate. I sullied my keyboard by going to his extremely low-rent web site (I'm not going to point you there; you can Google it yourself) and it's just disgusting. He proclaims that he covers "News & Commentary that the 'Mainstream' won't touch." Here's a taste of his "commentary":


FEDERAL JUDGE GETS EXTRA PROTECTION AFTER HUSBAND AND MOTHER SHOT TO DEATH "EXECUTION STYLE"

Hope you think your job was worth what it seems to have cost you.

If, as authorities suspect, the killer is related to the pro-white group formerly known as "World Church of The Creator" then every other federal Judge in America should take a good hard look at how they treat white nationalists from now on; especially since these killings took place on the anniversary of the federal raid on the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX! White people are tired of being pushed around by the government. We are slow to anger, but when we reach our limit, it isn't pretty.

and...

The killing of a federal Judge's family is going to have a "chilling effect" on other government officials. Sure, the cops and feds will tell government officials they are safe, but nothing can change the fact that the family of a federal judge is dead. Murdered. Brutally murdered! Other government people know this and they will be scared. They will be hesitant to do anything to a "Pro-white" for fear of the same thing happening to them or their family. The government can't allow that. The only way to allay those fears is for a MASSIVE show of force against pro-white people by law enforcement. MASSIVE!!! It won't work, but they'll try anyway.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, "Turner is the maestro of radio hate - a man who rants about a "Portable Nigger Lyncher" machine, "faggots," "savage Negro beasts," "bull-dyke lesbians" and "lazy-ass Latinos ... slithering across the border."

I'd say he and the Rotting Cryptkeeper are bed buddies, alright. This moron clearly has a right to spew this crap, but you have to wonder, where are the condemnations of this kind of nonsense from the Right? The tone doesn't fall under the category of "love thy neighbor" -- the silence from the Christian conservatives is deafening.

BTW, Turner also had a radio show, which went off the air due to "health and financial troubles." He's raising money to start it up again. SPLC notes that Turner's unspecified illness always seemed to worsen when the bills came due.

Email: HalTurnerShow @ Netscape.net

***

Bonus filth: more that Turner has up on his site. Tell me this isn't fomenting domestic terrorism...
SAVAGE NEGRO BEAST BRUTALLY ATTACKS WHITE MAN IN PIZZA RESTAURANT

Filthy Nigger woman starts outburst by yelling, screaming and then SPITTING ON white people, when fat nigger buck attacks. Cowardly, brainwashed white people do NOTHING as their fellow white is attacked. I suggest retaliatory attacks by whites against blacks. In fact, I think a full day of violence against blacks to celebrate my birthday on March 15 would be a really nice thing. Maybe call it "Beat The Blacks Day" complete with lynchings, church burnings, drive-by shootings and bombings to put these sub-human animals back in their place? Violence by blacks against whites is reaching epidemic proportions; we must fight back!


Monday, March 07, 2005

Taxpayers Pay for Wal-Mart's "Low Road"

by Pam

Facing South, the blog of the progressive Institute for Southern Studies, has some sobering stats on how the taxpayer is subsidizing Wal-Mart's ability to profit off of its workers' low wages and pitiful benefits. Yes, that's how they achieve those "falling prices."

State and local governments already entice corporations to set up shop -- to the tune of over $1 billion -- by giving incentives and tax breaks. Companies like Wal-Mart are then double-dipping into our pockets by forcing its poverty-level employees into state-funded health plans. This is evil.
Wal-Mart -- one of the biggest and most profitable companies in the world -- is forcing taxpayers to underwrite the costs of their business to the tune of billions of dollars.

Good Jobs First, an excellent advocacy group for "high road" development, has released a survey about how many workers and their families are forced onto Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Programs in different states to make up for Wal-Mart's dead-end jobs. Some disturbing results from the South:
ALABAMA: The Montgomery Advertiser found in February 2005 that families of Wal-Mart workers are the top dependents on Medicaid. 3,864 children of Wal-Mart employees depend on Medicaid for health insurance. The next highest company, McDonald's, has 1,615 employee's children on the program.

FLORIDA: In December 2004, the Tallahassee Democrat revealed that 50,000 workers and their dependents rely on Medicaid for health insurance. McDonald's was the worst culprit in the Sunshine State, with 1,792 claims filed. Wal-Mart had 756.

GEORGIA: 10,261 children of Wal-Mart workers rely on PeachCare for Kids, the state's program for low-income families, according to a February 2004 report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

TENNESSEE: 25% of Wal-Mart workers in Tennesse are enrolled in TennCare, the state's health plan for the poor and uninsured, according to a January 2005 investigation by the Memphis Commercial Appeal. That's 9,617 employees.

WEST VIRGINIA: The Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail revealed last December that 452 Wal-Mart workers in the state have children dependent on the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the most of any company.
(Note: this isn't just a Southern thing, of course. The survey also looks at reports out of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin. And I notice a story out today showing that 845 Wal-Mart employees in Iowa rely on Medicaid for health insurance.)

Most disturbing of all is that Wal-Mart is driving up public assistance caseloads at the very time state lawmakers are demanding sharp cuts in these programs. For example, Tennessee's excellent TennCare program is under assault due to rising costs (in part caused by Wal-Mart and kindred companies), with proposed cuts that could strip thousands of health coverage.

There's more where that came from.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

You Can't Claim to Love America if You Hate Americans

by Shakespeare's Sister

The tired conservative contention that liberals hate America is never supported by anything other than vague allusions to alleged contempt for things that aren’t even uniquely American (the free market) or historically accurate (the founding of the country on Judeo-Christian principles), and by deliberately misconstruing legitimate philosophical differences (believing national security is bolstered by strong global alliances) to attempt to frame them as somehow traitorous.

But between a conservative agenda that seeks to undermine protections for average Americans such as Social Security and the 40-hour work week, and the increasing visibility of shockingly rancorous conservative hate groups, I think there is mounting reason to ask the question why so many conservatives seem to hate Americans.


Topeka-based anti-gay protestors show up in Cleveland


Topeka group goes to Dover


The leader of the Topeka group, crypt keeper Fred Phelps


More anti-gay protesters


Neo-Nazis rally in D.C.


The Neo-Nazi group National Alliance takes their message roadside


Protestors show a unique brand of ignorance while hurling insults at undocumented workers who were promoting their reform agenda


A member of the National Socialist Movement, which calls for a "greater America" that would deny citizens to Jews, nonwhites, and homosexuals

That these extreme attitudes are becoming mainstream conservative values is evidenced by the frequency with which polarizing figures such as Pat Buchanan are becoming regarded as reasonable spokesmen of the conservative movement. Pat Buchanan is a regular conservative commentator on a variety of news shows, despite his appalling attitudes on gays and lesbians:
The poor homosexuals -- they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution.

-- discussing AIDS in 1983, quoted from Political Amazon's "Quotes from Hell"
civil rights:

[For President Nixon to visit King's widow on the anniversary of King's assassination because it would] outrage many, many people who believe Dr. King was a fraud and a demagogue and perhaps worse.... Others consider him the Devil incarnate. Dr. King is one of the most divisive men in contemporary history.

-- while working as a White House adviser to Nixon, reported in the New York Daily News, October 1, 1990, quoted from Political Amazon's "Quotes from Hell"
the Holocaust:

[Despite Hitler's anti-Semitic and genocidal tendencies, he was] an individual of great courage.... Hitler's success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.

-- in a 1977 column, The Guardian, January 14, 1992, quoted from Political Amazon's "Quotes from Hell"
and women:
Rail as they will about "discrimination," women are simply not endowed by nature with the same measures of single-minded ambition and the will to succeed in the fiercely competitive world of Western capitalism.

-- November 22, 1983, quoted from Political Amazon's "Quotes from Hell"
Even the bow-tied broadcaster Tucker Carlson, not known for being inflammatory nearly as much as being stupid and annoying, has an abysmal record:
While co-hosting Crossfire, Carlson referred to crossdressing as a "Democratic value" (7/16/03); accused Begala of being homophobic for pointing out that Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) was a cheerleader at the University of Mississippi (9/25/02); regularly made snide remarks about the transgendered community being a constituency of the Democratic Party; and mocked outreach by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) community. Regarding goals to increase GLBT delegate representation at the Democratic National Convention, which Carlson ridiculed, he said, "And if you don't find them at least mildly funny, you're probably a Democrat," while falsely claiming the efforts included the establishment of quotas (5/19/04).
The truth of the matter is, conservatives hate lots and lots of Americans—anyone who isn’t like them, or fails to share their condemnation of people who aren’t like them. Liberals may be roundly perplexed and frustrated by Americans who seem to vote against their own best interests, but when was the last time card-carrying ACLU members were seen marching down Main Street Red State America after a devastating flood, carrying signs declaring that Mother Nature had gotten her revenge against those who sought to pollute her with the exhaust of their behemoth SUVs? It just doesn’t happen.

We need to get tough and brutally honest in our response each time we’re accused of hating America from here on out. We don’t hate America, and we don’t hate Americans, either…but we’re damn sure our accusers can’t say the same.


The 40th anniversary of Selma's Bloody Sunday and its role in the Voting Rights Act

by Pam


Bloody Sunday in Selma Alabama. (1965, AP)

I was two when this Selma occurred, but I know how much people sacrificed to ensure I could cast my vote. I know how much the events in Selma changed the South, in its perception of itself, as well as the rest of the country's perception of the region. We're still playing out those differences today, in the incredible divide that has grown politically that we now discuss abstractly as Red and Blue. It's good to take a look back and the progress and the work that remains. (Montgomery Advertiser)
Albert Southall still gets emotional when he remembers that bloody day 40 years ago.

Southall, 58, was just one of the hundreds of people from across the nation to converge on downtown Selma on Saturday for the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. The atmosphere in the small town was cheerful as people celebrated the progress black Southerners have made since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the fight for civil rights.

...Underneath all the cheer, however, remain the memories of what happened on March 7, 1965. That was the day Alabama State Troopers and Dallas County Sheriff's deputies used billy clubs, tear gas and cattle prods to stop a group of about 600 black Alabamians and supporters from marching to Montgomery in a bid for voting rights. "They turned us around 'cause they said we didn't have a permit to demonstrate," Southall said. "It was eerie when we crossed the (Edmund Pettus) bridge and saw all those troopers, the dogs, the horses. We were ready, but you can't really get ready for something like that."

After issuing warnings to the crowd to disperse, the troopers blasted the marchers with tear gas. "The tear gas is what did it," Southall said. "Tear gas makes you feel like you're going to die. Everybody panicked...."I got a cattle prod," Southall said, pointing to an area around his upper rear thigh. "It was like somebody shook your body to the bones."

The ACLU's release on the anniversary notes that five months after "Bloody Sunday," Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. The act put an end to poll taxes, literacy tests, and other discriminatory barriers commonly faced by black voters. The increase in the number of black elected officials as a result of the act is staggering -- from 300 in 1964 to over 9,100 today. That is progress to celebrate, even as there is much work to be done.

Elected officials that attended a ceremony marking the anniversary are keenly aware that the people that lived through those times, the ones that can speak first-hand about the experiences, are passing on. To keep the importance of this landmark civil rights event in our collective cultural mind requires teaching future generations about what happened and why. It's frightening, as you'll see a bit below, that our President is one of those people that requires education on this.


From left, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., U.S. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of Cincinnati, Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson, D-Texas, lay a wreath at the Southern Poverty Law Center's Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery on Saturday. (via Mongomery Advertiser)

(Mongomery Advertiser):
[U.S. Rep.] John Lewis, who has led the delegation to Alabama for the past several years, suffered a concussion on March 7, 1965, when Alabama State Troopers and Dallas County Sheriff's deputies routed 600 activists who had tried to march to the Capitol to see Gov. George Wallace.

...."We're down the road for sure, but we're not at the end yet," said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who was making his third trip with Lewis to Alabama. "I brought four high school students from my district with me." Upton was 10 when Bloody Sunday occurred, but it made an impression on him that remains strong. "Until Selma, the country didn't wake up," he said. "The congressman from my district who served during the '60s actually voted against the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts."

Upton said the Voting Rights Act is set to expire in two years, but predicted that bipartisan support will help secure a 10-year extension "if not a permanent extension."
Folks should note that Reagan was aware of its importance and ratified its extension, as did President Ford and Chimpy's father -- George H.W. Bush.



Where is Chimpy on this? Well, "Houston, we have a problem." I posted on this back in January, when columnist Clarence Page wrote about the unbelievable response from the Chimperor when members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other leaders asked him about renewal of the Act.
According to various eyewitnesses at a private meeting in the White House Cabinet Room last week, the president was characteristically cordial, yet remarkably non-committal in responding to a wide range of questions, mostly about racial disparities concerning such issues as employment, education, health care and legal rights. But the most "mind-boggling moment," in the words of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), came after Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) asked the president, "Do we have your support in extending and strengthening the 1965 Voting Rights Act when it comes up for renewal in 2007?"

The president responded, according to witnesses, in a way that made caucus jaws drop: He did not know enough about that particular law to respond to it, he said, and that he would deal with the legislation when it comes up.

People that wish to exercise their right to vote today may not have state troopers beating on them with billy clubs or blasting tear gas, but we're certainly facing a whole lot of high-tech chicanery that has effectively made casting a vote an uncertain proposition (see The Brad Blog's tireless work on 2004's election fraud and mistabulation).

The irony is that "race", an artificial construct created to ensure political and economic power remains in the hands of the dominant culture, is just as important today, sad to say, but the conflict manifests itself in different ways. Bull Connor's dogs may not be nipping at folks' heels, but the "driving/voting/shopping/walking/hailing a taxi while black" phenomenon is alive and well in many parts of the country, Red and Blue.

BTW, I've personally experienced the "shopping while black" and 'hailing a taxi while black" variations on the above theme -- and those happened while I lived in NYC. My friend Carole (she's black) and her husband Dave (he's white) and I would play this game where Carole and I would step out and watch cab after cab go by, not stopping. He would then step out and BOOM. One would pull right over. Then we'd all hop in.

I was followed by a shopowner in a green grocer in NY as I went down the aisles browsing (I was dressed up, no less, because we had just gone out to a Broadway show). I turned and asked her if she had a problem, and she said no, she had just had problems with shoplifting recently, and then she skulked off. That may not be violence, but it's the kind of bullsh*t that could eat at your self-worth over time if you don't have your head on straight.

One has to commend Coretta Scott King for her strong support of gay rights, but there are way too many in the community, well aware of Selma, that see the struggle of gays and lesbians not to be fired from jobs, to serve in the military and to marry, as invalid, siding with the Religious Right. You've got self-loathing blacks cozying up to the GOP (see our friends at Project 21), and advisers to Dr. King like Walter Fauntroy holding press conferences with Rick Santorum in support of FMA.

That's progress, huh?


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Give Me Quality, or Give Me Death

by Shakespeare's Sister

Majikthise has an interesting, and comprehensive, post on the myths about the Terri Schiavo case. (If you’re not familiar with it, the short story is that Terri is a woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, and her parents are trying to keep her alive, while her husband is fighting to let her die, which is what he says she wanted.)

I personally believe that Terri should be allowed to die. Those who are in a permanent vegetative state do not have any higher cognitive function, which frankly, seems like a blessing, as having self-awareness while trapped inside a totally nonfunctional body seems a fate worse than death.

This case seems to pit those who believe we should have the right to die with dignity at our own choosing, should we be faced with a terminal affliction (barring extraordinary measures) that allows no chance of recovery, with those who believe in a right to life at all costs—that "culture of life" our president (who signed the execution orders on over 100 people while governor of Texas) is so keen on talking about. However, what’s always missing, it seems, from right to life arguments is the concept of quality of life. Is a child that would be born into a life of atrocious abuse, for example, really better off being born? Is a person who will suffer endlessly until an inevitable death really better being off forced to endure unrelenting agony until their final day?

Quality of life means something; that’s what “pursuit of happiness” is all about. In a perfect world, parents who have no will or ability to properly care and love a child would give it up for adoption into a suitable home, and the practice of medicine would be so exact as to never leave anyone hanging in an earthly purgatory between life and death. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and so we must be responsible in our approaches to managing that imperfection.

In a perfect world, the gift of life should always be the answer, but in the flawed world in which we live, sometimes it isn’t.


Friday, March 04, 2005

A Consensus for Good Government

by Shakespeare's Sister

Digby has a great post about finding (perhaps, rediscovering) the American consensus, which is "the mainstream majority belief in liberalism that held that the government should actively expand 'to new frontiers' to promote the welfare of its citizens." His examination of the loss of the American consensus, and his call for liberals to find it again, dovetails nicely with my recent piece, A Liberal Argument, in which I suggested that we must somehow move voters beyond voting purely out of self-interest. Digby says:
The difference between Republicans and Democrats isn't about who cares more for the people. All politicians say they care about the people and the people are always justifiably skeptical. The difference between us is how we believe the good of the people is best achieved and liberals have a fundamentally different philosophy than the Republicans. Government is our preferred method to advance progressive ideals. Capitalism cannot substitute for a democratic government that answers to all the people. The invisible hand doesn’t give a shit if children starve or old people have to work until they are eighty or if half the country has to work at slave wages to support the other half. Only government can guarantee its citizens the equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that progress toward that end requires that the government be active and engaged in delivering those things.
I said:

The way to get past that inequality is not to constantly try to reframe each argument individually, because there are some, like the example offered, that just aren’t ever going to be able to compete with the delicious simplicity and immediacy of the counterargument. Instead, we must lead the nation away from self-interest; we are all dependent upon each other in infinite ways and it is our obligation to remind the electorate of the importance of such interconnectedness. No man is an island. So said John Donne, and so should we say. We are in this thing together, and our policies are geared to ensure that no man is ever left adrift on his own, without a safety net, without the help he needs, without a community. To vote purely out of self-interest is to turn one’s back on the belief that there is a social conscience to be nurtured for the benefit of us all.

Just as capitalism cannot substitute for a democratic government that answers to all the people, a government that relieves itself of the obligation to ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by allowing a social Darwinist free-for-all among its masses isn’t exactly an appealing option, either. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it should be increasingly obvious to everyone by this point that as government shirks its duties, leaving industry to self-regulate, allowing religious groups to discriminate if it’s necessary for maintaining their identities, refusing to strengthen legal protections of groups targeted for hate crimes, encouraging citizens to patrol the borders, etc. etc. etc., that “the People” can’t handle the responsibility of picking up the government’s slack. Of course they can’t—the People are dicks.

We have always needed government for good reason, but without the American consensus, that there was once goodness in government is becoming ever more difficult to recall.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Big Brass Blog and Freepers agree: Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is an indecency dumb*ss

by Pam


Ted Stevens says sex toy discussions gives him the willies.

The world must be coming to an end - the knuckle-draggers in Freeperland actually have an issue I can get on board with. At this point and time, we've got such over-reaching by Washington in the area of "indecency" that wingnuts are freaking out. Lawmakers want to extend broadcast standards to cable television and satellite television and radio to "protect the children." I'm telling you, the internet is next. If they ever find a way to police this venue, our collective ass is grass.

"Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area. I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over-the-air" broadcasters...There has to be some standard of decency."
-- Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK)

"Taliban Ted should resign from the Senate and find a more appropriate place to be a censor -- like Alabama or Saudi Arabia."
--Actual Freeper Quote
(Reuters):
Stevens cited the discussion of masturbation and sex toys during prime time television as one example of content that bothered him. He told reporters he would extend the restrictions to premium channels like HBO as well.

"If we can work out the constitutional questions, I'd be supportive of that," [House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe] Barton of Texas told reporters later at the conference. "I think they ought to play, to the extent possible, by the same rules."

... Stevens disputed assertions by the cable industry that Congress cannot impose limits on its content. "If that's the issue they want to take on, we'll take it on and let the Supreme Court decide."

Note that our freshly minted Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, has the elimination of porn on his mind too.