Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Examining theocracy in America

Ruth Conniff has an interesting column on it over at Progressive Magazine. It's a little thin though; I wished it were longer. Here are some highlights and money quotes:

The new theocrats make much of the fact that the actual words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the Constitution. (But then neither do the words "religious liberty" or "fair trial," counters Leo Pfeffer, as cited on the pro-separation home page cited above.) The framers' intent is very clear. The actual language about a wall of separation come from Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, written in 1802:

"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

For people who argue that just because (unlike the Iraqi constitution) the United States of America prohibits the imposition of a state religion, that doesn't mean our government is not meant to derive its ultimate legitimacy from God, there is Article VI, Section III:

". . . but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

The new theocrats like to invoke a kind of phony traditionalism, based on nostalgia, when they argue that the founding fathers support their own, revisionist idea of American history and America's place in the world. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this Administration is continually violating the founders' vision of America, whether it is taking war-making powers from Congress and improperly bestowing them on the President, spying on American citizens to thwart a vague and amorphous terrorist threat, chilling free speech with threatening language about national security, or declaring that America is a Christian nation with a mission to bring its philosophy, at gunpoint, to the rest of the world.

Article here.

Republican corruption on a State level: Tennessee

Goodness. The keys on my keyboard that spell "republican" and "corruption" are getting worn out. Intro:

MEMPHIS —State Rep. Chris Newton pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday and called for the end of the "corruptive influence of money in politics" — while a chorus of voices across the state grew louder in its calls for Newton to resign from office immediately.

The Republican from Cleveland, Tenn., admitted in federal court here that he was guilty of bribery and extortion, becoming the only one of five sitting or former state lawmakers to reverse his plea to guilty in the Operation Tennessee Waltz case.

Article here.

John Bolton - Diplomat. (and whore for the Corporate Agenda)

Editorial in the latimes:

AFTER A YEAR AND A HALF of studies and negotiations, the United Nations recently came up with a draft proposal calling for extensive internal reforms and world action against injustice, poverty and environmental catastrophe. Last week, soon after being appointed U.N. ambassador by President Bush, John Bolton may have sabotaged the entire effort.

Now that's getting things done.

Bolton has introduced hundreds of amendments to the 62-page draft, which is supposed to be signed by the leaders of 175 nations during the U.N.'s 60th anniversary summit starting Sept. 14. Other nations, notably Russia, also have objections to the draft proposal and have submitted their own amendments, but they haven't caused the same turmoil.

Bolton's amendments have been received like a wasp's nest at a picnic. Throughout the drafting process, a fragile consensus had been built; now everything may end up back on the table, and time is extremely short. A core group of 32 nations is scrambling to finalize a document by Friday, to be submitted to member states on Tuesday. U.N. diplomats fear that the only way to reach consensus will be to water down the draft until it is all but meaningless.

The original proposal spelled out internal U.N. reforms, such as creation of a new human rights panel that would exclude rights violators, as well as pledges of increased foreign aid, measures to combat climate change and calls for nuclear disarmament. Bolton's amendments focus on cutting references to international efforts the U.S. has opposed, such as the International Criminal Court, while strengthening sections on spreading democracy, freeing markets and fighting terrorism.

His most odious change was to delete all references to the Millennium Development Goals, which commit industrialized nations to cutting world poverty in half by 2015. Part of the deal was that rich countries would eventually contribute 0.7% of their gross national product to foreign aid. The goals were a world-changing burst of optimism from international leaders in 2000, a recognition that all people have the right to be free from misery, starvation and preventable disease and that those able to pay have some responsibility to alleviate needless suffering.

Most of Europe is moving closer to the 0.7% goal, but the United States has long lagged; last year it contributed 0.16% of national income to foreign aid. Bolton's amendments make it clear that the Bush administration would like to pretend the millennium agreement never happened. This is a slap in the face for the aid organizations and international donors that have been working for years toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals. But it's far worse than that for the Third World, where their abandonment would be a death sentence for millions.

And to think we were worried he'd be a bullying tool.

the Patriot Act vs. Individual Privacy

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fewer than half of Americans know the purpose of the Patriot Act, and the more they know about it the less they like it, according to a poll released Monday.

Fewer than half of those polled, 42 percent, are able to correctly identify the law's main purpose of enhancing surveillance procedures for federal law enforcement agencies, according to the poll conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut.

Almost two-thirds of all Americans, 64 percent, said they support the Patriot Act. But support dropped to 57 percent among those who could accurately identify the intent of the legislation.

The survey was intended to take a closer look at the high levels of public support the Patriot Act has gotten in various polls, said Samuel Best, the center's director.

''The Patriot Act has been a very visible piece of legislation,'' Best said. ''We wanted to see if people had an understanding of the act that differentiated it from the war on terrorism generally.''

''Most people don't distinguish the Patriot Act from the war on terror in general,'' Best said.

The House and Senate have voted to extend provisions of the Patriot Act that were set to expire at the end of this year, making many of those provisions permanent. A conference committee is scheduled to try this fall to work out differences in the House and Senate versions of the legislation.

Some provisions of the Patriot Act are supported by a solid majority, while others got far less support.

The provision that permitted federal agents:

--To use information collected in foreign intelligence investigations for domestic crime investigations was supported by 81 percent.

--To monitor names and addresses of Internet communications in criminal investigations was supported by 69 percent.

--To tap any telephone line a terrorist suspect might use rather than specifying particular phone lines was supported by 62 percent.

--To require libraries to turn over records in terrorism investigations unbeknownst to the patrons was supported by 53 percent.

--To require banks to turn over records to the government without judicial approval was supported by 43 percent.

--To conduct secret searches of Americans' homes without informing the occupants for an unspecified period of time was supported by 23 percent.

The popularity of the law seems to dwindle for measures that intrude into Americans' personal lives.

''Once people see these things hit increasingly close to home, they become more and more troubled,'' Best said.

Three-fourths said they think that law enforcement will frequently or occasionally use the law to investigate crimes other than terrorism. Almost as many, 72 percent, said they expect it will be used to investigate legitimate political and social groups. People are evenly divided on whether the law has prevented terrorist attacks.

While numerous polls have indicated widespread support for the Patriot Act, Best said his research suggests ''people are pretty torn on where they stand.''

The results are based on polling of 800 adults from Aug. 4-22 and have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The conservative blogospheres' (desperation) smear techniques

Evan Derkacz at AlterNet gives us one of many examples:

Someday, down the road, on a blog, overheard at a diner or maybe from some uncle telling a story, you'll hear: The Left wingers would come out and protest funerals, holding signs blaming the troops and dragging American flags... And it will be a lie.

Much as I'd love to, I can't really blame Blogs for Bush for it... yet. They did their bloggy duty and read the news report. Then they commented on it and... Alas, a blog post.

Here's the account of the recent funeral of Sgt. Jeremy Doyle in Martinsville, Indiana on the website of Indiana's WISH-TV:

"Emotions ran high for an army soldier's funeral in Martinsville Sunday."

"Sgt. Jeremy Doyle's sacrifice, brought many out to honor him but also sparked a standoff on a city street."

"People arriving to say goodbye to a hometown hero, met an altogether different scene in Martinsville. Demonstrators dragging American flags on the ground and holding signs opposing U. S. troops."

Sickening, isn't it? Protesting a funeral and intentionally provoking mourners. Except, the WISH-TV report left out some crucial information, leaving frothing right wing bloggers to gleefully assume that this was Left wing anti-war protesters.


These are the followers of the Church of "God Hates Fags," in Westboro, Kansas. How the WISH-TV report missed this rather spectacular facet of the story reeks of intentionality (and surprise! the CEO of LIN TV, which owns WISH, is one Gary R. Chapman, Republican...).

Okay, so shortly after midnight, 12:26 AM to be exact, Blogs for Bush picks up on it, squawking: "Is This What The Antiwar Left Consider Supporting The Troops?"

40 minutes later, a seemingly diligent commenter "CJ" notes that this is the church of crazies mentioned above and that: "With all due respect, these crazies are not from the 'left.' They are just plain nuts."

Until he finds out that Phelps is a registered Democrat, at which point his brain unhitches from the post and rides off into the sunset of stupidity.

Another commenter, "retnavy," notes that "this is immaterial," that he's just a loony. And here we are, 7-10 hours in, and the shoeshine boys at Blogs for Bush have left the post unchanged. It still identifies the Westboro loonies (whose ideology, let's face it, has much more in common with the homophobic right, than with the left...) as "The Antiwar Left." Let's see how long it takes them to change it. You can even go comment there if you like. [if they don't delete you--JR]

How do rumors get started? Just like this.

Quick question: How, exactly, do right wingers justify their anger at fantasies like this while sending hateful contingencies to go yell at a mourning mother camping out in Texas? Just curious.

UPDATE: So instead of taking down this mistake, BfB has adopted the technique of its namesake and "fixed the facts around the policy," as they say.

The writer of the post, Matt Margolis ("founder and editor" of BfB), writes:

"It may be a stretch to consider this group a member of the left wing... I've run into these people before. They protested Bush's inauguration, and I've seen them at a few other protests I've been to. Nevertheless, their actions are indistinguishable from that of Code Pink, who were protesting outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center..."

Which is itself another product of crappy journalism (that time it was Fox News). What kind of a tool considers people from the church of "God Hates Fags" who celebrate the deaths of soldiers as divine retribution for our societal failures at funerals to a vigil held by women who want the costs of war to simply be visible so we can face one of the truths of our policies? Or, better question: Who reads that crap?
(all emphasis mine)

All but the neo-cons on the far right are at the very least questioning the Bush and the GOP congress a little more these days, as the Right, cornered, realising that being in control of the government means you are (albeit belatedly) held responsible for the actions of the government (or lack thereof), are lashing out stronger than ever.

It's interesting to see, now and in the immediate future, how well the right-wing machine stays on (talking points) message while on the defense. Hurricane Katrina was a great chance for Bush to show us all a little of that Compassionate Conservatism, but he failed on that one (where's Karen Hughes when he needs her?). I would hazard to guess that his month in Crawford was going to be spent on preparing for the confirmation of Judge Roberts to SCOTUS. It's unfortunate that that whole "Presidenting" thing got in the way.

Ohio Absurdness

Looks like brad blog isn't the only one covering the oddities that occured in the election in Ohio in 2004, not by a long shot. I came across these:

Who needs one big conspiracy when several smaller ones do the trick?

It's the gays that caused the hurricane and subsequent disasters

and to a lesser extent the straights. Not the gulf stream, broken levees and low sea level.

It's about time someone in power took a stand

WASHINGTON -- A high-ranking Food and Drug Administration official resigned Wednesday in protest over the agency's refusal to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception.

Susan Wood, director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, announced her resignation in an e-mail to colleagues at the agency. The e-mail was released by contraception advocates.

The FDA last Friday postponed indefinitely its decision on whether to allow the morning-after pill, called Plan B, to be sold without a prescription. The agency said it was safe for adults to use without a doctor's guidance but was unable to decide how to keep it out of the hands of young teenagers without a prescription -- a decision contrary to the advice of its own scientific advisers.

"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," wrote Wood, who also was assistant commissioner for women's health. "The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health."

Plan B's maker has been trying for two years to begin nonprescription sales, and the FDA's latest postponement of its fate was a surprise: Commissioner Lester Crawford won Senate confirmation to take his job only after promising members of Congress to make a final decision by Sept. 1.

Anyone who thinks Science isn't under attack is kidding themselves.

*update* and then there's this. Highlights:

A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of
all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published.

Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.

but to name a few.

Judge Roberts on Individual Rights

It's a good read, too much good stuff to highlight.

hat tip daily kos.

You'd think they'd focus on activities that are -- you know -- illegal

When FBI supervisors in Miami met with new interim U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta last month, they wondered what the top enforcement priority for Acosta and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would be.

Would it be terrorism? Organized crime? Narcotics trafficking? Immigration? Or maybe public corruption?

The agents were stunned to learn that a top prosecutorial priority of Acosta and the Department of Justice was none of the above. Instead, Acosta told them, it’s obscenity. Not pornography involving children, but pornographic material featuring consenting adults.

Acosta’s stated goal of prosecuting distributors of adult porn has angered federal and local law enforcement officials, as well as prosecutors in his own office. They say there are far more important issues in a high-crime area like South Florida, which is an international hub at risk for terrorism, money laundering and other dangerous activities.

His own prosecutors have warned Acosta that prioritizing adult porn would reduce resources for prosecuting other crimes, including porn involving children. According to high-level sources who did not want to be identified, Acosta has assigned prosecutors porn cases over their objections.

via balloon juice

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Got Morals?


Peter Daou has written a very interesting piece today about how the left and right philosophically differ on Iraq. He points out the overlooked fact that the left views the war from a moral standpoint --- indeed, the left views our relationship with the world from a moral standpoint --- while the right sees both those things from a material standpoint. It seems obvious now that he's brought it up, but I've never actually thought about it quite that way before:

The right (broadly speaking) can’t fathom why the left is driven into fits of rage over every Abu Ghraib, every Gitmo, every secret rendition, every breach of civil liberties, every shifting rationale for war, every soldier and civilian killed in that war, every Bush platitude in support of it, every attempt to squelch dissent. They see the left's protestations as appeasement of a ruthless enemy. For the left (broadly speaking), America’s moral strength is of paramount importance; without it, all the brute force in the world won’t keep us safe, defeat our enemies, and preserve our role as the world’s moral leader.....

War hawks squeal about America-haters and traitors, heaping scorn on the so-called “blame America first" crowd, but they fail to comprehend that the left reserves the deepest disdain for those who squander our moral authority. The scars of a terrorist attack heal and we are sadder but stronger for having lived through it. When our moral leadership is compromised by people draped in the American flag, America is weakened. The loss of our moral compass leaves us rudderless, open to attacks on our character and our basic decency. And nothing makes our enemies prouder. They can't kill us all, but if they permanently stain our dignity, they've done irreparable harm to America.

I think this is an good way for liberals to think about our government and how the world works. And it can even be done in simple, common sense terms that may just resonate with those who wonder what it is we stand for. And aside from the fact that an amoral superpower is a country not worth living in and one that shames all of us who live within it, moral authority leads to material good as well. A great country behaving in an immoral way makes that country weaker, not stronger. Allies mistrust it and are reluctant to join forces. Enemies are emboldened, not cowed, because they see the country behaving in an almost desperate fashion and perceive that it is much weaker than it is. And when leaders of the most powerful country in the world leave the impression that they care nothing for the world's opinion, the world begins to see that country as a potential enemy instead of a friend.

People are naturally suspicious of power and because of that it behooves us to ensure that others can trust us and rely upon us behave morally and ethically. Breaking treaties, throwing off old friends and partners, ignoring our own constitution and the rule of of law creates an impression that the United States is unreliable, immoral and aggressive. It makes us less safe. Only shallow people think that our country can fight off the whole world. Only delusional people would want us to try. Our moral authority is not an impediment that we can or should toss off when it is inconvenient. It is an absolutely nevessary component of our national security.

We are in the middle of a great culture war in this country in which liberals are continually accused of being immoral and indecent by people who profess to hold strong religious beliefs. These morals, however, are almost exclusively confined to personal sexual matters and seem only to apply to the conduct of individuals in their private lives. They seem to have nothing to say about our government conducting itself without regard to morality whenever it is convenient. (Indeed, we have just witnessed one of the most prominent religious moralists in the country calling for our government to assassinate the leader of an oil rich country because it would save money.)

After the last election I read many pieces in which religious people advised that Democrats had to begin speaking in religious terms and appeal to voters on a moral basis. It was immediately assumed that this should be done in exactly the same way that the Republicans do, using their definition of morality. But I would suggest that we should make our own case for moral values --- as a government and a nation. It is there that we will find common ground among truly religious people and non-religious people of all stripes. And it is there that politics and morality are appropriately and necessarily linked in a free and democratic society.

If I had been polled after the last election I might very well have said that moral values were a primary reason for my vote. I found the conduct of this war deeply immoral. And I also believe that this immorality makes us less safe. If Democratic politicians want to run on restoring moral values in government they can count me in. I'm a proud member of that moral values crowd and I'll happily hold hands with any religious person who wants to join me.

(I forget who said it - I think it was billmon - but they're right: Digby's been on fire, all summer)

jumping into the Intelligent Design debate

I've been pondering what, if anything, to write about the current ID debate. There's an enormous amount of writing around the web on the subject already, and the various postings/replies/rebuttals/troll mongerings tend to go on for hundreds of posts and cover a wide range of intellectual and emotional vigor. In the end, I decided on the writings of Michael Stickings at the Moderate Voice. He doesn't attempt to provide an answer so much as he attempts to clarify the Question. I've duplicated his post in it's entirety:

As I mentioned recently (see here), Senator John McCain has come out in recent days in support of the teaching of (so-called) intelligent design alongside evolution in America's schools. In so doing, he has aligned himself with President Bush and (insert sarcasm here) no less an enlightened practitioner of modern medicine and defender of the scientific method than Senator Bill Frist — you know, the guy who "diagnosed" Terri Schiavo by videotape and then flip-flopped (over to the right side, thankfully) on stem-cell research.

Here's how Frist put it, as reported last week by AP: "I think today a pluralistic society should have access to a broad range of fact, of science, including faith… I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future." Bush himself argued (wrong choice of words, I realize) that including intelligent design in the science curriculum would help people "understand what the debate is about". In response, Howard Dean — doing what he should be doing (i.e., picking apart the opposition, not generalizing and name-calling) — declared that Bush is "anti-science".

Note what the proponents of intelligent design — here, the advocates of its inclusion alongside evolution and other scientific theories — are doing. They're arguing that all points of view, all possibilities, all claimants to the truth, even the most absurd, should be considered on an equal basis with one another. Since the truth itself is, it seems, largely indeterminate (except for ardent creationists, who must be willing to go along with intelligent design so as to sneak creationism back into the schools), various "truths" may be put on the table — and into the minds of our children. In short, they — right-wingers all — have become relativists.

What would Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind and the teacher of my teachers, say? For years, theorists and commentators like Bloom railed against what they saw as the encroaching nihilism brought to America by German and French philosophy, namely, by the followers of Heidegger. And, to a certain extent, they were right, which is why the right, the new Republican Party, has had such success winning the "values" votes. Blue-staters on the coasts and in the urban heartland may be quite comfortable with some of the softened aspects of postmodernism, such as value relativism and multiculturalism, but huge swaths of middle America object to what is seen as the political supplanting of their theistic and absolute values by the levelling of all values.

But this is precisely how intelligent design is being sold. Creationism won't work politically in diverse America, but intelligent design can be brought in as a substitute, as one value among many, as one possible answer to the fundamental questions of existence. Which is precisely why the rhetoric has changed (always look to the rhetoric, for therein lies the political truth). Frist refers to "a pluralistic society," that is, a society with different values, a society without one overarching truth (except, perhaps, the absence of any one overarching truth). And Bush calls for more "debate," as if our children, who would be subjected to this debate on the origins of life, need to consider all possible options before settling on, well, what? Do proponents/advocates of intelligent design hope that the teaching of their theory would be the thin end of the wedge that reasserts creationism? Or will there simply be endless debate? Or are we left with nothing more than infinite possible truths, with pluralism run amok? After all, as Sir Humphrey Appleby says in the great BBC comedy Yes, Prime Minister to the impressionable Bernard Woolley, "anything might be true". That, for now, seems to be where people like Frist are coming from.

In the end, I oppose the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution. Science must allow for introspection and self-doubt — and the most of it does — but theories that have no basis in the scientific method have no place in science classes, especially where our children are concerned. But, then, I live in reality. If you don't, and you can't accept that some things are scientifically true and some things aren't, then you might as well tell your children, not to mention yourselves, that life is, say, The Truman Show, or a figment of Bill Gates's imagination, or "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

But here's an interesing suggestion: Over at Slate (see here) Christopher Hitchens — whom, these days, I am usually not one to quote with pleasure — argues that it might actually make sense to allow intelligent design to be taught alongside evolution in the schools, as long as evolution is taught alongside creationism in tax-exempt religious institutions. How could evolution — how could science — lose?

If we take the president up on his deceptively fair-minded idea of "teaching the rgument," I think we could advance the ball a little further in other directions also. Houses of worship that do not provide space for leaflets and pamphlets favoring evolution (not necessarily Darwinism, which is only one of the theories of evolution and thus another proof of its scientific status) should be denied tax-exempt status and any access to public funding originating in the White House's "faith-based" initiative. Congress should restore its past practice of giving a copy of Thomas Jefferson's expurgated Bible—free of all incredible or supernatural claims—to each newly elected member. The same version of the Bible should be obligatory for study in all classes that affect to teach "divinity." No more Saudi Arabian money should be allowed to be spent in the United States on the opening of jihadist madrasas or the promulgation of a Wahhabi Quran that preaches hatred and contempt of other faiths and of atheism until the Saudi government permits the unmolested opening of Shiite and Sufi places of worship; Christian churches and Hindu temples of all denominations for its Philippine, Indian, and other helot classes; synagogues; and Thomas Paine Society libraries. No American taxpayers' money should be given to Israel unless it can be shown that it is not being used for the establishment of religion by Orthodox messianic settlements in the occupied territories and/or until the Israeli rabbinate recognizes Reform and Conservative Judaism as authentic.

He calls it "equal time," and he's got a point. Theories like intelligent design thrive in part (and perhaps mostly) because they're never subjected to rigorous scrutiny. They're so mind-bogglingly stupid, after all, that no serious person, and certainly no reputable scientist, would ever waste much time on them. But this just allows them to fester beneath the surface, acquiring popularity and momentum and eventually emerging, as intelligent design is now, to challenge our accepted (because discovered through the scientific method) truths.So shall we tackle intelligent design? Shall we expose it for what it is? Yes? Well, then, let's find out what John McCain really thinks. I'm sure he's all for having a spirited debate on its merits.

(Fellow co-blogger Jack Grant has more here.)

the ghost of Helms

tbogg on Helms:

One would have thought that he would have been sucked into hell in Strom Thurmond's wake by now:

Jesse Helms, writing with the same passion that made him the archconservative of the U.S. Senate for 30 years, renews his criticism of abortion in a memoir being published this week, comparing it to both the Holocaust and the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I will never be silent about the death of those who cannot speak for themselves," the former senator wrote in "Here's Where I Stand," which is scheduled for release Tuesday.

Unfortunately nobody will ever know what Jesse wrote since he wouldn't let the publisher use black ink on the precious and godly whiteness of the pages...

Go here for some of Jesse's Greatest Hits.

(Trent Lott should read some of those quotes if he's still curious as to why he was removed from power)

Monday, August 29, 2005

little to no more polling posts

they change too often.

and let's not forget about Kentucky -- updated

Looks like Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher is going to pardon everyone involved in the violation of the state's merit system laws. The merit system laws basically require hiring people for their qualifications, not, say, their political leanings.

Don't think he's too noble about not pardoning himself however; when in front of the grand jury he plans to plead the 5th.

Huffington's full of goodies

I found so much stuff on Huffinton Post today I decided just to link to the headlines. Here are some of today's goodies:

Ann Coulter Gets Booted As Columnist For Arizona Daily-Star...

New Comic Book Stars Sean Hannity, Oliver North, Gordon Liddy Fighting Liberalism...

Washington Times To Sponsor Pentagon Rally After Washington Post Backs Out...

Army Official Who Criticized Noncompetitive Halliburton Contract Is Demoted…

National Christian Organization Accuses Starbucks Of Promoting Homosexual Agenda...

Tenn. National Guard Chief “Sorely Disappointed” In Sen. Bill Frist...

Schwarzenegger Favoring Industry Officials For Environmental Posts…

Outfoxed Producer Challenges Bill O’Reilly To A “Debate On The Issues, Not His Silly Name-Calling”….

News Corp. May Have Broken Rules While Testing Legal Boundaries In China…

Students At British School Allowed To Use F-Word -- 5 Times A Class…

Happy Reading.

Stay the Course... said the speechwriter

Passage from Catapulting the Propoganda by Tom Engelhardt. Highlights:

As his poll figures continue on a downward spiral, [Bush] has found it necessary to put extra effort into "catapulting the propaganda." Though he struck a new note or two in each speech, these were exceedingly familiar, crush-the-terrorists, stay-the-course, path-to-victory speeches. That's hardly surprising, since his advisors and speechwriters have been wizards of repetition. No one has been publicly less spontaneous or more -- effectively -- repetitious than our President; but sometimes, as he says, you "keep repeating things over and over and over again" and what sinks in really is the truth rather than the propaganda. Sometimes, just that extra bit of repetition under less than perfect circumstances, and words that once struck fear or offered hope, that once explained well enough for most the nature of the world they faced, suddenly sound hollow. They begin to sound... well, repetitious, and so, false. Your message, which worked like a dream for so long, goes off-message, and then what do you do?

This is, I suspect, exactly what growing numbers of Americans are experiencing in relation to our President. It's a mysterious process really -- like leaving a dream world or perhaps deprogramming from a cult. Once you step outside the bubble, statements that only yesterday seemed heartfelt or powerful or fearful or resolute truths suddenly look like themselves, threadbare and impoverished. In due course, because the repetitious worldview in the President's speeches is clearly a believed one (for him, if not all of his advisors) and because it increasingly reads like a bad movie script for a fictional planet, he himself is likely to look no less threadbare and impoverished, no less -- to use a word not often associated with him -- pathetic and out of touch with reality to some of those who not so long ago supported him or his policies.

Hat tip to phronesisaical.

right-wing blog rant about the "anti-war" left


President Bush is actually the greatest liberator of Muslims in history, considering that there weren’t 50 million people in the entire MIddle East when Saladin beat back the Crusader hordes. But to the anti war activists, providing freedom from slavery, democratic and economic opportunity to brown skinned people isn’t worth the sacrifice of white Americans. Good thing they weren’t around when Lincoln was drafting the Emancipation Proclamation.

I don't know if those goals were worth it or not to the anti-war group. Why didn't the Bush Administration ask the American people? Why lie? Why make up some evidence, pick and choose other evidence, and demote or fire anyone who says your plan is bunk? Why not trust in the American people to make that decision in the first place?

That trust has been betrayed, and is now gone. And you've no one to blame but yourselves.

update: you can try to post comments to right-wing blogs, but they tend to get deleted during the screening process. It's a neat trick. They post a reply, then delete your rebuttal, making it look as if no liberals were able or willing to counter their argument. That's Neo-Conservatism for you.

Theocrisy Rising in SC

Strategizing a Christian Coup d'Etat via the latimes. Hightlights:

At a time when evangelicals are exerting influence on the national political stage — having helped secure President Bush's reelection — Christian Exodus believes that people of faith have failed to assert their moral agenda: Abortion is legal. School prayer is banned. There are limits on public displays of the Ten Commandments. Gays and lesbians can marry in Massachusetts.

Christian Exodus activists plan to take control of sheriff's offices, city councils and school boards. Eventually, they say, they will control South Carolina. They will pass godly legislation, defying Supreme Court rulings on the separation of church and state.

"We're going to force a constitutional crisis," said Cory Burnell, 29, an investment advisor who founded the group in November 2003."If necessary," he said, "we will secede from the union."

hat tip: americablog

Africa, AIDS and abstinence

Can you believe the audacity? I mean, can you believe it? Pushing abstinence in America is one thing. Schooling kids in the horrors of sex, lying about the effectiveness of condoms, penalizing women for having The Sex. All these things we are rather used to by now, not to mean we accept them. Quite the contrary, progressives strive to offer a balanaced, fact-based alternative to these out-of-date fundamentalist (lies) views.

But putting conditions on AIDS money abroad? Telling foreign citizens how to conduct their sex lives? Ransoming their lives for their morale? Can you believe it?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

You've probably heard this by now, but just to be sure:

WASHINGTON - A file folder containing papers from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr.'s work on affirmative action more than 20 years ago disappeared from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library after its review by two lawyers from the White House and the Justice Department in July, according to officials at the library and the National Archives and Records Administration.

Archivists said the lawyers returned the file but it now cannot be located. No duplicate of the folder's contents was made before the lawyers' review. Although one of the lawyers has assisted in the Archives' attempt to reconstruct its contents from other files, officials have no way of independently verifying their effort was successful.

It is rare for the Archives to lose documents in its care and the agency has requested an investigation by its inspector general, said Sharon Fawcett, the assistant archivist for presidential libraries.

The lost file has also aroused some concern on Capitol Hill. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vt., the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, wrote Tuesday to R. Duke Blackwood, executive director of the Reagan Library, asking that he "continue to investigate thoroughly" the missing affirmative-action file and "clarify the basis upon which you believe you have reconstructed that file." And Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., requested a Justice Department investigation because one of the agency's lawyers had seen the documents involved.
At issue is one of hundreds of files maintained by the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., which contains an estimated 55,000 pages of material from Roberts' tenure as White House associate counsel from 1982 to 1986.

As part of a vetting process before Roberts' formal nomination by the White House in late July, the two lawyers requested and were granted special access to the Roberts files. Neither the White House nor the Justice Department would name the lawyers Tuesday, but sources said one works for White House counsel Harriet Miers and the other is an aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

(as Susie reminds us, when you've got nothing to hide, you hide nothing)

it's not just PBS they're after


The story of Kenneth Tomlinson’s efforts to impose his right-tilting version of “balance” on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has incited national controversy. But while that tale is well-known, Tomlinson’s malign influence on another respected media institution, the Voice of America (VOA), has received far less attention.

What’s happened at the VOA -- which the longtime Karl Rove ally Tomlinson oversees as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) -- has done considerable damage to the value and credibility of international broadcasting. According to interviews with current and former VOA staffers and e-mails obtained by The American Prospect, under Tomlinson’s watch, VOA administrators have pressed the agency’s journalists to report pro–White House spin and too often directed them to downplay hard-hitting news in favor of puffery.

Read the whole article. It's all good, and very informative.

Thune Gets Big Victory

via Political Wire:

According to CNN, a federal panel voted to keep open Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. This is very big news for Sen. John Thune (R-SD) which reverses earlier predictions about his declining prestige.

Thune campaigned on his ability to keep Ellsworth AFB open via his DC ties. Suddenly the Base Realignment and Closure Commission reverses itself and decides to keep Ellsworth open, at a time when Thune's polls are in the tank.


am I tripping?

for a second I thought I was.

Faith in America

New Research Exploring Faith in America’s Largest Markets Produces Surprises

Interesting info for those curious on the subject.

Anti-Sheehan patriots

Crooks and Liars has Blumenthal commenting on Move America Forward:

Max Blumenthal has some great information about the front group that has bankrolled the Creepy Caravan tour to attack Cindy Sheehan. Here's a little about Sal Russo:

"If Kaloogian wants to fight corruption, he should get up, turn the light on, and take a look in his own slimy bed. After all, Move America Forward's "Chief Strategist," Sal Russo, who handled Bill Simon's hapless 2002 gubernatorial campaign, is knee-deep in unethical business dealings and scandals."

and this: "That's right. Move America Forward's Sal Russo ran tax shelters and bilked campaign donors out of $200,000. Oh, and then there's the little thing about Russo and Simon being in bed with a major drug trafficker, something they still can't explain" on

Please read the entire post to get an idea about the people behind MAF, Mark Williams and all who are involved in the Creepy Caravan tour. I'll be working on more information about these characters in the coming days.

NY Times on Medical Marijuana


Discovering benefits, after all, would undermine the great anti-marijuana campaign that has taken hold in Washington. Marijuana is deemed to be such a powerful "gateway" to other drugs that it's become the top priority in the federal drug war, much to the puzzlement of many scientists, not to mention the police officers who see a lot of worse drugs on the streets.

D.E.A. officials have already shown they're quite capable of persecuting someone who uses marijuana to deal with AIDS, and they may well be even more eager to go after someone who encourages research into their least favorite drug. When it comes to marijuana research, the federal policy is "Just Say Know-Nothing."

Article here.

Midnight Rant

I'm all for fast food restaurants being open 24 hours, but what's the point if you don't have enough supplies or employees to run it properly? When half the menu is unavailable and you've only got two people working, one of which just started that afternoon?

Friday, August 26, 2005

FDA Delays Morning-After Pill Decision

Yet Again.

First they delayed it to give time to seek more detailed information on use of the pills by 16- and 17-year-olds.

Then they delayed it because it might encourage risky sexual behavior.

Now the FDA is delaying the morning-after pill, or plan-b, because... well, they seem to have run out of reasons why. But they assure us it isn't politics or in any way related to a conservative agenda.


Friday, FDA essentially boiled the issue down to regulatory precedent: Selling the same dose of a drug by prescription and without at the same time and for the same medical use has never been done. The FDA will allow 60 days of public comment on how to take such a step and enforce an age limit, but Crawford would not say how soon the agency could evaluate those comments and rule.


"It seems improbable to me that ... politics hasn't trumped science here, which is a tragedy," said Dr. Alastair Wood of Vanderbilt University, who chaired the FDA advisory committee that evaluated Plan B.

"They are acting in bad faith," said Kirsten Moore of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, noting that FDA already has logged 17,400 letters from the public and advocacy groups urging it to take one side or the other on Plan B. "How many more comments do they need?"

The article is here. And notice it's in the Friday news dump?

Republican election fraud: Phone jamming grand jury to reconvene

via Corrente:

A federal prosecutor said he will reconvene a grand jury in a case involving the jamming of Democratic phone lines in 2002 - raising the possibility that other Republicans might be implicated.

Phone lines were bombarded with electronically generated calls, jamming lines set up for voters seeking rides to the polls on Election Day. Two GOP operatives have pleaded guilty in the case and a third is scheduled for trial.

A grand jury has indicted James Tobin, former regional director for the Republican National Committee, for allegedly orchestrating the jamming. Tobin, who was the regional chairman for President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, has pleaded innocent.

"Based on what I know, [Ooh! How very parseable!] the whole phone-jamming scheme was concocted by one person, and that was [made man and state GOP executive director in 2002] Chuck McGee [who pled guilty and served seven months], who did this without authorization," Lamontagne said.
(via AP)

(corrente comments)Well, I'm sure the Republican leadership couldn't possibly have known anything about this, even though James Tobin was working for Bill Frist at the time, because they would never countenance anything like election fraud, let alone get caught doing it.

And I'm sure the Republicans are paying Tobin's $700,000 worth of trial lawyer's fees (back) out of pure Christian charity, and not to buy Tobin's silence.

NOTE Josh Marshall's been tenaciously pursuing this story since 2003.

UPDATE Xan points out that Republican election tampering by phone jamming isn't the exception, but the norm. They'll say anything, do anything, as long as they get to hold onto power. Because they know if we ever get to lift off the lid, the stench is going to knock a lot of heads back.(end corrente)

Don't mess with the Gays

Americablog has the story

more David Limbaugh

this time on the (traitorous treasonous anti-bush elite liberal Nazis) patriotic left, which he (sarcasticly) calls Super-Patriots. Highlights:

Super-patriots, after all, are those who prove their love for America by wrapping themselves in the First Amendment as they tear down this nation, its troops and their commander in chief in the middle of a war.
tear down this nation? Does Cindy Sheehan really have that power?

How dare anyone accuse them of undermining the troops? Oh, sorry, I must have misunderstood when I heard their venerated representatives and read their hate-gorged websites likening the Gitmo detention camp to the Soviet Gulag and attempting to show that the relatively isolated incidents there and at Abu Ghraib were widespread.
Oh. The Soviets didn't hold people indefinitely, pull them off the street in the middle of the day, and torture them? It's the left that are undermining the troops with an unclear message and a lack of armor? That's a lot of power for a party that has no control over the government whatsoever.

I must be misperceiving their efforts to establish a moral equivalence between our side and the terrorists, between our occasional and unauthorized harassment of terrorist detainees and the terrorists' suicide bombings and beheadings of innocent civilians.
Notice how he makes an effort to say "occasional" and "unauthorized" harrassment of "terrorist" detainees. And yes, I have found many links to prominent citizens on the left comparing Nick Berg having his head cut off his living body, it being filmed and uploaded to the internet, with our fellow American soldiers. Many links.

I must be misinterpreting their knee-jerk sympathy for the anti-American criticism of the European Left and their condemnation of President Bush instead of the European pacifists for failing to make our action against Iraq more of a "multilateral" enterprise.
Mustn't forget to insult Europe for having the nerve to disagree with us.

I must have been wrong in thinking I'd noticed an extra spring in their step when they "discovered" that the Iraqi people consider us "occupiers" rather than "liberators."
It's more like, when is the Right going to discover that David?

I must have misapprehended their ultra-shock and disappointment that the Iraqi elections went so well. Likewise, I must have misread their transparent incredulity at our soldiers' robust expressions of high morale when being interviewed.
If your news comes completely from Fox News and the WSJ then of course you're only going to see reports of high morale. You'll miss the destroyed lives, weariness and psychological syndromes though.

I must be hallucinating when I hear them comparing Iraq with Vietnam, when the only reasonable comparison is that in both wars the work of relentless antiwar protestors has been our enemies' best (probably only) chance of defeating us.
Really? Our enemies's best chance of defeating us is Cindy Sheehan? And here they are, using guns and bombs. Silly enemy.

I must be misinterpreting their seeming joy at every morsel of bad news that makes its way out of Iraq. I must be imagining that the mainstream media virtually conspire to ignore and suppress good news and sensationalize the bad.
I imagine the media would report more good news if they leave the Green Zone without being kidnapped or killed.

I must be crazy to read enthusiasm into their reaction over failed deadlines for the completion of the Iraqi constitution. I must be unfair in disapproving their glib reference to imported international terrorists in Iraq as "insurgents" -- as if Iraq is experiencing a civil war.
Uh, it's the Bush Administration that coined the term "insurgent" David.

I must be mistaken in assuming they are anxious to label America's actions in Iraq as imperialistic when everyone knows that our purpose, having deposed Saddam and liberated Iraq, is to help to launch her new government and establish stability and security before we withdraw.
(noun) 1 : imperial government, authority, or system; 2 : the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas; broadly : the extension or imposition of power, authority, or influence

Of course I am not saying that all those who oppose the war in Iraq are unpatriotic.
Good thing he cleared that up. In paragraph 17.

The relevant political question surrounding this subject is whether the Democratic Party is going to be able forever to satisfy these people without alienating almost everyone else. How will Hillary Clinton thread this needle in 2008? What games will she have to play either to keep them in tow or, conversely, to fool everyone else?
By "these people" I think he means the roughly 50% of the American people who are unhappy with Iraq. I'm not sure who the Democrat Party is concerned about alienating however. The GOP has spent five years (a lot longer actually) alienating Democrats and they seem to be doing pretty well by it. And it's not "games" David, it's Politics. All politicians play it.

But 2008 is a long way off. In the meantime, President Bush will proceed on the path he considers in our best interests and that of the Iraqis, regardless of the unrelenting criticism.
That, David, is what we're afraid of.

David's article here.

Recruiters on campus, but not Activists

Students are keeping recruiters on their toes. Especially if a recruiter crosses the line into harrassment, name-calling or lying. Intro:

Paul Waters-Smith, 17, said military recruiters call students sissies and say things like "It's time to be a man" to try to get them to enlist.

On top of the harassment, recruiters target the weak and "promise things that will never happen," the Pine View High School senior said.

Waters-Smith was one of nearly 20 people who urged the Manatee County School Board on Monday night to let groups on campus to counter the messages of the recruiters.

"We are targets for our very lives," Waters-Smith said. "This is unacceptable. We will not be lied to anymore."

Article here.

via Raw Story.

Gitmo, Bush and the power of the President

via Digby, via Gary Farber, via Spencer Ackerman at TNR:

Ackerman breaks down all the reasons why Guantanamo is counterproductive to our national security as well as why it is an immoral, legal and strategic mistake of epic proportions. He very clearly shows how the administration's stubborn "my way or the highway" philosophy has put it at odds with virtually every other country and actually impeded the detention of dangerous people. It seems that the rest of the world isn't willing to throw its constitutions out the window to accomodate us just because we've thrown out ours. And the administration refuses to change anything, including our ineffectual torture techniques and endless detention policies.

Ackerman believes that this is because the entire scheme is in service of one overriding concern:

The Bush administration has adopted this radical approach because it is defending the idea that the Constitution empowers the president to conduct war exclusively on his terms. A series of memos written by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 effectively maintained that any law restricting the president's commander-in-chief authority is presumptively unconstitutional. (When GOP Senator Lindsey Graham recently quoted to Pentagon lawyer Daniel Dell'Orto the inconvenient section of Article I, Section 8, granting Congress the authority to "make rules concerning captures on land and water," he farcically replied, "I'd have to take a look at that particular constitutional provision.") Last month, when some GOP senators tried to bar "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" of detainees in an amendment to the 2006 defense bill, the White House sent them a letter threatening to veto any attempt to "restrict the President's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice," and Vice President Dick Cheney warned senators against usurping executive power. For good measure, the White House instructed the Senate leadership to pull the entire half-trillion-dollar bill from the floor, lest the offending language within it pass.

It would not be difficult to solve the indefinite-detention problem: Pass a law allowing for a circumscribed period in which officials interrogate the detainee and accumulate evidence before bringing charges against him. This is how it works in countries like Great Britain and Israel, both mature democracies that have fought terrorist threats militarily and legally for decades. But the administration has strongly resisted any move to introduce legal protections to Guantánamo Bay. When the Supreme Court ruled last year that Guantánamo inmates could bring habeas corpus challenges to their detentions in federal court--settling the question of whether detainees had recourse to the U.S. legal system--the Justice Department adopted the bewildering position that, once detainees file their claims, they possess no further procedural or substantive legal rights at all, an absurdity to which the administration is sticking.

That's not all. Before a Senate panel last month, Dell'Orto argued that Congress shouldn't create a statutory definition of the term "enemy combatant," since the administration needs "flexibility in the terminology in order to ... address the changing circumstances of the type of conflicts in which we are engaged and will be engaged." The very next week, before an appellate court panel, Solicitor General Paul Clement, arguing for the continued detention without charge of American citizen and suspected Al Qaeda terrorist José Padilla, explained what the administration has in mind for its "flexible" definition. Federal appellate Judge J. Michael Luttig, a Bush appointee, noted that, since Padilla was arrested not on an Afghan battlefield but at a Chicago airport, the administration's discretion to detain an American citizen ought to be fettered, "unless you're prepared to boldly say the United States is a battlefield in the war on terror." Clement immediately replied, "I can say that, and I can say it boldly." In essence, the administration is claiming authority to detain anyone, captured anywhere, based not on any criteria enacted by law but rather at the discretion of policy, and to hold that individual indefinitely.

That position--that the war on terrorism requires executive latitude at odds with hundreds of years of law--has animated every single step of the administration's approach to the war. It's why Bush has kept nato allies at arm's length while simultaneously trumpeting their absolute necessity to the defeat of Al Qaeda. It's why he didn't just oppose the creation of an independent 9/11 Commission to investigate the history of counterterrorism policy, he also argued it would be an unacceptable burden on his prosecution of the war. And it's why he's blasted any move by the courts to exercise oversight of the war as a dangerous judicial overreach: When a district court judge last year challenged the constitutionality of the administration's military commissions for the trial of enemy combatants, the Justice Department "vigorously disagree[d]," as a spokesman put it, and contested the ruling until the commissions were reinstated on appeal last month. For the administration, its expansion of executive power is synonymous with victory in the war--regardless of the real-world costs to the war effort.

(Digby comments:) This pretty much says it all. President Bush having unchecked power is synomymous with victory. (There can be no doubt that this executive power would not apply to a Democratic president in similar circumstances.)

Once again, every loss becomes a win. Every mistake means that they must dig in all the more deeply, because to not do so would be to admit they were wrong. And if they were wrong, the terrorists will have won. (end Digby)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

More GOP corruption at State levels

This time it's Missouri.

side note: I haven't noted the king of state-wide GOP corruption, Ohio, here, because so many other blogs have been on top the (seemingly never-ending) scandals, most notably (IMHO) being Brad at Brad Blog. Just peruse his archives. So many goodies.... CoinGate, Dieblod, Noe, Taft, the 2004 election, etc, etc, etc.

The Bush Administration is all for the rights of states

...except when they go against their corporate agenda. Think Progress has the latest example:

Yesterday, the Bush administration released new federal fuel efficiency standards. (Not surprisingly, the standards will do little to increase fuel efficiency and may actually encourage automakers to produce bigger, more inefficient vehicles.)
Buried on page 150 of the draft rule is a provision that would totally undermine state efforts to curb CO2 emissions:

[A] state may not impose a legal requirement relating to fuel economy, whether by statute, regulation or otherwise, that conflicts with this rule. A state law that seeks to reduce motor vehicle carbon dioxide emissions is both expressly
and impliedly preempted.
In other words, no state can have a fuel efficiency rule any different than the federal government. So much for state’s rights.


The American Legion reverses it's position

Dear Mr. President:
The American Legion, a wartime veterans organization of nearly three-million members, urges the immediate withdrawal of American troops participating in "Operation Allied Force.''

The National Executive Committee of The American Legion, meeting in Indianapolis today, adopted Resolution 44, titled "The American Legion's Statement on Yugoslavia.'' This resolution was debated and adopted unanimously.

Mr. President, the United States Armed Forces should never be committed to wartime operations unless the following conditions are fulfilled:

-That there be a clear statement by the President of why it is in our vital national interests to be engaged in hostilities;

-Guidelines be established for the mission, including a clear exit strategy;

-That there be support of the mission by the U.S. Congress and the American people; and

-That it be made clear that U.S. Forces will be commanded only by U.S. officers whom we acknowledge are superior military leaders.

It is the opinion of The American Legion, which I am sure is shared by the majority of Americans, that three of the above listed conditions have not been met in the current joint operation with NATO ("Operation Allied Force'').

In no case should America commit its Armed Forces in the absence of clearly defined objectives agreed upon by the U.S. Congress in accordance with Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution of the United States.

Harold L. "Butch'' Miller,
National Commander

American Legion
Letter to President Clinton
May 5, 1999

You don't have to wait for the conservative talking points on this hypocrisy. They will no doubt consist of the following: "of course, this was before 9/11..."

via Billmon

Anti-War is Anti-America

Arthur Silber, on the latest American Legion nonsense and the larger point:

The claim that it is only “weakness” and a “failure of will” that can lead to defeat should be seen for what it is: a dishonest and dangerous attempt to shift the focus, and the blame, away from our policies themselves and how they are implemented, and to put the blame—and the responsibility for failure—on anyone who dares to criticize or question those policies. It is a vicious and childish lie, for the simple reason that the people the war propagandists thus seek to blame are people who have no control whatsoever over what our policies are, or how they are carried out. How in the world can a military failure be the fault of someone sitting at home in the United States, or even demonstrating against the war, rather than the military itself, and the policies it is implementing?

It shouldn’t be necessary to state such obvious truths, but in the corrupt intellectual atmosphere of the war debate, it unfortunately is. Once again, keep this in mind: “But there’s always a purpose in nonsense. Don’t bother to examine a folly—ask yourself only what it accomplishes.” What this particular folly accomplishes is, first, the hawks’ attempt to avoid all responsibility for the policies they adopted and that they themselves are carrying out. No one else is to blame for any failures they may experience, and it is a measure of their moral cowardice that they won’t even accept responsibility for what they are doing.

But there is a second goal of this particular nonsense: the attempt to stifle and shut down all dissent, and all the voices who question our policies. In this way, the war propagandists hope to achieve a complete uniformity of opinion (despite any claims they may make to the contrary), and they simultaneously seek to avoid ever having to explain or defend their views.


It is quite remarkable when you think about it. The hawks are endlessly proud of the fact that the United States has the greatest military in the world. And the hawks constantly complain about the “weakness” and “lack of will” of those who question our government’s actions, apparently forgetting that it is the hawks who control our government. What would it take to make these unhappy warriors content? A world where everyone agrees with them, and repeats all day long how wise and brave they are? It would appear so.

But in the meantime, it is amazing that despite the fact that we have the strongest armed forces known in all of history and that hawks control all the levers of power, somehow people armed only with placards, words and keyboards can threaten to destroy all that the hawks hope to achieve, at least according to the hawks themselves.

Arthur's just too damn good.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Remember those Downing Street Memos?

At least one republican in Congress does. Highlights:

Congressman Jim Leach (R, Iowa) has informed Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D, California) that he will co-sponsor her Resolution of Inquiry into Bush Administration communications with the U.K. about Iraq at the time of the Downing Street Memos. Leach is the first Republican member of Congress to publicly support a demand for an inquiry into the Bush Administration's pre-war claims. The 131 congress members who have signed Congressman John Conyers' letter to the President about the Downing Street Memo are all Democrats. The 11 Senators who have asked the Senate Intelligence Committee to do the investigation it committed to in February 2004 but never did are all Democrats.

Leach has questioned Bush's war policies for years and was one of five Republicans in May to vote for Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey's amendment requiring an exit strategy. Another of those five, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, also serves on the International Relations Committee.

Here's the article.

[Insert snark about the media's short attention span here]


Court Sides with Student on Right to Wear Scripture-Bearing Shirt:

A federal judge has told an Ohio school district it can no longer bar a
middle school student from wearing a t-shirt with a Christian message.
Judge George Smith has ruled that Sheridan Middle School in Thornville violated the constitutional rights of student James Nixon by prohibiting him from wearing a t-shirt bearing a quote from the Bible verse John 14:6. The front of the shirt reads: "Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.'" The back of the shirt contains the statements: "Homosexuality is sin. Islam is a lie. Abortion is murder."
Although no complaints were filed over Nixon's t-shirt, a few school officials -- described by the student's attorney as "overzealous" -- deemed its message may be "offensive" to some individuals and "potentially disruptive," and thus could not be displayed.

Whole article here.

I have to say I agree. I wonder what would have happened (or what might happen in the future) should a student wear a t-shirt that says "Keep Your Laws Off My body" or "I have Two Daddies" or...

George Lakoff Discusses "Tort Reform"


Restrictions on tort lawsuits and other kinds of lawsuits are issues near and dear to conservative hearts. The following interview with Rockridge Senior Fellow, George Lakoff, explores various aspects of “tort reform,” including the manner in which conservatives have framed the discussion, the problem with the progressive response so far, and ideas for more effective progressive framing of the debate.

Q: Professor Lakoff, why have conservatives made such a major issue of “tort reform” and “lawsuit abuse”?

Lakoff: For two main reasons. The conservative worldview includes the fundamental belief that business is only about profits. They believe that anything that interferes with the opportunity to maximize profits, including the range of protections that are so important for society, should be eliminated or at least severely restricted. And of course, lawsuits to compensate for injuries and to punish those who knowingly caused them are some of those socially important protection mechanisms that can diminish profits.

So, the right wing is attempting to destroy this system by promoting legislation to eliminate punitive damages and cap compensatory damages to relatively small sums. This legislation benefits business both by minimizing the risk of any single suit and by creating a disincentive for lawyers to take cases. Lawyers have to spend their own money to search for evidence of harm, to put together a case, and to prosecute the trial. Their compensation, if any, is a percentage of the “recovery” — the compensatory and punitive damages. Though the lawyers' fees sound high, most of those fees go to support the system. If damages are capped or eliminated, the system will break down for lack of funding.

The attack on tort suits also amounts to an attack on those lawyers who represent injured parties. Those lawyers have historically supported progressive causes and candidates. Not to put too fine a point on it, conservatives want to dry up the flow of contributions from trial lawyers by squeezing their source of income.

Whole Q and A article here.

Info on George Lakoff here.

American Legion Declares War on Protestors -- Media Next?


NEW YORK The American Legion, which has 2.7 million members, has declared war on antiwar protestors, and the media could be next. Speaking at its national convention in Honolulu, the group's national commander called for an end to all “public protests” and “media events” against the war, constitutional protections
be damned.

Gee, I wonder how many of those 2.7 million members vote republican?

The delegates vowed to use whatever means necessary to "ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism."
The "united" backing? So all 280 million Americans should agree on exactly the same things? That's a realistic goal.

"We had hoped that the lessons learned from the Vietnam War would be clear to our fellow citizens. Public protests against the war here at home while our young men and women are in harm's way on the other side of the globe only provide aid and comfort to our enemies. "
Public protests do a bit more than that. They raise public awareness and give voice to a large group of Americans who are often being overlooked or deliberately ignored by the Powers That Be, who are usually the ones running the war(s) in the first place.

Steve Gilliard responds:

So, is this how desperate the right is? The American Legion should change their name to the Freikorps and head immediately to Crawford to beat on Gold Star Mothers and combat vets.

Uh, I dare him to accuse Cindy Sheehan of sitting with the Sadrists who killed her son in combat.

The problem is that his argument is made of straw. No one is denoucing the troops. We denounce the people who didn't give them the tools to fight. They should not be protected from censur

What so many people on the right forget is that Mrs. Sheehan's son died in combat while a soldier in the US Army. She has a moral authority they don't come close to.

Who knew a mom could be so scary?

"The Constitution Is For The People" says Chris Bowers:

I carry a copy of the Constitution in my wallet. I keep a copy in every room of my home. I have read the Constitution more than one hundred times. Yet, despite this, I could not tell you what, for lack of a better term, my "philosophy" of the Constitution is.

I may not be able to tell you what my philosophy is, but conservatives can certainly tell you their's. In public, most of them would say they are "strict constitutionalists," and in private a few may tell you that they see "the Constitution in exile." Now, whether or not these frames actually signal a set of ideas people agree with or not, they do at least signal a set of ideas. Because of this, progressives start at a terrible disadvantage in any discussion about the the judicial system. While conservatives have a concise, powerful way to explain their philosophy on the judiciary, more often than not progressives are forced to rely on a laundry list of individual issues. When attempting say, in the case of Roberts, to oppose a conservative nominee, this forces progressives to either try and find one or two smoking guns to expose someone as a radical conservative, or to rely upon an always tenuous "death by a thousand paper cuts" strategy. This means that we are always playing from behind, because they have a philosophy and can explain it, while we must argue the merits of every case in and of itself.

In short, like so many other areas of politics, when it comes to the judiciary we are totally lacking a vision or a set of core values that allows us to engage in a permanent campaign or broad-based movement. Fortunately, however, I think because there has been so much discussion about the judiciary over the past four months, this is a problem that can be quickly remedied. While conservatives view the Constitution as a dead document, a piece of paper that is to be examined entirely in and of itself, progressives always view the Constitution in the context for which it was created: the people of the United States.

The vision of "the Constitution is for the People" is a rejection and an opposition force to "strict Constitution-ism." It believes all of the following:

-The Constitution, written for and approved by the people of the United States, is a living document that is open to change and interpretation by the people of the United States.
-The Constitution, written in order to secure the blessings of liberty, guarantees a general right to privacy.
-The Constitution, written in order to promote the general welfare, allows for broad social investment on the part of the federal government.
-The Constitution, written in order to form a more perfect union, protects the rights of minorities, no matter what sort of minority they may be.

Perhaps it is because I spent so long in graduate school studying literature and other texts, but the obvious philosophical counter to any "text in and of itself" critical methodology is a "text within social context" methodology. To me, it is as clear as day, and I am surprised that I did not see it before, and that more progressives do not use it. Conservatives view the Constitution as dead, as simply a piece of paper. Progressives view the Constitution in its proper context: the people of the United States. That is, after all, the first phrase in the Constitution: "we, the people." That is the proper context in which it should be read, not in some neo-New Critical, quasi-structuralist, text-in-and-of-itself manner. Language, like America, is always alive, and can only be understood within context. The Constitution is for the people. That's my philosophy, and in conjunction with any individual issues surrounding and specific to current and future Bush nominees, it is a philosophy I would like to start seeing more Democrats and progressives express in public.

Couldn't agree more. Post here.

Iraqi women

Billmon has something to say about the recent screwing the women of Iraq are receiving in their new constitution. Highlights:

The White House propaganda maestros used an Iraqi women's rights activist as a living prop at Shrub's state of the union address earlier this year, whipping wing nut war hawks and media dingdongs alike into a frenzy of teary-eyed patriotism. They also arranged for her to stand immediately in front of the mother of a Marine killed in action in Iraq -- setting the scene for a "spontaneous" hug that reduced a national television audience to quivering lumps of sentimental jello and left Joe Klein spitting phlegm-coated bile at the Democratic Party.
Now, that very same activist is telling the world the Americans just sold her, and her Iraqi sisters, down the river to a bunch of medieval mullahs with Made-in-Tehran labels on the insides of their turbins.
Will her betrayal simply be pushed down the media memory hole with yesterday's garbage? Are we really that far gone?

That post is a followup to this post.

Andrew Sullivan has something to say

Hey, we've exploded the size of government, legitimized an insolvent nanny-state for a generation, guaranteed a huge future tax increase, missed an opportunity for seriously trying to move toward energy independence, and made the biggest intelligence error since Pearl Harbor. Not bad, eh? The emails on Frum's blog are very telling about the mood of the conservative base. My own evolving view of what's happening in Iraq is that there's still a reasonable chance of a pretty depressingly illiberal constitution, folllowed by low-level civil war, policed in part by young Americans. Better than Saddam? You betcha. Better than a crumbling regime under Saddam's sons during an Islamist upswing? Absolutely. But a long way from what many of us had hoped for.

Whole post here.

Hat Tip: John Cole.

Buying Meth at Wal-Mart

No really.

Makes sense to me

Jed Babbin writes about the need for a President to sell a war. The jist of the article is this paragraph:

Wartime presidents have to tell our people what is going on, and why. They have to ask people to make sacrifices and explain, in compelling terms, why those sacrifices are essential to the future of the nation. And though he is not failing in the war planning task Mr. Bush is on the road to making as much of a hash of it as LBJ did in Vietnam.
He ends with this paragraph:

Because Mr. Bush is allowing the anti-war left to dominate public debate, America is being led to believe that victory in Iraq is the only goal in the war, and that such a victory is impossible to achieve. Both beliefs are false. But it is not enough for Messrs. Cheney and Rumsfeld to go about stating the obvious truths. There is no substitute for personal leadership by the President. Actually, there is: leadership by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CBS News. None of them received 53 million votes last November. So where is the guy who did? We need him, right now and for more than the next five days.

When Jeb says "we" need him, he is I suspect referring to Republicans, a suspicion that is backed up by more points in the article. But the media giveth, and the media taketh away. Gone are the post-invasion stories of troops rebuilding Iraqi schools and playing soccer (football) with Iraqi children. You could argue that the media is over-compensating for their lame doormat attitude during the run-up to the war, and being duped over the ever-changing reasons/motivations for our going into Iraq in the first place.

Jed is right however, in that most Americans would like to see us succeed in Iraq, and yes, I say most. We just need a better explanation as to what that success is supposed to look like.

Here's the article.

Sex Ed in Ohio

Amanda is all over this one:

Drudge breathlessly reports today that 65 of the 490 female students at Timken High School in Canton, Ohio are pregnant. The usual suspects are being blamed.

The article reported that some would say that movies, TV, videogames, lazy parents and lax discipline may all be to blame.
Damn, and here I was foolishly playing videogames without slapping a condom on the controller. A quick search on sex ed in Ohio schools was telling on other possible causes of the students' sudden inability to protect themselves from pregnancy.

Ohio does not require schools to teach sexuality education. However, the board of education of each school district must establish a health curriculum for "all schools under their control," that includes information regarding STDs and HIV/AIDS. This information must emphasize that "abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is one hundred per cent effective against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and the sexual transmission of a virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome." Further, all materials and instruction regarding STDs must:

1)Stress that students should abstain from sexual activity until after marriage;
2)Teach the potential physical, psychological, emotional, and social side effects of participating in sexual activity outside of marriage;
3)Teach that conceiving children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child's parents, and society;
4)Stress that sexually transmitted diseases are serious possible hazards of sexual activity;
5)Advise students of the laws pertaining to financial responsibility of parents to children born in and out of wedlock; and
6)Advise students of the circumstances under which it is criminal to have sexual contact with a person under the age of sixteen pursuant to section 2907.04 of the Revised Code.

These points closely mirror the federal definition of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

Of course, if your purpose is not to help girls and women control their child-bearing so that they are better able to pursue the lives and careers they want instead of the ones you can trap them in, abstinence-only education is a resounding success.

Let's see. They told students 1) abstain from sex until marriage, 2) society will think you're a slut if you don't abstain from sex until marriage, 3) you'll be a bad mother if you don't abstain from sex until marriage, 4) makes sense to me, 5) kids cost money, and 6) again, makes sense to me. Yet 65 of the 490 female students at this school are pregnant. Maybe they should have included some additional points:

7) when the man's sperm meets the woman's egg, fertilization can occur, and
8) birth control can help prevent #7.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Protesting Policy, not Country

At least some vets get it, so says the Pensacola News Journal.

Story intro:

If there's growing sentiment against the war in Iraq, many area veterans of the fight aren't taking it personally.

Vets see the opposition as a protest against policy, not them or their service.

Read the rest here.

Open the pod bay doors HAL

Just plain cool.

Activist Judges and Limbaugh

That's David Limbaugh, in a post in Town Hall. Some highlights:

What [Senator Barbara] Boxer and company really mean by "fundamental rights" is rights that have been written into the Constitution by activist judges precisely because they weren't fundamental enough to have been included in the original Constitution or its amendments or uniformly passed into law by federal or state legislative bodies. They mean rights whose continued existence depends upon Supreme Court justices affirming erroneous precedent established by their activist predecessors.

Yes, those activist judges, with their decades of legal experience, research and education, insisting that the country move forward, not living by a document 200 years old, written by people who were smart enough to realize that a nation and it's country would need to evolve, grow, change. Limbaugh is no doubt only concerned with a few decisions via these activist judges, most notably dealing with abortion and sodomy laws.

I just wish that one time one of these sanctimonious senators started lecturing a nominee about a woman's fundamental "right to choose," another senator or the nominee would have the courage to throw back in his face the sanctity of the Constitution. I wish that one time a ranting senator began railing about the potential loss of "fundamental rights" someone would point out that the extraconstitutional method for creating mythical fundamental rights places in jeopardy our entire constitutional scheme of rights and liberties.

So, the right to choose is in direct violation of the sanctity of the Constitution. After 200 years, a civil war and numerous cultural wars, the Constitution is in peril because women now have the right to choose. And, the extraconsitutional method for creating mythical fundamental rights places in jeopardy our entire constitutional scheme of rights and liberties sentence? Really, one shouldn't be allowed to do that to the english language. Besides, it's a talking point. Women have been given more rights, and that is somehow a threat to the scheme of rights and liberties? Whereas, taking away rights of American citizens (based on Christian principles no doubt) is liberating?

Limbaugh's post.

Abstinence and public funding

Looks like the government is witholding funding from the Silver Ring Thing because it "appears to use tax money for religious activities."


The action comes three months after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against HHS, accusing the administration of using tax dollars to promote Christianity. In documents filed in federal court in Boston, the ACLU alleged that the activities, brochures and Web site of Silver Ring Thing were "permeated with religion" and use "taxpayer dollars to promote religious content, instruction and indoctrination."

Teenage graduates of the program sign a covenant "before God Almighty" to remain virgins and earn a silver ring inscribed with a Bible passage reminding them to "keep clear of sexual sin." Many of its events are held at churches.

In filings with the Internal Revenue Service, the organization describes its mission as "evangelistic ministry" with an emphasis on "evangelistic crusade planning."

via the Washington Post

Monday, August 22, 2005

Yet another reason to be against media monopoly

...and it's another Salt Lake City gem. Aren't we lucky to have (Big Brother) sales representatives and television stations deciding what's appropriate for us to watch. I thought we had remotes for that. And, you know, our brains and free will. Read it, from the Washington Post. It's solid, and the quotes referenced in it are priceless.

Big Brother in Utah

Oh, those hippie ravers. DailyKos has a diary of what happened in Salt Lake City. I just read it and am still a little stunned. More analysis after I've thought about it for a bit. Here are some details from the article:

  • One of the promoters friends (a very small female) was attacked by one of the police dogs. As she struggled to get away from it, the police tackled her. 3 grown men proceeded to KICK HER IN THE STOMACH.
  • The police confiscated 3 video tapes in total. People were trying to document what was happening out there. The police saw one guy filming and ran after him, tackled him and his camera fell, and luckily.. his friend grabbed it and ran and got away. priceless footage. That's not all though. Out of 1,500 people, there's sure to be more footage.
  • The police were rounding up the staff of the party and the main promoter went up to them with the permit for the show and said "here, I have the permit." The police then said, "no you don't" and ripped the permit out of his hand. Then, they put an assault rifle to his forehead and said "get the fuck out of here right now."

Now.. let's get the facts straight here.

This event was 100% legal. They had every permit the city told them they needed. They had a 2 MILLION DOLLAR insurance policy for the event. They had liscenced security guards at the gates confiscating any alcohol or drugs found upon entry (yes, they searched every car on the way in). Oh, I suppose I should mention that they arrested all the security guards for possession.

Oh another interesting fact.. the police did not have a warrant. The owner of the land already has a lawsuit against the city for something similar. A few months ago, she rented her land for a party and the police raided that as well. And catch this, the police forced her to LEAVE HER OWN PERSONAL PROPERTY. That's right. They didnt arrest her, but made her leave her own property!!!

Read it.

Update: Oh my, there's video! It shows all, starting halfway through: helicopters overhead, barking police dogs, and an officer telling the person recording this video to put down the camera.

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