Sunday, April 30, 2006

Our President

by Pam

A snapshot of a portion of Raw Story's front page earlier today. Love the pic selection.



The headline "Bush ignores hundreds of laws" points to a powerful Boston Globe article that is stomach-churning but completely unsurprising. Since he took office, Dear Leader, according the Globe, has issued signing statements on hundreds of laws, declaring that he has the power to set aside them when they inconveniently conflict with his legal interpretation of the Constitution -- and any master plans he has in the works, or any enemies he wishes to punish. We all know his vision of what is contitutional is to be charitable, limited.
Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws -- many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush's theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.
Glenn Greenwald rightly points out the dangerous nature of the flagrant lawlessness of this President that is pointed out in the Boston Globe piece..
The entire article -- which I highly recommending reading -- details the numerous instances in which Congress has passed laws banning certain conduct, the President has signed those bills into law, only for the President not only to reserve the right to violate those laws but to then order that those laws by violated, systematically and repeatedly. As the Globe article reports with startling clarity, to describe the state of affairs we have in our country is to describe, by definition, a state of authoritarian lawlessness. We literally have a President who has been saying for years, right out in the open, that he can act without regard to the law whenever he wants, and we need to repeat that fact - and prove it - over and over until that debate is finally had. The Globe article advances that objective significantly.

It is not uncommon for a President to refrain from executing a law which he believes, and states, is unconstitutional. Other Presidents have invoked that doctrine, although Bush has done so far more aggressively and frequently. But what is uncommon - what is entirely unprecedented - is that the administration's theories of its own power arrogate unto itself not just the right to refrain from enforcing such laws, but to act in violation of those laws, to engage in the very conduct which those laws criminalize, and they do so secretly and deceitfully, after signing the law and pretending that they are engaged in the democratic process. That is why the President has never bothered to veto a law -- why bother to veto laws when you have the power to violate them at will?
Among the laws Bush feels fine running roughshod over:
March 9: Justice Department officials must give reports to Congress by certain dates on how the FBI is using the USA Patriot Act to search homes and secretly seize papers.

Bush's signing statement: The president can order Justice Department officials to withhold any information from Congress if he decides it could impair national security or executive branch operations.

Dec. 30, 2005: US interrogators cannot torture prisoners or otherwise subject them to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Bush's signing statement: The president, as commander in chief, can waive the torture ban if he decides that harsh interrogation techniques will assist in preventing terrorist attacks.

Aug. 8: The Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its contractors may not fire or otherwise punish an employee whistle-blower who tells Congress about possible wrongdoing.

Bush's signing statement: The president or his appointees will determine whether employees of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can give information to Congress.

Dec. 23, 2004: Forbids US troops in Colombia from participating in any combat against rebels, except in cases of self-defense. Caps the number of US troops allowed in Colombia at 800.

Bush's signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can place restrictions on the use of US armed forces, so the executive branch will construe the law ''as advisory in nature."

Dec. 17: The new national intelligence director shall recruit and train women and minorities to be spies, analysts, and translators in order to ensure diversity in the intelligence community.

Bush's signing statement: The executive branch shall construe the law in a manner consistent with a constitutional clause guaranteeing ''equal protection" for all. (In 2003, the Bush administration argued against race-conscious affirmative-action programs in a Supreme Court case. The court rejected Bush's view.)

Aug. 5: The military cannot add to its files any illegally gathered intelligence, including information obtained about Americans in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.

Bush's signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can tell the military whether or not it can use any specific piece of intelligence.
That's just a sampling. Can you imagine the reaction from Republicans if Clinton had been this aggressive about asserting "presidential authority"?

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Monday will tell the tale

by Pam

Below is one of many businesses that will have to shut down -- in both large cities and small towns -- when undocumented workers and supporters walk out in the Day Without Immigrants on Monday. From the Waterloo Cedar-Falls Courier in Iowa:
A day without immigrants at the Tyson Foods plant means a day without meat.

...Tyson announced nine of its plants will close temporarily Monday, and while company officials declined to name which plants would close, several sources, including Tyson employees, said the plant would be closed Monday.
Chris Kromm over at Facing South asks a pertinent question -- where is the progressive blogosphere on this massive upcoming event? The prospect of so many workers not showing up has so shaken corporate America that companies are actually endorsing shut downs and are sympathetic to the worker action. The California legislature has actually endorsed the boycott.

There seems to be no problem finding right-wing blogs chattering about the issue. Chris:
Most of the country -- especially power brokers who know how critical the immigration debate is to the country -- are standing up and taking notice.

But where is the progressive blogosphere? A quick Technorati search shows that lots of blogs are commenting on May 1 -- but by my quick estimate, over 90% of them are conservatives in a frenzy of anger over the looming activities (some even declaring May 1 is Conservative Shopping Day).

...What's going on? Why is the progressive blogosphere so completely out of touch? Is it because most of them closely identify with partisan politics, and the Democratic Party doesn't have a very clear position on the immigration issue? Is it due to a racial blindspot in the blogosphere, connected to its demographic make-up (and yes, I know Markos at DKos hails from El Salvador; I'm talking about the larger reality)? Do they not understand the historic nature of this movement?
And Chris is right. The hand-wringing about the impact of this boycott is hitting home and, as I've said before, both the left and the right really don't know what to do about the immigration issue. It's a no-win situation politically, because both sides know some large group of people will pissed off no matter what compromises are made to try to address a situation that everyone has chosen to ignore.

A surf over to Freeperland illustrates the reality. One, located in California posted a situation he's dealing with at his business. You can smell the fear...
Phone call I recieved a few minutes ago. Our Plaza Housekeepers are not coming in on Monday. (It begins)

I just recieved a phone call from one of our employee's Daughter. She called to tell me that Maria and Jose will not be coming in to work on Monday.

I asked why, of course, and she said they would be joining the protests. My response was "This is the wrong way, I like your family, and we've been as much freinds as co-workers, but this is going to change all that. It's the wrong way, and I don't think you know some of the really bad players involved in the planning of this. They have no interest ieb Site and confirm any Employee's legal status to be using their SS number.

Well, many commie groups have claimed to be in support of or involved in the organisation of this action. Folks forget that the commies remain a threat to the Federal Republic.

Commies and mafia-esque organizers and coordinators. Chiefly what I suspect and fear is more fascistic than Marxist--little dictators dealing in power swaps and corruption.

My concern is that this seems much more coordinated than one would expect. One of these people/protesters is about 60 yrs old, and in no way an activist of any kind. I'm a little shocked that they would even bother with such things.

Fear and intimidation are in the air and the California State Senate is walking out in sympathy...with the illegals. Meantime the US Senate is lurking in the shadows trying to run the clock out. Funny how they were just grandstanding on the Dubai deal, showing how "tough" they were on national security. It's going to be a long hot summere folks.

It is going to be real hard to get a clean hotel/motel room in the West come Monday.

Fire them and hire Americans...of any race.

I've given up on the Senate doing anything but granting amnesty. We have to let the House know we loved HR4437 and for them to stand firm. They are our only hope and they are the ones being blamed by the WH, the Senate, and the 3rd world mobs in the streets. They are our only hope.
Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


All Hail Colbert

by Shakespeare's Sister

If you missed Stephen Colbert’s vicious takedown of Bush and the press at last night’s White House Press Correspondents dinner, I encourage you to head on over to Crooks and Liars and watch what they’ve got of it right now. You may also be able to catch rebroadcasts on C-SPAN throughout the day.

Editor & Publisher also has a nice recap with some of Colbert’s best lines:

Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,” he said. “If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.”

Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the “Rocky” movies, always getting punched in the face—“and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world.”
After he was through, Bush and Laura stomped out of there like they’d just witnessed themselves being burned in effigy—which they pretty much had.

Colbert got a very cool reception (which is a nice way of saying he bombed), but I don’t think he expected anything less. You don’t make any friends among an audience comprised of Beltway journalists with material like, “You should spend more time with your families, write that novel you've always wanted to write. You know, the one about the fearless reporter who stands up to the administration. You know—fiction.”

And the whole time Colbert the pitbull gnawed on Bush’s jugular, he continued to periodically turn and look evenly at Bush, holding his gaze and addressing him directly as “Mr. President.” Bush looked back at him with a face of stone (save for one time when Colbert flubbed a set-up). Standing in front of a room full of people who didn’t, couldn’t, laugh, letting them have it with everything he’s got, sweating bullets, Colbert would look dead at Bush and never blink. In the midst on the onslaught, he even dared, “Mr. President, I’m so pleased you’ve agreed to be on my show. How does Tuesday work for you?”

Brass balls, baby. Big ones.

(Crossposted at Ezra’s place. More at Shakes.)


Economist John Kenneth Galbraith Dies

by Dark Wraith

Canadian-born economist and former ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith died Saturday at the age of 97. Among the many accomplishments in his long career was the enormous contribution he made as a lead architect of the Great Society programs that became in their sweeping scope a monumental legacy of ambitious government action in the last half of 20th Century America. In that endeavor, Dr. Galbraith extended the reign of Keynesian economics as a foundation of fiscal policy, assuring that hundreds of millions of Americans would live in a nation whose government chose to engage a long-term, enduring fight against poverty that Classical economists and their political proponents believed was an unnecessary, inappropriate, and counter-productive role for government. The great Keynesian economists ruled the era from Franklin Delano Roosevelt on, however, and Dr. Galbraith was at the forefront of their work with Presidents and Congresses throughout the latter half of the last century. Galbraith's contribution to the Great Society was so significant that he shaped the speech that President Lyndon Johnson would make to the American people explaining this new, vigorous engagement of the U.S. government in building a modern nation where the power of the private sector was unleashed through the standing commitment of the state to its people and its businesses. Ultimately, Galbraith would break ranks with President Johnson because of the latter's prosecution of the war in Vietnam.

Although many outsiders and even a number of economists consider Galbraith the standard bearer of "liberal" economics, his was a far more complex view of the science of human action, as his contemporary Ludwig Von Mises described their shared field of endeavor. From his work in the World War II Office of Price Administration, Dr. Galbraith developed a sweeping prescription for national economic growth that advocated allowing oligopolies to form as a means of encouraging rapid technological innovation in part through economies of scale. Coupled with a benign government stance toward industrial concentration would be what he called "countervailing institutions" to act as buttresses against potential abuses by the oligopolies. Many believe that it is exactly this model that countries like Japan and others in Asia followed in the later 20th Century. In the United States, the great military/industrial complex was in large part an application of this concept of guided market concentration being allowed to play out to generate technological advancement, huge numbers of high-paying jobs, and economic dominance on the world stage.

Galbraith earned no small amount of disdain from peers for his 1958 book, The Affluent Society, in which he tore down what he called the "myth" of consumer sovereignty in the American economy. He continued to upset standard models of economics in his 1967 book, New Industrial State, in which he argued that the paradigm of "perfect competition"—long used as the basis for modeling most market structures—was wholly inadequate for describing the real world of firms. In that book, he argued that many industries are characterized by firms more like oligipolies that engage in fierce competition for market share, expanding both horizontally and vertically in a process that ultimately makes them institutions separate from even their owners. It was this approach that led to modern-day emphasis, even in principles of microeconomics classes, on a market structure now called "monopolistic competition," perhaps the most interesting of all market structures because of its topical aspects such as strategic pricing, marketing, and market contestability.

Dr. Galbraith was vitally active even into his last years, writing and making public appearances. He was, at the time of his death, professor emeritus at Harvard University.

John Kenneth Galbraith has now passed from this good Earth that he made better for his intellectual contributions; and because of those great and good contributions, he will stand forever as the powerhouse luminary of the theory and practice of economics of the last half of the 20th Century, that amazing era after the failed Classical economists of the 19th Century had been chased fully into the shadows and before their spiteful and equally failing Right-wing successors would return from the depths of deserved repudiation to diminish the world of the 21st Century.


The Dark Wraith gives a moment of silence in respect for Dr. Galbraith.


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


Friday, April 28, 2006

More on Leopold and Loeb 2.0

by Shakespeare's Sister

Holly forwarded me some recent local coverage of the earlier-mentioned savage beating and rape of a Hispanic teen by two white teens in Texas. This contains disturbing details.

"They stomped his head with their boots," said Harris County Sheriff's Lt. John Denholm. "They stripped him naked and sodomized him with the PVC pipe used to hold up a patio umbrella."

Tuck then kicked the pipe, causing even further damage, prosecutors said at a Thursday morning hearing.

"I don't mean just a little bit," Harris County prosecutor Mike Trent told District Judge Michael McSpadden. "He kicked it in and shoved it so far in that he has caused major internal injuries and organ damage."
[David Cook, a former football teammate of the victim] said that one of the perpetrators, David Tuck, is known as a skinhead and “has seen Nazi swastikas painted on the fence at Tuck's house.” Some of Tuck’s neighbors confirm he has “long exhibited a fascination with neo-Nazis,” and that he “paraded around the subdivision with a flag of a swastika on Martin Luther King Day.”

Richard Rogers, who lives next door to the family, answered his door Thursday night with a .357-caliber Magnum in his hand. He said he was carrying it because he was concerned that Tuck would be out on bail.

"The kid is a white supremacist," Rogers said.
The white supremacist movement is also overtly hostile to gays, and we should make no mistake that Tuck’s—and his partner Turner’s—decision to brutally anally rape their victim was not a coincidence, but in fact representative of both the anti-gay sentiment rife among white supremacists and the propensity of oppressors of any flavor to punish their victims, male or female, using sexual torture.

This is what happens when hate is allowed to flourish, when a group is reassured through policy, punditry, and pop culture that they are superior to others. Tuck and Turner are not a disturbing aberration; they are a portent of more ugliness to come if we allow hatemongering to continue to hold its place as a reasonable part of our public discourse. We as a society have turned a blind eye to the inescapable consequences of letting bigots hide their hateful rhetoric behind politics and religion—and so-called progressives who resist race, gender, and sexuality issues as “third rail topics” or “identity politics” are as much to blame as the purveyors of this lunacy. There’s a fucking reason that some of us talk about this stuff day in and day out, and this is it.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


An Authentic Asshole

by Shakespeare's Sister

Allen turns away and spits a long brown streak of saliva into the dirt, just missing one of his constituents, a carefully put-together, blonde, ponytailed woman approaching the senator for an autograph. She stops in her tracks and stares with disgust at the bubbly tobacco juice that almost landed on her feet. Without missing a beat, Allen's communications director, John Reid, reassures her: "That's just authenticity!"

— From Ryan Lizza’s TNR profile of Senator George Allen, R-VA, presumptive GOP presidential candidate

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

The article is called “George Allen’s Race Problem,” but it reveals a lot more than that. Allen’s not just an unapologetic racist (although, like all those like him, he won’t apologize for his racism, but he’ll certainly perform all sorts of contortions of logic to justify it); he’s also a sadistic bastard.

Allen is the oldest child of legendary football coach George Herbert Allen, and, when his father was on the road, young George often acted as a surrogate dad to his siblings. According to his sister Jennifer, he was particularly strict about bedtimes. One night, his brother Bruce stayed up past his bedtime. George threw him through a sliding glass door. For the same offense, on a different occasion, George tackled his brother Gregory and broke his collarbone. When Jennifer broke her bedtime curfew, George dragged her upstairs by her hair.

George tormented Jennifer enough that, when she grew up, she wrote a memoir of what it was like living in the Allen family. In one sense, the book, Fifth Quarter, from which these details are culled, is unprecedented. No modern presidential candidate has ever had such a harsh and personal account of his life delivered to the public by a close family member. The book paints Allen as a cartoonishly sadistic older brother who holds Jennifer by her feet over Niagara Falls on a family trip (instilling in her a lifelong fear of heights) and slams a pool cue into her new boyfriend's head. "George hoped someday to become a dentist," she writes. "George said he saw dentistry as a perfect profession--getting paid to make people suffer."
Allen dismissed his sister’s book by saying, “It's the perspective of the youngest child, who is a girl.” So, apparently we can add sexist to the list of his defining characteristics.

And as for the accusations of having a “race problem,” which seems an undeservedly nice way to describe these particular predilections, Allen—whose father was Midwestern, mother was French, and grew up himself all over the country as the fortunate son of a football coach—claims he simply has a fascination with the South and the West, which he uses to explain the Confederate flag he used to display in his living room (“part of a flag collection”), the Confederate flag pin he wore in a yearbook photo (“It could be some sort of prank, or one of our rebellious--we would do different things. But I remember we liked Texas.”), and the Confederate flag pinned to his Mustang as a young man, which he doesn’t remember but acknowledges “is possible.” You know, because he liked Texas—and “generally bucked authority and the rebel flag was just a way to express that attitude.”

Allen was also discovered, along with some of his friends, to have spray-painted graffiti on schoolgrounds the day before his “almost entirely white Palos Verdes High” was set to play “a major basketball game” against mostly-black Morningside High. The graffiti was “racially tinged and meant to look like the handiwork of the black Morningside students.” Clever Allen and his cohorts used phrases like “Die Whitey” and “Burn, Baby, Burn” to try to implicate Morningside students as racists. Allen recalls the incident differently and says it had nothing to do with race, but even a “school administrator, who says he is a Republican and would ‘seriously consider’ voting for Allen for president” describes the graffiti as racist.

His career as a legislator has been spotty as well.

In 1984, he was one of 27 House members to vote against a state holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, "Allen said the state shouldn't honor a non-Virginian with his own holiday." He was also bothered by the fact that the proposed holiday would fall on the day set aside in Virginia to honor Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That same year, he did feel the urge to honor one of Virginia's own. He co-sponsored a resolution expressing "regret and sorrow upon the loss" of William Munford Tuck, a politician who opposed every piece of civil rights legislation while in Congress during the 1950s and 1960s and promised "massive resistance" to the Supreme Court's 1954 decision banning segregation.
Lizza says that “None of this means Allen is a racist, of course. He is certainly not the same guy today that he was in the '80s,” but in spite of his protestations that he is a changed man—going on a civil rights pilgrimage, championing anti-lynching legislation, visiting the Holocaust Museum, and bonding with a former Black Panther over football—what I never saw in the article was an apology.

On the Confederate flag in his living room: “I have a flag collection.” On the noose hanging in his office: “It had nothing to do with anything other than the Western motif in my office.” On his teenage “prank”: “It was something like ‘Eat Crap’ or something like that. ‘Your School Sucks’ and so forth. It wasn't racial.”

“Life is a learning experience,” Allen says. One would assume if he’s learned anything of real value, he’d stop making excuses for his racist past.

Is this really one of the best the GOP has to offer? Can we legitimately expect better from Allen than from the rest of the GOP, which has endeavored to inflame hatred throughout their tenure as the majority party? Mike the Mad Biologist, who gets the hat tip, asks, “Can we please have presidential candidates who are not psychological basketcases? … Is it possible for the Republicans to nominate someone who is not cracked in the head?”

And, you know, that’s a really good question.

Even the so-called maverick McCain is aligning himself with the likes of Jerry Falwell and George Wallace, Jr. Perhaps it really isn’t possible for the GOP to nominate someone who doesn’t have racist, sexist, and homophobic tendencies because they have become so reliant on racists, sexists, and homobigots to put them in office. Could the GOP win with a candidate who wasn’t “cracked in the head”? Probably not. What makes Allen our worst nightmare also makes him the perfect GOP candidate.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Leopold and Loeb 2.0

by Shakespeare's Sister

These two Aryan Nation-looking motherfuckers— David Henry Tuck, 18, and Keith Robert Turner, 17—have been charged with aggravated sexual assault after beating, sodomizing, stabbing, and pouring bleach on a 16-year-old Hispanic boy “who they believed had tried to kiss a Hispanic 12-year-old girl at a party.”

The attackers forced the boy out of the Saturday night house party, beat him and sodomized him with a plastic pipe, shouting anti-Hispanic epithets, said sheriff's Lt. John Martin…

Harris County prosecutor Mike Trent said the attackers also cut the victim with a knife. They then poured bleach over the boy, apparently to destroy DNA evidence, and left him for dead, authorities said. He was not discovered until Sunday, 12 hours after the attack.

The victim, whose name was not released, suffered severe internal injuries, cuts on his chest and head injuries.

"It's about 50-50 whether he lives or dies at this point," Trent said.
Investigators say that the attack was prompted because of “the age difference” between the victim and the girl he tried to kiss, and that Tuck and Turner were “being mean and vicious and looking for any excuse to stomp somebody.”

Somebody? Or somebody Hispanic?

This shit doesn’t happen in a void. When we read that nearly 20% of American high school students experience physical assault on the basis of sexual orientation, and a doctor who performs abortions—and was already shot by a radical anti-choicer—has become the target of a campaign to hold him “accountable for his actions that have caused untold misery and loss of life,” and a Hispanic teen is beaten and raped within an inch of his life by two residents of a predominantly white Houson suburb as they hurled racial epithets at him, we must necessarily consider what forces legitimize such actions in the minds of the perpetrators. And we need look no further than the GOP, as each is representative of their key wedge issues: gay marriage, abortion, and immigration.

When there are politicians—including our president—spouting off about gays undermining the sanctity of marriage, abortionists commiting murder, and mostly Hispanic undocumented workers threatening both our national security and economy, and those politicians’ words are repeated ad infinitum by their supporters, and the conservative echo chamber comprised of media shills and the rightwing blogosphere led by disgusting characters like Michael Savage and Michelle Malkin, who have millions of listeners and readers, put their own overtly vicious spin, rooted in bigotry and hatred of The Other, on these policies, we should expect nothing less for a disingenuous wedge issue designed by the likes of Karl Rove to exploit the prejudices of the GOP base to translate into action that leaves victims of policy also victims of violence.

This shit doesn’t happen in a void. When real people are used as fodder to garner votes born of bias, those real people are inevitably endangered. Politicians cannot continually demonize a group of people and then claim naivety that the fuckwit homophobes, radical anti-choicers, and racists on whose votes they are dependent for their continued supremacy actually treat those groups as demons, monsters under the bed who threaten our very way of life.

The GOP is no longer a legitimate political party. They are a collection of hatemongers who overtly seek to convince poor white trash that they are privileged, and that their privilege can be used to oppress the weak, scaring them through policy and their loyal shills that life would be better if only gays and feminists and racial minorities weren’t around. They use these people’s hatred of others to mask the real reasons life sucks for poor whites—tax breaks for the rich, rewarding companies who offshore, largesse toward corporations designed by lobbyists at the expense of Americans’ pocketbooks. As long as the gays, feminists, and racial minorities stand between the GOP and their poor base with targets on their backs, the GOP will continue to hide behind them, shouting, “Ready, aim, fire!”

This shit doesn’t happen in a void.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Vatican's no-condom policy failing in AIDS battle

by Pam


By Mike Tidmus

Papa Ratzi and crew are realizing, way late in the game, that the abstinence-only response to the spread of HIV/AIDS is an abject failure. A document is being prepared that may allow those "with grave diseases" to use condoms. I want to see how they square this with the fact that the church will appear to be saying that the spread of some STDs is AOK under this reversal of church doctrine. (AP):
"Soon the Vatican will issue a document about the use of condoms by persons who have grave diseases, starting with AIDS," Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, who is in charge of the Vatican's health care ministry, was quoted as saying in Sunday's La Repubblica newspaper.

"My department is carefully studying it, along with scientists and theologians entrusted with drawing up a document about the subject that will soon be made known," the Mexican cardinal said.

"It is Benedict XVI who asked us for a study on this particular aspect of using a condom by those afflicted with AIDS and by those with infectious diseases," he said.

There was no official comment Monday from the Vatican. Lozano Barragan was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts by The Associated Press to reach him.
Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Nassau County bigots deep-six domestic partnership registry

by Pam

Everyone thought it would pass in this NY county on Long Island, but it didn't. The nearby town of Hempstead does have a DP registry, but the 'phobes came out during the debate in the Democrat-held legislature and they prevailed at the last minute. (Newsday):
"It is a very embarrassing moment," said Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), a major supporter of the bill that would have allowed domestic partners of any sex to register with the county as couples without being married.

The registry would have facilitated a partner's receiving medical insurance from a private employer or gaining access to the other person during a medical emergency, among other things. Suffolk, New York City and Westchester already have such a registry.

...Paul Kosowski, a leader of the Nassau County Civics Association, an activist organization with a Cedarhurst address, said: "A vote for domestic registry is a vote for gay marriage."

James Barker, pastor of the Bible Baptist Church in Elmont, said: "You just did the Pledge of Allegiance and said 'One nation under God.' Well, if you believe that, how can you go against God's law?"
Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


'GOP Superstar'-- the Empty Wig gets pummeled

by Pam



This N&O article is a hoot. My senator, Sugar Lips Dole, also serves as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She has been stumping around the country for various scandal-laden candidates, and as far as I can tell, she isn't doing a damn thing for our state. Actually, she's having a hard time doing her NRSC work as well, with the quality of folks that she's showing up to bleat for at rallies.

Take Senator Conrad Burns, for example. He recently received the honor of being named one of the nation's five worst senators by Time Magazine, and recently had to return the money he received from bed buddy Jack Abramoff.

Burns, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for the Interior, is also under scrutiny from federal investigators. Whatta guy. But Liddy gives it the old college try in her stump speech:
The wind chased clouds of brown dust across the endless Montana landscape, a view so different from the rolling green of North Carolina's Piedmont.

Volunteers tacked up fluttering banners for a campaign rally, and aides to Montana's junior senator prepped for the big event -- a visit by GOP superstar Elizabeth Dole, senator from North Carolina.

Hours later, she would stand next to Sen. Conrad Burns, a man under attack for his ties to a lobbying scandal, and call him a man of integrity.

"There's nowhere I'd rather be today," she said into the microphone, a "Conrad Burns" button pinned above her heart. She smiled at her host. "He's doing such a great job."
Can you just imagine a tumbleweed blowing by what had to be a sad sack rally, given Burns landed at 38% approval in a SurveyUSA poll.

Dole's getting scorched for her pathetic performance in support of the 33 Senate races that she is responsible for fundraising and recruiting for.
She failed to persuade top GOP choices to enter races in several key states. And reports filed last week show her committee remains behind its Democratic counterpart in raising money. Dole defends her record, saying that she's been successful at finding dollars and that the party has outstanding candidates.

"We're doing well in an environment that's. ... " She paused. "You know, it's been a tough environment."

Despite the demands of the post, Dole insists she is taking care of North Carolina's business.

"I'm doing everything possible to make sure I'm in the state as much as possible," Dole said. She was in Winston-Salem on Thursday for the opening of a nonprofit senior center.
She has possibly the worst constituent services on the planet.

To see the level of effectiveness at the NRSC, check out this effort: donkeyswantyourmoney.com. Yawn. What was that?

Granted, she's got an impossible job at the NRSC due to the sterling performance of Dear Leader -- who'd want to shovel the flaming pile of horsesh*t in Iraq, or explain away the Katrina response or all the scandal-ridden Senators hoping to be re-elected.


That said, it's been positively hilarious to see Dole squirming over Katherine Harris, who's running the most ridiculous campaign in Florida against incumbent, Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. The Empty Wig desperately tried to recruit others to run -- even courting MSNBC's Joe Scarborough -- but to no avail. Nelson will easily cruise to victory. But Florida wasn't her only problem...
Recruiting problems began to surface last year. Dole failed to persuade top choices to enter races in North Dakota and West Virginia. And she couldn't keep a GOP challenger out of the primary race in Rhode Island, hurting incumbent Republican Lincoln Chafee.

In Florida, she couldn't find any Republicans beyond U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris -- she of the hanging chads in the 2000 presidential election -- to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Dole shunned Harris and tried repeatedly to find someone else to run.

...Dole tries to shake off the party's bad news on the war and approval ratings.

"I've said, 'Put the blinders on. Stay focused,' " she said, holding both hands by her eyes. "We know what our goal is."
Again, look at what kind of crap the NRSC is putting out, from Sugar Lips's press release on gas prices:

Now Democrats have decided to play partisan politics with gas prices in a flailing attempt to distract from the growing economy. These are the same Democrats who accomplished nothing in terms of an energy policy during eight years with President Clinton at the helm and the same Democrats who voted to increase the gas tax and blocked efforts to repeal or suspend it. These are also the same Democrats who obstructed a bi-partisan comprehensive energy bill for four years in Congress.

We're closing in on six months until the November election and therefore the other side has begun to ratchet up the scare tactics. Like on so many issues, the Democrats have offered nothing but pessimism and posturing when it comes to responsible energy policies.
Yawn, again. Let's see, the GOP has no business talking about "scare tactics" when they roll out the gay boogeyman, the brown menace coming over the border, or jack up the terror alert to rouse the foaming-at-the-mouth Base. Please.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


OMG—LOL!!!

by Shakespeare's Sister

Pop Quiz: Who penned the following?

Does Feminism Control The Bush Administration?

…Is President George W. Bush a feminist, or is he just a typical gentleman who is intimidated by feminists and unable to cope with their unreasonable demands, tantrums and rudeness?
A. Hilarious prop comic Carrot Top?

B. One of the proverbial thousand typing monkeys, who didn’t come up with Shakespeare, but instead this malarkey?

C. Phyllis Schlafly?

If you guessed C, you are correct, although Shakespeare’s Sister would also have accepted B, since the two are really of a difference without a distinction.

(Via Jessica. Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


I Shit You Not

by Shakespeare's Sister

Bush Eases Environmental Rules on Gasoline.
President Bush on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline, making it easier for refiners to meet demand and possibly dampen prices at the pump. He also halted for the summer the purchase of crude oil for the government's emergency reserve.

…Easing the environment rules will allow refiners greater flexibility in providing oil supplies since they will not have to use certain additives such as ethanol to meet clean air standards.

…It's unclear what impact, if any, Bush's investigation would have on prices that are near or at $3 a gallon or more. Asked if Bush had any reason to suspect market manipulation, White House press secretary Scott McClellan responded, "Well, gas prices are high right now, and that's why you want to make sure there's not."

So much for that probe into price gouging, I guess.

This is total bullshit. The industry execs are making money hand over fist. It’s utterly deplorable that we’re compromising our environment even further to ensure they can keep their fat profits. Bush is a total scumbag.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)



Family Values

by Shakespeare's Sister

Shaker Brynn’s comment about the vileness of the phrase “family values” reminded me of a show I watched last night on A&E, The Secret Life of a Serial Killer—one of their ubiquitous crime/investigation programs, gravely narrated by Bill Kurtis. Although I’m generally fascinated by these kinds of shows, I had a particular interest in this one, as it was about a case in Indiana during the mid-90s that didn’t get a lot of media attention because the victims were gay men. (And what attention it did get in the major press was pretty infuriating, as the victims were described as “living on the margins of society” and all sorts of nonsense; the Indy gay press did a much better job with it.)

Anyhow, the killer was this total freak called Herb Baumeister, who fled to Canada and offed himself before he could be arrested. There were a lot of weird things going on with this guy, but on the surface, he was “normal”—he had a wife and three kids, owned a chain of stores, supported charities, went to church, etc.

His wife was interviewed for the program, and a couple of things struck me. In spite of her husband having been revealed as a closet homosexual and serial killer, she was still, disturbingly, waxing rhapsodic about the wonder days of yore when they met in college and fell in love. She spoke at length about how, during that time (the late 60s), everyone on campus just laid around doing drugs and talking about stuff, but she and Herb were Young Republicans, although “in those days, you didn’t come out as a Republican.” And she also went on about how they weren’t one of those couples who goes on romantic getaways and ignores their kids—they had “family love.”

Shiver.

I found it absolutely amazing that a woman who had married a serial killer—and, by the way, took him at his word when he told her the skeleton their son found in the backyard was just some old bones his physician father had left him; “I didn’t question it; Herb kept everything!” (yeah, like the skeletons of his victims)—still found the reserves within her to condemn hippies and parents who didn’t parent like they did. Unbelievable.

In the end, after their business had failed, they were losing their million-dollar home, and divorce proceedings had started, Julie Baumeister eventually led detectives to the place where their son had found the bones, where officials unearthed tons more. But in the interim, her husband had claimed at least two more victims. She said (paraphrasing), “Everyone seemed to know but me. I didn’t know anything; someone should have told me.” Right. It was everyone else’s fault for not cluing you in that your husband was a wacko. His being fired from a job for peeing on a letter addressed to the governor of Indiana was the first red flag, honey. Once you discover bones in the backyard, it’s time to call the cops.

It may seem like I’m being a bit callous toward a woman who went through something almost unimaginable, but the sympathy I might have for someone else in her position was completely squashed out of existence by my thorough irritation at her insistent perplexity that her good, Republican, family values husband could have been capable of what he did. She seemed to use his conservative, family man façade as an excuse for her own ignorance—how could anyone know that a man like that could do something wrong?—a wonderment predicated on the pernicious assumption so pervasive in our society that Republicans have the market cornered on family values and goodness. Republicans don’t do things like that. Christians don’t do things like that. The implication, intentional or not, is always that it’s the “freaks,” like those horrible dope-smoking college hippies, who are twisted and evil. It’s liberals. It’s atheists. It’s gays.

But, of course, they were actually the victims of this splendid family man with his family values.

Time and again, we see this same formula play out, yet the conventional wisdom that the GOP is the party of moral values, that conservative Christianity provides the only acceptable moral model, doggedly persists. Haven’t we seen enough evidence to the contrary that this erroneous assumption can finally, at long last, be sent the way of the dodo?

That’s not to suggest that there are no bad liberals, atheists, gays, or no good conservatives, Christians. It’s just to suggest that it’s time to retire the exhausted good conservative v. evil liberal shtick. Being myself a carrier of none of the labels that this rule deems “good,” and also having never strangled 50 or so dudes for my own pleasure, I’m getting a little tired of the wide-eyed bewilderment any time one of the “good” guys turns out to be an evil shithead.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Inflammatory Opinion:
One Thousand Fifteen

by Dark Wraith

Robert NovakValerie PlameOn July 14, 2003, columnist Robert Novak, in his article entitled, "Mission to Niger," wrote the following words: "Valerie Plame is a [Central Intelligence] Agency operative. Two senior Administration sources told me..." In the White House press briefing of September 29, 2003, Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, "[T]hat is not the way this White House operates. The President expects everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. No one would be authorized to do such a thing." Mr. McClellan later in that press briefing went on to say, "[T]here's been no information that has been brought to our attention, beyond what we've seen in the media reports, to suggest White House involvement," and he demanded of reporters questioning him, "Do you have specific information to suggest White House involvement?" None did at the time, although such evidence would ultimately surface in grand jury testimony, principally about the activities of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and more recently in court filings that note the involvement of Vice President Richard Cheney and President George W. Bush in what might have been an effort to discredit Ms. Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, whose article in The New York Times disputed Administration claims that the regime of Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase unrefined, "yellowcake" uranium from Nigeria.

Mr. Novak outed Ms. Plame 1,015 days ago.

U.S. Attorney Patrick FitzgeraldBased in part on a subsequent complaint filed by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Justice Department agreed to launch an investigation into who within the Bush Administration disclosed the name of a CIA agent. On December 30, 2003, then-Attorney General of the United States John Ashcroft announced at a news conference that he was recusing himself with respect to that investigation, and he publicly named Assistant Attorney General James Comey as Acting Attorney General to oversee the matter. Mr. Comey at that same news conference named Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, as the lead prosecutor and investigator.

That was 846 days ago.

Facts
Mr. Fitzgerald was given no independent budget, and his work was overseen by the office of Mr. Comey, a political appointee.

Irving Lewis LibbyMr. Libby, who served as an adviser to Vice President Cheney, was indicted on five counts in October of last year. Not one of those charges involved the disclosure of the name of Valerie Plame; all were instead because, as Mr. Fitzgerald said upon announcing the indictment, "[Libby] lied about it [the disclosure of Plame's name and status] afterwards, under oath and repeatedly."

To date, in the matter of the disclosure of the name of an American spy—a non-official cover (NOC) operative working through a front company tracking global trafficking in weapons of mass destruction—Mr. Libby is the only individual who has been indicted, and his indictment, again, had nothing to do with the disclosure of Ms. Plame's name and work.Judith Miller To date, the only individual to have served jail time was an employee, Judith Miller, of The New York Times, who was found in contempt of court for declining to reveal her journalistic source to a grand jury. In this latter side story, Mr. Fitzgerald's work has been to the entirely successful effect of ending the long-standing presumption among reporters that they had at least some affirmative defense against being compelled to violate confidentiality agreements with the sources for their stories, particularly with respect to government wrongdoing.

U.S. District Judge Reggie WaltonMr. Libby will not go on trial until January of next year, and when he does, that trial will be before U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, perhaps best known for dismissing the case brought by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. Judge Walton in that case agreed with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, representing the United States in defense against Ms. Edmonds' suit, that the need of the FBI to protect 'state secrets' superceded Ms. Edmonds' right to redress through the courts. This, of course, explains Mr. Libby's recent motions to compel discovery on literally thousands of government documents: should Judge Walton agree that a document critical to Mr. Libby's defense cannot be subpoenaed because of a government claim of state secrets privilege, the defense can immediately move for dismissal of charges.

From only months after Mr. Fitzgerald's appointment, the litany of rumors about indictments of senior Administration officials came and went. In the wake of the Libby indictment, the rumor mill began anew with fresh and fertile vigor: media outlets were speculating that Karl Rove might be soon be indicted, despite U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald's own statement that, "[T]he substantial bulk of the work of this investigation is concluded." The fact that Mr. Fitzgerald has subsequently brought matters related to this investigation before a new grand jury should not be interpreted as any indication that he plans to bring further indictments: Mr. Fitzgerald predicated his declaration that the bulk of the investigation had concluded by stating flatly, "[V]ery rarely do you bring a charge in a case that's going to be tried in which you ever end a grand jury investigation." In other words, the prosecutor was pointing out that, during a federal trial, it is standard procedure for the prosecution to have a grand jury readily available should the need arise during the course of the legal proceedings.

The speculation rages on to this very day, with major focus on Karl Rove, who was supposedly the subject as recently as last week of evidence presented by Mr. Fitzgerald to a grand jury.

Analysis
The criminal justice system of the United States is motivated by three fundamental goals: certainty, severity, and celerity (swiftness). In plain English, if you break the law, you're definitely going to get punished, it's going to hurt like Hell, and you're going to get it right now. Failure in practice to achieve any one of these three goals corrodes the case under consideration and, more deeply, the confidence in and reliability of that system of criminal justice. That, at least in the United States, is why we allow prosecutors what sometimes appears to be abusive leeway (particularly in grand juries), why we legislate prison sentences that constitute significant percentages of human lives, and why we strive for speedy trials. Whether or not this is a good system is irrelevant: this is what we strive for in this country, and this is what we achieve every day of every year as we prosecute and punish thousands upon thousands of Americans.

Alleged crimes committed against the United States in the outing of Valerie Plame happened well more than a thousand days ago. Subsequently, further crimes may have been committed in covering up the principal crimes. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby will stand trial nearly thirteen hundred days after the commission of the principal crime alleged by the CIA in its original complaint submitted to the Justice Department. Almost thirteen hundred days. This is the celerity of geological processes more so than that of an effective criminal justice system.

And yet, somehow, some mainstream media outlets and a number of bloggers still stand ready to declare with every court filing by Mr. Fitzgerald that further indictments are just days or hours away; and some of the attendant analyses have become increasingly at odds with basic reasoning. Perhaps the most stunning example of hope trumping forensic integrity in journalism was offered on April 19, 2006, by Sydney Blumenthal, writing for the Guardian Unlimited. Beginning in earnest with near-Armageddon terminology, Blumenthal launches into hopeful speculation about "...events that could truly shake the Bush White House to its foundation." Mr. Blumenthal moves on with that premise, starting with praise for Fitzgerald's recent conviction of former Illinois Governor George Ryan on 18 counts of corruption, a prosecution that ended the globe-threatening scourge of selling commercial driver's licenses to unqualified people. The fall of ex-Governor Ryan was attended by the return to power of the Illinois Democratic machine and its union allies, who together made systemic, massive corruption forever the world-renown landmark of Chicago. Current Governor Rod Blagojevich has already become embroiled in scandal the scale of which dwarfs that of his predecessor, as the Democrats sink their teeth ever further into one of the state's few remaining pools of money, the state's teacher retirement fund, giving every indication that they plan to suck it down to insolvency. Excellent prosecutorial work: nail a small-time corruption scandal and leave in its wake sleaze on stilts. And as an aside, little media attention ever came of the violent harassment of the lone dissenting juror in Ryan's trial, a woman who was eventually—perhaps because she wasn't going along with the Fitzgerald's pre-determined script—dismissed by the judge because she had previously had "brushes" with the law for which she was never convicted, but which she didn't note in a prospective juror questionnaire. Is that outrageous and unfair jurisprudence? Certainly not: it's Chicago jurisprudence; and the point is that a U.S. attorney can run an investigation, drag powerful politicians into a maelstrom of media lynching, and secure convictions at will when he wants to. God help anyone who ends up in the earnest gun sights of a federal prosecutor. The odds of surviving as a non-convict are truly miniscule.

That, of course, must be taken in the context of expenditures by the U.S. Attorney under consideration: in the first 15 months of Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation of the Valerie Plame scandal, he was reported to have spent $723,000. That works out to a daily burn rate on funds of about $1,600, which would cover a couple of attorneys, a handful of paralegals and other investigators, photocopying, and some meal expense vouchers at Mabel's 2Go Burger Trough. It does not work out to an Earth-shattering federal investigation of the Executive Branch of the government of the world's most powerful nation.

Karl RoveBlumenthal is undeterred by where the facts on the ground actually point: he hinges a possible impending indictment of Rove on Fitzgerald's recent filings in the Libby case, which reference Rove as a 'subject' of the on-going inquiry. Being a 'subject' in a criminal investigation is one step short of being a 'target' of investigation. Rove is not one of those unfortunate souls with the label 'target' on his forehead; and it is altogether disingenuous not to point out that prosecutors are more than willing to label anyone a 'subject' whose testimony might eventually be required. That's how law enforcers keep useful citizens compliant; but noting breathlessly that Rove is a 'subject' does not point the way to some pulsating beacon of hope for his immediate, or even eventual, indictment. It just doesn't.

More in-depth analysis by such journalistic resources as Editor & Publisher seems to indicate that Fitzgerald is building a case against Rove and perhaps others based upon grand jury testimony given by none other than I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, himself. The filings Mr. Fitzgerald has delivered to date are genuinely unclear with regard to his intentions beyond the prosecution of Libby. It is entirely reasonable to hope, however, that a seasoned federal prosecutor would not be seeking the conviction of an indictee on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury while at the very same time be planning to use that person's testimony in a case against others. Perjury is the express lane to eviscerated credibility in a court of law, and a convicted perjurer is completely and utterly destructible by opposing counsel. Fitzgerald may be gaming the media and the anti-Bush crowd, but he is most decidedly not stupid. Even so much as associating Libby with accusations against others could come back like an explosive boomerang were subsequent prosecutions to include allegations that a convicted Mr. Libby had made.

Conclusion
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is not the salvation of America from the Bush Administration, one of the few Presidencies in U.S. history that drifts perilously close to being a criminal enterprise. Mr. Fitzgerald has secured a five-count indictment against a man whose name three years ago would have been unfamiliar to all but the most serious policy wonks. That's all Mr. Fitzgerald has measurably accomplished in 846 days; and even if Mr. Fitzgerald were tomorrow to announce indictments of far better-known officials of the Bush Administration—men such as Karl Rove and Dick Cheney—along with a far lesser known host of minor, shadowy neo-conservatives, thugs, and common liars within the White House, the history of the future would not change materially. The war in Iraq has already become a part of the American experience for years to come, and some 2,500 American soldiers will not suddenly come back to life. The federal budget surpluses of the Clinton Administration have been squandered, and the national debt, instead of being paid down as it could have been, now threatens to push against a mind-numbing ten trillion dollars. A phony "debate" about the future of the Social Security Pension Fund prevented prudent, actuarially sound adjustments that would have ensured solvency of the Trust well into the second half of the century. The federal judiciary has been filled with judges some have described as a frightful cabal of Dominionists who will ensure that, generations after the current minions of neo-conservativism and theocratic enlightenment have been hanged, their policies will still be shaping the rule of law in the land. And the Supreme Court now has a density of extremists sufficient to guarantee that the civil rights and liberties long assumed to be a progressively more expansive part of the privileges of American citizenship will vanish over the coming years.

In other words, the rule of law was in the end no vanguard against the onslaught of those with a new vision of America, that shining beacon of liberty now and after this era the pious and corrupted land of the less-than-free, a nation felled by men and women no force on Earth could stop before they had wrought their destruction.



In the gathering and permanent night of America, the Dark Wraith has spoken.


This article is cross-posted from The Dark Wraith Forums. Other articles by the Dark Wraith on this topic:
The Valerie Plame Scandal:  Part I   Part II   Part III
The Color of Whitewash



Sunday, April 23, 2006

Al Gore's evolution on gay marriage?

by Pam

Any force that tries to make you feel shame for being who you are, and loving who you love, is a form of tyranny over your mind. And it must be rejected, resisted, and defeated.
-- Al Gore, speaking at the Human Rights Campaign Gala on March 25, 2006, at the Century Plaza Hotel.
Consider this a pre-emptive 2008 strike against the man who really won the 2000 election. Baptist Press is frothing at the mouth, happy to start a gay marriage-loving smear against Al Gore -- and set the tone for attacks on any Dem who tiptoes toward a message of civil equality.

Remember, Gore actually supported Clinton's DOMA, and has stated that he favored separate-and-unequal civil unions, so it's a far cry from Russ Feingold's open support for marriage equality. That said, Gore was a strong supporter of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA).

Former Vice President Al Gore delivered the keynote speech at a homosexual group's dinner in late March, and while he didn't directly mention "gay marriage," he implied that he supported its eventual legalization.

Gore spoke March 25 at a gala dinner in Los Angeles for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual organization. HRC supports "gay marriage."

What the wingers are upset by is Gore's speech intimates that civil equality is necessary, inevitable and the right thing to do. It will be interesting to see, if Gore is planning to run (he's stated that he will not), whether he has had an evolution in thinking regarding same-sex marriage. From his stirring speech, Gore really does sound like he's had a change of heart, ready to speak out, and willing to reframe the message for a party that continually runs screaming from the issue. (IN Los Angeles mag):
It is that love, after all, that is at the heart of why everybody is here. That is what must be honored and respected. Your right to fall in love with who you fall in love with. And your right to expect that that will be recognized with the same dignity and honor that love is recognized for other couples. Love is transcendent and fulfilling and powerful and any force on earth that endeavors to make you feel that you should be ashamed for feeling genuine, deep love for another of your choosing is a form of oppression.

...Much has been made of the second simple truth -- the first being that love ... that transcendent feeling is at the center of all the debates. The second simple fact is that -- it's been mentioned here -- is that when your fellow Americans come to know you for who you are, everything changes. But the so-called Catch 22 that discrimination and oppression put you in, is that the law requires gays and lesbians in the military or in job settings where they have no protection or in other settings where discrimination is rampant -- if the law and the culture of society requires you to be closed and secret and inauthentic and to pretend that you are not who you are, then you are not allowed to use your basic humanity to change the minds and hearts of those around you. You must have the right to be who you are, just as I have the right to be who I am.

As I was on the way here, I reflected on why is there so much controversy about the question of equality for gays and lesbians. Why? This fight has been so long and so hard for something that is so simple and so right.
Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Think again

by Pam

Kerry 'thinking hard' about 2008 run for president. God, no.
Former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said on Thursday he was seriously thinking about another White House bid in 2008 and will decide before the year is out.

"I will make that decision toward the end of the year, but I'm thinking about it hard," Kerry said in response to a question at the Latin Economic Forum at the United Nations.

"If you can get help me find 60,000 votes in Ohio ...," he joked, referring to the close race in that state on which his 2004 loss to President Bush hinged.
He's got about as good a chance as sHillary to win. Please. Don't any of these establishment Dems see that the party needs a serious image overhaul? Sorry Kerry fans, he's stale goods.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Apartheid???

by TheGreenKnight

William Donohue, leader of the Catholic League and WATB:
85 percent of the population is Christian in this country. Sometimes, I feel like we have an inverse situation here, somewhat analogous to what we had in South Africa, where the majority of the people who were black were dumped on by these white racists.
Some facts about South Africa under apartheid:


The way black people lived under apartheid:





Well-fed, comfortable William Donohue:



The Omni Shoreham Hotel, where "persecuted" right-wing American Christians gather to bewail their persecution:



Cross-posted at The Green Knight.


Recruiting 45-year-olds for the Dear Leader's Iran Adventure

by Pam

As I mentioned yesterday, with Holy Joe doing the shuffle and jive for the White House as it rumbles about military action in Iran, one has to wonder where are they going to find soldiers if it comes to on-the-ground efforts. The military is having a difficult enough time maintaining forces as it is.

One answer: lowering admissions standards, including raising the age of recruits...
A U.S. military advisor and former combat officer is troubled by recent reports that the Army has had to lower recruiting standards to meet its quotas.


Retired Lieutenant Colonel Bob Maginnis says after missing last year's goal by 7,000 recruits, the Army is going to have a tough time reaching is fiscal year 2006 goal of 80,000 new soldiers. Still, he is not happy about what the branch has had to do to fill its ranks. "It means that 2,500 of the people this year that we'll recruit are getting in basically with waivers of the old standards," the Pentagon advisor says. "However, in order to fill the ranks of 80,000 this year, it's become necessary to take some action. We're also recruiting an older population -- bringing in people in their early 40s to basic training. I don't understand why this nation has to revert to that."

Although these older recruits are "probably reasonably healthy," Maginnis notes, "by the time you're that old, you're older than most of the drill sergeants that are trying to run you through basic training, and the idea that we're going to be fighting wars with 45-year-old infantry privates just seems to be a bit ludicrous to me." It is unfortunate that the U.S. Army has had to "change the standards in order to get the numbers," the Lt. Colonel says, "but that's what happens in a volunteer force." Maginnis also points out that, besides accepting older recruits, the Army has lately been issuing recruits more waivers for criminal convictions, drug use, and medical conditions.
Crossposted on Pam's House Blend.


What did Rudy say to Little Ricky?

by Pam


Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, left, laughs as Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., covers his face following a joke by a speaker at a campaign event, Tuesday, April 18, 2006, at Centre Square Fire Company in Blue Bell, Pa. (AP Photo/Joseph Kaczmarek)

Barf bags at the ready: Giuliani calls Santorum a remarkable leader.

Does Rudy want to be prez so badly that he would stoop to sucking this hard on Mr. Man-On-Dog? Oh, never mind...
"Sen. Santorum is a remarkable political leader," Giuliani told a receptive crowd of elected Republican officials, GOP candidates and first-responders and their families. "He is not just a U.S. senator, not just a political figure, but a leader."

...Giuliani said Santorum stood with President Bush when the president vowed to track down the terrorists wherever they were and to take the war to Afghanistan.

..."Sen. Santorum had that position because he was able to look into the future, make a determination on what he believes is in the best interests of this country and to stick with it even when it becomes unpopular," said Giuliani, who has been mentioned as a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2008. "That’s the kind of leadership we need."
***

In other Santorum news, Little Ricky wasn't happy with receiving a shout-out on The Sopranos:
On Sunday night's episode of "The Sopranos," Tony (James Gandolfini) told his shrink Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) that when it comes to homosexuality, he agrees with "that Sen. Sanatorium, who says if we let this stuff go too far, pretty soon we'll be f---ing dogs." Santorum, several years back, made similar remarks, only he used more delicate language than Tony did.

..."We're not gonna dignify that comment by commenting on it," said Santorum [self-loathing openly gay] communications director Rob Traynham.
Crossposted on Pam's House Blend.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

UN report: Iraqi gays target of kidnappings, murders

by Pam

"I don't want to be gay anymore. When I go out to buy bread, I'm afraid. When the doorbell rings, I think that they have come for me."
-- Hussein, 32, gay Baghdad resident who fears being kidnapped or murdered as a result of a fatwa on gays issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani
Doug Ireland has been covering this horror story for some time (you can read his work here).

Now that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has released a report on the atrocities and fear instilled in the community by death squads, maybe someone will take note. (DIRELAND):
This U.N. report, released April 10 by the UNOCHA‘s IRIN news and information service, described the widespread increase in kidnappings for ransom and the subsequent killings of university professors and teachers—350 in the past five months alone—and quoted Iraqi Interior Ministry official Ra’ad Hassan as saying that “roughly 50 kidnappings take place countrywide every day.”

Hassan also told the U.N. office, “Since January, the number of kidnappings has increased unabated, along with attacks and threats against certain communities.”

The U.N. report said that Iraq’s gay community is one of those targeted “for reasons other than ransom money,” and said that one local non-governmental organization reported that “members of Iraq’s small gay community had received more than 70 threats from kidnappers in the past two months, while 12 have been killed.”
The BBC has finally weighed in on events that have been undercovered (or not covered at all) in the MSM about the treatment of gays in Iraq. This blood is on the hands of the U.S., which has unleashed religious extremism in Iraq as a result of Bush's folly.
They say that since the US-led invasion, gays are being killed because of their sexual orientation. They blame the increase in violence on the growing influence of religious figures and militia groups in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was ousted.

Islam considers homosexuality sinful. A website published in the name of Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, says gays should be put to death. "Those who commit sodomy must be killed in the harshest way," says a section of the website dealing with questions of morality.

...Hussein is 32 and lives in Baghdad with his brother, sister-in-law and nieces. He says his effeminate appearance and demeanour make him stand out and attract hostility.

"My brother's friends told him: 'In the current chaos you could get away with killing your brother without retribution and get rid of this shame,'" Hussein said, after agreeing to speak to the BBC only if his real name was not used.

A transsexual friend of his, who had changed names from Haydar to Dina, was killed on her way to a party in Baghdad about six months ago, Hussein said.
Hat tips to Ms. Julien, Holly, and Katie.

Crossposted on Pam's House Blend.


Schools lobby for bill allowing rejection of LGBT students

by Pam

Congress Moves To Except Religious Schools From Gay Rights Laws. Good grief. The onslaught against homos just never f*cking stops. This bill has already passed the House and is before the Senate.
Private Christian colleges would be excepted from local and state non-discrimination laws under a proposed amendment to the Higher Education Act - a move that would allow the schools to legally reject LGBT students.

The amendment, proposed by Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), would prevent accrediting boards from making adherence to non-discrimination laws a requirement.

Brigham Young, University of Notre Dame, Baylor, Pepperdine and Samford universities have all been lobbying heavily for passage of the bill.

...The [Senate] committee also inserted language in the bill stating that it is not meant to allow an institution to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. The provision does not include sexuality.
So, for instance, if a celibate but self-identified gay student applies, that's all one of these schools needs to know to reject them. Nice. The impetus for this? Extra pressure on the schools, they say, as a result of the Soulforce Equality Ride. They claim a need for "protection" from the Homosexual AgendaTM by preemptively ensuring that accreditation is not tied to adherence to non-discrimination laws in the future.

Brigham Young, incidentally, was the site of 24 arrests of Soulforce Riders on April 11.
The students and Riders were part of a procession carrying Easter lilies onto campus in remembrance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Latter Day Saints church members who have committed suicide because of the church's oppressive stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members.

...As the marchers reached the gates of the campus, they stepped forward with their lilies as stories and names of the individuals who had committed suicide were read aloud. The Riders and BYU students crossed onto campus one by one as the dead were remembered, and lay down in the grass until Provo police asked them to get up and escorted them off campus. Each arrested marcher left a lily behind until a pile of flowers had accumulated as a memorial to young people who were unable to resolve the conflict their church had created between their sexuality and religion.
The Equality Ride folks stop at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN today. Eleven Equality Riders were arrested on the campus of the Air Force Academy on Friday.
Military police descended on Equality Riders, handcuffed, and detained them, when they attempted to present a check for signing to the commandant of the Air Force Academy. The check was made out to the Department of Defense from U.S. taxpayers for 364 million dollars, the amount the government has spent training lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender U.S. service members who have been discharged because of the military's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy.

"This check represents an unacceptable waste of money for the purpose of taxpayer-supported discrimination," said Jacob Reitan, Equality Ride co-director. "There was a time when the armed forces were segregated. That kind of discrimination in our public institutions was wrong then and it is wrong now."
Crossposted on Pam's House Blend.


Nukes, Steve, and Me

by TheGreenKnight

Years ago when I was in high school, I had this friend called Steve. Unlike me, Steve was a young Republican. He was convinced that Vietnam had been a truly noble war, that the Soviets really were out to kill everyone in the United States, and that Ronald Reagan was the greatest president in American history. Naturally, I disagreed with all of that. I and my whole family were on what's now called the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, so Steve's political outlook and mine couldn't have been more different.

We were still friends anyway, and our arguments about politics never really got rancorous. In those days, that was still possible in the United States. Besides, we were a couple of New Jersey kids in the 80s and we had our Bruce Springsteen fandom in common. That was way more important than our political differences. You've got to keep your priorities straight, after all.

Anyhow, I remember one day we were arguing about nukes and the Soviets. Steve, as I said, was convinced that the Soviet Union was just itching to drop the bomb on us. My opinion was that the Soviets weren't actually a real threat: that, first, the Soviet Union was probably on its last legs economically; and second, that the Soviets were too concerned with survival to do something so stupid as to launch the nukes. In a slightly rasher-than-usual moment, I bet Steve ten bucks that the Soviet Union wouldn't even exist by the year 2000 but would collapse from within. Steve laughed; he didn't take that notion at all seriously, and to tell the truth neither did I at the time.

Steve, if you're out there, time to pay up.

Anyway, part of this conversation had to do with what I thought was the real danger of nuclear weapons: not that the Soviets would ever use them, and certainly not us Americans, but that someday some nutbar dictator in the Third World would get some, and then watch out. Steve still believed that the Soviets wanted to use their nukes, but agreed that this other possibility was a serious danger too. Still, at least we both knew that our government would never, ever actually do anything so crazy as to launch a nuclear first strike.

So, flash forward twenty years and here we are with the Iranians developing nuclear energy. As I understand it, the best information is that they're still years away from getting weapons grade material, but nonetheless you can bet they're working on it.

They claim, of course, that they're only developing nuclear power to create electricity. That almost certainly is one of their aims. They've got lots of oil to burn for electricity, but they don't want to burn their oil; they want to sell it. But for them to say they have no intentions of developing bombs is just ridiculous.

It's not only that having nukes is the best way to avoid getting invaded by others; the major reason is that for a Muslim nation to have nukes that can reach Israel changes the entire balance of power in the Middle East. Israel would no longer have a nuclear monopoly in the region. The moment that happens, everything in the region changes. Whether they would actually use the nukes to hit Israel, well, I doubt that even the Iranian government is that suicidal, but who really knows for sure?

So here we have a situation much like the one that Steve and I talked about over Cokes in the high school cafeteria all those years ago. Of course, other nations ruled by minor dictators have gotten nukes too: North Korea and Pakistan are the first ones that spring to mind. But Iran is different: it's not actually ruled by a dictator but by a crazy-quilt government that's partly theocratic, partly democratic (sort of), and, now that the Iranian liberal reformers have been neutralized, all nasty. This makes it a lot less predictable than a straightforward dictatorship would be. So people are right to be nervous about this one. There's nothing more alarming than an unstable, incompetent government with the bomb.

Which brings me to George W. Bush. Now, I have no idea whether Seymour Hersh is right in saying that nuclear strikes are seriously being contemplated against Iran. I'm not surprised to hear that the US military's got plans in place for that eventuality; they've got plans in place for all kinds of things. Hell, they've probably still got plans, collecting dust in some file folder somewhere, to invade Canada or to bomb the hell out of Britain. That's part of their job. But the question is not what the military's got plans for; the question is what's the Administration actually planning to do, and how can we know until it's too late?

Although Bush is saying that all this nuking Iran talk is just speculative, and that what he really wants is a diplomatic solution, I just can't get past the fact that he said much the same sort of thing about Iraq. Right up to just before the war started, he was still insisting in public that it was up to Saddam to decide whether war would happen; yet we all knew at the time (and leaked documents have since confirmed it) that this was bullshit. We knew it, and nothing we said or did had the slightest effect on what happened. The anti-Iraq war movement found itself so marginalized by the media and the inside-the-Beltway crowd that it didn't even manage to convince the opposition party to nominate an anti-Iraq war presidential candidate. And now, here we go again.

It's always been too simplistic to say that 9/11 changed everything. But in the aftermath of it, in the way that international politics shifted and degenerated and domestic politics grew ever more polarized and hostile, things did change. It's no longer possible to say, as I did years ago, that our international opponents are too rational to use their nukes. Even more alarming, it's not even possible to say for sure, as Steve and I both did, that the U.S. government is too rational to do so. It's no longer the case, as it was to at least some extent then, that the voters and people out in the street could have some sort of effect on government policy, or that the press would actually try, consistently and systematically, to report accurately on what was actually happening. It's no longer at all easy to have an exchange of political viewpoints that doesn't descend into pointless trash-talk. And although it was never wise to believe everything your political leaders said, it's now not even possible to say for sure what their policies are, not even on such a huge issue as a nuclear first strike, because the present Adminstration has raised mendacity to such a fine art.

Things have changed a lot since Steve and I were kids. And if I haven't said much about this maybe-maybe not nuclear apocalypse in Iran, it's because I no longer understand this world. Neither does anyone else, I suspect -- but some people, including some of the most ardently pro-war types out there, think they do. So are we stumbling blindly toward armageddon, or will we muddle through? I really have no idea. The Cold War was scary, but at least people understood the rules by the 80s. Right now, we're in a world without controls or knowledge, and the only emotion possible when contemplating it is rapidly becoming sheer fatigue.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.


Monday, April 17, 2006

The Administration Who Cried “Hitler”

by Shakespeare's Sister

Glenn Greenwald’s got a great post today about the administration’s (and their supporters’) insistence on casting every dime-store despot as Hitler these days. One of the things that drives me bonkers about this shit is that, when someone vaguely rational tries to draw a distinction between a guy like Saddam, for example, and Hitler, s/he is automatically cast as an appeaser, with no regard for important (and really not all that subtle) nuances like scope and the baseline capacity to engage in the sort of large-scale tyranny and destruction exacted by Hitler.

Intent notwithstanding, there’s got to be some kind of regard for the means to realize that intent. The lying scumbags currently running this nation know that, which is why, even though Iraq didn’t have the tools, and neither does Iran, they make all kinds of mendacious claims to attempt to create an illusion to the contrary. No one knows better than they do that—at minimum—the façade of such means is a key component to selling the necessity of a war. It’s so indicative of what opportunistic and dishonest bastards they are that while casting as spineless traitors any dissenters who point out that ability to act on intent is an important consideration in the decision to go to war, they simultaneously trump up the appearance of such ability to bolster their case.

Saddam Hussein and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are indecent, maniacal fuckwits, but that doesn’t mean they were/are a threat to Americans even if they want(ed) to be. The administration didn’t sell the Iraq war as a humanitarian intervention to protect the people most likely to suffer at the hand of Saddam—his own people—but as a preemptive strike against a nation that both intended and had the ability to harm the American people. Iran is now the same story. And once again, they’re not selling it as a rescue mission on behalf of Iranians (or even Israelis), but as an American national security concern, which is patently false.

Glenn points to this post at The Belgravia Dispatch, in which Gregory Djerejian has utilized the Wayback Machine to dig out the administration’s pre-Iraq war comments and compare them to the current comments being made about Iran, which are “strikingly, and alarmingly, similar.” Glenn notes:

[T]he array of unreliable and misleading statements made with regard to many matters prior to the invasion of Iraq have completely destroyed this government's credibility, making its word automatically subject to serious doubt by any rational person -- including, most destructively, its own citizens, in a way that is almost certainly unprecedented in our nation's history.
The alarmist hyperbole, the disingenuous framing, the manipulation of intelligence and outright lies—it’s not only left the administration lacking credibility, but it’s left the American people less safe. If we can’t trust our leadership to be honest with us, there are a lot of people who will think they’re just crying Hitler again if a genuine and immediate threat presents itself. And even if we’re all clever enough to suss out the reality, our own nation may very well be left without the resources to do what really needs to be done, as our treasure and military have been stretched too thin chasing after illusions.

Fates save us if another real Hitler emerges, because Bush certainly won’t.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Breaking News: George Bush Hates America

by Shakespeare's Sister

The people, sure…the air and water, of course…but the land, too.

The Bush administration has ordered America's national parks to show that they can function at 80 percent or less of their operating budgets, which is forcing some parks to cut services for visitors as summer approaches…

President Bush is proposing to cut an additional $100.5 million from the parks' $2.1 billion budget next year. According to a report this month by the Government Accountability Office, the parks have an estimated $5 billion maintenance backlog, and even before the cost-cutting began, many of them had moved from slashing back-office operations to trimming visitor services.
And some of them are raising prices, like campground fees, which just annoys me to my very core, since it’s just another potentiality to widen the gap between opportunities available to the wealthy and those available to the poor.

Because my parents were both teachers, we spent our summers traveling around the country, four of us in one small car, and by the time I was 16, I’d been in every state east of the Mississippi, and most of the states west of it. One of our most memorable trips was driving out to Yellowstone, where we spent a week hiking about, checking out Old Faithful, having our senses brutalized by the beautiful but incredibly stinky sulphur pools, being amazed by our proximity to all manner of interesting creatures, and generally enjoying one of our most stunning national parks. At that time, my mom was a stay-at-home, so the four of us lived on my dad’s salary alone; we weren’t a well-off family. But we got to do lots of cool stuff on little money, and the National Parks were one of the best sources of a great adventure for a bit of cash.

Slashing the budget is having the effect of reducing park services (and even closing some parks), which is bad enough, but it’s also going to inevitably exclude more and more people from enjoying them at all—and that’s tragic. The country we live in is now one in which some people can enjoy huge tax breaks at the expense of our National Parks, and thusly may one day be the only people who can fully enjoy the Parks at all. Yay America.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Odious Turd Fred Phelps at it Again...and I Defend Him

by Shakespeare's Sister

This guy and his little clan of revolting nutzoids have to be one of the most heinous collection of nutwits in all of America:

As dozens of mourners streamed solemnly into church to bury Cpl. David A. Bass, a fresh-faced 20-year-old marine who was killed in Iraq on April 2, a small clutch of protesters stood across the street on Tuesday, celebrating his violent death.

"Thank God for Dead Soldiers," read one of their placards. "Thank God for I.E.D.'s," read another, a reference to the bombs used to kill service members in the war. To drive home their point — that God is killing soldiers to punish America for condoning homosexuality — members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., a tiny fundamentalist splinter group, kicked around an American flag and shouted, if someone approached, that the dead soldiers were rotting in hell.
These people are absolute garbage. I’m so tired of hearing about Fred Phelps and his stupid and offensive demonstrations, the mere mention of his name now requires me to suppress a gag reflex.

Apparently, I’m not alone, because Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), who’s an idiot, is the co-sponsor of a bill to regulate demonstrations like the ones Westboro insist on mounting at dead soldiers’ funerals across the country.

"Repugnant, outrageous, despicable, do not adequately describe what I feel they do to these families… They have a right to freedom of speech. But someone also has a right to bury a loved one in peace."
Actually, no. Someone doesn’t have a right to bury a loved one in peace. That’s different than saying everyone deserves the respect to do so, which they do. As evidence of the glaring lack of this right is the fact that Phelps and crew made their dubious name for themselves when they picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard. They spent a few years demonstrating almost exclusively at the funerals of gay people, then moved on to the funerals of dead soldiers. It was only then that Congress decided to encroach upon the rights of Free Speech. The wanton abuse of our Free Speech rights by Phelps was just fine and dandy with Buyer et. al. when it was families of gay people who were being subjected to his nastiness, but now that the families of soldiers are being harangued, it’s a whole different story.

"When you have someone who has given the ultimate sacrifice for their country, with a community and the family grieving, I just don't feel it's the appropriate time to be protesting," said State Representative Curtis Johnson, a Republican who was a co-sponsor of the bill.
Telling, no? Families burying a gay person will be protected under this law, too, but that’s just a side effect of a bill designed to protect those mourning “someone who has given the ultimate sacrifice for their country.” The truth is, I don’t think a funeral is an appropriate time to be protesting, either, but impropriety is a paltry excuse for limiting Free Speech—which is exactly why people are allowed to stand outside abortion clinics with pictures of dead fetuses.

Most people probably find Phelps’ demonstrations about as ugly a use of Free Speech as there is, which is why this bill is likely to pass—but it’s also precisely why it shouldn’t. The deepest challenges to our Free Speech laws are the ones in which your visceral reaction is, “Shut the bastards down!” and makes the intellectual formation of a defense extremely challenging. What Phelps does is disgusting, but, one day, if I want to march on Washington to register my dissent, someone else might find that disgusting—and that shouldn’t be the only burden the legislature needs to limit my freedom of expression.

I hate Fred Phelps with a fiery passion that knows no end. I hate what he does, what he says, and everything for which he stands. And I’m smart enough to know there are people who feel exactly the same about me, simply for what I write at this blog every day. I loathe having to appear to defend him, but I’m really defending myself, and anyone else who wants to say something that isn’t popular. It’s a strange irony that the same laws used to shut down Fred Phelps, raging anti-gay crusader, could all too easily be used to shut down a gay pride parade. Once someone can legally invoke a “right” like burying someone in peace, it’s a short journey to legally invoking the “right” to keep your children safely veiled from public reference to homosexuality.

Most of the state bills and laws have been worded carefully to try to avoid concerns over the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech. The laws typically seek to keep demonstrators at a funeral or cemetery 100 to 500 feet from the entrance, depending on the state, and to limit the protests to one hour before and one hour after the funeral.

A few states, including Wisconsin, also seek to bar people from displaying "any visual image that conveys fighting words" within several hundred feet or during the hours of the funeral. The laws or bills do not try to prevent protesters from speaking out.
I understand this, really I do. Yet there’s a part of me that finds the something like this and the “free speech zones” at political conventions, to which many Americans across the political spectrum rightly objected, to be a distinction without a difference. And, ultimately, what concerns me is that this is motivated not by protecting all Americans, but by protecting some—protecting those Americans that Congress has deemed worthy of protection. That the rest of us will be protected as a fortunate but unintended consequence doesn’t make it okay that that this is motivated at its core by a deeper respect for some Americans than others. Such a cynical and un-American motivation should make us very wary of this legislation indeed.

"I haven't seen something like this," said David L. Hudson Jr., research attorney for the First Amendment Center, referring to the number of state legislatures reacting to the protests. "It's just amazing. It's an emotional issue and not something that is going to get a lot of political opposition."
That's a warning. No political opposition because of emotion. We should all beware the precedent that sets, the doors it opens for use against the marginalized, disenfranshised, or politically unpopular in the future.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister. You can find more crap from Shakes about Fred Phelps here.)


Sunday, April 16, 2006

V is for Vagina

by Pam

The folks at Donald Wildmon's "news" organ AgapePress can't bring themselves to type the word v-a-g-i-n-a. I get the feeling that there is some nun or preacher there slapping a ruler on the wrist of anyone who dares to tap it out. Read and weep with laughter.
A conservative Catholic group is criticizing the University of Notre Dame for once again allowing a homosexual film festival and a vulgar feminist play on the Indiana school's campus.

Notre Dame's President John Jenkins recently stated that he saw "no reason to prohibit performances of the V Monologues on campus." His position comes as a surprise to some who object to the play's content, which includes profanity and graphic descriptions of lesbian sexual relationships.

The prestigious Catholic school near South Bend, Indiana, has hosted the V Monologues for the last five years and a "gay and lesbian" film festival for the last two years. Patrick Reilly, president of the Catholic watchdog group the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), says he is not surprised the university is continuing to allow homosexual activism on its campus.

...In fact, the president of the Catholic watchdog group believes most Notre Dame faculty are strongly resistant to any idea of restoring the school's faith-based identity. And he feels it is disingenuous for administrators like Jenkins to claim Notre Dame is not endorsing the V Monologues and other pro-homosexual events when it is obviously funding them.

...But as far as how individual Catholics should respond to a production like the V Monologues goes, "The question is just whether it's sinful, whether this is scandalous, whether we're leading people away from the church," Reilly contends. "And I think there's no doubt that these events clearly scandalize the faithful."
Now go and repent...

***

Reading this batsh*t "V" nonsensem made more that one reader at my pad (and me) conjure up thoughts the sexy, big-haired lizard alien in the TV series V).


V's Diana is probably too sexy for Don Wildmon as well.

However, Daniel at Ex-Gay Watch had some more fun with the prudery of Don Wildmon's crowd at his "news" organ. Daniel decided to do a little research on the selectivity of the AFA "vulgarity police."
I was curious what other words might have slid past the AgapeCensors in past articles:
Sodomy, as well as Sodomize
Anal Sex
Vibrator
Orgy
Rimming
Penis
Sex Club as well as Bathhouse
"gay.com"
And lastly my personal favorite, Gay Bowel Syndrome

Update: Found a few more real gems:


Clitoris
Crack Whore (Always popular)
Damn
Teenage Prostitute
Beastiality
Masturbation
Sadomasochism
Upon being told the Agapepress has used Penile Penetration, Peterson Toscano remarked, " this is a very unsafe site for a struggling homosexual."
God I feel like I'm 12 years old.
Now that was a good laugh.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Rev. Tinkywinky's Easter 'ex-gay' bleating

by Pam


In his Easter weekend WingNutDaily column, Jerry Falwell takes time to reflect on one of the most important issues of the day -- the "former homosexual."
I would like to tell you about some people who are often treated as if they do not exist. While they flourish as citizens and are active in our churches across the nation, it is as if they lack reality as far as the so-called mainstream media are concerned.

These people are former homosexuals, sometimes known as ex-gays, who have prevailed over their previous existence. I imagine they are the most politically incorrect people in our nation. They do exist, though, and there are untold thousands of them.

But when former homosexuals are depicted on the networks, they are typically unhappy or anxious to return to their former lives. On NBC's "Law and Order: SVU," an ex-gay man returns to his former lifestyles but murders another gay man to hide his backslide. On NBC's "Will & Grace," a meeting of former homosexuals ends with everyone present running off with a same-sex member of the group.

So you see, when these individuals are not being completely ignored, they are being demeaned and put down by those who argue that one cannot overcome homosexuality.

Ex-gay ministries attempt to reach homosexuals with the Gospel of Christ so they can find fulfillment in Him. Former homosexuals learn to overcome their same-sex attractions and often marry and have children.

I am proud to know several former homosexuals. It is thrilling to see them joyously living out their lives. I have actually had the privilege of working with a few individuals who have turned their backs on homosexuality so that they can live fully in Christ.

I actually addressed a rally of ex-gays last year and can tell you that they are living out their faith as fearlessly as any group of people I have seen in quite some time. It is a great pleasure to see people discover true peace, true purpose in Christ.

This isn't a popular notion, by any means. But it is imperative that the Church of Jesus Christ boldly confronts the issues of homosexuality and the power of Christ to enable change.


As Stephen Bennett says, "Jesus never tolerated sin. He confronted it - in love."

Stephen lived the homosexual lifestyle until he was 28. And then he gave his life to Jesus Christ. Today, 16 years later, he is happily married, the father of two, and one of the nation's most courageous spokesmen on overcoming homosexuality through Christ. You can learn more about his story at: www.sbministries.org.
That's enough. I couldn't take any more of this bullsh*t. Once he threw the Stephen Bennett card out there, I simply stopped reading. How can you take Stephen Bennett seriously when he spouts this lunacy:
1. "I don't understand why everybody is jumping on the bandwagon of homosexuality," says Bennett. "It is like the 'in thing' today. And, of course, with this movie Brokeback Mountain, everybody is jumping in now to do what they can to capitalize on this newest, latest fad that people are accepting."

2. "I just spoke with a married man on the telephone who is contemplating leaving his wife and children," says host Stephen Bennett. "He says he's gay, and Brokeback Mountain has influenced his decision."

3. "We keep in contact with many of those active homosexuals who are curious [about Stephen's "deliverance from homosexuality"]. But in most cases, they will tell me I was never "gay" in the first place. And I tell them, "Yeah, you go and ask my 100-plus partners how 'gay' I was not." I was "gay."
Alrighty then.

I decided to skim further so you could choose to go on with the torture if you wanted to -- the rest of the commentary pimps the work of Rev. Tinkywinky's legal arm, Liberty Counsel and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) to combat diversity training and tolerance in schools.

For instance, PFOX's response to Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) at schools is to encourage kids to start "Ex-Gay" & "Everstraight Clubs". One of its leaders, "ex-gay" Richard Cohen, was expelled from the American Counseling Association for unethical behavior.
The purpose of an ex-gay & everstraight club is to provide a safe environment for all students to discuss alternatives to homosexuality and find ex-gay resources. Clubs can be started by students who have never been gay (everstraights), ex-gay students, and those struggling with unwanted same sex attraction. These alternative ex-gay clubs are started at schools (high school or college) which already have a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) or similar gay affirming club. These ex-gay clubs can be called by whatever name the student(s) decide is best for their school.
Also:
* BlogActive on Stephen Bennett: "Now, I don't know if he has sex with men any more or not...but I can tell you he sure looks at the guys. Not one male intern walked by Bennett's exhibit table [at a Concerned Women for America conference] without being checked out by Mr. Ex-Gay."

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Analysis:
Budget Deficit Projected to Reach Near-Record for 2006

by Dark Wraith

Blaming the costs incurred in the rebuilding of the Southeast from Hurricane Katrina as well as the budget drain from the Global War on Terror, the Bush Administration announced this week that the federal budget deficit for 2006 would reach an estimated $423 billion, close to the record set in 2004 of $433 billion dollars and considerably higher than estimates made as recently as early last month by both the White House and the Congressional Budget Office that the budget deficit would be considerably less. Bush Administration officials had maintained that they would be able to halve the current level of red ink by 2009, a goal that appears substantially more unattainable with the latest admission that federal revenues continue to lag far behind expenses. As recently as March 3 of this year, the Congressional Budget Office was projecting a notably lower federal budget deficit for fiscal 2006: the baseline deficit for all of 2006 was projected at that time as $336 billion, but it was then revised to $371 billion in line with the President's budget projections. Adding to the evidence that federal revenues are severely and unexpectedly lagging behind expenditures, Reuters is reporting that, contrary to Wall Street economists' expectations that federal revenues would fall short of expenditures in March by about $73 billion, in actuality the deficit for March hit almost $85.5 billion, following on the heels of a record shortfall of $119.20 billion for February.

In an effort to downplay the dramatic loss of budget discipline during the past five-plus years of Republican control of the Executive and Legislative Branches of the federal government, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow in December of last year claimed that the budget surpluses in the final years of the Administration of President George W. Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton, were a "mirage," pointing to allegedly "anomalous" tax revenues in the final years of the 20th Century. The numbers tell a far different story, however: the gap between expenditures and revenues had been closing throughout the Clinton Administration, ultimately culminating in revenues exceeding expenditures in both 1999 and 2000. The surplus immediately fell in 2001, and went into deficit territory the next year—where it had been for Clinton's predecessors—then growing progressively more negative every year until 2005, when the deficit shrank somewhat. With the 2006 estimate, the mounting red ink has resumed its spiral. The graphic below is a revision of one published at The Dark Wraith Forums last December based upon federal budget figures through 2004. The graphic below updates the depiction with current data and projections provided by the Congressional Budget Office.


The fiscal discipline of the Clinton Administration is starkly evident in contrast to that of both the prededing and the successor Administrations. The surpluses of the final years of the Clinton Administration were the culmination of a long-term effort to clear out the deficits that had been the legacies of both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Strikingly, as soon as the second Bush Administration took office in 2001, the hard-won gains began to vanish, and by the second fiscal budget of George W. Bush, the deficits had returned. Three rounds of tax cuts by the Republicans in Bush's first term correlate strikingly with the clear shortfall of federal tax revenues against expenditures; and in the face of what is now projected to be a near-record budget deficit for the current year, Mr. Bush is calling for making permanent the tax cuts of his first term. The graphic below focuses the previous graphic on the federal budget surpluses and deficits during the Clinton and Bush Administrations, overlaying each with its associated trendline.


Using aligned years for each Administration's budgets, the trendline for the federal budget deficits and surpluses of the Clinton Administration has a slope of approximately $69.9 billion, meaning that revenues were growing faster than expenditures by an average rate of almost seventy billion additional dollars per year during the years 1993 to 2000. The trendline for the federal budget surpluses and deficits of the Bush Administration has a slope of —$93.5 billion, meaning that expenditures have been outstripping revenues at an average rate of more than ninety-three billion additional dollars per year during the years 2001 to 2006 (with the last budget deficit as currently forecast).

The graphic at left shows the top personal marginal tax rates for the years 1993 to 2006. The three rounds of tax cuts during the first term of the Administration of President Bush are evident. After years of holding steady at 39.6 percent, the marginal tax rate paid on ordinary income by the wealthiest Americans began to slide precipitously shortly after Mr. Bush assumed office and continued to decline with successive rounds of tax cuts until the rate settled at its current level of 35 percent. In addition to the benefit of these tax rate reductions on ordinary income, taxes at the federal level on other sources of income declined, as well. As far as only the top marginal tax rates are concerned, though, for the period from 1993 to 2006 the simple correlation coëfficient between the top marginal tax bracket and the budget surplus/deficit equals 0.754. The square of the Pearson product moment correlation coëfficient for the period under consideration equals a striking 0.574. This Pearson coëfficient is frequently called "r-squared"; in the present analysis, the derived value means that well over half of the variation in federal budget deficits and surpluses over the past 14 years can be explained by changes in the top marginal tax rate on ordinary income, and all of those changes occurred during the Bush Administration, when the Republican Party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress.

The Republicans have no one to blame but themselves for the budget deficits that they, and they alone, have created. Under the Clinton Administration, the United States had recovered from the legacy of budget deficits left by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; and despite continuing claims on the White House Website with sub-titles such as "The President's Tax Relief Has Helped Spur America's Economic Momentum," the mounting budget deficits have left the United States once again falling deeper and deeper into debt, with a troublingly large proportion of the on-going shortfall being covered by foreign interests: as of the end of 2005, the external debt of the United States stood at $9.56 trillion.

If any hope can be found in this multi-year federal budget catastrophe, it is in the growing possibility that the scandals now engulfing the Bush Administration and its Republican allies in Congress will lead to a voter backlash at the polls in November of this year, at which time the Democrats could return to power in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Although the prospects for subsequent impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney are rather remote, the American electorate will have the opportunity in November of 2008 to remove from the White House the fiscally reckless Republicans and replace them with Democrats who can once again, as they did in the 1990s, rescue the nation from the consequences that are the consistent legacy of Republican Administrations.


The Dark Wraith will share with many other Americans the hope that our collective handbasket will not have reached its destination before that glad time arrives.


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


Some news makes you want to go postal

by Pam


Think Progress passes along news that makes you want to hurl (or riot):
Average Americans are struggling to keep up with persistently high gas prices, now approaching $3 a gallon. Testifying before Congress last November, Exxon CEO Lee Raymond blamed the problem on"global supply and demand" and assured the public that"we're all in this together."

Last year, Raymond made due with"a total compensation package" of just $69.7 million or $190,915 a day, including weekends.
Oh, and guess what? Look at his retirement package, as you fill up your tank and sell your first-born (ABC):
Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, such as a $1 million consulting deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes.
What do you say behind that sh*t?

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


The Tool flip flops again on fed marriage amendment

by Pam


The Tool was against it...before he was for it...before he was against it again. Is this a lame bob and weave, or just another sign of his insanity? Let's see...

In 2004, he said this:
"The constitutional amendment [banning same-sex marriage] we're debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans. It usurps from the states a fundamental authority they have always possessed and imposes a federal remedy for a problem that most states do not believe confronts them."
Then, McCain humped Rev. Tinkywinky and agreed to speak at Liberty University's graduation on May 13, Falwell said McCain told him that he was on board with a federal amendment.

"He is in the process of healing the breech with evangelical groups,” Falwell said. Falwell said McCain has expressed a willingness to support a Federal Marriage Amendment, an issue dear to conservative Christians.
Now, while stumping in Iowa yesterday, he changed courses once again.

During his Iowa appearances, McCain refused to change his stand on issues that rankle both the party's establishment and conservatives, including his opposition to ethanol subsidies and a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

..."I intend to vote against it," he said. "I believe each state should decide."
Will Falwell get on the hotline and demand clarification from The Tool before he gets to speak at Liberty?


Dirtbag McCain and Protect Marriage Arizona chair Lynn Stanley smile with glee about his state's amendment, which he supports.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Guide to the Top 20 AmTaliban

by Pam

Here are the Top 20 "Christian" organizations and their leaders, according to some pub called The Church Report, via Agape Press, which heralds this motley crew as "20 Reasons There Is Hope for America."

If you're a regular Blender, most of these names are familiar to you. I added more interesting information to the descriptions; the originals in the article were pretty dry...

1 TONY PERKINS
President of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. AgapePress acknowledges that FRC has the ear of many members of Congress, the White House, and Christians nationwide.


FUN FACT: Tony Perkins (l.) paid David Duke $82K for the former Klansman honcho's mailing list.


2 DR. RICK SCARBOROUGH
Dr. Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America, recently held the wingnut extravaganza "The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006." A choice quote from RIck: "A war on Christians rages across the America. By attacking Christians, the left intends to destroy the remnants of Judeo-Christian morality.The left intends to eliminate God-based morality from our government to achieve its goal of cultural Marxism in a secular state."

3 ALAN E. SEARS
Alan E. Sears is president, CEO and general counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a foul, fundie legal group that is sponsoring The Day of Truth, to be held on April 27th, as a "counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective." What ADF is countering is The Day of Silence, a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the United States Student Association.


4 MATHEW D. STAVER
Mathew D. Staver, founder, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, Jerry Falwell's legal arm. He asserts that the Soulforce Equality Riders are "trying to hijack the civil rights movement by suggesting that they are somehow aligned with civil rights by taking this nationwide tour and then making a very political, very confrontational attack on Christian schools and universities."


5 ROY S. MOORE
"Ten Commandments" Moore is the disgraced, de-benched Chief Justice of Alabama and a gubernatorial candidate this year. Roy declared homosexuality "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature." Gay sex, he wrote, is "an act so heinous that it defies one's ability to describe it," an "inherent evil" that "should never be tolerated."

6 JAY SEKULOW
Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and shill for the nomination of SCOTUS Justice Samuel Alito. He was named one of the "25 Most Influential Evangelicals" in America by Time Magazine. ACLJ was founded by Crazy Pat Robertson.

FUN FACTS: Sekulow is a member of Jews for Jesus, and his first appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court was in the 1987 case of Board of Airport Commissioners v. Jews For Jesus. That victory allowed the organization the right to distribute pamphlets in airports. Sekulow helped draft the Defense of the Marriage Act, which passed both houses and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

7 JOYCE MEYER
Joyce Meyer is an author and head of Joyce Meyer Ministries. Another one of Time's "25 Most Influential Evangelicals" in America. She believes that you choose heterosexuality or homosexuality. See this hilarious interview with Larry King. Quote: "Obviously, Larry, if I believe the Bible, then I don't believe that a gay lifestyle or a homosexual lifestyle is the right way to choose to live. I believe that there's something so much better."


8 DR. D. JAMES KENNEDY
The Center for Reclaiming America for Christ was established by Kennedy, is an extension of his Coral Ridge Ministries. He also runs the Center for Christian Statesmanship, a "training lab" to create pod people politicians of tomorrow: "They learn to view every vote as a religious duty, and to consider compromise a sin. That puts them at the vanguard of a bold effort by evangelical conservatives to mold a new generation of leaders who will answer not to voters, but to God."

9 DOUG PHILLIPS
The founder and director of Vision Forum, "a discipleship and training ministry that emphasizes Christian apologetics, world-view training, multi-generational faithfulness, and creative solutions whereby fathers can play a maximum role in family discipleship." Never heard of the guy. Quote: "Every age has its defining crisis. Sin is always at the heart of the crisis. But the manifestation of sin expresses itself differently from age to age. The defining crisis of our age is the systematic annihilation of the Biblical family."

10 DAVID BARTON
Founder and President of WallBuilders, a "pro-family", anti-choice organization. WallBuilders seeks to "rebuild America's constitutional, moral and religious foundations," and "to exert a direct and positive influence in government, education, and the family by (1) educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country." He was a speaker at last year's Reclaiming America for Christ conference, put on by D. James Kennedy.


11 REV. ROBERT L. SCHENCK
President and Co-Founder of the National Clergy Council and President and Founder of Faith and Action. He was sorry to see Tom DeLay step down, because he is "at his core a very good man" and "a very fine Christian" who has provided exemplary service. "I wrote him a letter today," Schenck notes, "and I told him how much he will be missed, that we thank God for his years of leadership. He did an excellent job, and the country will be at a loss for his absence."


12 REV. LOUIS P. SHELDON
Chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, whose obsession over gay sex rivals Peter LaBarbera's. He ties gays to pedophilia whenever possible. There are so many posts on this clown on the Blend. Here's a link to several. He has Congress, Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove on his speed-dial, and likes to recruit homobigoted black pastors into the GOP fold.


13 ALAN KEYES
Horrible father to his gay daughter (he threw her out of the house when she came out) and founder of Renew America. Quote: "If my daughter were a lesbian, I'd look at her and say, 'That is a relationship that is based on selfish hedonism.' I would also tell my daughter that it's a sin and she needs to pray to the Lord God to help her deal with that sin." Another failed presidential candidate


14 PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY
Mother Schlafly is not six feet under yet. She is the head of wingnut org Eagle Forum and runs it with her out gay son. Choice quotes: "Disease is one of the most important reasons to stop the traffic of illegal aliens...They are bringing diseases that we never had before in the United States or which we eradicated decades ago."

"Americans have everything to lose if we subject ourselves to tribunals dominated by the socialist pro-gay country to our north and the corrupt and Communist governments to our south."


15 JANICE SHAW CROUSE, PH.D.
Senior Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, part of Concerned Women for America. She's also the author of the Sex Pyramid. She's also concerned about the state of marriage: 'You don't want to get married until you're settled in your career; until you've established yourself and gotten enough money to buy a house and buy a good car and those kinds of things.'" The result? "We have downgraded marriage in the minds of young people,"

16 FR. FRANK PAVONE
National Director for Priests for Life. He recently appeared at a Pennsylvania Pastors Network training session, where Little Ricky Santorum addressed the attendees and urged support for an amendment to ban same-sex marriage. According to the NYT, Pavone emphasized how important Rethug control of the Senate would be if another Supreme Court vacancy would be to tip the Supreme Court against abortion rights.

17 J. THOMAS SMITH
He's with America 21 - Family Values for the 21st Century. Fun quote: "Voter surveys in key political races suggest that abortion was the top moral issue causing turnout for Godly candidates. Our hearts tell us that abortion is where the turning in America must begin. Repentance on this issue is critical to the growth of your local church and national revival. It may also save America from our enemies."

18 DR. WILLIAM GREENE
Founder and president of RightMarch.com, started up to counter MoveOn.org. "Our goal is to counter the well-financed antics of radical left-wing groups like MoveOn.org, by appealing to the grassroots "silent majority" to take action -- contacting government and business leaders; placing newspaper, radio and television ads; and holding the Left accountable for their anti-American antics."


19 GARY L. BAUER
Failed presidential candidate Bauer serves as chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, and as President of American Values. Endless bleater about persecuted Christians. Gary also thinks the media's reporting on the low military recruiting numbers is just a conspiracy to present only negative information about Iraq. "The liberal media views the recruitment difficulties as just "one more piece of evidence" that the war in Iraq is "illegitimate and a failure."


FUN FACT: Gary fell off a stage while flipping pancakes on the presidential campaign trail.

20 DR. JAMES C. DOBSON

Daddy Dobson is founder and chairman of Focus on the Family. Evil incarnate; member in good standing of The Arlington Group, a coalition of All-Star AmTaliban seeking passage of a marriage amendment. Also: see Daddy Dobson-approved help for horny boys.

FUN FACT: The Rotting CryptkeeperTM Fred Phelps called Dobson an "old heretic" who has "caved to the faggot juggernaut."

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Special Graphic Post:
The Trophy President

by Dark Wraith

For your consideration and use as computer desktop wallpaper, the following is offered.





(Dear God.)


The Dark Wraith provides.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Special Analysis:
A Tactical Decision before the End Game

by Dark Wraith

This post explores a possible situation that could arise within the next year. A series of events constituting what could be considered maximum political damage to President Bush and the Republican Party is set forth. Each event has some greater or lesser chance of actually coming to fruition. Tactical responses by Mr. Bush are assumed to be rational and to the end of minimizing the damage wrought. Having set forth this assumed sequence of events, a question is then posed concerning what response at one critical step is best from the perspective of George W. Bush, given that events will have otherwise overwhelmed successful countervailing responses on his part. Readers are encouraged to offer thoughtful consideration concerning the optimal decision for Mr. Bush to make.

Event One: Severe erosion of Mr. Bush's popularity specifically, as well as that of the Republicans in Congress generally, indicates by early October of this year that the up-coming November elections will result in the Democrats acquiring solid control of both Houses of Congress.

Event Two: Attempting to avert the disaster to the Republican Party, Vice President Richard Cheney resigns for health reasons before the election, and Mr. Bush exercises his power under Section 2 of the 25th Amendment to the Consitution of the United States, appointing a successor who is relatively untainted by scandals engulfing other members of the Bush Administration. Because the Republicans are still in control of both Houses of Congress at the time Mr. Cheney resigns and his successor is nominated by Mr. Bush, the new Vice President is easily and very quickly confirmed.

Event Three: Republican efforts to turn around public disgust with their rule in Washington are wholly unsuccessful, and the Democrats rout the Republicans in the November elections, taking solid majority control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Event Four: Almost immediately after Congress re-convenes in 2007, bitter anger on the part of Democrats spills out in multiple investigations, culminating in articles of impeachment being approved by the House, followed by an ugly Senate trial at the end of which President George W. Bush is convicted and removed from office.



Now, return to Event Two. By having Dick Cheney resign, the strategists for Mr. Bush have accomplished two important goals in the gathering storm: first, they have denied the Democrats the easier of the two targets of impeachment; second (and far more importantly), they have ensured that Bush's successor is still one of their own. To this second point, had Mr. Cheney remained and been impeached either before or concurrently with Mr. Bush, the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 would have directed that the Speaker of the House become President. Given that the Democrats would be in control of that body in 2007, the President until November of 2008 would then have undoubtedly been a Democrat. But by the timing of Mr. Cheney's resignation, the Republicans have ensured that they will remain in control of the Executive Branch of the United States government through 2008.

The question is now obvious:

Whom should George W. Bush appoint as successor to Richard Cheney as Vice President of the United States?



The Dark Wraith trusts readers see this as an important matter to consider.


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


Immigration vs. gay rights -- not a zero-sum game

by Pam

Blogger Jasmyne Cannick opened up a huge can of worms with her Advocate commentary, Gays first, then illegals, taking the position that LGBT citizens -- legal, taxpaying, and voting individuals don't yet have all of their rights and that they should be at the head of the line.

I have to be honest with you, I don't see any reason to pit the undocumented immigrant struggle with that of LGBT citizens, despite some similarities in plight for equality and legal recognition, but Jasmyne slammed this down on the table, and I'm sorry to say, it's in a non-productive way.
American citizens continue to be denied the right to marry because of their sexual orientation while their families are deprived of access to the 1,138 federal rights, protections, and responsibilities automatically granted to married heterosexual couples.

It's a slap in the face to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to take up the debate on whether to give people who are in this country illegally additional rights when we haven't even given the people who are here legally all of their rights.

If we're going to hold 24-hour Senate sessions using taxpayers' dollars, let those sessions be used to come up with a comprehensive plan that allows America's same-gender-loving stakeholders to have the opportunity to have the right to make decisions on a partner's behalf in a medical emergency or the right to receive family-related Social Security benefits.
It is not a slap in the face to recognize that this country hasn't dealt with these workers, who toil at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, picking the fruits and vegetables we eat, mowing lawns, cleaning homes, building houses -- doing work that no citizen can do (note I didn't say willing to do), because employers cannot exploit U.S. citizens as they do undocumented workers. The underground economy pulls wages down for all workers in this sphere, and that's the way these employers -- and the government -- like it.

I usually find Jasmyne's take on race and politics, particularly regarding tensions between the religious black community and gay people of color enlightening and clarifying; this column seems misguided, simply blind to the effect of the negativity it engenders -- for no good reason.
Immigration reform needs to get in line behind the LGBT civil rights movement, which has not yet realized all of its goals.

Which is not to say that I don't recognize the plight of illegal immigrants. I do. But I didn't break the law to come into this country. This country broke the law by not recognizing and bestowing upon me my full rights as a citizen. As a black lesbian I find it hard to jump on the immigration reform bandwagon when my own bandwagon hasn't even left the barn.
I understand her frustration; watching the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers and supporters around the country today illustrates that critical mass matters. These immigrants are no longer in the shadows and the White House and the Hill are apoplectic. Who wouldn't be when this problem has not been dealt with for decades -- and it blows up on their watch threatening to split their political party, one that has built its base on homophobia, racism and social injustice.

The fact that LGBT citizens and other citizen minorities cannot possibly create the same tidal wave of visible activism that we have seen over the last couple of weeks is just a fact of life. Movements don't form on a schedule.

It does not mean there isn't the passion or effective activism or support for LGBT or black civil rights; we are watching a new movement taking shape, forming and realizing its power. We should be building bridges, not burning them, but that, sadly, is what Jasmyne appears to be doing.
President Bush wants a comprehensive guest worker program.

With all due respect, Mr. President, there can be no guest worker program until we resolve the issue of making sure that all lesbian and gay legal workers have the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work to care for a seriously ill partner or parent of a partner and the right to purchase continued health coverage for a domestic partner after the loss of a job.
Our economy at present is dependent on the backs of this particular group of immigrants to a frightening degree now realized in full flower, and we have a president offering up a plan to ensure that these immigrants work in a defined second-class status, able to be exploited legally. This is not right.

Our elected officials have been mute about the matter until now, and have never been held accountable by voters to solve the problem because we too were participating in the don't ask/don't tell charade of supporting the underground economy grinding along on undocumented labor - gay, straight, all races, rich, poor and middle class.

While I support legal immigration and efforts to enforce the laws of the land, the reality is that we cannot simply round up all these people and send them to their homeland. Once the anti-immigrant folks finally get this through their heads, maybe we can have a sane discussion.

Does any of this rigamarole mean gay rights are any less important? No. But what if you are a gay U.S. citizen involved with an immigrant who could be deported at any time? That's the plight of many gay couples as well, how does this fit into Jasmyne's equation?

Kate and I were thinking about this issue and we both noted that you could compare civil unions and Bush's guest worker BS as analogous. Both are simply poor, diluted offerings to the respective groups that cannot and will not provide the benefits of marriage/citizenship. What these mechanisms are intended to do is to placate the groups, and to institutionalize second-class status, making it infinitely harder to achieve full equality.

There are too many simply gray areas here to begin pitting one disenfranchised group against another when the stakes are so high for both.

What echos in my mind as I read the commentary is how myopic it is when we look at the countless posts on Jasmyne's blog and of course here on the Blend about the black civil rights leaders who have turned their backs on black gays and lesbians. These so-called leaders of the black community are bellying up to the faith-based trough, cozying up to Dobsons, Sheldons and the other AmTaliban leaders who would have likely justified segregation a couple of decades ago. They embrace bigotry in the name of protecting marriage, vilify the gay parishioners from the pulpit, and rightfully earned the scorn of Jasmyne in her writing.

Civil rights is not a zero-sum game -- something I've said about the black homophobes who want to deny LGBT people civil equality. I wonder how and why this relevance of this point has been lost in the obvious thought Jasmyne put into the Advocate essay.

***

An open letter from queer people of color responding to Jasmyne Cannick's column makes several cogent points. A snippet:
And we ask those who share the destructive views of this article to remember the immortal words of Audre Lorde when she said that "There is no hierarchy of oppression�. We reject any attempts to pit the struggle of multiple communities against each other and firmly believe that "Rights" are not in limited supply. We condemn the "scarcity of rights" perspective espoused by Cannick and other members of the LGBT movement, and are surprised to see members of our community trafficking in such ugliness. But then, one reason why it has always been so hard to shift power in this country is because the ruling class has successfully made us believe that there are only a few deserving groups to whom rights can be given. This strategy has always been used to divide oppressed groups from coming together to work in coalition.

We are painfully aware that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities still lack many basic protections under the law in this country, including the right to care for and support all of our families, in the various ways in which we construct family and kinship. Nevertheless, supporting immigrant rights, while we continue to work for LGBT liberation, does nothing to hurt our cause. In fact, we believe the opposite to be true, and want to work towards building powerful coalitions between immigrant and LGBT movements to work together for social justice.

We are also aware that many immigrant right advocates have (intentionally or not) used anti-black rhetoric to move their agenda forward. Arguments such as "Don't treat us like "criminals'" or "We are doing work that "other' Americans won't do" have the effect of positioning immigrant narratives as subtly juxtaposed with American stereotypes of non-immigrant black communities. They leave native-born black Americans as among the only people who do not have access to the immigrant narrative, and so are in a permanent position of subordination, as the state consistently negotiates and redefines citizenship and "American-ness" for almost everyone but blacks. Nevertheless, the solution to this problem is not to abandon support for the struggle of immigrant communities. Rather, we call on immigrant movements and (non-immigrant) black organizations to work together for real racial and economic justice in this country. Together these movements can work to end the exploitation and targeting of both communities, and to ensure that black folks and immigrants do not end up having to choose between competing for low-paying jobs, or being targeted for detainment or imprisonment.
This is a heavy topic, and one that quite frankly, makes me sad. The real enemy is the Right, and they relish in watching circular firing squads of this nature, because they are so raw.

I hope that those in conflict can find common ground.

***

A recent WaPo article illustrates why these undocumented immigrants, a group that the conservative evangelical movement has actively courted, need to be reminded that when it comes down to it, the AmTaliban will throw them under the bus to serve its own agenda and base. They are, as I said, the real enemy here.
Some predominantly white evangelical groups, such as the Christian Coalition and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, have strongly opposed the Kennedy-McCain bill, labeling it an "amnesty" package. They support a House-passed measure that would concentrate on sealing U.S. borders and enforcing existing immigration laws.

"We think our national boundaries should be respected. That's a biblical principle also," said Christian Coalition lobbyist Jim Backlin.

Many larger groups, such as James C. Dobson's Colorado-based Focus on the Family, have not taken a stand on the issue. Rodriguez, of the Hispanic Christian conference, said his group wants to know why.

"We need to know from white evangelical leaders why did they not support comprehensive immigration reform, why they came down in favor exclusively of enforcement, without any mention of the compassionate side, without any mention of the Christian moral imperatives," he said.

"So down the road, when the white evangelical community calls us and says, 'We want to partner with you on marriage, we want to partner on family issues,' my first question will be: 'Where were you when 12 million of our brothers and sisters were about to be deported and 12 million families disenfranchised?' "
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Will: Why McCain might be it

by Pam

Columnist George Will has started up a suck-McCain-off-for-2008 campaign, with a fawning commentary this week. His thesis is that McCain is doing what it takes to land the Rethug nom, and that it's all the media's fault for pointing out the Arizona senator's conflicting opinions and cozying to the right. McCain's no tool, according to Will -- just a canny pol.


He has been unmasked as a "pro-life, pro-family, fiscal conservative." Those words are his, and are a reasonably accurate self-description of the man who voted against the prescription drug entitlement and the most recent transportation bill because of their costs.

...St. John of Arizona can seem insufferably certain that he has cornered the market on incorruptibility. So as he begins trying to assemble a presidential majority, he seems, as anyone trying to do that will, like a run-of-the-mill sinner.

But his quest for the Republicans' 2008 nomination was bound to require tactics inconsistent with his carefully cultivated reputation for unexampled authenticity. He has endorsed teaching "intelligent design" theory in schools, and has sought a detente with Jerry Falwell, one of "the agents of intolerance" he denounced in 2000. But who has ever assembled a presidential constituency without endorsing positions formerly avoided or compromising positions formerly endorsed?

...But to those Republicans who turn out to pick presidential nominees, one electoral consideration could trump ideological aversions: California. Ken Khachigian, a veteran of Ronald Reagan's White House, is a California Republican strategist who in 2000 was a senior adviser to McCain's campaign. Khachigian says McCain could "put California in play." McCain might be the only conceivable Republican nominee who could.

To put California in play is not the same thing as carrying it. But carrying it is not necessary to significantly improve a GOP nominee's national chances. If the nomination of McCain could force the Democratic nominee to spend a number of days and, say, $30 million to secure California's 55 electoral votes, those days and dollars could not be spent in Ohio, Florida and other battleground states.

This November could produce what McCain could use - grim election returns for Republicans. If on Nov. 8 Republicans are reeling and a re-elected Hillary Clinton is rampant, hitherto unenthralled Republicans might suddenly consider McCain as virtuous as he considers himself. For the politically nervous, "virtuous" is a synonym for "electable."
So, all of The Tool's notorious recent flip-flopping on issues as he sucks up to the right is now considered a good tactic? Tell that to Kerry, who suffered from the eternal damnation of the perceived flip-flop from the wingers in 2004. Please.

The easy way to counteract his alleged electability is to expose the obvious early and often:


Get a room, already. via Mike Tidmus.

Shakes Sis said it best:
On McCain's slavish devotion to Dear Leader: [P]erhaps McCain is actually a Real Doll, as it occurs to me that the owners of Real Dolls and the Bush administration have approximately the same needs-loyalty, compliance, someone who looks real enough but doesn't ask too many questions, a realistic body with no brain to help convey one's basest urges. And I don't think McCain is the only Real Doll floating around the Beltway. He's certainly not the only GOP hack willing to get repeatedly fucked while never saying a word.
But have no fear. We on the left don't have to go it alone in destroying The Tool. It looks like our knuckle-draggers in the swamps of Freeperland are doing a fine job of slagging McCain...

Actual Freeper Quotes™

Why McCain might be it

Only if the "it" was how Hillary ended elected President.

Anyone but McCain. Oh yea and Mitt Romney too...

McQuig would be the worst possible candidate to run against Hitlery. He is a RINO of the first order who has done everything possible to limit free speech with his moronic McCain-Feingold legislation. He is a true Manchurian candidate who has NO business at the head of the most powerful nation on earth. A leopard cannot change it's spots. McQuig can bark and howl about what a conservative he is to the media and anyone who will listen. Those of us who have watched himknow the real truth.

if he get the nomination, I'm not voting, and I'll be encouraging others not to vote either.....regardless of if Hillary is nominated or not.

The headline left out an "sh" in front of "it".

No they didn't. It's the 'it', as in 'it's full of it'

You know Romney and Rudy are bad by the fact, that McCain can actually run to the right of them and Romney and Rudy are probably the only 2 guys in the country who could make McCain look like a real conservative.

McCain would beat Hillary in an electoral rout not seen since 1984. The fact is we can do much better.

NO to McLAME!

McCain is not just a Rino, he is also literally insane. He has already openly attack first amendment rights, if he became Peesident, he would do more damage to the U.S. than the Clintons did in their eight years in the White House.

Let's not forget his views on illegal immigration - the McKennedy amnesty is his doing.

I wouldn't vote for him for all the mexicans in the US.

If it's Hillary he's running against, I'll be dragging everyone I can to vote for him.

"McCain .... is a conservative Republican. "

ROTFL -- I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Just look at his voting record. He recently authored and sponsored the "terrorist protection" bill, that doesn't sound like something a conservative Republican would do. Not to mention all his other votes that were not only NOT "conservative Republican", but there were opposite of the votes of the Republican majority.

Frankly, I don't disagree with much of what McCain has to say. However, the man is nuts. He scares me.

Thanks for the reminder. This guy is arguably more dangerious than Hillary.

"McCain would beat Hillary in an electoral rout not seen since 1984."

Only if he is running on a Democratic ticket; on a Republican ticket he would be an excellent reason to go play golf on election day.

george Allen will be the GOP nominee ! Bank on it !

Allen is a marshmallow. "Jet Puffed" is not presidential timber.

You are entitled to your baseless opinion.


26 posted on 04/10/2006 12:31:07 AM PDT by Old Seadog (Inside every old person is a young person saying "WTF happened?".)

If the McCainiac is it, it will be without this child, no more will I vote for the lesser evil. Depending on who is on the opposing ticket, McCain may be the greater evil.

Not my favorite, and I wouldn't vote for him in the Primary. If it came down to him against Hillary, or Feingold against Hillary, well most any Dem, I would vote for McPain. He could never do as much home to this country as a Liberal.

Fortunately, the Republican nominee is chosen by Republican primary voters, not by insufferable Beltway swishes like George Will.

He has endorsed teaching "intelligent design" theory in schools... I already rather much detested McCain, but pigs will fly through a blizzard in hell before I'd vote for him now.

I don't "hate" McCain, but I sure would never vote for him. It isn't a matter of hate, it's just that I can't stand him. As soon as I see him, I get angry. That's all it takes. Especially after seeing him up there with Ted fat head Kennedy on the amnesty thing. I can't say "that was the last straw", because the last straw was a long time ago. Let's just say, after seeing him up there the other day with fat-head, "that was the last, last straw". I don't care what the "polls say" ... he has about as much chance of getting the nomination as Lindsey (Lindsay? - what's his name?) Graham-cracker (or whatever his name is - he was up there too, with fat-head). What happened to Rudy? He isn't running? God knows where this thing is going, but I like George Allen of Virginia.

If NovoCaine can get past the primaries I can see him comfortably winning the General election against any Democrat. That is unless the base deserts him in November. But then we are not letting him get past the primaries, so McPain can forget it.

He comes off as a wack job even if we agree 100% !

Absolutely not. I would never vote for anyone that to my knowledge supports teaching "intelligent design" as if it were science. ID is not science and science education in America has enough problems without teaching mysticism and philosophy as if they're science. Who knows what future scientist's achievements could potentially get aborted by teaching him unscientific nonsense as if it were science??

The only way a RINO like McCain gets my vote is if he's got a gun to my head. I'd rather 'waste' my vote on a third party conservative than REALLY waste my vote on an insane nutbag like him.

And for anyone still remotely considering that dirtbag--Senator Keating Five McCain, lately Mr. "Campaign Reform," didn't vote against the 'bridge to nowhere' when he could have stood tall against pork and had it COUNT instead of grandstanding.
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Special Graphic Post:
A Note on Infant Mortality Rates

by Dark Wraith

The graphic below is derived from estimates as of March 29, 2006, provided by the CIA World Factbook. The depiction below is for the 50 nations with the lowest infant mortality rates, and the numbers represent deaths per thousand live births. Readers are encouraged to scroll down this large graphic and review the rankings of nations, noting anything of particular interest in those rankings.



The Dark Wraith invites careful consideration of the implications.


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


Boobage and the governor's race in Alabama

by Pam

The governor's race in Alabama sure is getting interesting. The Libertarian Party has selected Loretta Nall as its candidate and she's getting a lot of attention, and surprise, it's not all about the issues. Gee...


Her slogan is Vote Nall Y'all...It's Just Common Sense.This is a race with the disgraced, de-benched judge Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore in it, and former governor Don Siegelman, who is being tried on racketeering charges). Kathy at Birmingham Blues notes:
Her platform includes support for initiative & referendum, drug policy and prison reform, tax cuts for private and home school families, repealing sales tax on food, non-compliance with the Patriot and REAL ID Acts, calling for Alabama National Guard troops to be brought home from Iraq, separation of religion and government, legal lottery and casino gambling run by private enterprise, and the promotion and development of alternative fuel sources so that Alabama can begin to decrease its dependence on foreign oil.

I'm happy that the people of Alabama can choose between three candidates who didn't end up fired or indicted based on their performance in previous government positions. It's also good to have an outspoken woman in the race.
Nall is a woman who isn't afraid (in the bible belt) to put the link "Boobs & Panties....Who Knew??" right up on her campaign web site. That's refreshing.

If you're wondering about the whole booby thing, the well-endowed gubernatorial candidate had to put up with two guys named Bob who are fixated on Ms. Nall's breasticles -- and not even nude ones -- it doesn't take much in God's country.

Bob #1 , editor of the The Montgomery Independent, Bob Martin, selected a picture of Ms. Nall that showed some cleavage. Here's the boobage that shocked Bob #2, columnist Bob Ingram, in whose column the photo ran:



Here's Ingram's reaction after this shot ran:
Allow me to express a personal note of appreciation to Bob Martin, the editor of this newspaper, for finding a picture of gubernatorial candidate Loretta Nall to run with my column last week. I am sure it attracted a lot of readers.

In 55 years of political writing, that was a first for me—-a picture in my column of a woman displaying cleavage. I can only hope that my mother...and I know for a fact where she ended in the after life...didn’t see that column. She wouldn’t have approved of that picture.
Nall, in turn, sent both Bobs a fabulous letter on the matter. A snippet (and you have to go read the whole thing).
Earlier this week it came to my attention that you had supplied a photo of me for use in Mr. Bob Ingram's column. While I missed the first column I happened to catch the second one containing Mr. Ingram's apparent surprise at discovering the fact that I have breasts. GASP!

...It was quite shocking to me to see my breasts being discussed in the context of my gubernatorial election campaign and by a highly respected political columnist. Why, I'm even thinking of changing my campaign slogan to "Less Bob....More Boob!"

I stopped by your office yesterday morning in hopes of discussing this matter with you in person but you were not in yet. I purchased a copy of the paper to see what all the uproar was about and discovered the photo you had used was from at least two years ago and on a website that has nothing to do with my campaign.

While I am in no way ashamed of the photo, a little cleavage never hurt anyone after all, I have to question your decisions of not contacting me for a photo and using information from a website other than my campaign website, which is located at http://www.nallforgovernor.com .

I also question why you chose that particular photo out of about 200 available on the internet, many of which were more suitable for the political nature of the article in which the photo appeared. It doesn't seem to be a decision that a person of your journalistic credibility and background would make.

On the up side, my web traffic has been through the roof....I guess nothing drives people to website quite like a shot at seeing some high profile boobies. If nothing else, you have secured me the "horny guy" vote that exists among your readers.
Nall, btw, has worked out the whole shebang with editor Bob Martin, and she posts an update here, where she said: "I'll drop you a yard sign by when I am in Montgomery later this week. Would you like your sign with or without cleavage? :)"

***

After all the skyrocketing traffic to her site, Nall also posted this as an update "to help a sister out" -- go girl:
If you are reading this blog and the stories about the boobies and panties made you laugh then make a $1 contribution to my campaign.

If everyone reading over the last two weeks had contributed $1 then I would have enough money to finance ballot access and the rest of my entire campaign for Governor of Alabama. It really is that simple.
Women of ample cleavage must stick together; the assumption that boobs=stupid, boobs=slut or boobs=return to mommy's teat surfaces all too quickly -- and openly -- as we see here in completely inappropriate, irrelevant ways. Are "the twins" always what matters first to these folks?

Yet another reason why breast reductions are so popular.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Fighting Back

by TheGreenKnight

The Free Press (Ohio) reports:
More than fifty Columbus-area clergy have signed formal complaints with the Internal Revenue Service demanding an investigation of the practices of two extremist [right-wing] churches in regards to their tax exempt status.

The two documents charge that the World Harvest Church and Fairfield Christian Church have functioned as de facto campaign organizations for the gubernatorial campaign of J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio’s GOP Secretary of State....

Thirty-one pastors filed a preliminary complaint on January 16. The sequel, with an additional 25 signatories, accuses World Harvest and Fairfield Christian of six instances of illegally aiding Blackwell’s current campaign for governor....

World Harvest gained notoriety in the 2004 election.... A polling station at a Falwell-related fundamentalist church in nearby Gahanna became infamous when 4,258 votes were counted for George W. Bush in a precinct where 638 people voted. This became known worldwide as the “loaves and fishes” vote count precinct.
The right-wingers' reaction to the charges against them is just priceless:
“For ... members of the clergy, to engage in outright falsehoods for the sake of a political agenda is unconscionable.”
Write your own joke.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Analysis:
Currencies of War

by Dark Wraith

The recent relative quiet among the nations of the West concerning Iran's on-going nuclear program should be no comfort to those hoping that a war with Iran will be averted. The United States is, to some extent, a peripheral player for the time being in the on-going negotiations, despite the public statements of Bush Administration officials trying to demonstrate the vital activity of the U.S. in the negotiations between the European Group of Three nations and Iran. The United States will play no small role in the coming months, but its most important function will be as the effective guarantor of military firepower. To this end, the United States has recently begun a typical propaganda campaign predicating war: it has released to the media descriptions of new weaponry, with the media's compliance intended to inform Iran of new destructive capabilities the U.S. will bring to bear in a war. Specifically, the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post, among other media outlets, featured descriptions of an up-coming prototype test of a massive chemical bomb called "Divine Strake." Detonation of a MOAB, from Pentagon videoAs a conventional alternative to a nuclear "bunker buster," the purpose of releasing information about the bomb was to let Iran know that its underground research and development facilities are destructible even in the event that an attack on them uses no nuclear bombs, which might otherwise be the only means by which hardened, underground facilities could be severely compromised. This use of information to warn an actual or potential enemy has a long history, with an example from the recent past being the Massive Air Ordnance Blast (MOAB) bomb the Pentagon presented to the media on the eve of the U.S. attack on Iraq in mid-March of 2003. Neither MOAB nor the Divine Strake exists in isolation, of course, but rather within a vast arsenal inventory. Detonated above ground level, the Massive Air Ordnance Blast weapon is a hugely powerful bomb that creates destruction by depleting a large area beneath it of oxygen as it uses atmospheric resources within its detonation shell. Divine Strake is the ground penetrator complement, offering a conventional weapons option to destroy hardened facilities beneath the surface. The extent to which either of these two weapons is particularly effective is not as important as the extent to which an enemy believes they pose unacceptable risk of catastrophic damage in a military confrontation.

Each of these two weapons has been described publicly for a propaganda purpose; the descriptions of their destructive power are to the end of marketing a target audience: in the case of MOAB, the Iraqis were served notice of a weapon that would effectively and nearly instantaneously eliminate any concentrated defensive position of infantry and mechanized units; in the case now of Divine Strake, the Iranians are being served notice that the American (and, therefore, any alliance forces) arsenal now includes a weapon that can destroy their hardened, underground nuclear research and development facilities. To the latter audience, then, Divine Strake lowers the threshold at which attack becomes viable: up until now, it was presumed by many that an attack capable of degrading those facilities would necessarily entail the use of nuclear weapons to penetrate and destroy the underground bunkers, but the possible need to use nuclear weapons in the attack was, in itself, a deterrent to the attack. Now, however, the Pentagon is letting the Iranians know that nukes will not necessarily be required, which means the resistance by allied forces to an aggressive attack against Iran on the grounds that it would require the use of nuclear weapons is no longer a show-stopper.

Radar-evading Fajr-3Iran, for its own part, has engaged the same war of images and rhetoric. Just-completed war games by the Revolutionary Guards featured photos and glowing descriptions of the success of a number of new weapons ostensibly built in its own defense industry, which was developed as a result of its 1980s war with Iraq. Among the weapons featured during the games was a high-speed torpedo the Iranians call "Hoot"Chinese-built Silkworm missile: such a torpedo signals not only the West but the entire world that Iran intends to menace the vital oil tanker traffic in the Strait of Hormuz should war break out between Tehran and any Western alliance. This torpedo would complement the Iranian arsenal of Chinese-made Silkworm missiles already poised to destroy maritime traffic, military or civilian, in the Strait.Iranian land-to-sea Kowsar missile Among other new weapons touted by the Iranians during the war games were the radar-evading, multiple-independently-targetable warhead Fajr-3, and the medium-range land-to-sea Kowsar missile, along with yet another apparently improved version of the Shahab 3, a delivery vehicle in developmental transition from a regional danger to a missile that could possibly throw nuclear payloads into European capitols, putting it into the Mark IV class and putting Iran on the map of only a handful of nations that could project destructive force extra-regionally.

But despite the representations in the Iranian media that the nation's arsenal now includes weapons that can not only deliver considerable firepower but do so with sophisticated radar-evasion and counter-measures technology, there is no evidence that Tehran can test the capabilities of its devices with anything other than its own, possibly weak defenses, radar, and counter-measures, which leaves the nations planning attack with little reason to alter a course that might already be set for war despite any concessions Iran might make or that its supporters, Russia and China, might offer in guarantees on the Persian nation's behalf with regard to the non-weapons nature of its nuclear research and development program.

This is not to say that Iran will be as easy to overrun as Iraq turned out to be: Iran has a far more developed military capability that has been unhampered by the crippling sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Persian Gulf War. Aside from the possibility of brutal infantry and artillery warfare, Iran's new weapons systems could very well cause significant damage to military assets of the attacking nations. The particular focus on missiles dedicated to maritime targets during demonstrations in Tehran's recent war games indicates that both military and civilian ships are at no small risk of destruction. Even the robust defense systems common on modern U.S. aircraft carriers and other warships can be overwhelmed by incoming fire, and this is particularly true if the advertised velocity of attacking torpedoes is in excess of 220 mph as Iran claims in the case of the Fajr-3. Moreover, whether or not land-to-land missiles in Tehran's arsenal are particularly accurate, using them against densely populated areas like the Green Zone in Baghdad or the center of Tel Aviv will result in large-scale property destruction and loss of life, even if—as could be the case—casualty rates among allied combatants remain relatively modest.

Having in the above exposition set forth a few of the many weaponry-related parameters facing the forces possibly preparing for an attack on Iran to the putative end of destroying its alleged nuclear weapons production program, this article finishes by addressing not why this war is so likely, but why it is not. The concern among some is that, because Iran has claimed that it will soon open an oil bourse of its own, and that contracts on this platform will be denominated in euros rather than dollars, the United States must necessarily attack Iran in order to prevent a major challenge to the pre-eminence of the American dollar as the denominating currency of choice in global trade. As a backdrop to this proposition, the fact that Saddam Hussein had made plans to start euro-denominating Iraqi oil contracts has led some to hold that the real reason the United States attacked Baghdad was to the end of preventing this from happening. Fueling current worries are articles such as one in late March published in Khaleej Times claiming that Arab nations like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are already in the process of unloading American dollars in favor of euros.

In and of itself, news like this isn't particularly significant. Its primary purpose is to affect the political climate in the United States: Khaleej Times, cited above, is a quasi-governmental news media source to some extent known for the occasional story intended to stir up sentiments about this issue or that matter of concern to the rulers in the United Arab Emirates. However, the current situations, both with respect to the prospect of war with Iran and with respect to the matter of the currency that will denominate international commodity contracts in the years to come, call for some reconsideration of the events that led up to the on-going war in Iraq.

Such a re-assessment must begin with how the denominating currency matter played as a motive for invading Iraq. Saddam Hussein's plan to begin denominating Iraqi oil contracts in euros instead of dollars was transparent; but the impact would not have been significant because Baghdad was selling oil only through the UN-sanctioned oil-for-food program, so Iraq's contribution to the world supply of oil being extracted and refined into usable fuel products was minimal. Saddam's Iraq was no longer the major petroleum supplier on the world stage that it once had been, so any level of contracts suddenly switching away from dollar valuation would have been fairly insignificant in the large scheme of international trade.

The shift would, nevertheless, have had some notable impact insofar as it would have opened a door for wider consideration of the euro as a denominating currency, especially for those disinterested in allowing the United States to have a technical hegemony merely by virtue of the central importance of its currency in global commodity trading. Realistically speaking, some "market basket" of currencies might be an ideal endpoint for many countries and companies in their global buying and selling arrangements, but as the standardized, globally accepted replacement for the U.S. dollar as the denominator, such a market basket valuation mechanism is still at least a few years (and probably more) away.

As international trade now stands in the here and now, the U.S. dollar is not the currency of choice because the United States is some big, nasty, schoolyard bully; it is instead the attractive currency because it is the powerhouse: the amount of dollar-valued contracts (and therefore, assets) across the globe is simply staggering. Both as a stock of value and as a medium of exchange, the greenback is light-years beyond any other currency on planet Earth. That's the reality, not some speculative claim.

The U.S. dollar is implicitly backed by a staggeringly massive, deep, long-standing government and a military umbrella second to none. The dollar is also backed by a nearly incalculable present value of future expected cash flows from American enterprise and labor; and of no insignificant importance, that dollar is backed by the indisputably most powerful engine of internal tax revenue generation and external war-making power the world has ever seen. The greenback has been around as a sign and symbol of the continuity of the United States in its sovereign status for scores of years. No currency on Earth can compare to it—not in level, not in depth of markets, not in assuredness that claims it represents on the central bank of the United States will be satisfied.

All of the above is not to wave some "We're Number One" flag. It's simply the reality, and it's a reality that the United States government is not alone in grasping fully. Any nation that would fancy otherwise does so at its own peril and at great threat to the currency it would pretend to the summit.

The Europeans are not stupid. Their halls of finance are staffed by some of the most brilliant, some of the savviest, some of the most cultured men and women the world has ever known. As great as the United States is in its fine moments, Europe is a continent of nations whose peoples have continuous legacies going back thousands of years. These are people who understand the great experiment now underway in the union of the European nations. The 21st Century will be better for a great counterbalancing force against the twin dynamics of the U.S. and China, as well as against and with the lesser but still important dynamics of emerging nations and economic trading regions. The series, "The 21st Century," sets forth some of the perils the European Union faces from the designs of the American neo-conservatives and the planners in the Pentagon. It remains the case that this union of the European nations can meet the challenges of dispiriting forces from abroad, but perhaps recent thoughts and concerns will in the end overwhelm optimism about and hope for Europe.

That caution being noted, with respect to their full understanding of how to conduct their respective and integrated portfolio of finance, though, the Europeans know very well that their new currency, the euro, is in no way, shape, or form up to handling the enormous, constant, day-in-day-out, year-in-year-out task of being the denominator in any large-scale global market: the euro hasn't been around nearly long enough; the understanding of what it really is will continue to evolve, particularly as new nations are added to the European Union and as the central bank more fully defines and asserts its role; and the sheer depth of value carried in the amounts of it in circulation just doesn't exist yet. And those factors will remain possibly for years if not a decade or more the combined and profound deterrent to using the euro as a perfect or even preferred substitute for the greenback in international trade. The euro just cannot of its own sovereign backing handle the massive currents of modern trading. It simply can't.

Neither, of course, can the yuan; and part of this is because the yuan has been used by the Communist Chinese Party as a toy for internal growth at the expense of other nations, most particularly the United States. Pumping yuan out in staggering amounts for years has done nothing to increase the depth of the yuan; in fact, it has had the opposite effect, and it's only a matter of time until that "miracle growth" of the Chinese economy (nearly 10% by some estimates) evaporates into a spiraling, destructive inflation that only the most draconian of Chinese central bank monetary policy regimes could bring under control. Astute analysts must be as unimpressed by China the miracle economy as by China the nascent bastion of Asian freedom: sustainable real growth and sustainable civil freedom remain illusions in China, despite hopes of naïve, post-Communist Era internationalists. The sinophiles of the West may very well come to be sorely disappointed by the outcomes of the great Chinese experiment in market reforms shallowly cast as the precursors to political and human rights reforms. In the final analysis, even setting aside the wasted prayer of burgeoning, democratic processes and open, liberal society in China, no international trading regime worth its salt would be interested in denominating anything important in yuan.

And no European finance minister in his or her right mind would be interested in having any major global commodity market use the euro as the denominating currency, either. Germany—the 800 hundred pound gorilla of finance in the EU—is rumored to have already told the Iranians to lay off this idea of a Tehran oil bourse running its show in euros; and this is no mere result of idle European aversion to the limelight or fear of offending the Americans: the euro in an Iranian oil bourse would put the European central bank front and center in a world well beyond its current capacity. The market for euros just isn't deep enough, and an entire oil trading circuit jumping up and down on such a fragile platform would put the European currency structure (and therefore the emerging, unified European economy) at great and unnecessary risk of effectively becoming a financial derivative hedging a wildly price-volatile commodity.

This does not mean some Arab nations will not make aggressive moves to switch from dollars to euros for at least some of their reserves and transactions. Following in the footsteps of Iran, which switched from dollars to euros in 2002, Syria recently announced that it was moving from denominating foreign currency transactions in dollars to euros, largely as a reaction to recent pressures placed upon it by the United Nations concerning political meddling in the affairs of Lebanon, pressures the leadership in Syria believe are the work of the United States acting on orders from regime-change advocates in Israel. Such moves to euros are in some ways symbolic, but even to the extent that they represent real change in the covenants of international contracts, they are minor when measured against the total value of all contracts forming and outstanding.

The Iranians are planning to do something no one wants them to do, just like Saddam before them. Although not the principal reason the American neo-conservatives are interested in the war, to the end of preventing a wholesale flight to euro denomination of inordinate numbers of commodity contracts, the Europeans are going to be on the bandwagon to bomb Iran back to Hell.

And they really are on that bandwagon. They have recently rejected without even summary consideration a six-point proposal passed by Tehran through the Russians, and they've been a willing conduit for "intelligence" information out of Tehran that has the heavy-handed smell of an Iranian dissident group (possibly connected in some way to the family of the former Shah) operating out of Paris.

This whole complicated situation raises the entirely disturbing possibility that the American neo-conservative warhawks who still infect the halls of power in Washington were not so all alone in their desire to invade Iraq back in 2003. It is entirely possible that there were forces within the European Union that were willing to tacitly go along with the invasion while presenting an exterior appearance of moral outrage for the consumption of domestic constituencies.

Worse, there is no reason to believe that the Europeans and their central bank are any more excited now about having the euro take the stage than they were three years ago.

Concerns deepen even more, though, as the long-standing power of the dollar becomes subject to more and more erosion, both materially and in the perception of the world at large. The new Chairman, Ben Bernanke, of the Federal Reserve behaves like some political shill with not a clue as to how to command respect in either global or domestic financial markets. Already, his official documents are getting well-deserved derision for their transparent political bias, and he appears to be unconcerned about the high-stakes danger his weakness of independent will could create for the international confidence in the dollar.

Should the global markets, because of the combination of inadequate individuals in the government and a Fed Chairman too much a political hack to do what needs to be done, truly lose confidence in the power, endurance, and long-term stability of the U.S. dollar, all bets are off—at least in the long run—on the dollar as the global denominating currency for the 21st Century; and should the dollar be abandoned, the alternatives will offer the safety of an illusion right before they, too, collapse just like the greenback from which traders jumped in absolute desperation.

Fortunately, wholesale abandonment of the dollar is a remote possibility. A war against Iran will ensure that remains the case, and this will not be because the American neo-conservatives are particularly concerned about such an event: they—the architects of this era of degraded American status in the world, huge and persistent federal budget deficits at home, and a progressively more menacing presence to both peoples of other countries and citizens of the United States—care only about control of resources, land, and ideas across the globe. Money is an incidental concern to those driven to power by the frightful demon of some sense of destiny. For the Europeans collaborating to agitate to yet another war, alliance with these neo-conservatives is a matter not of ideological compatibility so much as it is a situation of necessity if the EU is to emerge strong in both sovereignty and currency to confront both the United States and China on the battlefield of resource, land, and ideological control in the decades to come.

But although the motives may be different, the alliance of the United States and the European Union in this coming moment will nonetheless serve to bring more bloodshed and destruction to a century already born from the womb of nearly incalculable catastrophe and wholly wanton war.



The Dark Wraith has spoken.


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


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Healthcare in Massachusetts

by TheGreenKnight

I'm all for universal health care, but this is a dumb way to do it:
[A]s is often the case with these situations universal healthcare in the U.S. is very different from universal healthcare in Europe. In Europe it means that the government provides your healthcare. Period. In the U.S. it means that the government forces you to provide your own coverage. In fact, the bill "requires all Massachusetts residents to obtain health coverage by July 1, 2007."

And what about those individuals who don't comply? They will be penalized on their state income taxes.

But what about the employers who don't provide insurance for their employees? They will also be penalized. They'll have to pay a whopping $295 per employee. Per year. Considering that health insurance may cost an employer from several thousand dollars to over ten thousand dollars per employee, the choice would appear to be a real tough one.

Reality in Massachusetts is that the state already has some of the highest individual insurance costs because of consumer-friendly insurance laws which include provisions for no pre-existing conditions. That should be a good thing, but in the hands of the "free market" it simply results in high prices for everyone and the healthy staying out of the system, driving up the cost even more. So now, there's a cure for those healthy slackers who refuse to pay high insurance prices in MA; if they don't pay, they'll get a tax increase.

Meanwhile, no one is addressing the root of the problem, which is to control the outrageous administrative burden that health insurance companies cause our patients, physicians, and the entire health system....

There is one group of people celebrating today in Massachusetts. The extremely wealthy health insurance company executives.
It still amazes me that, of all the industrialized nations in the entire world, the United States is still the only one that can't figure out how to get all its people covered -- and that when a state tries, even stereotypically "liberal" Massachusetts, its approach is punitive and corporate.

All the USA would have to do, if it actually wanted to have universal coverage, is extend its already-existing Medicare program to cover everyone, not just seniors. Or adopt and adapt one of the many other models that work in countries around the world. This isn't rocket science. Nor is there anything hypothetical about it. It's already been tried, and the very successful results are already well known.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Religious Left, Again

by TheGreenKnight

Pretty good article in Slate by Steven Waldman, who points out that religious lefties made up about 40% of the Kerry vote in 2004. His analysis breaks religious lefties into five broad groups. I've renamed them a bit, because Waldman's labels are in my opinion a bit too breezy:

1. Progressive evangelicals: These would be people like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, and, I'd guess, Jimmy Carter. They care largely about economic justice.
2. Mainstream spiritual liberals:
This group is comprised of a large variety of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Buddhists, who believe in the environmentalist, anti-war, pro-feminist, pro-economic justice agenda of the mainstream American left. They include people like Cindy Sheehan, the National Council of Churches, and, well, me.
3. Ethnic religious liberals: These include Black Protestants, Hispanics, and Muslims, who tend to be relatively conservative on social issues but vote Democratic anyway on civil rights and economic issues.
4. Liberal Catholics: Vote Democratic and agree with almost the entire liberal worldview except for abortion (at least in some cases).
5. Religious Feminists: A relatively new group, but growing fast. Sees spirituality as an important component in the feminist worldview.

Of course, all such labels are simplifications, as Waldman knows, but this is a useful list as far as it goes.

The most striking thing, I think, is that this is, on the surface at least, a relatively disparate bunch of groups, some of whose major issues don't always overlap. Of course, that's true of any political coalition. But they do have important values and commitments in common, for example to economic justice, to peaceful resolutions of conflict when possible, to civil rights, and to the environment. These are issues that all of these groups can get on board with.

Issues where they differ, such as gay rights and abortion, need not be impasses. For example, even though group #3 may be dubious about, say, gay rights, they are also committed to civil rights. But of course, gay rights are civil rights, so ultimately there need not be a conflict at all. Similarly, group #4 has a stance on abortion that's different from much of the left. But of course, it's also true that most liberals do in fact want to reduce the number of abortions that happen, but by making them unneccessary rather than illegal; that's largely an economic justice issue, which, again, all of these groups are on board with.

In other words, what we've got here is your basic liberal coalition, whose issues are really no different from so-called secular liberals; it's just that this group is made up of people who see the world in personal or spiritual terms, not in purely materialist terms.

Waldman concludes by saying,
[A]fter years of being fractured and relatively impotent, the religious left now seems organized and energized. Where abortion and gay marriage threatened to divide them a few years ago, opposition to the Iraq war and immigration restrictions now unite them. This is not necessarily good news for secular liberals, who tend to think that all the religious mumbo-jumbo entails a dangerous mixing of church and state. But they may swallow their distaste if they think it will help them win elections.
And there has been, of course, a certain amount of mutual sniping by the so-called religious left and the so-called secular left. I've been guilty of such sniping, on occasion, myself. But it's a waste of time. After all, whether the world is best understood materialistically or spiritually is not a political issue; it's a philosophical one. It's not something Congress can decide anyway, and besides, none of us wants it to. The political aims of lefties, religious or secular, are pretty much the same across the board: again, economic justice, civil rights (which includes gay rights, women's rights, etc.), the environment, and a default position of non-violence when possible. Those are our goals; everything else, in the political realm at least, is just tactics -- and the dumbest possible tactic would be to fight amongst ourselves.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I Love Russ Feingold

by Shakespeare's Sister

Plain and simple:

"Gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry and have access to the same rights, privileges and benefits that straight couples currently enjoy." Feingold went on to add, "[This] kind of discrimination ... has no place in our laws, especially in a progressive state like Wisconsin. The time has come to end this discrimination and the politics of divisiveness that has become part of this issue."
No parsing. No punting. No squirming.

No states’ rights. No civil unions.

Gays should be able to marry.

Discrimination has no place in America.

I’m going to cry.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


One Time Only

by Shakespeare's Sister


Ted at State of the Day:

On Wednesday, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be:

01:02:03 04/05/06

That won't ever happen again.

Can we please place that sentence after "a reactionary law-breaking lying fear-mongering intolerant incompetent delusional corrupt insulated isolated compromised smirking chimp moron in The White House" as well? Pretty please? Pretty please with Democracy on top?

Good call. Also, let’s put it after “the GOP controlling all three branches of the government,” too.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)



Sex Tourism Thriving in Bible Belt

by Shakespeare's Sister

Charming:

In a sleazy hotel room, "Brittany," then aged 16 and drugged into oblivion, waited for the men to arrive. Her pimps sent as many as 17 clients an evening through the door.

A "john" could even pre-book the pretty young blonde for $1,000 a night, sometimes flying in and then flying out from a nearby airport.

None of this happened in Bangkok or Costa Rica, places that have become synonymous with sex tourism and underage sex.

It took place in Atlanta, the buckle of the U.S. Bible Belt, where the world's busiest passenger airport provides a cheaper, more convenient and safer underage sex destination for men seeking girls as young as 10.

"Men fly in, are met by pimps, have sex with a 14-year-old for lunch, and get home in time for dinner with the family," said Sanford Jones, the chief juvenile judge of Fulton County, Georgia.
Hmm…deviant and criminal sexuality, but with just a hint of consideration that compels drugging the victim out of her gourd so she doesn’t suffer during her gangrape. I smell compassionate conservatism!

The victim mentioned above is the same age as the victim in the recently discussed case in Illinois, in which the videotaped victim was passed out while she was gangraped and had vulgarities scrawled on her naked body with a marker. When her attackers were acquitted, there were plenty of people willing to assume that meant the rape never occurred, using another frustrating acquittal after a defense maligned a victim’s character to justify their belief that false charges are pervasive. Just her word—and a videotape—against theirs. What chance do these teens have for justice? They’re not even on video and are probably never conscious enough to gander at their rapists’ faces. Oh, well. Sucks to be a sex slave.

(Hat tip to Gordon. Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Scarborough Fare

by Shakespeare's Sister

You’ve really got to be somebody special to look across the American landscape, see the lunatic hatemongering of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, et al, and say, “You know what? I think I can take it a step further.” And Dr. Rick Scarborough is just that special kind of guy.

The founder of Vision America, which organized the War on Christians Conference, and author of Liberalism Kills Kids, Scarborough gave Tom DeLay one last delicious blowjob today, praising him as “a man of courage and commitment.”

"More than anyone in Washington, Tom DeLay fought our battles -- to end the horror of abortion, preserve the sanctity of marriage, rein-in a runaway judiciary and keep America one nation under God. We would be ingrates indeed if we did not take this occasion to express our appreciation for the contributions of this great man," Scarborough declared…

"Heroes come and go. The cause of returning America to its Judeo-Christian roots continues."
Scarborough also noted that DeLay is only being presumed guilty because he is a conservative Christian. It has nothing to do, of course, with the sordid little affair he’s been having for years with the now-convicted Jack Abramoff. (Who, by the way, is not a conservative Christian, but an Orthodox Jew.)

There seems to be a bit of a breakdown in communication over at Rightwing Noise Machine headquarters, though, because John at Blogenlust quotes Conservative Bullshit Artist Extraordinaire Hindrocket saying, sure sure, DeLay’s been railroaded by evil lefties, but the truth is, he’s been too liberal recently, anyhow.

Yes, you read that right. Tom DeLay: Too Liberal.

So, we’ve got one nutwit going on about how Tom DeLay is a liberal, and another nutwit who’s ready to canonize him, in spite of his book claiming Liberalism Kills Kids. Can Tom DeLay be both a man of courage and commitment and a liberal kid-killer?

My head is spinning. Come on, conservatives. The only thing you had worth envying was consistency of message, no matter how mind-numbingly absurd. If you lose that, you’ve lost it all.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


Neal Boortz 'apologizes'

by Pam

Here it is, from his web site:
AN APOLOGY


Talking about stepping in it!

Suddenly, for some people, the issue isn't Cynthia McKinney hitting a law enforcement officer and then screaming racism. Nope. The issue is what I had to say about her hair style. That's entirely fair --- to a point. Last Friday I said that that hairdo ... the wild and crazy every hair going in a different direction hairdo -- made her look like a ghetto slut. Know what? That was wrong. Bad wrong. That was overboard. I know Cynthia McKinney. I've know her for years. I intensely dislike her anti-American politics and her constant race baiting ... but on a personal level we've always gotten along just fine .. kidding each other ... needling each other. I remember her spotting me sitting in the House visitors gallery one day and yelling (with a smile on her face, by the way) "Neal Boortz! Who the hell let you in here?" I've known her father much longer than I've known her. I have said on the air several times this past week that I think that she has an endearing personality and a million-dollar smile.

That being said, I don't think that it was right to use the word "slut" in any description involving her or her hairdo. So ... my heartfelt apologies to Cynthia McKinney. I'll say it here, and I'll say it on the air on today. When I'm wrong I'll admit it with no hesitation.

Now this apology is going to mean absolutely nothing to those of you who consider every word ever uttered by someone-not-liberal to be "hate speech." This apology is going to mean nothing to those of you who consider every negative comment or criticism ever made of or about anybody-not-white to be "racism." Most of the people who have sent me some rather nasty emails in the last 24 hours know nothing about me except what they've read on some far-left websites. One listener from Saginaw, Michigan wrote to say that this apology indicates that I recognized my error and that I take responsibility for my words. He then wonders if it will be accepted. I am not concerned about whether or not it will be accepted. That's up to McKinney. I've said this because it's the way I feel. The apology, therefore, is for the millions of listeners who do know me and who were disappointed by my statement on Friday. Sorry I let you down.

Actually, I should be horsewhipped for saying something stupid that allowed, to some extent, the attention to shift from the wrongdoing of Cynthia McKinney to my ill-chosen words. The issue here is not how one would define Cynthia McKinney's hairstyle. The issue is whether or not Cynthia McKinney assaulted a law enforcement officer who was merely trying to do his sworn duty. Contrast, if you would, my apology with that of Cynthia McKinney. McKinney has only said that she "regrets" that the incident happened. That is not an apology. So far as I've heard there has not been one "I'm sorry." Instead, McKinney stages a news conference Friday afternoon featuring two of premiere Hollywood leftist jackasses, Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, two men fresh from their recent appearance giving aid and comfort to America-hater Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. So, there is Cynthia McKinney, standing there with two men who have said some mighty foul things about our country and our president, accusing a police officer of being a racist because he didn't recognize her when she circumvented a screening station. That man spends his days protecting McKinney and her colleagues; and she thanks him by calling him a racist for merely doing his job. Let's see if Cynthia can eventually stand up and apologize for being a fool. I just did. It really doesn't hurt all that much.
I'm glad to see that Boortz took responsibility for what he said; his racist and sexist comments were over the top. The above is about as good as you're going to see out of the man. He was doing fine on this missive aside from the hard-to-miss exception of blaming listeners for grabbing onto the inappropriate offensive statements about Rep. McKinney's hair instead of his interpretation of how she handled the Capitol Hill police officer incident:
"The issue here is not how one would define Cynthia McKinney's hairstyle. The issue is whether or not Cynthia McKinney assaulted a law enforcement officer who was merely trying to do his sworn duty."
That's the whole point, fool. You're the one who chose to make comments over the airwaves about McKinney that had nothing to do with the actual reason you were angry with her. You let your base racist instincts do the talking, and showed a complete ignorance of why the statements you made reached way deeper than a hairdo.

You did step in it, and it blew back on you, Neal. It was not irrelevant that he used the term "ghetto slut" and all the loaded connotations that came with it -- but to his credit he figured that bit of business out -- it took an avalanche of emails and calls to educate the man. And maybe it had something to do with the little FCC complaint effort as well.

As I said in my initial post on the matter, in the end, it's likely both McKinney and the Capitol police officer are in the wrong to some extent. McKinney's post-incident press conference undermined cases of blatant and extreme racism that people experience every day, and the cop didn't use the best judgment when interacting with her in that moment.

And yes, race always matters. The card gets played on both sides, and that's what everyone needs to acknowledge -- stop playing games with it -- and start an open discussion about how to overcome the problems that cascade from the lack of concern and understanding.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

The politics of hair - Neal Boortz edition

by Pam

I haven't blogged on this topic in ages, but every once in a while, something crops up that brings it front and center, though the deeper issues involved aren't usually addressed -- and so that's when I post about it again.

Let nationally syndicated radio bigot Neal Boortz show you how hair politics bullsh*t is done. He's talking about Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), and what is and isn't an acceptable assimilationist black hair style in his mind. (Media Matters):

BOORTZ: For instance, or for goodness sakes, jump in and I'm gonna say -- I'm gonna start out with something controversial. I saw Cynthia McKinney's new hair-do. Have you seen it, Belinda?
SKELTON: No.

BOORTZ: She looks like a ghetto slut.
SKELTON: Well, how is it?

BOORTZ: It's just -- it's hideous.
SKELTON: Is it braided? Or --


BOORTZ: No, it's not braided. It just flies away from her head in every conceivable direction. It looks like an explosion in a Brillo pad factory. It's just hideous. To me, that hairstyle just shows contempt for -- no, it's not an Afro. I mean, no, it just shows contempt for the position that she holds and the body that she serves in. And, I'm sorry, there's just no other way to -- it's just a hideous and horrible looking --

...MARSHALL: It looks better than the braids she was wearing.
BOORTZ: No, the braids had some dignity. They had some class.


MARSHALL: The braids had dignity?
BOORTZ: They had more class than this thing.

MARSHALL: This says, you know, kinda 2000s, you know, stepping up to the plate. Contemporary look, you know?
BOORTZ: She looks like Tina Turner peeing on an electric fence.
This bastard is a racist prick, and you know what? I bet he doesn't have a clue how or why he feels the way he does about her hair -- this sh*t is deep and internalized by Americans. It's a topic no one likes to talk about.


Just so you know, that new hairstyle McKinney is wearing is called a twist-out. I used to wear it that way on occasion before I decided to loc my hair. You can do a twist-out this with unaltered, kinky hair, or, if it's not too damaged, with relaxed hair. I can't really tell in her case. You can wrap it wet or damp around rods or in two-strand twists. Once dried you can take it out and shape it; no hair spray needed if your hair is in a natural state.

It's a fierce style - I don't think it's inappropriate for a member of Congress, though it might be non-conformist, which I think is one of the surface objections Boortz has to the style. McKinney's braids might have received the same scorn as this new 'do had she worn them out and loose, as opposed to pulled back, as women with straight hair do when they wear their hair in a bun. It's clear that the Hill has its unofficial, drab "dress code."

I would venture a guess that Boortz would have had serious problems with her conservative braid style a decade ago; braids were not considered conservative or acceptable on the job in many places, women of color (or to be more specific, women with kinky hair), if they wanted to succeed professionally (or often even keep their jobs), had to torture their hair and scalp with lye-laden relaxers to "tame" it to assume European styles -- the old good hair/bad hair beast rises again. It's as bad as the whole brown paper bag test of the black upper class.

The Freepers, I might add, show their racial moxie and affinity with Boortz with some choice quotes.

Actual Freeper Quotes™

"Listen to Sha-Nay-Nay....keep your cracker hands to your damn self."

I ain't birthin no babies!

She looks like she stuck her finger in an electrical socket.


OH TAY!

Did they use a Taser on her?

"Mrs.C don't take no jibba-jabba from no security guard fools!"

Don King's long lost daughter?

Good Lord. I'm surprised she doesn't get tackled every time she goes into a store.

Buchwheat LIVES!! When I saw the presser today, I had NO idea of who that crazy woman was....really....she looks so damn different!!....and NOT for the better!!

ONET, TRITE, TREE TIME A WADY.
Yes. Racism is dead.

From one of my earlier posts on this topic, a reason why McKinney's "hair defiance" is not about disrespect of her position, but a simple acknowledgment of "difference" and personal acceptance of her hair. That's threatening in ways that Boortz isn't conscious of, but it brings that visceral reaction you read right out there into the open.
The bottom line is that many black people are turning away from the chemical processes used to straighten kinky hair. Permanent chemical treatments, like perms, texturizers, alter the hair from its natural state. Sadly, the majority of black women don't even know what the texture of their hair actually is, because they have undergone the lye (and the lie) from the time they were young -- when they were told that kinky hair = bad hair. If they didn't get that relaxer as a young child, then they underwent the torture of the hot comb.



I was old enough to experience the "pleasure" of the thermal hot comb --you rested it over the gas flame of the stove to heat it up. Then the grease was carefully applied to your hair and that comb sizzled through the kinks till it was bone straight, hissing as you prayed the comb didn't touch your scalp -- inevitably you got scalp burns because the "stylist" f*cked up. [By the way, the "stylist" for most folks was usually a relative, but in my case, everyone in my family had straight hair, so my mom had to take me to a salon till she figured out what to do.]

Once the chemical relaxer came into vogue it was the same problem with a different twist, it became a watch-the-clock endeavor to see how long you could leave the vile-smelling chemicals on to achieve maximum straightness before your scalp started to peel, burn and get open sores. Anything for that damn straight hair.

Why would anyone do this? It can't be because it's fun or easy to maintain. Black women who wear their hair in straight styles obsess about it all the time. Don't let it get wet, humid or exercise too hard because if you do, it will "go back" at the least opportune moment. At this point and time, the problem is two-fold:

1) an internalized self-loathing passed down through the generations of being told your natural hair is a "problem" and "fixing" it by using such extreme measures is a means to assimilate into the dominant culture ... and

2) the dominant culture still has bigoted ideas about blacks and kinky hair that can profoundly affect the employment of, and treatment of people. This of course, means #1 will continue to occur.
So to Neal Boortz, this "ghetto queen" says "Vaffanculo."

***

UPDATE: I've not posted here about the police/McKinney incident because we don't have all the facts yet (there's apparently a videotape of the incident, which I haven't seen). Quite frankly, in the end, it's probably going to look like both sides are in the wrong to some extent. Yes, race probably is a factor, also on both sides (McKinney's post-incident posturing undermines cases of blatant and extreme racism that is still rampant in society).

Whatever the facts of the incident end up telling us, the fact that, Neal Boortz took the focus back squarely on her hair to denigrate her is both racist and sexist. Debating her behavior in the incident is one matter, but it's telling where the RepubliKKKan thinking goes.

Does this make McKinney's press conference race card bloviating justifiable? No. Does it mean the way she was treated has nothing to do with race? No. Is she being punished for deigning to think she should have been recognized? Maybe yes, maybe no. Was it presumptuous to think she should be recognized? I don't know.

I do know personally of a few high-minded folks (not of color), in one case a well-known academic who plays the "don't you know who I am?" card. I hate when someone uses that crap to get rules bent or to get off the hook for boorish behavior, particularly abusive acts toward people of a lower social standing than themselves (service workers, administrative staff).

It was a beautiful thing to hear that, on one occasion, the academic pulled that crap on a service worker and was told "No, I don't know who the f*ck you are and I don't care."

There is a controversial post by John @ Americablog on the McKinney incident with the cop, as well as a very hot thread of comments pro and con.

All I know is that it's too complicated an issue for easy answers or finger-pointing.

* My own hair journey is here.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.


Analysis:
Index Portfolio Performance during the Bush Administration to Date

by Dark Wraith

As of Friday, March 31, 2006, Republican George W. Bush had been President of the United States 1,896 days. Other than for a brief period in mid- to late-2001, when a Senate Republican became an Independent, both Houses of Congress have been controlled by the Republican Party to which Mr. Bush belongs. During this period, economic policy has been indisputably under the control of President Bush and his Republican Party in the federal legislature. Because of this absolute, one-Party control of the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States government, the Democrats have had no control over nor material say in the formulations of economic policies and the federal budgets arising therefrom. In particular, responsibility for the spiraling, year-over-year federal budget deficits that have hallmarked the reign of the Republicans rests squarely with the Republican Party, its legislators in Congress, and the policy-makers in the White House, including George W. Bush, himself.

The argument that the fiscal health of the public sector has faltered to the benefit of the private sector does not hold water. From the first day of trading, January 22, 2001, after President Bush became the 43rd President of the United States, until the last day of trading prior to the publication date of this article, the performance of the major stock markets—measured by the index portfolios of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard & Poor's 500, and the NASDAQ Composite—has been nothing short of a debacle, offering compelling testament to the real erosion of the capital stock of the nation as measured by the value of equity holdings in three broad-based portfolios formed from well-known indices.

January 22, 2001 was the first day of trading after Mr. Bush became President. Three major indices stood at the following levels at the close of trading on that day:

January 22, 2001, Index Closing Values
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,578.24
     Standard & Poor's 500: 1342.9
     NASDAQ Composite: 2757.91

At the close of trading on Friday, March 31, 2006, these same three averages stood at the following levels:

March 31, 2006, Index Closing Values
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: 11,109.31
     Standard & Poor's 500: 1294.83
     NASDAQ Composite: 2339.79

If an investor were to have formed a portfolio based upon each of these three indices and managed each portfolio in terms of composition and balance to mirror the relevant index, the investor would have earned the following total nominal returns on investment over the 1,894 days from January 22, 2001, to March 31, 2006:

Total Nominal Portfolio Returns over 1,894 Days
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: 5.02%
     Standard & Poor's 500: —3.58%
     NASDAQ Composite: —15.16%

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

Annualized Nominal Portfolio Returns over 1,894 Days
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: 0.95% per year
     Standard & Poor's 500: —0.70% per year
     NASDAQ Composite: —3.12% per year

The above are nominal (that is, "not corrected for inflation") results. Taking into account the erosion of purchasing power (that is, "the effect of inflation") on portfolio values over the holding period requires adjusting each of the current values to its equivalent value on January 22, 2001. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index data for January 2001, the CPI stood at 175.1, and for February 2006, the CPI stood at 198.7. The March 2006 figure can be estimated by various methods, and here, a conservative projection of 199.1 is derived from the three-month moving average of the CPI, implying a modest annualized inflation rate for the month just ended of 2.4 percent. The chart below shows the month-by-month annualized inflation rates for 2005 and 2006 to February, along with the attendant three-month moving averages.


Expressing the closing portfolio values as of Friday, March 31, 2006, in terms of their January 2001 purchasing power equivalents yields the following:

January 2001 Real Value Equivalents of March 31, 2006, Index Values
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: 9770.42
     Standard & Poor's 500: 1138.78
     NASDAQ Composite: 2057.80

The total real return on investment for each portfolio is then the quotient of the January 2001 index value when divided into the adjusted March 31, 2006, value:

Total Real Portfolio Returns
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: —12.05%
     Standard & Poor's 500: —15.20%
     NASDAQ Composite: —25.39%

Finally, expressing these real returns on an annualized (that is, "percentage return per year compounded") basis, the total real return results just presented are as following:

Annualized Real Portfolio Returns
     Dow Jones Industrial Average: —1.52% per year
     Standard & Poor's 500: —3.13% per year
     NASDAQ Composite: —5.49% per year

All of the results above are summarized in the following chart:


The total and annualized real returns to the selected portfolios are presented below in graphical form:

   

An investor forming a portfolio tracking the Dow Jones Industrial Average from the beginning of the Bush Administration in January of 2001 until March 31, 2006, would have suffered a loss in total real value of the portfolio of more than 12 percent, which is equivalent to a compounding rate of loss in purchasing power of the portfolio over the term of the Bush Administration of one-and-a-half percent per year; the investor forming a portfolio tracking the Standard & Poor's 500 over that period would have suffered a loss in total real value of the portfolio of more than 15 percent, which is equivalent to a compounding rate of loss in purchasing power of the portfolio over the term of the Bush Administration of more than three percent per year; and the investor forming a portfolio tracking the NASDAQ Composite index over that period would have suffered a loss in total real value of the portfolio of more than 25 percent, which is equivalent to a compounding rate of loss in purchasing power of the portfolio over the term of the Bush Administration of five-and-a-half percent per year.

From a well-balanced portfolio of the common stock of reasonably low-risk, very large public corporations to an equally well-balanced portfolio of the common stock of relatively riskier, small-cap public corporations, common stock—called equity—has offered significantly negative real returns during the tenure of the Bush Administration. The securities markets do not make political assessments based upon biases for one party or the other: billions of shares of stock trade each day, and the total value of these trades is an order of magnitude or more greater than this. Over the period of the past five-and-a-quarter years, the absolute control of the government by the Bush Administration and its Republican allies in Congress has been subject to an on-going, objective assessment by the securities markets of the United States, and the result to date of that assessment is that the American economy, as represented by the market values of stocks of large, medium, and small companies, has eroded undeniably and markedly.

Regardless of how large the nearly daily dose of good economic news the Bush Administration induces the mainstream media to repeat, the Administration can neither manipulate the stock market data, nor can it find a scapegoat for the broad-based, long-term depletion of private equity value its policies have caused. For the average American who contemplates retirement in part or in whole based upon investments made and held in the stock market over many years, the Bush Administration's record is nothing short of catastrophic in terms of the financial security for what will be generations of citizens in their retirement years. For most, however, the full realization of the value lost and the disrupted, nearly irreparable damage to future capital appreciation of their investments in the stock markets will come only after the era of the neo-conservatives has come to an end.

In that regard, then, the architects of this malfeasance visited upon the American people will be able to go to their own retirements relatively unscathed by the wrath of retirees of the future realizing as they will that their relative poverty in their declining years is directly attributable to the men and women of this early part of the 21st Century—men and women who will, themselves, live in fair comfort as those for whom they had such grave responsibilities suffer substantially in that degraded time to come.



The Dark Wraith in that grim future will offer unhelpful reminders to citizens as they pay the price for the folly of having trusted Republicans one too many times.



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


Funny or bigoted?

by Pam

Queer Beacon has a Dodge/Daimler Chrysler ad up that recently ran during Desperate Housewives.




In the ad, a fairy is flying around NYC, using her fairy dust to brighten up, "prettify" an elevated subway, then a building (above).


She sees the new Dodge vehicle and makes several attempts to, I don't know, make it more "cute", but her fairy dust is repelled by the manly, butch Dodge, including one blast that bounces the fairy onto the pavement (below).


An "average het Joe" is walking his "all-American" black Labrador, and sees what happens to the fairy, points at her and laughs, saying"You silly little fairy!"


So what does the fairy do as revenge for being teased? She turns him into Dodge's vision of a queer boy, complete with what looks like either foo-foo French poodles or Pomeranians (below).



In case you're wondering, since I ran the post on the anti-gay, hypocritical practices going on at BMW North America (it markets to gays, but doesn't have a same-sex spousal equivalent benefits policy for its employees), Dodge is actually noted by Gaywheels.com as a gay-friendly auto company.

My guess that the ad actually tries to play it both ways -- gay folks could find it an amusing jab at stereotypes, but it plays to the homo-bigoted stereotypes held by the red-meat Dodge het crowd at the same time.

Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend.