Brass Knuckle Blogs

Useful Links

Add to Technorati Favorites

[Valid RSS]

Nucleus CMS v3.24

template by i-marco's choice

Dynamic Drive

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional
Valid CSS

31 October 2006

Spudsy! This One's For You! (try it and leave heaps of praise in the comments section)

by: Minstrel Boy

Paul The Spud along with being funny and all around good guy (he's even in grad school to become a professional good guy) loves pumpkins. I promised him to publish my recipes for Gingerbread Pumpkin Trifle and Pumpkin Soufflé . Something I have tried to do in my sobriety is to keep my promises. Spudsy, here you go. I just got back from an extended trip to L.A. I had three days of studio commitments which turned into four days and then my phone rang. It was the beautiful April. The upshot was that we spent two days together, lounging around the hotel, ordering in movies and room service. Yeah, sometimes life is pretty goddamn good for a grouchy old guitar slinger.

Tonight's Halloween plans include having some good things to offer the adults who bring their children by El Rancho Harpo. We will be serving hot chocolate made with the ganache from the truffle recipe. Where I take a mug of hot milk, add a generous slug of ganache (and, if requested by an adult, I will throw in a slug of liqueur like Gran Marnier, Anisette, Calvados (Ok I know it's a brandy but what the fuck I'm still tired from the road and stuff), or the new Starbucks Coffee Liqueur. There will also be hot mulled cider for the kids and the non drinkers like me. There will be a Pumpkin Trifle, Honey Pumpkin Pie and this Soufflé. Most of the techniques that I will be describing were already covered in the chocolate soufflé so I'm not likely to wax all poetic on that part. If I get bored I might start getting all graphic with remembering my weekend with April....(stop lad back to work!)


1 1/2 cups milk (you can substiture soymilk here but not non or low fat variety)
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup baker's sugar
5 tablespoons cake flour
1 cup solid-pack canned pumpkin
8 large egg whites

Again, allow me to remind you that the fresher the eggs the finer the soufflé. If you haven't located farm eggs or backyard eggs by now you're slacking and deserve what you get. I am also assuming that you've broken down and purchased a real, honest to gawd ceramic soufflé dish. Get that down now and butter it generously with unsalted butter.

Heat the oven to 375°. In a heavy sauce pan scald the milk, remove from heat, stir in the ginger and steep for thirty minutes. In a non-reactive bowl (meaning glass or pottery) whisk together the egg yolks and six tablespoons of the sugar until lemony yellow and smooth. Add in the cake flour until smooth and glossy. Slowly add in the hot milk through a fine strainer (you don't want any milk skin or ginger bits) whisking constantly to prevent scrambling the yolks. Return this to the saucepan and over a medium heat bring just to the edge of a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat enough to keep your mixture just below the boil and cook until it coats the back of a wooden spoon when dipped. Don't worry this only takes a few minutes once your temperature has been achieved. Put this all into a large mixing bowl (again use a non-reactive bowl) and whisk in the pumpkin puree. Set this aside for now.

Take the egg whites and whisk them until they are uniformly foamy. (you can also use the whisk attachment on an electric mixer but I prefer the consistency of a hand whisked soufflé over a machine mixed one even though I have no scientific explanation on why this is so). One tablespoon at a time whisk in the sugar (you can also add a 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar here for extra lift) and beat until you have stiff, firm peaks. Again, I stress we want Viagra stiff here. Don't punk out early and stuff.

Gently fold about a third of the egg white mixture into the pumpkin custard to lighten it up a bit. Then gently and thoroughly fold that into the remaining egg whites. The gentler you behave at this point of the recipe will make for a much lighter end result. Go slow. Go gently. You'll be proud of yourself later on if you do.

Carefully spoon this batter into the soufflé dish (or you may use 8 six ounce ramekins, but I prefer the big dish for both presentation and consistency and, quite frankly, isn't a soufflé all about the goddamn consistency?) and put it into a bain marie (you should be familiar with some of these terms by now, if not look it up) on the middle rack of the oven. Take your finger and make a small "moat" around the inner edge of the soufflé, bake for 25 minutes. The soufflé should be risen well above the top rim of the dish and have a wonderful orangey golden brown crust. Take it to the table right away. Spoon out the servings, dust with cinnamon, nutmeg and powdered sugar. Top that with whipped cream (real stuff not that canned shit) or, if you are a traditionalist like me and 3rdX, Creme Anglais.

Expect the Honey Pumpkin Pie recipe to be out sometime before Thanksgiving Spudsy. And remember, I want to hear about results when you try these. There might be something I can do to explain things better.

crossposted way down yonder in the paw paw patch

United We Stand...The "Divider" Shall Fall

by: Gary

As we approach a potential turning point in our nation, it seems to me that we need to reflect on some wisdom that has fallen away at the hands of Dumbya. The fact of the matter is that the "Decider" is also our greatest divider. He has carefully calculated his maneuvers to keep us from being what we were born to be : the United States of America. The only job he has worked diligently on is his efforts to keep us afraid of terrorists and of each other. He has feverishly ripped at the Constitution for our so-called "protection."

This reminds me of someone who recently said that "America is not just a place, not just a powerful nation, it's an idea." I concur and add that it's a damn good idea; or at least it was.

The "idea" of this nation was created with wisdom, caution, and just intentions. America was built of experience abroad. Mistakes that were taught our founders at great expense as they fled their home lands, and these trials, tribulations, and soul breaking pains are what formed the American idea.

America is an idea that like the latest musical craze is supposed to be contagious.

Instead, our great ideal for a balanced democratic society of the people, for the people, and by the people has been hijacked by a particular class of people and turned into a virus on this Earth. I venture some might say a plague?

The idea, our great ideal, is dying. Everyday, with each and every political maneuver based in greed, veiled in power, and hidden behind faith; America comes one step closer to becoming a member of the global axis or evil that We The People are supposed to fear.

We have abandoned the idea of freedom, the creed of democracy, and the beliefs of equality for hate, fear, and ignorance. Our American arrogance is blinding and becoming more firmly entrenched in the cycle of the "left-behind."

"With liberty and justice for all."

In that clogged and corroded vein of freedom we have declared war on ourselves. Freedom and equality in America are ideals on life support. They are reserved for a very select few. Those in the fiscal majority earn the freedom offered in America on this day. Those in the majority opinion of faith are the ones granted equality in America on this day.

We used to protect those underrepresented. The Senate and its structure speak to this base concept of our America; a place where the big and the small states have equal say in the goings on of this nation. Now, instead of protecting the marginalized, we cast a judgmental glare, as if to say "Who let you in?"

Our addled minds can't grasp our history. We don't know who we are as Americans. We just claim not to be "them." We demand that immigrants, illegal or otherwise speak "our language." "If they want to come to our country, then they should have speak our language." Ignorant of our own individual roots, we demand standards of others that our like ancestors wouldn't have been able to rise too. We kill America a bit more with every ignorant claim.

Christians are mad a Jews, Jews at Christians. Atheists don't understand the faithful. We were a well founded melting pot that was forged to ignore such faith-based labels. Not until the 50's did some ill-informed politician advance the need to place God in our national heritage, thereby adding a nail in the coffin to the idea of America. We were a nation to be blind of faith. We all knew of God, but had to fore refused to show allegiance to any particular one. Faithless in God was the wisdom of our political system. Faithful in the American ideal was our salvation. History had taught us at our founding that state run religion only lead to hate, death, and isolation from the main of the society. The idea of America was strong, and then "Under God" came along to weaken and divide us.

We are a nation of ignorance and hatred. We are tragically misguided in our beliefs. We are threatened by those who are different. Our ideal and its intentions though pure were never perfect. They still aren't, but one would think we would better understand and embrace the idea of America as we grow in time and experience. The reality is so much sadder than this hope.

Americans are killing America. The ideas of "freedom," "choice," and the individual "pursuit of happiness" are disappearing with the ignorant and hate filled rhetoric of every biased preacher, each power hungry politician, and all the money grubbing media whores. This nation and the powerful idea of America is under siege, and the majority are too far behind at this point to even realize it.

They have forgotten the face of their fathers. They have ignored the struggles, trials, and tribulations of their ancestors. American blood splashed on the ground to protect our Constitution seems now but like so much red mud. Something to be stepped over so as to not soil our feet, rather than respect and righteously elevate to heroic proportions for America.

They have chosen the lower path; the path now chosen most often. They have decided that rather than fight for all they would like to fight against all. In their collective greed and arrogance, they have given in and given up America to hate, greed, and base stupidity.

In 2005, the idea of America was shredded by a President who spied on his own, and lied about it to the nation. In 2005, the idea of America was defamed by so-called Constitutional changes that excluded gay Americans from 1,049+ of their birthrights. In 2005, the idea of America was drowned by hurricanes. In 2006, the idea of America was killed along will 2500+ of her own fighting men and women in a war based on lies. In 2005, the American ideal was hobbled by the fight for so-called "intelligent design." 2005 was a bad year for America. 2006 so far hasn't been much better. We saw Habeas Corpus die, torture approved, and lies proliferate as the GOP scrambles to stay on top.

November offers America a glimmer of hope. 2006 could be the year that our politicians learn why the founders created "checks and balances." It could be the year we start focusing on our own problems, rather than trying to control the domestic issues of our neighbors. Perhaps '06 will be the year we come back to the lead where human rights are concerned? One can hope we will move forward in 2006. Progression would be nice this year, when we have traveled so far in reverse in such a relative short time.

I believe in America. I believe in our future. I believe in the idea.

I have faith in the idea, it's the American people that scare me.
30 October 2006

Magnetic Cow Slaughter Scheduled for Nov 7th

by: Gary

I am not a member of the American Herd of Stupidity. I am no mindless cow following the party into the abyss. I refuse to go into that corral. I will not be lead blindly to the slaughter. "Humanely" put to pasture by a rubber bullet to the head.

I will not say, post, or place some magnetic piece of crap on my car to be socially accepted. It means more to me to be an American than that. No magnet of membership grants patriotism, pride, or power. Magnets support nothing. They don't make a better American of an average idiot. Admittedly, I am deeper than most. Surface symbols that cost a dollar at Wal-Mart are always hollow to me. My character is true and honest. Opinionated? Perhaps. Passionate? Absolutely! My passion is often seen as anger, but can you really blame me? I have been assaulted by a President on the basis of my love. I have been assaulted by random Americans that see fit to put stickers on their cars which say things like "AIDS is God's cure for queers!" I have every right to be angry, because I have had enough! Haven't you?

I ask, again and again, after owning my own anger...Why aren't you mad too?

Why are so many of you willing to be herd animals? Stupid cows, easily corralled? Easily manipulated? Easily fooled? Effortlessly lead to the rubber bullet by lies from those you trust so eagerly and blindly.

Today I am taking firm aim at the Magnetic Cows among the American Herd. These sad bovines are lead to believe that by simply placing a "Support Our Troops" magnetic ribbon on their car, that they are somehow both a better American, and are actually supporting our troops.

Newsflash: You are doing neither!

You are "supporting" the marketing genius that sold you the magnet. Likely someone from China who knows the American Herds habits better than the local veterinarians (politicians in this case). You are not a better person or a better American because you have that magnet on your car. You are, in the majority of my observations, a senseless fool who has been wrangled to the Magnetic corral by an entrepreneur.

You think it makes you more patriotic if you have that magnet? You think it means you are supporting the troops? You think it makes you a better person?

It doesn't. It just means the Dollar Store has another dollar!

Unless you have actually supported the troops; all that magnet represents is a smokescreen for you and your guilty conscience to hide behind. Just as you stand with George W, the owner of the slaughter house, you are being lead by lies like carrots to a horse. Told what you want to hear at any expense, to America and what she represents. You push and shove to get to the carrot, all the while distracted as you near the bullet and the hooks you will soon hang from. Risking everything in a herd bent on self destruction for the sake of one carrot, one idea, one sound-bite. You are a sheeple, waiting for Easter.

My sister has one of those ribbons. I don't offer this rant as criticism of her. You know why? Because she has earned my praise by virtue of her actions. And they go far beyond simply buying a magnet and putting it on your car. She writes letters to soldiers. She spends her own money to buy and make care packages and sends them to anonymous soldiers. She inspires. She takes the time to care. She does something. Something real. Something tangible. She knows the war is wrong, but doesn't fault "our boys" for doing their jobs.

She is not like so many others that simply offer the lip service of "support." America, listen up, buying a magnet does not show support for our troops.

Sending a child into a war that you don't believe in and providing emotional and financial support to that soldier...That's supporting our troops. Volunteering for the purposes of sending care packages...That is supporting our troops. Writing to express your concerns and contempt for the careless handling of the War in Iraq, and the cavalier treatment of the lives of America's soldiers...That is support. Going to rallies to "Welcome Home" soldiers who have served, soldiers that are about to leave, and soldiers who will never return...That is support. Helping friends and neighbors deal with the loss of a child, husband or wife...Support.

Magnets are not support. To me they speak to your lack of support. They speak to your desperately shallow need to belong to the herd. They show to me your very limited understanding of the world around you. They make me feel sorry for you. Surely those who hang their heads so blindly in the neck of a magnetic ribbon, or on a sticker that pledges allegiance to their guns before their own nation...Surely those numbingly ignorant American herd animals deserve our pity.

Don't get me wrong, I do think it's a nice gesture. But let's not make it into something it's clearly not. At the best it's very superficially supportive. The reality: that magnet is not supporting anything but your guilty conscience. Your commonly expressed excuse that "you just don't have the time." "I'm too busy." The magnet hides that. It hides so very much!

All I can say: Thank God that our fighting, brave men and women are out there. Because without them, and the sacrifices they make both now and historically, not only am I empowered and rightfully allowed this rant, but you are allowed to be "too busy."

You get to have a magnet.

Congratulations! You have won Best in Show...You Magnetic Cow.

Now, it's time to go to the slaughter house and become hamburger just like all the rest. Time to become a fat laden patty laced with condiments designed to enhance the taste and cover the truth...Once you walked, lived, and breathed American freedom...Alas, you never thought, and that's what put you between those sesame-seed buns.

Bush, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Santorum, Foley, and the rest have gotten fat eating what you have provided them. You blindly gave your American soul to them because they scared you into the slaughter house, waved a carrot in front of you, and put you on a hook.

Had enough? Prove it. Jump the fence before they get you back in the shoot. Use your head and break from the herd. It's not too late to live up the passion of your magnet. It's not too late to live up to your American obligation. It's not to late to vote for America, and vote against those that would scare you to slaughter for their own greedy power ploys.

Hallowe'en Politics Graphic #3

by: Dark Wraith


The Dark Wraith gives permission to use this graphic with attribute.

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

Another Failure for the American Military

by: Konagod

Pardon me for asking, but is there anything we're doing right?

I read this piece in the New York Times today and it immediately slipped my mind until someone emailed me the story. I can hardly believe the level of fallibiity in our military operations.
The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner (R-VA) requested the report which also sought to determine whether Iraqi security forces were capable of sustaining the hundreds of thousands of troops and police officers the American military says it has trained. This next revelation should piss you off...

The answers came Sunday from the inspector general’s office, which found major discrepancies in American military records on where thousands of 9-millimeter pistols and hundreds of assault rifles and other weapons have ended up. The American military did not even take the elementary step of recording the serial numbers of nearly half a million weapons provided to Iraqis, the inspector general found, making it impossible to track or identify any that might be in the wrong hands.

So, how are the American people (those who are paying attention) supposed to interpret this? I'm just curious, because wouldn't it just be too friggin' ironic if our military, through their own unbelievable neglect and incompetence, were allowing weapons to easily fall into the hands of those we call our enemies?
In its assessment of Iraqi weaponry, the inspector general concluded that of the 505,093 weapons that have been given to the Ministries of Interior and Defense over the last several years, serial numbers for only 12,128 were properly recorded. The weapons include rocket-propelled grenade launchers, assault rifles, machine guns, shotguns, semiautomatic pistols and sniper rifles.

Of those weapons, 370,000 were purchased with American taxpayer money under what is called the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, or I.R.R.F., and therefore fell within the inspector general’s mandate.

As if that story isn't embarrassing enough for the mighty American military, here's another interesting tidbit from the same article:
The inspector general’s office, led by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., also a Republican, responded to Mr. Warner’s query about the Iraqi Army’s logistical capabilities with another report released at the same time, concluding that Iraqi security forces still depended heavily on the Americans for the operations that sustain a modern army: deliveries of fuel and ammunition, troop transport, health care and maintenance.

Mr. Bowen found that the American military was not able to say how many Iraqi logistics personnel it had trained — in this case because, the military told the inspector general, a computer network crash erased records. Those problems have occurred even though the United States has spent $133 million on the weapons program and $666 million on Iraqi logistics capabilities.

29 October 2006

Talk to Power: Sam Brownback

by: Pam

Yahoo has this web feature called Talk to Power, which is moderated by Judy Woodruff as part of "Generation Next," described on the site as a series of reports on 16-to-25 year olds and what sets them apart from their predecessors.

Killer 'fro: unretouched scan of Sam's Kansas State University 1977 yearbook
Her upcoming guest is homobigot, forced birth advocate and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback. Woodruff is taking questions on the site, which Sam will answer on November 1. He's already been hit with some interesting questions in the comments of the background article.
One reader wrote: "Why is it so important to Christian Conservatives that I, a non-believer, live by your code of morals? Why isn't it enough for you to abstain from things that you feel are not moral, such as online poker and Howard Stern? Why do you feel it necessary that you force me to abstain from them as well?"

How can you possibly support the war in Iraq, where nearly a million fully formed human beings have been butchered and oppose embryonic stem cell research? You stance boggles the mind and astonishes anyone with even an ounce of decency, intelligence and compassion.

Could you please reaffirm the principle of the separation of church and state. As an atheist I am sickened by all this bible thumping by elected officials.

Why did President Bush's two service age children not serve in the military at a time when the President, as Commander in Chief, is responsible for ensuring proper staffing levels of the military? And would you tell your service age children it's their responsibility to serve?

I understand that the US is the most reasonable, fair-minded country regarding what is best in humanitarian terms, but is killing others the only way to change minds. Also, the US was set up as "One Nation Under God"--why are we moving so far away from God and Christian moral standards. Why are Christians made to feel like we have to accomodate every other belief and ignore how we feel? Will true Christians never be able to exist freely in the country our forefathers pioneered?

Senator Brownback, I once heard you speak on the floor of the Senate and you stated that fetuses should be protected under the Constitution. How could a fetus have rights? Do you think our Founding Fathers wanted pre-humans to have the same rights as real life humans? Its too bad that you disagree with a woman's right to decide when she and her partner will or will not continue an unwanted pregnancy, but to say a fetus should have rights protected under the Constitution is absurd. Please try to find a better argument for your anti-choice position. D. Selig

Dear Senator: If fetuses and embryos are equal to born babies, then why aren't pregnant women given two votes?

Aren't you ashamed that you have placed a hold on a judicial nominee because she attended a gay committment ceremony as a guest? Also, by what divine right do you expect her to tell you her feelings towards gay issues that may come before her as a judge? To tell you her feelings would obviously require her to disassociate herself from any cases regarding gays...

This countries "christian" values seem to be under attack daily by groups who seem to have lost sight of the "majority" and pushing for the one or rights for a "minority group". The one in the forefront is Gay Marriages. I find this so confusing. We celebrate "Gay Pride" in this counry and yet ther is no "Hetero Sexual Pride" celebations. And yet, on news, television programing, comercials and everywhere I turn it is being forced on the public. Now, do not get me wrong, I do beleive in tolerance, but this "acceptance" of a life style and as stated before, "the issue being forced down my throat" is making me wonder why elected officials are not doing more in defending Christiaqn values and the sanctity of marriage?


Marriage Reality vs. Faith-Based Myths

by: Gary

First of all, let us be clear, the idea of romance in marriage is new.

It is quaint.
It's cute.

And it is completely irrelevant to the discussion. This construct is strictly a legal & civil contract with the government as its backer. Laws and the government care little about love, and who loves whom...Again, until recently. Therein lays the need for discussion and revelation. We live in a land drowning in her own Puritan heritage while swimming joyfully in a selective recollection of faith and marriage and a blinding ignorance of the rules of law and what it means to be an American.

The Church, no matter which you choose, is nothing more than a window dressing on a legal contact. You can go to any religious organization to request a wedding (notice not "marriage" but a "wedding") ceremony. That organization can, and often does, at its own discretion either accept your request or deny it. That's because churches deal with parishioners of like beliefs. Whereas governments (at least ours) deal with citizens and equality. Faith speaks to equality, but really the selectively faithful aren't into equality for anything other than the lip-service it provides to sooth their own consciences. Evangelicals will often argue that those who haven't accepted Jesus as their personal Savior will go to hell; even those who have no idea of his existence. Screwy!

I don't think God or Jesus uttered any rules that say if you are a native in the African wilderness that has never seen a Christian; you will thereby be condemned to hell. But that is the point; your beliefs are your choice. They are personally unique; as is your relationship or lack thereof, to God.

In any event, as God has little to do with the beliefs of atheists, so to should marriage as a legal set of rights have little to do with attributes of those seeking to enter into the contract. All they need by law is to be Americans. What difference is there between two men, two women, or one of each entering into the civil contract of marriage? By way of practical considerations, the only difference is anatomy of the players involved. Otherwise the reasons for entering the legal contract are the same: the protection of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, AND all the property that contributes to and ensures the above. You see, above all else, marriage is about protecting property and relationships. It isn't about God. I doubt, in spite of what you may have heard, whether God cares one way or another about who is married to whom? Those are the petty worries of man, not the lofty contemplations of a Supreme Being.

Marriage is now, and has always been...Even before Christ, about the claiming, protection, and definition of property. How can so many ignore this obvious fact when you consider the history of this supposedly "sacred" union. Have we collectively forgotten about so-called "arranged marriages?" Those were not about love, God, or anything else so noble...They were about the planned & protected consolidation of power, heredity, wealth and property.

Marriages are about protecting wealth and allowing for its preservation from generation to generation through a legally defined family unit. It is a construct of legal necessity, not one of religious wrangling. Marriage is once and for all, a civil construct.

In the United States of America marriage is a manifested by a government issued license that defines and legally binds a couple. It confers, without respect to race, creed, and we hope someday, orientation & gender, approximately 1,038 federal rights. Rights; which in the United States are by definition to be given equally to all citizens under the law.

That's the ideal.

This is the reality.

In many states, like my own beloved Pennsylvania, there will be so-called "Marriage Protection Amendments" that will exist to blur the lines of faith and the lines of government with one another. They are faith-based initiatives designed to push an agenda of hate into the legal construct of marriage. If left unchecked, this blending of religious myth and the law has far reaching and devastating potential for America.

The religious-right uses so many false arguments to defend the position of need for these amendments. They claim the need for "protection." From what? They claim marriage is sacred. Then why all the divorce? They (the ones demanding the amendment) say many things, yet offer no facts. Simply, this is a cultural divide created by Americans that don't understand something. And whenever that happens we get anger, hate, and a call for division or punishment.

Instead of growth or living up to our stated ideal of "equality" we turn to hate, and sink to the ugliest of American traits: hateful ignorance. The kind of hate that results in men lashed naked to fences. A place in our history where it is OK to hang a man from a tree by his neck as a cross is lit aflame. A place where Americans can tie other Americans to the back of trucks and drag them to their death. Fear has always worked to create hate in America. Fear builds towering walls between reason and logic. Hate obliterates what we know in our hearts to be right, and covers all with ignorant rage.

That is the path we are on in the name of God. I see this as the ultimate sin. This is an act of faith that judges in place of God and takes his name most assuredly and inappropriately in vain.

In any event, it is a path we must turn away from for our own salvation as American citizens held under the Constitution. So many don't understand that rights in America are to be universal; guaranteed to every citizen under the law. Equal under the law is the other way it is expressed. Somewhere along our journey a percentage of Americans got confused, brainwashed, left-behind, whatever...And began to think of marriage as a religious doctrine not a civil construct. This misunderstanding of the nature of marriage is what has gotten us to this point. Combine our need for salvation with our hate for things we don't' understand, and you have a straightforward American debate; rooted in puritanical history, conflated by individual moral superiority. This is a classic cycle we have played out over and over in our history. Whenever we are afraid of something or someone we don't understand we isolate them. Americans are not the fair-minded individuals they always claim to be. There is always some class of people unworthy of what the others have. We have lost our way, and that is why I speak on this so much.

Marriage gets to party at the church. It gets a dress. It gets guests in pews. When the party is over, people will turn to God for guidance, but they turn to the state for a divorce!

To review; you come to the government to get married, and you go to the state to legally dissolve your marriage. You may go to church in between to help you nurture a loving relationship, but that is about as far as the relationship between faith and marriage goes. Need more in the way of reasons I demand Marriage Equality? Ok...Try these on for size:

  • The right to make decisions on a partner's behalf in a medical emergency. Specifically, the states generally provide that spouses automatically assume this right in an emergency. If an individual is unmarried, the legal "next of kin" automatically assumes this right. This means, for example, that a gay man with a life partner of many years may be forced to accept the financial and medical decisions of a sibling or parent with whom he may have a distant or even hostile relationship.
  • The right to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work to care for a seriously ill partner or parent of a partner. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 permits individuals to take such leave to care for ill spouses, children and parents but not a partner or a partner's parents.
  • The right to petition for same-sex partners to immigrate.
  • The right to assume parenting rights and responsibilities when children are brought into a family through birth, adoption, surrogacy or other means. For example, in most states, there is no law providing a noncustodial, nonbiological or nonadoptive parent's right to visit a child - or responsibility to provide financial support for that child - in the event of a breakup.
  • The right to share equitably all jointly held property and debt in the event of a breakup, since there are no laws that cover the dissolution of domestic partnerships.
  • Family-related Social security benefits, income and estate tax benefits, disability benefits, family-related military and veterans benefits and other important benefits.
  • The right to inherit property from a partner in the absence of a will.
  • The right to purchase continued health coverage for a domestic partner after the loss of a job. Now those are just the highlights.
I ask you, if someone was coming in to tell you that because you are black, Jewish, red, green, yellow or white; you weren't going to get these rights, would you just sit back and accept it?

If some supposedly equal peer came along and told you that Christians were no longer eligible to inherit property from their spouses, you wouldn't be as angry as me?

Wouldn't you feel singled out if the government told you they were going to amend the constitution specifically to write you out of the society?

Sounds ludicrous doesn't it? It's not! It's happening right now; to me and millions of other gay Americans. It is fundamentally wrong to add exclusive language to a document designed to guarantee the rights of all citizens. It is patently un-American. That is why it matters so much. This is not just about gay marriage. Its about who we are as a nation. It matters to me because I have played by all the rules, and now some people are going to hijack God and use Him as the scapegoat to change the rules of the nation. Notice I said "nation" not game.

The separation of church and state is one of our wisest principles, and it too is endangered by this movement. America is not God's country. It's not God's fault we live here in this democracy. It's not your job to judge on God's behalf. It's your job to love thy neighbor. It's your job not to discriminate in this the greatest land on the planet.

So after 14 years of faithful devotion to God and my partner I am denied the legal protection critical to my relationship and our estate. I have paid my taxes. I am an American. Marriage is law. Laws in this country apply to us all equally. So, it is my legal birthright to be allowed to marry and enjoy the rights this civil license confers on all Americans. Period. End of discussion. Thank you very much!
28 October 2006

Antitrust and Labor Law Quiz

by: Dark Wraith

Over at The Dark Wraith Forums, I have published yet another in my on-going, occasional series of quizzes on subjects of topical interest. The latest is a 10-question exam on laws pertaining to anti-competitive trade practices and on laws concerning labor unions.

For the convenience of readers here at Big Brass Blog, I have taken the liberty of producing the test as a stand-alone Web page, which you can access by clicking here.

Be forewarned: this one is not easy. Getting a score of even 10% or 20% is something of an accomplishment, even if you wouldn't want to put it on the fridge for Mom to see. Mom wouldn't understand: she probably didn't want you getting involved in this kind of stuff anyway, so it's probably best if you just don't bring the matter up. That would be my advice.

Give the quiz a shot and see how you do.

The Dark Wraith will await the reports of results.

Jesus Would Approve This Message

by: Konagod

I am thrilled to see a growing movement in the Christian community focused on destructive environmental policies coupled with a belief that it is the duty of Christians to protect the earth and the environment. It is the duty of everyone, but it's very nice to see some Christians directing their attention to real-world values rather than the politically-inspired causes which fall into the "family values" category.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
photo:Michael Temchine for The New York Times

The old rounded peaks of the mountains encircled the ridge, dense with trees smudged red and gold. But in the middle of the peaks, several stood stripped bare and chopped up, a result of an increasingly common and controversial coal mining practice called mountaintop removal.

“Doesn’t it say in Scripture, ‘Who can weigh a mountain, measure a basket of earth?’ ” Ms. Chapman-Crane said, recalling descriptions of God’s omnipotence in Isaiah 40:12. “Well, only God can. But now, the coal companies seem to be able to do it, too.”

Ms. Chapman-Crane, her colleagues at the Mennonite Central Committee Appalachia and other Appalachian Christians are trying to halt mountaintop removal, and at the heart of their work, they say, is their faith.


“People of faith are thinking afresh about human place and purpose in the greater web of life,” Mr. Gorman said. “They are asking, What does it mean to be present in a crisis of God’s creation made by God’s children?”

They are part of an awakening among religious people to environmental issues, said Paul Gorman, executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, an interreligious alliance. Increasingly, religious people across denominations are organizing around local issues, like preventing a landfill, preserving wetlands and changing mining.
Keep up the good work. Check out the link to the NRPE. This is so refreshing to see.

Related post.
27 October 2006

Quoth the Dark Wraith

by: Dark Wraith

There are two principal problems with forgiving those who trespass against you. First, forgiveness is sometimes nothing more than another name for fear, a false means by which the call to just retribution can be set aside. Second, forgiving a monster assures that it will harm others after you, thereby making you guilty of enabling it to do so.

Even the best of people can be afraid of incurring a monster's wrath; but fear is just an emotion, and as such it can be overcome.

Guilt, on the other hand, is not an emotion; it is a fact, and as such it cannot be overcome. Not within a good person's heart, anyway.

Choose, then, both wisely and sparingly those whom you forgive that you will not be forced later to beg forgiveness from those who suffered because you had forgiven a raging monster.

This article is cross-posted from the October 28, 2006, "Quoth the Dark Wraith" at The Dark Wraith Forums.

“Tradition” is the Ultimate Dog Whistle

by: Shakespeares Sister

The GOP is the party that will protect traditional values. That’s what we hear all the time. Don’t want the radical homosexual agenda to render marriage and families obsolete? Vote Republican! Don’t want abortion to be used by soulless hussies as a form of birth control? Vote Republican! Don’t want erase our identity as a Christian nation? Vote Republican! Don’t want to see Christmas and Easter made illegal? Vote Republican!

Never mind whether the threats aren’t true; the message is what’s important, and it’s quite clear: Republicans will protect your way of life and what you believe in. They’ll protect tradition.

Liberals see an American tradition of slowly but surely making good on that promise of equality for every citizen, but we tend to call it “progress” and ourselves “progressives.” Social conservatives, on the other hand, define American tradition as the good old days, when there was no question that men were superior to women, straights were superior to gays, and whites were superior to everyone else. They want to preserve and protect that “tradition,” and, though some of them call themselves culture warriors, mostly they call themselves “traditionalists.”

Not only is that shorter than “sexist, racist, homophobic retrofuck jackholes,” but it sounds a lot nicer, too.

“Tradition” is the kind of word that appeals to people who don’t pay attention all that much, but might have a notion that the world is changing more rapidly than they can comfortably keep up with, who have heard some things about how feminism is responsible for the breakdown in the family and maybe that explains why all of Junior’s friends are such smart-alecks; maybe their mothers are feminists. “Tradition” is a word that plays well with that mushy middle, who can’t be bothered to examine anything too closely.

But it’s an even better word for speaking to the unabashed bigots of the base, reassuring them that they’re right to hate women and gays and brown people, and promising them, without saying as much, they’ll be protected from the onslaught of the radical hordes. America’s great tradition of conferring undeserved privilege on you won’t fail. Not on our watch. “Tradition” is the ultimate dog whistle to the social conservative base.


Fox, Couric, Rush, and the burdens of association

by: Waveflux

I caught, quite by accident, Katie Couric's interview with Michael J. Fox last night. It was terribly compelling, not least because it provided what anyone with a brain (even having a heart isn't required for this) would recognize as a moment of political clarity. In the light of Fox's classy and dignified response to the contemptible mockery of Rush Limbaugh, the state of what passes for public discourse in this country was laid bare. I doubt that Couric had such high-mindedness in mind; she was just playing to what many people perceive as her greatest strength, the art of the interview. But it's possible that the implicit comparison between Fox and Limbaugh will resonate beyond the specific issue of stem cell research and will affect what voters think about political discussion in general. One can hope, anyway.

As for Limbaugh himself: it's hard to overemphsize just how inimical, how deeply harmful he and those like him have been to the culture at large. Just whan you think he can lower himself no further, he finds new ways to debase both himself and us. My solution to the Limbaugh problem has been to simply not listen to him, and that approach has served me pretty well. But insofar as broadcasting the views of Limbaugh is to grant him license, to tacitly agree with whatever hateful thing comes out of his mouth, I am amazed that so many radio stations continue to carry him. Ratings count for a great deal, of course. But really - and to choose just one example, a local example - is KMOX really proud of its association with the likes of Limbaugh? That the self-styled "Voice of St. Louis," which broadcasts across the continental U.S., willing broadcasts the kind of bile that regularly issues forth from Limbaugh is almost beyond belief.

For a station that claims to have "the heartbeat of the community in mind, responding to charitable needs," KMOX's hosting of the demonstrably uncharitable Limbaugh seems more than a little out of place.

(Cross-posted at Waveflux.)

Rolling Stone: The Worst Congress Ever

by: Pam

While I was in Newark Airport waiting for a delayed flight home, I picked up the latest issue of Rolling Stone. The cover story is a hilarious and on-point article by Matt Taibbi, The Worst Congress Ever: How our national legislature has become a stable of thieves and perverts -- in five easy steps.

You must read this. It's a chronicle of how Republican rule on the Hill has set the new standard of political inertia, corruption and indecency.
In the past six years they have castrated the political minority, abdicated their oversight responsibilities mandated by the Constitution, enacted a conscious policy of massive borrowing and unrestrained spending, and installed a host of semipermanent mechanisms for transferring legislative power to commercial interests. They aimed far lower than any other Congress has ever aimed, and they nailed their target.

"The 109th Congress is so bad that it makes you wonder if democracy is a failed experiment," says Jonathan Turley, a noted constitutional scholar and the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington Law School. "I think that if the Framers went to Capitol Hill today, it would shake their confidence in the system they created. Congress has become an exercise of raw power with no principles -- and in that environment corruption has flourished. The Republicans in Congress decided from the outset that their future would be inextricably tied to George Bush and his policies. It has become this sad session of members sitting down and drinking Kool-Aid delivered by Karl Rove. Congress became a mere extension of the White House."
Taibbi spends a good chunk of the "Step One: Rule by cabal" section on the outrageous behavior of James Sensenbrenner, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
The committee is chaired by the legendary Republican monster James Sensenbrenner Jr., an ever-sweating, fat-fingered beast who wields his gavel in a way that makes you think he might have used one before in some other arena, perhaps to beat prostitutes to death. Last year, Sensenbrenner became apoplectic when Democrats who wanted to hold a hearing on the Patriot Act invoked a little-known rule that required him to let them have one.


More fundie blather over the NJ ruling

by: Pam

"I think what most Americans need to know more than anything else about this ruling is that the New Jersey Supreme Court just made a decision for each of us. And what they decided is that homosexual marriage will be legal in your state.
-- Don Wildmon, on those damn activist judges in the Garden State
Ah, it's nice to see the head of the American Family Association coming unhinged over Wednesday's decision that gay couples should have the same rights and benefits of marriage as het couples to the legal rights of civil marriage. He's hoping to energize the sheeple for another push at a federal marriage amendment. (AgapePress):
"In Massachusetts [which has legalized homosexual marriage]," Wildmon explains, "there's a law that says you cannot come into the state and get married. However, there is no such law in the Garden State, he adds, so "you can go from any state and get married in New Jersey."

In light of these facts, the pro-family leader thinks the New Jersey court decision is likely to galvanize pro-family forces into action.

"This will increase the commitment of those of us who have been involved for three or four years now in the effort to strengthen our proposed Marriage Protection Amendment," Wildmon says. Meanwhile, he hopes the ruling will drive values voters to the polls next month in an effort to keep pro-homosexual liberals out of office and out of the judiciary.
Values voters. Is this not the most worn-out term? Just because we don't share his questionable, conditional values doesn't mean everyone else doesn't have any -- people are waking up to the fact that they don't want Wildmon peeping in their bedrooms and threatening to criminalize them.


Daddy Dobson is also quoted in another AgapePress bleating on the ruling, and the bombastic head of Focus on the Anus raises the level of hysteria.
"Nothing less than the future of the American family hangs in the balance if we allow one-man, one-woman marriage to be redefined out of existence," he says in a press release. "And make no mistake -- that is precisely the outcome the New Jersey Supreme Court is aiming for with this decision."

Daddy D in 2004: "Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage...It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth."

26 October 2006

Corporate Media Whores

by: Foiled Goil

Collaborators of Catastrophe: Inside the Ministry of Truth

by Manuel Valenzuela

Snippets from the (very long) article:

The creators of American reality, those propagators of charades and mirages who dwell inside the hallways of the Ministry of Truth – otherwise known as the Corporate Media – continue their dance of deception and whitewash, festering in their offices of propaganda, directing the narratives and the epics hundreds of millions of Americans consider truth. Much like the disappearance of warmth giving way to the crispness of cold arrives with each annual changing of leaves, so the remarketing of American reality is altered by the changing faces of circumstance. Today, this change is the complete disaster that is the occupation of Iraq, an endeavor whose initial fruition could not have taken shape without the blitzkrieg marketed incessantly into every home and mind in America by the Department of Propaganda, the Ministry of Truth and its army of pseudo-journalists.

The job has thus fallen to the Ministry of Truth and its agents of propaganda to once again reassemble the many pieces of the smoking mirror and reconstruct in the mind of the American masses the fantasy and fiction of an America that only exists in the thoughts of the brainwashed and the easily manipulated. The mirror of American preeminence, splendor and greatness that has been used for decades to make servants of the population must be refurbished, lest the people wake from their hypnotized stupor to see that the American Dream is but one more charade, one more level of control over their lives, one more fantasy injecting fog and haze into myopic eyes, one more mirage whose true nightmare remains hidden by the warm glow of the television.

It is when the Dream jousts with Reality that awakenings to truth emerge, as always after violent storms of thought penetrate a brainwashed mind that refuses to pull its anchors from the draining harbors of control. Like two armies engaged in hand to hand combat, the Dream conditioned and Reality experienced meet on the battlefield of thought, creating volatile and uncomfortable conundrums tearing a mind that has never been confronted with a challenge to what it thinks is truth and reality. In times beset by inevitable questioning of the state and the so-called leaders of the people, when decisions and policies lead to defeat and failure and debacle, leading to embarrassment and deep collective introspection, millions of citizens will confront the dark Dream, wondering why its tenets and axioms have not held firm, finally seeing the light, realizing that the Dream they lived no longer corresponds with the Truth they now see, in the process shattering the smoke-filled mirrors that surrounds them and becoming aware of what has been done them, and who is responsible.

The elite's interests will of course be protected and defended by the Ministry of Truth and its hordes of presstitutes, for the Corporate media is and always has been the tool of the Establishment, over the years having become its undying weapon against the masses, its always reliable firewall of brainwashing and conditioning. As has always been the case since the inception of television, he who controls the media controls the masses, and he who controls television controls American reality. Since it controls the perceptions of America's reality, and since the Establishment is the master of the Ministry of Truth, then naturally everything aired, voiced or imaged through the monitor will inevitably have as goal the protection and expansion of the ruling class' interests.

In the real world, in places where truth prevails and reality thrives, where actual journalism lives and flourishes, where real democracy is a reality and not a fantasy, there exists in just one or two or three or four web pages or websites more talent than the entire lot of America's corporate media, blossoming to grant sustenance and life back to editing, writing, reporting and journalism. It is inside the digital domain of the Internet where opportunity is still a reality, where talent and ability still matter, where the love of journalism can be seen and appreciated. For while the presstitutes have abandoned truth for greed and integrity for fame, on the Internet the only gains are love of journalism, love of truth, love of justice and love of knowledge.

Once again, through the Internet, We the People have truth, reality, a voice, true democracy and empowerment. In it we have found a paradigm where there is no glass ceiling, no discrimination, no nepotism and no alteration of truth. In this realm, the talent is omnipresent; the ability mesmerizing; the opportunity as open and as wide as the Pacific Ocean. The diversity of opinion and talent and brainpower has exploded onto the world stage, making pseudo-journalists the laughingstock of millions. To those working inside the Ministry of Truth, your gig is up, the Internet has arrived, taking your viewers, your readership and your revenues. When you collaborate to lie, deceive and manipulate a nation towards war, when you ignore truth and criminality as if it does not exist, when you choose selling out rather than standing up, you know the end is near. In this world, the Internet is the future; the corporate media, a thing of the past.

Enslaved to masters and pimps and sugar daddies, this group of war collaborators has helped to give birth to the greatest strategic disaster in the history of the United States. Their spin, bull manure, cover-ups, whitewashes, protection of authority, failure to seek accountability, dissemination of propaganda, silence in the face of blatant lies and failure to expose truth has made them all accomplices to what America has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention what Israel has done in Palestine and Lebanon. They are as guilty as the criminals and murderers in office.


Full article

NJ Gay Marriage: Will it stir up the fundie vote?

by: Konagod

Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass anymore.
"Hot button social issues have come alive again. ... The Iraq issue had taken away from the social issues that religious conservatives wanted to focus on," said Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the PEW Research Center.

In the not-too-distant future these people, who have exerted all this energy and wasted so much money fighting against the so-called "gay agenda," are going to wake up in a world of problems so deep and complex, we'll be fortunate if we can pull ourselves out of the mire.

Whether two people of the same sex decide to marry has absolutely nothing to do with the day-to-day lives of those who staunchly oppose anything resembling equality for all Americans. What does impact us all, and what we should be discussing includes:

The National Debt

The War on Drugs

The War in Iraq

Job Growth

Jobs Going Overseas

The Housing Bubble

Election Reform and other voting issues

The Health Care Debacle

The Uninsured

"Nothing less than the future of the American family hangs in the balance if we allow one-man, one-woman marriage to be redefined out of existence.
-- Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family

If the fundies want to make the "hot button" issue about who I've chosen to spend my life with while expressing little or no concern for real issues, then pardon me if I don't shed a tear or have a fucking ounce of sympathy when your job is outsourced overseas, you cannot afford health coverage for your family, your sons and daughters are blown into fragments in Iraq because "it's better over there than here," or your president digs us into an economic hole of eternal darkness.

So, go ahead; base your motivation to vote on the NJ decision. Then carry on about your pathetic lives enjoying nonsense crap like this, pop open a piss-weak cold one, and see if I give a shit what you with your ignorant blind faith have allowed to happen.
"I may not feel comfortable with gay marriage but society is not going to implode if gays can marry. I'm not losing any sleep over it," Tom Nutt, a Dallas-based pilot, told Reuters in an interview in a coffee shop.

Society may well implode. It definitely has nothing to do with gays marrying and absolutely everything to do with the preponderance of rampant crassitude.

Fence Bill Signed by Bush

by: Konagod

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photo is a representation only; actual fence will likely be less attractive and offer equal security.

In what is likely to be another financial boondoggle with little benefit, the Shrublet signed a bill today authorizing 700 miles of fencing along the Mexican border. Although the cost to construct the fence is unknown, we do know the $1.2 billion "down-payment" was included in a homeland security bill signed earlier this month by Bush. The bill signed today doesn't actually authorize any money for the project.

This may represent the last of the feeble attempts by our stupid and incompetent leader to demonstrate the strength and resolve of the Republican party in the face of global terrorism -- or in the face of brown-skinned people sneaking across the border illegally.
"A fence will slow people down by a minute or two, but if you don't have the agents to stop them it does no good. We're not talking about some impenetrable barrier," T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing Border Patrol agents, said Wednesday.

It's official. The President of the United States is, quite simply, an ass.
25 October 2006

The Remedial Future

by: Dark Wraith

Entering the building brought back memories. It wasn't as if I'd been in this particular place very many times, but schools all seem to have the same smell. A teacher I have known for many years likes to say that aerosol cans of School Aroma are used at night after everyone has left, and the extra-strength brand is used right before the beginning of every school year. The janitor must have sprayed a shot or two of that extra-strength stuff right before I entered that junior high last month for the Community Open House.

It was primarily for parents, but anyone could come. The entire school district some years ago had pretty much dispensed with the traditional parent/teacher conferences in favor of these Open House affairs, where teachers and administrators give group presentations to the assembled audiences. A sense of urgency about keeping on the schedule of moving from place to place through the evening kept most people from trying to catch a teacher, a guidance counselor, or the principal for even a quick question. Things like that had to wait for that day when people were afforded the opportunity to "arrange" a 15-minute meeting with one or several teachers if there were some special, individual issues that needed to be discussed.

Those special conferences, complete as they were with the unspoken message that they were to be arranged only under extenuating circumstances, had replaced the old-fashioned parent/teacher conferences. In its own way, this seemed reasonable: if the kids are to be educated in warehouse fashion, then anyone interacting with that education system should enjoy the same kind of food processing environment.

The whole shindig that evening at the Open House would culminate in a big assembly in the "cafetorium" (a word new to me, it being defined as a combination cafeteria, auditorium, and gymnasium). The principal would speak for a few minutes, then the lead teachers in each subject area would give their brief speeches, and then the principal would conclude the night's activities with a few thoughts. I had hoped there would be a question-and-answer session at the end, but I was going to be sorely disappointed.

No RacismThe evening started off uneventfully, though. I walked past several tables, missing one that I should have noticed but didn't because I got focused on the table that had a big sign over it with the word "RACISM" with a red slash through it. These signs were all over town, and I found them so ironic. This bustling community, with all of its up-and-coming yuppies and their ever-progressive churches, do so many things to show just how with-it and open-minded they are in their collective public expressions. Everything from bans on all smoking in public to mildly worded vows of "tolerance" for alternative "lifestyles," these are the kind of people trying very hard to have their noses in the progressive air, where they won't be able to smell the stench of their cowtown-gone-big-time with its street-level, grinding poverty, unemployment, and drug problems. That very school, where those anti-racism signs were wagging, is a hot-bed of simmering anger between the Black and White kids on one side, and the immigrant kids—mostly, but not all, Hispanic—on the other. As an African-American mother had told me when we were talking about the bitter hatred the Mexican kids were engendering for their alleged misbehavior on a school bus, "My granddaddy always said Black and White folk would finally come together when we all had someone else we didn't like." I laughed at the time, but I knew very well she was right: the Blacks and Whites have almost no issues with each other, but they uniformly hate the Mexicans, and they seem to find all kinds of reasons why those Hispanic kids are making them get mad.

The D.A.R.E. table just made me cringe. I wondered if anyone in that school had even the slightest clue as to how rampant the use of meth and Special K (ketamine) are. The cop sitting at that D.A.R.E. table probably did; but then again, maybe he didn't, either.

So I went by all the tables, and I missed the one that, right there and then, would have set me off. As it was, I had to wait until nearly the end of the evening before my list of issues I wanted to bring up would evaporate in a storm of righteous indignation over one small matter highlighted in the last, big assembly.

Now, it sounds like I went to that Open House with a mission to stir trouble. That's right: I had several issues I wanted to have aired in an open forum where lots of parents were present. One was the problem with the pot of ethnic tensions that was on the verge every day of bursting into open violence.

Another was the RFID chips. Apparently, according to a number of junior high school students who had spoken to me in other venues, several teachers at that school had been telling the kids that, before they were finished with high school, every student would be required to have a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip injected as a requirement to attend public school. The refrain I had heard from several kids was that teachers were saying something along the lines of, "It's just like how we make you have vaccinations." After the tragedy at that Amish school in Pennsylvania last month, the harangue from a couple of teachers about those RFID chips had become more persistent. I wanted clarification on this matter, just to make sure it was nothing more than some teachers pulling kids' legs, and I wanted it where parents could hear all about RFID chips. My hope was that a paleo-conservative wave of Luddite indignation would roll across that room and put some brakes on this hare-brained idea, if by some remote chance it was seriously on the table. As it had been, far too many ridiculous, ill-conceived, and downright counter-productive ideas had come to fruition in that school district (and, in fact, in that whole community) because plans were hatched, executed, and entrenched before anyone knew what was going on. The RFID chips were just the latest and, in my judgment, the very worst of a whole string of nonsense that had made my job as a citizen and my career as a college teacher more and more difficult. RFID chips are already becoming required by far too many employers in the private sector, and within the next two years, U.S. soldiers will be giving up their dog tags to get those RFID chips shot into their arms (which should make it somewhat easier, I shall concede, to identify battlefield corpses).

I had my plan for a couple of diplomatically worded, yet pointed, questions. Then came the final assembly, and that was where my plans turned on a dime.

By the way, bringing up issues in another, perhaps more appropriate, forum—like, maybe to the school board—wouldn't be such a good idea. First would come the mantra that people with concerns should work their way up through the system. Second, and more tellingly, both the school board and the city, itself, have employees sometimes called their "kook handlers," otherwise known as community relations personnel. These are the individuals to whom the kooks who call are directed. These handlers are very nice, and they have absolutely no authority to do anything other than calm people down and assure them that their concerns will be addressed. I know these people well, both because I've worked with some of them and because I've been directed to them, like the time I called to find out why an apartment complex in town had secured its own police force that was writing "tickets," something that cannot be done by entities that are not 'sovereign' such as municipalities and states. A nice kook handler for the city was "helping" me until I brought in the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to deal with the matter since these phony "cops" were writing tickets to kids who were riding their bikes on the sidewalk instead of on the streets as required by the "laws" of the apartment complex. (Ever watch a five-year-old riding her little bike behind parked cars that might back out at any second?) No, I wasn't interested in getting into a discussion with the school board's community relations person, much as I enjoy talking with people I've never met before. The school assembly was where I might get some real answers to serious questions.

Returning to the grand finale of that Open House, the principal had her say—she'd have a few last words at the end, too—then the teachers came through, one by one, saying the things parents and concerned citizens want to hear: students are expected to do their homework, respect their teachers and their peers, etc.

Then came the teacher spearheading the health program. It wasn't a minute before she said, "And I'm so excited about the funding we have for our abstinence-only sex education program here."

Oh, my. Following school matters as closely as I had been, I had heard nothing about this. But it got better. The health teacher started talking about the "coordinator" of the program out in the hall at her table: the table with the sign for the church that was behind this application of a "faith-based initiative."

I swear, I'm getting old. Either that, or a table sponsored by a church plopped right smack in the middle of a public school was so far outside my world-view that I just blocked it out.

I actually got out of my seat and went over to the doors and peeked out. Sure enough, there it was: a table with a church's logo parked front and center, along with "health education" signs; and there, sitting behind the table, was a real, live church lady, almost a caricature in flesh and blood, someone who would, by the very aura about her, bring many to vows of abstinence. Dear Lord, the woman was wearing floral print with a ruffled-lace collar that looked like it was throttling the hag.

The health teacher in the cafetorium was just bubbling on: the amount of "assistance" the school had received for implementing this program, how she could tell the "positive" impact it was making on the lives of so many young people, and how she could "vouch for" the dedication of that church and its church lady since she was a member of that very same house of God.

I looked at the row of teachers sitting with the principal, and all but a few had expressions of what I can describe only as serenity with what that health teacher was saying. Good Lord, those were people cut from the same cloth; but more importantly, this had been some kind of group decision to bring such a program on board, and that principal, nodding her head and smiling, somehow pushed this through, probably using the leverage of promises of federal money that would come with implementation of a heavily religious intrusion into what should be a completely secular institution.

Yes, the federal government has several of these programs, and schools desperate for funds are vulnerable to parochial, Christian interests—usually within the school systems, themselves—ready to get the ball rolling. And these programs aren't in any way loose with respect to standards of content, scope of instruction, or even sequence of topics. They aren't particularly nice, either. For example, program "guidelines," which are actually curricular mandates, specifically address topics like homosexuality, which is described as a lifestyle that can be "exited" (yes, that's the language). That explained in a flash what I had noticed as a disturbing level of viciously anti-gay jokes the kids at that school seemed completely at ease with telling. It also explained why way too many girls had been telling everyone that two of their classmates are "lesbians" just because one of them sat on the other's lap one day. The cruelty of the name-calling was exceeded only by how proud all of the girls were that they'd "tagged" a couple of "lezzies."

The health teacher finished, the principal said the goodbye and thank you bit, and everyone left.

They'll have another Open House in the Spring, so I'll get my facts in order and be ready for the inevitable braying about this faith-based initiative being rammed down the throats of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. I'll let the lady have her fun, then I'll take my opportunity to growl rather loudly, "Before you sit down..."

Being a college teacher for 25 years has taken away any qualms I might have about taking over a room with my voice. Heaven knows why, but people I know get really fidgety when I start that intrusive snarl that inevitably leads to a long-winded lecture. It's my trademark; and for some reason, people who have been to college are rather afraid to tell a professor to shut up.

My script will be polished. "When and where was it decided that we would, in this school, set aside comprehensive sex education—the kind that includes a strong message for abstinence along with an equally strong message that effective contraception is available and must always be used when the choice of abstinence has been declined?"

I'll probably get something like, "I really don't think this is the place..."

"It most certainly is," I'll say. "Your 'abstinence only' program—as much as you, yourself, are 'so excited' about it—is exactly the same as refusing to teach driver's ed students about safety belts simply because you're going to tell them not to have accidents."

I've already made it quite clear to anyone who will listen that I fully intend to make a loud noise when this matter comes up at the next Open House, and I have been quietly aghast at the number of people—most of them parents—who agree with me. "Good grief," I keep thinking to myself, "I really need to stop being so snotty about the people in this community."

Provided I'm not dragged out before I can finish, I must make one more point: "Studies are already coming in that give strong evidence that this abstinence-only sex education is simply not working, and this school is allowing one church, with one set of religious beliefs, to impose those beliefs on a community where a whole lot of people simply don't believe that way. In fact, one of the largest churches in town, the First United Methodist Church down just off College Avenue, specifically states in its public documents that gay people are welcome with open arms and no judgment; yet you choose a path that brings intolerant religion right into this public school, all while you wave around those 'no racism in our community' signs out there."

I could say more, especially about teaching at the local colleges where I get to see 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old single mothers with one, two, three, or even (in the case of a student of mine right now at the community college) four children. Most of them, I'm trying to prep for the GED. A few, I'm teaching in remedial courses they have almost no chance of passing. They're tired, their lives are a shattered mess, their futures are written in the virtual stone of lost hope and minimum wage jobs for years to come. They'll suffer abuse at the hands of a nasty, so-called "free market"; they'll suffer abuse at the hands of boyfriends they desperately hope are a chance to live a better life; they'll suffer verbal abuse at the hands of their parents, who are themselves being burdened by children and now grandchildren who cannot adequately fend for themselves; they'll suffer abuse at the hands of a git-tuff-on-crime law enforcement machine that will kick their butts every time they do things that poor people often do by the very nature of their circumstances; and they'll suffer abuse at the hands of a scornful little sub-population of religious hate-mongers who will use them as the pretext for more and more ridiculous, counter-productive policies brought to bear through craven politicians trying to show just how pious, godly, and altogether Christian they, themselves, are.

I'll stop at that. If I were to keep going, I'd probably end up roaring, "God ALMIGHTY, teachers! Is promoting your own narrow views and getting a few extra bucks from Right-wing whores in Washington really worth the price you're exacting in more lives wrecked? IS THAT WHAT YOUR GOD BIDS OF YOU? If so, then yours is a false god, and you are the worshippers of an idol of self-satisfying pain visited upon those harmed by your abdication of responsibility to these kids, who by the way should always come before your mean little god as far as public policy is concerned."

Like I said, I'll stop before I go that far.

The abstinence-only sex education program will continue, of course, whether or not I raise holy Hell. It's not like schools are a shining example of democracy. After all, we pay those teachers and administrators to make decisions that can at times be unpopular. Perhaps if we paid teachers more, though, we'd get better decisions.

Setting aside my personal preferences for a comprehensive, well-tested, secular approach to sex education, I suppose I'm okay with how things are with the abstinence-only version; it most decidedly guarantees that I'll have plenty of work prepping single mothers for their GEDs for years to come.

Now, if only I could work an angle to do my teaching as some faith-based initiative type of gig, I'd definitely have it made.

The Dark Wraith believes there really is a place for God in remediating the future.

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

No Racism in Tennessee Senate Race

by: Konagod

Yeah, riiight...

From Rook's diary at DailyKos:
A friend of my mother owns a small shop on the main street of her town in Middle Tennessee. Her car has a Harold Ford, Jr., bumper sticker on it. The other day, a young man came into the shop and asked her if the bumper sicker was hers. She said yes.
The young man said, "You better watch out that you don't get your store burned down, because we don't vote for n*****s around here."

As if most of us don't know it for a fact, inbreeding is bad and should be stopped. Is this the "Tennessee life" Corker claims to have lived? It's enough to make you wish the elections were tomorrow... or yesterday.

More tasteless enjoyment...
Corker ad:

Ford ad:

Garden State Victory... (well.. sorta)

by: Konagod

New Jersey's highest court ruled Wednesday that gay couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, but that lawmakers must determine whether the state will honor gay marriage or some other form of civil union.


...the Supreme Court stopped short of fully approving gay marriage and gave lawmakers 180 days to rewrite marriage laws to either include gay couples or create new civil unions.

"The issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people," the court said in its 4-3 ruling.

Hopefully the lawmakers will go the marriage route rather than civil onions unions but at this point we'll take it.

24 October 2006

Remembering Gene Roddenberry

by: Konagod

Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek series, died 25 years ago today of a heart attack at the tender age of 70.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I've been a Star Trek fanatic since I was a child. I wanted to live on the USS Enterprise and proudly serve under Captain James T. Kirk. (not in that way!)

The series was a magnificent escape mechanism for me, promising a future world in which race and gender were irrelevant. I used to joke that I developed 90% of my moral fiber from that series. There were invaluable social lessons lurking just under the surface for those willing to pay attention.

One of my favorite episodes involved Kirk having his consciousness stolen by a woman who was his ex-lover. Trapping his consciousness in her body, she took his in an attempt to take control over the Enterprise. There was quite a bit of gender confusion and some major bending taking place in that one. That episode, "Turnabout Intruder," first aired in 1969.

At 10 years of age, the 1990s seemed so futuristic and far away, and I had the greatest expectations for humanity and technology for that decade and on into the 21st century. (Hey, but how 'bout them 80s?)

Technology certainly hasn't disappointed me. I can walk around with my Motorola RAZR "communicator" and do just about anything except zap someone or beam myself up to the mothership (I still used an old-fashioned medicinal combo for that trick).

As for humanity, I am very disappointed. Debates rage on about same-sex marriages, racial prejudice and inequality are very much alive and well, starvation and poverty are rampant in many areas of the world, and not very many people in power are really doing very much about any of these issues except fanning the flames.

Roddenberry is dead. DeForest "Bones" Kelley died in 1999. James "Scotty" Doohan died last year and his ashes were shot into space per his request last month. I am afraid my expectations for a civilized world in which fairness and equality are the rule rather than the exception are slowly dying with them.
"I had insisted on half women on board [the Enterprise]. The network came to me and said, 'You can't have half women. Our people say it will make it look like a ship with all sorts of mad sexual things going on -- half men and half women.' So we argued about it like a poker game and they finally said, 'Okay. We'll settle for one-third women.' I figured one-third women could take care of the males anyway."

"If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear."

--Gene Roddenberry

Epilogue to Absence

by: Dark Wraith

Perhaps a handful of regular readers here at the Big Brass Blog might have noticed that the host has been absent these past few days. I have been away.

Serving as a guest blogger at Pam's House Blend on the eve of my return yesterday, I published an exclusive story there: the title of the article is "The end of all things."

The Dark Wraith is most decidedly glad to be back.
23 October 2006

Advertising Errorism

by: Foiled Goil

Advertising terrorism
The key to terrorism is not the act — but the fear of the act

Keith Olbermann, 10/23/06 Transcript excerpts:

Tonight, a special comment on the advertising of terrorism – the commercial you have already seen.

It is a distillation of everything this administration and the party in power have tried to do these last five years and six weeks.

It is from the Republican National Committee;

Frankly, a lot of people seeing that commercial for the first time, have laughed out loud.

But — not everyone.

And therein lies the true threat to this country.

The dictionary definition of the word “terrorize” is simple and not open to misinterpretation:

“To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear.”

Note please, that the words “violence” and “death” are missing from that definition.

The key to terror, the key to terrorism, is not the act — but the fear of the act.

But why is the Republican Party imitating them?

Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; The Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.

The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home.

Only the Republicans have a bigger bank roll.

“To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear.”

By this definition, the people who put these videos together — first the terrorists and then the administration — whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking — they are the ones terrorizing you.

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaida.

But the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.

And now we have this cheesy commercial — complete with images of a faked mushroom cloud, and implications of “mass death in America.”

This administration has derived benefit and power from terrorizing the very people it claims to be protecting from terror.

It may be the oldest trick in the political book: scare people into believing they are in danger and that only you can save them.

If, Mr. President, this is the kind of crack work that your new ad implies that only you and not the Democrats can do, you, sir, need to pull over and ask for directions.

There are some of us who could forgive you for trying to run your candidates on the coattails of the Grim Reaper, for reducing your party’s existence to “Death and Attacks Us.”

It’s cynical and barbaric.

But, after all, it may be merely the natural extension of the gutter politics to which you have subscribed since you sidled over from baseball, and the business world of other people’s money.

But to forgive you for terrorizing us, we would have to believe you somehow competent in keeping others from doing so.

The families and friends of each of the 2,749 dead — who had been grimly told in May of 2002 that there were no more remains to be found — were struck anew as if the terrorism of that day had just happened again.

And over the weekend they’ve found still more remains.

And now this week will be spent looking in places that should have already been looked at a thousand times five years ago.

For all the victims in New York, Mr. Bush — the living and the dead — it’s a touch of 9/11 all over again.

And yet you can actually claim that you and you alone can protect us from terrorism?

You can’t even recover our dead from the battlefield — the battlefield in an American city — when we’ve given you five years and unlimited funds to do so!

Setting aside the fact that your government has done nothing else for those five years but pat yourselves on the back about terror, while waging pointless war on the wrong enemy in Iraq, and waging war on the cherished freedoms in America;

Just on this subject of counter-terrorism, sir, yours is the least competent government, in time of crisis, in this country’s history!

“These are the stakes,” indeed, Mr. President.

You do not know what you are doing.

And the commercial — the one about which Zawahiri might say “hey, pretty good — we love your choice of font style”?

All that need further be said is to add three words to Shakespeare.

Mr. President, you, and that advertisement of terror, are full of sound and fury — signifying (and competent at) nothing.

Crooks and Liars has the video.

Racial Separation Prevalent in Masonic Groups

by: Konagod

I frequently see debates in other comment threads about racism being a factor in elections these days. I brought it up myself in a piece by Litbrit over at Shakes’ place regarding Barack Obama possibly making a White House run in 2008.

Lest there be any doubt that racial divides still exist, particularly in the deep south, digest this:
Nationwide, Masonic groups operate in a separate-but-supposedly-equal system in which whites typically join one network of Masonic groups, called Grand Lodges, and blacks typically join another, called Prince Hall.

But in the South, it goes further: White-controlled Grand Lodges in 12 Southern states do not even officially recognize black Masons as their brothers — the Masonic term is "mutual recognition" — and in some cases, black lodges have taken similar stands.


In Alabama, some dissident whites have split from the lodge system, and Republican Gov. Bob Riley's membership in an all-white lodge has drawn fire in his campaign for a second term. In North Carolina, white Masons recently voted down a bid to recognize members of the black group as fellow Masons.

"Only the states of the old Confederacy, minus Virginia and plus West Virginia, don't have mutual recognition," said Paul Bessel, a Maryland Mason who wrote a book on the topic. "There are, I'm sorry to say, some Masons who are racists. But the vast majority don't feel that way."


The whites' refusal to reciprocate "raises the ugly head of racism, segregation, all over again," said the leader of Prince Hall Masons in North Carolina, Milton G. "Toby" Fitch Jr., a state judge and former majority leader in the North Carolina House.

"The best analogy I can give is Baptist churches: You have black Baptist churches, and you have white Baptist churches. But they both recognize each other as being Baptist. We are talking about accepting the fact that `you practice Masonry and I practice Masonry.'"

I experienced this church segregation while growing up. My church was in "colored town" but never did we have a black family attend. Nor did any of the other white churches. The same could be said of the black churches.

Voting patterns in the deep south are very similar. Blacks overwhelming vote for the Democratic candidates, and whites overwhelmingly support the Republicans -- moreso in the rural areas.

While I have no evidence whatsoever to suggest whether white Masons (and non-Masons) would be willing to support a black presidential candidate, let's just say I'm quite comfortable with my unscientific hunch.
22 October 2006

Swedish Muslim Chided as "Islamophobe" for Opposing Veil

by: Konagod

Some interesting political news from Sweden via the TimesOnline:
The latest media darling of Scandinavian politics is not only black, beautiful and Muslim; she is also firmly against the wearing of the veil.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Nyamko Sabuni, 37, has caused a storm as Sweden’s new integration and equality minister by arguing that all girls should be checked for evidence of female circumcision; arranged marriages should be criminalised; religious schools should receive no state funding; and immigrants should learn Swedish and find a job.

Supporters of the centre-right government that came to power last month believe that her bold rejection of cultural diversity may make her a force for change across Europe. Her critics are calling her a hardliner and even an Islamophobe.

“I am neither,” she said in an interview. “My aim is to integrate immigrants. One is to ensure they grow up just as any other child in Sweden would.”

Sabuni also clearly has an interest in becoming Sweden's prime minister and may have that opportunity should the current government fall.
Anders Jonsson, a political commentator on the liberal newspaper Expressen, says there is no doubt Sabuni is one to watch. “She is a tough cookie and incredibly ambitious,” he said. “But I think it’s good that a black woman is raising these issues and she has proved that she is prepared to take tough decisions in order to get things done.”

21 October 2006

Remembering Pat Tillman

by: Foiled Goil

Pat Tillman’s brother, Kevin, writes:

“It’s Pat’s birthday November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking ...”

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

Full article at Truth Dig

Let’s take our country back on November 7.

Troups in debt can't go overseas.....

by: Jersey Cynic

I think I'll get my 17 year old son a FEW charge cards for his birthday, and then give him a list of things I need and want. EXCELLENT!! -- Kill two birds....
I have been getting more and more nervous by the day as he approaches his 18th birthday.
Problem solved......

Here is the article
Thousands of U.S. troops are being barred from overseas duty because they are so deep in debt they are considered security risks. "We are seeing an alarming trend in degrading financial health." The Pentagon contends financial problems can distract personnel from their duties or make them vulnerable to bribery and treason. As a result, those who fall heavily into debt can be stripped of the security clearances they need to go overseas.
While the number of revoked clearances has surged since the beginning of the Iraq war, military officials say there is no evidence that service members are deliberately running up debts to stay out of harm's way.

Can't the government, the powers that be or whomEVER, put a stop to ANYTHING, at any time, particularly out of control spending AND LENDING? ! What's going on?

What goes around, comes around maybe?

I have been doing a lot of reading lately regarding the Federal Reserve, the Federal Income Tax, and I have also been watching Aaron Russo's film Freedom to Fascism

In my opinion, the Federal Reserve is responsible for all that is "evil" on this earth today.

Here are two very informative reads:

All about bankers

John F Kennedy Vs. the Federal Reserve

What sad irony this is.......

Sally (She's a Mustang, and That's Her Name)

by: Minstrel Boy

It's nice to know that at least one other reader of my occaisional writing is a "horse person." Horses are a passion of mine. I love them deeply. I feel better and act better when I am in regular contact with horses. I keep three right now, two of them are Arabians, which I adore. They are tough, fleet, and have legendary endurance. They are also about as smart as horses come (which, by the way, isn't all that smart).

This isn't about anything with a pedigree though. This is about a mustang. An American mutt of a critter. Just like me.

The history of the mustang is fairly well known. When the Europeans came (except for the Vikings), they brought horses. As anyone who has lived with horses will tell you, horses escape. Fences and other protective barriers get brought down and breached by weather, vandals, thieves, and many other causes. If you breach a fence, the horses take off. There was a long time in the history of the continent where horses did quite well on their own. We have never truly bred out the herd instincts they have so, when on their own, they simply herd up, sort things out and go looking for food and water.

The magnificent Andalusian war horses of the Spanish were on the first ships. Along with them were Barbs, various draft horses, mules, and asses. There were escapes and run offs on every trip, landing, battle, march and encampment. These were the horses that formed the base genetic code for the Western Mustang. As the British and French invaded (sorry, but the place was already settled) the continent their horses escaped and joined in the mix. This mixing of the genetic codes produced what we call Mustangs. The horse cultures of the Native Americans (which is not something that includes my people the White Mountain Apaches) soon experienced an immediate benefit. By using the mustangs they were able to efficiently hunt and exploit the vast herds of bison, something that was very hard to do on foot.

Since the 50's, with the population explosion out here in the West, the mustangs have been put under tremendous pressure. They need lots of open space and free migration routes to keep themselves fed. Those, sadly, are a thing of the past. Before anyone starts to wax all poetic about the wonderful free life of the mustang I must take a moment to disabuse that. Most mustangs live a short life now. Usually they die of starvation, injury, or from bad water. They are also pretty hard on any landscape they inhabit. Not being able to move around like they once did, any resources they find are quickly used up. Often they are used to the point where they do not return.

This is why the bureau of land management has the adoption program. When they see a population of wild horses growing to the point of environmental destruction, or when they see a herd that is being monitored in danger of starving or dying of thirst, they move in, capture them and put them up for adoption.

That's how I found my Sally. She's the fourth mustang that I've taken in. Usually with a mustang I take them home, turn them out and feed them. Get them acclimated to people slowly and then, if they allow it, I train them. I have found mustangs to be about the best children's mount going. They run small. My vet figures that if she had been given access to a decent food supply that Sally would have stood about 15 hands. That's a good, average size for a horse. Instead Sally stands at 12 1/2. Except for her hooves. Compared to the rest of her, her feet are enormous. Imagine a person that's 5'4" but wears a size 12 shoe. Big old feets. Another big plus with the mustangs is temperment. They grow up having to run, fight, run some more, fight some more for every single mouthfull of food and water they get. After a few months around me they are thinking "Wow! This is like horsey heaven! All this food that they just throw at me and tasty water to drink that I don't have to fight for. This is a nice herd too, nobody's fighting all the time. That big stud guy is kept in solitary where him and his big old horse dick belong, and the other males are, well, somehow, nicer to me. I better stick with these guys as long as I can." Since most of my training style involves me working with and through herd dynamics this desire to be and remain part of the herd here is a very powerfull incentive for the mustang to cooperate with the training process. With very little effort at all I can teach a mustang how to respond to commands eagerly. Anther big plus with the mustangs is that they're sturdy. Here's an animal that never saw a vet, never had a shoe, never had any human care at all, and damned little care from the other horses to boot. The mere fact that they survive up to the capture point and then survive that process speaks of a horse that has few if any structural flaws. The mustangs are also brave. One of the biggest things we have to overcome when working with our horses is that their very first and most powerfull response to any stimulus is to Run Like Hell Right Now! A mustang that has been through the process of being captured, vet checked, penned up, branded or tattooed, transported, and all the other indignities they are subjected to before they are transported again to a new, very strange place really can't be surprised any further. Once they get the hang of a rider or a pack saddle, on the trail they are what we wilderness riders call bomb proof. You could ride Sally through Bagdhad and she wouldn't blink an eye. Mostly though, Sally's best job is to carry the pack saddle. Her herd instinct is so strong that she doesn't require much tether control at all. She just keeps up. When my son and I go out on our elk hunts we have Sally with us to help pack our stuff in and out. We pretty much load her up and go about our business. She goes along with us, making sure she keeps us in sight every step of the way. As soon as I dismount though she comes over for her stick of licorice. She would charge into the teeth of hell for licorice or carrots. Once, while hunting, we cut some cougar sign. Even a long time smoker like me could tell from sense of smell alone that there was a cougar in the neighborhood. Instead of running away, Sally got in closer to the herd and to us.

Like I said she's small, but her heart is Clydesdale size. When I come out in the morning to turn them out from their stalls and toss the first food of the day, Sally is right there. She follows me around, often nudging with her head if she thinks I'm not paying enough attention to her. I sing to her like I sing to all my other animals. And no, her theme song is not "Mustang Sally." It's Mabel's short little aria at the end of "Pirates of Penzance."

"Poor Wandering One,
Though you have truly strayed
Chasten thy pace
Thy steps retrace
Wandering one, come home.

Poor Wandering One,
If such poor love as mine
Can help you find
True peace of mind
Take heart, for it,
Is thine."

I encourage every horse lover I know to adopt and bring a mustang into the family. Us American Mutts got to stick together.

crossranged at El Rancho Harpo

I Followed A Link At Bilmon's Blog

by: Minstrel Boy

And this is where it led me. . .interesting stuff.

Smedley Butler on Interventionism
-- Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC.

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

plus ca la meme chose and stuff huh?

crossposted at Harp and Sword

Most Of US Spending Monitors Sacked

by: Missouri Mule

"Washington, Oct. 20th (UPI) Most private contractors keeping tabs on billions of dollars in governmental spending for the US House Appropriations Committee have been let go. With about 60 investigators gone, the shakeup leaves only 16 full-time employees int he unit, USA Today reported.

Committee spokesman John Scofield said that the quality of the unit's work has been questioned by leaders of the Republican controlled committee. Scofield said the ongoing investigations include the 62 billion federal relief package for Hurricane Katrina.

The cutback came about a year after Appropriations chairman Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., opened the Katrina review promising "a wide assessment and analysis of disaster spending."


Our National Character

by: Debra

Iraq, the debacle that keeps on more trouble, more deaths and no graceful way out. So this is the result when you go to a war that you planned to start and had no other plans after accomplishing your goal.

I did two years at a community college before I applied to Cal Poly. I was so focused on getting accepted, that when I did, I relaxed like the hard part was over. I was rudely disabused of this notion the next day when I walked into my Biology class and everyone was taking the midterm. Which I had forgotten. What a disaster that was. I just don't get the plant thing.

Well, I had to do a lot of extra credit to rescue my A. I even wrote a paper on the basics of cloning using E. coli bacteria. Turned out it was also an extra credit question on the final for even more points. My point, you might ask? I recognized I had screwed up and immediately sought options to improve my situation. I expect the same of my "leaders". Competent resolutions to difficult situations.

Even if you were warned ahead of time and disregarded all advice to the contrary. Even if you think you're right when all the evidence is stacked against you. Lying, hiding and passing the buck are unacceptable and childish attempts at cowardly avoiding the consequences of your actions.
In the eyes of the Bush administration and its foreign policy allies in Washington, Iraqi reconstruction and the march toward democracy are just a matter of time. All that's needed is for the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi armed forces to quell the sectarian violence. Put together the right alliances and the problem is solved, they believe. They see the answer to Iraq's problems in political terms.

But there are other aspects of Iraq that bother those of us who aren't as smart as the brilliant Washington thinkers who got us where we are today.

Some of us can't forget the prewar talk about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein's partnership with al-Qaeda, and how wrong the foreign policy elite were about that.

Then there was the rosy post-Hussein world portrayed by the Bush administration, in which Iraqis, liberated from the grip of fear and imbued with a deep and abiding respect for human rights and freedom, would be busy building a better future for themselves.
Well, we all know that didn't happen. I had this Saudi patient in the time between Aghanistan and Iraq. He explained to me about the three sects and that Hussein was what was keeping them from killing each other and if Bush proceeded at the current level of discussion and invaded Iraq, it would break into civil war and we wouldn't be able to stop it.

Now if this was baseball, Bush would be out. Strike one was brutal. It whipped by with such speed and force that it took out the catcher and the umpire. Supposedly, nobody (at least in this administration) could have known that terrorists would fly planes into buildings.

Strike two was a foul pop-up. We invaded Afghanistan in order to remove the Taliban, destroy al-Qaeda and capture Osama bin Laden. It looked good coming off the bat but it landed just to the right of the first baseline. Five years later, Osama's been forgotten (again!) and the Taliban are back and rested from the seventh inning stretch. Newsflash! Obama does not equal Osama, don't get sidetracked because it's an election year.

A series of foul balls have followed. Flying back from vacation to try and interfere in Terri Schiavo's life, letting the city of New Orleans drown on national television while you were on vacation, letting North Korea develop and test nuclear weapons while terror and instability are increasing across the globe in reaction to your posturing.

What should have been your third strike, is Iraq. Mishandled from the beginning and it looks like the end will be the same. There is not one part of Iraq that has been improved, that has benefited from our presence. Not one. There is very little of America that has benefited from your actions and there are many military families who are missing loved ones. Some permanently.

Why isn't it your third strike? Because you ignored and then changed the rules. The catcher was neutered during your first strike and the umpires were changed so strikes became balls.

Now all that's left is for you to declare the game over and yourself the winner.

Mr. Bush, you are our national character, and it doesn't look good.

Crossposted at Debsweb.
20 October 2006

Dire Warnings from the GOP Ahead of Midterm Elections

by: Konagod

As a Republican bloodbath in the November 7 midterm elections becomes increasingly likely, the GOP is preparing to crank up the furnace as we approach the final 2-week stretch of campaigning. From the WaPo:
The mood among most GOP strategists -- with the exception of Rove and a few others -- is decidedly downbeat heading into the final 18 days. They see poll after poll showing a growing number of GOP House incumbents in serious danger, including many who just weeks ago were considered relatively safe for reelection. The list of most-imperiled incumbents now includes Reps. Heather A. Wilson (N.M.) and Curt Weldon (Pa.), a top GOP strategist said.

By this reckoning, roughly a dozen GOP-controlled House seats are "gone, no ifs, ands or buts about it," said the strategist, who discussed internal party deliberations on the condition of anonymity.

A number of GOP operatives said privately yesterday that they now see minimum losses of perhaps 18 seats, with 25 to 30 a more likely outcome. Democrats need 15 to take control of the House.

The first face I want to see on the morning of November 8 is the eternally optimistic Karl Rove. Hell, I might even have to pop open a bottle of bubbly (French, of course!) for breakfast.

Even President Bush seems to have shoved aside the "family values" agenda to assist such destitutes as Rep. Don Sherwood (R) of Pennsylvania.
"I'm pleased to be here with Don Sherwood," a smiling president told the congressman's loyal but dispirited supporters at a luncheon fundraiser Thursday. "He has got a record of accomplishment."

Quite a record. While representing the good people of the 10th District, the married congressman shacked up in Washington with a Peruvian immigrant more than three decades his junior. During one assignation in 2004, the woman, who says Sherwood was striking her and trying to strangle her, locked herself in a bathroom and called 911; Sherwood told police he was giving her a back rub.

As the writers of the article point out, how ironic this is going on during "National Character Counts Week." Is there no driver on this bus?

Governors Report Cards from the Cato Institute

by: Konagod

The libertarian-influenced Cato Institute has released their fiscal policy report card for 2006.
This report presents the findings of the Cato Institute's eighth biennial fiscal policy report card on the nation's governors. The report card's grading is based on 23 objective measures of fiscal performance. Governors who have cut taxes and spending the most receive the highest grades. Those who have increased spending and taxes the most receive the lowest grades.

I take this with more than a grain of salt. "Cutting taxes and spending" is a popular mantra, but at the expense of whom?

Nevertheless, there are some eyebrow-raising grades being assigned to some interesting governors who are likely presidential contenders in 2008:

Jeb Bush (R) of Florida received a C. Hmm, just an average ho-hum grade.
Mitt Romney (R) of Massachusetts received a C.
Mike Huckabee (R) of Arkansas received an F.

If you are looking for A grades, only one was given... to Matt Blunt (R) of Missouri.

From Wikipedia:
In early 2005, Governor Matt Blunt proposed eliminating the [First Steps] program in an attempt to cut spending on social services and health care, and balance the state budget. The proposal was widely disliked, by parents and service providers across the state and from all political perspectives. Later, the governor backtracked on his proposal, instead recommending changes to the operation of the program and higher co-pays for services for parents with relatively high incomes.

Missouri First Steps is a program offered by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that offers coordinated services and assistance to children from birth to age 3 who have delayed development or diagnosed conditions that are associated with developmental disabilities.

Overall, almost 100,000 Missourians lost their Medicaid coverage under Blunt's first budget.

As of August 22, 2006, Blunt has a 40% approval rating, 45th of the 50 governors.

Hmm, for being the only governor in the nation with the Cato Institute's grade of A, he's certainly not a popular bloke.

Let the Games Begin

by: Konagod

WIth fine Americans like this on our shores, who needs terrorists?
Federal authorities said Friday they have charged a 20-year-old Wisconsin grocery store clerk with making a hoax threat that said seven football stadiums across the nation would be targeted by terrorists with radiological "dirty bombs" this weekend.

to be crossposted at konagod as soon as the friggin terroristsGods of Google/Blogger/YouTube give me a green light.
19 October 2006

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

by: Minstrel Boy

This one goes out to Spudsy who wrote a great Question of the Day over to Shake's about his pumpkin obsession.

Usually I save this one for Thanksgiving, where it has replaced pumpkin pie as the traditional family favorite, but since I'm going to be in a totally obsessive work mode all next week (the question of the day was about obsessions and I copped to being obsessed with my work in music), blogging will be light and I thought I would offer up something to amuse you all.

So, without further ado. . .Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

The first thing you must do is to make a gingerbread. This is an extra spicy version that has flavor enough to stand up to the other flavors that will be flying around the room.

Ingredients for the Gingerbread:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup apple juice
2 eggs
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Butter and flour a 10" Springform pan. Heat oven to 350°.

Stir together flour, cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt in a container. (I use a plastic measuring pitcher because it comes in handy later)

In a large bowl, mix sugar with oil, juice, molasses, eggs, and fresh ginger in a large bowl. Mix in crystallized ginger. Stir in flour mixture. Pour into prepared pan. Then bake for an hour. Cool this for ten minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely. (You could actually even stop right here and serve this warm with some whipped cream or a nice little Creme Anglais but resist my friends resist this is only going to get better)

Pumpkin Custard Ingredients

3 cups half-and-half
6 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups puréed pumpkin, or about 1 1/2 cans

Scald the half & half in a heavy saucepan (by scalding we mean to take it right up to the edge of boiling then remove it from the heat). In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Mix in pumpkin and warm half-and-half. When it is smooth and thoroughly mixed put it into a buttered baking dish which you then set into a larger baking dish. Fill the larger dish with hot water to about 1" below the rim of the custard dish. This is called a Bain Marie and will ensure that your custard bakes evenly all the way through. Bake this at 325° for 50 minutes and start to check it. You want a set, firm custard and a knife inserted into the center should come out clean. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

To assemble your trifle get your trifle bowl out (visuals are important with this, so don't be a barbarian, get a trifle bowl) and make sure it is sparkling clean.

Whip one quart heavy cream with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and set aside.
You will also want about 1/2 cup of gingersnap crumbs.

Spoon 1/2 of the Pumpkin Custard into the bowl and layer 1/2 of the gingerbread over that and 1/2 of the whipped cream over that. Do it again. Top the final layer of whipped cream with the gingersnap crumbs (optional for you folks that aren't into the whole sobriety thing is to also drizzle the gingerbread layer with a little Grand Marnier or a nice Calvados, not drench you libertine, drizzle).

When you make your entrance with this, remember, be gracious in accepting your accolades. You never have to tell them how easy it was. I never will.

Cross posted at Harps and Ghostizess

Hallowe'en Politics Graphic #2

by: Dark Wraith

Cometh the Reaper

The Dark Wraith gives permission to use this graphic with attribute.

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

MLK Being Cast as a Republican in Ads

by: Konagod

Just when you think you've seen every distasteful dirty trick imaginable in an effort to influence voters, here's a real gem.

The National Black Republican Association, a conservative group, has been running ads in DC, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania claiming that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was a Republican.
Frances Rice, chairman of the National Black Republican Association, said "They've called me Aunt Jemima, a sellout, a traitor to my race."

"I absolutely do not regret the ads," said Rice, 62, a native of Atlanta, King's hometown. He "absolutely was a Republican," she insisted. "We were all Republicans in those days. The Democrats were training fire hoses on us, siccing dogs on us."

Obviously, the Republican Party has changed significantly in the past 40-50 years, as has the Democratic Party. Tying King to the present-day Republican Party to influence black voters is sickening.
"To suggest that Martin could identify with a party that affirms preemptive, predatory war, and whose religious partners hint that God affirms war and favors the rich at the expense of the poor, is to revile Martin," said the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which the slain civil rights leader helped establish.

The spot, which ran for a time in the District, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania, will soon run again in those areas, as well as in Miami, Orlando and Tampa, according to Rice.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R), who is running for the U.S. Senate, denounced the King ad, and Donald E. Scoggins, president of Republicans for Black Empowerment and a former member of the association, said it was a terrible idea.

Black Republicans railed against the radio ads, with the sharpest criticism coming from former members of the black Republican association.

"The vast majority of black Republicans I know would not have approved of the ad," Scoggins said.

Dissatisfaction within the ranks of the National Republican Association has been brewing for awhile. Several members have resigned since last year after disagreements with Frances Rice, notably her support for President Bush in the Katrina aftermath.

What's with her blind allegiance?

Another Potential Election Debacle Looms

by: Konagod

What a surprise.

Aside from some new voting machines in one California county with a faulty audio program for the hearing impared only working in Vietnamese, there are a host of other problems lurking for American voters on November 7.

From the New York Times:
In Maryland, Mississippi and Pennsylvania, a shortage of technicians has vendors for new machines soliciting applications for technical support workers on job Web sites like

Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the states considered most likely to experience difficulties, according to voting experts who have been tracking the technology and other election changes.

Election officials in many of the states are struggling with delays in the delivery of machines before the election as old-fashioned lever and punch-card machines are phased out. A chronic shortage of poll workers, many of them retirees uncomfortable with new technology, has worsened matters.

Tova Wang, who studies elections for the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan research group, said: “We also have the greatest potential for problems in more places next month than in any voting season before.”

The article also cites Boone County, Missouri where 600 poll workers have not yet been trained. To compound the problem, the software coding to print training manuals has yet to be provided.

Newly enacted and very questionable voter identification laws in several states pose a potential problem as well.
“We’re expecting arguments at the polls in these states that will slow everything down and probably cause large numbers of legitimate voters to be turned away or to be forced to vote on provisional ballots,” said Barbara Burt, an elections reform director for Common Cause.

Meanwhile, votes in about half of the 45 most competitive Congressional races, including contests in Florida, Georgia and Indiana, will be cast on electronic machines that provide no independent means of verification.

In North Carolina, Wake County, which includes Raleigh, is expecting 350,000 voters on election day, a huge increase from the 30,000 voters in the May primary. Cherie Poucher, elections director for the county expressed concern over the scan machines in use. Twelve new machines had to be replaced during the primary due to a failure to boot up.

Not all officials are pessimistic and let's home they are correct. After the presidential election issues in 2000 and 2004, each being decided by one state, one would hope the public mood will not tolerate widespread snafus again. We shall soon see.

For map and chart geeks such as myself, follow the link to a nifty map showing counties which have had voting equipment changes since 2000.

Crossposted at konagod and Pam’s House Blend
18 October 2006

Public Policy and Intolerance in Commerce

by: Dark Wraith

Big Brass Blog contributor Pam Spaulding has published at Pam's House Blend an article detailing the efforts by some cab drivers in Minneapolis to be granted exemption from anti-discrimination statutes. These individuals argue their right to free exercise of their religion, Islam, is infringed by statutes and regulations that punish them for refusing to provide taxi service to customers whose behaviors or lifestyles are contrary to the teachings of the Qur'an. Specifically, some Muslim cab drivers do not want to transport people who have wine in their possession. Also, a transgender person avows that she has repeatedly been refused service by cab drivers.

As Pam recaps in her post, the original article in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune explains that cities across the U.S. and other countries have been grappling with demands by persons of certain religious affiliations for exemptions from anti-discrimination laws. As an example of such discrimination, some Muslim cab drivers refuse to transport blind people with seeing-eye dogs because dogs are haram ("unclean") according to the Qur'an.

Officials in Minneapolis have rejected the two-tiered system that would have allowed cab drivers at the airport to discriminate without having to go to the back of the line and start again waiting to pick up a fare. The reasoning behind the (Minneapolis) Metropolitan Airport Commission rejection of the Muslim cab drivers' request for exemption was that allowing Muslim drivers to decline fares without sanction "would amount to an acknowledgement that Shari'a, or Islamic law, is relevant to a routine commercial transaction." Moreover, and beyond the immediate matter of the Muslim cab drivers, making such an accommodation would likely be the first step onto a slippery slope where other groups claiming religious reasons for discrimination in commercial transactions would press their own demands for exemptions based upon a variety of religious tenets.

In the comments thread to Pam's post, I set forth a fundamental argument against government recognizing a commercial operation's right to discriminate, even when such discrimination arises as an expression of strict adherence to religious beliefs held by the owners or employees. In edited and extended form, I herewith present my statement originally published on that thread.
First, and as a general matter, the issue has to do with what is called "public policy." If we are to dispense with a world where government does not or should not exist, then we must accept that government has a duty to enact and enforce certain laws that promote order within the civil society. That means no business that anticipates earning revenues in that society may be permitted to act in a way that has been deemed contrary to what is right, just, and appropriate for securing, maintaining, and advancing that society. In a democracy, this ultimately places an affirmative and altogether compelling burden on the electorate to ensure that those who write laws promoting public policy see that such policy indeed expresses rightful action, just in its foundations and expressly beneficial to the good of the society.

In other words, it is a cop-out simply to throw up one's hands and say, "Every man for himself." It is far more difficult to be a responsible citizen insisting that decency and tolerance be the unwavering, guiding principles in determining what is public policy. Consequentially, it is the duty of the citizen to promote good public policy through the election of just, fair, and reasonable representatives and furthermore to actively participate in continuing dialogue with those elected representatives to ensure that they do not stray from proposing and enacting laws that ensure a fair and tolerant society for all, not merely for some.

Furthermore, once a reasoned and well-debated public policy is put into law and operation, both individuals and businesses must expect that, if they are to garner all of the benefits of the society and its embedded economy, they must abide by those rules. To the extent that they elect to do otherwise, they face not merely the risk of civil or criminal action, but also the certain scorn of the public at large for behaving in a manner that deviates from societal expectations.

Important to acknowledge in what has just been stated is that a society, acting through laws, regulations, and the very community, itself, can be neither authoritarian nor completely libertine: in the former case, the most mean-spirited and parochial expectations will be laid upon the members of a society; and in the latter, the public sector will have utterly abandoned to human nature, base as it would inevitably become, the duty to carefully, parsimoniously, and with good intentions shape the behaviors of its members. This, then, is the necessary duty—demanding as it does eternal vigilance—of the ideal society: that it not act with an iron and overbearing fist to impose strict standards of behavior, but neither that it for even a moment ignore its responsibility to appropriately but minimally circumscribe personal and commercial action.

Now, to the second point, related to, but more specific than, the first. Cab drivers earn their living by using the public's facilities: its streets, its sidewalks, and its other pedestrian and motorized traffic infrastructure. That means they are using what is not exclusively theirs, and as such, they must accept that public rules, not their own, are what matter. The cab drivers use that which the public pays to build, maintain, and upgrade, so they do not get a free ride either in terms of safety, licensing, and operating standards or in terms of actual conduct toward those who would use their services.

If they wish to engage in discrimination, first, they should find a society where public policy either does not exist or where laws or lack thereof express support for intolerance; and second, they should use only what they pay for and own completely and exclusively. It is wholly unacceptable and in no small measure inexcusable for the intolerant to expect a just, tolerant, and right society to allow them to conduct commercial operations using the public's facilities while ignoring the expressed will of that society for its members to be in their own conduct just, tolerant, and right.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

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

Beginning The End

by: Foiled Goil

'Beginning of the end of America'

Keith Olbermann:
Special comment on the Military Commissions Act

We have lived as if in a trance.

We have lived as people in fear.

And now — our rights and our freedoms in peril — we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight have we truly become the inheritors of our American legacy.

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

We have been here before — and we have been here before led here — by men better and wiser and nobler than George W. Bush. [snip]

“With the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?”

Wise words.

And ironic ones, Mr. Bush.

Your own, of course, yesterday, in signing the Military Commissions Act.

You spoke so much more than you know, Sir.

Sadly — of course — the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously was you.

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

But even within this history we have not before codified the poisoning of habeas corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.

You, sir, have now befouled that spring.

You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.

You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And — again, Mr. Bush — all of them, wrong.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done to anything the terrorists have ever done.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has insisted again that “the United States does not torture. It’s against our laws and it’s against our values” and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of Waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens “unlawful enemy combatants” and ship them somewhere — anywhere — but may now, if he so decides, declare you an “unlawful enemy combatant” and ship you somewhere — anywhere. [snip]

And if you somehow think habeas corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an “unlawful enemy combatant” — exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this attorney general is going to help you?

This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it. [snip]

Your words are lies, Sir.

They are lies that imperil us all. [snip]

Habeas corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The moral force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush, they would be “the beginning of the end of America.” [snip]

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And doubtless, Sir, all of them — as always — wrong.

Transcript at Countdown.

Transcript and video at Crooks and Liars.

Good night, and good luck.

Santorum courts the hobbit vote

by: Waveflux

Rick Santorum and the Eye of Sauron

Down 13 points to his Democratic opponent, soon-to-be-ousted Republican Senator Rick Santorum is so desperate for votes that he's trying to impress the public with his knowledge of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien:

In an interview with the editorial board of the Bucks County Courier Times, embattled Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has equated the war in Iraq with J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." According to the paper, Santorum said that the United States has avoided terrorist attacks at home over the past five years because the "Eye of Mordor" has been focused on Iraq instead.

"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else," Santorum said. "It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."

You have to give Santorum a couple of points for trying to put a novel spin on the tired old "Iraq as flypaper" meme, but he immediately loses those points for treating the public like eight-year-olds. Unless, of course, this is actually how he understands the consequences of George Bush's failed Iraq policy. Frankly, that possibility is much scarier than a Nazgûl.

Oh, well. I guess Tolkien beats "My Pet Goat."

Next time you hear people claim that it's the Republicans who are serious about national security, just point them to Santorum. Especially during story time.

(Cross-posted at Waveflux. More on Santorum's pathetic attempt at geekiness by Paul at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Oh, The Irony!

by: Debra

Is freeping unbelievable! How they ever managed to paint John Kerry as a flipflopper when these guys change positions faster than Bush changes his rationale for invading Iraq.
Apparently, the Left hates gays and believes that private sexual preferences belong on the front page.
Excuse me? Did I read that right? From the party that was so fixated on a blue dress and a cigar?

I know nothing about the alleged incidents of which Senator Craig (R-ID) is purported to be a participant. That is not the issue. The issue is the fluid attachment to truth and reality that the right seems to enjoy. For the last two elections "prevent the gays from getting married or have any rights whatsoever" has been front and center in the battle to control the country. Now, when it is obvious that some members of the Republican party prefer outies instead of innies, the righties are going to squeal foul?

These are the same people who wanted a President impeached for lying about having consensual sex with a woman over 21, which was a matter between him and his wife. Period. As long as she didn't kill him, it was none of the country's business. But that didn't stop the "moral" Republicans from investigating the minutiae of Clinton's life. Nope, not at all. Now they find it unseemly that someone might find it interesting, that a Senator who is alleged to swing both ways and then deliberately votes against his conscience, is hiding it from the public? Of course it's interesting. Heck, it's titillating.
Once again, the Left shows its obsession with sexuality, but it's really more than that. The Left obsesses over identity politics in all forms, and that obsession comes out in pathological terms. Rogers reveals this in his blog post, demanding that gay staffers on the Hill identify their orientation publicly, or else he will do it for them. Sexual identity is everything to him, and the concept of sexual privacy has no value to him at all. He wants to humiliate gays who prefer to keep their sexual activity private, forcing them to wear the virtual pink triangle against their will to experience obloquy and castigation.
Pink triangle for you, blue dress for us. Obloquy? Surely you jest. Did America really need to know about the details of a blowjob? The story was shoved down our throats and you guys salivated for more. As Gary Hart found out, you can't play footsie with someone who isn't your spouse and not expect to get caught. Eventually.

Suck it up, relax. It goes down easier that way.

Crossposted at Debsweb
17 October 2006

Comfort Food --- Macaroni and Three Cheeses

by: Minstrel Boy

This is one of my favorite all time dishes. When I was a kid the first week we got the Indian Commodities always meant Macaroni and Government Cheese. All you can eat babies. This was inspired by a Question of the Day over at Shake's Placewritten by the litbrit about favorite comment threads that have been provoked there. One of the better threads was about Comfort Foods. I've been downcast and mopey a bit lately. Some of it's my normal gloomy take on human nature, some of it's probably depression. The President gleefully signed the Torture Bill into law and I wonder where the hell that will lead us. I can't imagine anywhere good.

But enough of that. This is about comfort food. I should find comfort in knowing that I'm not a half-breed kid on the rez anymore. We don't live from gig to gig, handout to handout anymore. Still something like Macaroni and Cheese brings me back to good things. You can do this with any cheese that takes your fancy. Since I am in a whole other tax bracket from Government Cheese I will tell you what I use.

All ingredient amounts are relative. You can play with this one all you want. But like everything else, the better the ingredients the better stuff you'll end up with.

So pick your cheeses and away we go.

1 pound sharp (or even extra sharp) cheddar cheese
1 pound Swiss or Jarlsburg (Dublin cheese if you can get it is good here too)
1 good wedge Parmesiano Reggiano
1/4 cup butter (1 stick)
Bread Crumbs
Seasoning meat (optional)

Elbow macaroni (or any pasta that will hold sauce well like rigatoni or zitti)

Boil the pasta in a shitload of heavily salted water until al dente, drain and set aside.

Grate the cheddar and swiss cheese, separate each cheese into halves. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. When it's completely melted add the flour (a cupped handfull of flour for me works out to a little more than a 1/4 cup) and whisk well. Cook the roux (that's what you just made flour+fat=roux) about two minutes. You want to cook out the pasty flour taste, but you don't want to toast it brown or anything radical. Add salt and pepper to taste (if you're using a ham or sausage for a seasoning meat you can hold off on the salt). Now splash in the milk. You want to get a fairly thin base sauce here, as you cook it more, it will thicken. When the sauce is just below bubbling start adding in the grated cheeses. Whisking away and making sure not to scorch anything. You should in a very short time end up with a wonderfully glossy, cheese sauce.

One of my favorite seasoning meats to use is andouille sausage. When I was a kid it was the canned ham that always came with the boxes of food from the government. Ham Hocks, Polish Sausage, anything your heart desires will do here. This is about comfort food. Please yourself. To use andouille, I slice and slightly brown it, draining well on paper towel.

Now the pasta, sauce, and meat all go into a big oven safe bowl or casserole dish. Add about 2/3's of the remaining grated cheeses and stir through so that there are threads of pure cheese mixed well through the dish. With the remaining grated cheese, bread crumbs (seasoned or not doesn't matter) and some fresh grated parmesiano spead over the top of the dish. This will make that heavenly, cheese crust.

Bake at 350° for an hour or so, until the cheese crust is nice and brown. Your house will smell great. Your kids will pick up their rooms before dinner. Serve with garlic bread and a green salad.

That's a little bit of comfort from El Rancho Harpo (i feel better already)

crossposted at Harps 'n' Stuff

No Pension for Gerry Stubbs' Husband

by: Konagod


For the first time the surviving spouse of a member of Congress is being denied death benefits.

Dean Hara, who married former Massachusetts Rep. Gerry Studds shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, has been disqualified for benefits under the so-called federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Surviving spouses of members of Congress collect more than half of the pension for the remainder of their lives.
As if that isn't offensive enough, digest this:

Nevertheless, Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) who pled guilty last week to conspiracy charges and faces up to 10 years in prison for taking bribes will receive about $29,000 a year from his pension for the rest of his life - even while he is in prison.

This country is seriously ill.

Crossposted at konagod

Happy National Character Counts Week!

by: Shakespeares Sister

I shit you not.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 15 through October 21, 2006, as National Character Counts Week. I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, parents, students, and all Americans to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha — gasp! — ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

No wonder he waited until this week to sign the torture bill! He just wanted to celebrate National Character Counts Week!

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the fetal position in the corner, with bursts of maniacal laughter occasionally interrupting my mournful sobs.

(Via. Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

A gay guy, a black guy, and a Jew walk into Congress…

by: Shakespeares Sister

Dick Cheney, old school comic:

He offers his standard homage to tax cuts, a warning about how terrorists are still trying desperately "to cause mass death here in the United States" and a derisive cataloging of the various "Dean Democrats," congressmen including Charles B. Rangel of New York, Henry A. Waxman of California and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, whose influence would grow if the apocalypse came and Democrats took over Congress.

The crowd boos.

"Don't hold back," Mr. Cheney urges.

The crowd laughs.
As Steve says, “Yeah, a gay guy, a black guy, and a Jew. Nice to know the classic right-wing material still knocks 'em dead in Topeka.”

Wait until he breaks out the props. Now that shit is hilarious.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)
16 October 2006

Costs to the U.S. of 20th and 21st Century Wars

by: Dark Wraith

GWOTIn the aftermath of the attacks upon the United States of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush officially declared a Global War on Terror (GWOT), which came to involve military operations and security measures conducted abroad and within the United States. The three principal operations comprising GWOT are Operation Enduring Freedom, covering Afghanistan and other GWOT operations; Operation Noble Eagle providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Within each of these three operations, funds are allocated among all or some of the following: military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its June 14, 2006, report for Congress, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," the combined cost across the three primary operations of GWOT had reached $437 billion.

The table and associated graphics below present the cost of GWOT to June 2006 in comparison to approximate costs incurred by the United States in the major conflicts in which it engaged during the 20th Century. All data other than for GWOT were derived from the Statistical Summary, America's Major Wars Webpage of the U.S. Civil War Center (USCWC) of Louisiana State University. The cost to June 2006 of GWOT was obtained from the Congressional Research Service as cited above, and the population estimate for the United States in calculating the per capita cost of GWOT was estimated at 299 million, based upon recent U.S. Census Bureau data. USCWC cost figures for wars of the 20th Century were presented at the USCWC Website in 1990 dollars, but are presented here in 2006 dollars based upon adjustments made using consumer price index data provided by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflating the USCWC data from the year each war ended to the present. (Note that on the USCWC site, the 1990 cost equivalent of World War I is incorrect: the figure reported there is $97 billion dollars, but the original cost of the war, which was $26 billion, would be $225 billion in 1990 dollars.) War durations were derived from war timelines at

Readers are cautioned that, unlike the other wars presented below, the Global War on Terror is not yet completed and will not be in the foreseeable future. This will most specifically affect total cost of the conflict, but may also affect both monthly and per capita costs depending upon the level and direction of future expenditures.

Total Cost of U.S. Conflicts

Monthly Cost of U.S. Conflicts

Per Capita Cost of U.S. Conflicts

The Dark Wraith encourages a careful review of the data presented above.

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

Big Tony on ‘homosexual sodomy’ and SCOTUS

by: Pam

I thought that I’d have something substantial to say about these remarks, but really — he’s just an *sswipe. Raw Story:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia insists that the constitution does not protect the right to an abortion, or “homosexual sodomy,” in this video clip from the Associated Press.

…”My job is simply to say if those things you find desirable are contained in the Constitution,” he explained. “Nobody ever thought that they were contained in the rights – in the bill of rights. Which is why abortion and homosexual sodomy were criminal for 200 years.”

I’m glad he cleared it all up — all you hets out there are free to sodomize to your heart’s content. I guess this is also Big Tony’s response to being askedDo you sodomize your wife?’ by a gay student during a forum at NYU last year. Nothing like splitting a few hairs here — does this apply to lesbians, or is he only thinking about the gay boys in his dirty little mind?

Remember this winner?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

“State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.”
Antonin Scalia, on the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court ruling

Interesting Times

by: Debra

Of all the people who have disappointed me politically in the last six years Sandra Day O'Connor tops the list. At the time the country needed her the most, she walked away. I realize her husband had Alzheimer's but the needs of the many sometimes outweigh the needs of the few.

Her resignation has swung the court in an untenable direction, led by those who would put their own beliefs ahead of the populace. The conservatives who like to have things both ways or as I like to refer to them, the do as I say not as I do crowd, are determined to remake America as the mirror image of Afghanistan under the Taliban and her timing on leaving the high court has increased the speed and boldness of their crusade against women.

When I hear Scalia say things like
"The Constitution very clearly forbids discrimination on the basis of race," Scalia said in response to a question by moderator Pete Williams of NBC. "It doesn't seem to me to allow Michigan to say we think it's good to discriminate on the basis of race when you want to make sure everyone is exposed to different backgrounds. We cannot use race as the test of diversity."
because his rationale is
During Sunday's debate, Scalia outlined his judicial philosophy of interpreting the Constitution according to its text, as understood at the time it was adopted. He reiterated that race has no place in school admissions, a viewpoint that put him on the losing side in 2003.
I feel chills run up and down my spine because using that logic makes me worth less than three fifths of a human being. While slaves fell under the Three-Fifths Compromise, women weren't included at all. We had to wait for the Nineteenth Amendment.

Since we have very little of the Bill of Rights that will be in force after the Decider signs the Military Commissions Act, the rest of them can't be far behind. Actually, I think the Military Commissions Act guts the Fourteenth Amendment and nobody is talking about that. Though I do find one small ray of hope
But during Sunday's debate, Scalia noted there were cases in which he and the ACLU agreed. They included rulings upholding flag burning and a 2004 opinion arguing that a U.S. citizen seized in Afghanistan in wartime could challenge his detention as an enemy combatant in U.S. courts.
One very small ray, I don't know how strong it really is.

When I was a little girl I just knew that the future would change all the restrictions I saw for women. I had faith that as time went on the world (the world did, America not so much) would become more accepting of women and their capabilities and it really looked like women would finally be considered equal. When Ms. O'Connor was raised to the Supreme Court I knew she would be a voice of calm and reason. I knew that in thirty years we would have parity. Boy was I wrong. We almost got there but now there are no longer any level voices left to keep the scales in balance. The past will become the future.

We are living in interesting times that I hope will not become a curse.

Crossposted at Debsweb

God is a Music Promoter

by: Konagod

I'm not one to tell God what to do. But it seems to me, what with all the troubles in the world today, that God might have more important things to promote than music festivals. I could be wrong.

This new genre of Christian music which includes heavy metal, hard rock, soft rock, jazz, hiphop, and whatever else Christian bands feel moved by the hand of God to play, is appearing more often in the press. I caught an article in the Austin American Statesman today about Jim Butt, who is organizing a festival here in Austin called "Power of the Cross Festival" which will be held this coming Saturday.
Jim Butt, a first-time concert promoter, believes that 40,000 people will attend Saturday's [festival.]
The free daylong Christian music event is the day before the Rolling Stones descend on Zilker Park. So, Butt figures, people will be in town looking for something to do. Why not hope for 40,000 to attend?

Um, yeah. I can see 40,000 Rolling Stones fanatics all standing around on Saturday asking themselves "what to do?" in Austin, Texas the day before the big Stones bash. The good news is, the festival is free.
"I just believe that many can come," he said matter-of-factly. "I have faith. It's a number God has given me."

This is a man who claims that God delivered him from a drug and alcohol addiction. A man who quit his job selling medical equipment and drained his savings and retirement accounts to organize what he hopes will be a "Christian South by Southwest." A man who will do anything God asks him to do, no questions asked.

Butt is spending $100,000 of his own savings and retirement money on the festival and expects a miracle or two:
"I wouldn't be surprised to see somebody get out of a wheelchair and walk," he said.
The prospect of glorifying God and sharing his faith with the city motivated Dale Smith to build a 9-foot-tall cross and wooden prayer panels where people will post their prayer intentions.

It would almost be worth attending this event for the visuals... and to read some of the "prayer intentions."
Vance Russell, senior pastor of Arise Christian Fellowship in North Austin, says his members will offer prayer and support to people who accept Christ on Saturday. He says members who have prophetic gifts will share messages from God in a special tent.

That special tent sounds like it's going to be a blast. The festival has a website including a prayer for the success of the festival, including:

Jesus, we pray that your spirit will attract everyone to the festival that you want so that we don’t have to worry about worldly advertising techniques.

Father God, we pray for your presence at this festival. We would rather have less people and more of you, then [sic] more people and less of you.

Father, you know who you want to play at this festival so we pray that you will call forward the musicians with your anointing.

Our prayers are that the Lord of the harvest will release the labors and the provisions for the vision. We know God isn’t broke so we pray for more then [sic] plenty so that we will be able to fund this ministry long term.

Hopefully, God will bless those in the special tent with some proofreading skills.

(file under "a fool and his money are soon parted.")

Crossposted at konagod

Mitt Romney's Verbal Littering Campaign in Boston

by: Konagod

Mitt Romney is spewing intolerant and untruthful rubbish again. Speaking to a group gathered in Boston for the Family Research Council's annual "Liberty Sunday" event, here's what the presidential hopeful had to say:

"Here in Massachusetts, activist judges struck a blow to the foundation of civilization — the family," Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, a likely presidential candidate, told an applauding crowd of about 1,000 people, some of whom responded with "Amen."

What (the judges) ignored is that marriage is not primarily about adults; marriage is about the nurturing and development of children. ... Every child deserves a mother and a father," he said.

A blow to the foundation of civilization? What a waste of time and a load of smelly crap. Trying to blame same-sex marriage for the failings of traditional marriage and family break-ups has gotten tiresome. Calling it a blow to the foundations of civilization is an asinine exaggeration of incomprehensible proportions. Only an idiot could truly believe this.

Tony Perkins, president of the FRC, chimed in with more of the same rhetoric:
"When we look at what has happened with same-sex marriage, as it began in this state and threatens to spread across the country, we've seen in its wake the loss of religious freedoms and the ability to speak out based upon one's moral convictions."

Come again? If that were true, he wouldn't be speaking at the event. If it weren't so friggin' nauseating, it'd almost be comical watching the fundies scrambling to try and salvage right-wing Republican hopes in the November 7 mid-term elections.

I'll be loudly applauding the sinking of that rusting ship. I'm tired of the incessant lies, smear-campaigns, and scandals. I'm tired of being the scapegoat for the problems of a segment of American society of which I'm not even a part.

Crossposted at konagod
15 October 2006

Poll Ponderings

by: Shakespeares Sister

There’s something interesting about these numbers:

– 62 percent of Americans believe that Foley’s behavior was “typical of politicians,” as opposed to just 30 percent who believe his behavior was “typical of gay men.”

– 70 percent of Americans say that the Foley scandal has not changed their opinion of gay people.
(Presumably, that would mean 30% of people say their opinion of gay people has changed. Well, not quite. 3% weren’t sure whether their opinions had changed. Of the remaining 27%, 4% now have a better opinion of gay people, leaving 23% of respondents whose opinions of gay people are now “less favorable.”)

Now follow me for a moment. If you didn’t believe that Foley’s behavior was typical of gay men, why would your opinion of gay people become less favorable? It wouldn’t. There’s no reason to cast dispersions on the entire gay population unless you believe that Foley’s actions somehow typified the whole community.

That surely means that the 23% who say their opinions of gay people are now less favorable are also in the 30% who believe his behavior was “typical of gay men.” But if you already think that most gay men are like Foley, your opinion of them is pretty low to begin with, so, basically, those 23% are just saying they hate gay people even more than they did before—which, if we’re being honest, isn’t really a meaningful “change of opinion.” That means it’s more like 93% of Americans whose opinions of gay people haven’t changed because of the Foley scandal. We’re left with 3% who don’t know what their opinion is (nor, probably, what year it is) and 4% whose opinions changed for the better.

That’s what you call a win. And more evidence that the constant barrage of attacks against the LGBT community is backfiring.


Taking Stock, Five Years Later

by: Missouri Mule


I hope it's not unpatriotic to be tired of memorials to Sept 11. Certainly, we cannot forget the events of five years ago and just as certainly we will not forget. Perhaps it's my natural cynicism that tired of not heart-felt tributes, but heart-felt desire for TV ratings. I keep wondering if anyone thought to ask a still-grieving firefighter's widow if we could make a few million off the death of her children's father.

Five years. Five long years.

In that week of September, after a flurry of rehashes, replays, and retellings of that day in another September, I took stock. I hope you did as well. Here's what I came up with.

First, I have decided to not be afraid. We have not seen the last act of terrorism, nor in my lifetime will I ever live in a world free of its threat. Our government has depended upon new laws, more lies, more might and more rhetoric to fight the campaign of terror. I've decided to instead rely upon the courage of American people. It's been a long, long time since a president has simply turned to the nation and said, "It may get worse before it gets better. Please... be brave." I'll travel where I need to, look both ways before crossing the ocean, and won't take candy from strangers, but I'll keep going about my life. A leader can make lots of mistakes that don't hurt me personally, but in the last five years they've sold me short. I... we... have the guts to do this.

Second, I resolve to vote for the first candidate, Republican, Independent, or Democrat who has a true vision of hope... a vision that extends beyond his or her campaign funds... a vision that puts hope in the character of America. Not its might, its wealth or its power, but it's moral ability to lead and listen.

And I equally resolve to vote against any candidate who thinks I'm stupid enough to scare into voting for him. Tyrants evoke fear. Great leaders inspire hope. Please... there's got to be somebody out there who trusts my good sense.

Third, I have no desire for complete efficiency in my security. A completely efficient system of security, one without fault, is one without freedom. I won't buy into a system that trades my liberty or the hope of a security that at best is an illusion.

Number Four: When Irving Berlin, a Russian son of a Jewish rabbi first penned the words to his "God Bless America," I wonder if he meant to exclude the rest of the world? If the last five years has taught us nothing else, it's that our destiny is the world's destiny. Our hope for security and peace is tied in so closely with the world's need for these same things that my view cannot be restricted to the view out my front window.

And finally, I resolve to do more than listen. I'll try to understand Christians. It's just hard for me to believe that their God would use the bully pulpit and surely he's smart enough not to rely upon the US government as the sole purveyors of his will. A friend recently sent me a little rubber bracelet in the mail. It said, "Who would Jesus Exclude?" The point was not wasted. And more than that, a country which excludes me today when I don't subscribe to their religion, can easily exclude them tomorrow.

I believe that the single greatest idea ever conceived by mankind is the concept of a constitutionally based democracy based on the concept of individual freedom. Nothing can come close to the effect of this one idea. The history of the world is a history of tyrants and we now have a party of them running the country. I'll not be afraid. I'll not trade freedom for false security.. I'll force myself to be concerned about the world beyond my own, and I'll learn and listen. I hope.

Five years, five things I must do. It would be no tragedy if you chose not to follow my list. To not make a list of your own, to not make some new resolves in the face of a changed world... that would be tragic.

Minnesota homobigot Michele Bachmann: 'God called me to run for congress'

by: Pam

Minnesota Republican congressional candidate Michele Bachmann must be drinking the same Kool-Aid that Katherine Harris is tossing back. Dump Michele Bachmann has video of her delusional rantings at the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

She said that she fasted and prayed over her decision to run, btw.

"He created the male and female and he brought them together and that's what marriage will be...In the midst of that calling to me, God then called me to run for congress...In the midst of him making this calling sure, what's occured in this particular race is that this congresssional seat - one of 435 in the country - has become one of the top 5 races in the country and in the last week has become one of the top three races in the country and you may have seen now God has in his own will and in his own plan has focused like a laser beam after this scandal that came up about a week or so ago he has focused like a laser beam with his reasoning on this race.
As unhinged as this appearance is, Andy of Eleventh Avenue South pointed out a much bigger problem with the event at this church, run by Pastor Mac Hammond.
Churches that are tax exempt and file as a 501(c)3 organization are subject to most of the same rules that all other 501(c)3 nonprofits are subject to concerning political involvement: you must not show support for a candidate or political party. Just bringing a candidate for election to speak is risky business for nonprofits and churches. The best way to avoid the appearance of endorsement is to invite all candidates to the event or series of events. Equal time should be paid to all candidates to ensure implicit or explicit endorsement doesn't occur. Bachmann's opponents told me that they were not aware of any invites from Living Word having been sent to their campaigns.

If a church or nonprofit does only invite one candidate to speak, the individual speaks only in a non-candidate capacity, and should not be referred to as a candidate for office.
Here are the IRS guidelines:
The church or religious organization must ensure that: Neither the individual nor any representative of the church makes any mention of his or her candidacy or the election, and no campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate’s attendance. In addition, the church or religious organization should clearly indicate the capacity in which the candidate is appearing and should not mention the individual’s political candidacy or the upcoming election in the communications announcing the candidate’s attendance at the event.
Oops. As you saw above, Michele speaks at length about her candidacy in that video. But that's not all. Pastor Mac does the unthinkable in a bible-based IRS blunder -- he actually endorses Michele in his introduction.

14 October 2006

Hallowe'en Politics Graphic #1

by: Dark Wraith

Party's OVER, Neo-Cons!

The Dark Wraith gives permission to use this graphic with attribute.

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

Bible Belt Thinking

by: Debra

Earlier this morning I was over at Mark's place and a quote from one of his posts started me thinking. Yeah, I know it's dangerous but I couldn't help myself.

Many years ago I worked at Universal Studios. I was temping and the union called me up and asked if I was willing to take a pretty stressful job. I needed the money so I said yes. I was one of seven people who sat in a little room and answered the extra phone lines that had just been installed to handle the flood of calls regarding the limited (at that time) release of the Last Temptation of Christ.

A few weeks earlier I had been working for a VP who lost her job (hence the temping) and was setting up her office for her new producing gig (I couldn't go with her because I wasn't a production secretary) and the phone rang. This nice man identified himself as the Rev. Wildmon and asked me if I was going to see the movie. I said no, it wasn't my sort of movie (Life of Brian was better). He said I should protest and help prevent the release of the movie. I told him don't see it and it will die of its own accord.

No such luck. So there I am sitting in this hot little room answering a phone that was literally ringing off the hook. Our job was to take down the city and state they were calling from. OMG! These people were to put it politely, nuts.

When the calls first started they said things like, "I want to protest about that movie." Which movie would that be? "That one about my Jesus" or "I don't know, my preacher told me to call." I get bored pretty fast when I'm dealing with stupidity so I start to egg the callers on, trying to find out if they knew why they were calling. They didn't, but their pastor told them it was important so they went home and dialed away. The same people would call over and over. I'm really good with voices and by the second day I recognized the serial callers, I can't believe the money they wasted, sometimes there were so many callers that the hold time was 20 minutes. And then they would call right back.

By the end of the first week I was taking about 700 calls a day. By the end of the second week international calls started coming in. Well, if you keep writing city and state or country, eventually the geography sinks in. It really is a belt. The calls were predominantly from a narrow band thru the United States and around the world, with the West Coast being an exception.

I was absolutely fascinated by this and would go home at night and look at my world map and mark in the new calls. The Bible belt circled the globe and was desperately trying to reshape the world because of a movie that was only going to be released in New York and Los Angeles for Oscar consideration. Nobody was going to see this movie except the critics and film buffs. Until they made it popular by giving it airplay and untold amounts of free advertising. Universal made a mint once you understand their accounting practices.

As time went on the calls became abusive. I was called names that no Christian should know much less let come out of their mouth. There was this woman from Florida who asked me if I had children. I said no. She said "that's a good thing because if you did they should be taken from you for your low moral character in working for a company like this."

After four weeks of this I'm pretty tired of it all and I end up in a discussion, which was broadcast on a radio station in Ventura, with a lawyer who finally tells me that the First Amendment should be repealed if movies like this can be made. I lost it and told him he was a quack that couldn't think straight and that the bar must have been very easy that year in order for him to have passed it, hung up and got a new job. There wasn't enough money in the world to put up with that crap.

So now it's almost 20 years later and they are still at it and their influence is growing. What bothers me is that people are still following without thinking, willing to give up everything that this country stood for in the foolish pursuit of religious fundamentalism.

Our Founding Fathers would be so unhappy with their offspring. The people who first settled in this country would be pleased in one way since they shared the same intolerant views but times are different now and the makeup of the country is different. If the Amish can live peacefully and according to their values in America, why can't the so called religious right? It isn't necessary for them to impose their views on the majority, we'll leave them alone if they leave us alone.

Crossposted at Debsweb.

Eat Red Meat in November, Minstrel's Famous Blackened Steak

by: Minstrel Boy

The first tuesday in November I am hoping to eat red meat to celebrate the Republican loss of control of Congress. Last night on the NewsHour they had their usual feature of Mark Sheilds and David Brooks. While acknowledging that things can turn on a single event or issue both of them projected that the Democrats would take both houses. Makes me hungry.

I love red meat. I love beef. I'm pretty picky about it. I'm also lucky enough to know some folks that free graze cattle on government and reservation lands out here. It's just a better, safer product than the penned up for its entire short miserable life stuff you buy in the stores. I also have some neighbors who do back yard cows. It's not cheaper, it's much better. If you're one of the poor city folks who can't make friends with a medium or small scale rancher, if there isn't any 4H action going on near you, make friends with your butcher (that means get out of the supermarket and find yourself a butcher) and tell him what you intend to do with the steak. He should help you find the right grade of meat.

My favorite way to cook a steak is to blacken it. The spicy bittersweet crust over the rich, very rare meat is carniverous heaven. When I do this I go for either a Porterhouse cut, or the Rib Eye. I want it thick. 1 1/2" is about perfect for this style of cooking.

The first thing to do in the morning is to take the meat out of the refridgerator. You want it to be room temperature when you season and cook it. The cooking process is going to be fast and if the meat is cold you will have a totally raw, still cold patch in the center. Room temperature meat avoids that.

The biggest part of this recipe is the coating of spices. I used to use Paul Prudhomme's Magic® products but since he got all famous and shit his stuff is totally overpriced. Thank goodness the FDA requires the ingredients be listed on the bottle. I took about four tries to get this down. It's not his anymore, it's mine. Feel free to juggle any of the proportions to your own personal taste.

Minstrel's Magic Stuff

Equal Parts (with one part being the basic unit of measure here since I don't know how many steaks you're cooking)

Kosher Salt
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

Half Parts
Coarse Black Pepper
Italian Herb Mixture (McCormick has a good one and when I make up a batch of this I call one full size spice bottle a half part)

Quarter Part
Curry Powder
Cayenne Pepper (don't be afraid of the cayenne here, the flash cooking will sweeten it up and take the edge off the heat, of course, if you are a wimp about spices just admit you're a weakling and reduce the amount)
Anise Seed

Mix that all together.

To prepare your steaks lay down a bed of coals outdoors. Unless you have an industrial size venting system on your stove this is an outdoor recipe. Since we're cooking with a pan over coals the type of wood or charcoal in the fire is not all that crucial. Garden variety out of the bag stuff will do just fine. You want to have an even layer of coals that will completely cover or exceed the diameter of your skillet.

Speaking of skillets, there is only one choice here. Cast Iron; and well seasoned cast iron at that. To season a cast iron pan you take the pan wash it in warm soap and water, rinse very well, dry thoroughly and then coat it with a thin film of shortening. Put it in a hot (300° wink oven for 20 minutes, let it cool, repeat the coating and baking process again, but when you take it out of the oven to cool coat it again with the shortening. When it has cooled wipe it down with a paper or cloth towel. I'll get into the cleaning process after we're done cooking our steaks.

To season the meat, give it a good rub down with EVOO (for you non Rachel Ray fans that's Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and coat it well with the spice mixture. Then put the meat in the very hot cast iron skillet and cook until the spice coating is black (once you see the amount of smoke you'll understand why I told you to do this outdoors), turn and do the same to the other side. There should be a coal black hard crust that develops on the steak. Plate and sprinkle with crumbles of bleu, or stilton cheese. Allow at least five minutes of rest before serving. This lets the meat recover from the shock of the rapid high temperature cooking and gives the cheese time to melt.

I usually serve this with fresh asparagus (wild when I can find it) and hollandaise. The hollandaise will come in handy if you have yourself a red pepper rookie at the table. If you see someone in distress you can slap on a little hollandaise, or in a real pinch, give them a little dish of plain yoghurt on the side to help ease their pain. Feel free to tease them mercilessly though.

To clean your cast iron pan, reheat it (you can do this part indoors at the range). Have running cold water going at the sink and a steel wool (NO SOAP EVER!) pad or scrubber handy. When the skillet's hot douse it under the cold water and scrub with the steel wool. The action of sticking the hot cast iron under the cold water makes it contract and push all the left behind bits of food off of the surface, it's better than teflon for cleaning up. Dry with a towel, give it a quick coating of shortening (wiping off the excess again before storing your pan) and let it cool slowly.

I'm hoping that election night will provide me a chance to eat a rare steak and imagine that I'm eating Karl Rove's ass.

Bon Appetite.

crossposted at Harp and Sword

Nobel prize links poverty reduction to peace

by: Jersey Cynic

Attack the causes of poverty and you remove the roots of conflict -- that is the message the Nobel Committee wanted to send out by awarding its Peace Prize to the creator of a micro-credit scheme which benefits millions, analysts said on Friday.

As the head of the Nobel Committee, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, said: "Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty."

Please....tell me the world is not just figuring this out. Shouldn't the IMF and World Bank have helped with this awhile back? No wait, they just give out money for countries to rebuild after wars.

A glance at recent Peace Prize winners reveals a shift in emphasis in the thinking of the secretive five-member committee away from the classic role of peacemaker, as it has honoured people working in the fields of human rights and the environment.

Asle Sveen, a Norwegian historian who closely follows the Nobel Prize, told AFP: "It is the first time that the fight against poverty has been rewarded in itself.

"There were enough good nominations in the area of conflict resolution in the strictest sense but the Nobel Committee is increasingly taking the fight to the fundamental reasons for which war is waged.

"It is not enough to make peace, this peace must be a just peace and the causes of war, such as hunger and poverty, must be treated at their roots."


Women in saris grabbed at the handsome man with thick gray hair, flirting and addressing him with ease. I was surprised, given we were in a conservative Muslim country where rural women typically take a backseat to men.

But this man, who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, had taught them to stand up to their husbands by giving them small loans that now put them in the driver's seat.

"The first hostile person to our program is the husband. We are challenging his authority," Yunus said as we walked around Kashipur, where water buffalo lumbered down dirt paths alongside women barking Bengali into the cell phones they had bought with small loans from his bank.

and.....thank YOU Nobel Committee -- Somebody's finally catching on!!

Smart choice!!
13 October 2006

Watching My Daughter Dance (OK, OK, she's a stripper)

by: Minstrel Boy

This was inspired by a number of things. Not the least of which is a blog I like to read on a regular basis by chelsea called pretty dumb things. I have mentioned in comments here and there that I have a daughter that was a stripper while she was in college. Now for those of you who think that this is hopelessly cliché (as I once did) think again. For a college student dancing can be the perfect job while you're in school. It can pay very well on the time invested money return scale. Part of my wanting to tell this involves putting a human face on girls that are easily objectified. This is the story of my peek behind the curtain. Now that I've seen the wizard pulling the levers; I don't buy tickets to see the elephant anymore.

StripperGirl first moved to Alaska because she was given an education scholarship at University of Alaska. She fell in love with the place. The clean air and water, she even loved the winters. While she was a student she was struggling with the high cost of living. Things we take for granted in our everyday life in the lower 48 are precious luxuries in the frozen North. She chose to go to school a little less and work a little more.

Alaska also has one of the highest ratios of men to women anywhere in the world. Lots and lots of men, very few women. I never got the full story on how she became a stripper, she never really got around to telling me. I suppose it happened pretty easily. She's always been a free spirit, fiercely independent, and has always prided herself on being self-sufficient. This is all stuff I love about her.

We hadn't been around each other very much. I was still in the Navy when her mother 1stX and I divorced. We split up for a huge number of reasons. I was gone all the time. When I wasn't gone I was getting ready to leave. In a lot of ways it was like my career as a musician. Her mother also decided that she was going to come out as a lesbian. No, wait, that's a lie, she was about to be outed and Court-Martialed by the Navy for being a lesbian and when they offered the option of resigning she took it. Then she figured since the jig was up anyway she didn't need me to be her “cover” anymore. She entered into a long term monogamous relationship that lasted many years. (far longer than any of my disastrous marriages) So StripperGirl never really had much Ward and June Cleaver action growing up. She once told me that when she needed to be going through her rebellious phase it required drastic action because I was usually on the road with one act or another, raising eleven kinds of hell myself. I mean, how's a girl to rebel when she knows Dad was taking a chainsaw to a hotel room last night? (that actually only happened three or four times but it's a hard rep to live down once you have it established)

For most of StripperGirl's childhood her Mom and I were pretty far apart geographically. After the divorce 1stX moved to her old home of Rhode Island. I stayed out West in Arizona, California, and Nevada. Then I heard from my out-laws (what I started calling them after they quite being in-laws) that 1stX and family had moved to the L.A. area. I gave my number and told them that she could call me any time. She never did. I still sent presents and letters and cards and stuff through the grandparents but there wasn't any in person contact between us until one night, very early in the morning I woke to the sound of barking dogs and a doorbell. I pulled on some sweatpants and a robe and went to the door. Out on the porch was a young girl (she was about 16), with a brand new rose tattoo on her shoulder, pink hair and a cigarette dangling from her lips. I knew who she was instantly and opened the door. Before I could say anything she said “My Mom's a bitch!” I said “I knew that fifteen years ago, come on in.”

During the course of our first conversation I found out that the car she had driven over here was stolen (luckily she stole it from her Mom, although she had skills in that area I would find out about later) so we had to smooth that little speed bump out. We kind of fell into a relationship. She was a hero to my three young ones and a big help to the woman who was biding her time before becoming 4thX. When I was home off the road she would move in with us. I even took her on a couple of tours as my guitar tech. Then when she was 19 she sobered up. She said that trying to cut her teeth as a drug user and drinker while in the company of touring musicians was like trying to learn how to hit a baseball with Trevor Hoffman pitching. When she was 20 she got her scholarship and went off to college. She was 21 when she started dancing.

Now we fast forward about eight years. She's dancing more, and going to school a lot less. She explains it by telling me how much money she makes every night that she's working. It's stupid money. I mean stoopid money. There aren't that many women up there to begin with, plus StripperGirl is gorgeous. She's tall, about 5'8”, very blonde, green eyes and has a lively wit. She worked at a club in Anchorage that catered to pipeline workers that hadn't had a thing to spend their money on for a couple of months, and hadn't seen a woman in that long either. I must say that she also learned her trade well. I was up for a visit, I had been clean and sober a few years myself at this point and during the visit StripperGirl told me that she wanted me to come and see her dance. I said something really Dadlike and pithy. The only problem was that it came out “Arrghacckkk!” She said “No, I really want you to see what I do. I know you say you don't have a problem with it, now's your chance to really prove it.”

She went on to tell me that some of her friends at the club were very excited about the idea of a parent coming to see a girl dance and that a good percentage of them were also clean and sober and that they would sit with me and make sure I was alright through the process. I figured “How bad can it be?” After all, I'm going to be sitting with a group of beautiful young women, there might even be one there with a thing for older, fat, bald musicians who walk with a limp. You never know.

Luckily I only had a day or so to stew about it. I made my peace with the idea and decided to see things through. We went to the club and I got the tour from the owner. He was a fairly decent bloke, we had a nice chat, he said wonderful things about my daughter, praising her talent and work ethic. (showing up on time in shape to dance can be a problem at places like that) I got to meet my “escorts” for the evening. They introduced themselves by their stripper names. I got to meet most of them off the job later and learned “real” names, but for purposes of narration they will be Candy, Mandy, Sandy and Dandy. Respectively they were cute, gorgeous, stunning and dangerously pretty. We spent some time just getting to know one another. They had heard stories about me from StripperGirl and were wondering if they were true (mostly), they wanted to know what some of the people I had worked with were really like, all the usual stuff. We were having a grand old time. Occasionally one or another would toddle off to their dressing room to get ready for her set then show up on stage to do her three dances. After the dance they would make their rounds, snagging the extra tip here and there, selling some time in the “champagne room” and other such nagging bits of business. I was thoroughly enjoying myself until I was startled by an elbow to the ribs and one of the girls (I honestly don't remember which one) whispered “Here she comes now.”

The DJ made the introduction and there she was. She was on her huge platform stripper shoes wearing an outfit that I had bought for her from Fredrick's the last time she was down for a visit. Some girls want Dad to take them to Disneyland, not mine. One thing I was absolutely not prepared for was the music. It was me playing an old Son House piece called “Pearline” on a slide guitar. Sandy, the stunning one, said “She always uses this song first, I just love it, don't you? It's perfect. She won't tell me where she got it.” She danced around the rail, all slinky and beautiful. One of the girls (I think it was gorgeous Mandy) said “She's sizing them up now. Watch what she does next.” She was moving perfectly within the motion of the slide, slipping herself along, easing into the beats and perfectly mimicking the phrases I was playing. Then she did a turning, dipping movement that had the shoulder of her dress slipping off one side. Without appearing to actively do anything the dress began to fall away, then slid down to the floor. She made another circuit, this time in bra and bikini bottoms to work the tip rail. The ones who had put money on the rail got extra attention, the ones without any money up got this look that said “I'd really like to pay more attention to you but that will take a little extra.” After she passed most of them began digging into their pockets. The second song was not anything I was on. So now I had no excuse for any distraction. About halfway through the song the bikini bottom came off, leaving her in a G-string. Candy, the cutie, said “She's got a really great ass, don't you think?” I swallowed nervously and said something clever like “Ulp!” Another trip around the tip rail and she was nearing center stage for some pole work. She was good. I had an idea of how intense a workout that pole could be and was impressed at how effortless she made it look. I said to the girls “I guess those gymnastics classes really paid off huh?” Then, at the top of the pole, the bra came off and she finished up center stage.

The last song of her set was an old Delbert McClinton tune “Mary Lou,” I recognized my work on the slide again, stunning Sandy said “That's you playing isn't it?” I was my usual glib, charming self, I managed to nod and mutter. Not all that long into the song was when the G-string disappeared. I must have turned pale and stuff because Sandy took a hold of my hand and whispered “Watch how she works this crowd, she's really good.” I was doing that and really getting a sense of the effect StripperGirl was having on them when Sandy gave my hand a squeeze and whispered “She keeps looking over here at you but you're not looking at her, it's alright, it's only a dance.” I looked, our eyes met. I saw her fierce pride and felt her sense of accomplishment. I smiled, no wait, I beamed. I could see that she not only wasn't the least bit ashamed of her body or her profession, she was proud and comfortable in them. It wasn't just the money that had her up there, she was dancing for the sheer joy of knowing that she was young and beautiful. She loved it. I gave each of the girls $20 bills and sent them up to the tip rail, StripperGirl made a huge fuss over them as the girls are wont to do when a woman is at the tip rail. StripperGirl had never made any pretense of hiding her bisexuality when she was growing up and, quite frankly, I generally liked her girlfriends better than the boys she would turn up with. (present hubby excluded, Dude, you're a prince) Some of them I swear she only brought by to see me get pissed off and surly (but then I must remember that I am notoriously self-absorbed she might really have liked them). Finally the set was over, I survived. StripperGirl still had to make her rounds, she ended up with two trips to the extra expensive place (which alone makes it a successful night). At last she came to the table, sits down and says “So what'd you think?” I told her she was very good. That she was my favorite dancer (which caused the other girls to pelt me with ice cubes and wadded up napkins and call me a perv but it was all in good fun) and that I was proud of her. StripperGirl said that one of the biggest things she noticed was that when she was without the G-string she and I were making eye contact. That was unusual, and took some getting used to. She said “Usually when the G-string's off the eye contact part of the show is over, it can almost be like having some time alone.”

I made it through the rest of the night. I would usually manage to find a way to leave the room during the last two songs of her set. I figured out that what she was wanting from me was a performer to performer validation. During my visit she told me about how she used to watch me perform and would always try to reconcile the person she saw on stage with the man she knew. I told her that I was often in the same position. There were many times when I didn't know who that was out there playing. StripperGirl kept dancing for about five more years. Then, as has happened to many friends of mine who dance, her body began to betray her. It was becoming less of a romp and more of a chore. Like a few of my friends, she never quit the business, it quit her. She got her Bachelor's, then her Master's in Education. She's teaching now. She's very good at that also. I still get to visit her at work when I'm up there. It's easier when she's got a classroom full of kids. I take a guitar and a banjo and we have a music day. Sometimes, just to be a pill, I play “Pearline” and we exchange knowing looks and a laugh.

The biggest change I noticed was in me. Having seen behind the curtain, the fantasy doesn't work that well for me anymore. I can't lose sight of the fact that the women up there have real lives, they go to school, they fall in love, that their job is to show me a glimpse of something beautiful but untrue. I just can't release myself into the illusion now. I really don't miss it. I have had a relationship with a dancer named April on and off (mostly off) for several years now and I've never been in a club where she danced. If you can still bring up the fantasy and buy the illusion, I encourage you to go and enjoy yourself. Please, for me, remember that these girls are somebody's daughter, sister, mother, friend and lover. Have fun, but show some respect. If your idea of fun is wad up a bill and throw it at her, make it a $100 and nobody will mind. If you're tossing singles, then you're not paying enough to be that kind of asshole.

cross dancing a feature slot at Harp and Geestring

Silencing Corporate Whistleblowers

by: Dark Wraith

On the afternoon of October 11, 2006, I received an e-mail message from an organization calling itself the California First Amendment Coalition. The message header was "Flash: First Amendment and Open Government News," surely something I'd be interested in reading. The body of the message was a re-print of the current lead article, Vol. 16, no. 16, on the Website of the organization. Clearly marked "COMMENTARY," the title of the article, written by Peter Scheer and dated October 5, 2006, is "FREE THE HEWLETT-PACKARD 5!"

It was upon reading the title and the summary that all kinds of alarms went off in my mind, this despite the references on the Website to reputable places like the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and downright pseudo-liberal people like Arianna Huffington (see, however, my personal assessment of Ms. Huffington in the article "Put a Cork in It, Arianna").

This California First Amendment Coalition group looks like such a bulwark of liberalism that the very header graphic on the Website reads: "California First Amendment Coalition: Protecting & Defending the Public's Right to Know."

So what's up with such a fine, upstanding protector and defender of the public's right to know calling for freeing the Hewlett Packard 5?

For those of you not into corporate skullduggery, the 'Hewlett Packard 5' refers to the corporate executives of Hewlett Packard (NYSE:HPQ) who went so far as to have private investigative types pretend they were other people so they could find out who had told journalists about some of the inside goings-on at HP while it was under the rule of the incompetent former Chairwoman Patricia Dunn and her toadies. Ms. Dunn and four others have been charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, identity theft, and illegal use of computer data (People of the State of Calif. v. Patricia Dunn, et al., Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose, 06-1027481). The criminal complaint names Ms. Dunn and her chief ethics director and senior legal counsel, Kevin Hunsaker, as well as three people who provided private investigation services that included, in the account at the Washington Post, "...the use of false pretenses to gain access to personal phone records of HP board members, journalists and their families..." This use of a systematic pattern of oral and written lies to get personal and in some cases private information is sometimes called "pretexting," a term charmingly bland in hiding the venality of the acts. According to that same article in the Washington Post, the HP cabal even "...devised an unsuccessful e-mail sting to attempt to trick a reporter into revealing her source." provides the following account of the extent of the corporate surveillance operation:
"At least six investigators in Massachusetts, Florida, Colorado and Georgia hired by Hewlett-Packard faked the identities of directors, employees and reporters to obtain their phone records... [P]retexting compromised over 24 different individuals' telephone, fax and cellular accounts... [d]uring 33 months of call monitoring..."
After all that, HP director George Keyworth resigned after admitting that it was he who had been the source of "some" of the leaks from the inner sanctum at the company. Both Ms. Dunn and former HP CEO Carleton "Carly" Fiorina (who is alleged to have been one of the targets of the pretexting) claim that Keyworth and fellow board member Tom Perkins 'plotted against them' because of the patriarchal culture pervasive at the executive level.

Despite what might be a hollow defense of corporate wrong-doers, the California First Amendment Coalition had my attention. A vigorous, well-sourced refutation of charges like those leveled against Dunn and her alleged accomplices would be worth reading, especially since the criminal complaint was filed by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, a Democrat who happens to be running for California State Treasurer and has been rumored to have an interest in someday moving into the governor's mansion.

Criticism leveled at prosecutors for political timing is not novel to this case, of course. Down in Texas, former House Speaker Tom Delay, his attorney, and others have quite vocally made the charge that Democratic prosecutor Ron Earle is using his position in a political witch hunt against the former Republican powerhouse. If convicted on the most serious charge, that of money laundering, Texas state law specifies that Mr. Delay will spend the remainder of his life in prison. That gives him quite a bit of incentive to use just about any counter-attack, specious as it might be, in his defense. But such attacks on prosecutors' motives should not be roundly ignored, either. Only the naïve would believe that politically ambitious attorneys for local, state, and federal governments have not in the past used their position for their own advancement.

As such, the facts of the particular case at hand—to the extent those facts can be sorted out from the hail of charges, counter-charges, accusations, and public relations campaigns—must guide the outsider's assessment of the merits both of government claims and the representations of the defendant and his advocates in response. In any event, it can never become a standing or unspoken rule of law enforcement that important people are not to be charged with crimes during election seasons; neither, however, can it become a standing or unspoken rule that prosecutors' motives are off limits as points of vigorous defense.

Without following a speculative tangent about Attorney General Lockyer's true motives for prosecuting Dunn and her alleged co-conspirators, suffice it to note that the accused from Hewlett Packard opened a door on questions of great legal interest: how far can a corporation go in protecting its secrets, and where does the required 'due diligence' of a corporation end and the right of individual privacy take precedence? The California First Amendment Coalition wants to dismiss the second part of that question by holding the focus squarely on the matter of the government's duty not to interfere with journalists trying to get stories from insiders.

If readers just heard what sounded like a forensic grinding sound, that was a debate being shifted interdimensionally without benefit of a slipstream clutch. Note the subtlety: somehow, to protect journalists from the government, government must allow corporations to do whatever they deem necessary internally, thereby relieving the government of much of its need to go after journalists in the first place. Presumably, if companies can create a wall of silence around corporate operations by intimidating employees, journalists will have no one ever willing to speak out of turn. Problem solved: no whistleblowers, no stories in the media; no stories in the media, no First Amendment freedom of the press issues.

Before proceeding to summarily haul the California First Amendment Coalition over the coals, though, I must return to several matters of context in the particular case of Hewlett Packard. Patricia Dunn was no colossus of brilliance in corporate governance; neither, however, was Ms. Fiorina, the former CEO who came in on the wings of the appalling hand-over of Hewlett Packard to Compaq in a "merger" of miserably incompetent unequals. Ms. Fiorina was fired in 2005, perhaps in part as retribution by minority shareholders from the Packard family for her role in engineering the merger. Ms. Dunn's ascendance was on the executive body of Ms. Fiorina. As reports, her self-aggrandizing style "...had turned HP into an armed camp," and the leaks from the boardroom started during her tumultuous tenure. Curiously, Ms. Fiorina's previous high-powered corporate gig at Lucent Technologies (NYSE:LU) ended just before federal enforcement power brought its fist down there. Ms. Fiorina, it should be noted in passing, was one of the targets of Ms. Dunn's private investigators.The jury may still be out on whether or not Ms. Dunn is largely the victim of mendacious forces aligned against her, but Ms. Fiorina's claims of victimhood—well stated in her just-released book, "Tough Choices: A Memoir"—are generally met in the corporate world with rolling eyes and barely suppressed grimaces.

However, setting aside the armchair assessment of who was more wretched than whom as head of HP, and especially setting aside Ms. Fiorina's efforts to tie her board-level struggles at HP to those of her successor, there is a human level that needs to be set forth with respect to the matter of charging Ms. Dunn at this particular time. She is suffering from a recurrence of ovarian cancer, having already been a survivor of breast cancer. As much as my professional judgment had from the outset of her ascendance to the chairmanship at Hewlett Packard been generally negative—but with no small touch of relief that, at the very least, she wasn't Carly Fiorina—she then and even now deserves grudging admiration for her sheer will to survive, rise, and flourish in the vicious, sexist, and altogether stylishly brutish world of high corporate power. Dragging a woman to court when she's probably going to suffer greatly and die relatively soon is distasteful to the point of disgusting. Occasions exist when Lady Justice needs to take off her blindfold to see upon whom she is about to wield her sword. Should the trial end in her conviction on one or more of the charges against her, I shall be one to call in the strongest of language for the utmost mercy in her sentencing. No one who is a regular reader of my articles and comments would accuse me of being other than a hard-ass, especially when it comes to meting out justice against the mean, the hateful, and the powerful; but beating the bloodied is repulsive. Readers may take exception to that position, but they shall do so at the risk of that hard-ass side of me coming out for a meal, one that would not exclude a tough look at Attorney General Lockyer.

Having made that point, and returning now to the article by the California First Amendment Coalition, my hope that this group would offer a spirited refutation of the charges against Ms. Dunn and her alleged accomplices was sorely and swiftly put to rest. The summary of the article says it all:
"Corporations must have power to police leaks internally so newspapers will remain free to publish leaks"
That phrase 'police leaks internally' is as worrisome as it is loaded with subtext. Without saying so explicitly, the author of the commentary, Mr. Sheer, is starting off with the assumption that corporations must have internal policing systems with duties beyond ensuring corporate actions are in compliance with the laws of the land. Indeed, Mr. Sheer spends no small amount of space in his commentary describing an internal enforcement system that protects the corporation and its officers and directors. That, in and of itself, is not outrageous at all, provided the internal defenses the corporation deploys are specifically, categorically, and uniformly to the end of ensuring the maximization of shareholder wealth within the bounds of that which is lawful action guided by sound business judgment. In my article, "Rationality, Incentives, and the Agency Dilemma," I explain that any person, be it an individual, the parties bound in contract, or those working for a corporation, have incentive to act in their own self-interest rather than that of the principal for whose interest they are supposed to be acting; the extent to which they will do so is mitigated only by both the monitoring of the actions and enforcement of the rules under which they are to work. So internal policing within a corporation is altogether reasonable, but not when the monitoring and enforcement are contrary to standing statutory and/or civil law, and not when the monitoring and enforcement activities are to the end of protecting the officers and directors personally.

Mr. Sheer in fact makes a valiant attempt to bind blanket protection of internal corporate policing practices to statutory law, itself:
"I start from the proposition that public corporations are allowed to have secrets and to take measures to protect them. A corporate board needn’t function as openly as a city council. Indeed, depending on the circumstances, the disclosure of corporate secrets can be a violation of federal securities laws."
Now we have the Securities Act of 1934 being brought to bear: regulatory and law enforcement authorities, and obviously then the laws that inform civil and criminal actions against transgressors, must allow a corporation broad latitude to internally police, including, according to Mr. Sheer, the very duty "to force its employees to submit to polygraph tests [as Apple Corp. did]," because of the dangers of insider trading.

Magnificent is the conflation. It is as if the author is claiming that due diligence in the form of vigorous investigation of suspected insider trading is somewhere on the same planet with having the 'director of ethics' and some Magnum PI wannabes pretend they're who they aren't to find out who's spilling the beans about boardroom discussions. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and other relevant Acts of Congress and the several states regulating secondary securities market activities and the actions of participants therein place affirmative burden on public corporations to comply not just in letter, but in spirit. In fact, the term "scheme" is used in regulatory language to convey the broad latitude the Securities and Exchange Commission and the state securities regulatory agencies have in considering what constitutes lawful versus unlawful activities, including those by the directors, officers, and other insiders of a public corporation. This, however, is not in any way related to the chairman of a public corporation authorizing and directing private investigators to go out and lie to get information about who is telling boardroom "secrets."

In fact, Ms. Dunn's conduct goes to the heart of the matter of that over-used but still profoundly important word "transparency": a board of directors, the executive officers of a corporation, and even legal counsel to the firm may see behind-closed-doors discussions as meriting all the privacy in the world; but the outside observer, especially a shareholder sensing inadequate transparency, could see matters very differently. For all the lip service modern corporations give to the pre-eminence of their shareholders, many of those corporations behave in ways that are truly appalling to those who have little or no voice in director-level decision making, as is evident from the outrageous compensation packages laid at the feet of executive officers whose performance at the helm would have gotten them fired were the relationship between compensation committees, decision-makers on the board, and the executive beneficiaries not so incestuously tight and non-transparent. By virtue of its egregious offenders, corporate America has taken off the table any presumption of a "right" to have "secrets" other than those directly having to do with proprietary technologies, in-process negotiations, and access to uncertified financial information.

The mere presumption or declaration that some boardroom or executive-level matter is a "secret" cannot take precedence over the public's right to know: it is that public that claims at least some degree of ownership if a corporation poses to benefit from "public corporation" status with respect to broad access to capital markets.

Here's the distillate from this corporate lawyer dream world being promoted by the California First Amendment Coalition.
Let corporations do their own 'internal policing' as they see fit because they can get the job done better. The Bill of Rights circumscribes government actions against citizens, not the actions of private entities like corporations. Sometimes, courts go so far as to take that constitutional stuff seriously when it comes to the government trying to deny rights enumerated in or constructed from the Constitution; therefore, it's best to remove the entire line of defense about "rights" someone might have.

Probable cause? Not needed. If we've heard a rumor about you, to the back room for a polygraph test you go. Just be glad we're more civilized than the government about getting the truth out of you.

Unreasonable search and seizure? Sure. We can do whatever we want because the corporate offices belong to us. Actually, if you work for us, you do, too, but we'll let you go home most nights.

Lie to get information? No problem. We're protecting those shareholders we love so much. Anyway, it's all about compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley (otherwise known as the Securities Lawyers' Revenue Enhancement Act).

Due process? Where's that written in our corporate by-laws?

Presumption of innocence? Like we'd ever make a mistake.

Freedom of speech? Not if you've ever been on our payroll.

Freedom of the press? Absolutely! Like anyone who's ever worked here is going to rat on us after we've made examples of a few troublemakers.
The California First Amendment Coalition deserves credit: they've done their best to construct a false choice between a specific constitutional right, freedom of the press, and a broad right of citizens not to have private corporations for which they work spy on them using means the courts would have to approve before the government could do the very same things.

It is, however, on its face nonsense; but it is also the troubling and persistent mentality of the corporate world that labor is just one more factor of production to be used, abused, and discarded as necessary without the interference of laws that might insist that people are citizens first, and the rights and liberties—all of the them—they carry as such citizens are not and cannot in any way be waived when they give a company the privilege of their productive effort.

At a congressional hearing last week, Hewlett Packard executives, former executives, and security experts testified about the snooping done by the company at Ms. Dunn's behest. The gruesome eight hours of testimony by Dunn and others left members of both parties at times incredulous and at other times outraged. Stalled efforts to bring corporate spying of this kind under control will likely be re-invigorated, particularly because the hearing made it very clear, in the words of privacy consultant Robert Douglas, "[T]he biggest buyers (of pilfered phone records) are attorneys, corporations, banks, finance agencies, car financiers — the business community."

(And, yes, these outraged congressmen are of the very same U.S. government that is engaged in a massive, wholesale, unlawful campaign of spying on U.S. citizens without any court oversight whatsoever, so the irony of their outrage is so deliciously palpable that it should have a gag warning attached to it.)

Corporations will forever presume that any effort by the government to circumscribe internal practices constitutes an unacceptable burden upon the right to conduct operations in the most efficient way possible to maximize shareholder wealth. Theirs will permanently be the position, expressed or implied, that they as the employers by nature have the right to grant and deny privileges as a consequent application of business judgment, and one such discretionary 'privilege' is employee privacy. Their occasional claims that the well-being of their employees is so crucial to success of the enterprise notwithstanding, the backdrop of corporate treatment of its workforce is instilled with the mentality that people are hired and retained as a favor to those so graced. Most employees see it that way, too: there exists no "right" to have the job, and from that presumption then logically flows the conclusion that virtually nothing about the job is infused of prior rights other than those clearly set forth in law, and only then in law vigorously, pervasively, and consistently enforced.

It is, then, the permanent duty of the government through legislation, regulatory oversight, and the courts to ensure that worker abuses by corporate America are held in check and those representing the interests of corporations are resolutely, swiftly, and severely punished when their wholly expected attitudes contrary to relevant law become expressed in action, as happened in the case of Hewlett Packard. It is, then, only when the government re-asserts itself as the unwavering guarantor of the rights of workers by virtue of their citizenship in a free country that corporations will have even the hint of incentive not to act as the officers and directors at Hewlett Packard did.

Unfortunately, that commitment by government first, foremost, and always to serve its citizens will first require that the United States government fully reconstitute its own understanding that the people of this country have the fundamental, inalienable right to be left alone.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

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

Proposed Labor Law in China Angers Corporations Seeking Cheap, Exploitable Workers

by: Konagod

The New York Times today was crammed full of blogworthy news, starting with this front page article concerning China's plans to draft a law strengthening labor unions and ending labor abuse.

The reaction by American corporations was a real eye-opener as far as seeing who has the interests of working people at heart. Granted, China's move is intended to reduce the chances of an uprising by workers. However, this does not diminish the obvious greed of corporations seeking and benefitting from underpaid and exploited workers.

The move, which underscores the government’s growing concern about the widening income gap and threats of social unrest, is setting off a battle with American and other foreign corporations that have lobbied against it by hinting that they may build fewer factories here.

The conflict with the foreign corporations is significant partly because it comes at a time when labor, energy and land costs are rising in this country, all indications that doing business in China is likely to get much more expensive in the coming years.

Some corporations have complained that the law smacks of socialism and borrows from labor laws in "union friendly" countries like France and Germany.
The skirmish has pitted the American Chamber of Commerce — which represents corporations including Dell, Ford, General Electric, Microsoft and Nike — against labor activists and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the Communist Party’s official union organization.

The workers’ advocates say that the proposed labor rules — and more important, enforcement powers — are long overdue, and they accuse the American businesses of favoring a system that has led to widespread labor abuse.

One of the proposals in the law would make it harder to lay off workers. Some companies have stated this alone might cause them to slow their investments in China.
“This is really two steps backward after three steps forward,” said Kenneth Tung, Asia-Pacific director of legal affairs at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Hong Kong and a legal adviser to the American Chamber of Commerce here.

I have an idea. Move the jobs back to Mexico and other Central American nations, pay the workers a living wage, and perhaps we won't need that Big Wall. After all, what is China doing for us? I'll get back to that answer later.

Crossposted at konagod
12 October 2006

Just A Coincidence, Huh?

by: Foiled Goil

Did the U.S. Provoke N. Korea?

North Korea: A Nuclear Threat

Is Kim Jong Il ready to provoke a regional crisis?
An exclusive account of what Pyongyang really wants.

By Selig S. Harrison

Newsweek International

Oct. 16, 2006 issue - On Sept. 19, 2005, North Korea signed a widely heralded denuclearization agreement with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. Pyongyang pledged to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs." In return, Washington agreed that the United States and North Korea would "respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations."

Four days later, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sweeping financial sanctions against North Korea designed to cut off the country's access to the international banking system, branding it a "criminal state" guilty of counterfeiting, money laundering and trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration says that this sequence of events was a coincidence.

At one point in our farewell dinner on Sept. 22, Kim leaned forward and made a pointed comment that clearly foreshadowed the Foreign Ministry's threat to conduct a nuclear test. "We really want to coexist with the United States peacefully," he said, "but you must learn to coexist with a North Korea that has nuclear weapons. You have learned to live with other nuclear powers, so why not us?" I replied, "That doesn't sound like you are really committed to denuclearization." "You misunderstand me," he said. "We are definitely prepared to carry out the Sept. 19 agreement, step by step, but we won't completely and finally dismantle our nuclear weapons program until our relations with the United States are fully normalized. That will take some time, and until we reach the final target, we should find a way to coexist." [snip]

The financial sanctions are very severe. The United States has in effect asked all banks in the world not to deal with North Korea or to handle any transactions involving the country. The Bush administration says that it is enforcing laws against money laundering and counterfeiting, and seeking to stop transactions relating to weapons of mass destruction. But statements by Treasury Department officials have made clear that the goal is to cut off all North Korean financial intercourse with the rest of the world. [snip]

How much are the sanctions hurting? In Pyongyang's view, they are seriously impeding North Korean efforts to carry out economic reforms, because they are blocking foreign investment and trade. They are slowing down economic growth. But there is no sign whatsoever that the sanctions are undermining the Kim Jong Il regime.

Full story here.

Selig S. Harrison, who just returned from his 10th visit to North Korea, is director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy in Washington.

Do Your Eyes Leak When You Read The News From Iraq?

by: Debra

Mine do. I can't help it and anyone who has known me in person would be very surprised because tears do not come easily to me. When I'm angry and frustrated, yes, but I can usually be detached when I'm reading.

Not so with the Iraq war and the casualty counts. We are losing young lives for no discernible reason and destroying yet another generation in the foolish pursuit of pride. We have accomplished what the Decider initially said was the goal. Capture Saddam. Check. Weapons of Mass Destruction. There weren't any, check. Engender a democracy. The Iraqis had their purple finger moment. Check.

Why are we still there? We aren't going to win the war on terror by causing more of it. Heck, because of current policies we are causing terror within the USA. When military families are afraid to open their door because they don't want to talk to the chaplain (imagine it was your family that waits for news) and the other military suit with him, that is terror perpetrated on those who are giving the most and only them.

This grief is not evenly distributed amongst all Americans, it is being suffered by an unfortunate few. With every deployment that a service member serves, their chances of dying increase. During the Vietnam conflict people volunteered to serve more than one tour, it wasn't forced upon them. Now we have active duty service members, the Reserves and the National Guard who are serving more than one tour. Some are up to three and four.

As long as just a few serve and pay the ultimate price, this war does not exist except as an abstraction to most Americans and that is just not right. Everyone should weep or have to swallow hard every time a service member dies. Otherwise, ir just doesn't matter, it is someone else's war, someone else's problem, someones else's loved one.

I wish I could be cold and dispassionate about Iraq, but after reading the latest stories of the fallen I now understand why my dad was so angry when I enlisted before the Vietnam Conflict was declared over. He knew that nobody cared except the people who were left to grieve.

Crossposted at Debsweb.

A Cry to the Base

by: Dark Wraith

A Cry to the Base

Use as you wish with attribute.

The Vatican Rag

by: Jersey Cynic

I just couldn't help but think of my father this morning when I read this story:
Pope set to bring back Latin Mass that divided the Church

As I kid, I remember him playing Tom Lehrer albums. I especially loved
The Vatican Rag!!!. The song came out for Vatican II and dad would "genufleck, genuflect, genuflect" all around my mother on Sunday mornings when we were getting ready for church. DROVE HER CRAZY! -- Great guy! He went along (drove) to church every week without too much protest. He always would volunteer to 'work the collection baskets' , but really just hung outside smoking with the other gents! THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS !!

I am sure Mr. Lehrer has a tune going on in his head right now if he has read this news. I sure do hope he shares it with us!

This is rather absurd though, isn't it? Is this the church's way of trying to get a captive audience to come back or to stay? I remember those latin masses -- dear goddess above that was a painful hour! Come to think of it, I left the church not too long after hearing it in English though. Maybe it's for the best to keep people in the dark --yes? won't lose as many members.

I hear latin is becoming popular in highschool. Actually, my daughter just decided to forget 3 years of spanish and switched to latin because she heard it would help a bit on SAT's. Too bad I don't bring her to church......

Hey, did you know that "Lehrer claims to have invented the Jello shot during his stint in the US Army as a means of circumventing liquor restrictions on army bases"


From a June 1996 online interview:

Q: So do you consider yourself an atheist or an agnostic?

A: No one is more dangerous than someone who thinks he has The Truth. To be an atheist is almost as arrogant as to be a fundamentalist. But then again, I can get pretty arrogant.

Q: Are you not a fan of organized religion in general and are you a "spiritual" person?

A: To say that I am not a "fan" of organized religion is putting it mildly. My feeling about even disorganized religion is summed up in James Taylor's immortal line in "Sweet Baby James": "Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep." I have no desire to promote secular insomnia. As for being "spiritual," not in the New Age sense, certainly. I find enough mystery in mathematics to satisfy my spiritual needs. I think, for example, that pi is mysterious enough (don't get me started!) without having to worry about God. Or if pi isn't enough, how about fractals? or quantum mechanics?
11 October 2006

It's Bill's Fault?

by: Foiled Goil

Agreed Framework between the United States of America
and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

From Wikipedia:

The Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was signed on October 21, 1994 between North Korea (DPRK) and the United States. The agreement largely broke-down by 2003. [snip]

The pact is neither a treaty subject to Senate approval nor a contract, but more of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries noted by the United Nations Security Council. It was signed in the wake of North Korea's abandonment of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a U.S. military buildup near the country, and U.S. plans to bomb the active Yongbyon nuclear reactor. [snip]

Soon after the agreement was signed, U.S. Congress control changed to the Republican Party, who did not support the agreement. Some Republican Senators were strongly against the agreement, regarding it as appeasement. Initially U.S. Department of Defense emergency funds not under Congress control were used to fund the transitional oil supplies under the agreement, together with international funding. From 1996 Congress provided funding, though not always sufficient amounts. Consequently some of the agreed transitional oil supplies were delivered late.

Some analysts believe North Korea agreed to the freeze primarily because of the U.S. agreement to phase out economic sanctions that had been in place since the Korean War. But because of congressional opposition, the U.S. failed to deliver on this part of the agreement. [snip]

— — —

US grants N Korea nuclear funds

BBC - Wednesday, 3 April, 2002:

Pyongyang threatened to pull out of the nuclear deal...

The US Government has announced that it will release $95m to North Korea as part of an agreement to replace the Stalinist country's own nuclear programme, which the US suspected was being misused.

Under the 1994 Agreed Framework an international consortium is building two proliferation-proof nuclear reactors and providing fuel oil for North Korea while the reactors are being built.

In releasing the funding, President George W Bush waived the Framework's requirement that North Korea allow inspectors to ensure it has not hidden away any weapons-grade plutonium from the original reactors.

President Bush argued that the decision was "vital to the national security interests of the United States". [snip]

— — —

From Josh Marshall, TPM:

October 11, 2006 -- 02:29 AM EST

Will someone come out and say what a monumental twit Condi Rice is as Secretary of State.

Here's the CNN brief on their article about Rice blaming Bill Clinton for the president's latest failure.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday defended the Bush administration's refusal to hold bilateral talks with North Korea in the face of Pyongyang's claim of a successful nuclear test. She told CNN the Clinton administration tried that approach in the 1990s and it had failed.

Bill Perry has a good rejoinder to this nonsense on the Post oped page.

But let's review the salient facts one more time.

"Failure" = 1994-2002 -- Era of Clinton 'Agreed Framework': No plutonium production. All existing plutonium under international inspection. No bomb.

"Success" = 2002-2006 -- Bush Policy Era: Active plutonium production. No international inspections of plutonium stocks. Nuclear warhead detonated.

Face it. They ditched an imperfect but working policy. They replaced it with nothing. Now North Korea is a nuclear state.

Facts hurt. So do nukes.

- - -

And then, there's Boss Twit...

Also from Josh Marshall:

October 11, 2006 -- 11:17 AM EST

Just listening to this press conference, I'm really surprised his handlers had him hold this sort of appearance. His statement was a long meandering catalog of his policies -- a bit confused, with various defenses, none that great. Just in terms of effective communication, I would have thought they would have had him hit a few basic points -- international threats, make tax cuts permanent, etc. But my gut tells me anybody on the fence at this point would not feel reassured or heartened by what the president is saying.

On North Korea, needless to say, he fibbed about the basic issue, elided the key points. We'll see if the press teases out what he ignored and misstated. He let the Agreed Framework lapse. The excuse is alleged (and probably true) uranium enrichment research, which wouldn't have come to fruition for many, many years. The result was ramping back plutonium production which has now already created a bomb. The president's boast is that his failed negotiations have more participants around the table.


The Long Haul in Iraq

by: Konagod

Less than a month before the critically important mid-term elections, the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, announced that the Army expects to keep the current troop levels in Iraq through 2010.

"It's just that I have to have enough ammo in the magazine that I can continue to shoot as long as they want us to shoot."

Nice analogy. And we American taxpayers can continue to expect Uncle Sam to have a couple of fingers in our wallets and purses.
In another indication of the burden the Army expects to bear, Schoomaker said he believes the Army will need $138.8 billion in 2008, nearly $40 billion more than its planned expenditures for the 2007 budget year, which began Oct. 1. Schoomaker's proposed figure is nearly $25 billion more than the initial amount discussed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Christopher Columbus -- Bastard!

by: Jersey Cynic

We now all know there is a lot more to the 'Columbus discovered America' story we learned as a kid in school. Again this morning, I forgot to ask my kids what they are taught about CC in history class these days. I just did a quick search to see what I could find. Here's one from Mrs. Sirois' Country Kindergarten:

"A few years ago,after reading my history a little more carefully,I decided not to give Christopher Columbus the spotlight he had once enjoyed in my class. He now really only earns part of a day with little more than a few songs and a big book discussion..."

Seems like they are back to the same poem we learned in school:

IN 1492

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.

Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.

Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.

Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.

October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!

"Indians! Indians!" Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.

But "India" the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.

The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.

Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he'd been told.

He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.

The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.


I bring this up today because Liz just sent me a reply e-mail to the one I sent to her the other day -- sarcastically wishing her a happy columbus day. I was just pissed off that the kids had the day off and were monopolizing the computer all day! Besides, I had always heard that CC was a bastard and why do we honor him at all any more? Later in the day, one of the kids asked for a ride to the mall; now I remember why!

Back to the classroom. Can you imagine, for one minute, if we were told the REAL DEAL way back when?
Here is the e-mail link Liz sent me:

Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress
excerpted from a
People's History of the United States
by Howard Zinn

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island's beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:
"They... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned.... They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane.... They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."
These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.
Columbus wrote:
"As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts."
The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold?
The Indians, Columbus reported, "are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone...."

Today is National Coming Out Day

by: Pam

October 11 is National Coming Out Day. The theme is "Talk About It."

The big news this year is information that should put fear into the hearts of The Base -- 70% of heterosexual adults now know someone gay.

And -- those with an out gay or lesbian family member raises the typical American's support for full marriage equality by 17 percentage points.

The above results are from two studies being released by HRC, one by Harris Interactive and the other, "'Coming Out' and Americans' Attitudes on Gay Rights," from the Hunter College Center for Sexuality and Public Policy.

Additional findings:
* 92% of self-identified gays said they are out to close friends
* 78% said they are out to their parents
* A majority are out to other people in their lives, including grandparents, cousins, acquaintances and casual friends, and coworkers and colleagues.


The Foley scandal has shown us that there are a whole lot of GOP closet cases working on The Hill who desperately need to kick those doors wide open. What these people often fear are the fundamentalists controlling their party -- who like gays to be self-loathing and closeted because it doesn't suit their message.

The irony is that these Republican professional closet cases don't really fear being fired by their Republican masters -- look at Rick Santorum's communications director Robert Traynham -- he's out and suffers no consequences working for an ace homophobe who would restrict his rights. Intolerance of gays on the Hill has merely been a GOP front, a play to the Base, and it's a game that has now blown up in their faces (see Amanda's post -- Tucker Carlson states the obvious about the Beltway GOP and what it thinks of the AmTaliban).

While closeted gay hypocrites in the GOP work to legislate away rights for out and proud LGBT citizens, companies are realizing the value of a diverse workforce.

* 51 percent of the Fortune 500 offer domestic partner benefits, up from less than 20 percent in 1999;

* Among Fortune 1000 employers who offer such benefits, 75 percent offer health coverage for a partner's dependents, 55 percent offer adoption assistance, and 61 percent allow workers family and medical leave to care for a partner.

In the 2006 HRC Equality Index:

* A record 138 companies scored 100 percent, which is attributed to a sharp increase in gender identity non-discrimination policies. In 2002, only 13 companies earned a perfect rating.
* 75 percent more companies than in 2005 prohibited discrimination against transgender employees in employment practices;
* 64 percent more companies than in 2005 implemented at least one wellness benefit for transgender employees;
* 35 percent more companies than in 2005 extended COBRA, vision, dental and dependent medical coverage to employees’ same-sex domestic partners; and
* 14 percent more companies than in 2005 engaged in philanthropic or marketing activities directed toward the GLBT community.

Almost all of the companies rated — 436, or 98 percent — include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination polices.


Despite all that good news, not everyone has the option of coming out --
* gays can still legally be fired from a job
* gay folks can most certainly get the crap beaten out of them or worse in many parts of the country
* and it goes without saying if you have anti-gay parents and you're not yet 18 (or are dependent on them for support), coming out is probably a really bad idea unless you are prepared for the consequences of them not taking the news well.

That said, coming out is the most powerful thing one can do, but it cannot be done in isolation; straight allies have to be willing to publicly defend their gay friends and acquaintances. People are coming out and it's scaring the bigots.

10 October 2006

Special Poll: Predict the Outcome of the November Elections

by: Dark Wraith

Here's your chance to make the call.
(Note that, if the Senate splits 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, the Republicans still maintain effective control through the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President in his ex officio role as President of the Senate.)

What do you think will be the outcome of national elections on November 7, 2006?

  — Poll results —
09 October 2006

Enter the Dragons

by: Dark Wraith

North Korean nuclear testThe picture at left is a screen capture from a Korea Central News Agency broadcast of North Korea's first test of a nuclear weapon, conducted on Monday morning, October 9, 2006, local Korean time. The nuclear device is reported to have been detonated in an abandoned coal mine in the North Hamgyong province. The picture allegedly displaying the explosion appears to show the typical ground-level uplift characteristic of a massive underground ordnance detonation.

Surprisingly, however, despite multiple reports of seismic detectors recording the event, estimates of the yield of the device vary strikingly, with The Independent reporting a 15 kiloton yield—approximately on the order of the atomic bomb used by the United States on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945—while other news sources, including the Los Angeles Times, are reporting that at least some U.S. officials claim the yield was "less than one kiloton." The Los Angeles Times expands on this U.S. claim by noting that the nuke might have "...failed to achieve its full explosive potential." At less than a kiloton, it is actually within the realm of possibility that conventional explosives were used to simulate a nuclear blast.

A device yielding 15 kilotons is well appreciated for its ability to lay waste to an entire city, so a nuclear weapons capability even of such modest power by modern standards is nonetheless a clear indication that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has, indeed, become a full-fledged nuclear state capable of inflicting extraordinary damage on a military target.

If, however, the explosion was less than a kiloton, a number of possible scenarios emerge. First, it is possible that U.S. officials are deliberately underreporting the yield in an effort to calm domestic and international fears about and reaction to the test. On the other hand, if the device was a nuke and didn't achieve full potential, it would indicate that the North Koreans have not yet perfected the high technology of the triggering and aiming mechanisms that bring the fissile material inside the device into the compaction state required to create the critical mass that causes the material to become a fuel-exhausting, destructive nuclear explosion.

Even if the North Korean nuclear test came off without a hitch, few would dispute the objective evidence that Pyongyang is months if not years from becoming a genuine regional threat. Although it could right now deliver a nuke (if it really has any) by traditional aircraft, a bomber—even if it were to appear as a civilian aircraft—coming from North Korea would be confronted and turned back or shot down were it to come anywhere near a target in South Korea, Japan, or the United States. And as far as using ballistic missiles, although the North Koreans have intermediate-range missiles they have tested successfully, their sole test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Taepodong II—possibly a variation on the Iranian Shahab 3 or a straight upgrade from Nodong and Scud technology used in the Taepodong I—was a failure, having exploded either unintentionally or by ground directive about 40 seconds into its maiden test flight.

But even if North Korea were to suddenly have long-range ballistic delivery vehicles in its arsenal, the nation's nuclear research and development community must still make it through a long, expensive, and technologically challenging set of hurdles with miniaturizing the nukes so they can be fitted in warheads atop missiles. Beyond the miniaturization still await the complications of remote arming, accurate vehicle targeting, and hardening to countermeasures ranging from missile command signal jamming on through to mid-air interception by the latest generation of anti-ballistic missiles the United States is deploying. (Whether or not the U.S. ABMs are effective is another matter entirely, but their existence serves as a factor in the attack calculus of what a missile would need in order to survive to target.)

Reports vary somewhat on the size of the North Korean nuclear arsenal: a lower bound might be six to eight, and an upper bound might be twelve; but the size and the very existence of the North Korean arsenal is at this point irrelevant to the important events that will occur in the region over the coming several years. Japan is more than capable of going nuclear in a matter of months, and its legendary industrial expertise combined with its already-existing rocketry program ensures that, long before North Korea can become a regional menace, Japan could become a significant threat to the government of Kim Jong Il in North Korea.

Mainland China, once the principal benefactor of Pyongyang and its chief protector against the worst of international sanctions that would otherwise have already been imposed on the DPRK, is now not only making starkly harsh, public statements about North Korea, but is also engaging in an almost disturbingly warm dialogue with Japan, this latter turn at least possibly in part the result of the stepping down of Japan's long-time prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, who had a bad habit of repeatedly souring Chinese-Japanese relations, particularly with his official visits to shrines honoring the Japanese Imperial Army troops of World War II, whom the Chinese to this day consider nothing less than the very worst of all possible war criminals. Even though Koizumi's successor, Shinzo Abe, is a protégé of the former prime minister, and even though Abe openly supports a more robust Japanese military posture, he has managed (with some help from North Korea's petulance) to get started on the right foot with the leadership in Beijing, with the two sides forging an alliance that could conceivably result in China allowing Japan to play the role of hitman-in-waiting to remind North Korea that its ambitions for regional influence will not go unchecked.

North Korea's alleged nuclear test, in and of itself, is not nearly as important as a military achievement for Pyongyang as it is as a signal event in the shifting military dynamics and diplomcatic relationships matrix on the western side of the Pacific Rim. Although the United States can be a force in economic retribution against North Korea, its ability to impose a swift military solution is virtually non-existent, although the possibility always exists, given the current leadership in Washington, that the Pentagon might be ordered to try a military option. Absent a complete loss of connection to proper assessment of probable outcomes, the U.S. will not use military force either to destroy North Korea's nuclear facilities or to kill its leader. This is due only in part to the fact that American military forces are already stretched to their limit in the twin theatres of Afghanistan and Iraq. North Korea does not need to have or use nuclear weapons to be extraordinarily dangerous: not only does it have a huge standing army, but it also has tens of thousands of short-range rocket launchers that could within a matter of minutes begin what would be an almost incalculably destructive hail of hundreds of thousands of rockets onto South Korea. Within a day, such a siege would do at least as much damage as a concerted air force bombardment campaign; and given the dispersal of the launchers, it would be impossible to neutralize more than a fraction of the launchers before the collective effect of so many rockets had exacted a crippling toll on the economic vitality and physical infrastructure of the South.

That the United States does not have a viable military option is good news to the extent that, first, such an approach to dealing with Pyongyang would likely be counterproductive in the extreme and, second, such an effort would press the U.S. military to its breaking point. On the downside, though, the fact that the United States continues to decline North Korean demands for bilateral talks further circumscribes the range of options in which the United States could be the defining force in taming the ambitions of North Korea's leader.

This, then, leaves South Korea, Japan, and China at least to some extent in the position of finding their own accommodation for each other in their common desire to control Pyongyang. It means a re-militarized Japan, quite possibly to become a nuclear state; it means an already fully militarized South Korea very likely to follow suit and go nuclear within a matter of less than a decade; and it means these two emergent, economically strong Asian nations becoming allied with the 800-pound gorilla of the region, China, which has every incentive to present itself as the far closer, economically growing, and very reliable alternative to Washington, mired as it now is and will be for years to come in wars of its own making on the other side of the world.

In short, the 21st Century will just keep getting more interesting, whether or not the United States is capable of maintaining even the façade of relevance to it.

The Dark Wraith will have more good news as the new century proceeds.

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

Remembering John Lennon

by: Konagod

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

"I don't want to die at 40."--John Lennon

John Lennon would have been 66 today -- and, no doubt, still in prime musical form -- had he not been gunned down at the age of 41 by Mark David Chapman almost 26 years ago.

You are sorely missed, by me, and millions more. The music and the message will never die.

08 October 2006

By the Waters of Babylon - by Stephen Vincent Benét (1937)

by: Jersey Cynic

This is so cool! A student was surfing the net for some analysis of the short story By The Waters of Babylon. They came upon the post I put up a few months ago about this story and sent me an e-mail! I don't know if you remember the post -- I had been over at FatLadySings and was answering her posted questions about books:

The first question was: (1) What is the one book that changed your life? I have always been able to answer that one right away. Ever since I read By The Waters of Babylon in high school English class, it's theme seems to have always stayed with me --
To much knowledge can destroy a civilization.

Here's the e-mail:


This might seem completely random, but I'm doing a school project on By the Waters of Babylon. I saw your blog entry on the story, and that you were an active web contributor, so I am asking for a bit of help. I'm trying to identify the central theme(s) of the book, and saw your "too much knowledge..." theme. To me, the theme seems like "the fate of humankind is in the hands of humankind itself..." type of deal. I've done searches and can't find any good online resources dissecting the story. Maybe you can help?

Thanks.... R******

So, anyone else want to weigh in? It's a 5-10minute read if anyone hasn't read it yet

I like R's interpretation of the theme. Maybe my english teacher had it wrong? R's really works with mine though, in a way.... I've always said we plateaued as a civilization probably 40-50 years ago. The computer has probably been the only useful accomplishment since -- and of course (all?) medical advancements. Lets slow down now as a society, and spread this great knowledge and vast wealth we now have, with the rest of the world.

Dress Code Protests Roil Arkansas School

by: Konagod

Control freaks are at it again. I understand the point of dress codes but this one borders on feverish insanity.

From the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:

The wristband protest was organized by Fighting Education-Depriving Uniform Policies, or FEDUP, a group founded by sisters Wendy Crow and Amanda Lamb to protest the dress code, which was made more restrictive this school year to specify shirt colors, numbers of buttons and pockets, and other details.
From KTHV, the CBS-affiliate in Little Rock:

The rules include wearing hunter green or white polo type shirts, khaki pants, shorts and solid black or brown belts.

Emma was suspended for wearing a fashion style belt. It was a brown belt with brads in them. Her mother, Amy Tatum, shows Today’s THV the belt and says it was that belt that Emma was sent home for. She says she was told it was a school violation because it had holes in it. Tatum asks, “How do you buckle a belt without holes?"

Tatum says, “It doesn't benefit Emma’s education to be sent home six times in six weeks for an extra button or pocket in the wrong place. Teach my child. My tax dollars don't pay you to be the fashion police."
The ACLU is expected to take legal action. Meanwhile students will be expected to continue counting buttons and pockets. has some interesting parental reviews of the school:

"This school is just plain horrible. Don't expect to be prepared for college, because most of everything that you'll learn here, is obsolete. School is supposed to be fair for everyone, but I guess they don't really care about their students. This school is so judgemental of everyone. That's why I'd have to say that whoever enrolls at this school, would just be wasting their time. "

"This is probably the worst school I've sent my kids to in the state of Arkansas. Original thought is discouraged, the learning environment is hostile, and the only thing administrators are concerned with are dress code violations. Try and send your children elsewhere if at all possible."- John

"Absolutely horrible! If administrators would spend more time on education and less time on dress code violations, children might be able to learn something. The administrators absolutely refuse to work with parents, and most times won't even interact with parents. "- Steve

"Watson Chapel is 'THE' worst schools in Jefferson County. I am split between 3 districts in my area, and Chapel is it. If I could pull my kid out legally, I would. Some of the teachers are just pulling a pay check. Let your child fail in a credited course and you will find out in 4 1/2 weeks, but be out of dress code. You receive a call in 5 minutes. 'Please come pick your child up from school. My child has missed 6 days since the start of school for dress code violation. (Black or Gold lantern). The hand book dose not recommend any color as long as the lantern is visible. What is Chapel teaching my child?"

Good question.

crossposted at konagod

The Women Of Iraq

by: Debra

When I first read this article last night I cried for the second time in a day. I'm not known for shedding tears but I empathize with these women because I understand the struggle to be yourself in a judgemental society. At least I don't have to dodge bullets or be physically afraid.

Before we brought "democracy" to Iraq, it was the most liberated society for women in the Middle East. They held positions of authority under Saddam, they owned businesses, could drive a car, travel where they wanted, they could dress as they wished. Now, not so much. In fact, not at all.

Now they live in fear for their lives, restricted in a way that is reminiscent of the middle ages and just about as much fun. For the women of Iraq, time has gone backwards with little hope of positive change in the near future.

I'm single for a reason and I like it that way. There is no way in hell I am going to let any man make life decisions for me, much less tell me how to dress, who I can talk to, what I can do with my time or who my friends are, but that is now the reality for Iraqi women.

Instead of being able to conduct themselves in public like they did five years ago, they now live in constant fear. Fear of being kidnapped, raped and killed, or if the survive that then they fear being killed by their own family for being unclean and bringing shame to the family. The saddest part of this is that these crimes are perpetrated by their own sect, it doesn't matter which one since the idea is to dominate, humiliate and terrify those who are weaker.

Our ill-advised invasion of a sovereign country has ruined these women's lives and when we leave they will have paid the highest price, lost the most with the least amount of hope that life will improve. While Iraq tears itself apart in a civil war that American warmongers refuse to see, the women are the true victims because their status will be lower in every state. Iraq may divide into three countries but the women will not know the difference. Life will be the same for them whether they are Kurd, Shia or Sunni.


Makes you proud to be an American, spreading light, truth and freedom to a world that was better off a few years ago. And here I thought it was Afghanistan we were going to bomb back to the stone age.

Oh well, I guess half a job is better than none according to this administration. They got to have a purple finger, didn't they?
07 October 2006

Just a feeling

by: astraea

Some notes I made last May, which I dust off to post here. Why? Just a feeling. Seems the Puppetmasters are stirring the embers they've planted, hoping to light a fuse. The spin: people are getting fed up, not going to take it, reaching some ctritical mass. Better have Blackwater Security get their riot gear ready. Someone has to keep the peace!

The reality? Isn't it obvious. Westboro Baptist and friends are the creation, team mates, and siblings of team Free Republic. Puppets and puppetmasters. A little drama by the mythmakers. "Strength through unity. Unity through faith!"


To spell it out:

Military Mark writes:

>>You disprove your own argument...whatever that was.>>
by: Military Mark - 09 Oct '06 - 17:35

How? The point is sleight of hand. The Freepers want to play Merry Prankster. The Freepers ARE Westboro. They set 'em up; they knock 'em down. Phelps running as a Dem candidate? Right. Some Democrat.

It's worked. They've done their job. The press lets them. They got Bush to create the law about not protesting near the route to a gov cemetery -- which takes out all antiwar protests. You think the Rovian Bishops didn't orchestrate this? Then they got the ACLU to defend Westboro's rights -- to make fools of the ACLU and so they can send it around in Jerry Falwells's Liberty newspaper. It's the same way they work the net. Trolling. You can smell them. For them, the end justifies any means.


Come on. Who is really behind the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kanas?

Anti-gay group protests at National Cemetery
"ARLINGTON, Va. - As throngs came to the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery to honor the fallen on Memorial Day, a handful of protesters from an anti-gay group stood across a four-lane highway from a conservative group supporting the troops.

The two groups, separated by a line of police cars, were faced off about 300 feet from the entrance to the cemetery. They held signs making competing arguments. But because of noise from approaching motorcycles and cars, they could not hear one another.

A small group of members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., who have been demonstrating around the country at military funerals, sang “God hates America” to the tune of "God Bless America" and held signs that read "God is America's terror," "Thank God for dead soldiers," "You’re going to hell," and "Bush killed them..."

Meanwhile, US law targets anti-gay protests at Iraq soldier funerals.

Well, sounds good, don't it? Who could disagree? Who would? Above all, we honor our troops. They swore an oath to the Constitution. The least we can do is protect that Constitution here for them.

Of course, the new law targets ALL "unauthorized" demonstrations:
"Under the new Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act signed by Bush, unauthorized demonstrations are banned within 150 feet of a route leading to a US federal cemetery."

So that's within a 150 feet of any road leading to a federal cemetery. What does leading to mean? Yikes. How do you get to you-can't-get-there-from-here?

It's a no-brainer to be sickened by Fred Waldron Phelps and the antics of his Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. I mean how much more obnoxious can you possibly be? Which is their point, their purpose. To have them show up at Arlington on Memorial Day with the Freepers of the Free Republic -- the long anti-gay, ultra-Fundamentalist, well-known-for protests-against-anti-war-groups Freepers -- seems most strange. Not to mention disingenuous.

And perfectly planned.

The Freepers were "urged to join the D.C. Chapter of Free Republic this Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery as we stand up against the Fred Phelps led Westboro Baptist Church" by their own FreeRepublic website. They've been organized since at least last Oct. to "Freep" Phelps. (Freep is their own self-appointed term for counter-protesting, Operation Freep; they're they're sort of like police groupies; they like that commando lingo, lots of cammy wear.)

Meanwhile, Phelps has been the impetus for several state laws passed against his protests.

But my yes, it's all a bit confusing, really, Phelps and his Church. Even the careful Mr. Hannity has confused them with the anti-war left, shades of Code Pink and Cindy. After all, they're shouting "Bush killed them!" And you know all Bush-bashers are Democrats and anti-war.

By the gods, they can piss everyone off. How very obsfucatalicious.

Note also in the Freeper October lament (another Oct.) against the horrors of Phelps, the opening shot against Al Gore. Hm. Looks to my shit-detector like Al Gore is being Phelped, swiftboated -- and that the Freepers' Freeping comes from a page in the original Westboro Church playbook. So we're told Phelps is a Democrat, part of that party of I-hate-America. (Well, you know guilt by association. Like Churchill and Roosevelt were supporters of Stalin -- I've seen them photographed together!)

But there are also facts to obsfucatify, such as:

In 1998, Westboro picketed the funeral of Gore's father, screaming vulgarities at Gore and telling him "your dad's in Hell." [73]

Westboro signs with politican messages have read:
AL GORE FAMILY VALUES (with a cartoon of two men having anal sex) [74]
GO HOME (with a cartoon of Bill Clinton)
BABY KILLER (with a cartoon of Hillary
BABY KILLER (with a cartoon of Bill Clinton)
has failed in numerous Democratic primary elections for governor.[75]
(Read: With friends like Phelps, who needs etc.)

Just read the wiki article. Chance
does favor the prepared mind. It will make that Sunday dinner with your Rush-lovin' brother-in-law so much better.
Memory lane:

FreeRepublic anti-Gore activities in 2000

Blue Washington Tonight

by: Dark Wraith

As a follow-up to Pam's post just below, I am providing here in modified form a distillation of rumors, innuendo, and speculation I put in a comment I made on the thread from my latest post over at The Dark Wraith Forums and a post I published at The Dark Wraith Forums Message Board.

Here we go.

Keep your eyes and ears open for the name "Jeff Trandahl," whose role in the Foley scandal is emerging in mainstream media reports.

    Useful Facts:
    Jeff Trandahl
  • Trandahl was House Clerk for six years.

  • He was quietly removed last year. His departure was met with an almost unprecedented lack of recognition of his service by the House.

  • Trandahl was disliked intensely by some pages for allegedly being mean as dirt to them.

  • The now-disgraced former-Rep. Mark Foley was his close friend.

  • Trandahl was openly gay, yet another example of a powerful, behind-scenes Republican who worked for the viciously anti-gay Republicans.

  • New statements indicate that Trandahl was the point man on several occasions--one of which was in conjunction with Scott Palmer, the powerhouse assistant to House Speaker Dennis Hastert--to deal with Foley's follies at least several years ago.

  • Now, Trandahl--whether he wants to be or not--is on the ever-expanding list of Hastert's Worst Nightmares.

    More Fun Facts:
    Scott Palmer
  • Federal law enforcement officials are sending out signals that they might not have enough to hang an indictment on Foley.

  • All Hell is going to break loose if the Justice Department comes up with something less than a prosecution.
  • Kirk Fordham
  • Hastert's top administrative assistant, the über-powerful Scott Palmer, is now contradicted by a second staffer, in addition to Rep. Reynolds' former assistant, Kirk Fordham, who says Palmer (and therefore Hastert) knew about Foley a long time ago.

  • Yet another staffer or other insider at the House may come forward in the next few days contradicting Hastert's claim that it was only within the past year that he knew anything about Rep. Foley's extra-curricular cyber-cruising for pagemeat.

  • Bush's radio address today did not include any mention of the Foley scandal, which means the Democrats have Open Season on portraying Bush, himself, as being totally disconnected from the realities that face the top leader of both his party and the country.

  • Whatever you've heard about the Election Day bloodbath that could be coming for the Republicans, some insiders say it looks worse for the GOP: even some of the long-standing, most powerful Republicans in the House are in serious trouble in their districts.

    Breaking News:
    Now, it's getting ugly...

  • Rumors about House Speaker Hastert and his live-in chief of staff, Palmer, are spilling out of the Beltway, in part because of heavy-duty allegations made at the Wayne Madsen Report; but the reliability, or lack thereof, of Madsen is not as important as the fuel he's adding to an already monstrous fire.

  • Some of the rumors about Hastert are way over the top, and the entire Hastert-is-gay story is radioactive for the Democrats on the Hill. (Call a Democratic Representative and ask; you'll be lucky if you don't get your ass handed to you.)

  • According to Madsen and others, the Republicans think they have an ace-in-the-hole because they're positioning to drop a bombshell about a Democratic member of Congress.

  • Too many possibilities are swirling to know which rumor about a Democrat has any likelihood of being the real deal, and the whole thing might be a bluff.

  • Democrats don't think it's a bluff, but most are claiming total ignorance about what the substance of the bombshell is going to be.

  • Whatever it is, Democrats are getting their ducks in a row for something rough.

  • Even if it's not a bluff, unless it's an atomic bomb, it could easily backfire on the Republicans, especially because it will probably be put out through Right-wing media sources, possibly Fox News.

  • One possible, minor question that might dog a few Democrats down the road: If Hastert really is a practicing, closeted gay and congressional Democrats knew about it, why in the blazes did they keep his secret while he was letting his little Republican monkeys in the House pump out a stream of anti-gay rhetoric and legislation?

And finally, a fairly high probability event on the agenda for next week: Hastert will resign as Speaker of the House. If he does, though, he could jeopardize his own chances of being re-elected by the voters in the 14th District of Illinois. That is weighing heavily on what would otherwise at this point be a fairly obvious move to slow down the Foley fireball.

One way or the other, as noted above, whatever you've heard about the Democrats winning big on November 7, 2006, just might be an understatement of the extent of the slaughter of Republicans on Election Day 2006.

The Dark Wraith does, however, encourage skepticism about every rumor and also recommends remaining pessimistic until all the Diebold votes are counted.

On the hit list of the fundies, the gay GOP continues to protect its closet

by: Pam

You're seeing a lot of tepid -- but still interesting -- MSM stories about the gay Republican subculture of DC running now, including this one in the NYT, that is politely skirting what we all know is a depth of knowledge about who is and isn't gay in this scandal that the media is withholding.

I'm not arguing that they should or shouldn't out anyone, but that if it turns out to be relevant that a lot of lies about the Foley scandal are being told because some powerful closet doors are going to get blown open, the GOP has a big problem here because we're talking about elected officials preying on children and abusing their positions of power in order to do so.

This may be more about protecting GOP closets than it is about gay Republicans in top positions of power trying to save their jobs (though with one, probably comes the other at this rate in the scandal).

The MSM stories are going right up to the line and you can almost tell they are straining not to reveal what they know.
The presence of homosexuals, particularly gay men, in key staff positions has been an enduring if largely hidden staple of Republican life for decades, and particularly in recent years. They have played decisive roles in passing legislation, running campaigns and advancing careers.

Known in some insider slang as “the Velvet Mafia” or “the Pink Elephants,” gay Republicans tend to be less open about their sexual orientation than their Democratic counterparts.

..."You learn to compartmentalize really well," said one Republican strategist who, like many gay Republicans interviewed for this article, would talk only anonymously for fear of adversely affecting his career.

...Mr. Fordham's history illustrates the potential tensions between private life and professional rhetoric. After leaving Mr. Foley's office in 2004, he worked as finance director for the campaign of Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida. In that race, a Martinez campaign flier accused a political rival of favoring the "radical homosexual lobby" by supporting hate crimes legislation that included protections for gay men and lesbians.

One of the inevitable facts, said Mr. [Brian] Bennett, the former aide to Mr. Dornan, is that "there are just going to be some days when it's hard to be a gay Republican."

When asked why he remains in the party, Mr. Bennett gave an answer common to gay Republicans: he said he remained fundamentally in sync with the small government principles of the party and was committed to changing what he considers its antigay attitudes.

It sure sounds like the wingers are ready to toss these gay Republicans under the bus, based on a couple of other recent articles.


Nightfall of the Vanquished

by: Dark Wraith

Nightfall of the Vanquished

This graphic may be reposted with attribute.

The Dark Wraith sees a very scary Hallowe'en ahead for the Grand Old Party.

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

And The Winner(s) Is....

by: Minstrel Boy

Horsedooty! For both funny and numerous. The letter from boot camp was priceless. Also, for a Texan to be a good sport about a Texas joke, adding in that Cormac MacCarthy is from was tough though. Vervet almost got there merely for being from St. Augustine. Pogo, until I remembered that he's a lawyer was considered for announcing that he wasn't even going to try...(hey, I told you the process was going to be arbitrary and unfair)

So, mi amigo horsedooty, email me your shipping information and I'll send you the book.

I did a second place though for JackGoff. He has a choice to make. The choice is between "The Road" and "The Quark and the Jaguar." The latter is a wonderful exploration of both quantum and particle physics but also a great foundation for complexity theory by Murray Gell-Mann, the Nobel Prize winner for his discovery of the quark. One of the cooler parts of the book is where he describes that to discover the quark he had to first imagine that it might exist. Jack, email me with your shipping information and your choice of books. I'd send you my copy of the Gell-Mann, but it's inscribed. I got to meet him when I played a gig in Santa Fe. He was all giddy about meeting Harry "the Hipster" Gibson and we were all giddy about meeting a roomfull of Nobel laureates from the Santa Fe institute. The scientists were doing all kinds of wild riffing on the math and physics of the music and how it resonates to produce emotions in humans. It was a pretty heavy experience. Stomp jazz and quantum physics.

The next contest will be in December with the prize being a dozen chocolate truffles.

Thanks for your attention and support.

posted in another dimension at Harp and Sword

Some computer stuff....

by: Jersey Cynic

....from the person who knows the least about computers.

Silicon Insider: The Last Days of Software?
(I think I've decided what my son will go to college for next year)

Google Reportedly Talking With YouTube

(Excellent! -- one less site I have to visit in order to watch some great videos)

The Last Days of Stock Traders?

Updated 9:05 AM ET October 7, 2006
abc news

The latest and greatest hybrid has nothing to do with an upgrade in fuel-friendly cars. It's all about stocks, and it'll offer a big change in the way they're traded at the 214-year-old New York Stock Exchange. Today marks the first time in history that the trading specialists who scurry around on the world's most famous trading floor compete with a computer. Their indecipherable language and frenetic pace have been staples of the trading action at the NYSE since its inception. So now, could the traders be replaced by a computer? Here's how it works: If you want to buy shares of a company, say American Express, you will now be offered the option of choosing a machine to execute the order rather than a human. Officials at the stock exchange say it takes a human broker an average of nine seconds to move the shares, but a computer can do it in a little less than a second. That's a big difference in the markets when every millisecond equals money. When the exchange ran a test of the new system on a recent Saturday, more than 6 billion shares changed hands in just two hours. That's more than twice what trading specialists traded in the busiest day in NYSE history. When the new system went into effect today, only two stocks, American Express and Property Equity Trust, were available for computer trades. The exchange says that by December all of its 2,700 stocks will offer the man-versus-machine option, but NYSE adds the both can live happily side-by-side. But that might not be the case. When the London Stock Exchange introduced a similar hybrid system in 1986, the specialists disappeared just a few weeks later.

Dark Wraith?
Any comment on this one?
So, an extra nine seconds will yield how much more in commissions paid each day for these trades?

Sounds like these specialists that will disappear just might re-appear on some nice tropical island, sitting on a chaise holding their laptops, while making 9 times the money they used to make. Yes? No? Maybe the NYSE gets the extra 9 seconds worth of money and these traders do disappear?

I can't wrap my head around this one...
06 October 2006

Too Many Questions

by: astraea

This nation belongs to all of us, not just some self-appointed to monopolize "majority party" that refuses to represent at least half, and at this point, two thirds of We The People.

We need this dialogue. Too many question by so many people.

A must watch, must share: link.
You won't be the same after you watch it.
Then read:
“The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions” by David Ray Griffin.

From TruthDig.

Comment #27074 by need2know on 10/04 at 4:17 pm

I can see where it would be difficult to look at and accept the possibility that your government and elected leaders that you want to be able to trust and believe in may have betrayed that trust in the most heinous of ways possible. I don’t want to believe it. I hate feeling like I do right now. It is almost too awful to wrap your mind around. It would be so much easier to just accept what we have been told and move on with your life.

But, it doesn’t work out that way. There are too many questions. I have been trying very hard to learn more and find answers for the last month. I am in a continued state of shock and outrage with each new piece of information that I learn. There are just too many weird coincidences, anomalies, contradictions and outright lies to make this something a person can just dismiss.

A good place to start is: link.
Then read:
“The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions” by David Ray Griffin.

I think for me, it was the collapse of WTC 7 and the fact there was absolutely no air support anywhere that morning. It is ridiculous to be expected to just accept the “official” story on it’s face. It doesn’t make me crazy, it just means I recognize the words don’t match up with the picture and the facts. You can’t just suspend the laws of physics. WTC 7 wasn’t hit by a plane, had some fire on only two floors, and yet it suddenly fell in a freefall into its own footprint, pulverized to dust. The 9/11 Commission didn’t even address WTC 7 because they didn’t have an explanation. Though, they also didn’t try to investigate it either.

It starts there. Once you realize that no time in ALL of history no steel frame building has ever collapsed due to fire. This was a 47 story skyscraper. It simply defies logic. From there, I had to look at the other two Towers because they were the only other two buildings to collapse in the same way. And then when you realize that the same person owned all three buildings, and then more facts, and more facts, ... well, that is where I started.

You really have to look at the rest of ALL the mountain of questions. It is what it is. It is about questions that need to be adressed and answered. If that means an investigation, then so be it. Why is that threatening if it clears up confusion? If there was no crime or culpability, then you would think these people would welcome the truth coming out or being cleared up. How could that possiblity threaten national security?

Then instead of having hundreds of thousands of people doubting what happened, you would have the support of everyone once the confusions were cleared up. There are plenty of things they can share with Americans to clear things up, starting with all the surveillance videos (unaltered) from the Pentagon.

It is only threatening if you don’t want any of this to come out and investigated because it would probably expose things that would rock this country to it’s core.

I still believe with all my soul that we have to know the truth. It is about preserving the integrity of this country and protecting what it stands for and what it was founded on. Everything that has happened since 9/11 is based on the catalystic events of that day. A lot of people have died because of 9/11 and the wars that were started because of what happened. We have lost almost 3,000 soldeirs, over 20,000 injured and maimed, and there are over 100,000 Iraqis killed. People will continue to die in larger and larger numbers, especially if we go into Iran next.

Our treasury is being drained of our tax dollars while our National Debt is inching up to 8.5 Trillion dollars. Our laws are being ignored, our government is illegally spying on its citizens, our constitution is in danger of becoming irrelevent or dismantled, we are ignoring International laws, and we now torture. This President is basically running the country unchecked. That is dangerous.

This war is now costing over $400 Billion dollars and it doesn’t stop there. Most of that money is going to war contracts with giant corporations with NO oversight or accountability. All of this has created major instability in the region and around the globe.

Don’t you think it is important enough to find out if what we were told about what happened was the truth? Or perhaps maybe it was all the manipulation based on lies of all time? It isn’t like this Administration has proved itself to be above lying, misrepresenting, and manipulating things to put forth their own agenda..

Well..., I think its important.

Keith Olbermann: On The Lying Liar

by: Foiled Goil

A special comment about lying:
Keith Olbermann, on the difference between terrorists and critics


While the leadership in Congress has self-destructed over the revelations of an unmatched, and unrelieved, march through a cesspool ...

While the leadership inside the White House has self-destructed over the revelations of a book with a glowing red cover ...

The president of the United States — unbowed, undeterred and unconnected to reality — has continued his extraordinary trek through our country rooting out the enemies of freedom: the Democrats.

Yesterday at a fundraiser for an Arizona congressman, Mr. Bush claimed, quote, “177 of the opposition party said, ‘You know, we don’t think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists.’”

The hell they did.

One hundred seventy-seven Democrats opposed the president’s seizure of another part of the Constitution.

* * *

It was this super-patriotic warrior’s fear that we would lose that most cherished liberty, because of another attack, one — again quoting General Franks — “that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass-casualty-producing event. Which, in fact, then begins to potentially unravel the fabric of our Constitution.”

And here we are, the fabric of our Constitution being unraveled, anyway.

Habeus corpus neutered; the rights of self-defense now as malleable and impermanent as clay; a president stifling all critics by every means available and, when he runs out of those, by simply lying about what they said or felt.

And all this, even without the dreaded attack.


It is the terror and the guilt within your own heart, Mr. Bush, that you redirect at others who simply wish for you to temper your certainty with counsel.

It is the failure and the incompetence within your own memory, Mr. Bush, that leads you to demonize those who might merely quote to you the pleadings of Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

It is not the Democrats whose inaction in the face of the enemy you fear, Sir.

It is your own—before 9/11 - and (and you alone know this), perhaps afterwards.

Mr. President, these new lies go to the heart of what it is that you truly wish to preserve.

It is not our freedom, nor our country—your actions against the Constitution give irrefutable proof of that.

You want to preserve a political party’s power. And obviously you’ll sell this country out, to do it.

These are lies about the Democrats -- piled atop lies about Iraq -- which were piled atop lies about your preparations for al Qaida.

To you, perhaps, they feel like the weight of a million centuries -- as crushing, as immovable.

They are not.

If you add more lies to them, you cannot free yourself, and us, from them.

But if you stop -- if you stop fabricating quotes, and building straw-men, and inspiring those around you to do the same -- you may yet liberate yourself and this nation.

Please, sir, do not throw this country’s principles away because your lies have made it such that you can no longer differentiate between the terrorists and the critics.

Full Countdown article here.

Crooks and Liars has the video.

Securing Our Borders with Smoke and Mirrors

by: Konagod

Get a load of this from the WaPo today. After the Republican-controlled Congress pandered to the brownphobic base by voting to authorize a 700-mile fence on the Mexican border, both the House and Senate have subsequently given Bush a clean slate to determine where and how to appropriate the money for border security.

No sooner did Congress authorize construction of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border last week than lawmakers rushed to approve separate legislation that ensures it will never be built, at least not as advertised, according to Republican lawmakers and immigration experts.

GOP leaders have singled out the fence as one of the primary accomplishments of the recently completed session. Many lawmakers plan to highlight their $1.2 billion down payment on its construction as they campaign in the weeks before the midterm elections.

But shortly before recessing late Friday, the House and Senate gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute the money to a combination of projects -- not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may also be spent on roads, technology and "tactical infrastructure" to support the Department of Homeland Security's preferred option of a "virtual fence."

Bush was quoted:
"That's what the people of this country want," the president said. "They want to know that we're modernizing the border so we can better secure the border."

What the people of the country should want is for Congress to be less manipulative and dishonest in their pursuit of the illusion of doing what they claim to do for the sake of public opinion polls, and then cleverly shifting gears afterwards. What's truly sad is how unaware vast numbers of Americans are to these all-too-common political manuevers.

What will be interesting is seeing which corporations get the contracts for these "virtual" security enhancements.

crossposted at konagod

When all else fails, hack the election

by: Pam

Considering the current drain-circling of GOP fortunes, it’s probably a good time to ask this again — what about Diebold? This Congress have nothing to run on, the administration is a failure, and they are dealing with a sex predator scandal of epic proportions that simply won’t go away, so you have to wonder whether the desperate denials, backstabbing, and flat out lying by House leadership will matter at all when people go to the polls where Diebold equipment is in place.

People may, in key races, vote to toss the bums out, but is the fix already in? Robert Kennedy revisits the monkey business of Diebold in his Rolling Stone article, Will The Next Election Be Hacked? Kennedy has already documented the “foul-ups” and monkey business of the GOP and Ken Blackwell to keep more than 350,000 voters in the Buckeye State from being about to vote — or have their 2004 votes counted in Was the 2004 Election Stolen? my post (here).

In the “Hacked” article, it’s pretty clear that the barn door has been left wide open in too many states, and Diebold’s criminal behavior has gone unchecked. Your vote may not count.

Chris Hood remembers the day in August 2002 that he began to question what was really going on in Georgia. An African-American whose parents fought for voting rights in the South during the 1960s, Hood was proud to be working as a consultant for Diebold Election Systems, helping the company promote its new electronic voting machines. During the presidential election two years earlier, more than 94,000 paper ballots had gone uncounted in Georgia - almost double the national average - and Secretary of State Cathy Cox was under pressure to make sure every vote was recorded properly.

Diebold was shortly awarded a $54 million contract to provide Georgia with 19,000 touch-screen voting devices — and only five months to fulfill the order. Kennedy looks at the series of decisions that made it easy to compromise the system.

05 October 2006

Forget Gay Marriage; Afterlife Marriages Are All the Rage

by: Konagod

This was a bizarre story in today's New York Times about a custom in a remote area of China in which families offer up tokens to ancestors who might need a little helping hand in the afterlife, such as money. Some are extending the concept to include a post mortem marriage. in the parched canyons along the Yellow River known as the Loess Plateau, some parents with dead bachelor sons will go a step further. To ensure a son’s contentment in the afterlife, some grieving parents will search for a dead woman to be his bride and, once a corpse is obtained, bury the pair together as a married couple.

The rural folk custom, startling to Western sensibilities, is known as minghun, or afterlife marriage. Scholars who have studied it say it is rooted in the Chinese form of ancestor worship, which holds that people continue to exist after death and that the living are obligated to tend to their wants — or risk the consequences. Traditional Chinese beliefs also hold that an unmarried life is incomplete, which is why some parents worry that an unmarried dead son may be an unhappy one.
Pity the gay & lesbian ancestors who are getting stuck in an unwanted heterosexual port mortem marriage. It gets worse:

“For girls, it doesn’t matter about their minds, whether they are an idiot or not. They are still wanted as brides.”

“There are girls who have drowned in the river down there. When their bodies have washed up, their families could get a couple of thousand yuan for them.”


Crossposted at konagod

AC 360: the rape of the women in the Congo

by: Pam

While we sit in the comfort of our homes and offices, laughing at the idiocy of the clowns running our incompetent, corrupt government, we are worlds away from this kind of unimaginable violence, pain and suffering. Anderson Cooper's series, Africa's Misery, is doing what most of the television news media refuses to do -- cover the atrocities going on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan in graphic detail. (CNN):
The level of everyday violence here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been simply unfathomable over the last several years. Guns and machetes, of course, are common. But the most ruthless weapon that has been used here is rape, tens of thousands of women, children have been attacked, mostly by gangs of soldiers and bands of outlaws.

According to Doctors Without Borders, an estimated 40 percent of the rape victims are under the age of 18. Often, there are multiple assailants. It is something that's hard to report on, but is something that is fact. And this story may be certainly hard to watch, but we can't avoid it. It is part of life here. And the world should know what the women here are facing.


COOPER (voice-over): At a busy hospital in Goma, a silent little girl sits on a stoop. She is 5 years old now, but still cannot speak of the terrible thing happened to her. Two years ago, when she was just 3, she was gang-raped by soldiers.

COOPER (on camera): Children as young as 3 years are getting raped?

DR. LUC MALEMO, HEAL AFRICA: Yes, 3 years old, yes.

COOPER: That's -- it's -- it's crazy.

MALEMO: Very crazy. And we -- it's difficult to understand the -- the social causes of these events.

But we think that people are so disappointed, and they have been in a dictatorship for 40 years, that now the war came. So, they lost all the hope. And they start behaving like animals.

COOPER (voice-over): Dr. Luc Malemo has a hospital ward full of girls and women who have been raped and developed fistulas, holes in their vaginas or rectums that make it impossible to control bodily functions.

(on camera): Why do so many rape victims here develop fistulas?

MALEMO: We -- we think that -- that the -- the first reason, that the rape is too violent. Some of them, they will use, after -- after raping the lady, they will use maybe -- they may use a weapon, a knife, or even a piece of wood. And some of them have been shot on after being raped.

COOPER: So, women aren't just getting raped, and they're not just getting gang-raped; they're -- they're often being shot internally afterward, or -- or -- or people putting objects inside them, knives, clubs?

MALEMO: Yes. Yes.
I saw the whole report, and it's hard to watch and comprehend the tragedy and horror of what human beings can do to one another. There is no rule of law to help stop the violence, and all the aid workers can do is to help at the most basic level in terms of food, shelter and medical care.

04 October 2006

Back to the eugenics drawing board in SC

by: Pam

"We pick up stray animals and spay them. These mothers need to be spayed if they can't take care of theirs. Once they have a child and it's running the street, to let them continue to have children is totally unacceptable."
-- Charleston, SC City Councilman Larry Shirley, "starting a dialogue" on how to reduce crime. He later "apologized."
South Carolina was one of many states that used to sterilize people in prisons and institutions. The state did not apologize to its citizens until 2003.

Unfortunately, Larry Shirley must have missed that bit of business when he felt the need to "joke" about crime reduction techniques. To refer to sterilization is bad enough, but to call it "spaying" implies he thinks minorities are animals. That's an outrage. (MSNBC):
"I know we can't really sterilize people, but I wanted to start the dialogue," Councilman Larry Shirley said Monday. "I could have done that over tea and crumpets, but we've been doing that. Nothing has happened. But if they don't want a dialogue, I'll shut my mouth."

"I apologize to those I upset, but I believe this crime has got to stop," Shirley said.

Black leaders have called for Shirley's resignation, and the councilman said he has received death threats.
He's ignoring calls for his resignation.

And that's the Tony Snow Lesson on Racism for today.

Graphic: The fabulous Mike Tidmus for the Blend

Read my earlier post for the Tar Heel state's history on forced sterilization. A snippet:
Over thirty states had eugenics programs like this one. You may want to do a little digging into your state's history. These procedures were ruled constitutional in Buck v. Bell, a 1924 Supreme Court decision.
the health of the patient and the welfare of society may be promoted in certain cases by the sterilization of mental defectives, under careful safeguard, &c.; that the sterilization may be effected in males by vasectomy and in females by salpingectomy, without serious pain or substantial danger to life; that the Commonwealth is supporting in various institutions many defective persons who if now discharged would become a menace but if incapable of procreating might be discharged with safety and become self-supporting with benefit to themselves and to society; and that experience has shown that heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, imbecility.

Glenn's on Foley fire...

by: Pam

Ah, my blood pressure goes down as I read the masterful Glenn Greenwald, who goes on a beautiful tear, "Mark Foley and the unmasked Republican Party." Let's take a look at the first blast, aimed at ace hypocrite Rush Limbaugh (who brought on heinous Denny Hastert to blame everyone but the GOP leadership on this mess).
If the term "moral degenerate" has any validity and can be fairly applied to anyone, there are few people who merit that term more than Rush Limbaugh. He is the living and breathing embodiment of moral degeneracy, with his countless overlapping sexual affairs, his series of shattered, dissolved marriages, his hedonistic and illegal drug abuse, his jaunts, with fistfulls of Viagra (but no wife), to an impoverished Latin American island renowned for its easy access to underage female prostitutes.
The pause that refreshes...and dear Glenn has a thing or two to say to the fundies who are on their high horse of hysterical homophobia...
The individuals who never tire of making public displays of how concerned they are with our moral fabric -- the Kathryn Jean Lopezs of the world who find Bill Clinton's sex life such a cause for condemnation and who publicly crusade to have John Kerry shunned by good Catholics because of how immoral he is and interrupt such crusades only in order to coo with giddy love and profound respect for Rush Limbaugh -- are well aware that their party is filled to the rim with sleazy, corrupt hedonists with as bloated and piggish a sense of entitlement as can be imagined. But as long as they help keep the party in power, they are not just tolerated but embraced. That dynamic is a core operating principle of the Bush-led Republican Party, and it is why Mark Foley was able to rise within it despite its being an "open secret" in Washington GOP power circles -- a very open secret -- exactly what he was.

...Mark Foley isn't some isolated case of shocking hypocrisy. Quite the contrary. People who have a publicly and vocally expressed obsession with other people's moral behavior and who want to use the power of the Government to enforce that obsession -- the Rick Santorums and Rush Limbaughs and Newt Gingrichs and Jim Bakkers and Ralph Reeds and Mark Foleys of the world -- are almost always fighting their own demons, not anyone else's.

Thank you Glenn. Folks, go read the whole thing.

Cormac MacCarthy - - The Road - - A low key stupid contest

by: Minstrel Boy

I have tried, and failed, to write anything else about Mark Foley. Too many others are doing a much better job. I am too addled and amazed to get into any of the other politics. I was forking some hay out in the barn this morning and this thought hit me like a ton of bricks.

President Bush is in Phoenix today. He is doing two fund raisers for Republicans who are running for Congress. The. Worst. President. Ever. Has fans. Has them where I live. I decided to bury myself in some decent fiction.

I have a few authors (most of them are not contemporary) where I own a complete set of their work. Yeats, Shakespeare, e.e. cummings, to name a few. Of the contemporary authors I own a complete set of John Irving, Harry Crews, William Manchester, David Hackett Fisher, Flannery O'Connor, and Kurt Vonnegut. Also, Cormac MacCarthy.

I just finished his most recently published work The Road. It is searing, brutal and beautiful. Like most of his work, people will be tempted to make a movie, and the movie will most likely suck. This is literature. If you take away the imagination required to appreciate this, if you take away the vivid scenic descriptions you will diminish this book's power. I read the entire book in one day. I put it down a few times to do things that needed doing. Then I went right back to it. I had a football game (where I had money riding on the outcome) on and read the book instead. I'd look up every now and then to try and get a feel of the game, then I turned it off. This book is simply the best thing that I've read this year.

So, now to my silly contest. Since I am in need of cheering up I will entertain in the comments, jokes, witty statements, total ass kissing flattery, anything anybody can say that will cheer me up and put a stupid silly smile on my face or even a tale of poverty and woe that might remind me how fucking good I have it in life. Anything goes. Those of you (and there are many) who write much better than I do can remind me of that. Again, Anything Goes. A total free fire zone. Over the next two days I will check the comments and using a totally arbitrary and autocratic process I will pick one who will be the winner to be announced on Saturday.

The prize? I will send, through Barnes and Noble, a copy of this book. I will also on Saturday post my "5 Things Feminism Has Done For Me" meme, which I was indirectly tagged by ShakesI'm going to be at my mother's house for her birthday. I will be in the company of my mother, my three sisters, two of my three daughters who are the most influential women in my life. I figured why not do that one at that time when it makes the most sense, ya know?

So, have it at it folks. The prize is the best book I have read this year. Somebody gets a book out of this.

cross posted at Harp and Sword which is where the comments must be posted for consideration in this competetion (unless, of course, they are done here and are that good, what's the use of setting yourself up for something completely subjective and arbitrary if you can't make up rules as you go?)

Foley Is A Sexual Predator...A Child Molester!

by: Gary

His lawyer seems to believe that former Congressman Foley isn't a pedophile?!

"There was absolutely no inappropriate sexual contact with any minor... And any suggestion that Mark Foley is a pedophile is false," Roth said.
I don't see how he figures that? His client was actively (interrupted a session of Congress) pursuing sexual encounters with teen boys. That makes him a pedophile at the least! Without question he is a sexual predator with an propensity for young boys. Which brings me to the next BS statement from Mr. Foley's attorney:

Roth also acknowledged for the first time that the former congressman is gay, saying the disclosure was part of his client's "recovery."

"Mark Foley wants you to know he is a gay man," Roth said.
Oh My God! Classic GOP tactic of blame the homosexuals! NOW he decides to come out as a gay man? Convenient that this revelation comes after he is discovered to be a 52 year old man attempting to abuse teenage boys. Gayness is incidental to the crime here. Mr. Foley is a the worst a pedophile praying on kids, and at the best a hebephile (person interested in adolescents). If his attorney is following this definition, he is just splitting hairs! Both refer to a person who gets his jollies from minors -- A Child Molester!

If he were gay, why would he go after children? A 52 year old man who is gay would be interested in having sex with other MEN! Say it with me now, Mark Foley is a child molester! That is vastly different from being gay! The gender interest is secondary to the interest in sex with a child! I hate the GOP for perpetuating the absolute falsehood that gay men and pedophiles are the same thing! The majority of pedophiles are heterosexual males -- with the primary interest in sex with a child, not simply sex with a male or female child. This is not a gay issue, and I hate when it is manipulated to be one. Did Karl Rove call himself and tell the lawyer to offer this revelation?!

And then there is the whole, I was molested thing. Followed by the brief disclaimer that Mr Foley doesn't want to offer this as an excuse. WHATEVER! He sure does! He wants to paint a pity picture with him being abused by a pedophile priest, and now he can't control himself. Well, to Mr. Foley I say...Bullshit! You stopped Congress to pursue a boy?! That was surely something he could control. The admission of gayness and of being molested are un-original and designed purely as a smoke screen.

Mr Foley is a bad man, and those that put his protection ahead of the safety of the children he prayed upon are worse!
03 October 2006

Lies and the Lying Liars…

by: Shakespeares Sister

This is totally unbelievable. BradBlog posts a truly appalling screen capture from Fox’s O’Reilly Factor which labels Mark Foley as a Democrat:

In two different segments, “one of them which a page who says he received communications from Foley, and another with Ann Coulter,” there were three different cutaways to video of Foley, each around 15 seconds, and “he was labeled at the bottom of the screen each time as “(D-FL).”

Maybe that’s just O’Reilly’s idea of a little joke, like telling al-Qaida to bomb San Francisco.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Let's Have Fun with Trolls

by: Dark Wraith

The happy little Right-wing seal came out to the rocks jutting out of the water at Big Brass Blog Beach, and there he started his Right-wing bark:
Oh, by the way. To all members of the lunatic left-wing fringe:

In the District of Columbia, the legal age of sexual consent is 16.

Need a link?

Now, if you're going to start bitching and screaming that even if it's legal, it's inappropriate for a 50-something politician to have sex with an unpaid young volunteer, and any such politician should be forced to resign immediately just for suggesting it ...

... need I remind you ...
by: GrouchoMarx (contact) - 03 Oct '06 - 01:25
And the killer whale came up from behind, creating a giant wave that washed the little Right-wing seal into the frothing surf, where the killer whale snatched him and took him out to open water, there to playfully toss him up and down and up and down... and then to eat him alive.
Good evening, GrouchoMarx.

Rep. Foley committed a federal crime. In fact, an indictment would include multiple counts on the charge. That is the issue. Oh, yes: conspiracy after the fact and obstruction of justice by several members of the Republican House leadership might be issues, too. Sometimes I'm so forgetful when I'm getting giddy watching hateful, power-hungry, old White men doing an impromptu group implosion. It's like watching group sex, except there's no cheesy music, and the moaning isn't fake.

But let's set all that legal mumbo-jumbo aside. I need to point out something else, something far more timely and compelling. Should you decide to try Mr. Foley's trick on a 16-year-old girl or boy in my custody, be sure to remind me about that age of consent thing of yours.

I'll find that pretty informative while I'm putting your perverted ass into one of those wheelchairs with the built-in, gravity-assist pee-bag attachment.

And by the way, if you don't understand the difference between a 23-year-old who went to Washington to "earn [her] Presidential kneepads" and a 16-year-old smoothie who doesn't need Mr. StiffWood helping him figure out which gate swings with the sweet song for him, I'll bet you already qualify for the Libertarian Consequences of Too Much Free Speech re-imbursement program for that wheelchair.

In other words, you and Foley take heed: bother the wrong kids and swear to God you thought they were 23 years old, and the last thing you'll need to worry about is being the Featured Special in the Fresh Meat Aisle at some federal penitentiary grocery store.

Come to think of it, you'll be so messed up you'll have to dress up like a pork chop to get ugly dogs to like you when the vigilantes are finished with the old one-two counseling session. Trust me, Groucho, it's not worth stepping up to the plate to join the Pervert Dinner Brigade to get a helping of the Ass Beating Buffet. You'll end up paying for your meal and theirs.

In other words, Groucho, get off it. When those 'lunatic left-wing fringe' folks take over the government and start doing the renditions on the likes of you and your buddies, you really, really don't want any of that sex stuff on the interrogation agenda, especially if you get sent to someplace like Syria or Egypt. Those torturers do special things to the perverts and their supporters. I think you'll agree with me that being Mr. Foley's friend right now isn't going to be worth the price when you meet 'Dr. Omar' in a dungeon on the other side of the world, where he'll use special electrodes designed to make testicles flash "Eat at Joe's... Eat at Joe's." I mean, really. But, hey, it's your call.

I'm not paying for your wheelchair. Or the smoke detector.

The Dark Wraith has thus finished the friendly toss-the-seal session for the evening.

Condi Liesalot

by: Foiled Goil

Houston Chronicle Reader Blog: John Whiteside

Rice plays the indignation card again (and again and again)

“What's worse than someone who responds to all criticism with indignation that verges on a tantrum? Someone who does that and gets her facts wrong.”

“After watching her for years, it's easy to see the pattern: when something goes wrong on her watch, she looks for someone to blame, and makes things up to support it... complete with an indignant complaint that people are impugning her integrity.”

“This isn't what we should expect from a secretary of state. This is behavior better suited to a petulant sixth-grader who's been caught not doing her homework and is looking for a convenient dog to accuse of eating it.”

No Hotel Surchrages for Virus Exposure

by: Konagod

When I was a young teen my father bought a motor home for our family vacations. Prior to that we had taken a few shorts trips involving hotel stays. I recall one instance when we had to change rooms because there was a hair in the bed. I believe that contributed to my dad's desire to travel and continue to sleep in his own bed.

Here's more unpleasant news for those with germ phobias.

We know that viruses can survive on surfaces for a long time — more than four days," said Dr. Birgit Winther, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the university who led the study.

Its aim was to test the survival of rhinoviruses, which cause about half of all colds, especially in children.

Researchers had 15 people with lab-confirmed rhinovirus colds spend a night in individual rooms at a nearby hotel and, after they checked out, tested 10 items they said they had touched. About one-third of the objects were contaminated with rhinovirus.

Virus was found on 7 out of 14 door handles and 6 of 14 pens. Six out of 15 light switches, TV remotes and faucets tested positive, as did 5 of 15 phones. Shower curtains, coffee makers and alarm clocks also harbored viruses.

Surprisingly, virus turned up on only one of the 10 toilet handles tested.

Apparently the test was only performed at one hotel. I'd be fascinated by some comparisons between busy hotels in major tourist areas. Hmmm, let's see, maybe the Excalibur or Circus Circus in Vegas. And test for germs on those slot machines!


02 October 2006

in your shorts and polo shirt?

by: astraea

This morning's Gary Bauer American Values newsletter is asking: Was there a political motivation to the timing of this (Rep. Mark Foley of Florida's) scandal?

WHY IS THAT AN ISSUE? The Republicans have been sitting on this, repressing it for months -- excuse me, years. They could have let kitty out of bag, let it blow over anytime, masters of spin and owners of airwaves that they are. I suppose we should be discreet and Victorian, stiff upper lip about Lords and newsboys. Oh yes, old man. Do the decent thing, wait until after the elections!

What other response would we expect?

I'm pumping channels, on my way over to Jon and Stephen (except for these, C-Span, and movies, why would anyone turn the tube on?) and in passing, hear a fair & balanced bit about the recent leaked intelligence report (the one revealing that the "War on Terror [t.m.]" has only inspired more terrorism, "fueling the fires of Islamic extremism inside Iraq and outside" to be exact). Not news to us, but the fair & balanced ones go on to defend Bush, who tells us how "naive" that is; (after all, we're fightin' terrorism, not creatin' it!) and finish up by saying it's the Democrats who are stirring all this up. Because that's the drill, talking point 'A' : if it's politically damaging to Bush or his party, then it's the Democrat's fault for bringing it up. See? Politically motivated. (All else -- naive!)

And here, for the scrapbook...

from abc news: The Blotter

Minneapolis -- Daddy Dobson's dropping by to rally the fundies

by: Pam

Focus on the Anus is trying to stir up The Base by holding a "Stand for the Family" event, staged "to educate and motivate pro-family conservative Christians."

He's bringing a bunch of his bible-beating, homobigoted friends to the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis/St. Paul on October 3.
In addition to Dr. Dobson, the list of speakers includes Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Gary Bauer, president of American Values; Dr. Ken Hutcherson, senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Wash., and Dr. Richard Land of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy at Focus on the Family Action, said the event is to motivate and equip values voters. "We want to alert them to the tremendous issues facing them in the upcoming elections — and to lay out those issues in a nonpartisan fashion." [You have to wonder if he said that with a straight face.]

Dr. Richard Land, an Oxford-educated Southern Baptist theologian and broadcaster, told CitizenLink his message will be a challenge to all Christians. "It is every Christian's responsibility to be registered to vote," he explained. "It is every Christian's responsibility to be an informed voter. And it is every Christian's responsibility to vote their values, their beliefs and their convictions, regardless of party loyalty or party affiliation. They have to vote for the values that they understand are taught by the Lord in Scripture — that's part of being salt and light.
Daddy Dobson recently parachuted into Pittsburgh to do the same thing and flopped. He promised to fill a 17,000 seat venue and only 3,000 showed up to hear the AmTaliban drivel.

The Heterosexual Agenda is revealed

by: Pam

Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin turns the tables and exposes the myths, using some of the same "research techniques" as well-known, and widely quoted anti-gay "scholars" such as Paul Cameron.

Jim's teaser:
No longer satisfied with "mere acceptance" by our society, heterosexual political pressure groups have launched a well-planned, well-financed campaign, which, if left unchecked, threatens to destroy the most fundamental structures of American society. This report considers the implications of the heterosexual agenda (both overt and hidden), the problems it has already caused and its potentially disasterous results for society.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths, you will learn how:
* heterosexual militants have embarked on a systematic assault on American values;

* heterosexual activists plan on recruiting your children into their lifestyle;

* heterosexuals are undermining traditional marriage;

* heterosexuals are undermining the health and safety of society;

* violence has become a hallmark of the heterosexual lifestyle;

* heterosexuals are intent on eventually recriminalizing all freedoms of expression for gay men and women. (It's already happening in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and throughout the Middle East where the heterosexual agenda is well advanced.)
Visit Jim's pad and download a copy.

Failures in The House

by: Foiled Goil

Houston Chronicle Editorial:

Leadership failure: Fearing political setbacks, House officials neglected to protect pages against a member's exploitation.

THE scandal surrounding U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, the Florida Republican who resigned Friday, improves Democrats' chances to regain a majority in the House. However, partisan advantage is a long way from being the most salient feature of this story.

Foley makes a powerful example not only of corruption in high places, but also of the U.S. political arena's boundless capacity for hypocrisy. The more some politicians talk of God, country, honor and the sanctity of the family, the more likely it is they have little regard for any of them.

Foley focused his political career on efforts to punish sexual predators and protect children from them. Until his resignation, he co-chaired the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. He was the author of key sections of legislation to outlaw the online solicitation of sex with a minor. Yet at least for a year he grotesquely exploited his association with young House pages, sending several of them overfriendly, sometimes sexually explicit electronic messages. [snip]

American voters cannot escape the conclusion that the House leadership failed to act against Foley in part because it feared the scandal would endanger the Republican majority in the coming election.

The House leaders' longstanding knowledge of Foley's indiscretions is perhaps the most disturbing element of the scandal. This weekend, Speaker Hastert asked U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to launch a criminal probe not only of Foley, but of all those who knew about his abhorrent behavior but apparently swept it under the rug.

Several Republicans in Texas are seeking re-election on the basis of their desire to protect children against sexual predators. If they are sincere, they will express outrage not only at Foley's behavior, but at the grotesque failure of the House leadership to expose Foley and decisively act to protect the young pages in their charge.

With Dandy Brush in Hand and Pen in Teeth

by: Missouri Mule

The idea of somebody handing me a horse , tacked up and ready to go, and then to hand it back when I return from a ride, I have to admit, would not find me a reluctant participant. I wouldn't mind handing my boots over to be cleaned and polished as well, but we have never run that kind of establishment, alas... I long to be the Duchess of East Jesus, and live surrounded by valets, but it seems unlikely to happen. I can brush a horse, clean tack, and pick hooves, if only because I was taught to ride by people who considered all this and more to be an integral part of the learning process, but I'd just as soon have somebody else do it. As for mucking stalls, I am rather good at it andon most days, not all that unwilling. I find it a small price to pay for the privilege of living with horses.

All the same, getting to know the horse, to really bond with it in any deep way, is very clearly dependent on caring for it, so that its welfare, good heath, and spirits become as familiar to you as your own. The notion that the horse has a special lesson to teach people (beyond the value of hard work), however, is a relatively recent one. Making a kid look after his own horse was a lesson in responsibility deeply valued in every rural society, whether farm families like my father's in central Missouri or American Plains Indians, but the spiritual qualities of the horse were not widely appreciated by many farm families. Today, of course, as a glance at the bookshelves and magazine racks will demonstrate, the horse has been vested with a whole new set of values. It is not just Horses in the Hood, in which the horse promotes peace between ethnic groups in conflict (neither of which, in the case of Korean shopkeepers and African American ghetto residents, is historically a horse culture): endless numbers of people and organizations are devoted to the horse as an instrument of healing and mental peace. In the Chronicle of the Horse is a tribute to Kathy Cravens, who is shown riding her horse, The Rocket Man, while wearing on her back oxygen tanks because of the cancer that would eventually kill her, and being helped by her horse "to communicate with souls along the way": meanwhile, Bo Derek, in her book, Riding Lessons: Everything That Matters in Life I Learned from Horses, "uses her intuitive understanding of horses to explain the secrets of the male mind." These spiritualists follow in the best-selling path of Monty Roberts, the supposed original "horse whisperer," who uses what he has leaned about horses from his unconventional training methods to show parents and employers how to deal with children and employees--the wisdom of the horse (and of equine nonverbal communication) applied to seminars for big business and modern family life, a fast-growing trend.

In Horses Don't Lie, Chris Irwin, a "coach for horse and riders" (not, one gathers, the same thing as a riding instructor), explores "the spiritual connection" between "human and equine nature," emphasizing that horses have a lot to teach us about empathy and patience (all too true, alas), and that "a horse knows what you know" (maybe, but maybe not always). In She Flies Without Wings--How Horses Touch a Woman's Soul, on the other hand, Mary Midkaff writes about the horse beckoning us from across a pasture, summoning us into a magical world in which the horse releases the strength within a woman's soul, "teaching us compassion and acceptance" and revealing a world in which "women and horses emerge... as a huge tribe of spiritual sisters."

Ms. Midkiff is far from being alone in seeing the horse as a spiritual sister. Many authors today cover substantially the same ground, showing how humans can learn from the horse, among other things, integrity, humility, patience, honesty, and experience in coping with loss.

is heavy psychological baggage for a horse to carry as well as a saddle, and much as I like horses, I can't say that the ones I've been close to have ever seemed to me to have the qualifications of a therapist, but then perhaps I'm not the right kind of "animal person" for the that. I am, for, example, doubtful that Astrology and Your Horse, by Vicky and Beth Maloney, will help me "understand (my horse's) deepest needs and behavior," or even "what colors (he or she) feels the happiest wearing." so it is possible that I am simply out of sync with those who seek "spiritual knowledge and enlightenment" from horses, though certainly I wish them well. I have always been under the impression myself that the horse is basically color-blind, (now there is a lesson the horse could teach people) so the color of his saddle pad or leg wrappings seems unlikely to disturb them.

Lord Melbourne's favorite piece of advice that "the best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse," remains more in the sprit of my own view--the horse offers us healthy exercise, communications of a kind with a different species, and a vigorous pursuit of the outdoor life. That's not to say that I don't think people have something to learn from animals in general, horses included, though it seems to me that it may have been best summed up by Walt Whitman:
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They don not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one knees to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
You have to hand it to ol' Walt, he managed to sum it up perfectly, for all time. No doubt he too would have been puzzled at the notion of the horse as a kind of four-legged therapist, or that to the other burdens a horse has to carry should be added the responsibility for teaching parent how to deal with their children, or big corporations how to negotiate with their employees, or women how to liberate themselves from the constrains of their lives. He would have been the first to recognize that to begin with, a horse in the wild is a very different creature from the domesticated horse, and that much of the admiration for the horse's "humility" and "patience" comes from the fact that in the domestic horse's world man (or woman) is the master, while in the wild horses fight each other for leadership of the heard and control over the herd's mares, not exactly the kind of lesson that Ms. Midkiff and Ms. Derek have in mind, one supposes.

We have a kind of sentimental displacement here, almost exactly the reverse of what Whitman had in mind, in which people bring to the horse (one could say the same of the church) their own problems, unhappiness, and human confusion, in search of answers that will come from the horse's superior (but silent) morality. None of this has anything much to do with the horse, nor, we may suppose, is it on the horse's mind. Horses, as Whitman points out, unlike people, "do not sweat and whine about their condition," they are "placid and self-contained," and, although Whitman does not mention it, they have a long-nurtured respect for the potential for cruelty of their two-legged masters and mistresses that makes most of them cautious around us. What horses are supposed to make of people who "sweat and whine about their condition" to them, in expectations of some kind of explanations, is hard to say.

In much the same spirit, there is a tremendous vogue these days to make the horse a symbol of liberty and freedom, a theme often expressed in contemporary heroic sculpture--the horse portrayed as the symbol of the fall of communism being a typical and popular example in front of banks and hotels in the American West, galloping free through the ruins of the Berlin Wall. In truth, once domesticated, horses are no freer than dogs, and in fact rather less so. They are kept locked up in fenced paddocks, corrals, oar barns: they have traded, involuntarily and without their consent, their liberty for absolute dependence on humans. The fact that its dependence, in many places in the Western world, a more or less loving one does not alter the fact that the horse is as dependent on us as the house cat is, and less able to survive on its own. Far from a symbol of liberty, the horse, except for the few surviving wild mustangs, is as much a prisoner as was poor Dr. Alexander Manette, and like the good doctor in A Tale of Two Cities the horse is largely dependent on the good behavior and a highly developed sense of routine for survival.

That the horse has more dignity than most of the people around it is obvious, as a look at the people standing around the horses at any racetrack reveal, but then too, whales have more dignity than tourists leaning out of a boat trying to photograph them, and elephants seem many times nobler than the wealthy European and American businessmen in safari outfits who have paid a fortune for the privilege of shooting them. In general, as Whitman points out, almost any animal has more dignity than man, and horses are no exception. That does not necessarily give them any superior wisdom, however, let alone a message to impart to humans.

Last summer at a Dressage clinic I heard one woman saying, "When I am with or on a horse, it's as if I feel the breath of Mother Earth coming through the horse into my body." On the face of things, that sounds like a nice feeling to have, but it ignores the fact that the only reason she can be on the horse in the first place is that the horse has been carefully bred, trained, and conditioned to accept the unnatural imposition of a saddle and a rider. It isn't "Mother Earth" who has fashioned the horse to be ridden: it's man who has turned a wild animal into a tame and useful one over thousands of years. It is possible, as another rider I know says, that" when you get closer to your horse, your are closer to your maker," but this seems to imply that our maker intended the horse for us to ride, which seems as unlikely as the notion that he created the great whales so that human beings would have an ample supply of whale oil for their lanterns, or to lubricate their watches.

It is typical of human beings to assume that their exploitations of animals or anything else, for that matter, is all part of God's great design, and even those who, like Ms. Widkiff, believe that the horse incarnates "spiritual potency" for our benefit in fact subscribe at bottom to a utilitarian view of the horse's role. In the end, it's the horse's fate to be maintained "through human management and domestications," for the purpose of being ridden, which is a significantly one-sided relationship, more practical than spiritual. Admittedly, there's everything to be said for Monty Roberts schooling horses with a more gentle approach than that of the traditional "horse breaker," but the fact remains that the animal is still being trained to do what we want it to do, to accept our authority, however quietly expressed, as absolute, and to subordinate its own desires to ours.

To look to it for spiritual enlightenment as well seems a little excessive.

"How to Stop the Fag Agenda?"

by: Gary

So you asked Google "How to stop the fag agenda?"

Allow me, a fag with a supposed agenda to explain.

First of all, you need to understand that I never had an agenda until assholes like you gave me one! I have always been a pretty private, live and let live sort of guy. If you don't bother me, then I won't bother you.

Problem is that you bothered me! Your President bothered me on national TV during a State of the Union Address. You bothered me when you started speaking our of both sides of you mouth, laughing at Will & Grace and condeming love in the same breath. You bothered me when you started to whine about queers pushing their liberal agenda on you with "Broke Back Mountain." If you don't like something, then don't pay the money to see it.

You bothered me with all your infernal whining.

Whining about the sanctity of marriage as you go for number 4 yourself.

Hypocritical, utterly useless whining for the sake of hearing your own shiney voice.

Grow the fuck up already!

Try googling "what it means to be an American citizen."

Frankly, from my perspective and in my opinion you attacked me and my relationship first. I was just minding my own business when you put your agenda upon me; not vica-versa. Do you realize I would never have thought of marriage if it hadn't been made into the ultimate political ploy? Until the religious right, President Dumbya, and GOP made it a central issue in this nation, I had never even considered it. It wasn't until the RIGHT & RED agenda started threatening my relationship; not marriage, but me...That is when I got an agenda. My agenda is the same as yours, and that is to protect what is rightfully mine.

You see, until the President launched a national agenda to outlaw fags; I had no agenda. I had no real understanding of marriage and the civil rights it confers on two loving people. But when my 14 year, monogamous, 100% committed relationship was defamed in the most public of ways, I made it my mission to learn about marriage. To learn about why it was important. To learn it's historical context.

I doubt you have done any of that? You know what they say about "assumptions?"

What I know you have done, particularly by the choice of the word "fag" instead of the more common "gay agenda" is hate people with a prejudice you don't fully understand yourself. What you have shown me with that word; in that very pointed question you asked google, is that you know little of what marriage is about, and even less about what being an American really means.
Ultimately your word choice tells me to have pity on an ignorant, sheltered, repressed little hay-seed like yourself.

You see, my googling friend you are the one with the agenda; not the fags.

The so-called "Gay-Agenda" is really an American Agenda.

In America all citizens are to be treated with the same respect and considerations under the law. There are no qualifiers that say one is allowed this right, and another isn't. Equal under the law is our greatest achievement. This founding principle of equality is the backbone of who we are as a people. It is the reason we have a democracy that other nations envy.

We aren't the middle east where women can't vote because they are considered inferior to the virtue of choice. This isn't the former South Africa where blacks were in recent memory still treated like sub-humans. This is not supposed to be a place where "equality" is determined by popular vote. This is America and as an American I have an agenda and it is to be treated with the same legal respect as every other American, including and most especially you!

You see marriage is a civil right. Marriage is also a religious rite. The two are mutually exclusive! You can have a religious marriage and your church will recognize it, but without the support of the state, it means nothing legally. Churches and faith give you a "rite" not a "right" in marriage. See the difference? I doubt it, but I am trying to teach you something here so let me continue.

I only bring it up because it is one of the most common points of contention from the Fundies: "No fag is going to force my church to marry him or any other queer." To that I say you are absolutely right! I know this because no fag has demanded that any church perform a wedding. Religious marriage is a ceremony that conveys faith, rules of engagement, and community support. I would no more want a marriage in your church than you would mine. But this really isn't the point. Your argument about "forcing churches" to marry people is but so much hot air on the breeze. It's not relevant because no one has merely asked or demanded such recognition. And without question, the amendments don't speak to this at all! If that was what this was about, then they should say: "No religious organization in the United States will be forced to conduct a marriage ceremony unless it is between one man and one woman." But that's not what we are really talking about, is it?

The gay community, wants to have equal CIVIL contracts of marriage. We want the 1000+ rights that come with marriage, as bestowed upon a citizen by law...Not by God. I don't think, as a tax paying, law abiding citizen of America that this is too much to ask. It's my birthright, just as it is the birthright of every other citizen.

So my friend if you want to stop the "fag agenda;" all you need to do is stop defining it that way. If you don't like me because of the person I love, that's cool. I might not like you because of your wife. I might think she is an ugly you a you know what; but that is your life and it is not my place to judge. More to the point, I don't care. If you are happy, then good for you.

My agenda is to be equal. My agenda is to see the day that my relationship and all that it encompasses is legally protected by the laws of the United States of America.

Mine is an American Agenda. So simply, to stop the "fag agenda" stop calling it that. That's not what it is.

The only real agenda as it relates to fags is your agenda to call us names, tell us we are going to hell, and much worse. Yours is a Hate-Based agenda that has joined forces with a Faith-based initiative. Your question speaks volumes of your ignorance of America. Your question of hate gives you more in common with the terrorists than any American I know. "You hate us for our freedom" to paraphrase the President. I don't believe that anymore today, than when he said it.

They hate us, and you hate us because you demand respect you haven't earned from us.

In America no citizen is any more a citizen than any other, and equally none are any less.

To stop the agenda, you need to stop lending your ignorant voice to it.

In a simple act of granting equal rights to all Americans, the agenda is done.

Unfortunately, you and yours feel it morally respectable to put civil rights on a ballot. Allowing the majority to determine the rights of the minority. Nothing could be less American! If that were our way, African Americans would not vote and they would not read; they would still be in the fields picking cotton. The WHITE majority would never have voted to give the minority anything. You know it and so do I.

So if you want to "stop the agenda" you need to stop it from within. We the "fags" aren't the ones with the agenda, it's you the hater that has an agenda.

Take comfort in knowing that the only one proud of you for this isn't God, it's Adolf Hitler. No one before or since has been a greater proponent of the more and the less rightful citizen. God is embarrassed by you. His message is of love. His message is to leave the judgment to Him. His message is to be a good person. His message is NOT to add value to His list of sins. All sins are equal in God's eyes. So if I am to go to hell for being gay (which I don't believe) I will see you there; 'cause none of us is that perfect or that repentant.

Where is the Missouri press on Roy Blunt and the Mark Foley scandal?

by: Waveflux

It's Monday, and leading Missouri papers like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star have yet to ask GOP Majority Whip Roy Blunt what he knew and when he knew it regarding the Mark Foley predatory email and IM scandal. Where are the investigations from vaunted "news leaders" such as KSDK? Blunt was not only part of the Republican House leadership at the time the story was first broached to that same leadership, he was in the the top chair as interim Majority Leader and fighting to keep the position, as the National Journal's Hotline reports:

It’s important to note that when the House GOP leadership first apparently learned of something amiss with Foley and a page, the GOP leadership team was in flux. Roy Blunt was the acting Majority Leader fighting with John Boehner to keep the job permanently.

Did the House GOP leadership vacuum that was created by DeLay’s departure lead to a situation where no one was calling the political shots? And did that sense of chaos create anxiety, preventing Republicans from taking the steps necessary to protect these underage pages?

Blunt and other GOP leaders are quick to express outrage and call for investigations of Foley now that the story has been exposed, but where is the investigation of their handling of the matter when it was first brought to their attention? Why did they not at the time alert the three-member bipartisan panel that oversaw the page system? Where are the explorations of their connections to Foley? Roy Blunt's poltical action committee donated nearly $5,000 to Foley this year alone. Foley gave a thousand dollars to the gubernatorial campaign of Blunt's son, Matt Blunt.

The Republican response to charges that they should have acted forcefully and much earlier has been a weak excuse: they knew only of the initial emails, not the instant messages. That evasion is exposed and quashed by a reader at Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, and given emphasis here:

There's a weak excuse emerging from Republicans for Foleygate - they might have known about the e-mails to Rep. Alexander's page, but they never knew about the explicit IMs. Too much of the media coverage right now is centering on that question, as if knowledge of the IMs is the only way to show the leadership was remiss.

But that's irrelevant, and here's why: Once ABC got hold of the e-mails, it took them one day to flush out the IMs. That's what an actual investigation looks like. The Republican leadership simply didn't want to know how bad the Foley situation was. That's just as morally negligent as if they had started digging and found the IMs.

Roy Blunt's connections to the disgraced Foley demand an accounting of his role in the coverup of the Foley scandal. At least one Republican has shown the courage to call for a full accounting of the leadership:

Representative Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut, said any leader who had been aware of Mr. Foley’s behavior and failed to take action should step down. “If they knew or should have known the extent of this problem, they should not serve in leadership,” Mr. Shays said.

Who will hold Roy Blunt accountable? It's time for the Missouri press to step up and ask questions.

(Thanks to Fired Up! Missouri for the Turner Report links. Cross-posted at Waveflux.)

Regarding the Torture Bill

by: Minstrel Boy

I found this via PZ Meyers at Pharyngula and agree completely. Advice to Soldiers Ordered to Violate the Geneva Conventions.

Here is an excerpt, I strongly suggest reading the whole post.
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is straightforward and clear. Under Article VI of the Constitution, it forms part of the supreme law of the land.

You personally will be held responsible for all of your actions, in all countries, at all times and places, for the rest of your life. “I was only following orders” is not a defense.

What all this is leading to:

If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, it is your duty to disobey that order. No “clarification,” whether passed by Congress or signed by the president, relieves you of that duty.

If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, this is what to do:

1. Request that your superior put the order in writing.

2. If your superior puts the order in writing, inform your superior that you intend to disobey that order.

3. Request trial by courtmartial.

You will almost certainly face disciplinary action, harassment of various kinds, loss of pay, loss of liberty, discomfort and indignity. America relies on you and your courage to face those challenges.

A case of one soldier or special forces operator refusing an order to torture, take hostages, or otherwise violate the Geneva Conventions or the Constitution would be the single best test case issue there is. I am certain that there are constitutional law attorneys that would stage a round robin boxing tournament for the priviledge of representing you.

Crossposted at Harp and Sword

Muslim Integration into Western Cultures

by: Konagod

One of my goals as a blogger is to occasionally step away from my comfort zone and tackle an issue with unclear answers. It's a strenuous and soul-searching excercise which often leaves me only slightly less-confused than when I began. Such is the case with immigration -- particularly immigrants who are Muslim. Clearly, many Muslims -- especially women -- have come to the U.S. and other western nations to escape religious persecution. Others come here steadfastly clingling to their religious beliefs from which others seek to escape.

I have been grappling with this issue for a long time -- at least since the murder of Theo Van Gogh in Holland over his film critical of the treatment of women under Islam. Just how much responsibility do immigrants have to acclimate themselves into a vastly different culture from whence they came -- especially if that culture is accustomed to being free to speak out about religious injustices?

If I were to move to Spain or Mexico (depending on the outcome of the 2008 elections) I would certainly make an effort to become a viable part of the culture I was living in, including speaking the language of those with whom I live. However, I would not become a Catholic or adopt the official state religion of whatever country I decided to inhabit. I would continue to maintain my own belief system even if it ran contrary to the official government position. And that's where things can -- and have -- gotten rather sticky.

Let's discuss the influx of immigrants who are Muslim and what responsibility they bear for assimilation, if any. I am certainly not advocating that we restrict Muslim immigrants; we are (the last time I checked) a nation where people are free to practice their religions beliefs (with a few exceptions) and I welcome anyone to our shores who seeks a better life for themselves and their families.

I read a short blurb in the New York Times recently about Muslim taxi drivers serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and refusing to provide service to those who were carrying liquor. Here's a link to the story in the Minneapolis StarTribune.

About three-quarters of the 900 taxi drivers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are Somalis, many of them Muslim. And about three times each day, would-be customers are refused taxi service when a driver sees they're carrying alcohol.

"It's become a significant customer-service issue," said Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, on Thursday.
The airports commission has devised a plan to utilize color-coded lights on the taxis which refuse service to those carrying alcohol. This is rather admirable given most Americans' knee-jerk reaction to immigrants with different ways and beliefs. Even I was initially angry until I analyzed the information.

There was a time in my early adulthood when my views on alcohol were not so different from Muslim beliefs. The color-coded lights may very well solve the issue. The immigrants will not risk losing a much-needed source of income (although they may lose a few fares) nor will they be required to sacrifice an important religious belief.
Alcohol is a serious concern for devout Muslims, said Hassan Mohamud, an imam and vice president of the society. The Qur'an, Islam's holy book, strictly forbids buying, selling, drinking or carrying alcohol.

The observant drivers object only to transporting openly displayed alcohol, said Ali Culed, a Somali Muslim who's been driving an airport cab for eight years. They won't search passengers or quiz them about what's in their bags.
Fair enough. While I may not agree with someone else's religious beliefs I respect their right to believe what they wish and to practice their religion peacefully. It's not as if the taxi drivers are threatening to chop off my hand which holds the shot glass. What does continue to disturb me is the propensity for violent flare-ups by people (of any religion) who think their beliefs trump the law, as with the murder of Theo Van Gogh in Holland. We also witnessed the violent uproar over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark, and most recently, the Pope's inflammatory comments about Islam as well as the cancellation of the Mozart opera Idomeneo by the Deutsche Opera in Berlin due to "incalculable" security risks. (Read what Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald has to say.)

What is important to remember, and I sincerely hope this is factual, is that people prone to violent outbursts are minority extremists rather than a majority. We don't (or shouldn't) judge all Christians based on the behavior of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church clan. I frequently see Muslims around Austin. I don't freak out by a woman in a hijab or a burqa. I don't fear for my life and honestly, I don't care what people wear (unless it's that Greg Norman golf attire crap coupled with an overuse of shitty cologne which can send me into a projectile vomiting frenzy).

Much of the problem is due to stereotypes and reactions by extremely vocal (usually right-wing) groups who feel threatened by an influx of people adhering to what they perceive to be a strange religion.

Many Europeans nations are undergoing what I'd consider to be an immigration cultural crisis related to Muslims who number at least 4% in many nations. Germany has 3+ million Muslims representing about 4% of the total population, and clearly problems are brewing which urgently need to be addressed. France has also been busy dealing (ineffectively) with its huge Muslim population which numbers between 8% and 10%.
...the growth of the [Muslim] community has challenged the French ideal of strict separation of religion and public life. There has been criticism that Muslims face high unemployment and often live in poor suburbs. A ban on religious symbols in public schools provoked a major national row as it was widely regarded as being a ban on the Islamic headscarf. Late 2005 saw widespread and prolonged rioting among mainly immigrant communities across France.
The BBC has an excellent summary of Muslims in Europe by country from which the above excerpt and the following map were taken:

Muslim Populations in European Countries

There is widespread disagreement over the number of Muslims living in the United States and the census bureau does not track religious affiliation. The number is likely to be between 3 million and 9 million. In either case, the percentage of Muslims is somewhat less than in many western European nations.

There are far fewer Muslims in Canada. According to Wikipedia, as of 2001, there were 580,000 Muslims in Canada, about 1.8 percent of Canada's population. That number has probably doubled in the last 5 years. Many Muslim immigrants to North America have chosen Canada rather than the U.S. due to a spike in anti-Muslim attitudes post 9/11.

The last couple of years have seen a great deal of controversy in Canada after the province of Ontario decided to allow the use of Shariah to settle disputes among the Muslim population. More here.
The province of Ontario decided recently that it would allow the use of Shariah (Islamic law) to settle family disputes among Canadian Muslims. The decision – which in September came after a year long raging controversy – has done little to absolve the social conflict in the Canadian Muslim community. It has also further widened the rift between those who follow Shariah and those who oppose it.

[Some] say that by not making Shariah legal, Ontario has helped helpless Muslim women from being abused by their partners in the name of religion.

One of the major concerns of people critical of Shariah law is that it is subject to interpretation and evolution. There is virtually no formal certification process to designate someone as being qualified to interpret Islamic law.

As it stands today, almost anyone can make rulings as long as they have the appearance of piety and a group of followers.
The Progressive Muslim Union of North America is one group opposed to the use of religious laws tailored for specific groups.

Update: Thanks to Chet Scoville for this link: Ontario subsequently passed a law to prohibit shariah.

I can't imagine very many immigrants coming to the U.S., Canada, or any other secular nation, and having no idea what they are getting themselves into. We supposedly have a free and open society. Western morals are definitely more relaxed than in many parts of the world and virtually all immigrants are aware of this. The fact that Muslim immigrants still seek a new life on our shores indicates a willingness to, at the very least, co-exist with those who have starkly different belief systems.

Will the U.S. and Canada successfully avoid the cultural crises we're seeing unfold in Europe? We should observe the situation there closely. But knowing how Americans have handled our own internal cultural battles over the past decade, I have my doubts that we're capable of handling a much bigger genuine crisis.

As with any other group, it is impossible to categorize all Muslims into one simple box. As we can see in Canada, there are Muslims in favor of Shariah and some adamantly opposed to it. As with any other complex issue, our first responsibility is to educate ourselves with regard to the religion of Islam and get to know those who are here. Otherwise, an intelligent solution to the issues confronting us will never be achieved.

Whatever allure America presents for immigrants around the world, including Muslims, is hopefully the same allure that makes those of us lucky enough to have been born here proud to have it, and proud to share it with newcomers. How we'll deal with issues of religious differences remains to be seen.

Any comments are appreciated. I'm not lecturing and I do not have all the facts or all the answers. I bring this up to explore.

crossposted at konagod
01 October 2006

Sunday Morning Rant

by: Debra

From the Timesonline we get a clearer picture of the timeline of Mohammed Atta's movements before September 11 with a video of him reading his will. Absolutely chilling how normal he behaved, how cold and calculating he really was. With everything to live for he chose to martyr himself for a cause that Americans just don't understand.

Worst of all is the fact that the average American doesn't want to understand. Unfortunately what isn't understood is usually feared and demonized. It is a sad truth about Americans, we tend to go overboard with our reactions, it is our history.

When we fear a culture we make it out to be an evil that must be eradicated. Like it was polio or something. When Europeans first came to the continental US, they hunted and killed the Indians, took their land by force and made them out to be vicious, angry savages because they were different. Totally forgetting that if it wasn't for the Indians they wouldn't have survived their first year in the new country and that they were the invaders who didn't really have the moral high ground. Not that it stopped them then, just like it isn't stopping us now.

In recent history it was herding the Japanese into camps and taking all that they owned, just for being Japanese. It didn't matter if their family had been in this country for generations, they were made out to be loyal to a country they had never seen. And we are at it again, with every new law that rolls out of the do-nothing Congress and the "I will pick and choose which laws I want to follow" President who signs them. It's just a matter of time before certain groups of people become "enemy combatants" and disappear into camps, for our safety, wink, wink.

We have become such a "me" country that people feel that it is ok to not only have prejudices, but to feel free to act on them. Not letting someone fly because you are scared of the way they look is absolutely ridiculous and should be called racism, because that is what it is. Personally, overweight women with manicured fingernails and a whispy little girl voice drives me right over the edge but I shouldn't impose my beliefs (gross!) about them prevent them from being who they are or denying them the civility that I myself expect from the world.

Somewhere in the last thirty years we lost the ability to empathize with other people. Not just people from other countries, but from our countrymen, neighbors and family. We have become one dimensional caricatures of what we used to be, a pale reflection of glory gone past. Superficiality has become our modus operandi. When people know more about who has won on Survivor or Dancing with the Stars than they do about their civil rights and how they have disappeared in the last few years and think it is for the best, we have lost our way and are without a candle to light the path.

Our military is stretched to the breaking point with no relief in sight. For those people who support the war from their couch it is long past time for you to step up and support your country. If you believe that bringing democracy and "eliminating" terrorists is a reason for war, then you should enlist to fight the battle. Otherwise, shut up, because the people you want to make war on are willing to die for their cause and since we aren't willing to give up going to McDonalds, much less stand in harm's way and at two billion dollars a week, it might be a better idea to take care of our own country first.

That's why we pay taxes. Supposedly.

End of rant. Crossposted at Debsweb.

There should not be silence

by: Pam

I actually agree with a portion of wingnut Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy on Media's post on Foleygate (may the lightning bolt strike me down now):
In Foley's case, however, the hypocrisy is stupefying. He sponsored the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act and testified in favor of it, saying, "Sex offenders are not petty criminals. They prey on our children like animals and will continue to do it unless stopped… We have a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to protect our kids from these animals."
Of course most of Kincaid's rant is complete BS, attempting to conflate homosexuality with pedophilia (yes, HRC, you should be stepping up to counter this, but no one is willing to comment).

For Log Cabinettes, the reaction of the fringe (influential) Right should be a wake-up call. These folks have been waiting for an opportunity like this to declare that it's time for a gay purge in the party.
But knee-jerk references to Democratic misconduct won't get Republicans off the hook on this one. This is the time for conservative media outlets, including the blogs, to insist that the Republican Party and the conservative movement stop protecting homosexuals in its ranks. The pro-homosexual groups in the Republican Party which shielded Foley from legitimate questions about his closeted life should be exposed and discredited.
Groups like the LCR (and HRC for that matter), have not believed in outing anti-gay, self-loathing gay politicians as a matter of principle. It was deemed too bottom-feeder to endorse the practice. Look at what that has reaped. But outing saved us from the voting record of the sick Ed Schrock. What the silence on Foley has done has emboldened the fringe Republicans to continue to fill the vacuum of information and ignorance regarding Foley's acts with disinformation and gay-bashing.

What Foley did was disgusting, and reflects a sick man who led a double life. The fact that his record on gay issues improved is one matter, but this incident is a clear example of when you have to cut the cord publicly and explain why. Otherwise, you will see more of essays like Kincaid's that stab at the entire gay community -- and take root. It should not be countered with cricket chirping.


GOP leadership: spinning for the election home stretch, but nowhere to run on Foley

by: Pam

The NYT has an interesting story about the attempt by Republicans to tout their legislative successes as they adjourn -- and the scandals and culture of corruption that threaten to drown out the well-honed message and deep-six their total control of the Hill.

The Foley scandal is front and center as a major distraction from the talking points the party wanted to go home and campaign on, such as the torture detainee bill and their feeble, simple-minded attempt at taking on the immigration issue -- approving 700 miles of fencing on the border between the U.S. and Mexico -- to help quiet the Freepi (that won't fly with that crowd).

They tried to spin, but the reporters kept coming back to Foley.
Just hours before Congress closed down for the midterm elections on Saturday, Republican leaders threw together a ceremony to celebrate the passage of what they hoped to promote as their singular legislative accomplishment — a bill to bring terrorism suspects to trial.

But after House and Senate leaders formally signed the measure for the cameras, the only questions they faced from assembled reporters pertained to Representative Mark Foley, the Florida Republican who had just resigned after accusations that he sent sexually explicit Internet messages to teenage pages.

"None of us are very happy about it," Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said before abruptly calling a halt to the questions, and the ceremony.

...The highly publicized case of Mr. Foley, who served in the House leadership as a deputy whip, threatened to build into an institutional scandal as House leaders acknowledged that they had known about the messages for nearly a year, but had relied on Mr. Foley’s word that nothing inappropriate had occurred.

...Mr. Foley, a six-term congressman who was a high-profile Capitol figure for years, had the potential to become a major liability. Late Friday, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, called for an investigation into what the leadership knew, and when.

Republicans denounced her from the floor, grumbling when she introduced herself as a mother and a grandmother. But they were careful with her potentially explosive request and quickly referred it to the ethics committee.
And in the "you can't fool all of the people all of the time" department, even the drop in gas prices is seen as a suspicious Republican maneuvering for political gain. Tiny violin for them.
Despite their troubles, many Republican leaders believe tumbling gas prices could be their salvation. But even that benefit has drawbacks. Many Americans tell pollsters they believe that the drop was politically orchestrated to help Republicans in the election.
Too many terror alert leash jerks have resulted in a good number of Americans who don't think they can't trust anything this government does. Great job, GOP!

Yes, let them run on their record of cover-up, corruption, deficit ballooning, disaster on Iraq and national security -- and a failure to protect pages on the Hill from a predator in their midst -- a colleague they allowed to continue, unmonitored, to prey upon teenagers. Parents entrusted the House leadership to give these young people an opportunity to learn about government. Those teens learned a lesson all right -- about how morally bankrupt these people running the show are.

The Freepers see the impact of the meltdown.


Teacher Suspended for Field Trip to Art Museum

by: Konagod

This is not only mind-numbing but frightening as well. Sydney McGee, a teacher at Wilma Fisher Elementary School in Frisco, Texas (a Dallas suburb) was suspended from her position after a child's parent complained about the child seeing nude art in the Dallas Art Museum.
Although the tour had been approved by the principal, and the 89 students were accompanied by 4 other teachers, at least 12 parents and a museum docent, Ms. McGee said, she was called to the principal the next day and "bashed."

She later received a memorandum in which the principal, Nancy Lawson, wrote: "During a study trip that you planned for fifth graders, students were exposed to nude statues and other nude art representations." It cited additional complaints, which Ms. McGee has challenged.

The uproar has swamped Frisco school switchboards and prompted some Dallas-area television stations to broadcast images of statues from the museum with areas of the anatomy blacked out.
That's just great. Let's have the media reinforce the idea that nude art is indecent and deserving of censorship. Of course, the FCC would have probably fined them the maximum $325,000 had they broadcast the images uncensored.

As for those "additional complaints" cited by the principal, it's quite clearly a witch hunt:
In the May 18 memorandum to Ms. McGee, Ms. Lawson faulted her for not displaying enough student art and for "wearing flip-flops" to work; Ms. McGee said she was wearing Via Spiga brand sandals. In citing the students’ exposure to nude art, Ms. Lawson also said "time was not used wisely for learning during the trip," adding that parents and teachers had complained and that Ms. McGee should have toured the route by herself first. But Ms. McGee said she did exactly that.
These Talibanical American nuts make me want to scream. It's the same idiotic mentality which brought about the destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan in 2001. The only difference is these people are here among us.

crossposted at konagod