Wednesday, November 30, 2005

An Example of the "War on Christmas"

by TheGreenKnight

Here's an illustrative story from Novi, Michigan. In brief, the facts are these: the Samona family put a light-up plastic creche on their lawn, and their homeowners association asked them to remove it. The stated reason was that the subdivision rules forbade the display of lawn ornaments without prior approval of the board of directors.

The family thought this decision was a violation of their rights as property owners and their rights of expression and of religion, hired a law center that took their case pro bono, got a writeup in the local news, and received a lot of local support. After a few weeks, the homeowners association backed off, offered a formal apology, and decided that its rules only apply to permanent statues, not temporary or seasonal ones.

So, it was a quick kerfuffle -- a dumb mistake on the homeowners' association's part. But it was quickly resolved, and resulted in the correct decision. Furthermore, most people polled see the issue as one of basic rights that apply to all religions and cultures. The Detroit News ran a poll with the following question: Would you be bothered if a neighbor displayed Hindu, Buddhist or Islamic religious symbols on their lawns during their holy days? Here are the results:

So, all the facts say that this was just a dumb, briefly resolved matter that came out the right way, and which doesn't have to do with Christmas or Christianity specifically. Yes? But look how some people are reacting to it anyway:
"I'm totally outraged that this association is asking this family to do this," [Rachel] Korth said. "It's very, very disturbing that we live in a country that was founded on Christian principles and there is such a war going on that is trying to destroy those principles."

Kevin Cooper, a 51-year-old financial analyst from Trenton said the incident shows that Americans' rights are being taken away. "You don't see them pulling down the American flag on every house or these Halloween displays. It's a bunch of garbage," Cooper said.

Linda White said people who are offended by a display that goes up once a year should put blinders on and move forward. "These people aren't hurting anybody. They are just showing their beliefs. Please let these people know we support them," White of Canton Township said.
Now, I don't like to beat up on ordinary people. But what these three people say is so illustrative of right-wing talking points and their disconnect from reality that they're worth commenting on.

First, contrary to what Ms Korth says, nobody was trying to destroy anybody's principles. The fight was over the interpretation of a zoning regulation. The matter, furthermore, was quickly and unambiguously resolved in favor of the family's principles.

Second, contrary to what Mr Cooper says, the incident actually shows that Americans' rights are secure. The family's rights were, after all, upheld. They won, without spending a dime, in a matter of weeks, with massive community support.

Third, contrary to what Ms White says, nobody said they were offended by the display. The board said that it was a violation of zoning regulations. They realized their error, especially in light of the fact that Halloween displays a couple of months before had gone up and come down without comment, and they backed off and apologized.

It may be that the precipitating factor was somebody being offended; more likely it was somebody on the board who'd been so freaked out by the "war on Christmas" myth that they decided they'd better step on this religious display quick before the Big Bad ACLU came to get them. Not that the ACLU would bother; more likely they'd defend the family's property rights. But however that may be, the real point is that the family won handily and even got an apology.

If this is a war, it's pretty one-sided. So put up that creche, menorah, or whatever you like. You're going to be just fine.



O'Reilly Has Officially Flipped

by TheGreenKnight

I know, that's not exactly news. But if anything is delusional, it's this:
George Soros and Peter Lewis are the far-left, secular progressive billionaires who have funded -- they pour money into the ACLU, they pour money into the smear websites, you know, they buy up a lot of the media time.... Now, the ACLU is their legal arm, and the smear websites are their media arm.....

And in tandem, you use your left-wing smear websites to go after anybody who stands up for Christmas. If you stand up for Christmas, they come after you. So the tandem intimidates. The tandem intimidates. Suing on one hand; smearing on the other hand.
It's not just his wrong idee fixe that Christmas is under attack. That's not the wacky part. The really wacky part is his idea that the left is anything like as well funded and organized as he says here.

For one thing, what is it with right-wingers and George Soros? The obsession they've got with him is just bizarre. Some troll even once accused me of being funded by him. Me. With my low-traffic free Blogger site that I run in my spare time and my free Haloscan commenting and my free graphics provided by a friend (thanks, Dark Wraith). Honestly, I should be so lucky. And I've never even heard of Peter Lewis.

Also, the web sites that O'Reilly tends to complain about the most, like Media Matters, basically just quote him verbatim. Sometimes they offer editorial commentary, but more often they just provide direct quotations -- as in the case I've blockquoted above.

Finally, if the left really were as well-funded and organized as O'Reilly seems to think it is, it would actually be running the US government instead of, you know, not. And it would not waste its time attacking Christmas.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.


CUT AND RUN WITH IT

by The Heretik

George_bush_113005_the_heretik

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED again. As poll numbers fall as Iraqis stand up, we will run as fast as we can we will stand down. Victory kind of is ours. Do not look at that request for yet more money the man behind the curtain.

"I want my poll numbers to go up our troops to come home, but I don't want them to come home without having achieved partisan advantage at home without victory," he [Bus] said in brief comments to reporters in El Paso during a visit to the Mexican border. "And we've got a strategy I have never been able to clearly state before for victory." The president was describing another delusional fantasy he will engage in a speech he plans to give Wednesday at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

GEORGE BUSH BROKE Iraq. How much longer will we have to buy it? Those who have been disturbed by reports of the Shia kicking the shia out of the Sunnis may find small solace in a key Reagan retro approach to the insurgents Donald Rumsfeld can’t even call insurgents.

A senior administration official said Mr. Bush's ultimate goal, to which he assigned no schedule, is to move to a "smaller, more lethal" American force that "can be just as successful."
It is unclear how much of that vision Mr. Bush will explicitly describe Wednesday, in the first of four speeches about the Iraqi transition that he plans to give before the election of a long-term Iraqi government on Dec. 15.

IT IS UNCLEAR because as Bush struggles to clean up his political mess at home, we will engage in dirty war abroad. The predicted death squads are already there. Because Bush seeks political relief at home in no way means he is giving up on his goals in Iraq and the Middle East. The apparent war will become smaller in forces and its downsides smaller in the American consciousness. Mission Accomplished not yet.

FROM THE REVISED RUMSFELD BOOK OF REVELATIONS [NY Times]

"Our problem is that any time something needs to be done, we have a feeling we should rush in and fill the vacuum and do it ourselves. You know what happens when you do that?
"First of all, you can't do it, because it's not our country. It's their country. And the second thing that happens is they don't develop the skills and the ability and the equipment and the orientation and the habit patterns of doing it for themselves. They have to do it for themselves."

STEVE SOTO HAS SOME pointed analysis. Rumsfeld is the enemy of straight talk.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING
RESISTANCE IS FUTILE or language languishes when Marines and Iraqi’s agree on “withdrawal.” Yeah, we all want that, but the war of words over what “the resistance” means shoots back and forth [WaPo]

"We all want the withdrawal," Nasir Abdul Karim, leader of Anbar province's Albu Rahad tribe, told scores of the armed Marines and Sunni sheiks, clerical leaders and other elders at the gathering Monday in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad. "We all believe it is an illegitimate occupation, and it is a legitimate resistance."
"We're committed to withdrawing," responded Brig. Gen. James L. Williams of the 2nd Marine Division, "as soon as we have strong units" in the Iraqi army to replace U.S.-led forces. "I understand the resistance," Williams added, commenting later that he was referring to the peaceful opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq. "But you must understand we're military people. People who are shot at will shoot back."

WHO IS THE ENEMY and who is not will not be so cleanly defined as the war enters its dirty phase. Some will not be phased by that. But some most assuredly will be.

THE REWRITING IS NOW in progress. Bush speaks at the Naval Academy. (applause) Another tough audience. From the White House comes the plan on paper: National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. Olvier Willis: There’s really no concrete definition of victory here, still. California Yankee: Why a document like the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, assembling our strategy into a single unclassified document, has never been done before now escapes me. It was obviously something that should have been done long before now. [text of President's speech] [story] The new report says the U.S. strategy is working in Iraq, but victory will take time and many challenges remain.
Maha liveblogs: Lordy, he said we’ve turned a corner. He said that.

BUSH CITED LIEBERMAN in support of his policies. The Democrats must love this. Lieberman: Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. Greg Piper/ The Moderate Voice: Lieberman '08! The Heretik: God, no, oy!

VERY EARLY REAL DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE [AP] Even before Bush finished speaking, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid issued a statement claiming that Bush "recycled his tired rhetoric of 'stay the course' and once again missed an opportunity to lay out a real strategy for success in Iraq that will bring our troops safely home."

IF WE ARE OUT, WHO IS IN? Seeing the Forest has a good synopsis of James Fallow’s Why Iraq Has No Army? VIETNAM IRAQ! The Next Hurrah:Deja vu all over again.

The Heretik



Important Action Item: Support H.R. 550

by Shakespeare's Sister

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Nothing we do matters if we don’t have fair elections.

To that end, we owe a debt of gratitude to Congressman Rush Holt, who has introduced House Resolution 550, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005. The measure:

would require all voting machines to produce an actual paper record that voters can view to check the accuracy of their votes and that election officials can use to verify votes in the event of a computer malfunction, hacking, or other irregularity. Experts often refer to this paper record as a “voter-verified paper trail.”

“Anything of value should be auditable,” said Holt. “Votes are valuable, and each voter should have the knowledge—and the confidence—that his or her vote was recorded and counted as intended. Passage of this bill will be a big step in restoring that confidence, which is the very foundation of our democratic republic.”

[…]

Key provisions of the bill include:

~ Strengthening the HAVA current audit trail requirement – “a permanent paper record” – by requiring that the voters have the opportunity to verify the accuracy of the recorded vote.

~ Requiring that all voting systems produce a voter-verified paper record for use in manual audits, commencing in 2006 in accordance with HAVA’s original deadline. (Funding of $150 million is authorized to help states meet the cost of implementing this requirement.)

~ Preserving HAVA’s existing access requirements for voters with disabilities; clarifying and enhancing the security requirements demanded of systems to be used by voters with disabilities; and adding the requirement that an accessible voter-verification mechanism be provided.

~ Banning the use of undisclosed software and all wireless and concealed communications devices in voting systems, and prohibiting the connection of any voting machine component to the Internet.

~ Requiring random, unannounced, hand-count audits of the voter-verified paper records (conducted by the Election Assistance Commission) in 2% of all jurisdictions, including at least 1 precinct per county. Such funds as may be necessary are authorized to fund the expense of the audits.

~ Require manufacturers and election officials to document the chain of custody with respect to the handling of software; prohibit the use of software or software modifications that have not been certified or re-certified; and prohibit political and financial conflicts of interest among manufactures, test laboratories, and political parties.

~ Expands on HR 2239 (the version of the bill in the 108th Congress) by establishing procedures to be followed if there is a discrepancy between reported results and audit results, and preserving the rights of individuals and the Attorney General’s authority to pursue legal resolution of the discrepancies.
You can find additional information about H.R. 550 here.

Currently, H.R. 550 has 159 co-sponsors in the House, 9 of whom are Republican, and has been strongly endorsed by the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform, but it has been sitting in the House Administration Committee since it was introduced in February. The Committee is chaired by Bob Ney, who is currently facing a major ethics scandal for his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff and evidently has no interest in fair elections, either. It’s up to us to make sure this resolution gets the attention it deserves so it can make its way out of committee. This isn’t a partisan issue—everyone should be interested in fair elections with accountability.

This post is part of blogswarm launched today by DBK of Blanton and Ashton’s. His post is here. I encourage you, if you have you own blog, please participate in this important blogswarm, even if it’s just linking back to this post. And I encourage everyone to sign the petition in support of H.R. 550 here.


Steal that graphic. Sign the petition. Demand fair elections. Make your voice heard.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

O'Reilly shows us what Christmas is really about

by Pam



[UPDATE: Bill has lived up to his word and has started his "enemies list." See more at The Brad Blog, Shakes Sis and Huffington Post. ]

Via Think Progress. The piehole of Bill O'Reilly opens and the verbal diarrhea pours out. Since he believes that there is a "secular progressive agenda" to destroy the holiday (he's bunking with Rev Tinkywinky on that front), he decided to share the true meaning of Christmas with his audience last night...
Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable. More than enough reason for business to be screaming "Merry Christmas."

Featured prominently on his website is "The O’Reilly Christmas Store," where loyal Factor viewers can buy books, jackets, and coffee mugs featuring the right-wing commentator’s favorite slogans.
Video of the f*cker over at Media Matters.

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Musgrave gets her Chimp photo op today

by Pam


King Furious George sucks the forehead of homo-bigot US Representative Marilyn Musgrave, R-CO, after speaking at her fundraiser at Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, CO. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

He managed to make it all the way to the end of his prepared, stilted remarks to get to Marilyn's pet issue -- a federal marriage amendment. This event raked in $450K for this bigot.

Musgrave was recently named one of the ten most vulnerable Republican incumbents by former House Majority Leader Tom Delay's PAC, so it's no wonder Cheney swooped in last May, raising $200K to fill her coffers.
I'm also proud of the fact that she stands up for values that she thinks important. It's really important for the United States of America to promote a culture of life, to be a welcoming society -- (applause) -- to recognize the value of each person. Marilyn is a strong supporter of developing a culture of life. And she's a strong supporter of the sanctity of marriage -- (applause) -- who supported a constitutional amendment to make sure that activist judges do not redefine traditional marriage. And I'm proud of your support of that important piece of legislation, Marilyn. And the people of this district ought to send her back to Washington, D.C. because she shares the same values as most people in Colorado. (Applause.)
***

Also, the Chimperor spent a lot of time building up the "dark swarthy enemy" imagery in this speech. God, this writing is awful bullsh*t. The only people that could possibly tolerate this nonsense at this point are the hand-picked automaton event supporters. I'm just surprised that his staff can't come up with anything less hoary and tired to say than this.
We believe in the freedom of people to worship and speak their mind, the freedom of the press to print what they want. They believe in the opposite. They have a dark vision of the world. They have made their intentions clear. They want to establish a totalitarian empire that stretches from Spain to Indonesia. And one way for them to accomplish their objective is to drive us out of the Middle East, is to cause America to become isolated. It's not going to happen on my watch. (Applause.)

...This is an enemy that has declared their intentions in Iraq. They've got one weapon, by the way -- their ideology is so dark, nobody believes in it except for a handful, but they've got the capacity to kill innocent people and have those images on the TV screens around the world, all attempting to shake our will and to get us to retreat. They have stated openly their desire to do to Iraq what they did to Afghanistan, to convert that country into a safe haven so they can plan, plot and attack. We will defeat the enemy in Iraq. We will do our job to protect the American people. (Applause.)

The stakes are high, and it's important to have members of the United States Congress who understand that. Marilyn Musgrave understands that we're in a time of war.
Colorado Rep. Angie Paccione (D-Fort Collins) is her challenger (an earlier post is here); she expects to raise $100,000 by the end of this year.

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Khalilzad: Iraq War caused a mess

by STP

In this week's Newsweek, U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said:

"If we were to do a premature withdrawal, there could be a Shia-Sunni war here that could spread beyond Iraq. And you could have Iran backing the Shias and Sunni Arab states backing the Sunnis. You could have a regional war that could go on for a very long time, and affect the security of oil supplies.Terrorists could take over part of this country and expand from here. And given the resources of Iraq, given the technical expertise of its people, it will make Afghanistan look like child's play."

While Khalilzad is obviously making the point that an immediate and total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would be an enormous mistake, I saw some things in his remarks that should make any intelligent person stop to pause.

The discussion of the mistakes made in going to war in the first place cannot be forgotten just because we are in Iraq already. It is in the comments made by Khalilzad that one can find reasons to continue to question the competency of the Bush Administration's handling of foreign policy and justifies increasing concern over its ability to do what is best for United States' interests and the world's interests in Iraq.

What do I mean?

We attacked Iraq although there was clearly no legitimate evidence of WMDs or links to terrorism. Therefore, any messes in that country now are a direct result of our military activities there and must be labeled as causes of the many problems in that country.

Khalilzad voices concern over a potential Shia-Sunni conflict growing. There were no worries about that before we invaded. Khalilzad mentions a growing Iranian influence in Iraq. That would have been impossible before the invasion. He also discusses a potentially regional war developing from a starting point in Iraq that would threaten oil supplies. Lastly, Khalilzad tells us that terrorism would have a prime opportunity to flourish in Iraq, equipped with technical know-how in that country that would significantly increase our risks of a major terrorist strike involving WMDs. None of this was likely prior to our invasion of Iraq.

I favor the Murtha plan of pulling the troops out of Iraq and into a support position. However, doing this effectively, as well as using diplomacy to find assistance for that country, will take a great deal of skill and competence. Sadly, those making the decisions and leading the way are grossly over-matched to do the job. Nothing leads me to believe they are capable in even the smallest way to succeed in Iraq.

President Bush and his administration have led this nation into an abyss. They did so behind lies, faulty information and a blinding fervor for a needless military action. Too many U.S. soldiers have died as a result. Our national security has been seriously undermined and our position in the world drastically damaged.

Don't let anyone ever say Republicans are strong on foreign policy. What about Iraq is anything except gross incompetence? Oh, there are aspects of criminality, too, but you get my drift.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Purple People Eater

by TheGreenKnight

James Wolcott passes on this gem from William Bennett:
The continued drumbeat against the war in our culture, high and low, can only serve to hurt the morale of our soldiers and our allies -- including the Iraqis themselves. They, despite all we see and hear, are going to the polls next month -- for their third election in a year, each election being a remarkably courageous demonstration. So how do we show them our support? How do we let them -- and our soldiers -- know we stand with and behind them? Americans should start putting purple ink on their right index fingers the week before their Dec. 15 election.
It never ceases to amaze me, the power that people like Bennett see in the emptiest of gestures.

Likewise, I am always stunned by the fragility that they see in the hearts of "our soldiers and our allies." In a rare moment of lucidity last week, Christopher Hitchens noted the silliness of the claim
that anti-war criticism demoralizes "our men and women in uniform." I can't be absolutely sure of this, but the "men and women in uniform" whom I have met, and who have patrolled edgy slums and nasty borders, are unlikely to burst into tears when they hear that someone even in their home state doesn't think they can stand it.
Certainly none of the veterans, soldiers, sailors, or airmen that I've known are so delicate that the knowledge of dissent back home will make them burst into weeping, throw down their guns, and lose the heart to defend themselves, their buddies, or those they've sworn to protect. Likewise, I strongly suspect that if anything's hurting the morale of Iraqis, it's probably the constant violence they see every day, not what gets broadcast on some TV station half a world away in the United States.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.


CREW files IRS complaint about Daddy Dobson

by Pam



Yes! Via PageOne Q, most excellent news about the head of Focus on the Family getting the heat turned on him by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The complaint asks for the IRS to investigate activities by the group which may violate IRS regulations and require a revocation of its tax-exempt status.


Coburn, Ballantine.

Although barred from electioneering, Mr. Dobson has endorsed candidates for political office several times. In early April, 2004, Mr. Dobson endorsed Republican Representative Patrick J. Toomey in his race for Senate in Pennsylvania. In addition, it was reported that Mr. Dobson actively campaigned during a rally for Rep. Toomey. Other candidates that Mr. Dobson reportedly endorsed in 2004 include North Carolina Republican candidate Pat Ballantine for Govenor and Oklahoma Republican candidate Tom Coburn for Senate.

“Mr. Dobson’s egregious violations of IRS code demand an investigation into his improper activities that break both the spirit and the letter of IRS law,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today.



Recently, the IRS has actively pursued investigations against several perceived liberal groups. The IRS targeted the NAACP’s chairman Julian Bond for a July 2004 speech in which he criticized the Bush administration's policies on civil rights and the war in Iraq. [See my Blend posts here and here.]
This act is notable because the Bush administration has been threatening the tax-exempt status of a progressive church for simply holding sermons against war.
Additionally, the IRS has threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California because of an antiwar sermon there during the 2004 presidential election. In his sermon "If Jesus Debated Sen. Kerry and President Bush," the Rector Emeritus of the church, George Regas, never encouraged parishoners to vote for one candidate over another, but only to vote their deepest values.
Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


GOP Congressman Busted; Weeps and Begs for Forgiveness

by Shakespeare's Sister

I think I’m just going to save that headline and re-use it the once-a-month or so that it’s required.

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy and tax charges and tearfully resigned from office, admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to conspirators.
Uh-oh! Somebody call the wahhhhhhhhhmbulance for the newest Republican dickwit to shed some tears after getting busted for being a soulless criminal.

Cunningham, 63, entered pleas in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, and tax evasion for underreporting his income in 2004.

Cunningham answered "yes, Your Honor" when asked by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns if he had accepted bribes from someone in exchange for his performance of official duties.

Later, at a news conference, he wiped away tears as he announced his resignation.

"I can't undo what I have done but I can atone," he said.
Ahhh, atonement. The magical gift from the conservatives’ warmongering, homo-hating Jeebus*, washing away all manner of sin. Infidelity, embezzlement, drunk driving, gambling, draft-dodging, lying…I’m sure being reborn free and clear of any scarlet letters (no B for bribery, WF for wire fraud, TE for tax evasion, or MF for, ahem, mail fraud) is no problem with Jeebus on your side.

Cunningham's pleas came amid a series of GOP scandals. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas had to step down as majority leader after he was indicted in a campaign finance case; a stock sale by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is being looked at by regulators; and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff was indicted in the CIA leak case.
GOP: 4. Moral Values: 0.

-----------------

* Not to be confused with the peaceful philosopher and anti-poverty advocate known as Jesus.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Hollypops

by Shakespeare's Sister

I remember awhile ago reading an article about the stunning and inimitably interesting Liv Tyler, in which she recounted being told over and over that she was “too fat.” It was enough to make me want to scream on her behalf—and on behalf of all the women in the entertainment business who don’t have the wherewithal, luxury, self-esteem, or whatever it is that Tyler has that makes her respond to such insanity with a resolute, “Fuck off.”

Hardly a week goes by without Mr. Shakes or I gasping at a photo of some Hollywood starlet who suddenly looks as though she’s just escaped an internment camp, trading in womanly curves for jutting collarbones. The truly luscious Kate Winslet of Heavenly Creatures and (ugh) Titanic is now dreadfully thin. Joan Cusack looks absolutely scary in her new role as a skeletal pitchperson for some phone company. Christina Ricci looks likely to collapse from malnutrition at any moment.

There are, of course, women who are naturally this thin, but they don’t look gaunt and disproportionate. Their heads don’t appear to be oversized orbs floating above emaciated bodies.


Nicole Richie, Teri Hatcher, and Christina Ricci
have collaberated to create a guilt-free snack that is
causing a sensation in Hollywood. These NO calorie,
NO fat Hollypops are the perfect meal for the gal
who just can't seem to get thin enough. Three
mouthwatering flavors, Lettuce, Water, and Espresso
are sure to satisfy your appetite and sooth your hunger pangs.

It was with both amusement and sadness that I regarded this piece from 14, who runs the blog Gallery of the Absurd. Her commentary on the absurdly thin is spot-on, if painfully ironic.

In the run-up to Batman & Robin, there was a non-stop deluge of stories about how Alicia Silverstone had gained egregious amounts of weight, how the wardrobe team had to refit her costume because she was too fat to fit into it, how her career was over because she had become such a hideous heifer. The director, Joel Schumacher, was disgusted by the press. I remember at the time reading that he said something like, “What is this girl’s big sin—that she ate some pizza?” Eventually, the roar got so loud, he started lashing out at the journalists who continued to harp on the issue.

Schumacher, who also directed "The Client" and "A Time to Kill," was angry during the making of "Batman & Robin" when gossip writers made a big deal about Batgirl Alicia Silverstone's brief weight gain.

"It was horrible. I thought it was very cruel," Schumacher says. "She was a teenager who gained a few pounds -- like all of us do at certain times. I would confront female journalists and I'd say, 'With so many young people suffering from anorexia and bulimia, why are you crucifying this girl?"'
Why only female journalists, I don’t know (where they the only ones asking about it?), but the point is still salient. Famous women who are well within normal weight ranges are routinely accused of being “too fat.” Karen Carpenter, who died from anorexia, famously developed the obsession with her weight after being dubbed by Billboard as “Richard's chubby sister.” The emphasis on bony-thinness has no regard for health, nor, in many cases, the youth and beauty that is meant to be the staple of stars, as apple-round cheeks are dispatched in favor of a hollowed-out look, indicative of aging women. One of the most popular new plastic surgery procedures is fat deposits in the cheeks, to replace what women naturally lose during the aging process. Now, however, it’s increasingly being done on younger and younger women, who have prematurely aged themselves by losing more weight than is appropriate for their frames.

When woman are overweight, there is much hand-wringing concern about their health, but in reality, it’s little more than a cover for sizism. It’s their appearance to which one is reacting. If women’s health was such a concern, surely there would be as great an outcry over women who starve themselves and rely on plastic surgery to give the appearance of youth and health of which extreme weight loss has robbed them. Surely, there would be more concern about the message being sent to impressionable girls who seek to emulate their idols.

After being barraged by negative stories about her weight gain, Silverstone noted to Fashion Wire Daily:

I've never been heavy. What really hurts is, when they say that, I know I have a lot of young fans. So for them to go, “Wait a second. Alicia Silverstone is fat? Then what the hell am I?”
(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Sunday, November 27, 2005

The batch of Kool-Aid at the White House is 100 proof

by Pam

"He thinks that would be an admission he's screwed up, and he can't bring himself to do that,"
-- a former senior staffer on any suggestion that Karen "Mommy" Hughes be called back to whip the White House message into shape.
A NY Daily News article reports -- via anonymous sources of course, since fear rules in this White House -- that there is a lot of self-delusion about how bad things are, and true to form, the Chimp wants to keep the wagons circled, and ignore the obvious breakdown on all fronts.
Embattled White House aides have begun to believe President Bush must take the reins personally if his evaporating agenda and credibility are to be salvaged.

"We're just plodding along," admitted a senior Bush aide from deep within the West Wing bunker. "It's up to the President to turn things around now." Even as his poll numbers tank, however, Bush is described by aides as still determined to stay the course. He resists advice from Republicans who fear disaster in next year's congressional elections, and rejects criticism from a media establishment he disdains.

"The President has always been willing to make changes," the senior aide said, "but not because someone in this town tells him to - NEVER!"

For the moment, Bush has dismissed discreetly offered advice from friends and loyalists to fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and bring back longtime confidant Karen Hughes from the State Department to shore up his personal White House staff.

..."The staff basically still has an unyielding belief in the wisdom of what they're doing," a close Bush confidant said. "They're talking to people who could help them, but they're not listening."

Two sources said Bush has not only lost some confidence in his top aides, as the Daily News has previously reported, but is furious with a stream of leaks about the mood within the West Wing. "He's asking [friends] for opinions on who he can trust and who he can't," one knowledgeable source said.

...Gone from the schedule are weekly cholesterol-laden breakfasts at Rove's home where top Bush hands discussed strategy. Also missing are Sunday "message meetings" with outside thinkers like GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman, campaign pollster Matthew Dowd and superlobbyist Ed Gillespie.


The Ken-bot's not invited to message meetings any more.

A card-carrying member of the Washington GOP establishment with close ties to the White House recently encountered several senior presidential aides at a dinner and came away shaking his head at their "no problems here" mentality. "There is just no introspection there at all," he said in exasperation. "It is everybody else's fault - the press, gutless Republicans on the Hill. They're still in denial."
It really sounds like there are mentally unhinged people running this joint, desperately need of therapy, meds or both.

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Yo Butt Ain't Made For That!

by Pam

Regular readers of my blog know my thoughts about Willie Wilson, the unhinged bigot who thinks the world is being taken over by lesbians with sex toys, and lying about his son from getting a date to the prom because of those lesbians. Here's a reminder of some of the wisdom of Rev. Wilson, who serves as pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast D.C. (and was a former mayoral candidate):

"Lesbianism is about to take over our community. I'm talking about young girls. My son in high school last year tried to go to the prom. He said, 'Dad, I ain't got nobody to take to the prom because all the girls in my class are gay. Ain't but two of 'em straight, and both of them ugly.'"
-- Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast Washington DC, sharing more words of wisdom about lesbians "taking over" the community.

"But … women falling down on another woman, strapping yourself up with something, it ain't real. That thing ain't got no feeling in it. It ain't natural. Anytime somebody got to slap some grease on your behind and stick something in you, it's something wrong with that. Your butt ain't made for that."

"No wonder your behind is bleeding. You can't make no connection with a screw and another screw. The Bible says God made them male and female."
--The Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast D.C. (and a former mayoral candidate) during a recorded sermon.



"The situation is so grave that it should be declared a national emergency."
-- Willie Wilson, on the "epidemic" of lesbianism among black girls, on the Web site of Union Temple Baptist Church
***

Guess what? Someone finally created a Flash animation paired with outrageous audio from the Wilson sermon. "Yo Butt Ain't Made For That!" is hilarious. Go to SomethingAwful.com.... You can listen to the audio, but the Flash animation adds so much to it.



Earlier posts on this font of intolerance:
* DC pastor - lesbianism is "about to take over our community"

* Homo-bigot DC pastor gets skewered by rights groups

* DC Rev 'apologizes' for outrageous sermon attacking gays

* Homo-bigot reverend flaps his lips over lesbianism - again

* Willie Wilson: homo-bigoted pastor and LIAR

* Tidmus gives Willie Wilson the Shaft

* Wilson bans Keith Boykin from the podium at the Millions More March


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Pulp Economics:
The Structure of an Interest Rate, Part 1

by Dark Wraith

In the continuing work of The Dark Wraith Forums to help blog readers become more informed and knowledgeable about economics and finance, this Pulp Economics article is the first in a series on interest rates. The current series will interweave with the Pulp Economics series entitled, "A Brief Story of Money," Part 1 of which was published here last week. Whereas the money series focuses on how interest rates change as a consequence of monetary and fiscal policies, this series summarizes the theory of how interest rates form. Each series is, then, a supplement to the other. Information provided here about the processes that underlie the creation of interest rates provides the backdrop for information in the money series about how interest rates move over time and across economic policies and circumstances at the federal and global levels. Here, the emphasis is on what interest rates represent and why they exist in the first place.

To begin this analysis, we need a very important, basic idea from the core principles of economics, and we'll introduce this idea with the story of Irwin Hornflocker, an average guy who worked as a furniture delivery man at Doolick's House of Furnishings over in the old Town & City strip mall on Maple Rock Street about a block from the new, three-story professional building that went up last year. Irwin had been working at Doolick's for eight years, ever since he got out of high school, where he was a first-string wide receiver his Junior and Senior Years at Tri-County Consolidated High School. He didn't get any offers for college scholarships, and that was due in no small part to Tri-County's two-and-twelve record during his Senior year, when he had no fewer than seventeen fumbles to his credit along with a two-game suspension for putting so much stick-'em paste on his hands that, during a tackle in Tri-County's game against the Haley Valley Panthers, his hands stuck so fast to a Panther player's jersey that he ripped the sucker clean off the boy. Irwin has lived a modest life ever since those glory days, and his job at Doolick's hadn't provided him much discretionary income until recently. At $10.25 an hour last year, Irwin pretty much just barely got by. But then Ned Forrell, the old dock manager since Doolick's started business in 1969, had a heart attack while he was having dinner with his wife at Claire's Family Restaurant. Ned went down for the count and passed to the hands of Jesus right there in his hot roast beef and mashed potatoes special.

Irwin saw daylight the next day. He got called into the business office at the request of Fanny Doolick, who took over when her own husband, the late Clyde Doolick, died the very same way as Ned did at Claire's, except that Clyde was having the liver and onions Blue Plate with a side of green beans and cornbread when the Lord called him home. Irwin went in to Fanny's office not knowing what to expect; but much to his shock, Fanny told him that he was now the loading dock manager, what with his eight years of experience and a "damn fine set of muscles any healthy, lonely woman could appreciate." With that one conversation—admittedly a little uncomfortable for Irwin, what with his history of being known around town as something of a lady's man in his youth—Irwin's wage went from $10.25 to $13.45 an hour right there on the spot.

Irwin saw his life turning around. On his way home that afternoon, he thought about all the things he was going to do with that extra money. He was okay with where he lived, and he was okay with the furniture he had and all that. He was thinking more about his hobbies. He liked to work out, and with the extra money, he could buy himself a set of weights instead of using his sofa—purchased with his employee discount at Doolick's Factory Outlet—for his nightly bench presses. More importantly, Irwin had always wanted to go to college, and with plenty of extra money, he could start with a three-hour course at the local community college, which charges $50 per credit hour: that'd be only $150.

Life was turning good. Irwin bought a set of weights for $120 at Sven's Bulge Barn, and he signed up for Econ 101. The course ended up costing a little more than he had thought because of the textbook, which ran $85 for a used copy. Still, for only $235, Irwin was on his way to that college degree he never got because of those lousy last two football seasons when he was in high school.

Irwin did live better even if not everything went according to plan. After a few hour-long work-outs the first week with his new weights, he never touched them again. And that college course didn't really work out because the teacher was one of those air-headed academic liberals he'd heard about and the whole subject had nothing to do with the real world that real people live in; and so Irwin stopped going after the third week of the sixteen-week semester.

But Irwin is now making a lot more than $10.25 an hour, and since his promotion, he's been working 50 hour weeks quite often. He's happy with his life, even if he has had to compromise his principles on two occasions with Fanny; but even there, he found that the pay raises have come more frequently, and they've been more than fair. These days, Irwin's pulling $15.80 an hour, and he does some work in the business office as well as running the loading dock every bit as well as Ned did. In fact, the guys he supervises say he's better than Ned because he's there all the time, and he keeps everything running smoothly. Irwin's life is a case study in the American dream coming true.


Irwin bought weights, but he didn't use them, even though he'd been working out with the sofa for years. Irwin dropped out of college, even though it was something he'd wanted to do ever since high school. In fact, if the truth were to be told, Irwin was even shopping for groceries at the "snooty people's" store, Emerald's Fine Foods, instead of at the old Famous Foods for Less mega-store over by the county fairgrounds about a mile outside of town. Irwin had his reasons for all the things he was doing differently; and once in a while, he even mentioned in passing the real reason: "I don't have time for nonsense anymore; I got responsibilities."

Yes, Irwin does.

In economics, the term is opportunity cost: the value of the best alternative given up to carry out a given action. This is one of the implicit costs an activity carries. Implicit costs are those that don't have a bill that's paid with cash money; the cost is part of the activity, itself. Opportunity cost has to do with what a person gives up; that means it necessarily doesn't have any visible bill or receipt or charge.

A person's wage rate is the opportunity cost of leisure: when Irwin is doing something other than work, what he's doing excludes earning his wage rate at work. When Irwin's wage rate rose, the cost of doing things other than work rose with it.

Consider his weight lifting. When Irwin was making $10.25 an hour, two hours of work-out a week cost him $20.50 in foregone wage; but when he was making $13.45 an hour, the opportunity cost of those two hours of workout a week rose to $26.90. Over the course of a year, the opportunity cost of working out rose from
2 hours a week × 52 weeks a year × $10.25 = $1,066.00

to
2 hours a week × 52 weeks a year × $13.45 = $1,398.80

Notice that the explicit cost (or direct cost) of those new, fancy weights Irwin bought were actually a small part of the total cost—the sum of the explicit costs and the implicit costs. Irwin's annual opportunity cost of working out two hours a week had jumped by $332.80 ($1,398.80 minus $1,066.00), but the weights cost him only $120! That means Irwin, looking at only that $120.00 direct cost, didn't see the far larger, permanent annuity of costs of an extra $332.80 per year to which he was committing himself by buying and using the weights.

The situation was even worse with that college course. The first night Irwin went to class, the professor said that, for every hour in class, a student would have to study for two hours outside of class. And that was just to get a "C" in the course! That meant Irwin was going to spend three hours in class every week and six hours outside of class every week studying economics, and he was going to have to do this for 16 weeks. Now, Irwin had looked only at the direct cost, which at first he thought was $150.00, but which he had to revise upward to $235.00, including the cost of the textbook for the course. But even at that, Irwin was simply blindsided by the far larger opportunity cost of undertaking just one college course: nine hours every week (three in class and six outside of class) for 16 weeks is a total of 144 hours. Irwin would have to forego $13.25 for every one of those hours, which means his opportunity cost for that course was
144 hours × $13.45 = $1,936.80

which put his total cost at
$235.00 $1,936.80 = $2,171.80

for just that one course.

When Irwin was making a measly $10.25 an hour, the opportunity cost of that 144 hours committed to the college course would have been only
144 hours × $10.25 = $1,476.00,

putting the total cost at
$235.00 $1,476.00 = $1,711.00

for that same course.

With the workouts and with the college course, Irwin faced the classic law of demand: as the price of a good or service falls, consumers and firms tend to want more of it; as the price of a good or service rises, consumers and firms tend to want less of it. For Irwin, even though the explicit costs of the goods and services didn't budge, the opportunity cost of everything that precluded him making his hourly wage became more expensive overnight; hence, Irwin wanted less of those things, even if he didn't see the prices of the goods and services rising.

And about Irwin, the fellow who always used to make fun of others who went to the "snooty people's" grocery store, the same thing was happening. The cheap prices attracted longer lines of people at the checkout counter. Irwin, himself, was constantly grousing under his breath about people standing there checking out, trying to figure out how the debit card slider worked or fishing for change in their pockets or taking forever to write a check. There were times when Irwin almost lost it because some hoehandle with five unruly kids simply had to put into her shopping cart the one item on the racks that didn't have a price tag on it, thereby prompting the cashier to bawl out, "Price check on Line 29," to which a floor manager would respond sometime within the next several hours. But the prices were always great at the Famous Foods for Less mega-store, even though it was something of a drive to get clear out there. But then, as if all of a sudden, there was Irwin, standing in a nice, short line at Emerald's Fine Foods, paying sometimes 30 percent more for the same things he used to buy at Famous Foods for Less. Had Irwin stuck with his economics course, it might have occurred to him that the line, itself, at Famous Foods was part of the cost of the groceries. The longer a person stood in the line, the greater the cost. But for someone making more money per hour, the cost of a given line was higher than it was for someone making less per hour. That's why people earning more were willing to pay a higher direct cost for groceries at Emerald's: they were simply avoiding an implicit cost that was being driven by people who made less per hour.

In his own way, Irwin came to understand all of this. In fact, during one of his rants with his friends about liberals, he said that the only reason liberals want a higher minimum wage is so they won't have competition for their jobs that require a college education. He had the economics exactly right: as the minimum wage goes up, the opportunity cost of going to college increases, which means more high school graduates will enter the work force directly out of high school, in part because the cost of giving up full-time work to attend college rises. As fewer people attend college, fewer college graduates enter the labor market with the skills to compete with those already in the labor market with college degrees. Hence, a rising minimum wage ensures a tighter supply of college-educated workers, ensuring higher wages and salaries for them.

Irwin's friends just sort of looked at him when he explained the logic. Irwin said, "Don't argue with me about it: I had three weeks of economics at the community college; an' besides, every now and then, I read these long-winded articles about economics on the Internet. The guy calls himself the Dark Wraith, an' he sure explains things good... except sometimes he goes five times around the barn to get to the outhouse. I'm still tryin' t' figure out what that story about the furniture loading dock guy had to do with the structure of an interest rate."


Irwin was right. It seems like the concept of opportunity cost is far removed from the financial world of interest rates and what determines them; but opportunity cost is the driving force at the very base of every interest rate.

When a person puts money into a savings account, he or she is necessarily giving up the right to use that money for immediate consumption. To induce a person to put money in the bank, there has to be an incentive to forego current consumption. That's where interest rates come into play. Now, some investments are risky, some investments are safe; but every inducement to get people to do something other than to use their money for consumption must include a core, basic reward for the immediate consumption that is given up. Every interest rate, then, includes a compensation for not spending money in the here and now, and that core interest rate—call it the real interest rate—is the opportunity cost of immediate consumption. If investors really like to use their money right away, then giving it up will require a big incentive. If people don't get really worked up about using their money right away for consumption, then it won't take a lot to induce them to put money away instead of using it.

This real interest rate, which we designate by rreal, is driven by a number of factors. One big one is the supply of and demand for liquid money. Recall from Part 1 of the Pulp Economics series, "A Brief Story of Money," that liquidity is the speed and efficiency with which an asset can be transformed into another asset. Dollar bills are highly liquid: when there are a lot of those highly liquid dollars floating around in an economy, it won't take very much of a reward to get people to squirrel a few of them away in savings; but when greenbacks are not in abundant supply, it will take a higher real interest rate to induce people to put some of them in the bank. At the same time, when people are very worried about their immediate financial prospects, they won't be too thrilled with the idea of sticking money in a savings account. That means, when people are worried about their circumstances and those of the economy as it affects them, they'll need more incentive to put money into a savings account instead of using it; on the other hand, when people are confident about their own immediate prospects, and they see the economy as being strong, they'll tend to be willing to put money into savings without as much inducement in terms of the real interest rate.

To put it in the context of Irwin, if he were to have more hours in a day, he'd be willing (all other things being equal) to commit time to the economics course or to that workout regimen. With money, if there's more of it swirling around in an economy, the real interest rate doesn't have to be as high to get people to commit some money to savings. But if Irwin has something very important to do right now with the hours he has in a day, he's going to commit fewer of those hours he has to things other than the most valuable thing he can use them for. In the same way, when the greenbacks in an economy are limited, their value goes up.

But all of this leads to something even more important. Yes, there is a basic component of every interest rate that represents the opportunity cost of immediate consumption; but perhaps more fundamentally, a short-term interest rate—one that doesn't have all the extra "premiums" added in that we'll explore in later parts of this series—is in some very material way the price of a dollar!

Now, this "real" interest rate is never seen. It hides below the surface, buried in every interest rate that gets quoted in the actual economy. Every interest rate starts with this real interest rate, and then those premiums mentioned above are tacked on, each to its extent necessary for the instrument on which that interest rate is bearing. The first interest rate that any market would actually form for use would be one very close to the theoretical risk-free rate, designated rf, which is the sum of the real interest rate, rreal, and a short-term expected inflation premium, πe, that represents the reward for investors' expectation of lost purchasing power of the money while unavailable for consumption. Take care to notice that the expected inflation premium rewards an expectation: what has already happened with inflation is irrelevant. Investors must be induced based upon what they expect to happen.

The real interest rate rewards foregone consumption; the expected inflation premium rewards lost purchasing power due to the current dollars getting "watered down" by a rise in the aggregate price level, and that's a fancy way of describing plain, old inflation. This sum of the real interest rate and the expected inflation premium is called "risk free" because it doesn't include any rewards investors would have to be provided for bearing various types of risk, one of which is that of losing part or all of their investment through default of the borrower. The so-called "default premium" is but one of several layers of reward stacked on top of the risk-free rate. Each of these risk premiums will be investigated in detail in a subsequent article in this Pulp Economics series. It should be noted at least in passing that the risk-free rate is the one over which the central bank (the Federal Reserve in the United States) has control, but that risk-free rate is also affected over time by forces beyond the central bank's control. In particular, the amount of borrowing by the federal government drives all interest rates because the government will drive interest rates up to induce investors to lend it money; and the expected inflation premium rises and falls through time based upon whether or not the central bank has previously pumped too much or too little money into the economy compared to the growth of that economy's actual need for greenbacks.

Describing too many of the factors affecting observable interest rates in one article can lead to all kinds of undesirable outcomes. In fact, the very last economics class Irwin attended before dropping out was the one where the professor was describing this very subject of the structure of an interest rate. The professor had decided he should lay the whole thing out in one, 90-minute lecture. Irwin actually stayed with him through the risk-free rate, although Irwin was a little suspicious about the part where the professor said that the risk-free rate is theoretical, but a close approximation of it is found in the interest rate the government pays on very short-term loans it gets from investors by selling them what are called "Treasury bills," or "T-bills." The professor explained that, since T-bills are highly liquid—that is, they are easy to sell—and have no chance of default, they are virtually risk free, meaning that the investor gets rewarded only for the basic surrender of immediate consumption and for the expected erosion of purchasing power over the term of the loan. No reward is paid for bearing the risk of default, nor is any reward paid for the risk of longer-term surrender of consumption, nor for the possibility that it would be difficult to sell the T-bill to another investor.

Irwin got worked up because he'd heard his very own President say something about how the Social Security Trust has about two dozen Treasury instruments representing huge loans the Trust has made to the federal government. According to the way Irwin interpreted the President's words, those Treasury instruments in a drawer at the Trust offices were just pieces of paper, and there was no guarantee that they'd be worth anything at all when the Social Security Trust needed them cashed in to pay benefits to retirees. "So," Irwin challenged the professor, "the President says there's a good chance of default on them Treasury borrowings, an' you're sayin' there's no chance of default. An' I'm supposed to believe you instead of the President of these United States, huh?"

The professor answered, "Yes, but that's because the President is irresponsible for even suggesting that the United States Treasury could default."

Irwin shot back, "How can you get by with calling President George W. Bush names?" to which the professor answered, "You're right. Bush is too stupid to be irresponsible."

Irwin left, never to return, never to learn the rest of the story of interest rates, never to learn that he could be smarter with one economics course than his President could be with all of his neo-conservative political and economics advisers.

And absent that economics course, when he's not at work, Irwin now spends the nights hanging out in cyberspace, where he reads the articles at The Dark Wraith Forums, enduring as he then must the gruesomely long stories that only occasionally and randomly ever get around to making a point clearly, lucidly, and interestingly.


For those readers who have made it this far and want more of this series, the next installment will cover the so-called "maturity premium" impounded in some interest rates. That article will be published after Part 2 of the series, "A Brief Story of Money," coming soon to this very blog.



The Dark Wraith trusts that readers will come away from this series understanding not just more about interest rates, but also more about why economics is the science of common sense made obtuse.

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


Friday, November 25, 2005

More on Bush’s “Joke”

by Shakespeare's Sister

The story currently not being touched with a ten-foot pole by the American media—the leaked memo revealing President Bush suggesting a military strike against the Arab television station al-Jazeera and Tony Blair arguing against an attack—is a big story in Britain. Channel 4n Fallujah, and there is circumstantial evidence for believing that Bush may indeed have said what he is alleged to have said.I have to go with the aforementioned Peter Preston on this one. Threatening journalists with the Official Secrets Act is either a ludicrous over-reach designed to help Bush save face over a thoughtless comment, in which case the British press ought to be outraged they are being silenced for such a stupid reason, or it’s a practical application, and Bush wasn’t joking at all. Which is it?

Americans need to be concerned with this story as well. If Bush was serious, we ought to demand accountability on behalf of the killed al-Jazeera journalist as well as those currently being held at Gitmo and in Spain. If he was joking, we ought to demand at minimum that he acknowledge it and apologize for it. A man whose job affords him the protection of having arrested anyone who makes even a joke about hurting him surely ought to understand that not every joke is so easily dismissed.

In either case, refusing to address the issues raised by the leak of these remarks will allow people to believe about them whatever they want to believe—or whatever their experiences predisposes them to believe. What will the Arab world believe?

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Gay Balls

by Shakespeare's Sister

The only question is which sick fuck—do I hear Pat Robertson? Jerry Falwell?—is going to be the first to blame the Macy’s Day Parade float accident on the gays? It won’t be Dr. Dobson, whose Focus on the Family has deemed their anti-gay ball tossing a success, even though they were sad that a near-tragedy stole their thunder.

Members of a conservative Christian group handed out "stress balls" promoting a web site that claims homosexuality can be changed through faith at Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. But the publicity stunt was overshadowed by the crash of one of the parade's famous balloons into a light post at Times Square, injuring two people.

Focus on the Family said that it distributed about 5,000 of the balls along the parade route, but hopes that it would be captured by TV cameras were dashed.

A spokesperson for producers of the parade telecast said they do not show controversial or political messages. News cameras covering the parade were diverted to Times Square to cover the accident.

Handlers of the giant M & M balloon somehow lost control and it struck a lamp post, sending the light to the ground in a handicapped seating area on Broadway, between 43rd and 44th Streets. Two people were injured and transported to Bellevue Hospital with unknown injuries.

Despite not getting their "stress ball" promotion telecast coast-to-coast, FOC called it a success.
Reached for comment, the hugely gay Sponge Bob Squarepants said that having 5,000 anti-gay balls thrown at him has not deterred his passionate promotion of the radical gay agenda.


“I’m coming to get you, Dobson!”

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Corporate Cowards

by Shakespeare's Sister

Oddjob passes on this article from the Telegraph, which reports that an exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York celebrating the life of Charles Darwin has failed to find a corporate sponsor “because American companies are anxious not to take sides in the heated debate between scientists and fundamentalist Christians over the theory of evolution.”

The entire $3 million (£1.7 million) cost of Darwin, which opened at the American Museum of Natural History in New York yesterday, is instead being borne by wealthy individuals and private charitable donations…

While the Darwin exhibition has been unable to find a business backer - unlike previous exhibitions at the museum - the Creationist Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio, which takes literally the Bible's account of creation, has recently raised $7 million in donations.

The outbreak of corporate cold feet has shocked New York's intellectuals. "It is a disgrace that large companies should shy away from such an important scientific exhibition," said a trustee of another prominent museum in the city, who was told of the exhibition's funding problem by a trustee of the AMNH.
Shameful. The AMNH is understandably hesitant to release the names of the corporations who were approached and decided not to sponsor the exhibit, not wanting to burn bridges to future donations, thus allowing the corporate cowards to avoid criticism and potential boycotts.

Playing Switzerland in the war to save scientific integrity in America is not only cowardly, but bad business, as America steadily falls further behind in graduating scientists, social scientists, and engineers—exactly the kinds of people who help design and develop the products, production tools, and marketing strategies upon business is dependent. That corporations are willing to essentially give up on America’s future generations is indicative of their increasing dependence on globalization. And therein lies the fundamental problem with treating corporations like individuals, and favoring them over the worker—corporations are not patriotic. They don’t care where they operate, and as soon as doing business in America isn’t as cost-effective as doing business somewhere else, they’ll leave without hesitation.

Take a moment and consider that future: an ill-educated American workforce, a brain drain, and corporations leaving in droves, to go where the new technologies, new ideas, and cutting-edge science is—places where politics didn’t trump progress. A dire future indeed, and the future is upon us.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Charges in Britain for Releasing Government Memo

by Shakespeare's Sister

Two British civil servants are being charged under Britain’s Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking the government memo from April 16, 2004 which recounted the conversation in which Bush, either jokingly or seriously, supposedly proposed bombing al-Jazeera.

Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh is accused of passing it to Leo O’Connor, who formerly worked for former British lawmaker Tony Clarke. Both Keogh and O’Connor are scheduled to appear at London’s Bow Street Magistrates Court next week.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Keogh was charged with an offense under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act relating to “a damaging disclosure” by a servant of the Crown of information relating to international relations or information obtained from a state other than the United Kingdom.

O’Connor was charged under Section 5, which relates to receiving and disclosing illegally disclosed information.
Let’s just say that it turns out Bush was joking. First of all, that’s a pretty odd joke for a president to make. Secondly, that would mean that the British government has sought charges against leakers of a document which revealed a joke made in terrible taste, while the American government does its best to shield leakers of the identify of a covert CIA operative working on WMD proliferation. Sigh.

And, you know, if it was just a joke, it’s a pretty coincidental one.

Al-Jazeera offices in Iraq and Afghanistan have been hit by U.S. bombs or missiles, but each time the U.S. military said they were not intentionally targeting the broadcaster.

In April 2003, an Al-Jazeera journalist was killed when its Baghdad office was struck during a U.S. bombing campaign. Nabil Khoury, a State Department spokesman in Doha, said the strike was a mistake.

In November 2002, Al-Jazeera’s office in Kabul, Afghanistan, was destroyed by a U.S. missile. None of the crew was at the office at the time. U.S. officials said they believed the target was a terrorist site and did not know it was Al-Jazeera’s office.
Just sayin’.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Happy Wanksgiving

by Shakespeare's Sister

Have I ever mentioned that I think James Dobson is an utter wanker? I think I might have. His newest plan to spread homobigotry, one of the cornerstones of his faith-based hate empire, is truly a doozy:

Focus on the Family has announced plans to distribute 5,000 balls during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to promote a website it operates that claims homosexuality is a disorder that can be changed through faith.

The balls - called "stress balls" are part of a major effort by FOF reach a wider audience during the holidays. Each ball carries the name of its advice site http://www.troubledwith.com/. The Web site also carries faith-based advice on topics ranging from eating disorders to depression.

The balls will be tossed out by volunteers along the route and is not part of the official parade. Because they will be on public property there is little Macy's can do.
I have to admit, I like the concept of throwing balls in people’s faces to try to cure them of homosexuality.

[Web site creator Steve Walters] said the timing of the ad campaign was no accident.

"It's supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but for a lot of people it's just a reminder that things aren't working out so well in their lives," he said.

“Too many people are living their lives in quiet desperation, hurting and struggling through troubling situations because they just aren’t sure where to turn for help.”
Exploitation of the vulnerable is especially charming during the holidays. I think, however, they ought to reconsider the balls idea and instead throw snow globes with little figures of gays flagellating themselves for their sinfulness. Not only would it be a stronger message, but I bet people would pay more attention if they were concussed by an anti-gay tchotsky.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


All I Want for Christmas is a Modicum of Perspective

by Shakespeare's Sister

Steve Benen guest-blogging at Political Animal:
Regardless, the right's perceived "war against Christmas" is getting pretty tiresome. Fox News' John Gibson has a bizarre book out, while and Bill O'Reilly, Charles Krauthammer, and the truly silly Committee to Save Merry Christmas will probably enjoy the holiday season by whining a lot.

And what's truly annoying is to hear complainers lose sight of those who really suffer. Last year, armed police broke up a Christmas Mass at an underground Catholic church in eastern China, arresting the priest, demolishing a makeshift pulpit and scattering two thousand worshippers. Around the same time, some seasonal temp at the mall wished Bill O'Reilly a generic "Happy Holidays" and he felt like a victim.
Adding to my Christmas list: One violin for Mr. O’Reilly.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


O…M…G

by Shakespeare's Sister

Oddjob points us to this story, which is so fucking nutzoid, I can hardly believe it.

US President George W. Bush planned to bomb pan-Arab television broadcaster al-Jazeera, British newspaper the Daily Mirror said, citing a Downing Street memo marked "Top Secret".

The five-page transcript of a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveals that Blair talked Bush out of launching a military strike on the station, unnamed sources told the daily which is against the war in Iraq.

The transcript of the pair's talks during Blair's April 16, 2004 visit to Washington allegedly shows Bush wanted to attack the satellite channel's headquarters.

[…]

A source told the Mirror: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush.

"He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem.

"There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do -- and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."

Another source said: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."

A spokesman for Blair's Downing Street office said: "We have got nothing to say about this story. We don't comment on leaked documents."

[…]

The newspaper said that the memo "casts fresh doubt on claims that other attacks on al-Jazeera were accidents". It cited the 2001 direct hit on the channel's Kabul office.
What the hell…?! Spreading freedom and changing hearts and minds—by blowing up al-Jazeera. Great fucking idea. What an absolute asshole.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Monday, November 21, 2005

Oklahomans, can you recall Coburn?

by Pam


Coburn: "I wish this was in every courthouse on the lawn. We need more of this, not less."

I don't know if you all can boot the dude, but this guy is a delusional theocrat moron. You'll recall that earlier this month, Tommy Boy appeared on Meet the Press and explained to Tim Russert that he is uniquely qualified (as an MD) to tell whether somebody is lying just by observing their body language. Therefore, he can tell whether Strip Search Sammy Alito is telling a fib.

It's really no shock to learn Coburn is pulling a Roy Moore and getting behind a Ten Commandments courthouse monument fringe rally in Tulsa. I just wish that this buffoon would just return to private practice. No wait, that would mean going back to his money-making practice of sterilizing underage women without their consent. Maybe the public is safer with him in the Senate where he can make a public ass of himself. (Fox News):
TULSA, Okla. - A group of pastors fired up a crowd of more than 300 people during a rally around a monument engraved with the Ten Commandments on the Haskell County Courthouse lawn.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn spoke Saturday at the gathering in favor of the monument, which a recent American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit says is a sign of the government favoring one religion over another. But Coburn and others who were vocal at the rally contend that the statements listed in the Ten Commandments are guidelines to a moral, law-abiding society regardless of religious beliefs.

...Jim Green, the Stigler resident who is the plaintiff in the ACLU case, was contacted by telephone and declined to comment because of the ongoing litigation. The suit is the first of its kind in Oklahoma since a July ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that Ten Commandments displays on government property are not inherently unconstitutional.

...Tim Turner, pastor of a Eufaula church, told the crowd that the problem isn't in Stigler, where there is apparently overwhelming support for the Ten Commandments at the courthouse. The problem is in Washington, D.C., where politicians and judges make separation of church and state decisions for the nation, he said.

"Today is just a little rally," Turner said. "The real battle is coming."

In an interview, Coburn said the Ten Commandments are not strictly a Christian belief system, even though they come from the Bible. He also disagreed with the idea that people who practice a different religion might be intimidated by the Ten Commandments when they enter the Haskell County Courthouse.

"We can either deny our heritage . . . or we can embrace that heritage," Coburn said. "The creators of our Constitution were men of faith."
Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Who on earth would volunteer for that mission?

by Pam


via Wayne Besen.

Make your own church sign.


The Future’s So White, He’s Gotta Wear Shades

by Shakespeare's Sister

Today, John “Timbuk 3” McCain, who I loathe with a fury not an iota less intense than the sun itself, is heading off to Alabama to host a fundraiser for Lt. Governor GOP primary candidate George Wallace, Jr. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree—Wallace is a four-time speaker for the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a group which was created from the mailing list of the old white supremacist White Citizens Councils and has been noted as becoming increasingly “radical and racist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which classifies the CCC as a hate group. The group opposes interracial marriage, hate crime legislation, massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples, and “Afrocentric” curricula in schools, but Wallace says he finds “nothing hateful” about the group.

That’s good enough for McCain, apparently, who’s not only endorsing Wallace, who he calls a “committed conservative reformer” (which I suspect is different from my belief that the both of them ought to be committed), but has also consented to attend fundraisers in Mobile, Birmingham, and Huntsville, to help get this douchebag racist elected.

In June, when Wallace gave the opening remarks to the CCC’s national meeting, he said the attendees appeared to be “good, patriotic people.” So what, exactly, do these good, patriotic people say about themselves?

"We believe that the United States derives from and is an integral part of European civilization and the European people and that the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character. We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."
Yeah, the Nazis were good, patriotic people in kind of the same way.

As for John McCain: Straight Talkin’ White Supremacist, here’s his Straight Talk on Wallace, via one of his top advisers, John Weaver:

“George Wallace Jr., is an enlightened progressive leader who always speaks of tolerance and carries forth his father's views at the end of his life. He has strong support across the racial and political spectrum.”
Keep on selling that load of shit, you daft prick. Come 2008, we’ll see who’s buying.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Geography Club

by Shakespeare's Sister

A Tacoma school district has banned a book about gay teens meeting on the internet because, according to School Superintendent Patti Banks, it might undermine the school’s message that meeting people in internet chatrooms is a high-risk activity. In the book, Geography Club, a teen who thinks he’s the only gay kid in school finds out the guy he met online in a gay chatroom is a popular jock, and they form what is essentially a covert GLBT club at school, calling it the Geography Club, because it sounds so boring, they don’t expect anyone else will join.

After a couple with kids in both the middle and high school requested the book be removed (there’s always got to be one hysterical family who raises hell about this kind of shit in every school system!), because “the book could result in a ‘casual and loose approach to sex,’ as well as encourage use of Internet porn and the physical meeting of people through chatrooms,” the book was banned—but not because it’s about the gays! Of course not!

In banning "Geography Club," Superintendent Patti Banks said she was alarmed by the "romanticized" portrayal of a teen meeting a stranger at night in a park after meeting the person — revealed to be a gay classmate — in an Internet chatroom.

She said her decision was not due to the homosexual theme of the novel by Brent Hartinger of Tacoma.

"We want to send a strong, consistent message to all our students that meeting individuals via the Internet is extremely high-risk behavior," Banks wrote in a letter Nov. 2 to two parents who requested the book's removal.

"To the extent that this book might contradict that message, I have determined it should not be in our libraries, in spite of other positive aspects (e.g., a strong anti-harassment theme)."
A parent who is contesting the ban notes that “the most important part of the book is that it's about bullying, outcasts, about tolerance,” and the author of the award-nominated book, Brent Hartinger, said:

"The reason gay teens are drawn to the Internet is that's a safe place to explore their identity without being harassed or bullied... It's ironic my book would be pulled for this reason, contributing to this atmosphere of silence and gay intolerance."
So because of a possible endorsement of a “casual and loose approach to sex” (but not, certainly not—no!, because the teens in the book are gay), and because, I guess, the protagonist doesn’t get his throat slashed after meeting someone from a chatroom, the best decision is to ban a book with positive messages about inclusion and self-esteem for gay teens. Well, I’ve got a couple of questions:

1. Is the best way to educate students about what parents and educators deem a risky behavior banning a book about it? If so, then I have a few suggestions for other books they might want to ban:

A Tale of Two Cities—Revolutions are pretty dangerous.

All Quiet on the Western Front—War is pretty dangerous, too.

The Red Badge of Courage—Ditto.

Johnny Got His Gun—Ditto.

I imagine the Tacoma Schools can take the idea and run with it from there.

2. Is categorically dismissing a behavior as risky, in which many students (and, likely, many of their parents) have already engaged without negative result, really the best way to educate them about it, or does such black-and-white dismissal of a complex issue undermine one’s credibility on the issue altogether? Parents and educators have been telling teens for decades not to smoke pot, and try to scare them with horror stories about how a single joint could ruin their lives, but kids still smoke pot—and the vast majority of those who do never experience any ill effects; how many kids have taken their first draw on a bong with the thought they were about to have some kind of zany experience, only to find themselves a little more mellow, a little bit giggly, a few minutes later, with the thought—at some point—that everyone who issued alarmist warnings about pot was totally full of shit. Pretending things are intrinsically evil or always dangerous when they’re simply not, for the supposed benefit of kids, is not only dishonest, but doesn’t work, and has the effect of undermining one’s authority on anything else on which one offers advice, as well. Yes, meeting a stranger from the internet “in real life” can be risky, but the risk can be easily lessened. Using the book as a jumping-off point to talk to kids about minimizing risk when meeting someone new (whether they met them online, or whether they’re out at a diner and get invited to a party at a stranger’s house) seems a heck of a lot more useful than banning the book.

3. Assuming for a moment that meeting a chatroom buddy outside the chatroom is such high-risk behavior that teens shouldn’t engage in it at all, is banning one book about it really going to prevent it from happening? Are the only kids in America who are going online and meeting people in person doing it because they’ve read this book? Somehow, I doubt it. Kids and adults alike are barraged with messages telling them to go online every day now—many of which are specifically geared toward finding people to meet. This book is one of possibly millions of messages that could enter a teen’s environment. On the other hand, how many positive messages do gay teens get every day? Call me kooky, but I think the affirming effects of the book for gay teens, merely by virtue of percentages, does indeed outweigh any possibility that it contradicts the school’s message on internet safety.

Two shrill and over-reactionary parents complained about the possibility that a book would endorse a behavior any parent with a kid online ought to be talking to that kid about anyway, and the school decided that their right to “protect” their kids from the real world is more important than providing encouraging and supportive reading material for every single gay (and gay-friendly) kid in both schools. Now, tell me again this isn’t about the book being about gays, that this isn’t about a couple of bigots who are desperate to make sure the homophobia they’re teaching at home isn’t undermined by some touchy-feely book about faggots. And tell me again that the school isn’t motivated by anti-gay sentiments, when what they have done is caved to two bullies by pulling a book off the shelves that tells us bullying is wrong.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Dick Cheney's Five Deferments

by Ms. Julien in Miami

And note that number five is the birth of his lesbian daughter. The man is pure smarm, and is sure good at keeping his fat ass out of the war while sending YOUR kids over to fight for a war that has raised his stock in Halliburton 3000%. No joke. Hat tip www.dailykos.com.

But hey, christian soldiers, keep sending your kids into Cheney's war by voting Republican. After all, those durn Democrats is all out to steal y'er bibles...at least that is what the GOP wants you to think when you vote to send your boys and girls to be obliterated in the war for oil.

FIVE DEFERMENTS:

1st deferment: Cheney enrolled in Casper Community College in January 1963 -- he turned 22 that month -- and sought his first student deferment on March 20.

2nd deferment: (student), after transferring to the University of Wyoming on July 23, 1963.

3rd deferment:(student)on Oct. 14, 1964.

4th deferment: attended graduate school at the University of Wyoming on Nov. 1, 1965.

5th deferment: On Oct. 6, 1965, the Selective Service lifted its ban against drafting married men who had no children. Nine months and two days later, Cheney had his first daughter. Cheney applied for 3-A status, the ''hardship''exemption, which excluded men with children or dependent parents. It was granted.



Sunday, November 20, 2005

Falwell and his legal plan to 'save Christmas'

by Pam



Jerry Falwell and his legal bootlicker Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel are going to be slapping some lawsuits because of you heathens, atheists and non-Christians this holiday season...

Shouldn't they spend some of the Right Wing Christian EnergyTM feeding the homeless and clothing the poor instead of this?
Evangelical Christian pastor Jerry Falwell has a message for Americans when it comes to celebrating Christmas this year: You're either with us, or you're against us.

Falwell has put the power of his 24,000-member congregation behind the "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign," an effort led by the conservative legal organization Liberty Counsel. The group promises to file suit against anyone who spreads what it sees as misinformation about how Christmas can be celebrated in schools and public spaces.

The 8,000 members of the Christian Educators Association International will be the campaign's "eyes and ears" in the nation's public schools. They'll be reporting to 750 Liberty Counsel lawyers who are ready to pounce if, for example, a teacher is muzzled from leading the third-graders in "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

...In signing on to "Friend or Foe" this month, Falwell urged the 500,000 recipients of his weekly "Falwell Confidential" e-mail to "draw a line in the sand and resist bullying tactics of the ACLU and others who intimidate school and government officials by spreading misinformation about Christmas."

..."We'll try to educate," said Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel. "But if we can't, we'll litigate."
Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend


'Ex-gay' experts convene to make the case for 'curing' homos

by Pam

These people are dangerous. How many gays and lesbians, desperate to avoid being ostracized from their fundamentalist families, seek out bogus outfits like Exodus International and Love in Action. The organizations promote "reparative" or "reorientation" therapy prey on the poor souls that turn to them, hoping the gay can be chased away. Using a combination of prayer and ludicrous exercises, the aim is to help homos in crisis "attain the goal of reaching their heterosexual potential."

The first thing I thought of when I saw this AgapePress article on the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), conference, held in Marina del Rey, California, was that the gay bars in the area had to have been packed with attendees from the gathering.
NARTH comprises more than 1,000 therapists, sociologists, and psychoanalysts who believe homosexuality is not inborn and can be changed. However, the organization's November 11-13 gathering in Marina del Rey (Los Angeles County) attracted an angry group of protesters, many of whom argued that reparative therapy is dangerous and encourages self-hatred in homosexuals.

However, one of the conference speakers, Exodus International president Alan Chambers, disagrees. "I myself was a homosexual man 15 years ago," he says, "and for over a decade now, I have been leading a heterosexual life. And it wasn't about me hating myself; it was about me wanting something different than what I found myself struggling with."

According to Chambers, the fact that ex-homosexuals exist invalidates the notion that homosexuality is biologically determined. And at the same time, he contends, those homosexual activists and other individuals who deny that hundreds of thousands of men and women have found freedom from homosexuality are, in effect, invalidating their own messages calling for tolerance and respect.


Alan Chambers says leaving behind his life as a homosexual man was the equivalent of the Hebrews' biblical exodus from slavery in Egypt. As executive director of Exodus International, he's touts the organization's classes to help their institutionalized straight wannabes butch up by tossing a football around. For more on straight-shooting Alan, check out Wayne Besen's site, who says: "Can you believe that THIS QUEEN is the international leader of the"ex-gay" ministries???"

Among the protesters denouncing the NARTH event was homosexual L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a practicing Catholic. [Love that candid, unbiased description!] According to an ExGayWatch.com blog, Rosendahl called the group's research and methods "unproven, unsafe and abusive," and described its persistence in viewing homosexuality as a condition to be corrected as "another form of rationalization for the continued persecution and prejudice against gay people."

...Chambers believes more people than ever are finding out that homosexuality is detrimental to an individual's physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And, he asserts that, as countless people -- himself included -- have demonstrated, same-sex desires can be overcome with the help of Jesus Christ.
Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend


This man experienced some reality TV that he couldn't handle

by Pam

Call the waaahhhmbulance for this baby...he has no case against ABC, but I hope they air this trashy episode of Wife Swap. My question is, since most of these reality TV participants whore their way onto these programs, they shouldn't be surprised when they get tossed a curve ball.
An Oklahoma man who agreed to take part in the ABC show "Wife Swap" is suing the producers for more than $10 million after the "wife" they sent to his home was a gay man.

Jeffrey Bedford of Haileyville says in his suit that he was "misled" and "threatened" by the producers. The suit names Walt Disney - the parent company of ABC, the network, and production company RDF Media.

Bedford says he became so emotionally distraught that he suffered "physical and mental illness."

Bedford claims that when he told the producers he did not want a "gay wife" they threatened not to tell him his wife's location and would not pay for her to be sent home. The suit also claims that during the episode when Bedford conducted his regular Bible study at his home for the Haileyville Baptist Church, the gay swap participant invited a gay coalition to take part in the study.

It also contends that when he continued to protest to producers they repeatedly told him his wife was leaving him. The suit says he became so emotionally distraught he became physically and mentally ill and was forced to drop out of a college course he was taking.
His fragile ego suggests that he had no business being on a show called "Wife Swap."

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Murthafuckas

by Shakespeare's Sister

If you happened to be strolling through DC last night and heard a strange sound that could best be described as the howling of rabid wolverines slowly circling the drain of their final fate, it was because the House Republicans were engaging in a fine bit of grandstanding that took them to yet a new low.

It started with Democratic Rep. Jack Murtha’s resolution, which was a page long and, following an explanatory preamble, made the following recommendations:

Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That:

Section 1. The deployment of United States Forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.

Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines shall be deployed in the region.

Section 3. The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
The GOP then entered a revised resolution, which, in fairness, tried to be a page long through the clever use of large-sized fonts, and reduced Murtha’s idea to a mere three lines:

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.

1 Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.
I tuned into C-SPAN to watch the ensuing spectacle. The Dems went understandably apeshit, but the GOP was not to be deterred. Now, watching the House on C-SPAN always provides me with some amusement, as I get a glimpse of all the losers Republicans elect to represent them. (I mean, seriously—what a collection of reprobates.) But yesterday, they were in rare form, with Duncan Hunter doing his best imitation of am outraged human, and Jean Schmidt takng the bloody cake by calling the decorated Marine Murtha a coward. Apparently, donning a putrid stars-n-stripes jumper passes for bravery in her circle.

In the end, though the GOP was trying to force the Dems’ collective hand and force them to vote on their ludicrous mischaracterization of Murtha’s clever proposal, they looked like complete jags. The stunt was nothing more than a further demonstration of their hypocrisy. Sure, they say they support the troops, and accuse anyone, who doesn’t march in lockstep in their bullheadedly determined stay-the-course parade, of not supporting the troops, but everything that spews forth from any of their forked-tongued mouths comes down to one thing—being right about this war is more important than anything else, including soldiers’ arms and legs and eyes and ears and guts and very lives. And they don’t just need to be right about the war itself having been the right thing to do; they also need to be right about how the war is being fought. Even if all evidence points to the contrary, they retain their steadfast belief that the number of troops there now is right, and that they are armored (or not armored) exactly right, and that hanging on indefinitely until some yet-to-be-revealed benchmark is reached is right right right. And anyone who tries to dissuade them is a coward and a traitor.

Murtha’s resolution, as originally proposed, deserves at very least the benefit of deliberate consideration, but the GOP won’t even allow a good-faith debate about the parts and pieces of Murtha’s resolution; these chickenhawk pieces of shit won’t even walk onto the battlefield of ideas.

Instead, they just keep babbling reiterations about supporting the troops. Well, this is how much respect the GOP has for the troops: they’ll not only use them to fight a war of choice halfway around the world, sending them to risk their lives over a pack of bloody lies; they’ll also use them as a shield at home, hiding behind the soldiers they refuse to properly armor, using the troops as a shield to deflect criticism. They cower instead behind ribbons and bumper magnets and lapel pins and small flags on sticks, stubbornly insisting that they are right, and caring none for the consequences if they aren’t.

And here’s the topper: having failed at besting the Dems during yesterday’s spectacle on the floor of the House, the GOP is seeking an ethics probe of Murtha. Shameless gits.

(Crossposted at Ezra's place.)


Friday, November 18, 2005

Bwaaahhhaaahhhhaaa!!!!! Part II

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Let the catfights begin.

Them idol-worshippin' Catliks is goin' ta hell, looks lak:

Vatican Official Refutes Intelligent Design


The money quote, by the Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory:

"Intelligent design isn't science -- even though it pretends to be."


(*snicker)


Jim West's computer files public domain, judge says

by JJ

All of the files on Jim West's city owned computer are in fact public property. However there is a level of privacy and confidentiality required in releasing the information.

Read on, from the Spokesman Review: Photos public, yet private

"Clearly the public has the right to evaluate the mayor's performance," Miller said in ruling that West's Internet usage should be subject to the state's Open Public Records Act.

"The dilemma this court finds itself in is to release the pictures essentially releases the identities of the people in them. I don't think that's appropriate," Miller said.

For example, the judge said, one photograph might be that of a married man who is secretly gay "and now his picture goes into the public domain."


I find this ethically troubling! Should the people on Jim West's computer be publicly outed? How many lives could potentially be ruined as a result of the outing of men who might be married but secretly participating in anonymous gay encounters? How many lives could potentially be ruined if the men are NOT outed?

Crossposted at Spokane's Reality Based Blog


Slinking Away With Our Tail Between Our Legs

by Shakespeare's Sister

Mr. Shakes passes on this article from MSNBC, reporting on the results of a major new study completed by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Council on Foreign Relations, released yesterday. The study found that, similar to the post-Vietnam era, there is emerging an isolationist streak among Americans, “with more than two-fifths saying the United States should mind its own business.” What’s most interesting, however, is the disparity of opinion between elites and the hoi polloi.

The results, which are reported separately, paint a vivid picture of an America deeply at odds with those whom it pays to do its thinking for it.

If anything, the “influentials” (the report’s shorthand for its sample of opinion leaders) are even gloomier about America’s world prospects than the public as a whole. For example, 37 percent of Americans as a whole believe the U.S. effort to establish a stable democracy in Iraq will fail, but that view is held by 84 percent of scientists, 71 percent of foreign affairs specialists and 63 percent of journalists.

Meanwhile, while 44 percent of Americans believe the war in Iraq has damaged the international struggle against terrorism, higher percentages in every opinion leader category hold that view — including military leaders and 82 percent of those who study foreign affairs for a living.

And, except for military leaders, all of the categories of “influentials” are more downbeat about prospects for democracy in the Middle East. Even then, only 34 percent of the public (and the same percentage of military leaders) believe it will ever happen; by comparison, only 17 percent of foreign affairs specialists and 14 percent of security experts agree.
34%, huh? Where have I heard that number before? Oh, yeah—that’s President Bush’s latest approval rating. What a coinkydink. I guess when you win an election based on the exclusive premise that you’re the only one capable of running a war, and that war increasingly comes to be seen as the disaster it is, your job approval would track pretty damn closely with optimism about the successful realization of your stated war objective.

In any case, though the average American ding-dong seems to be wrong about just about everything else, they do seem to have been right about one thing: George Bush is indeed, despite his privileged upbringing and Ivy League education, one of them—irrationality convinced, against all evidence to the contrary, that we’re going to “win” an unwinnable war.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Fess Up, Dick!

by Shakespeare's Sister

Tim Grieve, with a bit of speculation about Woodward’s source:

Assuming that everyone is being truthful -- and at this point, in this story, that's a very big assumption to make -- the New York Times helps narrow the list today. A "senior administration official" says it wasn't George W. Bush, Andy Card or Dan Bartlett. Spokesmen for Colin Powell, George Tenet and John McLaughlin say it wasn't them, either. Woodward says it wasn't Scooter Libby. Karl Rove's lawyer says it wasn't him.

So who was the first administration official to leak Plame's identity to a reporter? Check out this paragraph from the Times: "Mr. Cheney did not join the parade of denials. A spokeswoman said he would have no comment on a continuing investigation."
I can’t imagine Scooter risking jail for obstruction charges protecting anyone else.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Ordinary Oddities

by Shakespeare's Sister

Last night, I watched an interesting documentary about kids with Tourette’s Syndrome. I’ve known two people with Tourette’s, one of whom is incredibly brilliant, and one of whom launched a baloney sausage across K-Mart because his girlfriend refused to buy it (which had less to do with Tourette’s, I think, and more to do with being kind of a dope).

Anyway, one of the most fascinating parts for me was about OCD, which is a big part of Tourette’s for the vast majority of those who have it. I’ve always had a collection of weird little OCD proclivities, though unfortunately none of the variety that would lend themselves to my house being tidy and spotless. Many of them were much more evident when I was a kid, like I had to eat everything in pairs. If I had 37 peas on my plate, the last pea had to be cut as exactly in half as was possible—no easy feat. Not eating the last pea was not an option, although if I ate only half of the peas, it didn’t matter, as long as the half I did eat was in pairs.

One of the more curious obsessions stemmed from my hating the feeling of my mouth being too wet. I hated feeling like I had a slobbery mouth, and I was incessantly running the inside of my upper lip across the edges of my teeth to rid it of wetness. This wasn’t a conscious habit, and it was only as I grew up that I realized the fixation was so manifest that prevention of slobbitude had led to all sorts of covert (even to me) behaviors. On long road trips, my mother and sister always had to stop to go to the bathroom; I never did. I was a camel. It wasn’t because of extraordinary bladder capacity, but because I existed in a constant state of dehydration, having made a subconscious connection between dehydration and having a dry mouth at a very young age. It was really only as an adult when several trips to the doctor over the course of a couple of years for various unrelated little things prompted comments about my dehydrated state that I started to figure out I had OCD-ed myself into a perpetual Saharan existence.

I still do weird counting things in my head all the time, or tracing the outlines of things with my gaze over and over and over. None of this happens on a conscious level; it’s always just running in the background as I go along about my business. I don’t even think about it much, but watching the Tourette’s documentary made me consider all these little idiosyncrasies, and how curious they are. Where do they come from…?

Perhaps the oddest thing about them is that they aren’t really all that unusual. I thought the wet mouth thing was about the weirdest quirk ever, but one of the kids in the documentary was talking about how saliva drives him crazy. Strange to find out that even at my most peculiar, there’s someone else who’s just like me.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


This is why I hate people who hate gay people...

by Ms. Julien in Miami

And anyone who says something like,

"I know a gay person, or persons, and they are 'great people' but I just don't think that they need 'special' rights like marriage..."

...actually hates gay people. No one would wish what is stated below on someone if they didn't hate them. I don't care if the people are family, or "so-called" dear friends, of gay people...if they don't want the same rights for committed gay couples, then they hate gays.

And this is what I face, by trying to be a good partner (since I can't be a good spouse):

Ms. Julien

Are We Being Gouged by Being Gay?

Tuesday November 15, 2005
Elizabeth MacDonald

Federal and state tax laws routinely gouge gay couples in a variety of ways, via inequities in the estate tax, income tax, inheritance tax or gift tax. And when it comes to other important financial issues, like housing, or bequeathing estates, or nursing home care, gay couples must use contract law as the flimsy, threadbare cover to protect their relationships. A rundown of how gay couples get hurt:

Houses. A gay partner whose spouse dies often sees their home going to a family member, as they have no rights to the house. But titling the house as "joint tenants with rights of survivorship" could guarantee a smooth transition to the surviving partner. Doing so can create tax problems. The IRS will count 100% of the value of the house in the taxable estate of the deceased, unless the surviving partner can prove their contribution, says Jennifer Hatch, managing partner of Christopher Street Financial, a New York firm specializing in financial advice for gay couples.

Employee benefits. Gay couples have to pay income taxes on the value of the employer benefits they get from their partner, such as health care coverage, something straight couples never have to pay. And gay couples' compensation packages, when the value of fringe benefits is added in, are usually less than the compensation of a married person doing the same job.

Tax planning. When it comes to gay couples, the gift tax is the gift that keeps on giving--to the government. Say you and your partner live together, and to do things right, you add her to the deed to your house. Did you know that you must then report the value of half of the house on your taxes? Uncle Sam says you made a gift under the law. Ditto for adding your partner to your bank or brokerage accounts. The IRS says those transactions are gifts that must be reported if they amount to more than $11,000 in a year. A married couple is seen as a single economic unit, so they can transfer anything between them, while same-sex couples are seen as business partners, so all transactions are deemed taxable business deals, says Hatch.

Estate Taxes. The "unlimited marital deduction" lets one spouse pass on as much money as he or she wants to the other, free of estate tax. But because Uncle Sam doesn't recognize gay marriage, gay couples can't use this deduction, so they get hit with a big tax bill. And gay couples have to pay extra to take out life-insurance policies on each other in order to fix the problem.

Life insurance. Gay couples may have to fight to establish their right to buy life insurance on each other, if the insurance company challenges the partner's insurable interest. Gay couples need this life insurance to reduce the estate tax hit, because if their estates are large enough, they are taxed twice--upon each partner’s death, Hatch says.

Inheritance Taxes. Some states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, have an inheritance tax for certain “types” of beneficiaries. While straight spouses are exempt, an “unrelated” partner could pay more than 15% of everything inherited.

Social Security. Gay people cannot claim Social Security benefits through their partner's employment, according to tax law, whereas even divorced straight people will receive higher payments based on their spouses’ contribution to the system, says Hatch.

Retirement Accounts. Gay people cannot roll over their partner's retirement account into their own, but must start taking taxable distributions soon after their partner’s death. However, a surviving straight spouse can let the investments compound until mandatory withdrawals at age 70.

Death. Yes gay people still get hurt even when leaving for the great beyond. When their partners die, gay couples must prove their ownership of every item in the house or face a tax bill or even total loss of the items to their partner's next of kin. When a partner dies, gay people often receive no death benefit or continuation of the decedent's pension, though many cities and states including New York City and New York State as well as some corporations allow pension continuation for a partner, Hatch says.



How many people do YOU know in this country who should receive this letter??!??!

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Excellent. Unfortunately, most of them will be too busy pushing fables instead of science, and staring down Quicksand Jeezus, and hating the queers, to understand this.

Published on Thursday, November 17, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
by Sally Burnell

Dear America,

I know that the majority of you are good, honest, hard working, God fearing people who live in small towns, go to work and to church on Sundays, want nothing more than to have a little slice of the American dream, own a home, have a job that pays enough to afford it, and a car in the driveway. You want your kids to be able to attend good schools and go on to better things than you have right now. You want to be able to come home from work at night and to be able to sit down with your family to a good meal and then do whatever it is you do in the evenings, watch TV, do homework, go to Johnny’s soccer match or Suzy’s ballet performance. You don’t ask for much, just a bit of the good life and peace of mind, that’s all.

Surely, you don’t ask for much. You’re not looking for pie-in-the-sky – OK, maybe you are, when you go down to the local convenience store or the gas station and buy a few lottery tickets – but for the most part, you’re a realist. You know that the chances of the big payola from a winning lottery ticket are about as slim as the chances of being hit by lightning. Oh, sure, once in a while, you pick up your local paper that is delivered to your front porch every morning before sunrise by your local paperboy, and see the headlines of someone in your hometown who hit it big in the lottery, and you feel that little twinge of envy, wondering what Joe Lunchbucket’s going to do with all that cash, now that he’s a multi-millionaire. Will he go down to the car dealership and buy a Lexus SUV and roar around town like some high and mighty person that you’re going to hate just seeing every day on that same road you drive to work?

You don’t much like super-rich people who live in those exclusive gated communities and drive their Lexus and BMW’s and Mercedes Benz’s. The nerve of them, thinking that they need to escape the common rabble, that being people like you, and live in some exclusive enclave like Royalty, guarded by the Palace Guard as if they should never have to see the lowly commoners like you – oh, how that would offend their sensibilities! You know deep down in your heart that they don’t pay taxes to support your schools and libraries, and it makes you darned mad that they don’t share their wealth for the common good, but rather, hoard it like some kind of greedy animal who wants the prey he killed all to himself rather than share it with the rest of his kind for survival’s sake.

Of late, you’ve felt squeezed between a rock and a hard place. You’re paying sky high prices to gas up your car so that you can go to your job that hasn’t been able to afford to give you a raise in you don’t remember how long, so you’re not even treading water anymore financially. Rather, you are sinking, as bills pile up and the cash to pay them isn’t there anymore. You’re facing record high heat bills this winter and you wonder who’s going to pay them, since you’re already scrambling to pay rapidly escalating health care costs on top of everything else. You wonder whether or not you’re even going to get to retire, because you’re also fretting over your aging parents who are themselves struggling to pay high medical and prescription drug bills, in addition to all of your other woes. You wonder, should the time come, if you can afford to place them in an assisted living facility if they are in need of such a thing someday.

In short, you’re a part of what used to be known as the “middle class”, but which is now rapidly becoming extinct. You don’t consider yourself to be a part of that group, because you don’t think you even make enough money anymore to qualify. Your real earning power has drastically shrunk, your bills have piled up and you’re going gray just wondering how you’re going to get through each day anymore. You wonder what happened to all those dreams and hopes for a better future that your parents generation raised you with – get a good education, find a job, and it’s yours for life, with a fat retirement pension at the end to support you in your old age. You know that these promises no longer hold true anymore, and it pains you to wonder how and why they all fell through and disappeared. You feel helpless to do anything to change it all but wring your hands and complain to friends and co-workers over coffee.

But, America, I also know that when you’ve had enough, you are willing to do something about it. Sure, you’ve got three more years of this obviously incompetent administration that has managed to dig us into a very deep hole, but I am seeing signs, America, that you have indeed had more than enough, and you want change. It’s a shame that it took a year for you to see who you voted into office (OK, those of us from Ohio know darn well that our elections were stolen in order to deliver the Presidency to Bush for another four years, but that’s another story for another time!), but you can change things now. Your displeasure is showing itself in recent polls, which give the approval rating for Bush at a meager 37%.

Some of us tried to warn you, America, what you’d be getting yourself in for when and if you voted for Bush, but it’s taken over 2,000 deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, PlameGate, the DeLay scandals, the torture issue and a host of other ills plaguing this administration’s second term to make you see what we were trying to warn you about. But it’s not too late to atone for your mistakes. Midterm elections are coming up next year, and you have a chance to deliver the Senate back into the hands of the Democratic Party. This time, America, I urge you to get it right. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Sally Burnell is on the Steering Committee of the Social Justice Committee at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, Ohio. She can be contacted at sburnell@raex.com.



Thursday, November 17, 2005

Special Blog Post:
An Open Letter to Bill O'Reilly

by Dark Wraith

Dear Mr. O'Reilly:

You have received a small share of wrath from bloggers who are appalled and revulsed by your invitation to al-Qa'ida to bomb San Francisco without fear of retribution. That you deserve every angry word that has been published about you is not in dispute: you have earned that animus in its full measure, and you should receive more. Much more. Your right to speak your mind does not include the privilege of a wide audience; you should be fired that you may learn the right of speech carries the accountability for its consequences.

Far more diversity than you imagine may be found in the voices arrayed against you. I am hopeful that you will publish my Website in the list of your enemies: those who might have found some reason to continue their support for you need to see that your simplification of the world is not merely dangerous, but wrong, too.

I was born into a Republican family. I grew up during the Cold War.

Contrary to the facile way that era is now treated by many, the times were complicated and perilous, both at home and abroad; great men confronted the issues of those times. I learned to be what is now sometimes derisively called a "Rockefeller Republican." One of my uncles was a member of the Sierra Club; another was gay. My parents left a church, never to return, the Sunday the preacher thundered against John F. Kennedy. Eisenhower was a great man, but his vice president was something of a toad; and Barry Goldwater was just a little bit "out there" somewhere, more of a mild embarrassment than a contribution. Both of those men, though, regardless of how history and the institutional Left might treat their legacies, came to contribute something to the society. Despite their great flaws, I hold no grudge against either. They were Americans, and so am I.

The enemy back then was Communism, and its armies were to be vigilantly kept in check on a global chessboard, where most of the moves–actually, all of the good moves–were incremental. Nameless Air Force pilots patrolled the cold, night skies to keep us safe; young grunts tried to keep their eyes open through the miserable nights at Checkpoint Charlie; gunners stood watch ready, but never really believing, that those hills way out there on the plains of Europe could one day be a sea of Russian tanks to target in furious hails of artillery bombardment.

Men of long experience and extraordinary wisdom met with others of the same kind in places all over the world to maintain, and once in a great while expand, our sphere of influence. Occasionally, we made deals with the Devil, but we usually told ourselves that one day we'd get rid of him once and for all. That was the incremental vision of a world that we should hand off, generation after generation, a little better than we received it.

At home, we did our best to allow the tide of a liberal society to flow forward through the second half of the 20the Century, while trying to keep that inevitable process slow and introspective. That part was harder than keeping the Communists at bay: the American society was just bursting at the seams with new ideas, and everyone wanted everything to happen right then and there. Unrepentant kids wanted to tear it all down, and blustering ignoramuses wanted to hang them all in the streets.

Those who managed our world and our government were educated in the best traditions of Western Civilization. They had learned the lessons of history, philosophy, and science; and they were able to infuse into their policies and decisions a secular, rational mindset. They saw themselves as the caretakers of the Age of Reason, without any doubt at all that this was the age for all future ages.

All of that is gone, now. Men and women of your kind now stand prominent and proud in bitter anger at a world that is not exactly as you want it. An influential religious leader like the Reverend Pat Robertson warns that natural disasters will befall those whose beliefs and practices differ from his; an influential former political man like William Bennet says that crime rates would be lower if only we would remove people of color from our society; and you, sir, literally call down the most violent and destructive of our enemies—enemies who hate our nation, our beliefs, and even our very ways—upon those with whom you disagree on politics and social policies.

My God, Mr. O'Reilly, can you not see—can you not grasp—the utter shamefulness of what you said? What tribal, primitive god, or more precisely, what demon in the mask of a god, brought you to what you are?

Were you my boy, I would take a belt to you; and I would do so every time you opened your mouth to spew such filth. You see, Mr. O'Reilly, I'm Old School; and even though I abide to the extent I can the wise words of men like the rabbi from Nazareth, I haven't an eternity to wait for the world to come to my way of seeing things.

Make no mistake, though, sir: were you to be in the way of harm from our common enemies, I would defend you. That is the call of duty. More importantly, however, I would choose to defend you. That is the call of honor.

But should men, women, and children suffer and die because you have delivered them to the murderous hands those enemies, I would take action. Were the civil society unable, infected as it is by men of minds like yours, to decline the obligation to exact retribution upon you, then I would have no qualm in exacting vengeance upon you.

Should you exhort your followers to seek pro-active harm to me, ensure first that they do not read this open letter. You might find that, when they have seen what I have to say, they will find that I am not as you have characterized all who disagree with you; you might find, instead, that they would affirm that you do, indeed, need that belt taken to you. You might find that they, too, are Old School.

And you might find that, unlike you, sir, most Americans are people of honor.



The Dark Wraith has spoken to you, Mr. O'Reilly.


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


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Slave wage, er, slavery, in the Gulf

by Pam


Halliburton and its subcontractor KBR hired hundreds of undocumented Latino workers to clean up, treated them like animals, and threw them out without paying them.

Slavery is alive and well if you're an undocumented worker on the post-Katrina clean-up effort, according to a Salon article (day pass or registration req'd).

Folks were worried about low wages, no-bid contracts and general corruption in the Gulf region, but this is the height of immorality, courtesy of Bush/CheneyCo's friends at Halliburton/KBR.
Arnulfo Martinez recalls seeing lots of hombres del ejercito standing at attention. Though he was living on the Belle Chasse Naval Base near New Orleans when President Bush spoke there on Oct. 11, he didn't understand anything the ruddy man in the rolled-up sleeves was saying to the troops.

Martinez, 16, speaks no English; his mother tongue is Zapotec. He had left the cornfields of Oaxaca, Mexico, four weeks earlier for the promise that he would make $8 an hour, plus room and board, while working for a subcontractor of KBR, a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton that was awarded a major contract by the Bush administration for disaster relief work. The job was helping to clean up a Gulf Coast naval base in the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina. "I was cleaning up the base, picking up branches and doing other work," Martinez said, speaking to me in broken Spanish.

Even if the Oaxacan teenager had understood Bush when he urged Americans that day to "help somebody find shelter or help somebody find food," he couldn't have known that he'd soon need similar help himself. But three weeks after arriving at the naval base from Texas, Martinez's boss, Karen Tovar, a job broker from North Carolina who hired workers for a KBR subcontractor called United Disaster Relief, booted him from the base and left him homeless, hungry and without money.
At least slaves picking cotton got a meal and a shack to live in. This is so base that it boggles the mind. As Blender and Julien's List contributor 'Bean said:
"After all, the last five years have shown American Values means the only people we put first are the ones we like - the ones in our OWN church, with our OWN speech pattern, with our OWN skin color, with our OWN orientation, right?"
But 'Bean, you forgot the most critical factor: putting your rich base first is always the overriding concern in this corrupt, guilt-free Administration.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend


Say it ain't so, Bob

by Pam



Bob Woodward is caught up in the Plame case, and knew about her ID -- in mid-June 2003 -- before Jailbird Judy. Even worse, he didn't tell his boss at the WaPo that he was deeply involved in the case until now. We're only learning about this at the present time because Woodward was slapped with a subpoena to testify after one of those "unnamed senior administration officials" squealed on him. (WaPo):
Woodward never mentioned this contact -- which was at the center of a criminal investigation and a high-stakes First Amendment legal battle between the prosecutor and two news organizations -- to his supervisors until last month. [Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard] Downie said in an interview yesterday that Woodward told him about the contact to alert him to a possible story. He declined to say whether he was upset that Woodward withheld the information from him.
It gets sleazier, because the formerly-straight-shooting Woodward has been slagging prosecutor Fitzgerald and downplaying the significance of the leak all this time as a talking head, which amounts to propaganda for the Bush Administration. Now we know why he did it - it clearly wasn't in his best interest to spin it truthfully.
Woodward, who is preparing a third book on the Bush administration, has called Fitzgerald "a junkyard-dog prosecutor" who turns over every rock looking for evidence. The night before Fitzgerald announced Libby's indictment, Woodward said he did not see evidence of criminal intent or of a major crime behind the leak.

"When the story comes out, I'm quite confident we're going to find out that it started kind of as gossip, as chatter," he told CNN's Larry King.

Woodward also said in interviews this summer and fall that the damage done by Plame's name being revealed in the media was "quite minimal."

"When I think all of the facts come out in this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great," he told National Public Radio this summer.
Is there something in the water up there inside the Beltway that robs folks of ethical principles?


How the mighty have fallen...

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend


'Bush rarely speaks to father, family is split'

by Pam


Get the Drudge sirens going...

Insight Mag is reporting (via Queen Drudge - and I'm not linking to him) that the Chimp isn't getting on well with Poppy these days, and that it really is a bunker mentality at the White House. I'm just getting too much pleasure out of this, then I think -- this guy is running the country and has access to nukes, for god's sake.
President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, INSIGHT magazine claims in a new report.

The president’s reclusiveness in the face of relentless public scrutiny of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and White House leaks regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame has become so extreme that Mr. Bush has also reduced contact with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, administration sources said on the condition of anonymity.

“The atmosphere in the Oval Office has become unbearable,” a source said. “Even the family is split.”

INSIGHT: Sources close to the White House say that Mr. Bush has become isolated and feels betrayed by key officials in the wake of plunging domestic support, the continued insurgency in Iraq and the CIA-leak investigation that has resulted in the indictment and resignation of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people [all his mommy figures]: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.
Maybe Poppy's finally told the little guy that the current administration has f*cked up U.S. relations with half most of the globe and it's all due to the incompetence of the Chimperor. After all, Poppy's had to help the poor bastard out all his life, and what does he have to show for it -- a son that is a dangerous, unstable dunce -- and everyone knows it.



And perhaps the matter of the Chimperor probably hitting the booze again -- and being a head case -- isn't sitting well with the old man either.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend


An Invitation

by Dark Wraith

From Think Progress via Shakespeare's SisterList this, O'Reilly comes word that those on the Internet who severely criticized Bill O'Reilly for calling on terrorists to bomb San Francisco without fear of retribution are now subject to being put on a list that will be posted on his Website. In his words, "We’ll post the names of all who support the smear merchants on billoreilly.com."

In recognition of those smear merchants who might want to be on that list is the graphic bait at left.




The Dark Wraith humbly offers this to bloggers who vocally oppose terrorist sympathizers.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Baptist bucks force disbanding of gay group at Mercer University

by Pam


The Mercer Triangle Symposium is an organization recognized by the Student Government Association, and though the University does not sponsor this organization, we do respect the right of students to assemble and discuss wide-ranging social and religious issues.

As president of the University, I am very much aware of the views and deeply-held feelings of all of our Baptist allies, and we have sought to balance a genuine sensitivity to the viewpoints of the many Baptists who support the University while preserving a community of respect for all students and faculty.
-- Mercer University President Kirby Godsey
The Mercer Triangle Symposium's purpose is to "discuss political, theological, social and academic issues relating to sexuality." It wasn't even sponsored by Mercer University, but the Georgia Taliban decided that the mere existence of a gay support group was too much to bear.

The MTS held its final meeting on Monday, after being disbanded due to the pressure from the Georgia Baptist Convention and a school administration scared of losing its funding from the GBC. (AJC):
A support group for gay students at the Macon campus of Mercer University disbanded Monday after the head of the Georgia Baptist Convention complained to school officials that the group's existence betrayed the university's Christian heritage.

Mercer's student Senate first recognized the group in 2002. Monday was the first day of the annual Georgia Baptist Convention in Columbus.

Last month, the GBC's executive director, J. Robert White, publicly complained about the gay group after learning about it in a campus newspaper. White said he received calls from parents around Georgia who were concerned about the education their children were receiving.

Mercer, which also has a campus in Atlanta, is a Baptist-affiliated college of 7,000 students that receives about $2.4 million a year from the Georgia Baptist Convention.
In the Christian Index, a publication touting that it's "helping Georgia Baptists share the Good News," you get a pious helping of the AmTaliban's version of Christianity. Its article is breathless on the topic because it is "raising eyebrows among Georgia Baptists who have begun questioning the integrity of the historically Baptist university." Here's GBC Executive Director J. Robert White:


"This kind of event is diametrically opposed to who we are as a Convention. This creates a conflict for Georgia Baptists who send their students to Mercer as a Georgia Baptist university believing that they will be nurtured in a Christian environment, then learn that their students are invited to attend meetings of this nature on campus.

..."The thing that concerns me most deeply is the disregard for the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the students by those who promoted this event and other similar activities that apparently take place with regularity on the campus. If there was no spiritual reason whatsoever to discourage homosexuality, certainly the blight of AIDS should be adequate to surmise, 'This is not a good thing to promote at our university.'

"Add to the physical concerns, the emotional crisis this creates for our families, to say nothing of the spiritual result of choosing to live a life of unrepentant sin, and the results can be devastating."

White further stated, "If Mercer says, 'There's nothing we can do about this kind of event taking place at the university,' or 'Students must be free to express themselves without interference from the university,' we still have a serious compatibility problem." [What? Freedom of speech? It's an un-Christian concept to talk about difficult issues? Where is that in the bible?]

White concluded, "I understand that a part of the university experience, whether Baptist or otherwise, is being exposed to a broad variety of thought. [Hmmm. This is an unamusing way of showing it...]
At the same time, I believe that Georgia Baptist parents should be able to have the confidence that their young people who attend a Georgia Baptist institution will not receive errant signals but will be taught that learning to live a life that is like Christ - full of integrity, character and truth - is the supreme result of higher Christian education."
Hat tip, PageOneQ.

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Little Ricky: no 'intelligent design' in schools

by Pam



Perhaps Santorum was paying attention to the housecleaning of the wingnut school board in the Pennsylvania city of Dover this past Tuesday. (Beaver County Times):
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Saturday that he doesn't believe that intelligent design belongs in the science classroom.

Santorum's comments to The Times are a shift from his position of several years ago, when he wrote in a Washington Times editorial that intelligent design is a "legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in the classroom."

But on Saturday, the Republican said that, "Science leads you where it leads you."
I love the last line in this excerpt. Clearly Little Ricky is scared of being too close to the Chimp, but he can't help showing his pathetic self-interest and naked ambition.
Though Santorum said he believes that intelligent design is "a legitimate issue," he doesn't believe it should be taught in the classroom, adding that he had concerns about some parts of the theory.

Earlier this summer, President Bush said he favored teaching intelligent design in the classroom.

With Santorum running for re-election next year, and with Bush and the Republican Party taking some significant hits in public confidence in recent months, Santorum insisted he is not trying to distance himself from Bush.

...Saturday, Santorum said of Bush, "I don't agree with everything he does," but said that overall, he considers Bush a good president and that he has "done a lot" for the country and for Santorum himself.
He's done a lot, alright, Mr. Man-on-Dog. You lie down with him and you come up with fleas.

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Monday, November 14, 2005

It Sucks to be the King

by Shakespeare's Sister

In a rare display of regard for the truth on Saturday, the WaPo took a breather from sucking Bush off and pointed out he’s something of a, um, liar:

President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.

Neither assertion is wholly accurate…

Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.
Not to be pedantic or anything, but the administration has been using that argument for a lot longer than a couple of days, and I think it would be fair to say that, in pointing out that it was utter bullshit, the WaPo was scooped by the entire liberal blogosphere. Nonetheless, that a major paper finally picked up on the whole “truth” meme is good news…and sent the administration scrambling. After five years of not being held accountable for anything, they weren’t prepared for the WaPo’s vicious weekend onslaught.

By yesterday, the White House had issued their rebuttal—Setting the Record Straight, which is essentially a regurgitation of the same nonsense we’ve heard for years, amounting to talking points attractive to their base, but nothing substantive to thoroughly rebut the very real dilemma one faces after cooking intelligence to fearmonger the country into supporting a war of choice, and then getting busted. Repeatedly. (Today, Raw Story reports on 2001 testimony from George Tenet which further weakens the White House’s case against its detractors.)

How serious is this, really? Well, if you believe the polls, Bush is on the ropes. The Nov. 9 NBC/WSJ poll showed that 57% of Americans believe Bush deliberately misled them in making his case for the war, and Zogby’s Nov. 4 poll showed that 53% of Americans want Congress to consider impeaching Bush if he did deliberately mislead the public. If the situation in Iraq doesn’t significantly improve and thereby rekindle support for the war (an unlikely event, by any deduction), support will instead continue to dwindle—and that means more and more former gung-ho supporters are going to be looking for someone to blame, which could mean real trouble for Bush.

That’s the problem with kingmakers—they can be a king’s undoing, too.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Here It Is, In Black and White

by Shakespeare's Sister

SCOTUS nominee Sam Alito does not believe abortion is a constitutionally protected right, among other positions likely to give me an ulcer:

Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, wrote that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion" in a 1985 document obtained by The Washington Times.

"I personally believe very strongly" in this legal position, Mr. Alito wrote on his application to become deputy assistant to Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III…

"It has been an honor and source of personal satisfaction for me to serve in the office of the Solicitor General during President Reagan's administration and to help to advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly," he wrote.

"I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."…

"I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values," he wrote.

"In the field of law, I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate," he added.
(I would have thought someone as smart as Scalito would have done more on his application than copy the entry for “Activist Judge” out of the encyclopedia.)

I certainly hope Joe Biden and the other “moderate Senate Democrats” who have been so eager to rule out the filibuster identify this as the possibly “extraordinary circumstance” they (inexplicably) didn’t expect, and get serious about vetting this candidate before they bring out the cigars to celebrate giving Bush another undeserved bipartisan victory.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Latest from Bush stooge: can't rule out torture

by Pam


National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, thinking hard about what the latest U.S. policy on torture is.

Someone remind me - isn't torture against the law? Didn't the Chimp just tell us last week that Americans do not torture -- or did someone let the dunce-in-chief go off-message yet again?

A "clarification" was issued out of this confused and criminal administration today. This time, the stooge of the hour was National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who trotted out to make sure everyone understood where the U.S. stands when it comes to putting the thumbscrews to people in the government's custody. Don't forget, we must refer to torture as "enhanced interrogation techniques." (AFP):
In an important clarification of President George W. Bush's earlier statement, a top White House official refused to unequivocally rule out the use of torture, arguing the US administration was duty-bound to protect Americans from terrorist attack.

The comment, by US national security adviser Stephen Hadley, came amid heated national debate about whether the CIA and other US intelligence agencies should be authorized to use what is being referred to as "enhanced interrogation techniques" to extract from terror suspects information that may help prevent future assaults.

The US Senate voted 90-9 early last month to attach an amendment authored by Republican Senator John McCain to a defense spending bill that would prohibit "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of detainees in US custody. But the White House has threatened to veto the measure and has lobbied senators to have the language removed or modified to allow an exemption for the Central Intelligence Agency.
You'll recall that soft tushy punching bag Scotty McClellan refused to answer any of the 16 questions asked of him about Cheney wanting an exemption for torture at a press briefing last week, so they are dancing on the head of a pin over there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We've also got senators differing over the efficacy of torture, er, "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Republican Senator Kit Bond, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Newsweek magazine that "enhanced interrogation techniques" had worked with at least one captured high-level Al-Qaeda operative, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, to thwart an unspecified plot.

...A compromise with senators was in the works, Hadley assured, saying the White House was holding consultations with them about the McCain amendment. He offered no specifics about the administration's goals in these talks. But McCain, who appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" program, said White House negotiators led by Vice President Richard Cheney were pushing to safeguard the option of using the enhanced interrogation techniques in order to get information from detainees in extraordinary circumstances.

The senator said he disagreed with that approach because he was worried about the damage to the image of the United States. "I hold no brief for the terrorists," he said. "But it's not about them. It's about us. This battle we're in is about the things we stand for and believe in and practice. And that is an observance of human rights, no matter how terrible our adversaries may be."
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


True to Life: A Book Review

by TheGreenKnight

Michael P. Lynch, professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, has written a very helpful and lucid book called True to Life: Why Truth Matters (Cambridge, MS: MIT Press, 2005). Unlike many contemporary books of philosophy, Lynch's book is clear, straightforward, and practical.

Lynch takes on the project of defending both truth and liberal democracy. He is aware of writing at a time when the US government is behaving perhaps more mendaciously than at any other time in its history, and at a time when an enormous percentage of the population has grown so cynical about the truth that it is no longer shocked or upset by the fact. His book is meant to convince its readers that both of these phenomena are deadly, not only to democracy but also to living a human life.

Lynch explains his project crisply:
[T]ruth matters. I'll try to convince you that if you care about truth you better not care about dogma; that a lot, but not all, of what goes under the label "relativism" is dumb; that you nonetheless don't have to believe in one true story of the world; that staying true to yourself is hard but worth it; that being willing to stand up for what you believe is important for happiness; and that if you care about your rights, you better care about truth (4).
Lynch begins by laying out the basic principle that truth is objective; that is, it exists independently of human desires, wishes, and feelings. The very fact, he argues, that it is possible to be mistaken about something shows that truth exists outside ourselves. But conversely, the fact that we cannot always feel certain of the truth does not mean that there is no truth, and the fact that somebody is willing to ask critical questions does not mean that they have given up on truth. On the contrary, it indicates a profound interest in the truth.

Here as in many places, Lynch takes on certain errors made by right-wing critics. One of these errors is the notion that asking critical questions and admitting uncertainty is just a failure to believe in truth. But this, says Lynch, is simply wrong. Dogmatic certainty, of the kind that right-wing culture warriors like William Bennett insist upon, actually has nothing to do with truth. Certainty is an emotional state; it is entirely possible to be certain and wrong, and Lynch gives several examples to demonstrate this fact. A passion for the truth sometimes requires uncertainty, that is, the willingness to admit that what you think is true really is not, and that the truth is still "out there" to be found.

Once this is established, Lynch moves on to an explanation of the various ways in which modern people get the idea of truth wrong. The central part of his book is largely concerned with the ways in which various modern philosophical theories of truth either miss the point or are incoherent.

Of particular importance is his chapter on relativism, which, as Lynch says, is mostly dumb. In particular, he shows that what he calls "simple relativism" is not only incoherent but actually impossible. By "simple relativism" Lynch means the belief that what is true for each person is simply true-for-them, in other words, that all truth is always just relative to the individual. This perspective, he argues, is really just a combination of laziness and vanity. But Lynch has another, more important point to make about simple relativism:
Conservative critics often write as if simple relativism was the scourge of the Western world. They portray all college students, for example, as being brainwashed into this type of relativism by wild-eyed professors whose politics are somewhere to the left of Castro's. And philosophy professors, who hear what seem to be endorsements of simple relativism all the time from their students, sometimes call it "freshman relativism." In fact, simple relativism appears more popular than it actually is....

[W]hen someone says that "this is true for me," they don't necessarily mean to be endorsing a philosophical position. The phrase "it is true for me but not for you" is most often just shorthand for: "I believe it, you don't, so let's talk about something else." Similarly, the phrase "it is a matter of opinion" is a conversation-stopper, a way of getting out of a debate one doesn't want to be in (34-35).
In other words, as they did with so-called "political correctness," critics on the right are failing to recognize simple good manners when they see it; instead, they see some deep conspiracy to undermine truth itself. But not to worry, Lynch convincingly argues:
Simple relativism is a bogeyman; it is incoherent and believed by few if anyone (35).
Lynch also, however, takes on the very real academic phenomenon of postmodern relativism, and argues that it is just as incoherent as simple relativism. The only difference, he argues, is that instead of claiming that truth is simply defined by each individual, postmodern relativism claims that truth is really just a function of power structures.
According to postmodern relativism, a belief is true just when it passes for true or when it is justified relative to the standards accepted within the culture or community -- the systems that account for how statements are created, distributed, and regulated (38).
Postmodern relativism can in fact be found all over the academy, from the literary criticism of Stanley Fish to the cultural histories of Foucault. But this theory of truth, says Lynch, is not only nonsense but dangerous:
[I]f truth can be nothing more than what passes for truth, and what passes for truth is constituted by systems of power, then as those systems change, so does the truth. It follows that in the American South of the 1960s and '70s, African Americans really were morally and intellectually inferior to whites because that was the view of the white political power structure at the time. But this is unintuitive: surely such racist views were false then and now....

The real problem is that [postmodern relativism] pulls the rug out from under the feet of any attempt to rationally criticize the political systems of power in one's own culture. This is ironic, for many postmodernists see themselves as engaged precisely in such criticism (39).
You cannot, in other words, speak truth to power if you think that truth is nothing but power. What claims to be a radical left-wing theory actually turns out to be the best friend the right ever had.

The last part of Lynch's book returns to the central issue of why truth matters. He shows why truth is important to leading a good life; his section, for example, on integrity is both lucid and passionate. He argues that integrity requires a belief in the truth, even when it is inconvenient. Furthermore, he shows that integrity is yet another quality that is often misunderstood by the modern right, by giving the example of former Illinois Governor George Ryan (R), who began his term as a supporter of the death penalty, but ended it by commuting all death sentences in the state following revelations that the death penalty may have been arbitrarily applied:
Some criticized Ryan's actions as lacking intellectual integrity because he had changed his mind. But to say this is to betray a lack of understanding of what intellectual integrity is. Intellectual integrity is not simply a matter of being consistent. Gritting your teeth and holding to what you've said in the past in the face of new evidence is not intellectual integrity, but stupidity (133).
While Lynch does not deal with the Ashcroft Department of Justice's later fraud charges against Ryan (in a case brought, ironically, by Patrick Fitzgerald under Ashcroft's supervision), his essential point about this particular instance remains valid: being a so-called "flip-flopper" has nothing to do with your integrity or lack thereof, and often what passes for integrity, especially in the political media, is merely stupid stubbornness.

Lynch concludes with a defense of liberal democracy, and an explanation of why truth is at its heart.
Conservative critics like Robert Bork and Allan Bloom have long insisted that not only does liberalism not require an objective notion of truth, it is inconsistent with it. Surprisingly, many liberals themselves seem to agree....But if it is part of the liberal's view that every view of the good life must be seen as equally true...then it is unclear why she is advocating liberalism at all. If her opponents' views -- those, say of the fundamentalist Right -- are equally true as the liberal's own, then what motivation does she have for opposing them?....

I think you'll recognize this view -- call it relativistic liberalism -- as a fairly common one. As a result of its influence, it is not surprising that defenses of liberal causes have become so mealymouthed and weak in recent years. It is hard to stand up and fight for a position that by definition takes itself to be no better than any other on offer.

We defenders of liberal democracy need to reject this view. Far from eschewing truth, liberalism requires that truth is a value....

The liberal ideal is that one's society should respect, as far as possible, different conceptions of the good life. This requires the idea of rights. But the very idea of having a right requires the distinction between what our peers let us get away with and what is true. Therefore...the liberal must believe that what passes for truth may nonetheless not be true (163-166).
And we are back to the book's central idea: truth is objective. It exists outside and regardless of our present opinions and power structures, and one of life's essential tasks is discovering what it is.

Although Lynch's book is a short one, it is a rich and interesting exploration of a fundamentally important topic; it is also timely, coming as it does at a time when liberalism is re-examining its premises in the face of immense opposition. The book's essential insights are clear, crucial, and, in my judgment at least, true.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.


Bush DOJ: Southern Illinois University's giving white guys a raw deal

by Pam

Reasonable people can disagree about how to address the legacy of discrimination and racism in American society, and the definitions and effectiveness of the various forms of affirmative action policies. However, I don't think any sane person can logically argue that white men are underprivileged, underrepresented as a class, and in need of a helping hand in comparison to women and racial minority groups that are socioeconomically vulnerable.

But we are talking about sane folks, right? That might explain why we're hearing this out of Bush's Justice Department (Chicago Sun-Times):
President Bush's administration has threatened to sue Southern Illinois University, alleging its fellowship programs for minority and female students violate federal civil rights laws by discriminating against whites, men and others.

In a move Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said "just doesn't make sense," the U.S. Justice Department charged that three SIU programs that aim to increase minority enrollment in graduate school exclude whites, other minorities and males, in violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.

"The University has engaged in a pattern or practice of intentional discrimination against whites, non-preferred minorities and males,'' says a Justice Department letter sent to the university last week and obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
It should be noted that only 8 percent of SIU's 5,500 graduate students are black or Hispanic, so we're not talking about a bum rush of "darkies" into SIU's programs, taking away fellowships from the pale faces dominating the school's population. But Alberto's goons are ready to sue. Here are the programs in question:
FELLOWSHIP: Bridge to the Doctorate
Started: 2004
Award: $30,000 stipend, plus $10,500 for education expenses
Purpose: "For underrepresented minority students to initiate graduate study in science, technology, engineering and math.''
Budget: $985,000
Number of awards since inception: 24 (19 blacks, 5 Latino, 1 Native American)

FELLOWSHIP: Proactive Recruitment and Multicultural Professionals for Tomorrow
Started: 2000
Award: Tuition waiver and $1,200 monthly stipend
Purpose: "To increase the number of minorities receiving advanced degrees in disciplines in which they are underrepresented.''
Budget: $158,000
Awards since inception: 78 (61 blacks, 14 Latinos, 1 Asian, 2 Native Americans)

FELLOWSHIP: Graduate Dean's
Started: 2000
Award: Tuition waiver, $1,000 monthly stipend
Purpose: "For women and and traditionally underrepresented students who have overcome social, cultural or economic conditions.''
Budget: $67,000
Awards since inception: 27 (16 whites, 7 blacks, 4 Latinos)

SOURCE: Southern Illinois University
The Bushies are making this case based on the Grutter vs. Bollinger U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2003, which ruled that race could be included as a factor in determining admissions (in that case, the University of Michigan), but not the only factor. Because of this, each applicant now had to be evaluated on an individual basis, making it difficult, if not impossible, to consider a factor such as race. This is yet another desperate appeal to the Chimp's "base," which is eroding faster than you can say "Turdblossom."
A spokesman for the Justice Department's civil rights division declined comment Thursday, but Illinois' junior U.S. senator ridiculed the maneuver as a "cynical" bid to distract public attention from Bush's sagging popularity.

"One of my concerns has been with all the problems the Bush administration is having, that they'll start resorting to what they consider to be wedge issues as a way of helping themselves politically," Obama said.

"If anything, the White House should be doing everything it can to encourage more engineering students and Ph.D.'s. It strikes me as a completely unnecessary and divisive move and one that I think may be pretty cynical in its motive," Obama said.

Pat McNeil, an assistant dean and administrator of the Underrepresented Fellowships Office, said she knows of no white students who have applied for the Bridge or Proactive Recruitment programs.
When it comes down to it, our President was the beneficiary of an affirmative action program that the students up for these fellowships will never get a crack at -- the Legacy Award, or "Daddy's Little Helper." The Chimp will never have to worry about needing a helping hand when he has Poppy to help him out -- Shrub has coasted all the way to the White House without any apparent talent, intelligence -- or hard work. When is the DOJ going to go after legacy admissions as discriminatory?

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pulp Economics:
A Brief Story of Money, Part 1

by Dark Wraith

This is the first installment in a four-part series on the root of all evil. Actually, the relevant admonition is that the love of money, not money itself, is the root of all evil, but that's more or less a technicality that legal scholars adjudicating eternal damnation cases are more qualified to consider. This special Pulp Economics series at The Dark Wraith Forums has more modest interests and ambition. The series upon which we are about to embark will take readers from the very basics about money clear through to the elements of how modern central banks use money to manage economies and project one or another political, social, or economic program.

This is a subject of macroeconomics, the study of economies in the large, of unemployment, recessions, economic growth, inflation, and other features that transcend individual consumers, households, firms, and industries. Economics can be an intensely boring and difficult subject to study. Thank God, readers here at the Big Brass Blog have the benefit of one of the finest teacher of economics to ever have walked this sad and troubled Earth. Those who don't believe that should first take a course in principles of economics from the typical modern professor of the discipline, where they'll be treated to darkened rooms punctuated by PowerPoint presentations and graphs and charts and all manner of droning incontinence that is more than enough to bring the Bluebird of Happiness to despair and ultimate suicide.

Rejoice, then, as we travel the economics highway across the vast tundra that is the subject of money. In this first installment, the problem of defining money will be handled. That is crucially important, not only to later installments, but to the overall understanding of how economic agents function in a world where, on a daily basis, hundreds if not thousands of transactions can occur just at the personal and household levels. At the national and global levels, money in many and varied forms—some of it not even apparent as money in any common sense way—is flowing in sums and intricate networks that only massive computing power can grasp in scope and depth.

The readers of The Dark Wraith Forums and the Big Brass Blog are, of course, not average by any means; and that's why this series is tailor made to the audience here. Readers will laugh, readers will cry; and ultimately, they'll come away from this series with only one question: "I spent a grand on a computer so I could read drivel like this?!"

And with that, we now begin... with a little play. Set in paleolithic times, this is the story of a paleolithic man by the name of Mr. Shakes, a previous incarnation of the man by the same name whose home is the now at the blog Shakespeare's Sister. Mr. Shakes has traveled a good distance to do business with another paleolithic man, Mr. Goat, in his modern incarnation an earstwhile commentator at, among other places, The Dark Wraith Forums. Other characters from the modern era will be incorporated by reference or in cameo appearances, and all actors are herewith acknowledged for their roles in this production.

      [Fade in scene: Bright morning sun rising over rocky, steep hillsides. Caves visible along face of hill.]

      [Sound of man walking, breath labored.]

      [Pan camera onto caveman, carrying big animal skins, walking toward caves.]

Mr. Shakes [hollering, thick Scottish accent]: HELLOOOO! ANYBODY HOOOME? MR. GOOO-AHT! WAKE UP! IT'S MR. SHAKES!

Mr. Goat [emerging from ground-level cave]: Mr. Shakes? Good Lord, man, it's not even six o'clock in the morning. What're you doing out this way?

Mr. Shakes: I got sooome tradin' t'do wit' ya.

Mr. Goat: 'Trading'?! You mean you've actually got something worth trading?

Mr. Shakes [hoisting animal skins above his head]: That I have.

Mr. Goat: Holy Moses! You actually went out and hunted down beasts and got their hides?

Mr. Shakes: Not exactly. You know our old friend, Paul the Spud? Great hunter. Brilliant guy: he could conjugate verbs like a Proto-Indo-European.

Mr. Goat: Yeah, as a matter of fact, I'm expecting him any time now. Last time I saw him was two days ago; we were both getting a cup of morning coffee at Pam's House Blend. He even paid for mine. He said he'd be coming over to my cave to do some business.

Mr. Shakes [breathless, clamboring around boulders to Mr. Goat's cave]: Well, Paul's dead. I found parts of him out on the plains. Looks like he got nailed by a sabre-tooth tiger.

Mr. Goat: YEESH!... Oh, I get it. Those were the hides he harvested.

Mr. Shakes [dropping them at Mr. Goat's feet]: That they were. Scattered around in a field. I scraped Paul's viscera off the ones he apparently used to wrap himself up in. Seems he was tryin' t' look like some kind of fierce animal to the sabre-tooth.

Mr. Goat [kneeling down to inspect the hides]: Hmm. Doesn't look like the strategy worked very well, does it?

Mr. Shakes: Well, it would have worked a whole lot better if he hadn't been so panicked. It looks like he wrapped himself in the zebra skins.

Mr. Goat [shaking his head]: Talk about a bad move. Paul might as well have put a neon sign on his head: EAT HERE!

Mr. Shakes [laughing nervously]: I'll tell ya, this Paleolithic era just sucks sometimes. I really liked Paul.

Mr. Goat [standing back up]: So did the cat, it would seem.

[robust laughter]

Mr. Goat: So you're now the proud owner of five hides, and you want to do business?

Mr. Shakes: That's why I'm here. You're the entrepreneur. You do business with anyone, even the paleo-conservatives.

Mr. Goat: Well, yes, I'll even do business with paleo-cons; but so help me God, I'll go out of business before I'll do a trade with a neo-con.

Mr. Shakes [nodding]: A man with ethics, that's what you are, my friend.

Mr. Goat: You know the standard for hides, don't you?

Mr. Shakes: 'Standard'? There's an exchange standard?

Mr. Goat: Oh, yes. The standard has been around for ages. It was established by the guy who wrote T. Rex's Guide to Life: Kenneth was his name, I think.

Mr. Shakes: The standard has been around since the T. Rex?!

Mr. Shakes: That's the legend, anyway; but it really doesn't matter since everyone accepts it. That's what matters: we all agree on the standard. There's even a list of exchange values put together by a lady named Ms. Julien: everyone called it Julien's List.

Mr. Shakes: Well, if it's a standard, then I suppose I'll have to accept it. I was really hopin' t' get somethin' t' eat for th' family: me and th' wife an' our two little ones.

Mr. Goat: That shouldn't be a problem. I just secured a medium-sized animal that's more than enough to feed a family of four.

Mr. Shakes: Perfect! I'll take it... Uh... What particular species of 'medium-sized animal' are we talkin' about here, by th' way?

Mr. Goat [walking back into the cave]: Dog.

Mr. Shakes [cocking his head to the side]: You mean, like a family pet or somethin'?

Mr. Goat: Actually, I think it was a family pet. It talks.

Mr. Shakes [looking puzzled]: Ya mean I'm gettin' a talkin' dog, an' I'm supposed t' feed it to me wife an' kids?!

Mr. Goat [bawling out, whistling]: FIDO! C'mon boy! I found a new owner for you! [turning back around, talking in whisper] You don't tell your family what they're eating, fer cryin' out loud! And you most definitely don't tell the dog what your plans are for him. He's pretty darned smart.

Mr. Shakes: AH! Yes, I understand.

Mr. Goat [emerging from cave, scruffy brown dog following]: Fido? Meet your new master. He's got kids and a nice cave where you'll be a happy pet. These people will just love you.

Dog [jumping up and down]: Oh boy, oh boy! A family! Let's go, let's go!

Mr. Shakes [looking at dog admiringly, laughing]: Not so fast, there, Fido. I still have t' finish me business with Mr. Goat, here. [hands over the animal skins]

Dog [eyes bugging]: You're giving up five gorgeous animal skins for moi?

Mr. Shakes: That's th' deal.

Dog: You should keep those. You could make a new wrap-around for your loins. That one you're wearing looks pretty tattered.

Mr. Goat: He's got a point, there, Mr. Shakes. That wrap-around is in pretty bad shape.

Mr. Shakes [looking irritated]: It's not a 'wrap-around'; it's called a KILT!

Dog: A 'kilt'? Why do you call it that?

Mr. Shakes: Because some animal had t' be kilt so I could have it. [bursts into roaring guffaws]

Dog: Oh, now I get it! [joins Mr. Shakes in loud laughter]

Mr. Goat [rolling his eyes, muttering]: Great. A Scotsman and now a dog who thinks he's funny.

Mr. Shakes: I think that concludes our business, Mr. Goat. Now, you'll forgive me if I take this fine food... er, dog and head back down th' trail. It's a long journey, an' I want to be home in time to prepare supper... if y'know what I mean.

Mr. Goat: Yes, of course. It's been a pleasure doing business with you; and come back again when you've scavanged some more hides from the dearly departed.

Mr. Shakes [turning, climbing back across the boulders, dog following]: That I'll do, Mr. Goat. C'mon, Fido.

[fade scene; open again with Mr. Shakes and dog on trail]

Fido [panting]: Boy, this is a long walk, but it'll be nice to have a home.

Mr. Shakes: You didn't like living with Mr. Goat?

Fido: It wasn't so bad, except for that head-splitting high-C note.

Mr. Shakes: What do ya mean by that?

Fido: Oh, in the cave next door to his, the Fat Lady Sings every morning at the crack of dawn.

Mr. Shakes: Wow. It makes me glad I have such quiet neighbors. On the one side of me is the Old White Lady, and on the other side is Trailer Trash.

Fido: 'Trailer Trash'?! You mean you live in a mobile home park?

Mr. Shakes: Not exactly. It's just that our cave complex sits right on a fault line, so the whole hill moves around quite a bit every now and then.

Fido: Must be hard keeping good dishes.

Mr. Shakes: It would be if we were using something other than stone bowls. I guess this Paleolithic era does have its advantages, although it still takes up so much of the day just findin' th' food, killin' th' food, dressin' th' food, and then preparin' it for dinner. Economies of specialization will be great in food production once we get into the Neolithic era and later.

Fido: What kind of food do you normally eat?

Mr. Shakes: Most days it's pretty thin fare, but tonight we're eatin' well, I'll tell ya that much. An' that reminds me: we need to pick up our pace; we need t' get back while there's still some light so I can get dinner on the fire.

Fido: I'm with you on that. I'm starving. What're we having?

Mr. Shakes: Er, something special.

Fido: A formal dinner! Should I wear anything, you know, like, formal or something?

Mr. Shakes: Don't worry about that. I'll dress you for dinnner.

Fido [pausing, then laughing]: Ha-ha. That's a funny little play on words, there: 'dress you for dinner'! Sort of like I could take that two ways: you could mean you're giving me some nice clothes to wear, or you could mean that you're going to butcher me and put my dog meat on the fire for everyone else to eat. Ha-ha.

Mr. Shakes [absently as he picks up his pace]: Yes, I could.

Fido [furrowing his brow slightly]: Yes, indeed... You know, I was just thinking about what kind of great guy would trade five hides for a lousy, mangy dog that's going to be nothing more than a family pet. Such a noble act.

Mr. Shakes [still not paying attention]: Yep, Fido, it certainly is.

Fido: And that reminds me, what exactly does the name 'Fido' mean in caveman languages?

Mr. Shakes [breathless, walking a brisk pace]: Protein.

Fido [voice trailing off into the distance]: YIKE! YIKE! YIKE! YIKE! YIKE! YIKE! YIKE! YIKE!

Mr. Shakes [stopping, watching dog run away]: Damn! Me an' me big mouth. There goes dinner. Now I'm going t' have t' collect some mastadon poop chunks an' tell th' family it's giant potatoes again. Sooner or later, they're goin' t' figure that one out. I'll be so glad when they put up a convenience store out here... I'll be able to get a dog already hot and ready to eat... no more dogs freakin' out and runnin' off. [sighs] I miss me dog already.

      [fade to black]
      [production credits]

The Dark Wraith Forums
in association with
Pulp Economics Productions


      [credit role in order of appearance]

· ·  Mr. Shakes of Shakespeare's Sister  · ·
· ·  My Pet Goat as Mr. Goat  · ·
· ·  Paul the Spud of Adventures of the Smart Patrol  · ·
· ·  Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend  · ·
· ·  Kenneth Quinnel of T. Rex's Guide to Life  · ·
· ·  Ms. Julien of Julien's List  · ·
· ·  Fido  · ·
· ·  Fat Lady Sings of The Fat Lady Sings  · ·
· ·  Old White Lady and Trailer Trash of It's morning somewhere  · ·


      [CUT]

And so ends our little play, which in its sweeping, nearly epic scope was richly infused of information about the subject of this series of articles.

Money serves three principal purposes. First, it is a store of value. In this function, money holds the worth of goods and services exchanged for it so the value can be transported and used at a later time. In the play, Mr. Shakes carried hides that were worth something not just to him, but also to someone else. He didn't have to use their worth at the moment he secured them. Similarly, Mr. Goat had a dog, which represented the value he received in a previous transaction. Both the hides and the dog held value for later use and at a location perhaps other than where they had been acquired in trade or other transaction.

Second, money is a medium of exchange. Mr. Goat and Mr. Shakes agreed that each had something of value and these items of value could be traded for one another. Just because something has value, however, does not necessarily mean it is particularly useful as a medium of exchange. It would be difficult, for example, although not impossible for Mr. Shakes to have brought his kids to trade rather than the hides. Although usesful, perhaps even valuable to Mr. Goat, he might have been quite unwilling to accept the kids as something for which he would provide merchandise in trade. The kids could be fussy, difficult to sell, and rather gristly to eat.

Third, money serves as a unit of account. Mr. Goat informed Mr. Shakes that hides were a basis for determining the worth of other objects in trade. In the transaction that occurred, five hides was equivalent in value to one dog. No doubt, Mr. Goat's bookkeeper maintained a running account of inventory in terms of hide equivalents.

This use of hides, by the way, was not restricted only to Mr. Goat. Historians Frances and Joseph Gies, in their popular account, Life in a Medieval Village, note that valuation censuses taken in the Middle Ages listed land holdings in terms of hides, too. One hide was equivalent to about 120 hectares of land, although the exchange rate varied from place to place in Medieval England. Interestingly, although land would never have been bought using hides, the hide served quite well as a unit to account in a generally accepted way from one person to the next and from one manor to the next for land throughout Great Britain of the time.

Going back for a minute to the rather grim prospect of Mr. Shakes selling his kids, this brings up an important aspect of money that explains why there can be different kinds of money operating within an economy. Many items meet one or more of the three criteria set forth above; but some kinds of money are much more easily converted into something else. In the play, those hides were quickly turned into a dog. Mr. Shakes' kids, on the other hand, would not have been so readily convertible. Mr. Goat might not have accepted them at all, and Mr. Shakes would then have found himself knocking on every door at the whole cave complex until he found someone who would agree to exchange them for something that could then be sold to Mr. Goat. Even if Mr. Goat had accepted them, he might not have surrendered the dog until he was sure he could do something with the little urchins: he might have told Mr. Shakes to leave the kids and come back the next day for the dog.

The ease and efficiency with which money can be converted into something else of value is called its liquidity. In reference to money used in the United States, a dollar bill is "highly liquid." In the world of big finance, a government Treasury bill—a federal debt obligation that is of no more than a year in duration—is highly liquid. In fact, for banks doing trades with the Federal Reserve, those so-called "T-bills" are almost perfectly interchangeable with dollars. In economics, we would say that the greenbacks and the T-bills are very close substitutes.

Now, think about this. A government T-bill is an obligation—an IOU—issued by the United States Treasury. The terms are essentially such: an investor lends the U.S. government some money, and a year later the government compensates the lender the face value of the security (the T-bill) that represents the obligation. That face value is a thousand bucks. So, if the going price for these newly issued T-bills is, let's say, $965.00 ("96.5" in the notation of bond prices) the investor is going to earn $35.00 ($1,000.00 — $965.00) on a loan to the government of $965.00. That means the investor will have earned an annual interest rate of $35.00 ÷ $965.00, which equals about .0363, or 3.63%.

Consider, on the other hand, an investor making a loan to, say, Guy Andrew Hall of Rook's Rant. Mr. Hall is certainly a credit-worthy individual, so the IOU agreement he writes out on a paper napkin is surely just fine. He, like the United States Treasury, promises to surrender a thousand dollars in one year in exchange for some money right now. One major problem among many with this promise is that an investor cannot simply unload that paper napkin onto somebody else before the year is up. With a T-bill, the instrument can be "liquidated" at any time at any bank; but it's going to be really hard to find anyone who would buy that paper napkin from an investor. That means the amount of money lent to Mr. Hall is going to be considerably less than the amount of money lent to the federal government even if Mr. Hall's credit rating and general trustworthiness are as good as gold. In Mr. Hall's case, an investor might lend him, say, $900. That means, when Mr. Hall pays off the loan in one year, the investor will have earned $100 ($1,000.00 — $900.00) on a loan of $900. That means the investor will have earned an annual interest rate of $100.00 ÷ $900.00, which equals about .1111, or 11.11%.

Notice as a side point, one that will be brought up again in later installments of this series, that the price of a security moves in the opposite direction to its yield: the price of the T-bill was $965.00, and its yield was 3.63%; but the price of Mr. Hall's IOU was $900.00, and its yield was a whopping 11.11%. This is a fundamental rule of all securities: the higher the price, the lower the expected yield; and the lower the price, the higher the expected yield.

Back to the main point, now, Mr. Hall had to pay far more than the government did, and it wasn't really because there was much more risk of default by Mr. Hall, and it wasn't because the investor had to surrender the use of his money any longer for Mr. Hall. The difference in those two yields, about 7.48% (11.11% — 3.63%) was due to a liquidity premium being tacked onto Mr. Hall's borrowing. That paper napkin couldn't be unloaded by the investor without considerable difficulty, whereas the government T-bill could be sold in a second. That's where liquidity comes knocking as an important determinant of what constitutes different "layers" of money in an economy.

In the United States, money is broken down into categories based upon its liquidity. For example, the most liquid forms of money are put in a category called M1. This includes cash and currency in the hands of the public, demand deposits (checking accounts at banks), and traveler's checks. These types of money are either exactly or close to being bearer instruments: essentially, whoever holds ("bears") the paper—be it a ten dollar bill, a bank check, or a traveler's check—has the relatively undisputed claim to the value represented by the instrument.

The next layer of money is designated M2. This includes all the money counted in M1, as well as somewhat less liquid instruments like savings deposits, shares in money market funds, and small-denomination, time-sensitive savings like certificates of deposit (CDs).

Encompassing both M1 and M2, along with even more illiquid forms of money, is the great big L category, which adds all kinds of financial instruments that can't be liquidated instantly or even in short order without a lot of pain. The nearly constant stream of innovations, twists, variations, and tricks makes the definition of L subject to frequent updates. Even M1 and M2 are not really all that fixed: all the time, financial instruments are popping up that have the characteristics of highly liquid money.

Important to note is that M1, M2, and L consider only financial instruments; but we have seen already that money doesn't have to be paper, it doesn't have to be associated with banks, and it doesn't even have to be sanctioned by some government or other official institution. Money has another dimension, another way by which it can be broken down into categories that are only to a certain extent related to its liquidity. This alternate classification system has more to do with the nature of the money and the focus it has on the three purposes, which were described as store of value, medium of exchange, and unit of account.

This different classification system begins with the most "primitive" (for lack of a better word) type: commodity (or barter) money. This is money that has intrinsic value in and of itself as a usable, consumable item. Fido was commodity money: not only could he be used in a transaction, he could also be eaten. A dollar bill cannot be eaten. Barter moneys have existed since time immemorable, and standardized barter moneys have been around just as long. Many are the stories, for example, of cigarettes serving as barter money in prison camps. All manner of domesticated animals serve as barter money in agrarian economies.

Beyond and after commodity money is metal money. Some metals have been widely popular across cultures, times, and continents. Gold and silver are examples. The metal, itself, could theoretically be consumable in production of everything from weapons to household tools, so metal money is in some ways a "less liquid" form of barter money, if liquidity were to be considered in terms of the ease and efficiency with which the money could be converted into a usable or consumable item. Metal moneys can be found in ancient civilizations, and they endure to this day as commemoratives in many so-called "advanced" economies. It was only in 1964 that the United States government stopped using the prized metal silver in coins of denominations greater than that of the nickel. Even the paper one dollar bill, as seen in the graphic at left, was metal money: note the label "Silver Certificate" at the top of the face of the instrument. That wasn't some esoteric promise by the United States government; that one dollar bill could be exchange at any time, on the spot, virtually instantly for four silver quarters or ten silver dimes!

The final version of money under this categorization method is fiat money. This is money that is money by decree of some authority. A purely fiat money cannot be used for anything other than its intended purpose as a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a unit of account. It cannot be eaten, it cannot be readily melted down into an ingot of great value, and its legitimacy rests solely on the power, reputability, and indisputabilty of its issuer. At left is a graphic representation of a modern one dollar bill. At the top it does not represent to be a "Silver Certificate" since the government will not guarantee its convertibility into any set amount of a metal. In fact, although the instrument is backed by the "full faith and credit" of the United States government, the issuer is the Federal Reserve Bank, acting as the agent of the United States Treasury. In other words, that dollar depicted over on the left is a "Federal Reserve Note": an IOU issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.

Readers might be asking, "Okay, but 'I Owe You' WHAT? What exactly is owed for the promissory note evidenced by that dollar bill we use these days?" It's a "note"; that means it's like a loan of some kind. The U.S. government doesn't say it will honor it with an exchange for silver, even though a bearer could use some of those dollars to buy metal in the private markets.

Does this mean that greenbacks since the mid-1960s have been funny-money? Not really. Fiat money serves its three purposes as a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a unit of account to the extent that its users accept its legitimacy in trade. Provided the government that decrees the paper to be money holds its legitimacy, or to the extent that it can otherwise impose its will upon the prospective users of its fiat money, the paper stands as good and worthy money. To the extent that the fiat money is the denominating currency for a sound economy, it will represent in international trade the worth of that economy. The stronger the economy, the more widely respected the currency.

As a promissory note, a United States dollar can be invested in the United States economy. If yields on such investments are robust, that dollar will be highly prized around the world, and manufacturers in others countries will shovel their products into America at low prices just to get their hands on some of those greenbacks, which they can then invest here to get those great interest rates. That, of course, is certainly not all to the good, since foreign manufacturers selling their products at low prices here means that domestic companies get their backsides kicked in international economic competition. That means a balance must be found between interest rates that are low enough to help domestic consumers and businesses borrow money and compete internationally, but not so low that they make the U.S. dollar a laughing stock in terms of its value in international trade. How that balance is achieved, and the forces that frustrate a reasonable point of balance, are the subjects of subsequent installments in this series.

In future installments, the so-called "money multiplier" and the "equation of exchange" will be set forth. These are relatively simple mathematical formulae that can be used to explain interest rates, inflation, and their relationship to short-term and long-term economic growth in an economy. The series will end with a description of how the Federal Reserve uses money to manage the economy. Readers who have made it to the end of this first installment should look forward with much anticipation and no small amount of joy to the not-insignificant intellectual and emotional rewards to come in this Pulp Economics series for the new American century.


The Dark Wraith thus and amply delivers.

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


Action Alert

by TheGreenKnight

O'Reilly crossed the line. His sponsors ought to know it.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Belief-O-Matic

by Ms. Julien in Miami

If you've been feeling a bit lost in the sea of religion, you may just be saved, brothers and sisters, by Belief-O-Matic, a questionnaire presented by the website Beliefnet. The quiz's tagline reads, "Even if YOU don't know what faith you are, Belief-O-Matic knows."

After answering all of the questions, you get a printable list of 27 faiths; the one at the top of the list is the faith that Belief-O-Matic thinks most closely matches your expressed value system

The site makes sure to say, however, that even a score of 100% does not mean that your views exactly match those of that faith. B-O-M also makes sure to state that they take no responsibility for the ultimate state of your soul... ;)

Of course, Julien's List's resident Agnostic (moi) had to give it a go...pretty much no surprise here:

1.

Unitarian Universalism (100%)

2.

Neo-Pagan (87%)

3.

Liberal Quakers (84%)

4.

New Age (82%)

5.

Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (79%)

6.

Mahayana Buddhism (75%)

7.

Secular Humanism (73%)

8.

Theravada Buddhism (71%)

9.

Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (64%)

10.

New Thought (61%)

11.

Taoism (60%)

12.

Scientology (59%)

13.

Bahá'í Faith (53%)

14.

Jainism (52%)

15.

Hinduism (51%)

16.

Nontheist (48%)

17.

Orthodox Quaker (47%)

18.

Reform Judaism (47%)

19.

Sikhism (43%)

20.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (38%)

21.

Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (33%)

22.

Jehovah's Witness (29%)

23.

Orthodox Judaism (28%)

24.

Islam (21%)

25.

Seventh Day Adventist (21%)

26.

Eastern Orthodox (13%)

27.

Roman Catholic (13%)


Why don't you try it? Have fun....



Belief-O-Matic

by Ms. Julien in Miami

If you've been feeling a bit lost in the sea of religion, you may just be saved, brothers and sisters, by Belief-O-Matic, a questionnaire presented by the website Beliefnet. The quiz's tagline reads, "Even if YOU don't know what faith you are, Belief-O-Matic knows."

After answering all of the questions, you get a printable list of 27 faiths; the one at the top of the list is the faith that Belief-O-Matic thinks most closely matches your expressed value system

The site makes sure to say, however, that even a score of 100% does not mean that your views exactly match those of that faith. B-O-M also makes sure to state that they take no responsibility for the ultimate state of your soul... ;)

Of course, Julien's List's resident Agnostic (moi) had to give it a go...pretty much no surprise here:

1.

Unitarian Universalism (100%)

2.

Neo-Pagan (87%)

3.

Liberal Quakers (84%)

4.

New Age (82%)

5.

Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (79%)

6.

Mahayana Buddhism (75%)

7.

Secular Humanism (73%)

8.

Theravada Buddhism (71%)

9.

Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (64%)

10.

New Thought (61%)

11.

Taoism (60%)

12.

Scientology (59%)

13.

Bahá'í Faith (53%)

14.

Jainism (52%)

15.

Hinduism (51%)

16.

Nontheist (48%)

17.

Orthodox Quaker (47%)

18.

Reform Judaism (47%)

19.

Sikhism (43%)

20.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (38%)

21.

Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (33%)

22.

Jehovah's Witness (29%)

23.

Orthodox Judaism (28%)

24.

Islam (21%)

25.

Seventh Day Adventist (21%)

26.

Eastern Orthodox (13%)

27.

Roman Catholic (13%)


Why don't you try it? Have fun....



Wednesday, November 09, 2005

'Marriage Protection Act' goes to full committee

by Pam



Call Specter, 202-224-4254, and let him know you think his decision to stroke Sam Brownback's ego is wrong.

Arlen Specter lets Sh*thead Senator Sam gets his way, as the discrimination amendment makes its way to the full Judiciary Committee. Specter wants to see it come to a vote on the floor of the Senate, but says he wouldn't vote for it himself. Whatever. (365gay.com):
The sub-committee voted 5 - 4 along party lines to pass the amendment, called the "Marriage Protection Act". It defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

...The amendment is sponsored in the Senate by Sam Brownback (R-Kan). Brownback, expected to be a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, is chair of the sub-committee.

...The deciding vote Wednesday was cast by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). Specter, the chair of the full Judiciary Committee, repeating remarks he made on the weekend, said that while he opposes the amendment he believes it should receive a vote on the Senate floor.

His vote to send the measure to the committee he chairs ensures it will pass the Judiciary and head to the full Senate for a vote.

Specter said that when the amendment comes to a final vote in the Senate he will oppose it.
Don't forget to surf over to The Anti-Sam Blog.


Killer 'fro: unretouched scan of Sam's Kansas State University 1977 yearbook

Sen. Sam Brownback
303 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
202-224-6521

Thanks to Gary for the pointer.

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


A Chance Encounter

by Dark Wraith




Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Going down...down...down

by Pam


Pew released its latest poll and only 36% believe the Chimperor has lived up to his campaign pledge to restore integrity to the White House. Bahahahahahahaha -- then you wonder about that 36%, but I will allow the Freep factor at least 20%. But it gets worse:

In contrast, fully 79% of Americans say the recent indictment of I. Lewis Libby, formerly a top aide to Vice President Cheney, on perjury and other charges is a matter of at least some importance to the nation; that is greater than the percentage who said that in 1998 about charges that former President Clinton lied under oath about a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky (65%).
I find this box amusing: one word reactions to Libby's indictment:


Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Army: just give us mouth-breathers for Iraq

by Pam

According to the Baltimore Sun, twelve percent of recruits in October had lowest acceptable scores possible on the Army's aptitude test. The recruiting situation is so desperate that the next thing we'll hear is that Real Dolls will be suiting up and shipping over to Iraq. (via Newsday):
Former Army Secretary Thomas E. White said the service was making a mistake by lowering its standards. "I think it's disastrous. You are throwing the towel in on recruiting quality," said White, a retired general whom Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld fired in 2003 over other policy differences.

"We have clear experience from the 1970s with recruiting a sizable number of people from the lowest mental categories," said White. After the Vietnam War, the Army accepted a higher proportion of low-scoring recruits, leading to training and discipline problems, he added.

To achieve last month's recruiting targets, 12 percent of those accepted by the Army had the lowest acceptable results. They scored between 16 and 30 points out of a possible 99 on an aptitude test that quizzes potential soldiers on general science, mathematics and word knowledge.
And when you've tapped out the non-synapse-firing crowd, bend over backwards to welcome aspiring Americans into our fold, with the opportunity to prove their affinity for our great nation by offering to be blown away by an IED.
...Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University, said he was concerned that the reduction in the quality standards for military recruiting signaled a return by the Army to the troubled personnel era of the 1970s. He said the military must come up with new ways to attract better recruits.

...Moskos, an Army veteran, said the recruiting problems could prompt the military to turn increasingly to recent immigrants in filling its ranks. Another option: tapping the pool of recent college graduates by offering an enlistment of 15 months, instead of the current three years, an idea Moskos said has been gaining attention among Army generals.
Where are the bright, patriotic Young Yellow Elephant Republicans? They aren't at the Army recruiting stations, that's for sure. I doubt you'll see Freepers on line there either. Those fire-breathing young conservatives are too busy planning career moves and armchair activism than military service, like this young fellow...
By the time I encountered Cory Bray, a towering senior from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, the beer was flowing freely. "The people opposed to the war aren't putting their asses on the line," Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn't he putting his ass on the line? "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country," he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, "and I wasn't going to pass that up."
-- from Max Blumenthal's piece, "Generation Chickenhawk," in The Nation, interviewing Young College Republicans about why they aren't enlisting.
Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


USATODAY.com - Frist, Hastert call for congressional leak probe

by John Howard

Frist, Hastert call for congressional leak probe

I almost thought that maybe these guys might actually be doing something right for once. But then I see that it's not about the Plame leak. No, they're mad because someone made it harder to torture people, waaaah. So, if this was classified information, then I support trying to find out who leaked it since I'm against classified information being leaked to the press. It's nice to know that Congress is with me on this, although I'm a bit puzzled since I didn't hear these assholes calling for any investigations in the last leak of classified information. But Nancy Pelosi is all over that hypcritical stance, so I'll leave it alone.
"If Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Frist are finally ready to join Democrats' demands for an investigation of possible abuses of classified information, they must direct the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to investigate all aspects of that issue," said Pelosi.

Somehow, I don't think they'll take her up on that.

This was my favorite part:
"If accurate, such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences, and will imperil our efforts to protect the American people and our homeland from terrorist attacks,"

Yes, idiots it's the disclosure that hurts, not the fact that we torture people in the first place. Way to get to the root of the problem. Assholes.

Cross-Posted at Upon Further Review...


Fox News Accused of Sexual Harassment

by Shakespeare's Sister

Hard to believe:

The commission claims that a Fox vice president, Joe Chillemi, "routinely used gross obscenities and vulgarities when describing women or their body parts," language that it says Mr. Chillemi "did not use with male employees." The suit contends that Mr. Chillemi "routinely cursed at and otherwise denigrated women employees," telling them to "be a man."

The suit charges that Mr. Chillemi, in a discussion about a television segment focusing on sexism in the workplace, said, "Of course I'd pick the man" if he had to choose between a woman and a man for the same position, because he was concerned that a woman could become pregnant and leave her job.
Yeah, that might happen. Or she could leave her job for any one of the same reasons that a man might leave his job—a better position, more money, desire to relocate, job dissatisfaction, injury, illness, retirement, hitting the jackpot. I’ll never understand why the fact that women have one reason that men don’t for possibly leaving a job (and one that often results only in a short leave of absence, at that) leads people to assume that a man is a better candidate for long-term employment.

In truth, if a company is accommodating to women with families, she has more reason to stay than a man who may not directly benefit from those policies. We’ve all known women who pass up better jobs and/or more money at another company to stay with a company with family-friendly policies. (That’s a bullshit decision to have to make, but that’s a whole other post.) Of course, that’s an argument for progressive corporate policy-making, in which I suspect Fox News has little interest.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


I Don't Get It Either

by Shakespeare's Sister

Ezra needs answers, dammit:

Can someone explain the rationale of a Daschle 08 candidacy to me? He's hinting at a campaign, raising money, and now advertising across blogs with a PAC called "New Leadership for America" whose front page is a pledge to bring the troops home by 2007.

Huh?

Daschle was no peacenik, he voted for the war. And he was no liberal, either. As senate minority leader, he was a sound parliamentarian but neither a mobilizing force nor an electric personality for the party's base. He was not associated with any particular issue, like health care or energy, and he was not effective as head of the opposition. He lost an election to an empty suit and his successor is widely considered to be doing a better job than he did.

Now, I like Tom Daschle. Always have, always will. A good public servant with a good heart. But he had no major accomplishments as a senator, the party lost seats under his leadership, he was nothing even resembling a liberal, he showed no particular electoral skill, and he's never been a governor. Save for a return to the spotlight or consideration for future jobs in public life, what's the rationale for his candidacy? What's his constituency?

I don't get it.
He’s also made a trip to Iowa, and showed up on Real Time on Friday, where he practiced the time-honored political device of laughing uncomfortably and making a bad joke when Bill Maher accused him of launching his candidacy.

I can’t imagine what he’s thinking. I don’t think he captured the imaginations of diehard Democrat political junkies, no less the rest of America. He seems, as Ezra notes, a nice man, but I’ve always found him a decidedly uninspiring one. He’s Gephardt without the vague hint of albinism that keeps your eyes plastered to the screen for two extra seconds trying to locate a speck of melanin.

He lost his Senate seat in a red state, thereby waving farewell to any claim that he’s a Dem who can appeal to red-staters. He’s been one-upped in a big way by Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader, which, in all honesty, isn’t saying much—and I don’t think being a stupendous Senate Minority Leader ever paved the way to the presidency for anyone, anyway.

As far as I’m concerned, the last thing the Democratic primaries needs is another Dem hawk trying to twist his way into an antiwar position and attempting to set himself apart by denouncing the other candidates as “too liberal.” The only vote I’ve got for Daschle is one for him to stay home.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Monday, November 07, 2005

Red State Struggles with (Un)Intelligent Life...

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Seems that the wackos are in the minority, but if the "normal" people do not speak up more, a minority is going to set the agenda for the entire country, one state at a time. What can you expect with Dumbya for a pseudo-leader? *sigh...

Here are some Letters to the Editor from today's Indianapolis Star:


Monday, November 7, 2005
I can think of two reasons why many people would like to see intelligent design in the classroom, but only one has some merit.

It might seem impossible for the statements, "Evolution is an established scientific fact," and "Evolution has never been scientifically established as fact," to both be true unless you know, as leading evolutionists do, that there are two scientifically different kinds of evolution.

One thing I see missing in debates over intelligent design and creationism is what the scientific community actually thinks. The Discovery Institute, in collaboration with evangelical groups, has done its best with a nationwide media blitz to convince the public that there really is a debate about evolution within the scientific community.

How ironic that on the same day The Star published an editorial advocating that Indiana get on the high-tech fast track a story appears on the front page concerning the efforts of GOP lawmakers to require intelligent design be taught in school science classes (Nov. 3).

The Nov. 3 article on a Republican attempt to add intelligent design to the science curriculum is disturbing. Rep. Ed Mahern correctly suggests there are more pressing educational concerns. Such social issues detract from efforts to address urgent problems such as rescuing the economy.

In response to the Nov. 3 article concerning teaching intelligent design in schools, I feel it is morally offensive to do so.

A few days ago I received a legislative survey from my representative that contained a question about whether intelligent design should be taught in school along with the scientific theory of evolution.

I write to reassure Rep. Jerry Denbo and other concerned citizens that the idea of God as creator is not absent from public schools.

Some Republicans legislators want to make intelligent design part of the public school curriculum. This could have a terrible effect on the state's attempt to restart its economy with the life sciences initiative. And it's an attempt to distract the public from the schools' real needs: more funding, more teachers and smaller classes.


Y Not?

by TheGreenKnight

Well, here's something we haven't seen for a while: it's time for another feel-good story about young workers and how unserious they are:
They're young, smart, brash. They may wear flip-flops to the office or listen to iPods at their desk. They want to work, but they don't want work to be their life....Get ready, because this generation -- whose members have not yet hit 30 -- is different from any that have come before, according to researchers and authors such as Bruce Tulgan, a founder of New Haven, Conn.-based RainmakerThinking, which studies the lives of young people.
Oh really? Funny, but I recall exactly the same sort of claims being made a decade and a half ago, when Gen-Xers like me started hitting the workforce. Curious, isn't it? Let's look a little further:
"Generation Y is much less likely to respond to the traditional command-and-control type of management still popular in much of today's workforce," says Jordan Kaplan, an associate managerial science professor at Long Island University-Brooklyn in New York.
Sound familiar? Yes, it's the same rap that circulated about the dot-coms seven years ago: the new freedom and flexibility, the coolness of the young empowered worker, blah blah blah. Thomas Frank wrote at length about these claims and how little they had to do with reality in One Market Under God.
They have financial smarts. After witnessing the financial insecurity that beset earlier generations stung by layoffs and the dot-com bust, today's newest entrants into the workforce are generally savvy when it comes to money and savings. They care about such benefits as 401(k) retirement plans.
Time to pump up the stock market again! Fresh meat!
Work-life balance isn't just a buzz word. Unlike boomers who tend to put a high priority on career, today's youngest workers are more interested in making their jobs accommodate their family and personal lives....Generation Yers don't expect to stay in a job, or even a career, for too long.
Again, exactly the same things were said about Gen-Xers, especially during the dot-com bubble. The function of these claims, as we saw when the bubble burst, is to make it socially easier for employers to deprive their young employees of any form of job security, by claiming that those young employees didn't want or expect it anyway. The effect is to glamorize and normalize casual labor among the highly skilled.
Xerox is using the slogan "Express Yourself" as a way to describe its culture to recruits.
Madonna? Come on; must corporate America always be ten years behind?
That compares somewhat with Gen X, a generation born from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s, known for its independent thinking, addiction to change and emphasis on family.
Does the businees press have no idea that an emphasis on family might coincide with an emphasis on stable employment? And hey, didn't the lede say that Gen Y is different from any others that have come before? Turns out, not so much.
"They're like Generation X on steroids," Tulgan says. "They walk in with high expectations for themselves, their employer, their boss."
Watch the boss yawn.
"If you thought you saw a clash when Generation X came into the workplace, that was the fake punch. The haymaker is coming now."
I bet. And the kids are going to take it squarely on the chin. Behold the sinister undercurrent:
"The millennium generation has been brought up in the most child-centered generation ever. They've been programmed and nurtured," says Cathy O'Neill, senior vice president at career management company Lee Hecht Harrison in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. "Their expectations are different. The millennial expects to be told how they're doing."
See? We can treat them like children because that's what they are. And never mind the fact that this "most child-centered generation ever" was, just a few years ago, also the terrifying generation of soulless, gun-toting, drug-using kids who would destroy civilization because they weren't parented properly. Different power structure, different stereotype.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.


The 'Brownie' of Iraq military procurement

by Pam

"Before, I sold water, flowers, shoes, cars — but not weapons. We didn't know anything about weapons."
-- Ziad Cattan, former used-car dealer, handpicked by our government to buy military equipment for iraqi soldiers, and who -- big surprise -- is unqualified and corrupt.
Before Rearming Iraq, He Sold Shoes and Flowers. Is there no end to this? We've got another "Brownie' over in Iraq, wholly unqualified for the job -- and who was given $1.3 billion to burn, courtesy of BushCo. And, as we are all used to by now, no oversight.
Ziad Cattan was a Polish Iraqi used-car dealer with no weapons-dealing experience until U.S. authorities turned him into one of the most powerful men in Iraq last year — the chief of procurement for the Defense Ministry, responsible for equipping the fledgling Iraqi army.

As U.S. advisors looked on, Cattan embarked on a massive spending spree, paying hundreds of millions of dollars in Iraqi funds for secret, no-bid contracts, according to interviews with more than a dozen senior American, coalition and Iraqi officials, and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The money flowed, often in bricks of cash, through the hands of middlemen who were friends of Cattan and took a percentage of the proceeds.

Although much of the material purchased has proved useful, U.S. advisors said, the contracts also paid for equipment that was shoddy, overpriced or never delivered. The questionable purchases — including aging Russian helicopters and underpowered Polish transport vehicles — have slowed the development of the Iraqi army and hindered its ability to replace American troops, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.

Cattan, now facing corruption charges leveled by the Iraqi Justice Ministry, insists that he is innocent of any wrongdoing and the victim of a smear campaign. In interviews in Poland, where he now lives, Cattan said he had worked under pressure from U.S. and Iraqi officials to arm the Iraqi forces as quickly as possible.
The L.A Times piece by Solomon Moore and T. Christian Miller is an incredible read, barring the nausea it induces from hearing about more about this commode of corruption.


Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

McCain slips between the sheets with Falwell

by Pam



Boy, that didn't take long. Since the Bush waterboy launched his Straight Talk America site to gear up for 2008, it was only a matter of time before he started bed hopping with the AmTaliban to lock up that vote. Rev. Tinkywinky's at the head of the line.

The religious extremists in his party questioned his credentials the last time around, and sat back smirking while the Chimp campaign destroyed him (and his family) in SC. He isn't about to make that mistake again. What a shameless tool. (USNews.com):
Sen. John McCain is taking action to make it hard for conservatives to write him off in the 2008 presidential race. His office confirms that the maverick moderate recently met with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a conservative icon who is influential with voters on the right. Also, as McCain prepares a campaign-style trip to South Carolina, critical in the 2008 GOP primaries, a key ally is putting himself in the good graces of conservatives. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is winning kudos from conservatives for backing Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, raising his stature in the state and maybe even making his 2008 endorsement the key to victory. And should McCain win the state that derailed his 2000 bid, Graham would vault to the top of the veep list, say insiders.
Actually, McCain starting shifting over to the dark side of his party a while ago, shilling for a marriage amendment in Arizona...


McCain and Protect Marriage Arizona chair Lynn Stanley smile with glee in support of the petitions in support of the gay-bashing amendment.
To preserve and protect marriage in this state, only a union between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage by this state or its political subdivisions and no legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or its political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage. -- language of AZ's amendment

"I believe that the institution of marriage should be reserved for the union of one man and one woman, said Sen. McCain. The Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment would allow the people of Arizona to decide on the definition of marriage in our state. I wholeheartedly support the Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment and I hope that the voters in Arizona choose to support it as well."
-- John McCain
Lynn Stanley of Protect Marriage Arizona just about had an orgasm over his support.
I met with Sen. John McCain at his Phoenix office today along with several members of the Protect Marriage Arizona coalition to receive his endorsement of the amendment. At the meeting Sen. McCain presented a petition to PMA chair Lynn Stanley with his signature and the signatures of others. Sen. McCain then signed the back of the petition as a petition circulator. He also issued a strong statement of support for marriage as the union of a man and a woman and urged Arizonans to support PMA in a press release issued this afternoon by PMA. While we and other conservatives have had some public differences with Sen. McCain in recent years, we are thrilled to have his endorsement for the state marriage amendment.
Between this nonsense and his endorsement of intelligent design, he's well on his way toward satisfying his new masters.

***



I particularly love the bit about Lindsey Graham in that piece. What a pairing he would make with McCain. I can't wait to repeatedly bring items like this up about the Senator from South Carolina -- from a Blend post in March...
The senator from SC is still sore over Lincoln freeing the slaves. (Raw Story):
“We don’t do Lincoln Day Dinners in South Carolina,” Senator Graham told a Lincoln Day gathering in Tennessee Saturday. “It’s nothing personal, but it takes awhile to get over things.”
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Special Post:
Judge in Libby Case Protects Classified Information

by Dark Wraith

The Washington Post and the New York Daily News are reporting that indicted White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby appeared before U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton for arraignment on five felony charges of lying to a grand jury and to the FBI during an investigation into the public disclosure of the identity of non-official cover (NOC) operative Valerie Plame. The New York Daily News article describes Judge Walton—appointed to lower courts by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and appointed to his current seat by President George W. Bush—as a "'long-ball hitter' on sentencing [who] often cows defendants into copping pleas." The article goes on, however, to point out that Judge Walton has recently dismissed a case in which the FBI, itself, claimed that "classified information" would be revealed if the judge were to allow the complaint of official misconduct by a whistleblower within the agency to go to trial.

The case involved former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who alleged that information related to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, contained in communications in languages in which she was fluent, was not translated until after the attacks had occurred and that other translations were performed by either by individuals incapable of adequately understanding the nuances of the communiqués or by individuals she had already reported as giving evidence of having been compromised by interests possibly related to organizations and persons in the communiqués. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, through Justice Department lawyers, argued before Judge Walton that a "state secrets priviledge" precluded proceeding to trial and moved for dismissal. Judge Walton ruled in favor of the motion and noted in extension that "...the imminent threat of terrorism will not be eliminated any time in the foreseeable future, but is an endeavor that will consume our nation's attention indefinitely."

With regard to the current matter of the charges against Mr. Libby, in a statement released by his attorney, Joseph Tate, Mr. Libby made representations that news analysts interpretedI. Lewis Libby as being the outline of a defense that would involved simple memory lapses that created the impression of incompatibilities among statements made at various times to the grand jury and to FBI investigators. It appears, however, that such outside speculation about how Libby's defense team will proceed is wide of the mark: because the judge who will preside in the case has shown a marked willingness to dismiss cases when "classified information" might be revealed, it is highly likely—in fact, it is almost inevitable—that Libby's counsel will immediately subpoena, and represent as crucial to their defense, information that the White House will decline to disgorged on the grounds that it contains classified information. A motion to dismiss will then be forthcoming from the defense table, and it will then be in the hands of U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton to decide whether or not, based upon his own previous assertions and precedent, he will rule in favor of the motion.

Time will tell, though.



The Dark Wraith will let the matter drop... for the time being.

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


Friday, November 04, 2005

Analysis:
Index Portfolio Performance During the Bush Administration to Date

by Dark Wraith

In the interest of providing a continuing report on the assessment by United States stock markets of the economic policies and achievements of the Bush Administration, returns on three stock index portfolios are herewith presented.

On January 22, 2001, which was the first day of trading after George W. Bush became President of the United States, three major indices stood at the following levels:

     Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,578.24
     Standard & Poor's 500: 1342.9
     NASDAQ Composite: 2757.91

At the close of trading today, November 4, 2005, these same three averages stood at the following levels:

     Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,530.76
     Standard & Poor's 500: 1220.14
     NASDAQ Composite: 2169.43

If an investor were to have formed a portfolio based upon each of these three indices and managed each in terms of composition and balance to track the relevant index properly, the investor would have earned the following total returns on investment:

     Dow Jones Industrial Average: —0.44%
     Standard & Poor's 500: —9.14%
     NASDAQ Composite: —21.34%

Expressing these returns on an annualized (that is, "percentage return per year compounded") basis, the results just presented are as follows:

     Dow Jones Industrial Average: —0.09% per year
     Standard & Poor's 500: —1.98% per year
     NASDAQ Composite: —4.89% per year

The above are nominal (that is, "not corrected for inflation") results. Taking into account the erosion of purchasing power (that is, "the effect of inflation") on portfolio value over the holding period requires adjusting the current portfolio value to its equivalent value on January 22, 2001. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index data for the 58 months from Janaury 2001 through September 2005 and projecting the October 2005 contribution from the trend line of the preceding nine months (since the October figures have not yet been released by the BLS), the following real return on investment (that is, "annualized rate of return on investment adjusted for inflation") would have accrued to each portfolio:

     Dow Jones Industrial Average: —2.81% per year
     Standard & Poor's 500: —4.65% per year
     NASDAQ Composite: —7.47% per year

In other words, an investor forming a portfolio tracking the Dow Jones Industrial Average from the beginning of the Bush Administration in January of 2001 would have suffered an annualized loss in real value of the portfolio of almost three percent; the investor forming a portfolio tracking the Standard & Poor's 500 over that period would have experienced an annualized loss in real value of the portfolio of more than four and a half percent; and the investor forming a portfolio tracking the NASDAQ Composite index over that period would have experienced an annualized loss in real value of the portfolio of about seven and a half percent.

From a well-balanced portfolio of the common stock of reasonably low-risk, very large public corporations to an equally well-balanced portfolio of the common stock of relatively riskier, small-cap public corporations, equity (that is, "stock") has offered negative returns in both nominal and real terms over the tenure of absolute Republican control of the Legislative and Executive Branches of the federal government. Because no reasonable analyst could argue that securities markets have a political bias, the figures presented above offer an objective assessment of the effect of the neo-conservative agenda on both the national economy and on investors relying upon the stewardship of the country's leaders in their responsible role of ensuring an environment conducive to capital appreciation. To the extent that individuals and households rely upon that capital accumulation for future income security, the Republican era that has marked the beginning of the 21st Century has been a failure.


The Dark Wraith does, however, recognize that neo-conservatives would encourage investors to applaud the negative returns Republican policies have fostered.

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


Rage Against the Machine

by Shakespeare's Sister

Thousands participate in a rally against the visit of U.S. President Bush in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 4, 2005. President Bush is in Mar del Plata to participate in the Fourth Summit of the Americas. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

What started as a rally has now turned into a riot.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)



The Chimperor hits 60% disapproval

by Pam


Reuters.

Bush is the captain of the Titanic and it's going down fast. Geez, if I were Karl Rove or Scott McClellan, whose heads are being shopped around as bait, I'd be ratting out and jumping off, swimming to a lifeboat -- no need to hang out and go down with this clown. (MyDD):
Yet another barrier broken. Three new approval polls for Bush today, and two of them show him at 60% disapproval or higher. AP-Ipsos pegs Bush at 37-59, ABC-WaPo pegs him at 39-60, and Zogby find him at 39-61.


Maybe he can get away from the bad news by going to the Summit of the Americas. Oops.



Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


The homo purge from seminaries will be announced today

by Pam



Vatican document on homos in seminaries comes out today. Papa Ratzi plans to give them the boot.
The Document counts on the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, and reaffirms the Catholic position that homosexuals can not be accepted into seminaries.

In the past months, the Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Michael Miller, has been visiting the 220 seminaries in the United States, to verify if the preparation of seminarians is conform to a life of celibacy. The archbishop will publish a document related to theses visits.
As I've said before, What sort of laughable continuum of sexual behavior that is deemed OK versus disqualifying? Can you have homosexual fantasies? Is that OK? How many, how often? Or will we get to the point that men entering the seminary will need to undergo some sort of sexual response testing -- attach electrodes to their genitals, show them pornographic images of men having sexual encounters and boot out any that become aroused?

We learned a little bit more about this last month, in Corriere della Sera, a major Italian newspaper with close ties to the Vatican, which said that:
a total ban on gay priests may be relaxed to permit gays to take their vows if they can prove they have been celibate for at least three years. It does not say how gay, or suspected gay priests, would be expected to prove they were celibate.

The paper also says that men who "publicly manifest their homosexuality" or show an "overwhelming attraction" to homosexual culture [even if only intellectually]" would be banned.
Three years? Is this some arbitrary number from the God hotline to Papa Ratzi's ear? Unfortunately, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, who organized an audit of seminaries here to determine the state of homo infiltration, heard something different from above -- he said even homosexuals who have been celibate for 10 or more years should not be admitted to seminaries.

All I can say is that this puts the Keystone Kops in the Catholic Church on the final spiral down to irrelevancy. What a PR nightmare.

Also see: Is the Catholic church ready to purge the homos?


Thursday, November 03, 2005

2%

by Shakespeare's Sister

That’s the percentage of black Americans who support President Bush according to recent polling. So he hardly has anywhere to go but up, and yet I think he may have managed to cut that number in half, during yet another disastrous photo op:

It was Soul Food Thursday at Howard University last week, and many students were looking forward to their favorite meal: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and cornbread. At lunchtime, however, students discovered that much of the campus had been locked down and that the school's cafeteria was off limits.

Apparently, many of them did not know that President Bush and first lady Laura Bush had arrived for a "youth summit" at the Blackburn Center, where the dining hall is located. Stomachs began to growl, tempers flared, and, eventually, a student protest ensued.

[…]

What might have been a public relations coup for Bush -- a visit to a historically black college to show concern for at-risk youths -- ended up as another Katrina-like moment, with the president appearing spaced-out, waving and smiling for television cameras while students were trying to break through campus security to get to the cordoned-off cafeteria.

[…]

All he had to do was drop in on Soul Food Thursday, be seen sharing a wing and some collard greens with students -- and score one for the GOP.

But the visit went from bad to worse. On a day when the U.S. Senate passed a resolution paying tribute to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who died last week, campus security guards were telling students that if they wanted to eat they'd have to come back when the president and first lady were gone, then go to a service door at the rear of the dining hall and ask for a chicken plate to go. Never mind that a student meal plan at Howard can cost as much as $2,500 a semester.

Howard is not some hotbed of political activism… To set off a student protest at this school, you'd have to be politically tone-deaf in the extreme, out of touch and flying blind. And yet, Bush did it.
(Hat tip to Shaker Oddjob, who pointed to this Kos diary.)

The protest ended up with students locking arms around a flagpole in the Quadrangle and refusing to move as long as they were denied access to parts of their own university, even in the face of threats from the Secret Service, who warned them that snipers were at the ready on rooftops. Unbelievable.

The irony is that Bush and the first lady were appearing as part of the White House Conference on Helping America’s Youth that was being held at Howard. Yep, that sounds about right—exactly the kind of help most black Americans have no doubt come to expect from the Bush administration.

Here’s a Reuters (Larry Downing) photo of the event:


He looks very comfortable, don’t you think? And no, I didn’t just pick the worst one. You can see more here, and they’re all just as bad. Well done inconveniencing a bunch of American youths to prove how helpful you are to America’s Youth. And you didn’t even end up with a decent photo. Wanker.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Special Analysis:
On Condemnation of Weakness

by Dark Wraith

Over the past week, I have published two articles addressing current political matters. The article entitled The Color of the Whitewash is an epilogue to the three-part series, The Valerie Plame Scandal. Several days ago, I published the article, The Filibuster, the Quorum, and the Nuclear Exchange, offering some guidance on relevant standing rules of the Senate as they could be used in the matter of the approval of the nomination of Samuel Alito, Jr., as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Let us be clear on the consequences of these two stories. In the matter of the outing of non-official cover operative Valerie Plame, a conspiracy was set forth and executed over a period of many months to construct false and misleading information; that information was provided to Congress and to the United Nations in order to induce those two bodies to authorize military action. The conspiracy had as one of its elements a forgery of unknown but suspect origin, and the exposure of that forgery was met by retribution that compromised an on-going intelligence operation that tracked weapons of mass destruction production and trafficking. One official of the Bush Administration was indicted, an official about whom very few people knew much of anything before his indictment. Hints of and allusions to continued investigation subsequent to the disbanding of the grand jury that issued the indictment have been followed on this week by thundering silence from the office of federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

In the matter of Samuel Alito, Jr., the President of the United States has nominated a federal judge who has on numerous occasions written opinions, both for the majority and in dissent, that have been specifically addressed by the majority of his courts and/or of higher court, which have rejected and repudiated his reasoning and his unwillingness to adhere to precedent and plain language of the "settled" law. If Mr. Alito is appointed to the Supreme Court, his disregard for the rule of law and statutory construction will mean, among other things, that Roe v. Wade will be swept aside: the trimester test of the state's "compelling interest" in a fetus will be replaced by a direct and overarching compelling interest in that fetus's life, which means the state will have compelling interest in the body of any female (not "any woman"; any female) who has become impregnated or who could reasonably be believed to be capable of such. That will happen. It is not a possibility; it is a fact. Mr. Alito has demonstrated that his beliefs supercede law and has directly challenged both his own court and higher courts on this point. By the standards of careful and tempered wording of court opinions, Mr. Alito's views have been sharply rebuked, with terms like "guts the statutory standard" and "ignores our precedent": this is the language of courts directly addressing a judge whose thinking is incorrect and who needs to be told that his thinking is incorrect.

As if attempting by media power to head off a filibuster in the Senate of the vote on that nomination, CNN.com reports that two members of a so-called "centrist" coalition of Republicans and Democrats have already said that a filibuster is "unlikely"; but absent direct and dramatic action in the form of a filibuster, Mr. Alito will become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Once that happens, this country will materially, fundamentally, and over a period of only a few years change for the rest of our lives.

In response to the article about how a filibuster and a denial of quorum would work, the astute and articulate commentator Lisa Renee of Liberal Common Sense wrote in part as follows:

While I agree with your description of the process, it will not happen.

[E]ven if this did happen? You would not stop Alito from being appointed. The President could use his Recess Appointment powers.

The average american would not understand why the Democrats were stopping the government. The Democrats would be blamed and that could very well help the Republicans gain even more seats. A rather large risk to take.

Lisa Renee is correct that a denial of quorum move is highly unlikely, and it is important to make clear the purpose of the article suggesting it. In modified form, the following was my response.

Although it is highly unlikely, stranger things have happened. It looks like a few leading Democrats are finally getting desperate enough to take the Senate into very unusual territory: the call by Reid to a closed session did not garner anywhere near the backlash that it could have, despite the attempt by some media outlets to give the Republicans more than their fair share of on-air whine-time about the outrage of it all.

A number of Democrats have by now noticed that the incident did not cause them to burst into flames and lift away in a puff of unpopular smoke. That simple observation will give them the incentive and the courage to push further and harder with dramatic (and theatrical) means. It is unfortunate that John Conyers was largely ignored for some of his displays, but he can be rightfully credited for leading the way to what we are now beginning to see as media coverage of the schism that has existed for at least several years in the upper chamber of Congress, known historically for a high degree of civility and a distinctively less rowdy decorum than the House of Representatives.

All of that having been said—and drifting perilously close to talking about the frame within the frame of political discourse—I am laying down in my run of recent posts an insurmountable challenge to the Democrats, giving them evidence of a voice that has become entirely disenchanted of all of them in their political activities. All of them.

Although the rhetoric of my articles can alienate some who believe most of the Democratic elected officials are good people, my purpose is to cut them no slack until they actually cause something to happen that is not on the Republican agenda.

You will have noticed, I am sure, that I have absolutely no use whatsoever for the outcome of Fitzgerald's investigation: perhaps the indictment of Libby contributed to the recent drop into the basement of Bush's popularity, but it did nothing—absolutely nothing—to change his course of action in either tactical moves or in strategic direction: the man went right out of that little Fitzgerald media event and nominated a Right-wing radical to serve as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Bush showed no penitence, no sense of willingness to reconcile to a more moderate tone, and no new-found self-control over his obsession with the narrow, mentally unbalanced base of support he has among religious extremists and their sycophants.

After Ronald Reagan's cabal of Poindexter, North, Abrams, et al. was crushed, the greybeards of the Republican Party—a Party that still had reasoned, decent politicians who could command respect—jerked Reagan back from his heady, self-delusional inattention that had twice so infatuated that previous electorate who got a kick out of his simplistic mean-spiritedness. GOP politicians who cared about the Republic set him straight, and the nation was able to emerge from his era relatively unscathed despite the recklessness of his first term and part of his second.

That will not happen with George W. Bush. He is as reckless and incompetent now as he was when he first entered the Oval Office. He will have a phony "shake-up" of his inner circle at the end of this year, but it will be only for show. He is incapable of rectifying his own flaws, and there are no Republicans remaining who have the moral standing to rake him over the coals and make him change.

That leaves the matter to the Democrats, that ineffectual, cowardly cabal of men and women who have stood as some sort of miserable but loyal opposition as the neo-conservatives have wrecked the landscape of the 21st Century with their unprincipled, ill-informed, Freshman-level social engineering stunt.

Nevertheless, the matter is in the Democrats' hands. It is only when material, overwhelming, unapologetic, very public revulsion to Mr. Bush is displayed from the top of the Democratic Party down that average Americans in undeniable majorities will become comfortable with finally listening to their inner sense that he is now and always has been wrong. It is still far too easy to fear letting that feeling out, even though I am certain that many people who voted for him in 2004 knew very well, deep down inside, that it was a bad, bad move. And I am not talking about big "disapproval ratings" pumped out by polling organizations. I am talking about widespread revulsion against George W. Bush, his entire cadre of fellow travelers, the Religious Right that drools all over the hope he brings of some mythical Apocalypse, and the assorted hate-mongers of social "reform" who fantasize about casting us back to the age of robber-barons and millions living in below-subsistence-wage squalor.

My sense is that, although a number of bloggers and commentators genuinely agree with me to a greater or lesser extent about the miserable weakness of the Democrats, there is a sense that I am on my own for the time being in taking such a hard and unforgiving stance against them.

If, as time goes along, I don't get shot or otherwise have my blog and by butt turned into randomized electrons racing away to the four corners of the universe, then perhaps more people who share my earnest desire for a different future will become comfortable with expressing their frustrations at the entirety of the Democratic Party. When and if that happens, the Democratic leadership will pay very strict attention. I don't think bloggers realize that their sentiments are beginning to be noticed by the big players in the Party. And I'm not talking about attention being paid only to the giant graffiti blogs; I'm talking about attention being paid to what I call Blogosphere Left 2.0, which is getting a whole lot of attention—albeit quiet and from the shadows—of the big dogs of the Party. They're still not sure whether Blogosphere Left 2.0 is going to amount to much, but there are definite indications that they want to make sure that these medium-level blogs are in their corner come 2008. If those heavy hitters in the Party see Blogosphere Left 2.0 turning uniformly sour on them, they're going to react. They can't silence us, so they're going to have to accommodate us. If we're chopping every one of their candidates to shreds for being cowardly, ineffective straight men to the Republican comedy engine of doom, they're going to do what they can to appease us, lest we turn in big droves to a love affair with Green Party or Libertarian Party candidates.

That's how I see it, but I don't see it as a certainty. Blogosphere Left 2.0 might very well fizzle out instead of continuing to rise in importance. Whatever the case, though, we will make ourselves far more compelling if we give the
Democratic politicians a goal they will have a hard and risky time achieving.

We as bloggers sit in an amazing position right now: we still have within our power the opportunity to be as meaningful as we choose to be. We serve ourselves well if we seize that opportunity as a call to change the course of the nation rather than as a duty to stroke their egos on the rare occasions that the Democrat politicians do a neat little trick for the crowds. Those Democrats who want our support simply must find a way to stop the madness that has launched the 21st Century on its frightful descent of the Republic into Hell that is becoming more and more real for tens of millions of Americans even as our feckless Democrat "leaders" look on wringing their hands.

That, I submit to you, makes this a great moment in history. We can change the future materially, but only if we remain true to just cause rather than faithful to failed leadership, be that leadership of the mean and spiteful Republicans or of the sallow and ineffectual Democrats.


It is not the way of the Dark Wraith to praise the wretchéd.

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


Dems Making Moves in the House

by Shakespeare's Sister

There’s something going on in the House. I’m watching C-SPAN live right now, and it seems that Pelosi asked a question of the privileges of the House regarding the Iraq war, and was told her question didn’t meet the threshold requirements. The Dems appealed, and now there’s a procedural vote taking place regarding whether to table the appeal. I’m not entirely sure what’s happening, but it seems as though basically the GOP is trying to prevent the Dems from raising the Iraq issue.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

No shame - McCain launches proto-'08 site

by Pam

Via Shakes Sis, news of a little preview of Campaign 2008 from Mr. POW-Straight Talk himself:



It's primed and ready to seduce centrists across the country. As Sis noted, there's one picture suspiciously missing from the web site, one that tells you all you need to know:


This should run on every blog the moment McCain announces.

Remember, the guy McCain is practically humping in that photo really put the screws to him back in the SC primary in 2000. (Salon):
After Bush lost the Feb. 1 New Hampshire primary to McCain, he and his team made the tactical decision to get ugly in South Carolina. In the weeks leading up to the South Carolina primary on Feb. 19, McCain suffered one of the dirtiest personal smear campaigns in modern American political history.

"We play it different down here," one of Bush's top South Carolina advisors told Time magazine in February. "We're not dainty, if you get my drift. We're used to playin' rough."

Indeed. Push polls attacked McCain's personal life and exaggerated his role in the Keating savings and loan scandal. Leaflets slammed his wife, Cindy, for her past addiction to painkillers. An e-mail from a Bob Jones University professor accused McCain of fathering children out of wedlock. A mysterious public action committee in favor of the Confederate flag -- called "Keep it Flying" -- sprang up overnight and slammed McCain in 250,000 leaflets.

Bush engaged in his own delightful activities, appearing at Bob Jones and telling a Christian radio station, "An openly known homosexual is somebody who probably wouldn't share my philosophy."
Flash forward to August, 2004, the GOP convention. Perhaps the good Senator has a midterm memory loss regarding that little time period in SC, or perhaps blocked it out entirely. Oh, forget being charitable - the bastard became Bush's water boy. Try not to f*cking choke as you read this. (CNN):
And while this war has many components, we can't make victory on the battlefield harder to achieve so that our diplomacy is easier to conduct. This is not just an expression of strength. It is a measure of our wisdom.

That's why I commend to my country the re-election of President Bush, and the... and the steady, experienced, public-spirited man who serves as our vice president, Dick Cheney. Four years ago, in Philadelphia, I spoke of my confidence that President Bush would accept the responsibilities that come with America's distinction as the world's only superpower.

I promised he would not let America "retreat behind empty threats, false promises and uncertain diplomacy," that he would "confidently defend our interests and values wherever they are threatened." I knew -- I knew my confidence was well placed when I watched him stand on the rubble of the World Trade Center with his arm around a hero of September 11 and in our moment of mourning and anger, strengthen our unity and our resolve by promising to right this terrible wrong, and to stand up and fight for the values we hold dear.

He promised our enemies would soon hear from us. And so they did. So they did.

I believe as strongly today as ever, the mission was necessary, achievable and noble.

For his determination to undertake it and for his unflagging resolve to see it through to a just end, President Bush deserves not only our support, but our admiration. As the president rightly reminds us, we are safer now than we were on September 11, but we're not yet safe. We are still closer to the beginning than the end of this fight.

We need a leader with the experience to make the tough decisions and the resolve to stick with them, a leader who will keep us moving forward even if it is easier to rest. And this president will not rest until America is stronger and safer still and this hateful iniquity is vanquished. He has been tested and has risen to the most important challenge of our time, and I salute him.
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Do wingnuts in Texas have anything better to do than this?

by Pam

Texas Southern Baptists Resolve to Investigate Homosexual Activism in Schools. Yes, that's the actual headline. As people are now early voting on a state marriage amendment (see below), we've got the bible-beaters voting to to sniff out members of the gay cabal that they believe are recruiting children in the public schools and teaching them - OMG - tolerance.
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has unanimously passed a resolution encouraging Christian parents to look into whether their local public schools are involved in homosexual activism and, where this is the case, to pursue alternative choices for their children's education.

The measure submitted to the convention by messenger Mark Cole urges Texas Southern Baptists to investigate whether the public schools in their area are promoting homosexuality and, if so, to seek more suitable options for their kids -- options such as private Christian schools or home education. Dr. Gary Ledbetter, a spokesman for the Texas Convention, says the public school resolution is similar to one passed last summer at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.

..."There are other agendas, particularly the homosexual agenda, that have been very aggressive in promoting tolerance of what we consider to be destructive and unbiblical lifestyles -- and building that tolerance into our children," Ledbetter contends. "And they're finding a listening ear. Whether it's on the Supreme Court, or whether it's the textbook manufacturers, the National Education Association -- we find ourselves up against some pretty big boys."
***

Things are getting really hot as those opposed to the Texas marriage amendment are using quotes from prominent state conservatives in phone ads, enraging the wingers. (365gay.com):
Supporters of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Texas went into a rage Wednesday after a group opposing the measure launched a new series of telephone ads using the words of two well known conservative Republicans.

Save Texas Marriage is targeting a million homes in Texas with the message that the amendment is so badly worded it would outlaw common-law marriages among opposite-sex couples and nullify wills and other agreements between unmarried couples.


Hecht (l) and Abbott are having conniptions over the use of their quotes.

The ads use quotes from Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht and Attorney General Greg Abbott to back up the group's claims. The quote by Justice Hecht comes from what he told the Austin American-Statesman last month about how Harriet Miers, a personal friend and at the time a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, might rule on abortion. "When you're construing the Constitution or statute, you're stuck with what's there," Justice Hecht said then.

The quote by Abbott was taken from a written statement he made in 1997 in a ruling that denied Log Cabin Republicans a booth at the Republican Party of Texas convention. Abbot said that "literal text" is important but also said judges "may consider such things as" historical context and framers' intent.

Both Abbot and Hecht denounced the ads on Wednesday. Hecht called them a "wave of fraudulent calls" and said as a judge he has no public position on the amendment.
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Alito backed privacy, gay rights at Princeton

by Pam

Will this make the wingers sh*t bricks or yawn? This is writing from 1971, but if Alito is strong on privacy issues, it doesn't bode well for a reversal of Lawrence v. Texas at the very least. We all know that's going to make the freaks on the Right that are ready to roll out sodomy laws again very queasy. Any amount of squirming that can be induced is fine by me. (Boston Globe):
As a senior at Princeton University, Samuel A. Alito Jr. chaired an undergraduate task force that recommended the decriminalization of sodomy, accused the CIA and the FBI of invading the privacy of citizens, and said discrimination against gays in hiring ''should be forbidden."

The report, issued in 1971 by Alito and 16 other Princeton students, stemmed from a class assignment to study the ''boundaries of privacy in American society" and to recommend ways to protect individual rights.

The far-ranging report, which satisfied a requirement for public policy students and which was stored in the university's Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, provided a glimpse of a more liberal Alito than the jurist is now perceived.

''We sense a great threat to privacy in modern America," Alito wrote in a foreword to the report, in 1971. ''We all believe that privacy is too often sacrificed to other values; we all believe that the threat to privacy is steadily and rapidly mounting; we all believe that action must be taken on many fronts now to preserve privacy."

A classmate, Jeffrey G. Weil, said yesterday that Alito, one of the top seniors in his class, had been selected to advise juniors writing the report, coaching them through the research and then writing an introduction explaining their recommendations.
I don't think this early document is definitive in any way, and neither do the Freepi, though I see some hand-wringing going on...

Actual Freeper Quotes™

"There's no evidence Alito agreed with its recommendations. But the picture is one of a fair-minded young man and it will be hard for the Left to paint him as a privacy-busting and gay-hating zealot. A lot of us where like this in our youth. More to the point, its the Left that's gotten more extreme with time while Alito has been consistent since across the board."

"Before anyone gets crazy . . .in 1971 - the FBI / CIA and MI were all rountinely "invading privacy" - these invasions were part of the rational behind the prohibitions on investigations of "US Persons" (later Gorelick's Wall, etc...) Expressing a desire for more protections against such invasions in no way contradicts with conservative values!!!" [Wha!? Does anyone here remember The Patriot Act?!]

"How is it we can read this report by Alito but Hillary's graduate thesis is still locked a way in a court ordered vault?"

"I don't have a problem with constitutional privacy, the 4th amendment suggests it. Privacy, however, does not imply a right to commit homicide. Only the idiots who decided Row could draw a link between privacy and homicide."

"When I was much younger, I thought pro-life protestors were a bunch of kooks. But now I know the truth because I've actually had many years to think about the issue and learn."

"This 1971 report of a young Alito doesn't compare to the neoMarxist paper that a younger hitlery klintoon wrote during her college days."

"Oh no! Am I going to be held accountable for some over the top remarks I may have made or written when I was a FRESHMAN in College and 17 years old. I certainly hope not. Please get off Alito's case. Leave the trashing to the Dims; it so much demeans you."

"This is an effort by the Media (and Dems) to get Alito in trouble with the same people who were nervous about Roberts and rejected Miers. Look at these points; there's not much there, there. It expresses a concern of that timeframe...the invasion of privacy by very powerful and secretive government agencies. This privacy had nothing to do with abortion rights but was USED AS A RATIONALE for the unquestioned right of a woman to abort at any time for any reason."

"It says to decriminalize sodomy. That shows that in many places it was a crime. To say it is wrong or socially undesirable (homosexual sodomy) is one thing. For it to be a crime is arguable. This comes down on the noncrime side. Not exactly a blockbuster."

"Finally, it says don't discriminate against homosexuals in hiring. That sounds good and very few college students would see any pitfalls there, though there certainly are some. The "gay agenda" is a bit different, though."

"This does not really address the modern-day, gay agenda. But the headline is meant to imply that it does."

"Speaking of Alito in general, and Roberts as well for that matter...some have suggested that neither man would, under almost any conceived circumstances, vote to overturn Roe. They say you can tell that by their very restrained, very precedent- respectful, very careful jurisprudence, and by their own demeanors and personalities. These prognosticators come from both sides of the political spectrum. I would like to know what others think of this analysis of the two men."

"If you are 20 and not a liberal, you have no heart. If you are 40 and not a conservative, you have no brain."

"In you were young in the mid-20th century, these words made sense. Now, in the 21st century, no matter how young or old you are, with everything we now know, you have to be a mental defective to be a liberal."

"You do realize that Harriet would have been eviscerated by many of the people defending Alito had she been the author of that piece when she was in college. :-) I support Alito's nomination, BTW."

"Ronald Reagan harbored the same thoughts in 1980 as he did in 1945."

"True, but the distinction is that in 1945 Reagan was an adult - even 'old', as he was 34 (born 1911). That's why when he joined the Army (achieved Captain IIRC) he was assigned to Hollywood to make training films and such, he was too old for combat."

"This sentence directly contradicts the title, which leads me to believe that the BG is trying to split the conservatives."
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Some Democratic Cojones!!

by STP

George Bush tried to shift the focus away from his failed presidency. He lied us into a war in Iraq that increased terrorism and cost thousands of lives, butchered the Hurricane Katrina relief effort and has made a mess of the budget. The disaster that is the Bush Administration is mired in criminal probes and a stench of corruption and law breaking that reaches all the way up into the highest levels of the executive office.

Bush thought he could nominate a wingnut to the Supreme Court and that the choice would distract America and show strength on his part. It did not. Bush's actions are those of a desperate and weak man.

Today Democrats took the bull by the horns and decided there would be no more stalling on investigating the intelligence and use of said intelligence in leading the U.S. falsely into war. They shut down the Senate until Republicans caved and agreed to an investigation.

The people are with the Democrats on this. They know the push to war was a failure of leadership built upon lies, deceptions and the silencing of opponents by any means necessary.

Bill Frist ( R - Tennessee), the Senate Majority Leader called the Democrat's actions "an affront to me personally" and "an affront to our leadership." Mr. Frist, you are correct because your leadership and personal character have been severely lacking.

Frist also said that "It is an affront to the United States of America." No, Mr. Frist, the affront to the U.S. is in the abuse of power and the disrespect of the Constitution that your party has ascribed to.

To the Democrats in the Senate: Well done. Now stand united against confirming an activist, extremist judge to the Supreme Court.

(Cross posted on Poetic Leanings)


Another Company Cronyism Tale...this one you just won't believe

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Guest Contributor Mario weighs in, and as usual is spot on. I would also like to add that he pre-empted a post that I was in the process of researching. The absolute lowest blow: We have been inundated by Chimp and his cronies re: bird flu. Yes, folks, Bushie is going to save you once again - He has unveiled his "Bird Flu Strategy." However, why the hype NOW? Because Rummy has landed a very cushie job as the CEO of Gilead Sciences - who just happened to get the no-bid contract to make bulk quantities of the vaccine.

The man is CEO now of the company given the entire contract to make the "bird flu" vaccine.

Hmmmm...Just as Bush created the No Child Left Behind Act to funnel money into his brother Neil's company Ignite Software, and how he started the Iraq war to feed his buddy Cheney's company Halliburton (and for the oil of course), he has now attacked bird flu to fund Rummy's new little CEO job.

Ms. Julien


And now...here's Mario:

Way to go Mr. Reid!!!!! God its nice to have a real Dem in charge of our party.....the days of Daschel and Lieberman are OVER!!!!!

Finally had enough of the obstruction from the right wing anti American commies who run the Republican Party. The Republican Taliban is killing this nation and enough is enough. Their crimes have to be exposed to a hypnotized population.

The repugs pulled the same Rule 20 process SIX times during the Clinton admin ( over a BJ !!! )...so take their outrage and tell them to shove it.

We are still w/o power here in Lake Worth...running my Mac off the cig lighter in my car.

People have been waiting in line for gas for HOURS....the stations have gas but no electricity for the pumps........the Florida Legislature passed a bill last year that would give gas stations tax credits to buy generators....the bill was vetoed by Jeb. The tax credit would go to the independent owner operators...not the bloated gas companies....you bet ole Jebbie would’ve never vetoed the bill if it put more money into the pockets of the Bush Mafia....but the every day owner/operators of gas stations.....screw them.... and screw the citizens of Fla.

Jeb’s retarded half-ape brother has cut hurricane funding, so don’t let his BS photo ops fool you.....by the way can someone tell me why Jeb speaks like the Connecticut prep school elitists that the Bushes are but the Murder Monkey speaks like Gabby Hayes?

The Murder Monkey is in full bird flu scare mode.....called today for a 7 billion $$$$ bill to buy the vaccine to help stop the spread of the flu....one company has the patent on the vaccine and only that company will reap the huge profits from the large govt. purchase ( it’s ok for the government to make bulk purchases of this vaccine, but not to make bulk buys of other meds to keep prices down? )......the Head of the Board of Directors of that company???
Donald Rumsfeld.... You can’t make this stuff up!!!

Will write more when we get our power back...
Jeb Sucks!!


--
We found the weapons of mass destruction.”
-GW Bush, May 2003



Trent Lott wonders whether Karl should be booted

by Pam



Ha ha ha ha ha. Damage control, what damage control? This is a GOP meltdown.

Lott is the first Republican to publicly question the wisdom of Karl Rove staying on. Others should be talking about it, given Time's Matt Cooper has now confirmed (and will testify) that Rove was his source that revealed the identity of Valerie Plame.

Lott let it fly with Chris Matthews on Hardball (via Raw Story).
MATTHEWS: Do you think it's a little unseemly to have svengali on the payroll? Do you think he should go?

LOTT: Well, I didn't say that. I mean, I said, you know, is he in the right position? I mean, a lot of the political advisors, in fact, most presidents in recent years have a political advisor in the White House. The question is, should they be, you know, making policy decisions. That's the question you've got to evaluate.
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Reid's statement that shut down the Senate

by Pam

As Shakes Sis notes in her post below, this is the Dem revolt we've been waiting for, a showing of spine like we've not seen, along with the brass balls that we thought were auctioned off.

Via Americablog, more on the history of secret sessions:
Since 1929, the Senate has held 53 secret sessions, generally for reasons of national security.

* For example, in 1997 the Senate held a secret session to consider the Chemical Weapons Convention (treaty).
* In 1992, the Senate met in secret session to consider “most favored nation” trade status for China.
* In 1988, a session was held to consider the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and in 1983 a session was held on Nicaragua.
* In 1942, a secret session was held on navy plans to build battleships and aircraft carriers, and in 1943 a secret session was held on reports from the war fronts.

Six of the most recent secret sessions, however, were held during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
Harry Reid kicks ass (and this made Trent and Frist whine like little babies in dirty nappies):
This past weekend, we witnessed the indictment of the I. Lewis Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff and a senior Advisor to President Bush. Libby is the first sitting White House staffer to be indicted in 135 years. This indictment raises very serious charges. It asserts this Administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and are morally repugnant. The decision to place U.S. soldiers in harm’s way is the most significant responsibility the Constitution invests in the Congress. The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really about: how the Administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions.

As a result of its improper conduct, a cloud now hangs over this Administration. This cloud is further darkened by the Administration’s mistakes in prisoner abuse scandal, Hurricane Katrina, and the cronyism and corruption in numerous agencies.

And, unfortunately, it must be said that a cloud also hangs over this Republican-controlled Congress for its unwillingness to hold this Republican Administration accountable for its misdeeds on all of these issues.

Let’s take a look back at how we got here with respect to Iraq Mr. President. The record will show that within hours of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, senior officials in this Administration recognized these attacks could be used as a pretext to invade Iraq.

The record will also show that in the months and years after 9/11, the Administration engaged in a pattern of manipulation of the facts and retribution against anyone who got in its way as it made the case for attacking Iraq.

There are numerous examples of how the Administration misstated and manipulated the facts as it made the case for war. Administration statements on Saddam’s alleged nuclear weapons capabilities and ties with Al Qaeda represent the best examples of how it consistently and repeatedly manipulated the facts.

The American people were warned time and again by the President, the Vice President, and the current Secretary of State about Saddam’s nuclear weapons capabilities. The Vice President said Iraq “has reconstituted its nuclear weapons.” Playing upon the fears of Americans after September 11, these officials and others raised the specter that, left unchecked, Saddam could soon attack America with nuclear weapons.

Obviously we know now their nuclear claims were wholly inaccurate. But more troubling is the fact that a lot of intelligence experts were telling the Administration then that its claims about Saddam’s nuclear capabilities were false.
The situation was very similar with respect to Saddam’s links to Al Qaeda. The Vice President told the American people, “We know he’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know he has a longstanding relationship with various terrorist groups including the Al Qaeda organization.”

The Administration’s assertions on this score have been totally discredited. But again, the Administration went ahead with these assertions in spite of the fact that the government’s top experts did not agree with these claims.

What has been the response of this Republican-controlled Congress to the Administration’s manipulation of intelligence that led to this protracted war in Iraq? Basically nothing. Did the Republican-controlled Congress carry out its constitutional obligations to conduct oversight? No. Did it support our troops and their families by providing them the answers to many important questions? No. Did it even attempt to force this Administration to answer the most basic questions about its behavior? No.

Unfortunately the unwillingness of the Republican-controlled Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities is not limited to just Iraq. We see it with respect to the prisoner abuse scandal. We see it with respect to Katrina. And we see it with respect to the cronyism and corruption that permeates this Administration.

Time and time again, this Republican-controlled Congress has consistently chosen to put its political interests ahead of our national security. They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican Administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why.

There is also another disturbing pattern here, namely about how the Administration responded to those who challenged its assertions. Time and again this Administration has actively sought to attack and undercut those who dared to raise questions about its preferred course.

For example, when General Shinseki indicated several hundred thousand troops would be needed in Iraq, his military career came to an end. When then OMB Director Larry Lindsay suggested the cost of this war would approach $200 billion, his career in the Administration came to an end. When U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix challenged conclusions about Saddam’s WMD capabilities, the Administration pulled out his inspectors. When Nobel Prize winner and IAEA head Mohammed el-Baridei raised questions about the Administration’s claims of Saddam’s nuclear capabilities, the Administration attempted to remove him from his post. When Joe Wilson stated that there was no attempt by Saddam to acquire uranium from Niger, the Administration launched a vicious and coordinated campaign to demean and discredit him, going so far as to expose the fact that his wife worked as a CIA agent.

Given this Administration’s pattern of squashing those who challenge its misstatements, what has been the response of this Republican-controlled Congress? Again, absolutely nothing. And with their inactions, they provide political cover for this Administration at the same time they keep the truth from our troops who continue to make large sacrifices in Iraq.

This behavior is unacceptable. The toll in Iraq is as staggering as it is solemn. More than 2,000 Americans have lost their lives. Over 90 Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice this month alone – the fourth deadliest month since the war began. More than 15,000 have been wounded. More than 150,000 remain in harm’s way. Enormous sacrifices have been and continue to be made.

The troops and the American people have a right to expect answers and accountability worthy of that sacrifice. For example, 40 Senate Democrats wrote a substantive and detailed letter to the President asking four basic questions about the Administration’s Iraq policy and received a four sentence answer in response. These Senators and the American people deserve better.

They also deserve a searching and comprehensive investigation about how the Bush Administration brought this country to war. Key questions that need to be answered include:

* How did the Bush Administration assemble its case for war against Iraq?
* Who did Bush Administration officials listen to and who did they ignore?


* How did senior Administration officials manipulate or manufacture intelligence presented to the Congress and the American people?
* What was the role of the White House Iraq Group or WHIG, a group of senior White House officials tasked with marketing the war and taking down its critics?

* How did the Administration coordinate its efforts to attack individuals who dared to challenge the Administration’s assertions?
* Why has the Administration failed to provide Congress with the documents that will shed light on their misconduct and misstatements?

Unfortunately the Senate committee that should be taking the lead in providing these answers is not. Despite the fact that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly committed to examine many of these questions more than 1 and ? years ago, he has chosen not to keep this commitment. Despite the fact that he restated that commitment earlier this year on national television, he has still done nothing.

At this point, we can only conclude he will continue to put politics ahead of our national security. If he does anything at this point, I suspect he will play political games by producing an analysis that fails to answer any of these important questions. Instead, if history is any guide, this analysis will attempt to disperse and deflect blame away from the Administration.

We demand that the Intelligence Committee and other committees in this body with jurisdiction over these matters carry out a full and complete investigation immediately as called for by Democrats in the committee’s annual intelligence authorization report. Our troops and the American people have sacrificed too much. It is time this Republican-controlled Congress put the interests of the American people ahead of their own political interests.
A very busy DKos thread is buzzing on this.


BALLZZZ!!!

by Shakespeare's Sister

CNN is reporting that by invoking Rule 21, Harry Reid just shut down the Senate!

Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, demanding answers about intelligence that led to the Iraq war.

Republicans derided the move as a political stunt.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Democratic leader Harry Reid said the American people and U.S. troops deserved to know the details of how the United States became engaged in the war, particularly in light of the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

Reid demanded the Senate go into closed session. With a second by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, the public was ordered out of the chamber, the lights were dimmed, senators filed to their seats on the floor and the doors were closed. No vote is required in such circumstances.

"The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about, how this administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions," Reid said before the doors were closed.

[…]

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said Reid was making "some sort of stink about Scooter Libby and the CIA leak."

A former majority leader, Lott said a closed session is appropriate for such overarching matters as impeachment and chemical weapons -- the two topics that last sent the senators into such sessions.

In addition, Lott said, Reid's move violated the Senate's tradition of courtesy and consent. But there was nothing in Senate rules enabling Republicans to thwart Reid's effort.

As Reid spoke, Majority Leader Bill Frist met in the back of the chamber with a half-dozen senior GOP senators, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, who bore the brunt of Reid's criticism. Reid said Roberts reneged on a promise to fully investigate whether the administration exaggerated and manipulated intelligence leading up to the war.
Fucking hell! This is so exciting! Signs of life! Come on, Dems!!!

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Wingers in Texas getting nasty as amendment vote nears

by Pam

Cherry Blossom Girl over at Live Journal posted this.
Found in my father's car: he told me someone went up to his car while he was getting out of his driveway and threw this in the window. (Click to enlarge).

This crap is being passed out because of the marriage amendment battle going on in Texas. It's on the ballot next week (11/8), and it would block gay and lesbian couples from marrying and prevent civil unions. The Right is desperate, and so now you see bullsh*t tactics like the above.

And in the news today, a young man was beaten in Brownsville, TX, simply because he has gay friends.

Also see:

* Homo-hating TX Gov Rick Perry spams for marriage amendment votes
* TX bible beaters hold voter drive for marriage amendment, Rick Perry re-election
* Houston pols come out against marriage amendment
* Now here is a brave straight ally in Texas
* Texas gays denounce marriage amendment with ad

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Other AmTaliban on the White House Alito Batphone

by Pam

The NYT confirms more of the wingnuts that were consulted in advance of the Alito announcement (remember, the Senate was left out of the loop). Among the usual suspects ("close conservative allies"), signing off on the pick:


* Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention


* Paul Weyrich, Free Congress Foundation


* Jerry Falwell
Dobson isn't mentioned in this article, but you know he was working this nomination from the start. Yesterday, I posted about fringe group Concerned Women for America getting the call to provide a thumbs up for the Administration. Homo-obsessed, penis-possessing CWA leader Bob Knight was most certainly happy to be in on things. Tony Perkins and his outfit are getting hard-ons thinking about the political battle ahead. I'm sure he was on the Batphone as well.
The Family Research Council, a Christian conservative group, said it would begin running television advertisements with a religious theme in the states of potentially pivotal senators. Tony Perkins, president of the organization, said he also planned a special broadcast to churches and Christian radio and television networks as well.


"The air went out of everything a month ago," Mr. Perkins said, because of conservative doubts about Ms. Miers. "Now everything is getting inflated again."

Social conservatives have been campaigning for decades to turn around Supreme Court decisions about abortion rights, prayer in the schools, obscenity and, most recently, gay rights, Mr. Perkins said, so the chance to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing vote on the court, with a proven conservative has been "decades in the making." He added, "We are ready to rumble."
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


What the hell is wrong with conservatives?

by Shakespeare's Sister

With all the bloviating we hear about moral values from conservatives on a regular basis, you’d think that maybe they’d make some vague attempt to actually live up to their rhetoric, but time after time, it’s conservatives who prove to be the most corrupt, the most deviant, the most disturbed. Completely antithetical to the liberal theory that allowing people freedom of choice and expression will facilitate the development of healthy choices and self-expression, conservatives believe that repression is the key to goodness. But it doesn’t work. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Repression of normal desires can’t work forever, and once those normal desires have cooked in the dark recesses of the human mind for years on end, they bubble to the surface in a much uglier form. Sorry, but I’ll take a run-of-the-mill adulterous blowjob any day of the week over mule fucking, closet boytoy-trolling while advocating anti-gay rights measures, or online prostitution.

Anyway, The New Yorker introduces a 1996 novel called The Apprentice by none other than recently indicted scumbag, Scooter Libby, as another in a series of questionable novels by prominent conservatives, and notes:

Like his predecessors, Libby does not shy from the scatological. The narrative makes generous mention of lice, snot, drunkenness, bad breath, torture, urine, “turds,” armpits, arm hair, neck hair, pubic hair, pus, boils, and blood (regular and menstrual). One passage goes, “At length he walked around to the deer’s head and, reaching into his pants, struggled for a moment and then pulled out his penis. He began to piss in the snow just in front of the deer’s nostrils.”
Eugh. And it gets worse. The passage “He asked if they should fuck the deer.” is quoted, to which, The New Yorker notes, “The answer, reader, is yes.” And then there are the old stand-bys of conservative fiction writers:

Homoeroticism and incest also figure as themes. The main female character, Yukiko, draws hair on the “mound” of a little girl. The brothers of a dead samurai have sex with his daughter. Many things glisten (mouths, hair, evergreens), quiver (a “pink underlip,” arm muscles, legs), and are sniffed (floorboards, sheets, fingers).
Perhaps the most disturbing, however, is this passage:

At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest.
What kind of mind comes up with this shit, dreams up scenarios where children are raped by animals to train them in prostitution? Oh, right. A conservative one. One that has toiled under a lifetime of repression, and spent its time dreaming up legislation designed to control the sexual freedom of women and gays. It isn’t enough that men like Scooter Libby must repress their own sexualities; they have to oppress anyone who doesn’t succumb to exhortations to do the same.

They like to say that the sexual liberation of women and gays has some alleged detrimental affect on society, but I don’t see it. What I do see is a collection of perverts whose own sickness pours out of them given the slightest opportunity, and whose fervent belief yet that they are the moral ones encourages them to create a whole other generation of screwed-up people, as they legislate the promotion of abstinence, repression, in sex ed classes.

Scooter’s craptacular book may seem funny on its face, but it’s spawned of the same darkness that motivates a man like Alito to consider a wife her husband’s property and deny protection of gay children. There’s nothing funny about conservatives or their twisted views of sexuality, because they’re inextricably linked to denying freedom.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Sex=death and that's all teens need to know

by Pam

"Some people have raised the issue of whether this vaccine may be sending an overall message to teen-agers that, 'We expect you to be sexually active."
--Reginald Finger, former medical analyst for Focus on the Family, appointed to Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).


"Just because you wear a seat belt doesn't mean you're seeking out an accident."
-- Alan Kaye, executive director of the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, on the vaccine
Cervical cancer strikes more than 10,000 U.S. women each year, killing more than 3,700. Strains of the human papilloma virus can cause cancerous lesions on the cervix, but a vaccine has been developed that is 100% effective -- and forces on the Right, with representation on a CDC panel, may decide whether teen girls should get it, worrying it will "condone sexual activity." (SFGate):
Groups working to reduce the toll of the cancer are eagerly awaiting the vaccine and want it to become part of the standard roster of shots that children, especially girls, receive just before puberty.

Because the vaccine protects against a sexually transmitted virus, many conservatives oppose making it mandatory, citing fears that it could send a subtle message condoning sexual activity before marriage. Several leading groups that promote abstinence are meeting this week to formulate official policies on the vaccine. Officials from the companies developing the shots -- Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline -- have been meeting with advocacy groups to try to assuage their concerns.

"I would like to see it that if you don't have your HPV vaccine, you can't start high school," said Juan Carlos Felix of the University of Southern California, who leads the National Cervical Cancer Coalition's medical advisory panel.

At the ACIP meeting last week, panel members heard presentations about the pros and cons of vaccinating girls at various ages. A survey of 294 pediatricians presented at the meeting found that more than half were worried that parents of female patients might refuse the vaccine, and 11 percent of the doctors said they thought vaccinating against a sexually transmitted disease "may encourage risky sexual behavior in my adolescent patients."

..."There are people who sense that it could cause people to feel like sexual behaviors are safer if they are vaccinated and may lead to more sexual behavior because they feel safe," said Finger, emphasizing he does not endorse that position and is withholding judgment until the issue comes before the vaccine policy panel for a formal recommendation.

Conservative medical groups have been fielding calls from concerned parents and organizations, officials said. "I've talked to some who have said, 'This is going to sabotage our abstinence message,' " said Gene Rudd, associate executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations. But Rudd said most people change their minds once they learn more, adding he would probably want his children immunized. Rudd, however, draws the line at making the vaccine mandatory.
How does protecting women's health impede on a parent's ability to teach their children about abstinence? Folks, a lot of these kids are having sex and pretending that abstinence-only education is working is fantasy.

This nonsense is just going to continue to spiral out of control, as we see these Bush bible-beaters appointed to reality-based, science-based institutions flex their muscles. Let's hope Dr. Finger pays attention to his medical training and not Daddy Dobson.

Also see:
* Abstinence ed is really working: oral sex safe and not really sex, say teens
* Virginity pledge org busted by feds for proselytizing on your dime
* Your tax dollars at work: Texas teens increasingly knocking boots after abstinence program
* Chimpy didn't secure AbstinenceOnly.com


'Ex-gay' ministry on the radio

by Pam


From the promo: ""She’s the woman that stole his heart. He’s the former homosexual man. Now married and on a mission… they’re out to set the record straight."

Former Homosexual's New Radio Show Tackles 'Gay' Issues Head On. That's the actual AgapePress headline, folks. Mr. Brightsmile and his wife are back and ready to chat with listeners everywhere about his purported exodus from the "homo lifestyle."
Debuting today is a unique new radio show that deals with the homosexual agenda from a conservative Christian viewpoint. Straight Talk Radio is hosted by Stephen and Irene Bennett, founders of Stephen Bennett Ministries.

For more than 10 years, Stephen Bennett lived as a homosexual, until he was delivered from that lifestyle after accepting Jesus as his Savior. Now the evangelist and ministry co-founder helps others who want deliverance from unwanted homosexual attractions. He says his new show will tackle a number of compelling issues related to homosexuality and the homosexual agenda.

...The host of the pro-family radio program says a major purpose of the show is to communicate the same truths his ministry seeks to communicate, namely that "people are not born homosexual, and that through the power of Jesus Christ, homosexual men and women can completely change."

...Irene says she is confident the program will "catch on like wildfire and resonate with many individuals worldwide." Through the show, she says she and her co-host husband are hoping to "educate, encourage, engage and equip people to understand this extremely important issue."
Here are some upcoming topics that are bound to catch your attention:

* “Sex Appealed: Was the U.S. Supreme Court Fooled? – Judge Janice Law
* Homosexuality: Born that Way, a Choice… or What?
* Homosexuality: Man’s Word vs. God’s Word with Pastor Wayne Goodall
* “The Wedding March of the Penguins: America’s First Ex-Gay Penguin?”
* The “Gospel” of Homosexuality According to Hollywood
* The Leading Lesbians of Hollywood

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Special Analysis:
The Filibuster, the Quorum, and the Nuclear Exchange

by Dark Wraith

In the interest of summarizing, and to some extent simplifying, the procedure by which an effort can be made to block the appointment of Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court, certain terms of Senate parliamentary procedure are provided below as they apply to the approval process in the Senate. Further information about procedures of the Senate can be found in the official Senate reference glossary; and the Rules of the Senate can be found at Standing Rules of the Senate Index page of the United States Senate.

Executive and judicial posts are filled by the President of the United States, who nominates appointees with the advice and consent of the Senate. Practically speaking, this means that the Senate must vote under regular Senate rules in favor of each appointment. These votes are similar to votes on bills, with the obvious exception that the latter are subject to amendments while the former are essentially up-or-down votes.

The United States Constitution requires that a quorum of Senators be present for regular business to be conducted. A quorum exists if 51 members are present, although that number of Senators does not necessarily have to be in the chambers at the time the quorum is declared.

A Senator may suggest the absence of a quorum, in which case the Presiding Officer must make a quorum call to determine that, indeed, 51 Senators are present. By unanimous consent, a quorum call can be suspended, delaying the final count until 51 members can actually respond to the call.

When a bill or nomination comes out of committee, a floor manager from each party will be designated to coordinate action on the floor of the full Senate. These managers are typically the chairman and ranking minority member of the committee from which the measure came; otherwise, a designee may be assigned by either or both of those persons to serve as floor manager with respect to a matter before the full Senate.

Once a Senator has been recognized by the Chair, that Senator has the floor.

By Rule XXII, a Senator is guaranteed debate without time limit unless at least 60 Senators vote in favor of cloture, which then sets an overall time limit for debate on a specific matter.

Should a proposal for cloture not be brought to a vote, or should such a vote fail to receive the necessary support of at least 60 Senators, then only the Senator who has the floor can end the filibuster, and he or she would do so by yielding or otherwise terminating his or her control of the floor.

In the matter of the so-called "nuclear option," by which is meant that filibusters on judicial nominees would be prohibited, the effect is to have each nomination come to the floor of the Senate with a built-in cloture, setting an overall time limit on debate, meaning that the "nuclear option" would be an exception to Rule XXII, this exception serving to set forth an unvoted, provisional cloture attached to each and every nomination brought to the floor of the Senate. To the extent that a simple majority could contruct this exception to Rule XXII, a standing arrangement requiring the approval of 60 Senators is entirely circumvented by a provision upon all matters of a certain type by the one-time consent of only a simple majority of the Senators, meaning that a protective arrangement that can be overcome only by a super-majority on a case-by-case basis becomes a sub-Rule imposed by a simple majority once and for all with a single vote.

In the event that the right of filibuster under Rule XXII becomes permanently and absolutely frustrated, the only recourse available to those Senators wishing to block a judicial nomination would be by an effort to deny the Senate a quorum by which to conduct regular business. Because under Senate Rules a quorum comprises a simple majority, those in opposition—most likely the Party that is the minority by representation in the body—would have to rely upon at least several members of the Party of the majority in order to execute an effective denial of quorum. Adding to the difficulty would be that the Presiding Chair could declare a quorum even if it was not so, and a Senator would have to be present and willing to suggest the absence of quorum. It is unlikely that any Senator in favor of the nomination pending would make that suggestion, meaning that a Senator in opposition would have to be present to make the suggestion, thereby slightly diluting the denial of quorum by such presence.

However, even in the nearly certain event that a denial of quorum failed, the absence of a significant block of Senators would have two practical effects: first, the official record of the Senate would reflect for the public and for historians the extraordinary situation that existed at the time the nomination was placed before the Senate; and second, those in opposition to the nomination would then have clearly before them a record of those of their Party who nonetheless chose to thwart the denial of quorum effort.

To this second point, it would then be up to the leadership of the Party—not to those in leadership of the Party's representatives in the Senate—to take retributive action at the level deemed necessary to re-establish Party discipline. Such punishment could include measures as mild as denial of a certain portion of funds otherwise available for the Senators' re-election campaigns, or the measures could be as severe as expulsion from the Party.

Although expelling members from the Party of the minority might seem self-defeating, that would not necessarily be the case were the majority Party, by its case-by-case actions and by the accumulation of its bills passed, to become a pariah to the American electorate. Although expulsions would undeniably be risky punishment fraught with opportunities for backlash, the payoff would be substantial in terms of loyalty of remaining members and respect for the less accommodative wing of the Party.

Far more importantly, re-emphasizing the main potential benefit, were the majority Party, by its own malfeasance, incompetence, and criminality, to become widely rejected by voters, the alternative that had already displayed its willingness to gamble all to stop the excess would garner the reward as the wrath of voters translated into throwing the rascals out.

It is only by sharply distinguishing itself from the ruling Party that the Party in opposition can hope to gain from what is increasingly appearing to be an inevitable, looming interest by the electorate to put into the majority a Party that can take the nation in a new direction and begin the long, painful process of repairing the financial, ethical, and statutory damage done by the Party currently in the majority in both Houses of Congress.

In plain English, it boils down to this sequence. If the nomination of Samuel Alito comes to the full Senate, and if it looks like the Republican leadership has the votes to confirm him, the Democrats should filibuster. If the Republicans pull out their "nuclear option" and end the right of filibuster on Executive Branch nominations to the judiciary, then the Democrats should all walk out, save for one Senator who demands that a quorum be proved instead of being merely assumed by the Majority Leadership. Any Democrat who doesn't honor the denial of quorum walk-out gets kicked out of the Party and forced either to go Independent or to join the Republicans. It doesn't matter how powerful that Democrat is; as soon as he's no longer a Democrat, hang around his neck the label "Republican," and make everyone in America know that this is just another one of the fiscally reckless, ethically bankrupt members of the GOP who couldn't keep a federal budget balanced, who couldn't keep terrorists from knocking down our buildings, and who couldn't resist lying through their teeth to the American people so they could start a useless, savage, endless war for the benefit of pumping federal money by the hundreds of billions of dollars into the pockets of their corporate cronies.

In other words, let the loss for the Democrats of this Supreme Court nomination fight be the training ground where they not only learn how to fight like they want the country back, but where they also learn how to kill their own weaklings to get it back.



The Dark Wraith has spoken.

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