Thursday, March 30, 2006

Of Course You Don't

by TheGreenKnight

Bob Chase:
Last December, do you remember when 115 mainline religious leaders and church members were arrested in Washington, D.C., during a last-ditch effort to draw attention to then-proposed cuts to the Federal Budget that would affect millions of low-income Americans?

Of course you don’t remember. The major news networks didn’t cover it.

In February, during the World Council of Churches’ 9th international assembly in Brazil, do you recall when several mainline U.S. church leaders apologized to Christians around the world for not doing more to prevent the start of the U.S. war in Iraq?

Of course you don’t remember. The major news networks didn’t cover it.

And, last month, do you remember when a delegation of mainline religious leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., to demand an end to government attempts to curtail church-oriented travel to Cuba?

Of course you don’t remember. The major news networks didn’t cover it.

Or what about last week, when the mainline churches’ Church World Service, a broadly ecumenical humanitarian relief organization, called on the U.S. Senate to adopt a ‘compassionate’ immigration reform policy?

Of course, you don’t remember. The major news networks didn’t cover it, either.

Yet … two days ago when the Religious Right leader Jerry Falwell chided a Minnesota city for allegedly evicting the Easter Bunny, Associated Press covered it.

And, also in March, when the Religious Right leader Pat Robertson called Muslims “satanic,” Newsweek covered it.

And, in New Orleans, despite the millions raised by mainline denominations and the hundreds, if not thousands, of organized work camps deployed to support rebuilding efforts, it was the Religious Right leader Franklin Graham who appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live (twice!) to talk about his ministry there, along with the Religious Right organization Campus Crusades for Christ, profiled on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 last week.
Via Pastordan, who has more.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

United Church of Christ's newest TV commercial rocks

by Pam

The one thing you can say about the United Church of Christ is that it doesn't avoid controversy. The latest commercial, to launch on April 3, is just as challenging to the closed-minded bigoted houses of worship as the "bouncer" ads that ran in 2004. That ad was rejected by CBS and NBC, whose reps said said the ads were "controversial" and, therefore, amounted to "issue advocacy," something the networks have said they do not allow.

The spot, by the way, said nothing about gay marriage, and nothing specifically about gays at all -- it was about the UCC's tolerance and extravagant welcome to anyone that wishes to worship.

This time around, the ad pulls no punches, and it's managed to be rejected by CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and WB, claiming -- again -- it's a controversial, issue-advocacy ad. From UCC's release:
The 30-second commercial begins with a shot of an African- American mother trying to calm a crying baby. Sitting in a church pew, the mother fidgets anxiously, as she endures disapproving looks from fellow worshippers. Eventually, someone in the wings pushes an "ejector" button to rid the church of her - and her noisy baby. Into the air they go flying.

In similar fashion, a gay couple, an Arab-American, a person using a walker, among others, get "ejected." Finally, when a homeless person wanders in and takes a seat, nervous parishioners - expecting she'll get the boot for sure - scoot away from her.

The commercial ends with a mood shift, where shots of diverse, friendly people set the stage for the announcer's invitation: "The United Church of Christ - no matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here."

You can view the commercial here.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.

McCain to Rev. Tinkywinky: I support a federal marriage amendment

by Pam

Extreme fringe winger intel, has more on the organizer, Rick Scarborough.

Some of the folks attending:

Senator Sam Brownback, Senator John Cornyn, Congressman Tom DeLay, Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, Phyllis Schlafly, Janet Parshall, Janet Folger, William Greene, Ron Luce and Rod Parsley. Here are some choice quotes from folks you may recognize who bleated away at the conference.
Defending the family is a key goal of the so-called "values voters." The traditional or natural family is one of the targets of the political Left, said Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute. He said he was proud to share the stage with "heroes in the fight for normalcy."

Peter Sprigg, the Family Research Council's vice president for policy, noted that the family "is not merely a social construct subject to infinite redefinition. "We believe what makes a family is one man and one woman uniting in marriage for a lifetime and bearing children from that union," Sprigg stated. "We are against anything that threatens the traditional family or undermines that idea," including pre-marital sex, pornography, adultery and prostitution. "And yes, we are also against the practice of homosexuality," he added.

Sprigg said Christians do not hate homosexuals. "On the contrary, we desire the best for them. However, we believe engaging in behavior that is unnatural, immoral and dangerous to the public health and their own health is not the best thing for people with same-sex attractions." He noted that the FRC and similar organizations also oppose the "gay agenda," which "demands full acceptance of the practice of homosexuality -- morally, socially, legally, religiously, politically and financially. "Indeed, it calls for not only acceptance, but affirmation and celebration of this behavior as normal and even desirable," Sprigg said.

The Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman and founder of Traditional Values Coalition, stated that the "gay agenda" would come to a quick end if Americans rose up in numbers against it. However, "Christians are nice guys, and nice guys finish last," he added.

LaBarbera agreed with Sheldon's analysis. "By simply saying we oppose the sin and not the sinner, we leave the playing field to homosexual activists and their euphemistic talking points, which are 'discrimination,' 'equality' and that poor euphemism, 'sexual orientation,'" he said.

...While most speakers said they prefer using the word "homosexual" instead of "gay," Sheldon said he usually sticks with the term's original meaning: "sodomite."
One of the interesting things unveiled at the conference is the Values Voters' Contract with Congress, an unhinged document that I am presenting to you here (and this is the SHORT version) for commentary, jaw-dropping and all-around ripping up. It's an amazing piece of batsh*ttery.
We are citizens of the United States of America and subjects of the sovereign Creator, acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence as the Supreme Ruler and Judge of the World. We strongly affirm our allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, and are moved by our faith in God to join together now to defend government of, by, and for the people against the greatest assault it has ever faced: the destruction of our Constitutionally-mandated republican form of government by judges who legislate from the bench and, thereby, subvert our liberty and our entire way of life.

In defense of our national principles, our Constitution of self-government, our decent character, and our shared national identity, we the undersigned citizens of the United States come together in support of actions we hereby agree to be right and necessary for the common good of all.

We therefore seek the following:
1. TO AFFIRM the national relationship with God in our places of worship, schools, mottos, and public spaces, we call for the passage of -

* The Pledge Protection Act to prohibit activist judges from taking "under God" out of the Pledge (H.R. 2389, S.1046);
* The Constitution Restoration Act to prohibit activist judges from ruling against acknowledgments of God (H.R. 1070, S.520);
* The Public Expression of Religion Act to prohibit activist judges from ordering taxpayers to pay lawyers who seek to erode our national relationship with God (H.R. 2679); and
* The Workplace Religious Freedom Act to promote religious accommodation in employment (H.R. 1445, S. 677).

2. TO SECURE our national interest in the institutions of marriage and family, we call for the passage of -

* A constitutional amendment to completely protect the institution of marriage; and
* The Marriage Protection Act to prohibit activist judges from forcing states to redefine the institution of marriage (H.R. 1100).

3. TO SECURE our fundamental right as parents to the care, custody, and control of our children, we call for the passage of -

* Legislation to codify the principles set forth on Nov. 16, 2005, in House Resolution 547 which would protect parental rights;
* The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act to prohibit the transportation of minors against parental rights (H.R.748);
* The Parental Consent Act to prohibit the use of federal funds for any universal or mandatory mental health screening (H.R. 181);
* The Child Medication Safety Act, to protect children from being coerced into taking drugs in order to attend school (H.R. 1790);
* Legislation that empowers parents to choose schools for their families that share their value choices, as well as ensures families are not forced to pay twice for their educational choices; and
* We call for enforcement of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), which prohibits schools from using privacy invading surveys or evaluations without prior written parental consent (20 U.S.C. 1232h).

4. TO SECURE our God-bestowed right to life, we call for the passage of -

* Legislation to affirm the right to life of our children before birth;
* The Human Cloning Protection Act to prohibit human cloning (S.658, H.R. 1357);
* Legislation that protects life by prohibiting the use of human embryos for research;
* The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act to raise awareness of the pain experienced by children before birth (S.51, H.R. 356); and
* Legislation to prohibit any taxpayers' money for organizations that perform, promote, and/or fund abortions.

5. TO SECURE our God-granted liberties, we call for the passage of -

* Legislation to reverse the loss of religious liberty for churches concerning their involvement in moral and social issues;
* Legislation to ensure that speech and lawful religious expression are never punished as a "hate crime";
* An amendment to the Higher Education Act to guarantee First Amendment rights of worship, speech, and association to students and employees as a condition of federal grants and student assistance;
* Legislation to complete the incarceration process through prisoner re-entry training and child mentoring; and
* Legislation or policies that call for continued rejection of the anti-family and deceptively-named "U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)."

6. TO SECURE our God-given stewardship of property, we call for the passage of -

* Legislation affirming that government may not redefine "public use" to take the private property of one person to give to another.

7. TO SECURE an environment of decency that is free from pornography and obscenity, we call for the passage of -

* Legislation to restrict obscenity and pornography, and guard against its mis-stated protection under the First Amendment.

8. TO SECURE just taxes, and end immorally destructive taxation, we call for the passage of -

* Legislation to fundamentally reform the national tax system and reduce the tax burden on Americans; and
* Legislation to make permanent Marriage Penalty Relief and the Child Tax Credit.

9. TO SECURE our national borders and identity, we call for the passage of -

* True Enforcement and Border Security; and
* Legislation to prohibit, in cases of constitutional interpretation, the use of foreign law as authority.

10. Judges who legislate from the bench subvert our republican form of government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and threaten all these legislative aims.

THEREFORE, WE URGENTLY CALL FOR Judicial Restraint, and an end to Judicial Activism.

* We call for the passage of the Judicial Conduct Act to hold federal judges accountable to the Constitution.

Above every consideration of selfish passion, ambition, or interest, we hold to the ultimate intention of our Constitution: to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. For this purpose, and in support of the beliefs and actions we have herein declared, we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our faithfulness, so help us God.
Man, these folks are overreaching. If they think this is going to go over like the Contract With America, they are sorely mistaken. This document reeks of extremism and a tenuous grasp on reality.

And remember. these are the kinds of people folks like tools John McCain and Mitt Romney are trying to suck up to for '08. Please, let them have to answer questions about whether they endorse the Values Voters' Contract with Congress.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.

Inflammatory Opinion:
The Belt of Justice

by Dark Wraith

On Sunday, I published an editorial in which I called on candidates in the 2008 Presidential Election to pledge commitment to the establishment of a Truth Commission of the United States of America to investigate and expose the extensive and multi-faceted wrongdoing that has been the legacy of the Bush Administration. The support I have received is welcome and heartening, and the criticisms have been legitimate. In the present article, I offer clarity in precisely why the remedy of a Truth Commission would be effective despite the many in this country who remain supportive of President Bush and the Republicans who have prosecuted the agenda of neo-conservatism.

What I am about to write here may trouble some readers, particularly because I must unabashedly put on display that side of my views decidedly not in keeping with my more progressive, tolerant side. In advance, I forewarn that what I write below might not sit well with many, and I shall understand that discomfort. In some ways, it troubles even me that my patience with neo-conservatism has become so truncated that I must revert to attitudes within myself that pose in such harshness. That, unfortunately, is one of the many downsides of becoming agéd: patience in some areas of life takes the form of a precious commodity to be reserved only for those worthy of it. Neo-conservatives and Right-wing evangelicals have fallen off my list of those for whom patience, tolerance, and acceptance is warranted. I trust that they shall never again find their way to the limited space that remains within my soul for good will. With that caution in preface, suffer now my statement of position.

I have no delusions about the American people. Enough of them liked the mean, nasty, hateful words, ways, and innuendos of the Republicans to turn this into one of the grimmest chapters in American history. People like that don't change their stripes, and they certainly wouldn't do so in the span of a mere few years.

Those same people whose rah-rah, kick-some-ass-Georgie mentality got us into this mess are still out there all around us, and their attitudes now are every bit as disgusting as they were.

But those same people, like the people of every age, are craven and cowardly. When their former heroes get hanged in the public square, they'll be nowhere in sight to protest the swinging of the apes.

At worst, they'll hide in their homes grumbling about the horror of it all; at best, they'll feign shock and dismay at the "betrayal" by their former heroes, and they'll swear to God they had "no idea."

Bull. That's the same apology of the Germans as the truth about the Third Reich got rammed down their throats in the years after World War II. The facts shut up the Hitler generation and allowed a much more benign couple of generations to grow up. It took all of fifty years for Fascism to become once again fashionable in European polite company and its hate speech to become wholly defensible by American liberals.

We may yet again have to beat the Hell out of its ugly pigs over there in the decades to come, but at least we had more than half a century of peace and quiet, in no small part because the common people by the millions who had grovelingly supported Hitler, Mussolini, and their ilk laid low, died quietly, and got buried with their hate and their stash of commemorative swastikas.

That's how it can be here, too; but this will happen only if there is a loud enough, authoritative enough, and harsh enough presence standing in judgment over the leaders of this failed neo-con rebellion against the American rule of law and the progressed civil society we were achieving.

That is the dual purpose of a truth commission in every country where one has been established: not only does it expose and punish the wrong-doers who had infected and perverted the government, but it also puts their miserable supporters whose mentality had infected the society on notice that they weren't just wrong, they were also bad.

And, no, by that I don't mean they had bad ideas; I mean they were bad.

I might not be able to make a bad kid into a good one, but I can sure as Hell scare him into keeping his bad behavior to himself. If he wants to act like a hellian in his own private little bedroom, that's fine; but I want him to understand that, not only is his kind known for its ways, but if he ever again shows those attitudes in public, he'll get the same treatment as those he thought were so cool for their destructive malevolence that caused so much pain before.

That might not sound like a particularly caring, liberal way of thinking on my part, but then again, I have never called myself a "liberal" here or anywhere. I may be progressive—Lord knows, I might very well even be a Progressive—but speaking as an anachronistic version of old-time, Rockefeller-type conservativism (and this is just between you all and me, mind you), I really do know what a belt is for; and God knows, there isn't any other remedy of which I know that will cure this country of its current brand of Republicanism.

When a gang of kids has spent the past week tearing up the house, the first and most important thing I need to do is to turn the ringleaders over my knee for the swift Belt of Justice. I mete out the punishment right where the other kids can see it, and I make the sound of righteousness hitting paydirt ring thoughout the land. The rest of those malcontent kids will suddenly turn into the nicest, sweetest, most God-fearing little angels anyone would ever want to have to help clean up the mess they'd made.

That's how we used to take care of bad kids, anyway; and speaking here as an old-time conservative, it's high time we returned to some old-fashioned values in this country.

Let freedom ring? You bet. But not until the belt swings.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

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

Monday, March 27, 2006

Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to Virtue War

by Shakespeare's Sister

Via Memeorandum, I see that San Francisco became the newest front in the culture war this weekend, as 25,000 evangelical teens blew into town to rally against the "virtue terrorism" of pop culture. The teens are part of a movement called "Battle Cry for a Generation," led by Teen Mania organizer Ron Luce—a Texas-based activist, author, and host of the "Acquire the Fire TV" cable program, who also happens to be a Bush appointee to a federal anti-drug-abuse commission. The two-day rally in San Francisco was the first stop in a three-city "reverse rebellion" that will move on to Detroit and Philadelphia and be followed by what Luce describes as the unleashing of a blitz of youth pastors into the communities to use the power of "'God's instruction book' to guide young people away from the corrupting influence of popular culture."

If the movement's verbiage—virtue terrorism, battle cry, acquire the fire, rebellion, blitz—all sounds a bit disconcertingly warlike to you, well, it's no mistake. Luce is a believer that Christians are at war in America.

"This is more than a spiritual war," Luce said. "It's a culture war."

Military metaphors abound in Luce's descriptions of the struggle. He tells young people of how "an enemy has launched a brutal attack on them." At a pre-Battle Cry rally Friday afternoon on the steps of City Hall, Luce told his mostly teenage audience that "terrorists of a different kind" -- advertisers -- were targeting them and that they were "caught in the middle of the battle."

"Are you ready to go to battle for your generation?" he asked, and the young people roared "yes!" and some waved triangular red flags flown from long, medieval-looking poles.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors officially condemned the rally, which is openly anti-choice and anti-gay, and counter-protestors deemed the "Battle Cry" event a "fascist mega-pep rally," which has drawn the ire of some conservative bloggers, who are pointing to it as proof of the Left's intolerance. To which I can only say, Guilty as charged. As a card-carrying progressive, I don't find the merest shred of obligation to be tolerant of people who have declared a war on me and my ideals, not the tiniest compulsion to accommodate hatemongering cast in a branded offensive, not an infinitesimal responsibility to engage in the semantic contortions required for me to pretend that progressives who seek to protect women's rights of autonomy and ensure equality for the LGBT community are of the same tenor as a group of asinine teens too foolish to question what, if advertisers are terrorists, does that make the man who sends them into the streets with identical signs marketing his website?

Being tolerant doesn't require that we demur to a group of people who "declare war" on us—something around which one would think the proponents of a doctrine of preemption would be able to wrap their minds.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who authored the condemnation resolution, said of the rally and its objectives, "Even if it is done by a Barnum & Bailey crowd with a tent and some snake oil, I think we need to pay attention to it. We should not fall asleep at the wheel." I couldn't agree more.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

“Liberalism Kills Kids”

by Shakespeare's Sister

Recently, a bunch of Dominionists who call themselves Vision America announced an upcoming convention they like to call The War on Christians and I like to call MartyrCom. In order to design their best defenses against our devious machinations to throw Christians in jail, forcibly abort their fetuses, and compel them to engage in sexual acts with members of the same sex in accordance with our radical gay agenda, these delusional nutzoids will congregate at such panels as “The Gay Agenda: America Won’t Be Happy, “The Judiciary: Overruling God,” “The Media: Megaphone For Anti-Faith Values,” and other colon-separated subject matter.

Today, I read that Dr. Rick Scarborough, founder and president of Vision America, acting chairman of The Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration, and conference keynote speaker along with U.S. Senator John Cornyn, will also unveil his new book at MartyrCom: Liberalism Kills Kids.

"Liberalism Kills Kids" is a groundbreaking work which documents the devastating failure of America's 40-year experiment with liberal statism. From the deaths of 44 million unborn children, to skyrocketing rates of out-of-wedlock births, to the divorce epidemic, to the destructive demands of the movement to normalize homosexuality -- the book exposes a cultural coup d'etat that has left our families gasping for air.
Although claiming that abortions kill children isn’t exactly groundbreaking in its irritating yet tiresomely familiar mendacity, the assertion that children born out of wedlock, witness their parents’ divorces, or come out of the closet apparently drop dead is, I admit, some admirable trailblazing lunacy. Then again, maybe Dr. Scarborough isn’t suggesting that those things quite literally kill kids, but Liberalism Provides for Nontraditional Family Structures I Don’t Like isn’t quite as catchy a title.

"Liberalism Kills Kids" indicts many of the same forces to be discussed at the War On Christians conference -- Hollywood, the news media, the judiciary and organizations like the ACLU, which -- in the guise of promoting civil liberties -- are demolishing the social order.
Oh, I see. Demolishing the social order. That isn’t really the same as killing kids, is it? There are plenty of things that have the capacity to actually kill kids in America—endemic poverty leading to malnutrition/starvation, lack of access to affordable healthcare (including cutting-edge treatments and drugs), corporate irresponsibility and lax environmental regulations, guns, the kind of opportunistic hatemongering that plays on prejudices and can spiral into hate crimes which leave gay teenagers hanging dead on fences, just for a start. Curiously, what all those things have in common is that they wouldn’t make a good fit with the title Liberalism Kills Kids. I’m sure there’s a more appropriate title, but, gosh, it’s just escaping me at the moment.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Special Graphics Post:
The Seat of the Problem

by Dark Wraith

This graphic may be reposted without modification. Click here to see the attractive, miniature version appropriate for sidebars.

Yucking it up with Mike Huckabee, the Base and 2008 GOP clowns

by Pam

“We’ve seen our country go from ‘Leave It to Beaver’ to ‘Beavis and Butt-head,’ from Barney Fife to Barney Frank.”
– Governor of Arkansas (and Baptist minister) Mike Huckabee, cruising for The GOP Base votes for '08
Jon over at The Pensito Review gives us the heads up on the latest nonsense coming from the like Rethug 2008 prez candidates. This time it's the holy rolling governor of Arkansas, who yucked it up with the above knee-slapper about openly gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) during a stump speech addressing a crowd of Iowa bible beaters. Jon:
It’s interesting that Republicans feel free to say nasty things in about gay people today just as they openly made racist slurs back in the day. Equating Rep. Frank to Beavis and Butthead is beyond the pale — and, frankly, I don’t think Jesus would approve.

So-called "values voters" are auditioning prospective GOP presidential candidates. These bigoted moralists need their egos to be stroked as hard as their well-worn bibles -- and there is a helluva lot of stroking going on by those that want the GOP nom. None of the names that come to mind have a lock on the winger vote yet, and it's also clear that the clowns in the GOP are still scared of being blackballed by the AmTaliban if they don't stroke hard or often enough. (LA Times):
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has disavowed past statements supporting abortion rights. Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) dropped his support for covering homosexuals in hate crimes legislation. Even Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, whose liberal record on social issues is anathema to many conservatives, recently spoke to a meeting of evangelical leaders in the South.

But social and religious conservatives' influence may be limited by the fact that they have not rallied around one candidate. The potential candidates with the best showings in early polls — Giuliani and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — are viewed with suspicion by many conservatives. Yet those whom many regard as soul mates of religious conservatives, such as Huckabee and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), are among the least-known, which suggests they would have the highest hurdles to cross to win the nomination.

So some activists are urging social conservatives to close ranks behind a like-minded candidate to maximize their impact.

"If we get together and get behind a single candidate, we can be formidable," said Paul M. Weyrich, a conservative leader. "But if we are split up into eight different camps … it's going to destroy any chance of being effective."

It is not clear when or whether that agreement will happen. But it is clear that this faction is still a force, as potential candidates move to curry its favor — or at least stay off its enemies list.
Who do you think is going to be the official American Taliban GOP candidate in the primaries?

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.

The NY GOP is in sad shape

by Pam

"Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures."
-- Kathleen "KT" McFarland, a Republican who hopes to challenge sHillary in U.S. Senate race
sHillary's massive war chest is enough to squash her opponents; I don't think she needs psyOps to decimate Ms. McFarland. She's doing a good job of self-destruction on her own.

It sounds like the GOP is truly in a sad state of affairs in the Empire State. (NYPost, via Raw Story):
A Republican challenger to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is bizarrely claiming that the former first lady has been spying in her bedroom window and flying helicopters over her house in the Hamptons, witnesses told The Post yesterday.

...McFarland's Republican primary opponent, former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, was present at the event, and said he came away bewildered. "I'm standing there, and I kind of put my head down and said, 'I can't believe I'm hearing this,' " Spencer said.

McFarland, a Park Avenue matron who has never run for public office, has had a string of problems since announcing her candidacy earlier this month. The Post reported last week that she had failed to vote in numerous New York elections and had even missed voting for President Ronald Reagan in 1984, when she claimed to be an important Reagan administration official.
Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.

The 'satanic art' made them do it

by Pam

"These images, unrecognized by the untrained eye, can be a ticking time-bomb to an individual who is unaware of their presence, especially someone who is already predisposed to deviant sexual behavior."
-- author and "pornography expert" Judith Reisman, featured in a documentary that suggests art is responsible for deviant priests.
Is this going to be proposed to Papa Ratzi as the excuse for all the pedophile priests he allowed to run wild, raping and molesting innocent children? From the "breaking news" section at WingNutDaily, another "I'm not sh*tting you" item.
Could the Roman Catholic Church's sex abuse crisis be tied to embedded Satanic and occultic imagery in its artwork – some of it hundreds of years old? That is the seemingly incredible thesis of a new documentary, "Rape of the Soul," made not by anti-Catholic bigots, but by devout followers of the Church.

The documentary explores the prevalent use of satanic, sexual, occult and anti-Catholic images in historical and contemporary religious artwork. The film also discusses the mysterious acceptance of the artwork at the highest and most trusted levels of the Catholic Church.

"Rape of the Soul" is rated R because of the disturbing content involving demonic, violent and sexual imagery. The film, which is being released by Silver Sword International, contends a major cause of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church could be due to prolonged exposure to sexual and satanic images being incorporated into the religious art.

...Experts are featured in the film to offer detailed accounts of the subconscious programming effects of the sex and occult images on the human brain and how it promotes sex, Satanism and the occult. Religious education materials, songbooks, children's story books, devotionals and the Sunday Missals all have been found to contain embedded imagery.
This is batsh*t crazy.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.

Apologize, Wingnuts

by TheGreenKnight

Three days ago, when the Christian Peacemaker hostages were freed from their captors in Iraq, a number of right-wing bloggers went bananas over their supposed "ingratitude." The wingers claimed that the three hostages had badmouthed, or at least failed to thank, the soldiers who rescued them, and were therefore in league with the terrorists, ought to be sent back to their captors, and so on.

This was of course all a vicious lie. At the time this claim was being made, the three freed hostages had made no statement whatsoever. The "evidence" used by the wingers was this press release from the central offices of the Christian Peacemakers Teams. The press release was not composed or vetted by the three hostages, and cannot be regarded in any way as their own words.

Two of the freed hostages are now home and have had a chance to speak. Norman Kember says,
I do not believe a lasting peace is achieved by armed force, but I pay tribute to their courage and thank those who played a part in my release.
James Loney says of his rescuers,
They saved us from the shadow of death. I'm grateful in a way that can never be adequately expressed in words.
We haven't yet heard from Harmeet Sooden, but this is enough to go on with.

To summarize:
  1. The right-wingers claimed that the three hostages had been ungrateful, using as "evidence" words that were not theirs.
  2. Anybody with a functioning brain and even minor literacy skills knew those words were not theirs.
  3. Now that two of the three hostages have had a chance to speak, what they have to say is in direct contrast to everything that the right-wingers claimed.
So. All of you wingnuts who had so much fun nurturing your outrage by lying about these three: you know what you have to do now.

Say you were wrong. Then say you're sorry. Then promise never to do it again. Then don't do it again.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.

Inflammatory Opinion:
The Clear and Compelling Case for a Truth Commission

by Dark Wraith

Newsweek magazine is reporting in its online edition with dateline April 3, 2006, that U.S. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, in unpublished remarks on March 8 before an audience at the University of Freiberg, Switzerland, declared that "War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them [sic] a jury trial in your civil courts... Give me a break." This week, the case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld of a detainee from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Associate Justice Scalia has made no offer to recuse himself because of his prejudicial remarks on the merits of cases like the one to be presented to him and the other eight Justices.

Mr. Scalia's remarks drew "quite an uproar," according to a member of the law faculty of the University of Freiburg. Apparently, at one point during Mr. Scalia's talk, he was challenged by a member of the audience who reminded him of applicable U.S. treaty obligations, a counterpoint that caused the Associate Justice to rant, "If [a detainee] was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs," a stunning statement (aside from Mr. Scalia's description of 'my army'):

Because of the virtual blanket immunity of Supreme Court Justices to consequences from the decisions they render and the conditions of personal belief and professional conduct under which they render those decisions, Mr. Scalia will likely face no material sanction should he proceed with what is now his apparent intention to participate in the adjudication of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

This becomes further evidence that the United States Congress, President, and Judiciary are in no way prepared to once and for all come to grips with the legacy of the Bush Administration and the neo-conservative radicals who have taken over the halls of the legislature, the executive branch, and the federal courts. At this point, nothing short of the appointment by the next President of the United States of a Truth Commission with nearly absolute subpoena powers will serve to extract from the participants in this degradation of the Republic the details of and truth about the actions they committed, the decisions they made, and the extent of the harm they caused.

It is to the end of the eventual establishment of such an independent investigatory body that I shall in the months ahead ask others to join me in demanding of any candidate running for the Office of the President of the United States in 2008 that he or she commit to the establishment of a Truth Commission of the United States of America within 90 days of assuming office, and that this Truth Commission comprise independent members without any connection whatsoever to those who have been the architects and engineers of the policies of the Bush Administration. As suggested, this Truth Commission must be vested of full powers to subpoena any person deemed necessary, be he or she a politician, a military official, or a member of the judiciary; and the Commission must be charged with having no duty to negotiate any terms upon which testimony will be rendered by any person so subpoenaed. In other words, with regard to this second point, the results of the Truth Commission of the United States will not be suspect and thoroughly tainted as were the results of the 9/11 Commission or the criminal investigation by federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald of the outing for political revenge of non-official cover operative Valerie Plame.

In the months ahead, I shall more fully and formally press this demand upon candidates, and I shall for my own part make agreement to the pledge the first requirement of any candidate seeking my assistance, financial support, and/or endorsement. No less than a Truth Commission will right what has happened during the Bush Administration, and no less than harsh, swift, and certain justice of retribution rendered upon the neo-conservatives and their social and political allies will ensure that this era is not soon repeated.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

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

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Wraith Classics:
Aftermath of the 2004 Presidential Election

by Dark Wraith

This is the first in an occasional series of posts offering readers here at the Big Brass Blog some of the original writings I authored in and for other venues. This series will comprise an eclectic mix. Included will be articles written when I was a business consultant, as well as selections from contributions I made as the Selig Wraith (the Blesséd Ghost) in the Medieval History Forum of, where I created and contributed to a thread entitled, "A Once and Future Language," which was my platform to teach and answer questions about the history and current trends in the English language. That thread still stands as the longest ever created in the Medieval History Forum. Wraith Classics will also present comments and analyses I posted on message boards and blogs before the launch of my own blog, The Dark Wraith Forums.

Regular readers here know that my writings vary from the straight, expository lectures on through to slice-of-life factual and fictional narratives. Occasionally, I use the vehicle of a play to make a point.

To launch this series, I am republishing in extended form a play I wrote and posted in a comment thread at AmericaBlog late on the evening of November 11, 2004. This was, of course, shortly after the 2004 Presidential Election, when the comments at AmericaBlog and other progressive sites had become decidedly downbeat with the defeat of John Kerry by George W. Bush. Hope was fading that anything could be done to change the outcome of the election, despite rumors already swirling of vote fraud, particularly in Ohio but in other states, as well. At the time I wrote this play, my principal intention was to bring a touch of levity to depressed readers, but I also wanted to poke minor, if irreverent and slightly blasphemous, fun at both the Republicans and the Democrats.

My intention in this current republication of that little play is different. In my judgment, the Democratic Party is driving headlong toward the same mistakes it made in 2004, when the chosen candidate declined one opportunity after another to deal with the viciousness, mendacity, and hatefulness of the Republicans. The cowardice that John Kerry showed both before and after the election was a tribute to the dominance of the Republican strategy in an era of voter ignorance, mean-spiritedness, and tolerance of corruption of purpose and morals. Playing nice, being dignified, and posing with reason were trumped by the Republicans, who neither cared for those rules nor abided by them. To imagine that somehow the fundamental dynamic has changed is to hope for politics to move toward some old-fashioned, largely repudiated, entirely obsolete, and somewhat mythical strategy. Hardly ever does politics move toward strategy; rather, the successful politician moves his or her strategy toward the politics of the era.

According to important Democratic consultants, we bloggers in Blogosphere Left 2.0 are irrelevant. We're too strident, we're too untamed, and we just don't understand. These charges are all too true. Unlike conservative bloggers, who march in lock-step grinds of Party Line diatribes, we in Blogosphere Left 2.0 are a cacaphony of voices coming from all different directions, having rather disparate focuses of primary interest and showing a growing intolerance for our very own politicians and their groveling, cowering appeasement of the black-hearted hate machine of neo-conservatism and its nasty apostasy of Right-wing evangelicalism.

The Democrats who would pose to win our approval must be forewarned, however. We bloggers can be very creative, and we have no qualms about making appeasers within our ranks the object of our derision. We can make laughing stocks of cowards, and we can do it in many ways, from many angles, and from thousands of places both here in cyberspace and in the world of the meat puppets. This is what we do: we disrespect institutional rigor mortus, we disrupt the best laid plans of our more respectable and reputable betters, and we enjoy our craft like some people enjoy chocolate, sex, and low-amperage cattle prods.

I digress.

Without further ado, from mid-November of the year 2004, the Dark Wraith herewith presents the Director's Cut of the re-release of...

The 2004 Presidential Smackdown Extravaganza

Camera and music on cue... three, two, one, and... GO!

[Blaring, high-energy music]

[World Political Wrestling Federation Logo fast-zoom. Flame burst across screen.]

[Camera 3 pan audience. Hard-in zoom on screaming fans.]

[Camera 1, face-on: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Satan]

[Cue Schwarzenegger]

Schwarzenegger: Vee are heer aht the Peoria Ceevic Center for the BEEgest tag-team match in the heestory of the universe.

Satan: That's right, Arny. ToNIGHT, it's the tag team of George "The DUH-bya" Bush and Dick "The Dick" Cheney going head-to-head with Jesus Christ and John Kerry!

Schwarzenegger: VAHT a fight eeet's going to be: A no-holds-barred, veeenner-take-all, three-round battle for control of the Earth!

Satan: Well, everyone knows which side Arny and I will be cheering for; but we know it's going to be one helluva match, if you'll forgive that little self-promotion.

Schwarzenegger: Of course vee vill. The majority of Americans vant our team to vin, anyvay.


Announcer: LAYDEEEEES... and... GYENTLEMEN! The Dark Wraith Forums Production Company in association with Way Over the Top Entertainment, LLC, proudly brings you the The 2004 Presidential Smackdown Extravaganza! In THIS corner, the WINNER of the ANNO DOMINI 2000 AND the ANNO DOMINI 2004 United States Presidential Elections, MR. GEEEEEEEEORGE "The DUH-bya" BUSH and DICK "The Dick" CHENEY!

(Crowd goes bananas, cheering wildly)

Announcer: And in THIS corner, the LORD JAY-SUS "The Savior" CHRIST and JOHN "The Loser" KERRY!

(CROWD boos, hisses)

(Round card girl—Donald Rumsfeld in drag—circles the mat holding up Round One card.)



We'll be right back.

Commercial RG1 On.
Friends, are yew in need of Salvation? Has yer life turned into a hedonistic Democratic orgy of lustfulness, desire, and delicate French pastries at Barnes & Noble? Do you read literature other than the Living Word of God in the Bible and tracts written by the Reverend Thomas H. Girdlestamp?

Well, it's time for YEW t' come home to the grace that only the Reverend Girdlestamp can offer. Call our toll-free number right now, and we'll send yew, without obligation, our 36-page pamphlet, "Say 'YES!' to the Lord, Say 'NO! to Your Groin." We have operators standing by t' pray with you for Eternal Salvation. Yer donations can be made right there on our Prayer Hotline. Major credit cards are accepted.

So call right now, before another minute passes. Remember: Gawd loves yew, but He ain't got no problem with throwin' yew into Hell if yer a sinner.

[Blast music, WPWF Logo fast-zoom. Flame burst across screen.]

[Camera 5, 45-side-on: Satan and Schwarzenegger, turn to camera]

[Cue Schwarzenegger]

Schwarzenegger: Just eeen time. Vill the sorry-ass team of Kerry and Jesus even last three rounds?

Satan: I don't know, Arny. They're already broken. You can see it: Kerry's slow, and those weak knees of his are starting to buckle every time he tries to put up his dukes. And that Jesus character: who would've believed the 'Messiah' would be such a wimp when it comes to death, destruction, and oppressive occupation? Looks like that 'forgive your enemies' strategy is about to meet the big-time, real-world whammy.

Schwarzenegger: Zee bell ees about to...


(Crowd roars.)

Jesus steps out into ring from right corner.
Cheney strides out from left corner.

Jesus opens his arms, palms of hands revealing scars of the Crucifixion: "Welcome, my son."

Cheney roars, "FUCK you, Jesus!" and grabs Jesus by the throat, lifts Him into the air, spinning Him 'round and 'round.

Jesus cries, "FATHER, why hast Thou forsaken me this soon?!"

Cheney bawls, "Mushroom clouds! MUSHROOM CLOUDS!!!" and slams Jesus to the mat, grabs his foot, and starts twisting it.

Kerry reaches as far into the ring as he can, screaming: "TAG ME, JESUS! TAG ME! I'm ready for battle! I'll SAVE YOU!"

Jesus claws his way toward Kerry but suddenly gets dragged to the middle of the ring. Cheney jumps up, runs at ropes, bounces off, makes flying dive onto the Lord's chest.

DUH-bya screams from ringside, "Lemme at 'im, lemme at 'im. C'mon, Dick, you PROMISED I could do something. I'm a BIG boy! I flew an airplane!"

Cheney gets up slowly and deliberately. Jesus lies still, eyes glazed. Cheney walks toward the corner of the ring and picks up giant remote control device. "Okay, George. GO GIT 'EM!"

Cheney starts pressing buttons furiously as Bush climbs into ring. DUH-bya yells, "Axis of EVIL. Weapons o' Mass Destruction. Long-term effects of alcohol and cocaine. Mission Accomplished. Served with honor. No one saw Jeff on top, so it doesn't count."

Jesus grovels to the side of the ring, tags Kerry.

Kerry leaps into ring, runs at Bush.

Cheney grabs M60 machine gun and starts firing wildly.


Jesus dives for cover. Kerry hollers: "I'm gonna charge that machine gun nest!" Cheney aims at Kerry, fires point-blank. Kerry shrieks, "I'm HIT! I'm HIT! He got me right in the ass! MEDIC! MEDIC!... I want a Purple Heart for this!"

Kerry staggers backward, tags Jesus.


We'll be right back.

Commercial GW1 On.
[Smirking middle-aged man] I used to have a limp you-know-what. Couldn't pulse beef worth a damn... Then I tried Porkalis... And now... [Blaring trombones; cut to picture of the Matterhorn]

[Deep male voice-over] Ask your doctor about Porkalis. See if it's right for you. Side effects may include blood loss to small brains; uncontrolled sense of being attractive when actually old, fat, and ugly; and certain gristly tissues bursting into giant, flaming torch. Use only as directed on fire extinguisher.

[Blast music, WPWF Logo fast-zoom. Unfortunately coincidental flame burst across screen.]

[Camera 1, face-on]


Schwarzenegger: VAHT A FIGHT!

Satan: You SAID it, Arny. This was billed as the Battle of the Apocalypse, and it sure IS. Goddamn! I've never seen anything LIKE it! Dick and DUH-bya CONTROL the agenda, no doubt ABOUT it.

Schwarzenegger: Jesus and John have no plan, no strategy. Did you SEE the way Kerry was flip-flopping around after he got hit with that round from the M60?!

Satan: And look at JESUS: Just lying there acting like some kind of martyr!

(Round-Card Rumsfeld parades around the ring, holding up ROUND TWO card.)


Jesus staggers into the center of the ring. DUH-bya, controlled by Cheney's remote from ringside, lands blow after blow, backing the Lord into a corner. DUH-bya pushes Jesus's upper body under top rope, flips Him over so His body is tangled between top and middle ropes.

DUH-bya turns around to wave to the crowd. Crowd shrieks approval of twisting Christ to conform to Bush's agenda.

Satan: I don't see John Kerry ANYWHERE around.

Schwarzenegger: He's over there in front of the judges testifying about the atrocities going on in the ring.

Satan (laughing): A lot of good THAT'LL do. (mocking) Boo-hoo-hoo.

While George is busy waving to his fans, Jesus has managed to untangle Himself. Without anyone seeing how He got there, He's suddenly standing on top of a corner ring post, towering over DUH-bya.

(Crowd howls hysterically.)

Satan: Oh, my GOD! Jesus is about to lower the BOOM on George.

Schwarzenegger: Vaht can save heeem, NOW?!

Suddenly, Cheney leaps back into the ring and knocks George out of the way as Jesus descends upon His enemy. Jesus hits the ground with a THUD, lies unconscious.

Kerry scrambles under ropes into the ring, yells to Cheney: "You can't DO that!"


George rushes over, flips Jesus on his back, pins His shoulders to the mat.

Referee: ONE... TWO...


We'll be right back.

Commercial RC1 On.
[Female voice-over; somber violin music] The Republican National Committee needs your help. As we speak, America is being overrun by Democrats on every street corner, encouraging young boys into homosexual encounters at local YMCAs, telling girls it's okay to have multiple abortions after rape and incest, putting help wanted ads in newspapers to draw women away from their homes and families, making God-fearing American men sympathize with the billions of Muslim terrorists all over the world, and teaching impressionable college students how to use the American flag for toilet paper.

[Switch to up-beat, redneck/techno-pop fusion music] But the Republican National Committee is at the forefront of the war to protect our dear, beloved country from the people who hate it. This vile, liberal scum CAN be stopped and its minions sent to secret prisons for testicular electrification and disembowelment. But we need your donations. Send them in now, or make a donation at your local Right-wing church, where God is on your side... and ours!

[Blast music, WPWF Logo fast-zoom. Flame burst across screen.]

[Camera 1, backed out, face-on to Schwarzenegger and Satan. Pull in, Schwarzenegger.]


Schwarzenegger: I AM EXHAUSTED!

Satan: SO AM I. Can you BELIEVE it? The Lord Jesus Christ saved by some idiotic technicality like the end-of-round bell? Where's the justice?!

Schwarzenegger: Kerry and Christ are broken, defeated, hated by the majority of the audience! Why don't they just throw in the towel right NOW?

Satan: John Kerry is such an EMBARRASSMENT! Jesus could have joined the Bush/Cheney ticket, but instead, He chose the losing side... once AGAIN. Will he ever LEARN? This round's gonna be ugly, I can feel it in my bones, can't you, Muscle Man?

Schwarzenegger: I sure can, O Summoner of Blood Rivers. The end is at hand, and VEE are here to see it!

Round-Card Rumsfeld prances around the ring, holding up ROUND THREE card.


Kerry marches forward, salutes. Cheney and Bush, together in ring, give him a double head slap. Kerry stands firm, refuses to address personal assault.

[Ear splitting, roaring engine sound fills auditorium] VROOOOM! VROO-VROOO-VRRROOOMMMM!!


Schwarzenegger: And she's accessorizing with a 1973 Harley-Davidson!

Satan: What STYLE!

(Crowd screams in complete hysteria.)

DUH-bya and Cheney grab Kerry and haul him into the air, rushing him toward ringside where Mary Cheney is standing, leaning forward. George and Dick heave Kerry over the ropes and slam him down right into Mary's horns.

(Crowd shrieks.)

Satan (bawling above mob): HO-LEEE MOSES!! They just GORED Kerry!!!

Schwarzenegger: VAHT an END to a caREER.

Kerry slumps over, falls off hat, tags Jesus as he crumples onto the floor of the arena outside the ring.

Jesus goes under ropes into the ring and stands up directly in front of Dick and DUH-bya.

Cheney cries out, "Where is your kingdom, NOW?"

Bush echoes, "Yeah, where is your kingdom, NOW?"

Together, they step forward, flogging Christ, driving Him backward into a corner of the ring.

Satan: They're gonna CRUCIFY Jesus!

Cheney snarls, "Join me or DIE, Sweet Jesus!"

Jesus turns to look for Kerry, but he's gone. All alone, Jesus stands, waiting for the EndTime.

All of a sudden, beside Him are standing men and women: My Pet Goat, OddJob, Lizzy, Wild Clover, Barbi, elf, Trailer Trash, Shakespeare's Sister, Jen, Gary A., PoliShifter, Dread Pirate Roberts, Lily, Paul the Spud, Missouri Mule, Phoenician in a time of Romans, Chief, BlondeSense Liz, Old White Lady, Fat Lady Sings, DemiOrator, BadTux, Culture Ghost, Green Knight, Elise, meEE, Karen M, Lisa Renee, Pam, Julien, Guy Andrew Hall, Kenneth Quinnell, Ron Brynaert, Charlie, isabelita, Eric Hopp, Mary, Debra, blackdog, Eli Blake, Radical Russ, No Blood for Hubris, Tim, Kate, Cyn, Misty, Lab Kat, Me4President, Stealth Badger, Charles Perez, Gary, Mixter, Cherizac, ROF, Red State Blues, dorsano, Gordon, LindiB, SB Gypsy, Lymond, binky, Treban, DonViti, Pissed Off Patricia, Mr. Shakes, Dark Daughta, Chuck, Deborah, Peter of Lone Tree, Ben Wood, Wadena, Holly, Anntichrist S. Coulter, Progressive Traditionalist, NC Gal, Siri, Luther, T. Rogers, Culture Ghost, DeLLBerto, Left Behind Child, eponymous, litbrit, Andi Allen, Fixer, badgerpup, actor212, ROF, Kathy, D., Jaye Ramsey Sutter, and a Host of Angels, all proclaiming, GLORY BE TO THE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT!


DUH-bya and Dick kick Jesus's ass.

Referee: ONE... TWO... THREEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Schwarzenegger: Vell, that's eet from the Peoria Ceeevic Center Arena, vhere you've just veeetnessed George "The DUH-bya" Bush and Richard "The Dick" Cheney destroy all hope for the future of the human race!

Satan: Right you ARE, Arny. It was EVERYTHING a politics and religion fanatic could've hoped for! And now begins The Thousand Year Reign of Blackness.

Schwarzenegger: I'm Ahnold Svahtzenekkehr.

Satan: And I'm Satan. Good night, and may God bless you... NOT!

[Music fast fade-in]
[Logo on screen.]
[Camera 7 pan empty arena]
[Camera 6 outside shot of Civic Center; demons swooping down, snatching fans' souls and dragging them down into Hell]
[Fade to black]


(Darkened arena. Lone janitor sweeping aisleways.)

Small stage door creaks open. Head peeks out, looks around.

Janitor (looking startled): Who're YOU?

Figure in doorway: I'm John Kerry. I used to be a contender.

Janitor: Oh. Well, I'm Dark Wraith; I'm just the janitor. The closest exit is over there, sir. Please make sure the door locks behind you on your way out.

Kerry (walking out the exit): Thank you for your support.

Janitor: You're quite welcome, Mr. Kerry.

(Door closes.)


Janitor: Asshole.

The Dark Wraith Forums Production Company
in association with
Way Over the Top Entertainment, LLC

The Dark Wraith bows to the applauding audience.

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

Thursday, March 23, 2006

NJ: Corruption and Property Taxes

by STP

I am not certain how much play New Jersey’s corruption and high property taxes gets around the country, but with Governor Corzine’s budget recently in the news, I thought it a good time to put a brief essay forward that discusses these two related topics. The governor’s budget has a lot more good in it than bad. Much of the talk about cutting waste in the New Jersey budget is hype on the part of Republicans, right leaning media components such as Gannett News and so-called “grassroots” tax groups that are merely tools of the Republican Party. The reality is that most of the budget on the state level is out of the governor’s control and the tax system is heavily slanted by the disastrous Whitman years to favor the wealthy via high regressive property taxes and low progressive income taxes. Also, Corzine was left with little choice but to put in $1.1 Billion to fund the pension system, and therein lies much of his increases in spending. He did put forth very respectable departmental cuts, suggested layoffs and asked everyone to tighten their belts.

Corruption in New Jersey politics is rampant, but some immediate steps would go a long way in reducing the problem. A comprehensive statewide ban on pay to play, where contractors pony up campaign cash for large contracts, would be a good start, as opposed to the limited approaches so far proposed and enacted. "Wheeling," the practice of party leaders shifting funds from one area to another, should be banned, too. Powerbrokers have too much control of state politics and ending "wheeling" would reduce their role significantly.

New Jersey’s pension system is rife with problems stemming from corruption, but two quick ways to help fix the problem would be ending pension padding and double dipping. Only full time positions should count towards pensions and the calculation should be based on a longer period of time at the end of a worker’s employment time. Also, there are plenty of qualified people in New Jersey who could hold political office. There is absolutely no justification for someone to hold two positions simultaneously in government. An end to dual officeholding would greatly reduce the powers of any one politician.

Much hay is made of reducing government payrolls, but most of that talk is nonsense and politically-driven hype. Workers in government are no more lazy then in private industry ( I have worked in both) and the overall workforce is not bloated. However, there are entirely too many politically appointed, “do nothing” positions in New Jersey government. Severe cutbacks of these positions would be wise and have no negative impact on services.

A more aggressive Attorney General would be a strong deterrent to those who wish to use the political system for their own gain. Previous AG, Peter Harvey, was a disaster to put it kindly. Judgment on Zulima Farber will come in time, but we can all hope she provides a change and more vigorous enforcement and prosecution.

The strongest way to fight corruption is one that is not brought up that often; strengthened regulations regarding developers. I am increasingly of the belief that there is not one honest developer in New Jersey, and they are at the root of the problem here. Pay to play is an issue that directly relates to developers and their influence peddling. The free reign given to developers also accounts for New Jersey’s dire over-development problems and poor housing (particularly in condos) code measures. New Jersey is a state for sale, and it is the developers doing the buying.

While I am on the subject of developers, and having touched on condos, I should mention that new laws are needed to protect condo owners. The ability of a developer to build sub-standard condos, hire a property management firm connected to that developer and then control the community’s board by maintaining ownership of a large block of units is too easy and leads to no controls in many communities. Condos are not properly inspected or maintained, damage is covered up until the developer’s liability has expired, and middle class taxpayers are left holding the bag for these ruinous practices.

Developers should not be allowed to have a current or passed affiliation with any property management firm hired by a community. No condo owner should have more then one vote in a community regardless of how many units owned. Developers should be required to sell at a minimum 90% of the units they hold after a five year period, conditional upon getting a fair market value for the units.

Homeowners should have a strong agency on the state level to turn to for representation and empowerment against corrupt, inefficient or negligent property management firms, too. Currently, property management firms have almost no controls on them and the abuses they inflict on homeowners via threats and mismanagement can only be described as mind boggling.

Turning to property taxes, I should first re-state that cutting “waste” in government and fighting corruption will have little effect on reducing property taxes in New Jersey.

School levies make up over 60% of the total property tax levies in most municipalities in the state. The problem here is two-fold: too many school districts/home rule and little or no means of reigning in school budgets.

New Jersey has over 600 school districts. There are more then a few that do not even have any schools! Each district is awash in administrators making well over $150,000 a year, with quite a few making several hundred thousand when perks and fringe benefits are factored in. It takes money to bring strong leaders on board. No one would argue that. However, what I would dispute is the need for so many of these folks on the payroll. There’s too many, end of story. I do not begrudge teachers, good and hardworking ones, the right to a solid paycheck, and I do not even have a problem with an administrator being paid a high salary. But New Jersey does not need as many districts with so many high-end paychecks driving up property taxes.

Even in districts that are large enough to be justifiable in their existence, more of an effort needs to be made to promote joint service agreements. I see this gaining in momentum, but more should be done. Consolidation of purchases and sharing of services will surely reduce costs.

Another way of reducing property taxes via reigning in runaway school costs is in addressing school budget votes. Right now, they are held in April, separate from any other elections in the state. Turnout is sparse and focus is minimal. Connecting school budget votes to primaries would increase turnout and attention paid to the budgets would surely increase.

Of course, the idea that defeating a school budget should lead to a cut in taxes is a good thing to hope for, but it is not reality in New Jersey. When a school budget is defeated, it is turned over to the municipality’s governing body, which then makes cuts. I have seen time and time again, though, schools appeal to a weak and gutless state that turns around and restores all or most of the cuts to the budget. That does not work. If a budget is defeated, a certain percent minimum should be required to be reduced and the state should only restore items that would be harmful to the education of the children of that district. The state should require strong proof of this and schools should be forced to cut administrators long before they even discuss cutting teachers or programs. Look at a school budget closely, which I have done many times over the last dozen years, and you will be able to find significant room for slashing that will not impact learning and important extra-curricular programs.

One other way to cut property taxes that is fair and reasonable, and would benefit the most people, has been tried before. In the early 90’s, then Governor James Florio increased the sales and income taxes in the state. The income tax, which is highly progressive, would have hit higher wage earners, and did reduce property taxes, which is regressive and hits lower wage earners. Sadly, foolish or biased “grassroots” groups, and lazy and self-interested political and media figures fought Florio, and New Jersey ended up with Christie Whitman and her tax increases, yes, increases, for the vast majority of people, as property taxes skyrocketed so that the wealthy could pay less in income taxes. Fairness must be returned to the system and that is done by lowering property taxes. Lowering property taxes cannot be accomplished without raising income taxes by reasonable amounts. Sorry, but we need government services and those services must be paid for. Who pays is at issue. I vote for the upper classes paying more and the middle and lower classes paying less.

That concludes one New Jersey citizens diatribe on corruption/reform and property taxes in my beloved state. The answers are there and are attainable. Governor Corzine took a modest step or two in the right direction. Some members of the legislature such as Assemblyman Michael Panter (D - Monmouth County) have proposed positive measures of their own. We need much more and we need leaders in both parties who will lead and not be part of the problem. They seem to be few and far between at this point.

Yada Yada Yada

by Shakespeare's Sister

Toast forwarded me the link to this column by Colin McEnroe, which serves as a great laundry list of validations for consigning Joe Lieberman to permanent exile from the Democratic Party, but this part in particular struck Toast (and me):

Lieberman said the Catholic hospitals shouldn't have to hand out the pills and that transportation should instead be provided, for the rape victim, to some other hospital. He said, "In Connecticut, it shouldn't take more than a short ride to get to another hospital."

Wow. You've got a woman who has been raped. She's shattered, shivering, sobbing, frightened. It's 3 a.m. She just spent hours at St. Somebody for the humiliating and invasive process of evidence collection. Now you're going to hustle her into a cab or shuttle bus to go somewhere else and get a pill that would keep her from bearing the rapist's child because you can't stand to prick the conscience of a hospital administrator?

That's taking better care of the administrator than of the rape victim. And the former is generally having a better day than the latter.
It reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld, in which George is (as per usual) freaking out, on this occasion because he fears his girlfriend has “yada yadaed sex.”

George: Can you yada-yada sex?

Elaine: I’ve yada-yadaed sex.

George: You have?!

Elaine: I went out with this hot young lawyer, we went out for dinner, I had the lobster bisque, we went back to my place, and yada yada yada, I never heard from him again.

Jerry: But you yada-yadaed the best part!

Elaine: No, I mentioned the bisque.

In spite of its recalling that rather funny scene, Lieberman’s reducing the trauma of being redirected to a hospital which is willing to provide you the care you need after being raped to “a short ride” is not amusing. He’s yada-yadaing all the things upon which McEnroe deliberately elucidates—the emotional devastation, the fear, the humiliation, the invasiveness, all of which are exacerbated by the implied shamefulness of wanting to prevent a possible pregnancy caused by a sexual assault.

What’s the big deal? It’s just a short ride. You come in, you talk to the cops, you get your legs spread in front of strangers who investigate your twat for evidence, and yada yada yada, you get your pill.

But you yada-yadaed over the worst part!

No, I mentioned the twat exam.

There is, in the wake of a rape, the functional process of moving forward. It doesn’t always include reporting the assault, but when it does, those functional processes (can) include the interview with police, the medical examination, and emergency birth control. There’s also the emotional process, which is an entirely different animal, and can last a very long time, even though it often begins immediately. The terror, the feeling of brokenness, the guilt or shame.

Imagine being in that space, and being told you’ve got to be moved—a short ride—to complete your medical care. Imagine asking why, and being told, effectively, “Sorry, we don’t accommodate immoral people like you. No, no—we’re not judging you for being raped, dear. That’s not your fault. But just because we sympathize with your having been forced to have sex against your will doesn’t mean we think you have right to be a babykiller.”

Whisking away a rape victim in state transport like it’s some kind of prison transfer may seem an acceptable way to address the functional process of delivering emergency birth control, but it’s clearly, unequivocally, an unacceptable detriment to the associated emotional process—and, incidentally, will thusly become a barrier to the functional process, as more women become hesitant to report the crime, at the risk of facing such ridiculous moralization. “First do no harm” isn’t meant to apply to hospital staff, but to their patients, for crying out loud.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


by Shakespeare's Sister

Blogenfreude emailed me the link to The Smoking Gun’s post of Dark Lord Dick Cheney’s suite demands. Pretty amusing—of course this is my favorite:

Propaganda? Check.

I just love how the TVs must be pre-tuned to Fox, lest the delicate veep accidentally catch a glimpse of actual news.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Lunatic O’Reilly Goes for Baroque

by Shakespeare's Sister

When I am compelled to subject myself to the sneering, language-mangling, condescending, heh-hehing visage of our president, some sort of high-school-chemistry-class-experiment-gone-haywire reaction happens in my gut, causing it to churn and gurgle, eventually producing some wicked concoction that gets into my bloodstream and travels to my brain, where the devilish compound then explodes in a white hot flash, and I am left a seething mass of teeth-gnashing, fist-clenching rage.

On the occasions I have had the misfortune to witness the undulating tangle of self-righteousness, delusion, and smugness that is Bill O’Reilly, I have approximately the same reaction, only ever so slightly less so.

It’s difficult for me to pin down exactly what I find most revolting about O’Reilly—the unmitigated, bloviating assertions of rightness in the face of contrary facts? the incessant and rude interrupting of his guests? the self-referentialism? the self-reverence?—but suffice it to say, I loathe it all. There isn’t a moment that passes on his nightly cavalcade of dreadfulness that isn’t categorically offensive to every fiber of my being. He is a conceited, discourteous, lying swine, who has the unique capacity to nauseate me even on the rare and fleeting instances when I agree with him.

So it was with no small amount of pleasure I read Nicholas Lemann’s beautifully constructed takedown of the Mayor of Swillville in The New Yorker, to which I was directed care of the splendid Blogenfreude at Agitprop. To wit:

O’Reilly, like every political talk-show host with a big following, is a populist, who, in his beyond-irony way, is a rich, middle-aged white guy aligned with the ruling party, and who has the guts to stand up to the élitists who run (but also hate) this country. To say that that doesn’t make any sense is to deny oneself the pleasure that a close study of O’Reilly affords.
By the time I got to Lemann’s description of the sex-offender fixated O’Reilly’s program as “increasingly, not a conservative show but a cop show—‘O’Reilly: Special Victims Unit,’ perhaps,” and his recounting of O’Reilly’s masturbatory fantasies of the beheading of Michael Kinsley to further prove my theory that O’Reilly uses his outlier radio show to plumb the depths of his odium, I was flush with the fever of a happy contentedness that I generally associate with the need for a cigarette and a nap.

Now, it’s true that I hate Bill O’Reilly with a fiery passion that burns brighter than 10,000 suns, so perhaps those who, say, would describe the intensity of their revulsion for him as merely sufficient to power a small African village for three years won’t quite reach the pinnacles of ecstasy that I did. But give it a read, anyway. At minimum, it cleanses the palette, if momentarily, of the distaste left behind by the sheer verity of his existence.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Wholesale Prices Plummet in February

by Dark Wraith

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday that the producer price index (PPI) for February fell by a dramatic 1.4 percent, indicating an annualized rate of deflation of 15.6 percent at the wholesale level. This surprising result was driven by falling costs of food, which experienced a decline of 2.7 percent for the month, and energy, which slid by 4.7 percent. The so-called "core" producer price index, which excludes wholesale prices of food and energy, rose by three-tenths of a percent, representing an annualized inflation rate for wholesale goods other than food and energy of approximately 3.7 percent.

Although the dramatic drop in wholesale prices was something of a surprise to economists, the jump of 0.3 percent in the core PPI was quite a bit larger than expected: the consensus among economists was that wholesale prices other than for food and energy had risen in February by a modest 0.1 percent, meaning that the actual figure was triple what had been anticipated by experts. This surprise comes on the heels of the revised core PPI of 0.4 percent for January. The graphic at left shows the core inflation rate over the past six months for which data is available. As noted, the core does not reflect the whipsaw of energy prices that have plagued the economy during the past several years. Although many anticipated that, as the military and political situation in Iraq stabilized and that country was again able to deliver significant amounts of oil to the world markets, energy prices would generally decline and no longer exhibit the up and down swings that characterized the first months after the invasion by Coalition forces led by the United States. Because of the continuing insurgency in Iraq—an insurgency some now characterize as civil war—and because of the attendant, continuing supply disruptions, the global markets have continued to be roiled. Although an important part of the continuing volatility of energy prices at both the wholesale and retail level, the situation in Iraq is but one of many factors contributed to edgy, volatile world markets for hydrocarbon products. Among the other causes of oil price volatility have been a spate of temporary refinery closings in the United States due to fires and natural disasters, as well as concerns on the international stage about the possibility of widened conflict in the Middle East and threats by Iran to curtail sales of oil to the West in the face of threats by the United States and the several European nations regarding the Persian nation's on-going nuclear research and development program.

No doubt exists that there has been a general trend upward in wholesale and retail energy prices since at least the beginning of the Bush Administration, but it could be argued that the substantial February decline at the wholesale level indicates the possibility that the worst of the overall price increases might be coming to an end, at least for a while. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 4.7 percent slip in energy prices was largely the result of a 9.5 percent slide in gasoline prices paid by retailers and a stunning collapse of 24 percent in wholesale natural gas prices. While these declines represent real respites at the wholesale level, there is no reason to believe that a significant portion of those savings were passed on to consumers and businesses that pay retail prices.
Dark Wraith CyberGloss
As a general rule, companies do not want to experience gains and losses merely because of rapid, unpredictable swings in the costs of inputs. To make net cash flows more predictable, large companies form positions in securities so they will gain on the investments if they lose money on the factor cost, and they will lose on the investments if they gain on the factor cost. This is called "hedging."

  More importantly, however, is that the volatility in and of itself of energy prices has an adverse effect on wholesalers, just like similar volatility in retail prices adversely affects those who pay the prices at the level of final goods and services. The problem is that, when prices swing wildly from month to month and even from week to week, consumers and businesses become more defensive in their spending patterns because of the increased uncertainty with which they must make spending plans. For example, even if, on average, the overall cost of energy rose by a relatively modest two percent over a year, the business could face considerable budget challenges if in two consecutive months the cost of energy first fell by fifteen percent then rose by seventeen percent. The volatility has created business planning risk, and this same principle of increased risk is faced by households. For both households and businesses, this elevated level of risk tends to encourage a less aggressive planning pattern for expenditures. An interesting differential effect can also be noteworthy: large and medium-sized firms can use the financial managers and brokerage services to hedge against a substantial share of random price volatility. This is one of the important benefits of so-called derivatives, which are used to buffer the ups and downs of everything from energy costs to exchange rates. The securities in a hedging portfolio earn money as a certain price moves adversely to a firm's business position and lose money as that price moves favorably to the firm's business position; hence, the derivate acts to nullify or at least to mitigate the non-business related volatility in the firm's earnings. Unfortunately, however, small businesses and consumers are rarely able to deal in these types of investments, both because of the up-front costs of getting involved, as well as because of the significant amounts of capital required to regularly and continuously participate in hedge markets, where exacting care and high costs deter occasional, untrained, and amateur investors.

With respect to the inflation in the United States economy, even as the federal government's inflation figures continue to present a picture of price levels that is not in any way pointing to catastophe, the underlying situation may be quite different because of controversial data manipulation techniques used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Two of the principal techniques are "hedonic pricing" adjustments—downward corrections of price increases on the assumption that some part of any given price rise is not inflation, but merely a reflection of quality improvement—and "substitution effect" corrections—lowering actual, observed price increases under the assumption that, as the prices of certain goods rise, people will substitute away from those goods, thereby mitigating the effects of the price increases.

Regardless of how the federal government's figures deviate from the experiences of businesses and households in the actual economy, management of the underlying inflation rate is the responsibility of the Federal Reserve, which is supposed to be independent of the government and the particular political party that might be dominating fiscal policy. Although the Federal Reserve many months ago, while under the chairmanship of Alan Greenspan, stated clearly that monetary policy to the purpose of accommodating the Bush Administration's fiscal policies was coming to an end, the continuing inflation at both the wholesale and retail levels appears not to be responding adequately, at least not so far. Moreover, as the government continues to report that inflation is far tamer than what business and households are experiencing, the current chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, and his fellow Fed Governors will have considerable leeway to allow the Federal Reserve to continue printing money at a rate in excess of what is necessary for the real growth rate of the economy.

The Federal Reserve's motivation for printing excessive amounts of money is transparent: it is that excess money that allows the Fed to "monetize" the irresponsible budget deficits being run by the radical Republicans in Congress and in the Administration. Essentially, the Fed is printing the money it needs to participate—either directly or through the financial intermediaries of its banking system—in Treasury auctions to purchase debt instruments the government is issuing to pay for its expenditures that exceed its tax revenues. And the reason the government cannot pay its bills is because of its profligate spending on a war of opportunity, coupled with the severe erosion of the taxable revenues it collects from the wealthier people in the nation who were the primary beneficiaries of three rounds of tax cuts instituted by the Bush Administration and its Republican allies in Congress.

The enduring comfort to be found in this otherwise dire current state of affairs is that it cannot last indefinitely. That, on the other hand, is also what should worry everyone enough to lose sleep at night: ultimately, the gambit will come to an end; and when it does, few will be the places that average Americans may turn for help, and even fewer will be the places the neo-conservatives may hide from retribution.

The Dark Wraith will in all circumstances be available, if for nothing else, to note that everyone was sufficiently warned.

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

Killer Professors

by TheGreenKnight

Oh, Pat:
ROBERTSON: 30-40,000 of them, they're like termites that have worked into the woodwork of our academic society and it's appalling....these guys are out and out communists, they are radicals, you know some of them don't want your child to be brainwashed by these radicals....Not only brainwashed but beat up, they beat these people up, cower them into submission.
Caught at last. Why just the other day I was applying the lash to four of my students for failing to adequately explain just how evil capitalism is, even as my teaching assistants completed a hit on the pastor of the little evangelical church down the road. Oh, but one of my students, she of the dewy eyes, looked up in the middle of her thrashing and whispered "more, professor, please please more," and I knew that my evil propagandistic ways had been effective. She was brainwashed; she was mine.

Or, you know, not.

I actually spent most of today marking papers for grammar, argument, and style; frankly, I'm happy when a student writes a nice, coherent paragraph no matter what their political beliefs -- which I mostly have no idea about in the first place. After marking, I completed the script for this April's exam in one of my courses, decided what books I want the bookstore to order for my summer classes in Chaucer and Effective Writing, and answered a student's question about his upcoming essay. And I re-read T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" because I have to teach it tomorrow at 10. It's a busy life. Not exactly a glamorous one, though, or a politically adventurous one.

What world is Robertson living in?

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.

The 'abortion of marriage'

by Pam

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has the knickers of David R. Usher of Men's News Daily in a big knotted twist.

Usher's tag says he is "Legislative Analyst for the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Missouri Coalition," a state that voted to not resume funding birth control and wants to prevent access to abortion.

Given that, this essay is not surprising in the least.

VAWA is predicated on the notion that domestic violence is a sex-related problem. Yet, no major study proves that men cause domestic violence more than women do.

VAWA drives the majority of serious family violence

VAWA pretends that men are dangerous in the intact family and should be immediately removed for nothing more than a statement of “fear” or “emotional distress”. If most serious family violence actually occurred in intact families, this would be useful policy.

Here is the truth about domestic violence in married families: Only 4% of serious domestic violence occurs in the intact family. ”[i] The other 96% occurs after the date of separation.

Why would we see nearly all serious domestic violence occur after the date of separation? Liberals often pretend that divorce is a minor surgical procedure. It is not. Abortion of marriage is often a very serious and messy procedure. When one is faced with complete loss of life savings and children in the combative and expensive divorce system, serious spousal conflict can be easily predicted.

If we would not stop forest fires by dumping gasoline on them, we must not pretend we can reduce domestic violence by destroying families as a matter of presumed public policy.
I love that use of "abortion of marriage." Please. I sense a really unhappy guy here -- perhaps you all have some suggestions about how he might feel better about himself.

Ironically, Usher inadvertently makes the case for same-sex marriage, if the stability of the institution itself, as he cites, is key to lowering domestic violence.
If we would not stop forest fires by dumping gasoline on them, we must not pretend we can reduce domestic violence by destroying families as a matter of presumed public policy.

Marriage is the key predicator of low domestic violence rates. Domestic violence rates are higher in cohabiting relationships and non-intact families than in married families.
He later tries to catch himself on this point:
An abundance of evidence proves that women’s centers and radical advocacy groups cover up women’s violence, drive “divorce for the hell of it”, and break up many more families than they actually help. They recommend policies that line their own pockets with billions federal dollars, some of which are misused to lobby for anti-family feminist initiatives such as same-sex marriage, gay. For this reason, no politician who truly cares about the family and the future of marriage could possibly support the Violence Against Women Act.
Is it time for the tiny violin?

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.

Protect Marriage Illinois launches amendment petition drive today

by Pam

Peter LaBarbera and his homo-obsession continues, pushing for a Marriage Protection Referendum in Illinois through his Protect Marriage Illinois organization.

Today -- primary day in the state, he's putting the call out for volunteers to collect 100K signatures of known registered voters. Read the tired-ass rhetoric in the plea (if you go to the site, there are also multiple requests for the open wallet, of course).
...We must act now to permanently protect marriage in Illinois! Since the forced legalization of same-sex "marriage" in Massachusetts in 2004, fifteen states have adopted constitutional amendments preserving traditional marriage through ballot initiatives, averaging a winning percentage of over 70 percent. That brings the total to 19 states that have added marriage amendments to their state constitutions. Another 11 states are currently pursuing similar measures.

Illinois does not want to become another Massachusetts. We simply cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while other states move quickly to defend marriage.

Illinois citizens who want to permanently protect marriage have until April 20, 2006 to gather 283,111 valid signatures in order to put an Advisory Referendum on the ballot calling on political leaders in Springfield to pass a state constitutional amendment protecting marriage as one man and one woman.

If we do not push for an Amendment to the Illinois State Constitution, liberal activist judges will redefine marriage forever. If we allow that to happen, what would prevent further redefinition of marriage to include polygamy, group marriages, etc.? If marriage is redefined it loses all meaning.
Take a look at the endorsements in favor of the amendment. The usual suspects are on there, like Peter LaBarbera's hub, the Illinois Family Institute, Concerned Women of America, Eagle Forum, etc. Sorry to say yet again, a number of black organizations and pastors are right there in the bigot fold.

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.

Body slam for Jeebus

by Pam

My, the faith is weak if this is what they call Christian outreach these days.
Small bands of masked evangelists, clad in tights and armed with biblical names, argue it is. The violence and intensity of wrestling, they claim, can be the perfect way to attract the alternative, younger crowd.

At the beginning of some "Wrestling for Jesus" shows, wrestler Chase "Darkness" Cliett is strapped to a massive wooden cross on stage as piercing music is played. A group of evil wrestlers beats and bloodies him before the good guys dramatically come to his rescue. Later, after a horned fellow in a red suit is knocked out, the preaching begins.

But it's not for everyone; many churches won't even consider letting them perform. One performance ended with real fighting, real cursing and a repentant participant stretched-out face-down in the ring weeping.
Just so you know, you can catch the WFJ show at the Johnston J.C.'s Peach Blossom Festival in Johnston, S.C. on April 1 -- and that's no April Fool's joke.

From: The Hills of Golgotha
Weight: 178lbs
Height: 6'9"
Finishing Move: Lights Out
Quote: "Whatever your mind can conceive and believe your body can achieve"
Entrance Music: "Metal is Forever" (Primal Fear)
Titles Held: Current Tag Team Champions, United States Champion, Cruiserweight Champion

From: Nagasaki, Japan
Weight: 185lbs
Height: 6'2"
Finish Move: Fall of Zion
Entrance Music: "Your Powerful" (Skillet)
Titles Held: Cruiserweight Champion

Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Don’t be a Feminist; Be Happy!

by Shakespeare's Sister

A recent Slate article reported with some hand-wringing that “women who strongly identify as progressive—the 15 percent who agree most with feminist ideals—have a harder time being happy than their peers.” Oh, woe is we. I’m tempted to simply snark, “I think we covered this ground in The Matrix” and leave it at that, but I’ll give it a little time.

The Happy Feminist wisely points out that it’s the wrong question.

We never see articles that talk about whether democracy will make the Iraqis happy or whether equal rights for African-Americans have made them happy or whether our civil liberties make us Americans happy. I don't think those who fought the American Revolution said to themselves, "Wouldn't we be happier if we simply accepted taxation without representation rather than fighting this rather unpleasant war?"

To frame the effectiveness of feminism in terms of whether it makes women happy is just one more way of patronizing women.
This is all true. But even though it’s certainly the wrong question, it’s a distinctly American one. We say that money can’t buy happiness, but no one can accuse us of not bloody trying! Happy Birthday—here are some presents! Happy Holidays—here are some more presents! Feeling down? Buy some happy pills! Need a vacation? Heck—the Happiest Place on Earth is right here on our shores! We’re pathologically determined to be happy, and if you’re not…well, what the hell is wrong with you?

There are those people who can’t imagine that to be an American can be anything but being happy. (These tend to be people for whom the term “ignorance is bliss” was coined, people who will ignore all sorts of ugliness—including and especially their own struggles—because if you chant “USA! USA!” while secretly harboring doubts about the totality of your happiness, it makes the baby Jesus cry.) I’ve had conversations with Americans who assert something quite close to an obligation to be happy. Why, it’s right there in the Declaration of Independence!

One might note that the clause to which they are referring is the guarantee to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Not happiness, but its pursuit. Therein lies the key to the whole feminism conundrum. Feminism is the pursuit of equality, the push for an egalitarianism that would, in its way, be a very pleasant kind of happiness. And that makes it quite decidedly American, perhaps more so than ignoring the necessity of struggle implicit in our framers’ words.

In truth, if Americans did a little less worrying about what makes us happy, and paid a bit more attention to those other two concepts, we’d probably all find happiness more readily within our collective reach. Sometimes being stuck in the muck is unpleasant, but there’s something to be said for the personal satisfaction derived of the social conscience that empathy fuels. The problem is that too many of us who express—and maybe even genuinely find—happiness in this country, do it at the expense of the happiness of others.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

In the interest of fairness and balance, let’s all agree that homosexuality is bad.

by Shakespeare's Sister

At minimum, let’s agree that there are plenty of religious people who think it’s bad, and that their children have every right to make that point in public schools.

When people are this far apart, every act by one side is seen as a hostile move by the other. A "Day of Silence" to protest treatment of gays and lesbians is now followed by a "Day of Truth" to promote conservative religious views of homosexuality. A T-shirt proclaiming "Straight Pride" is worn to counter one professing "Gay Pride." These differences are deep and difficult to negotiate.
You know, I’m automatically suspicious of any article written by someone who’s authored a book called Finding Common Ground: A Guide to Religious Liberty in Public Schools, but I gave it a fair shot. Yet here, in the third paragraph, we’re already being asked to treat “Day of Silence,” which protests the treatment of the LGBT community—see: Matthew Shepard, who was robbed, beaten, tied to a fence with his own shoelaces, and left to die—with the same respect as “Day of Truth,” which serves no purpose (by the admission of its purveyor, the Alliance Defense Fund) other than to promulgate propaganda about a homosexual agenda.

Yes, those differences are deep. One is about tolerance and respect. One is about ignorance and hostility. One is about actual persecution. One is about a persecution complex.

For the process to work, school officials must be fair, honest brokers of a dialogue that involves all stakeholders. That means, first and foremost, that school leaders must refrain from choosing sides in the culture-war debate over homosexuality. If schools are going to find agreement on policies and practices that bring the community together, it won't be by taking a side and coercing others to accept it.
The only reason that someone, in this day and age, can get away with suggesting that public schools shouldn’t “choose sides” in a “culture-war debate over homosexuality” is because we have a government that flatly refuses to enact federal protections on behalf of the LGBT community. Consider how ridiculous it would sound to argue that schools shouldn’t choose sides about racism or sexism or hostility toward people with disabilities. It’s not that there aren’t white supremacists or misogynists or people who complain bitterly about disabled parking and ADA code requirements who have kids in schools that have been indoctrinated into their views, but they aren’t arguing to allow their kids to spout off racial separatist garbage, for example, because the law protects minorities, so they know they’d lose. Public schools aren’t required to remain neutral on these other issues—even though there are people who cite religion as the source for their retrograde notions. Not so very long ago, religion was invoked with regularity as a defense of racism, even among the mainstream. It wasn’t right then, and it’s not right now, irrespective of the underlying issue. The difference is that we have chosen to protect some people by law and have left others vulnerable to attack because we don’t consider them worthy of the same legal protections.

To avoid divisive fights and lawsuits, educators and parents must agree on civic ground rules to ensure fairness for all sides. After all, public schools belong to everyone. However deeply we disagree about homosexuality, the vast majority of us want schools to uphold the rights of all students in a safe learning environment.
Again, consider the absurdity if this were an argument for protecting the right of a student to argue for racial segregation. Would anyone take seriously the notion that a racist student’s right to grandstand his separatist views in a public school should be given equal consideration to a minority student’s right to attend a public school without being subjected to such harassment? My rights end where yours begin. A student has a right to express anti-gay sentiments from here to Kingdom Come, unless and until it begins to encroach upon another student’s right to be free of harassment. Within the confines of a public school, that space becomes severely limited. I can’t help but balk at the suggestion of someone who asserts an interest in seeing “schools uphold the rights of all students in a safe learning environment,” that we must necessarily (but—shrug—unavoidably) create a hostile environment for gay students in order to protect the rights of anti-gay students. It’s so easy to lay out the theory without considering the real-world effect on gay students of being subjected to didactic, anti-gay screeds from their classmates. And while it may be fun to pretend that preventing homobigot students from putting their bigotry on public display is just as psychologically damaging, I hardly think restricting the espousing of their philosophy to the other 16 hours of the day when they’re not in school will render their delicate souls irreparably shattered.

It isn't possible for us to reach ideological or religious consensus, but it is possible - and necessary - to reach civic consensus on civil dialogue.
I am, as ever, irritated by the subtle implications that this debate comes down to the morality firmly rooted in religion versus immorality rooted in religion’s void. Religion is not the singular source of morality, and so it should not be given special dispensation for its insertion into public debates, as if leaving out religion leaves out morality altogether. Civil dialogue would indeed be great, but in reality, it simply cannot include allowing students to parade around in “Day of Truth” t-shirts, handing out literature about the homosexual agenda, or giving “diversity week” speeches about how the Roman Catholic church thinks homosexuality is wrong. There’s nothing “civil” about any of those things, no matter how politely the shit is shoveled.

Perhaps what bothers me most, however, about this whole thing is the notion that has reared its ugly head in the evolution v. intelligent design fight, too—that religion has just as much place in public schools as science. Religion—and religion only—tells us that homosexuality is an immoral choice. Science tells us that homosexuality is natural and immutable. Public schools are meant to be interested in science, not religion. And as science does not accommodate this debate, neither should our public schools.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Special Blog Post:
The Message and the Message

by Dark Wraith

Below is the screen capture of an e-mail message I received several days ago. The message seems nice enough: it's from a rather friendly sounding church in the community in which I live. This place has lots and lots of churches. A few are quite progressive, although most are not. The area is growing by leaps and bounds. Middle- and upper-class households are in abundance because of the huge financial services companies located here. Many of these upwardly mobile people consider themselves quite the progressives; but they're the minority. The tradition of this place is deeply conservative in a uniquely Middle America, Bible Belt way. Politics and religion are dominated by views that would probably infuriate most of the readers here.

So, is there a problem with the e-mail solicitation above? Not really.

Except that it came to me at my college e-mail address, a public school with excellent spam blockers on the servers. It is a near certainty that the school directly provided this church with the e-mail addresses of faculty members and then ensured that the spam blockers would not touch e-mail messages from this sender. What would otherwise be easy pickings for a good institutional system of policy filters slid through unmolested.

In other words, elements of a database of employees of a public institution were provided to a religious organization, and then the servers of the public institution were set to permit solicitations from that religious organization to pass through to those employees.

That might be appalling to some, but I'm used to such things. Last year, the weakling union was not just given the names and e-mail addresses of faculty members, but it also was given their home addresses. I received a solicitation in the mail to join the union. It was couched in the form of a "survey," but the message was clear, at least to me. The union that I was considering working to decertify because of its let's-not-cause-trouble negotiating style—leading as it has to an hourly equivalent wage for me of just about $10—knows exactly where I live. If I were the paranoid sort, I'd think the administration knew exactly what it was doing giving that database to the union.

This is obviously all petty stuff. To many, academia is still the last bastion of enlightenment—the repository where stands all the great knowledge that continues to be available even in the worst of this degraded but temporary time of ignorance and mendacity. The supporters of academia must certainly see it as the bulwark of the Age of Reason, the institutional setting where the irrationality of religious superstitions and cultural ignorance are set aside in favor of disciplined thought, processual integrity, and objective analysis.

Not that it matters, but I no longer believe that. You see, awhile back, I was in the common faculty area describing to an adjunct professor some trouble I'd gotten from a Christian student who didn't like me talking about evolution. The particulars of the incident with the kid had to do with my description of a computer program that autonomously designs self-replicating circuits. It seems that, as these circuits evolve generation over generation, they tend not to eliminate unused architecture from previous generations; instead, these evolving circuits retain "junk" they no longer find useful, and this is very much how DNA works: genetic-level structures that organisms no longer need, use, or express in traits don't vanish, even over millions and millions of years. Apparently, evolutionary processes have a principle of conservation, something that probably (among other uses) allows for rapid adaptation to environmental changes.

My conversation with the adjunct was in the presence of no fewer than three biology teachers at the college, who began to talk very loudly among themselves about how terrible it was that evolution was "still" believed by so many otherwise educated people. The conversation was specifically intended for my attention and consumption. I left quickly enough since I wasn't in the mood to try to overcome the certainty with which no fewer than three educators (all middle-aged) were declaring their position and affirming one another's belief system.

A few days later, my mention of the incident to a full-time, tenured faculty member who teaches biology was met with a polite, diplomatic, and altogether condescending rejoinder that I don't know about "everything that's going on" in the field of biology these days.

She was right, of course; but I surely know more now than I did when I thought academia would be the salvation of the Age of Reason.

The Dark Wraith watches the tide ebb.

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


by Shakespeare's Sister


According to the Revealer: “The War on Christians conference is coming to D.C., featuring a modified-A-list of conservative heavyweights organized by Vision America, including Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, Sen. John Cornyn, Phyllis Schlafly, Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Tom DeLay, as well as some Jews...”

With enlightening, pre-enlightenment panels like The Judiciary: Overruling God, and The Gay Agenda: America Won't Be Happy, these Crusaders come to DC to stand up for the rights of the downtrodden 77%.

And Jews joining the idiocracy? Well, take a gander at the list and you'll find a handful of less-than-mainstream Jews lending their names to the cause. Start with Rabbi Aryeh Spero who campaigned for anti-Semite Pat Buchanan and who breaks bread with another Jew-hater, Bill Donohue. The folks here lend about as much ecumenism to this conference as Zell Miller lends to a bipartisan panel.
The War on Christians? You’ve got to be kidding me. Forget believing their own press; these dingbats believe their own framing. Apparently, they’ve spent so much time warbling on about how the pro-choice crowd is “pro-abortion” and the gay rights crowd has a “radical gay agenda” that they’ve begun to believe that there really is a war against them, that we’re fixing to knock down their doors so we can forcibly abort their fetuses and compel them to engage in sexual acts with members of the same sex. Well, here’s a quick reality check: All we want is the right to do what we want to do. You don’t have to do it. Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one. Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t marry a gay person. How the fuck hard is it, folks?

These people are absolute lunatics; they have had a complete break with reality. And any elected official who supports this categorical balderdash about the judiciary “overruling” god is committing treason, plain and simple. They are quite literally betraying a fundamental principle upon which this nation was founded as laid out in the Constitution, which they swore to uphold. I’m tired of pussyfooting around this bullshit. They’re angling for a theocracy, and that’s patently unacceptable. Cornyn, Brownback, DeLay, and any of their godshill compatriots who support this bullshit need to be immediately censured and removed from Congress if they cannot commit to upholding the separation of church and state as they are required to do.

Of course that will never happen in this fine country of ours, because nowadays left is right, and up is down, and good is evil, and black is white, and The War on Christians is really The Dominionists’ War on the Rest of Us.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)



A Modicum of Perspective, Please

by Shakespeare's Sister

Two women have died after taking RU 486, so of course the anti-choice brigade is jumping all over the news, gleefully screeching about how the drug kills pregnant women.

Two Senate abortion foes, Republicans Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, urged passage of legislation that would suspend sales of RU-486 until the Government Accountability Office reviews how the FDA approved the pill.

"RU-486 is a deadly drug that is killing pregnant women," DeMint said. "This drug should never have been approved, and it must be suspended immediately."
It appears that they may be the result of taking the second dose of pills via vaginal insertion, which produces fewer side effects but is not recommended by the FDA, which instead instructs women to take the second dose orally. Vaginal insertion can, in rare cases, trigger sepsis, which is the suspected cause of death. Planned Parenthood has, effectively immediately, changed its policy to reflect concerns about sepsis.

These deaths are tragic, and I don’t want to minimize that at all. But a little perspective would be nice, too. Out of the approximate 560,000 times medication abortion has been done in the US, seven women have died (meanwhile, 27,000 people had died from heart attacks and strokes while taking the arthritis drug Vioxx before the FDA pulled that drug), and none of those seven deaths have been directly attributed to mifepristone. The rate of sepsis comparable to infection risks with surgical abortions and childbirth, and the US has a maternal death rate of 12 per 100,000, making pregnancy more dangerous than RU-486.

In other words, Senators DeMint and Coburn would be better off screaming instead about how pregnancy kills pregnant women.

Better yet, they could speak to some emergency room workers who remember the number of women who died of sepsis after getting unsafe, unsanitary back-alley abortions before Roe, and see if that’s actually a preferable state of affairs to continuing to provide women access to RU-486.

(Crossposted at