Friday, December 30, 2005

Special Analysis:
A Comment on Cookies

by Dark Wraith

Mainstream media news outlets are reporting that the National Security Agency has been deploying cookies into the computers of visitors to the agency's Website. The controversy surrounds the persistence of these cookies past the user's session when the Website is visited. Reports by news sources like CNN and Yahoo include statements by the NSA that the type of cookie being written to visitors' hard-drives was supposed to be only of the "session" variety, which would be deleted when the user closed his or her browser, but that a software upgrade was responsible for the unintentional installation of a "persistent" (or "permanent") cookie, which remains on a user's computer. Bloggers have picked up the story and commented about the implications of this activity by a U.S. spy agency.

A "cookie" in computer terminology is a small file written onto a computer user's hard-drive. The cookie is usually created by a javascript routine embedded in the code of the Webpage. When a person goes to a Website, it is very likely that the server holding the files for that site will put one or more of these cookies into a special directory on the visitor's computer. Not surprisingly, the directory in which these cookies are saved is called "Cookies," and each user of a particular computer will have his or her own sub-directory with this name.

A cookie contains information in text and code. This information allows the host server of the Website to know certain things about the user, especially about that user's previous interaction with the Website. For example, a simple cookie might be nothing more than a notification of when the user last visited the Website. That way, when the user visits again, the server knows the person has been there before. This might be useful for something like, say, a new versus returning visitor welcome message or site introduction window.

Note, by the way, that the word "person," here, is a bit fuzzy. For the most part, a server sees a computer, not a human being. Cookies can personalize the interaction to some extent, but a server computer generally can't tell who is on a visiting computer. The visiting computer, itself, is uniquely and clearly identified by its so-called "IP address," where the "IP" stands for "Internet protocol." The human at the computer could identify himself or herself by certain information entered on, say, a form; but even then, there is still a lack of complete certainty at the server level regarding who exactly is sitting at the machine during a given session. Eventually (and quite possibly now with very sophisticated programs), the actual person will be identifiable, but that's not much of an issue for the time being. For all intents and purposes, only the computer can be identified with any degree of certainty by a server. A cookie can help narrow down who exactly is on a computer. If two people use the same computer but have different accounts on it, then the cookie set for one user would not be in the "Cookies" folder of the other person; hence, a server that had already tagged the IP address of the computer could further narrow down the actual user by reading a previously set cookie that only one of them had.

There are many ways to classify cookies. Simple cookies generally store a cache of information based upon the very appearance of the visitor at the site or upon options and preferences the user has specified once there. An example of the latter is when a visitor can select certain display preferences (like color scheme, size of fonts, etc.) for a Website. That information would be stored in the cookie for that Website so that, when the visitor came back, those preferences would be loaded automatically. Some cookies set automatically while others build information based upon what you do.

You might have noticed that some Website, especially some blogs, have a "Remember me" checkbox: if you check it, a cookie will be set in your computer. This cookie holds the basic form information about your name, your e-mail address, your homepage, etc. The cookie will ensure that this information will be filled in automatically every time that form is displayed after the cookie is initially set.

The automatic form fill-in is a very common application of cookie functionality. It saves people having to fill in the same information every last time they have the same form come up.

This could be a worrisome situation. You might be thinking, "But I put credit card information into those forms. Is that information sitting in a cookie file that anyone could read?" Yes and no: yes, the information might be there; but no, the information isn't readable because it's encrypted, so only the originating Website would have the "key" to decrypt and read the code properly.

The complexity of a given cookie mostly has to do with how much information it stores, the kinds of information it collects, and the manner in which the information is retained for later use. Cookies, in and of themselves, are nothing but text files. They can't do anything but hold information for later retrieval. By themselves, they can't run around on your computer and look for all kinds of other information; but that doesn't mean they can't have that information put into them. Other programs can work with cookies to build an impressive laundry list of interesting and exciting facts about a computer user. In particular, Java and ActiveX scripts can do all kinds of snooping, then either report the results directly to a server or put those results into a cookie or other file for later retrieval or broadcast.

Cookies also, by their very existence on a computer, tell a story. Each cookie has a name, usually something like Joe@hotdog.txt. The "Joe" is the name of the user as the computer sees him. (His name might not be Joe, but at some time in the past, probably during the installation of the operating system, he told his computer to call him "Joe." If Joe never gave himself a name for his computer to use, it would probably call him "default," which is why some people see all their cookies start with that word.) The part after the "@" is the domain name of the Website that set the cookie. In this case, we know from just looking at the cookie's name—not even opening the cookie to see what information it contains—that the computer user named "Joe" went to

Suppose we saw Joe@hotdog[1].txt and Joe@hotdog[2].txt in the cookies directory. That would mean the Website set not one but two cookies.

Perhaps you see the privacy issue. The cookie directory is a free listing of every cookie-deploying site Joe has visited. Oh my gawd! Look at some of those cookie names: Joe@lolibimbo.txt, Joe@boweltroublenow.txt, Joe@whosyerdaddy.txt, Joe@manhoodextendersolutions.txt, and other unfortunate entries.

Gracious. Our friend Joe does get around, if only in his imagination in cyberspace. The cookie directory is by its very listings a profiling resource. (In Joe's case, the profile is clear: L-O-S-E-R!)

Let's crack open a cookie to see what's inside. It's a text file, so nothing fancier than plain old Microsoft Notepad is appropriate for viewing the contents, which we find to be a combination of numbers, words, and strange bursts of unintelligible characters. Never mind the unintelligible part: that's usually nothing but computer language the Web browser and server understand. The numbers are likely to be the output from counters of one kind or another: how many times the user has visited, how long the last visit went on, etc. Long strings of numbers often show the manner in which the particular cookie generator records information about preferences set by the users, the environment on the computer the server detected on the last visit, and sometimes encrypted data. There should also be at least one date somewhere in the code, but this might not be easy to recognize in the mass of numbers, percent signs, and strange-looking garbage. One date is important: the expiration date of the cookie, the time when the cookie is no longer valid. This is set by the javascript that's in the code for the Web page that set the cookie. Web browsers keep an eye on expiration dates to know when to get rid of cookies. Over at The Dark Wraith Forums, for example, the expiration date is in the year 2040, which means your host of that great blog doesn't want the cookie getting wiped out until the year 2040. The Dark Wraith figures you'll either be dead by then or you'll have moved on to something more interesting than visiting creepy, grimly themed blogs.

Some cookies will have your name and other information. HaloScan, the commenting system preferred by many bloggers, writes a cookie to the user's hard drive that has the information you enter to put in comments, as well as identification information, counter output, and other stuff.

Some cookies record entry page, some record exit page. It all depends upon the sophistication of the script that writes the cookie.

Can a cookie set by one server be read by the servers of other Websites you visit? The answer is in the affirmative, but remember that cookies are written by scripts, so a reader from a non-originating site would have to understand how information was being laid out in a particular cookie to translate the contents into meaningful data. It's not as easy as just having a server look in the "Cookies" directory to rummage around and get all kinds of great information. Scripts to make cookies can be pretty generic, so it's not that difficult in some circumstances for one server to detect and understand a foreign cookie's content. However, if a cookie has encrypted information, that's a whole different issue since a snooping server would have to be able to crack the encryption to get to the interesting information in a foreign cookie. More importantly, it's not as easy as it might seem to get at a cookie that doesn't have the same domain name as the site being visited. It's not impossible; but it's definitely not just like clicking on a directory on your local computer.

Returning to the matter of the NSA setting cookies, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. The brouhaha that started this week has to do with the fact that the NSA was setting cookies that didn't get deleted when a visitor closed his or her Web browser. In other words, the NSA cookies were "persistent" instead of "session" cookies, which means they didn't have immediate expiration. So-called "session cookies" are no more or less "safe" than persistent cookies, the ones that stay on the computer and don't get deleted at the end of a Web browsing session. A session cookie won't be able to keep track of, say, how many times you've visited the NSA Website, nor will it be able to keep track of other surfing habits you have.

But the point is this: the type of cookie the NSA was setting is rather irrelevant. Once a cookie reports an IP address to its "mother," that information goes into a database. When the visitor unknowingly enters more information to an old (persistent) cookie or unwittingly causes the creation of a new (session) cookie, that information gets sent to the "mother," which then adds it to the database, which keys to IP addresses. In other words, the snooping goes on whether it's one cookie staying there persistently or a string of cookies, each associated with a single session. This means just about anyone could have a profile being built up in that (purely hypothetical, of course) database at the NSA or wherever else profiling of people is an on-going practice.

And on another point, going to a government Website and being shocked that the agency sponsoring the Website engages in snooping is a bit silly. It's sort of like walking into a cage with rabid lions and being quite offended when they eat your hind leg. This is the era of the neo-cons: they run this government, and they're not nice people. They have no use for personal privacy; and they're quite literally out to rule the world and to do so through mendacity, violence, and lies. They don't play by rules ordinarily anticipated by members of a civil society that greatly values and jealously protects personal privacy and individual liberty.

They just don't.

In any interaction with their kind and their government, expect that you will be treated to the full power, ferocity, and ill will of technologically-enhanced Medievalism.

More to the point, though, cookies are a terribly inefficient means of snooping. Even when they're used, to be clear and compelling threats, they usually need to work in conjunction with ActiveX or Java routines. (And don't confuse Java with javascript; they're not the same.) Cookies are the poor-man's Peeping Tom devices. They can, to a certain extent, be used for tracking and other backroom work, but there are far more effective ways to use the Internet to spy on people. Many are the suckers who buy anti-spyware software packages that tout thousands and thousands of "spyware" implementations they remove, but such claims are misleading. All those anti-spyware packages are doing is collecting lists of known cookies, then including them in the "spyware" that's going to be removed. That's not entirely a bad thing, however, since cookies that are deployed in marketing networks ultimately build marketing profiles of Internet surfers, and this might not be desirable for some people who have quaint ideas about personal privacy. The Anti-Spyware Software Review Website describes in some detail how this game works, but to consider that type of profiling as tantamount to government spying through your computer is just not reasonable.

The National Security Agency is a cream-of-the-crop spy operation; it has some of the best spooks that money and calls to patriotism (or coërcion) can buy; and it has a black-box budget. Anti-spyware and cookie deletion utilities bought at Elmer's Discount House o' Software aren't going to stop spies who want to know what you're doing; and manually going into the cookies folder on your computer, finding a cookie with the name "Joe@nsa.txt," and deleting it does not in any way, shape, or form give you bragging rights for outsmarting the National Security Agency.

If spies want you to know they've been in your computer, they'll make it so you can see that they've been there. If those same spies don't want you to know they've been there, they'll make sure you don't.

This is related to the matter of why it is that the U.S. releases people from detention where they've been tortured, knowing full well those people, once they're freed, are going to run around screaming, "I've been tortured! I've been tortured!" If our good national security folks don't want it known that someone was tortured, it won't be known. In the same way, if our good national security folks don't want it known that they've been watching you, then you won't know.

In most instances, when we "discover" something the spies have been doing, it's either because they don't care or more likely because they want to advertise, and all the howling upon discovery of the obvious gives them a megaphone at the same time the howling throws in the value-added red herring for their purposes.

To believe otherwise is to assign to our spooks the same level of stupidity possessed by our President and his cabal of crooked, incompetent cronies. Rest assured that, unlike George W. Bush, the operational-level folks at the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, and all the other agencies of ill intent are not stupid, nor are they incompetent.

They are dangerous, mean, frightening, untrustworthy, vicious, and nasty; but they're not stupid.

These high-end law enforcement and spying community men and women are not in some grand sense worthy of idol-worship. They are people who will hurt you if you get in their gunsites. The nearly god-like status to which some people assign a spy like Valerie Plame is inappropriate: she, like all excellent spies, did work that in some instances would make your blood curdle. As necessary as spycraft is to the survival of the state, as art and science it is a scythe that does not discriminate between you and anyone else considered an enemy of the state. Should it ever become the case that what you do constitutes work contrary to national security, you will know that you've been followed, profiled, tagged, tracked, and fully quantified. The only problem is that you will know it once it's too late.

The NSA cookies, persistent or session as they may be, are not the focal point of any domestic spying agenda, nor are they even the tip of the iceberg. They just aren't. To think otherwise is to stare at penguins bobbing in the water and argue about the significance of the danger they pose to the hull of the Good Ship Personal Freedom while that good ship, itself, is sinking because of the massive underwater charges that were detonated beneath it.

Regardless of how deeply flawed that last metaphor was, the point is this: if you criticize this Administration, assume that you are being profiled. Assume that the profiling goes on in your Internet travels and pleasure as well as in your real-world life. As a corollary, assume that, if you really do come to be regarded as a threat to national security, you will pay. And if you believe that the "rule of law" will ultimately win the day and that your free-speech right of protest against the government will be upheld, you might be gruesomely surprised to learn that history—not the kind in movies and fantasy novels, but in real life—has no special fondness for the good guys.

On the other hand, character-building through suffering is woefully underrated these days.

And living forever is terribly overrated.

The Dark Wraith encourages you to have a great Internet experience tonight and always.

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

Whisleblowing in the Wind

by Shakespeare's Sister

Guest-blogging at BradBlog yesterday, FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds made a passionate plea to America’s intelligence officials “to make yourselves available as witnesses and to serve the true supervisor of us all: the Constitution.”

High officials have perverse incentives to hide what is done in their orders by the employees below them. It is indispensable that Congress reach deep inside the National Security Agency and other agencies, seeking out employees at the operational level to determine how the President’s illegal order was carried into action. To assure that this occurs, we need for people with information from the agencies involved to come forward and ask to be interviewed by Congress. The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition calls on people with knowledge of unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens to contact NSWBC and let us know that they are willing to provide congress with information and testimony. Anonymity, if desired, will be scrupulously honored.
Meanwhile, as someone who did the right thing, and got her ass handed to her for it, appeals to others to similarly do the right thing, irrespective of the personal consequences, in an attempt to unearth the truth, the Justice Department has opened an investigation—not into the administration’s pernicious activities, but into who leaked the information.

The officials, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe, said the inquiry will focus on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks…

The Justice Department's investigation was being initiated after the agency received a request for the probe from the NSA.
Fabulous. Nice to see the wheels of justice turning so smoothly as they crush the truth tellers in their path.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

It’s Cold in the Shadow of the Cold War

by Shakespeare's Sister


The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al Qaeda has grown into the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War, expanding in size and ambition despite a growing outcry at home and abroad over its clandestine tactics, according to former and current intelligence officials and congressional and administration sources.

The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.

GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world.

…"Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act," said one official who was briefed on the CIA's original cover program and who is skeptical of its legal underpinnings. "It's an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything," said the official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues.
GST? Fair enough; I guess KGB was already taken.

The interesting thing about this administration is that the majority of its members are leftover remnants from the Cold War—VP Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and National Security Advisor Condi Rice all got their respective starts in fighting the Red Menace, hawkish apparatchiks of the military-industrial complex one and all. (Tellingly, Rice’s most relevant credential when chosen as National Security Adviser was having served as a Soviet expert in Washington during the collapse of the Soviet Union.) For a little fun, you can trace the Neocon trajectory from Cold Warriors to Bush administration hacks here, which starts with roles in the Nixon administration and moves forward through six subsequent administrations.

And yet, these people whose political careers were built around defending democracy against the horrors of dictatorial communism seem resolutely determined to turn the American democracy into something as ugly and corrupt as that against which they once fought. They’ve become what they hated—which, considering their Cold War methodology seems a just fate. Unfortunately, they’re taking the rest of us down with them.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Suggested New Year's Resolutions

by STP

They never last and are kind of b.s. since no one can explain to me why we cannot resolve to be better than we currently are anytime during the year. However, here are some potential resolutions for the American people:

1. Resolve to be intelligent-thinking during political campaigns so as not to be deceived by lies such as "Compassionate Conservativism," "I'm an outsider," and "Mission Accomplished;"
2. Resolve to impeach a criminal president (see George Bush). This involves resolving to vote out of office enough Republican apologists to turn power in the congress over to Democrats and moderate Republicans;
3. Resolve to stop littering, polluting, over-developing, thinking short-term with regards to usage of natural resources, and to treating all living creatures respectfully and humanely;
4. Resolve to demand that leaders ask sacrifices in difficult times of all people as equally as possible;
5. Resolve to force the media to report honestly, fully and with absolute vigor;
6. Resolve to stop dumbing down or "religionifying" debate in society on issues important to our nation. Gay marriage, security, tax fairness, and choice come to mind;
7. Resolve to make Poet Laureate an elected position and then to elect Scott the Poet to the position. Ok, ok, shameless self-promotion never killed anyone;
8. Resolve to pass loophole-free legislation that enforces a draft on the nation in times of war. If the upper crust of our society can send our children to war, surely their own blood can be shed equally with those below them on the economic ladder;
9. Resolve to not give a damn who's sleeping with whom unless they are sleeping with me (insert your own name here);
10. Resolve to learn more.

There you go, America, a starter list of New Year's Resolutions that would make this country a better place.

(Cross posted on Poetic Leanings)

Can we please wake up from this bad dream...NOW?

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Women's Rights Laws and African Custom Clash

(I guess my Social Darwinism acquaintences** would say this is happening because...)

**NOT friends of mine...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Breaking News

by Shakespeare's Sister

We’ve declared war on Brazil.

And speaking crudely, why the hell is the Chicago Transit Authority turning down the offer of discounted oil from Venezuela, and opting instead to raise prices and eliminate transfers for cash-paying customers? Come on, CTA—get it together.

(Hat tip to Cernig for passing that one along. Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Woe is We

by Shakespeare's Sister

Someone at USAToday is really fretting over the gender divide on American campuses. They just ran an article in October on the topic, and now there’s another one today. But this time it’s not just about men versus women; it’s about the horror of middle class white men falling behind.

Jacqueline King is a researcher who carefully sifts data for the American Council on Education in search of trends that colleges and universities might find helpful. One recent discovery jumped out: Over the past eight years, the percentage of middle-class males on campus shifted dramatically downward. Even more surprising, the sharpest drop occurred among white males.
Actually, it’s not surprising at all. America’s anti-intellectual streak referenced in my post on gifted children being left behind here (and also discussed at length here, here, and here) has decidedly conservative roots. Just today, at Tapped, Yglesias references a Wall Street Journal editorial by conservative (and professor of English emeritus at Dartmouth) Jeffrey Hart, who notes that with the GOP’s “center of gravity” having “shifted to the South and the Sunbelt…the consequences of that profound shift are evident, especially with respect to prudence, education, intellect and high culture.” (Yes, that’s a conservative making that point; not some latte-swilling, sushi-sucking, limousine liberal.) And perhaps more pointedly, anti-intellectualism has become inextricably linked with conservative fundamentalist Christianity. As the slightest bit of knowledge can undermine its teachings, many of it purveyors have realized it’s best to keep the flock ignorant. With white males comprising a significant part of the solid conservative base, it’s not remotely surprising that as anti-intellectualism takes further hold within the conservative ideology, its adherents would eschew higher education in greater numbers.

Add to that the fact that often men without a degree can make just as much or more money than women with a degree, and the sense of entitlement of which many white males refuse to let go, and there’s even less reason to be surprised. Surely one’s shock should also be minimized by even a passing glance at the failure that is No Child Left Behind, which can leave even determined students who value their educations struggling.

King and other researchers can't pinpoint precise explanations. But taking a hard look at why boys increasingly lack the verbal skills to succeed would be a good place to start.
Yeah, well, go see the president and his super plan to leave no child behind while celebrating ignorance at every available opportunity.

And inevitably, no article on education would be complete by pointing out how this will affect women’s marriage options.

Some campus populations already are two-thirds female, affecting campus dynamics in ways that eventually will ripple throughout society. More women are getting opportunities once denied to them, but more men face a bleak future in a world that increasingly demands education for success. Educated white women, meanwhile, will have increasing difficulty finding suitable mates, a problem that black women complain about now, as do many women on those female-dominated campuses. Men and women alike will have to worry about their sons' futures.
Men and women alike will have to worry?! Good lord. If only we could go back to the good old days when girls were kept dumb and easily married off, and dads didn’t have to give a damn.

I blame this all on the rejection of whalebone corsets.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Homeland Insecurity

by Shakespeare's Sister

House Dems have compiled a report charging the Department of Homeland Security with some significant security failures. This will undoubtedly be cast by the GOP as a partisan maneuver, but the list of gaps isn’t exactly nitpicky.

The Homeland Security Department officially opened its doors in March 2003. It was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to bolster protections of potential domestic targets.

Since then, according to the report, the department has failed to:

_Compile a single, comprehensive list prioritizing protections for the nation's most critical and potentially vulnerable buildings, transportation systems and other infrastructure.

_Install monitors at borders and every international seaport and airport to screen for radiation material entering the country.

_Install surveillance cameras at all high-risk chemical plants.

_Create one effective network to share quickly security-related intelligence and alerts with state, local and private industry officials.

_Track international visitors through a computerized system that takes their fingerprints and photographs as they enter and exit the country.
So the administration prioritized monitoring radiation levels at Muslim sites over screening for radiation entering the country, and engaged in vast, untargeted data mining operations in the hopes of catching something, while easily identifiable high-risk targets, like, say, a bunker at a chemical engineering firm from which 400 pounds of explosives and 2,500 detonators can be stolen with nothing but a blowtorch, go unprotected. Smashing.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The AFA is going after NBC now

by Pam

Tim and Don are on the wingnut warpath.

Damn, Don and Tim Wildmon have burrs up their pious asses. Now they have decided NBC needs thirty lashes for daring to air a series that has an openly gay male character. -- gee, where was the American Family Association during "Will and Grace" (or "Love, Sidney" for that matter)? Everyone that serves as a Nielsen household needs to tune in just to spite these haters.

The real controversy should be that the gay character is a all seriousness, this organization is on my last nerve.
The American Family Association is urging its members to flood NBC with letters denouncing the network's new series "The Book of Daniel" which will feature primetime's only openly gay male character in a new show.

The series is planned to debut January 6 at 9:00 pm E/P time. "The Book of Daniel" stars Aidan Quinn (“An Early Frost”) as the Reverend Daniel Webster (pictured) an unconventional Episcopalian minister who not only believes in Jesus - he actually sees him and discusses life with him.

His children include Peter (Christian Campbell, “Trick”), a 23-year-old gay son, who struggles with the loss of his twin brother. To confound matters even more, Peter is a Republican.
OK, now look at some of the rest of the characters in the show; why, might you wonder is the gay character the particular focus of the AFA's ire.
Webster's daughter, Grace (Alison Pill, “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen”), is 16-year-old daughter who just happens to be a drug dealer. Then there's the 16-year-old adopted son who is having sex with the bishop's daughter, and Webster's wife who is "addicted to martinis". Webster's secretary is a lesbian who is sleeping with his sister-in-law. The character is only one of a handful of lesbian characters on TV this season..
The tipping point for the Wildmons seems to be that -- gasp -- the show's writer, Jack Kenny, is gay. Good god, do they have a clue how many queers work behind the scenes in Hollywood?
Network hype – and the mainstream media – call it "edgy," "challenging" and "courageous." The hour-long limited drama series will debut January 6 with back-to-back episodes and will air on Friday nights. The writer for the series is a practicing homosexual.
Here is the petition letter that the AFA is urging its followers to send to NBC Chairman Bob Wright and Robert Liodice, President of the Association of National Advertisers (the AFA is also threatening to target the show's sponsors).
Dear Chairman Wright:

I am disappointed that NBC has decided to air "The Book of Daniel." I know that AFA will keep us posted on which companies desire to underwrite this program.

We are told in Hebrews that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Obviously you don't believe that. It would be beneficial to all if NBC showed a little more respect for Christians who believe the Bible.

I ask you to inform all NBC affiliates, in writing, (according to your testimony before a Congressional hearing last year) they are not required to air this program if they choose not to.
Can someone send the Wildmons and their knuckle-draggers the f*cking remote? I am so tired of these people. DON'T WATCH IT. There are plenty of Christian and family channels on cable. Or better yet, switch the f*cker off and read a book, you know -- The Good Book you keep beating us over the head with.

If Wright or Liodice have any balls, they should publicly flip the bird to these people, like the good folks at Kraft.

You can go to the AFA petition, replace the text and send your own counter message to Wright and Liodice. Here is the NBC contact info as well:

Bob Wright, Chairman
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY  10112
Primary Phone: 212-664-4444
Fax: 212-489-7592
E-Mail: Bob Wright, NBC

Association of National Advertisers
708 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017-4270
ph: 212.697.5950 - fax: 212.661.8057
Email: Robert Liodice

Also on the AFA hit list:
* Mattel (American Girl Dolls)
* Ford
* Proctor & Gamble
* Kraft
* Disney
* Kodak
* Wal-mart
* Kroger
* Target
* Walgreens, Office Max, Lowes and Home Depot
* Rick Santorum (ha!)
* Condoms
* Israel

The American Family Association needs to be taken down.

As you'll recall, John at AmericaBlog rounded up some kick-ass information about the AFA and its news outlet AgapePress during the Ford debacle. These are tidbits, that Bob Wright and the rest of the heads of of these corporations need to see in emails and faxes to them. Is this the kind of organization they need to be bowing and scraping to?

This is an extremist organization, a fringe group of people that will accept nothing less than a rollback of the cultural clock to their fantasy of a "moral" society. It looks like a nightmare to any thinking person that looks at the filth the AFA puts its reputation behind:
Does a "Jewish upbringing" lead to a life of crime?
In the March issue of American Family Association Journal, a publication of Donald E. Wildmon's right-wing evangelical activist group, the American Family Association (AFA), author Randall Murphree suggested that a Jewish upbringing leads to hatred of Christians, and by extension, a criminal lifestyle.

Were gays the real evil behind the Holocaust?
Scott Lively, California chapter director of the AFA, is co-author of a book titled, The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality and the Nazi Party, in which he claims that “homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities.” Lively makes explicit links between his claims about the Nazi party and the modern gay equal rights movement, claiming that “From the ashes of Nazi Germany, the homo-fascist phoenix has arisen again, this time in the United States.”

Is Europe "infested" with Muslims who breed "faster than we do"?
"The problem we have with Europe is that [it] is infested with the Muslim population. The reason why is because they multiply at a much faster rate than we do," she says. "When we Christians get married, we have two, three, maybe four children -- after they're born, we start thinking about what college we're going to send them to, what education we're going to give them. The Muslims, on the other hand, are allowed to marry up to four wives at a time," she says, noting that terrorist Osama bin Laden had 27 children.

Is AIDS a "gay plague"?
Some time ago, you see, Thacker called AIDS "the gay plague," which everyone knows but no one will admit, particularly homosexuals and their friends in the Bush Administration.

Are gays responsible for the "end of times"?
The president of one pro-family group feels the battle in Massachusetts over legalizing homosexual marriage is a clear example of the struggle between good and evil as the end times approach.

Are Muslim-Americans trying to "take over our cities"?
Muslim newcomers are engaging in what area realtors call "block busting." In other words, he says, "They came in, paid outrageously high prices for some of our homes that you wouldn't give $20,000 for, paying 60 and 70 thousand, which then entrenched a number of [Muslim families] on every block." Golen believes this is part of a "concerted effort" on the part of Muslims to use their financial power take over the city, and he says, "they're doing a heck of a job because nobody's standing up to them."

Are gays "deviants"?
" immoral, deviant lifestyle."

Are gays a "public health" threat?
The comments of David P. Smith, M.D.: "As a family physician, I’ve seen first-hand the devastation that homosexuality brings into the lives of patients that have chosen to live this way.... To promote homosexuality and even consider the sanctioning of it through “marriage” is irresponsible and is a danger to the public health of the entire country, spiritually and physically."

Do Jews control Hollywood?
The AFA Journal has long served as a platform for anti-Semitic theories and innuendo. For instance, Wildmon warned of Jewish control over popular culture, an old anti-Semitic canard, in a January 1989 article, "What Hollywood Believes and Wants." "The television elite are highly secular," Wildmon wrote. "The majority (59 percent) in the Jewish faith." In a separate article in the same issue, titled "Anti-Semitism Called a Serious Problem," Wildmon, a longtime opponent of gay rights, pointedly remarked that "Jews favor homosexual rights more than other Americans."

Are gays diseased perverts who die early? [I added this outrageous clip.]
Wildmon pointed to health statistics which estimate that 30% of all twenty-year-old homosexual males will be HIV-positive or dead of AIDS by the time they are 30. Similarly, in a study published in Oxford University's International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that, at age 20, the life expectancy of homosexual and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men.
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.

Blue Tribune

by Shakespeare's Sister

Chicago is, to put it mildly, a fairly quirky political town. It has a well-known history of corruption, which hasn't actually faded into history. Chicagoans assume City Hall is corrupt, no matter who (or whose son) is occupying it; they expect regularly scheduled stories about kickbacks and nepotism—and they don’t particularly care, as long as the trains are on time. Corruption is regarded as the price of running the Windy City well, and so there’s a high tolerance and forgiving attitude about the occasional scandal. (The governor’s mansion is a different matter with a different set of expectations altogether.)

Another bit of oddity is that even though Chicago is a resolutely blue town, the Chicago Tribune is a conservative paper. So it’s rather startling to see a column by conservative Steve Chapman (former writer for The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, and National Review, among others, and Alito apologist) bashing the administration:

President Bush is a bundle of paradoxes. He thinks the scope of the federal government should be limited but the powers of the president should not. He wants judges to interpret the Constitution as the framers did, but doesn't think he should be constrained by their intentions.

He attacked Al Gore for trusting government instead of the people, but he insists anyone who wants to defeat terrorism must put absolute faith in the man at the helm of government.

His conservative allies say Bush is acting to uphold the essential prerogatives of his office. Vice President Cheney says the administration's secret eavesdropping program is justified because "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it."

But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.
Ouch. And it just gets worse.

What we have now is not a robust executive but a reckless one. At times like this, it's apparent that Cheney and Bush want more power not because they need it to protect the nation, but because they want more power. Another paradox: In their conduct of the war on terror, they expect our trust, but they can't be bothered to earn it.
When the Trib gets this itchy, you know Bush is in trouble.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Do you know what your phone company is doing?

by Pam

Data mining your phone and internet trails without your consent - and they willingly offered it all up to this Administration. None of the names of the cooperating telecommunications companies have been revealed - big surprise. (NYT):
A former technology manager at a major telecommunications company said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the leading companies in the industry have been storing information on calling patterns and giving it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists.

"All that data is mined with the cooperation of the government and shared with them, and since 9/11, there's been much more active involvement in that area," said the former manager, a telecommunications expert who did not want his name or that of his former company used because of concern about revealing trade secrets. Such information often proves just as valuable to the government as eavesdropping on the calls themselves, the former manager said.

...Several officials said that after President Bush's order authorizing the N.S.A. program, senior government officials arranged with officials of some of the nation's largest telecommunications companies to gain access to switches that act as gateways at the borders between the United States' communications networks and international networks. The identities of the corporations involved could not be determined.

The switches are some of the main arteries for moving voice and some Internet traffic into and out of the United States, and, with the globalization of the telecommunications industry in recent years, many international-to-international calls are also routed through such American switches.

One outside expert on communications privacy who previously worked at the N.S.A. said that to exploit its technological capabilities, the American government had in the last few years been quietly encouraging the telecommunications industry to increase the amount of international traffic that is routed through American-based switches.
The article goes on to note that this level of backdoor access represents an expansion of the N.S.A.'s powers, and skirts restrictions, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The act requires court-approved warrants for domestic surveillance, a hitch that comes into play because the international calls being monitored are passing through American switches.

Crossposted at Pam's House Blend

12 warning signs of fascism

by Pam

A reader over at my pad, Paul, pointed me to a kick-ass interactive graphic over at the Major Visibility Project - Seattle. Each picture links to text describing the "warning sign" over at the site.

Surf over and check it out.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Radiating Good Will

by Shakespeare's Sister

Not only does this seem very dubiously legal, but it doesn’t even seem like a particularly effective idea:

In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.


The nuclear surveillance program began in early 2002 and has been run by the FBI and the Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST). Two individuals, who declined to be named because the program is highly classified, spoke to U.S. News because of their concerns about the legality of the program. At its peak, they say, the effort involved three vehicles in Washington, D.C., monitoring 120 sites per day, nearly all of them Muslim targets drawn up by the FBI. For some ten months, officials conducted daily monitoring, and they have resumed daily checks during periods of high threat. The program has also operated in at least five other cities when threat levels there have risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle.


"The targets were almost all U.S. citizens," says the source. "A lot of us thought it was questionable, but people who complained nearly lost their jobs. We were told it was perfectly legal."

The question of search warrants is controversial, however. To ensure accurate readings, in up to 15 percent of the cases the monitoring needed to take place on private property, sources say, such as on mosque parking lots and private driveways. Government officials familiar with the program insist it is legal; warrants are unneeded for monitoring from public property, they say, as well as from publicly accessible driveways and parking lots. "If a delivery man can access it, so can we," says one.
Yes, but if a delivery man isn’t actually delivering anything, and just hangs about with no legitimate reason to be there, it’s called trespassing. If that’s the best defense they’ve got, it’s not much of one.

Meanwhile, monitoring radiation levels does absolutely nothing to protect against the use of, say, C-4. And monitoring Muslims does absolutely nothing to protect against guys like this.

When, oh when, will it become patently obvious to the American electorate that these douchebags have no fucking clue about effectual national security or domestic civil liberties, and instead just randomly shoot buckshot everywhere and hope they hit something—and if an innocent bystander, or a dearly held right, is made a casualty in the process…oh, well. That’s the price of freedom.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Treasury Secretary Calls Clinton Budget Surplus "a Mirage"

by Dark Wraith

Bloomberg reports that Secretary of the Treasury John Snow has told reporters that the federal budget surplus that marked the end of the Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton "wasn't a real surplus" and that "[President George W. Bush's] legacy will be one of having significantly reduced the deficit in his time." Snow made the stunning claim that the Clinton budget surplus was "a mirage."

The graphic below is derived from data provided by the Congressional Budget Office. The value for 2005 is as projected by the CBO. The data used do not take into account the effect of inflation because the essential character of the dynamics of the net federal budget cash flows would not change: positive numbers remain positive, and negative numbers remain negative even when they are adjusted (that is, divided) by an index. Furthermore, "adjustment" methods being used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on raw price data present certain challenges concerning the accuracy with which the consumer price index and the producer price index are reflecting actual inflation at the retail and wholesale levels, respectively. The essential results of the analysis presented below are nonetheless robust to the choice of nominal or real (i.e., inlfation-adjusted) federal budget figures.

As if gearing up to rewrite history, some neo-conservatives are now claiming that certain government tax revenues were "unusually high" in the last years of the Clinton Administration. This line was delivered by none other than a senior economist from Goldman, Sachs & Co., who was quoted in the Bloomberg article. The claim that some anomaly was behind the Clinton era budget surpluses is entirely out of line with the graphic above and the data, which clearly show not a one-time-only surplus, but a sustained, long-term fiscal discipline that started immediately upon Clinton's ascendancy to the White House and remained the regime in the nation's fiscal house until the very end. Those same numbers demonstrate the sea change that occurred when the neo-conservative policies of tax cuts and war-based fiscal stimulus became policy under George W. Bush.

To highlight the dramatic and incontrovertibly fundamental policy shift toward growth driven by massive federal budget deficits caused by tax cuts, separate linear regression trend lines can be calculated for the respective Clinton and Bush Administrations' net federal budget cash flows.

In the graphic above, the blue line indicates the trend for the Clinton Administration. It has a slope of approximately 70, which means that the federal budget was gaining a net cash inflow of about $70 billion (nominal) annually over the eight years of the Clinton Administration.

On the other hand, the green line indicates the trend for the Bush Administration. It has a slope of about —117, which means that the federal budget deficit has, under the neo-conservatives, been suffering a net outflow of $117 billion (unadjusted) annually, which is opposite to and almost twice the rate of the Clinton Administration's net federal budget trend line slope.

This is no mere "mirage," as Treasury Secretary Snow would have people believe. The trend lines are in opposite directions, and those trend lines represent the cumulative effect of sustained net cash flow changes that reflect, at one level, policy priorities and, at a deeper level the different degrees of responsibility with which two, separate administrations and their politically influential allies have carried out their duties to manage the fiscal house of the federal government of the United States.

The graphic at left below presents the 1993 to 2005 federal budget surpluses/deficits as a percentage of gross domestic product, as displayed in Table 2 at the CBO historical federal budget data Webpage (with the 2005 projected value provided in Table 1-1 at the CBO Webpage presenting current federal budget projections). Using the same trendline analysis as above (and taking into account a growth of the economy that may be fueled to some extent by creeping inflation in the projection for 2005), the numbers re-inforce those presented above: during the Clinton Administration, net federal budget cash flows grew at an annual rate of 0.90% of GDP; during the current Administration, net federal budget cash flows have been falling at an annual rate of 1.01% of GDP. Again, the trend lines are in opposite directions.

The legacy of the Presidency of George W. Bush will be other than that claimed by Treasury Secretary Snow, and his assured insistence that Mr. Bush will have "reduced the deficit" serves no other purpose than to reduce the credibility of an Administration and its supporters who have already materially demonstrated an incapacity to manage fiscal policy in a manner consistent with any reasonable metric of control, care, and responsibility.

The Dark Wraith awaits a time when the nation has leadership that does not defend its mismanagement by claiming a better President's results were a mirage.

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

Thursday, December 22, 2005


by Shakespeare's Sister

The most oft-repeated argument by those defending the president’s decision to trample all over the Constitution and circumvent official channels to wage his secret spy program is that such methods are necessary to protect Americans. The president himself gravely intoned that the program “is critical to saving American lives.” The same defense is invoked on behalf of the FBI program under which groups such as Greenpeace and Catholic Workers were infiltrated and spied on. And yet, while the government was busy doing large-scale, warrantless wiretapping and keeping tabs on vegans, someone managed to steal 400 pounds of high-powered plastic explosives from the bunker of a bomb expert in New Mexico.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed today they are investigating the large theft from Cherry Engineering, a company owned by Chris Cherry, a scientist at Sandia National Labs.

The theft was discovered Sunday night by local authorities. The thieves used blowtorches to cut through thick steel walls at the bunker, authorities told ABC News.

The missing 400 pounds of explosives includes 150 pounds of what is known as C-4 plastic, or "sheet explosive," which can be shaped and molded and is often used by terrorists and military operatives.

"It is a very dangerous material, we want to keep this off the streets," Cherry told ABC News.

Also, 2,500 detonators were missing from a storage explosive container, or magazine, in a bunker owned by Cherry Engineering.

Authorities have no leads in the theft and said there is no indication terrorism is involved.

The theft is one of the largest reported cases from a facility in the United States in the last decade ending 2004. During that time, a total of about 1,000 pounds was reported stolen from government facilities in 14 reported incidents. It is unknown whether there is any connection to terrorism.

A special agent at ATF said the incident was unusual because such high-powered material was targeted.

The missing material could potentially make numerous bombs.
Numerous undectable bombs, at that.

I’m not suggesting that the government should have known about this alarming theft and prevented it. (I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t have, either; I just don’t know.) What I am saying is that this incident illustrates why “saving American lives” is a ridiculous justification for encroaching upon people’s civil liberties. Bad things can (and probably will) still happen. That’s the exchange we make for being free. We take the risk that something bad might happen, knowing that the alternative is to live in a police state. Sure, if you never leave your house, you’ll never get hit by a bus, but you’ll never feel the sun on your face, either.

The president likes to say that if he didn’t do things like authorize the spy program, and then America got hit by another terrorist attack, people would ask him why he didn’t do everything he could to stop it. But what he should be saying, what any reasonable, responsible leader would say, is that it’s impossible to be free and totally safe. That’s the chance we take, but it’s worth it.

Instead, Bush likes to play the superhero, and Cheney goes around skulking and growling, reminding people that we “haven’t been hit” since 9/11, as if that’s testimony to their awesome terrorist-fighin’ skillz. Such bold rhetoric has only served to give the administration every reason to authorize things like the spy program, in a desperate attempt to live up to an ideal that no leader of a free country can.

(Hat tip AMERICAblog. Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Shakespeare's Sister's Spouse May Not Dance in Kilt at American High School

by Dark Wraith

CNN is reporting that Jackson, Missouri, high school student Nathan Warmack was ordered by his principal, Rick McClard, to change from his kilt to a pair of pants at a high school dance. Warmack says he was wearing the kilt to honor his Scottish heritage.

Dr. Ron Anderson, the superintendent of the school district, which is about 110 miles from St. Louis, defended the policy against kilts, saying, "It's mainly to protect from the possibility of a disruption or something that could be viewed as a disruption."

A member of the Scottish heritage organization Clan Gunn Society of North America has started an online petition seeking an apology from the school district regarding what appears to be an ad hoc policy prohibiting kilts.

The Dark Wraith notes that Shakespeare's Sister is married to a gentleman of undeniably Scottish heritage. To the extent that the man might have two left feet, it is perhaps a mercy that he is currently prohibited from dancing in his kilt at a Missouri high school. Nevertheless, as a matter of civil liberties the United States has historically bestowed, signing the petition advances the prospects that one day Mr. Shakes will be able to trip the light fantastic in the secondary educational system of Jackson, Missouri.

Patriot Act extended six months

by Pam

The Senate didn't really want to play chicken on this one. And the cowboy in the White House is the one that blinked. It bounces back to the House now - I'm sure they feel really lucky right about now. (AP):
The terror-fighting USA Patriot Act may have a new lease on life. The GOP-controlled Senate on Wednesday approved a six-month extension of the USA Patriot Act to keep the anti-terror law from expiring on Dec. 31. President Bush gave it his grudging blessing.

The Republican-controlled House is now expected to come back and consider the legislation keeping the 16 provisions of the law passed after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington from expiring. Republican leaders and Bush wanted to make most of the law permanent, but were stymied by a filibuster in the Senate and had to resort to a six-month extension.

"This will allow more time to finally agree on a bill that protects our rights and freedoms while preserving important tools for fighting terrorism," said Sen. Russ Feingold. D-Wis., who was the only senator to vote against the original Patriot Act in 2001.

...Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he had no choice but to accept a six-month extension in the face of a successful filibuster and the Patriot Act's Dec. 31 expiration date. "I'm not going to let the Patriot Act die," Frist said.
Frist's wearing thin on the Freepi, where he got a big ass-kicking on this. From ArmyBratProud:
Instead of forcing the floor vote and getting all Senators on record as to how they stand on protecting America, Frist caved to Dems and RINOS and went for the deal.

And now Senate RINOS won't have to show their true colors on a vote until AFTER THE PRIMARIES!!!!

Meaning RINOS will get re-elected.

Frist has now shown himself as the weakest of leaders. The Republicans have the majority, but you would not know it by watching the Senate. Frist has allowed Dems to kick folks around and be a majority by default.

On dang near every piece of big time/major legislation, Frist has caved. Hope he enjoyed the White House Christmas Party. Because that is the closest he will ever get to the White House.
And the hits keep on coming...

Actual Freeper Quotes™

"There is no way, NO WAY I would vote for Frosty, or anyone else that will not have the cojones to stand up to, not only the Dims, but world leaders, international groups and foundations, etc. The President of the United States should be one tough Moth................well, you get my drift."

"There was a vote, and Frist didn't have the votes. So it was a choice of having half a loaf or no loaf."

"Except that the scumbag RINOs have already shown their true colors and any competent primary challenger will be able to successfully exploit that. Also, six months sounds like pretty good timing in that the general election campaign season will be getting into swing around the end of June."


"I don't see this as a cave, I listened to Sen. Craig today on Rush and he made some good points why we should reconsider some of the provisions of the Patriot Act. His most convincing remarks were about the fact that George W. Bush will not be our next President and do we really want somebody like Hillary (God forbid) becomes our President, with these broad powers.."

"I tend to agree with Senator Craig, we must draft legislation that limits the powers of the Government to snoop into our lives, in order to protect us from corrupt people like Hillary Clinton who could abuse these broad powers. God only knows the extent of prior abuses of power"

"I agree. Is there a better issue to be debating or are Scooter Libby headlines more desirable? The Act lives and I'd rather have that then have it die just so shortsightexd bitches can whine."

"Negative. Had Frist forced it....and reforced it...he would have cornered and they would have had to face the music for not voting. I have pals on the Hill who have e-mailed me today. They say that the Senators who were threatening not to vote in the moderat area...were catching heat from back home. The RINOS included. And now Frist caves. His only legacy."

"Amazing how Harry Reid seems to do so much more with 45 votes than Bill Frist does with 55 votes. An effective leader finds the votes by maintaining party discipline and drawing off red-state Democrats. Bill Frist has never been an effective leader, and the best thing that can happen to the Republican party is his upcoming retirement in 2006."

"Why is Frist still in the position of leader? Perhaps the Republicans could a leadership opening on"

"What is he supposed to do when there are so many shameful Republicans in the Senate? He didn't vote those clowns into office."

"Six more months for the NY Times, the MSM, and the RINOs on the Sunday talk shows to wear down support for the Patriot Act, as they have done to considerable effect with the war in Iraq."

"FReepers are blinded by partisanship, and don't want to hear about legitimate concerns from Sen. Craig. This sure ain't the same FR that excoriated Clinton over Waco (well, except for __Jim)."

"Hey Frist...if you dont have the cojones to fight Democrats on Capitol Hill, then you obviously do not have the cojones to fight Al-Qaeda aywhere."

"While this pi$$es me off -- especially Frist being the ultimate wimp -- I think you are right we may have lost in the short term, but long term, six months is uncomfortably close to the '06 elections and if they remain obstructionists it WILL be remembered at the polls so they could (fingers crossed) lose in the long term..."

"He is a limp-wristed wimp of a "leader." How about a little arm twisting? A little backbone? I am sick of this guy AND sick of people on these threads who continually defend him!"

"I wish Tom Delay would run for senate, then take over for Frist. We need a Hammer in the senate, not a spinless weakling"
Crossposted on Pam's House Blend

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Damned Andrea Mitchell

by The Heretik

"REPORTERS" DO THE JOB so government officials don't have to. Consider Andrea White House Megaphone Mitchell, featured press agent reporter on MSNBC's hard but not that hard Hardball. Monday she lets Condi Rice rip through the White House talking points on domestic spying and warrantless searches, pausing briefly to remind Rice of how little Congressional oversight the administration allowed, then Mitchell waves through Rice without a followup on Rice's assertion that the President only acts within his authority and oh, don't forget September Eleventh changed everything.

YESTERDAY MITCHELL DID DOUBLE DUTY Along with Katie Couric, Andrea Mitchell presented this story to NBC viewers not as violation of law, but rather as a choice between civil liberties and security. Give our president who has no doubts the benefit of the doubt. Dick Cheney doesn't have to make the White House case too many times when "reporters" like Andrea Mitchell will do it for him.

The Heretik

Laurel Hester stands tall

by Pam

You've might have heard about the story of Laurel Hester, the NJ police officer who has terminal cancer. She has been fighting the Ocean County Freeholders, who have decided that she cannot leave her pension to her partner. How can these men sleep at night?

John Kelly, one of the Freeholders (all compassionate, conservative Republicans, by the way), said that if Hester's request was granted it would "violate the sanctity of marriage."

Michael Jensen of The Big Gay Picture has been been blogging about this story from the beginning. He emailed me to let me know about the first of his three-part interview with Laurel Hester. His coverage won her confidence and other than a brief interview with the NY Times, she hasn't spoken to other media. What a scoop, Mike -- thanks for helping Laurel share her story.

Here is a snippet about her early experiences on the job, where being "out" was out of the question.
Her supervisor made it clear that Laurel's employment hinged on her staying closeted. "I didn't feel ashamed of being a lesbian," she says. Indeed, she had known from an early age she was gay. "It did frighten and depress me," she says. "I had no idea there was anyone else like me, but deep down I also knew there was nothing wrong with me."

Laurel also knew she would be an effective cop and could do much good. Even though a life in the closet was a sacrifice, she was willing to make that sacrifice if it allowed her to follow her calling.

Laurel was one of only two women in the Morris police department. She says the men treated her fine, but only to a point. "There was a line that couldn't be crossed and that was socializing with the guys," she says.

And no socializing meant none of the old-boys-network that helped with promotions. "But the biggest drawback," says Laurel "was that I didn't have any mentors, and that is so important to learning about being a cop. That meant I had to work even harder."
Go read the rest. The other parts of Mike's interview will be posted this week.

The Republic of T. has blogged extensively about Laurel's fight.

Crossposted on Pam's House Blend

Oh Fetus Tree, Oh Fetus Tree

by Pam

I'm not sh*tting you. Never mind the whole "Christ in Christmas" deal; now we have to worry about the bible beaters hanging fetus ornaments in trees. This is in Kansas -- what is the matter with Kansas? (KCTV5):
A Christmas tree that a pregnancy counseling organization provided to a women's fitness center prompted three people to cancel their memberships because the tree is decorated with plastic figures meant to represent fetuses.

"This is insidious," said Kelly Jones, one of the women who quit Body Boutique last week. "This is in my gym." She said the fitness center is a place to promote physical and mental health, not to confront a polarizing issue such as abortion.

Lorinda Hartzler, co-owner of Body Boutique, said that when Birthright of Lawrence asked about providing the tree it said it had no political agenda and wanted only to assist pregnant women in their decision-making process...The tree had about a dozen blue and pink stockings, each stuffed with a plastic figure and attached card that labeled the dolls as being "between 11 and 12 weeks old."

Coupons for Birthright videos, pamphlets and children's clothes were also in the tree. Coupons included savings on a video titled "After the Choice," another video showing abortion procedures and a brochure on emergency contraception known as the "morning-after pill."
This will really enhance your workout experience, huh?

Crossposted on Pam's House Blend


by Shakespeare's Sister

Matt Stoller, in response to some criticism he received for writing negatively about Senator Barack Obama, offers an explanatory post, which starts by taking issue with a key part of Obama’s stump speech:

Let me say this - I don't think that George Bush is a bad man. I think he loves his country. I don't think this administration is full of stupid people - I think there are a lot of smart folks in there. The problem isn't that their philosophy isn't working the way it's supposed to - it's that it is. It's that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do.
Stoller makes a very good case for exactly why—whether it’s Obama or any other Dem—tacitly rewarding the president is such a dreadful idea. The entire post is worth your time to read, but I was particularly struck by this:

What in the world is the difference between Tweety saying that "Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs" and Senator Obama saying that Bush isn't a bad man and loves his country? They are both echoes of the same conventional wisdom line that those who dislike the President are bitter angry vicious crazy partisans consumed by hatred, instead of Nobel prize winning scientists and professionals fed up with the systematic looting of the country by a gang of right-wing white collar criminals.
Exactly right. And it touches on something I think a lot of Democrats don’t understand about their grass- and netroots.

The excitement about Dems who show “balls,” the support of Dems who openly criticize the president and his policies without such caveats as Obama’s mentioned above, the disappointment in Dems who cave and triangulate, the disdain for centrism, and all of rest of the ebb and flow of expectations and let-downs we experience with the Democratic party is, as we often assert, about rescuing the country and its direction from the hands of a corrupt administration. Underlying that, however, is something more personal, something simpler, but rarely openly discussed.

Of the two major parties, the party that should be ours, the party for whom we vote and to whom we give money and time and energy, doesn’t like us.

While Republicans increasingly envelop and reward rightwing extremists, the Democrats distance themselves from the left. It’s not just that they have moved to the center and expected us to follow; they show disdain for us. Stoller is quite right when he points to Obama’s comment as being little more than an attempt to dissociate himself from “the lunatic left,” which anyone who vehemently opposes and dislikes the president is automatically presumed to be, never mind that our numbers include not only Nobel prize winning scientists and fed up professionals, but also working poor, unionists, disenfranchised voters, appalled students, and former Republicans, just for a start. People who don’t think the president is a good man who loves his country do not just exist on the fringe. Yet smart progressives with genuine disagreements and fact-based dislike and distrust of Bush have as little welcome within the Democratic Party as reactionary wingnuts do have in the GOP.

Perhaps most frustrating is the compulsion on the part of many Dems to acquiesce that the leftwing has just as many nuts as the rightwing. Always, always, we hear how both extremes are equally as loony—and I find myself constantly expected to utter the same whenever I speak to a conservative. “The far left is just as bad as the far right.” If I refuse to acknowledge it, I’m automatically pegged as a leftwing wacko, so I do—but I’m endorsing a lie.

Yes, there are leftwing extremists, and yes, there are leftwing reactionaries, but they are wholly discredited by the institutional left, and what, pray tell, is the leftist equivalent of the Council of Conservative Citizens? Or who, exactly, is the leftist equivalent of Pat Buchanan? Or even Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly? Or GOP Senator Tom Coburn who favors the death penalty for abortionists? Or GOP Senator Rick Santorum who compared homosexuality to bestiality? Or the endless stream of elected Republicans who have disparaged dissenters as traitors? None of these people are dismissed by the Right; they’re celebrated—all part of a vast movement that peddles sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, hate, and fear as though they were cheeseburgers. What’s the best they’ve got on the Left? An imaginary war on Christmas and an invented radical gay agenda. Congrats.

The left and right in this country are not two sides of the same coin. I’m done with being expected to pretend that they are. And I’m not giving any passes to Dems who try to distance themselves from a strawleft of radical strawnuts by mumbling platitudes about a president who is destroying this country and making life infinitely harder for so many people in it. Obama isn’t up for reelection next year, but I expect he’ll be stumping for other Dems who are, and I hope his tune has changed. I’ve not a smidgeon of tolerance left for anyone, of any party, who would leave our political passion without a home.

(Hat tip to Fix. Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A no-brainer

by Pam's Villain of the Year is GWB. He'll easily hold on to that tiara in 2006 at this rate.

I'm sure you didn't have to skip a beat on who was #2.

...and the rest (w/links to Blend posts):

3. Pat Robertson
4. The Governator
5. Spokane Mayor Jim "Wild" West
6. Mitt "the sh*t" Romney
7. O'Lielly
8. Fiji -- why this tropical paradise? Here's why.
Several years ago, a gay couple was found murdered in Fiji. This spring, at the height of tourist season, an Australian tourist was jailed for gay sex in Fiji, where homosexual acts are illegal.

According to the Fiji Times, Magistrate Syed Muhktar Shah accused the couple of taking part in "shameful acts," adding that their crime was "something so disgusting that it would make any decent person vomit."

Person of the Year, to end on a positive note, was Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Spain became the third country in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry on his watch. He faced some serious flack from the Catholic church, but held firm in his support.
"I will never understand those who proclaim love as the foundation of life, while denying so radically protection, understanding and affection to our neighbors, our friends, our relatives, our colleagues."

Crossposted on Pam's House Blend

Pentagon labels gay kiss-in a 'credible threat'

by Pam

You'll recall my post last Wednesday about NBC obtaining parts of a secret Pentagon database of organizations and individuals that have shown up at anti-war gatherings and other events they deem "suspicious." Now this unbelievable f*cking sh*t just came in my inbox from US Newswire about who else is in that database. Who knew homos and their supporters were threats to domestic security? (SLDN):
According to recent press reports, Pentagon officials have been spying on what they call "suspicious" meetings by civilian groups, including student groups opposed to the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel. The story, first reported by Lisa Myers and NBC News last week, noted that Pentagon investigators had records pertaining to April protests at the State University of New York at Albany and William Patterson College in New Jersey. A February protest at NYU was also listed, along with the law school's LGBT advocacy group OUTlaw, which was classified as "possibly violent" by the Pentagon. A UC-Santa Cruz "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" protest, which included a gay kiss-in, was labeled as a "credible threat" of terrorism.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) condemned the Pentagon surveillance and monitoring. "The Pentagon is supposed to defend the Constitution, not turn it upside down," said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn. "Students have a first amendment right to protest and Americans have a right to expect that their government will respect our constitutional right to privacy. To suggest that a gay kiss-in is a 'credible threat' is absurd, homophobic and irrational. To suggest the Constitution does not apply to groups with views differing with Pentagon policy is chilling."
The SLDN has announced that it will submit a Freedom of Information Act request to see whether it or other LGBT organizations are being monitored by the Pentagon.

Our Dear Leader's Domestic Spying for Security InitiativeTM at work.

Flashback: Your tax dollars at work: Pentagon researched developing a "homo-bomb"


Also, B3 reader Holly just emailed that AmericaBlog is covering this as well.

Crossposted on Pam's House Blend

Conyers: Censure, Investigate

by Shakespeare's Sister

Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) has just issued a press release announcing he has introduced resolutions to censure Bush and Cheney for abuse of power and to create a Select Committee with subpoena authority to investigate the administration’s misconduct with regard to the Iraq war and report on possible impeachable offenses.

The Investigative Status Report of the House Judiciay Committee Democratic Staff, upon which the introductions of these resolutions is based, is here.

In brief, we have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice-President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration. There is at least a prima facie case that these actions that federal laws have been violated - from false statements to Congress to retaliating against Administration critics.

In response to the Report, I have already taken several initial steps. First, I have introduced a resolution (H. Res. 635) creating a Select Committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush Administration with regard to the Iraq war and report on possible impeachable offenses. In addition, I have introduced Resolutions regarding both President Bush (H. Res. 636) and Vice-President Cheney (H. Res. 637) proposing that they be censured by Congress based on indisputable evidence of unaccounted for misstatements and abuse of power in the public record. There are a number of additional recommendations in the Report that I expect to be taking up in the coming weeks and months.
What can I say? Go get ’em!

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Wow - Dubya is sure spying on terrah-rists, isn't he?

by Ms. Julien in Miami


FBI watched array of environmental, animal, and poverty groups

Counterterrorism agents at the FBI have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show, the NEW YORK TIMES is set to splash in Tuesday's papers...

FBI officials said Monday that their investigators had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the FBI's investigative powers. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities.

But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized domestic anti-terrorism spying without warrants, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.

One FBI document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third document indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The documents, provided to The New York Times over the past week, came as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sought access to FBI files on about 150 protest and social groups that it says may have been improperly monitored.

"You look at these documents," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director for the ACLU, "and you think wow, we have really returned to the days of J. Edgar Hoover."


More from the AP (advanced):

The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the FBI of misusing terrorism investigators to monitor some domestic political organizations, despite apparently disparate views within the FBI whether some groups supported or committed violent acts, the Associated Press is set to reveal, RAW STORY has learned.

Citing hundreds of pages of heavily-censored documents it obtained from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act, lawyers for the ACLU described this disputed use of terrorism resources as the latest illustration of intensified surveillance aimed toward Americans. "Using labels like domestic terrorists to describe peaceful protest activity can chill robust political debate in this country," ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner said in New York. The ACLU said it will publish the FBI reports it obtained on its Web site Tuesday.

In one case, government records show the FBI launched a terrorism investigation of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Norfolk, Va., despite acknowledgment by one FBI official that, "The FBI does not consider PETA a terrorist organization." The FBI responded that it conducts its investigations appropriately - subject to U.S. laws and Justice Department guidelines. It said the ACLU mischaracterized some passing references to political groups in FBI files to suggest those groups were under investigation; in other cases the FBI confirmed it was acting on tips tying groups to alleged illegal activities. The FBI documents indicate the government launched its terrorism investigation of PETA because the group was "suspected of providing material support and resources to known domestic terrorism organizations," including the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front. Advertisement

The ACLU said the FBI documents also suggest that federal terrorism investigators infiltrated the Washington-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. One document, sent to an FBI counterterrorism unit in Los Angeles, describes a list of attendees from the group at a conference in Stanford, Calif., to protest sanctions against Iraq in May 2002. Other FBI documents obtained by the ACLU describe efforts in May 2001 by Greenpeace and the Los Angeles-based Catholic Workers Group to disrupt missile tests in California. The FBI said the Catholic Workers Group "advocates a communist distribution of resources."

Oh, man - watch those Catholics...definitely terrorists...Would Would Popie Do? Wear Prada, I guess.


by Ms. Julien in Miami

Father leaves kids in freezing car for hours

And where are the church people who would have these children be born, and then treated this way? Hmmmm? Why haven't the church ladies of good old Christian, KKK/Neonazi Greenwood, Indiana, stepped forward to take these kids to their homes?

Oh that's right...they only care about the babies while in the womb. Silly me.

Freeperland follies: 'Fry the traitors'

by Pam

As you know, Dear Leader said he's not giving up his secret wiretaps, and said that the disclosure that he's violating your rights for "security" on the QT was the real problem: "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in time of war," our dry drunk president said at today's press conference, as Kool-Aid was passed around the room.

There is a special pipeline system installed at the White House, one that winds its way beneath the earth's surface over to Freeperland, dumping gallons of Kool-Aid directly into the fetid waters there. The pliant knuckledraggers are bloodthirsty, eager to find out who these traitors are that have exposed their Dear Leader's secret plan to save America, the Domestic Spying for Security InitiativeTM. They want names.

Actual Freeper Quotes™

"I hope they find the SOBs and fry them."

"I'd have called them trators."

"It infuriates me to know that last night, Bush just handed his head over to the Dems on a silver platter. He has given the Dems fodder for the upcoming election by admitting wrong doing instead of showing that they DID find WMD. So I guess this Novak/Plame thing hurt worse than we imagined. It took Rove out of commission (apparently) because to out of freaking nowhere start going "We were wrong, but since we started, we gotta still be at war". Stupid Stupid Stupid IMO anyway."

"Time for a disinformation war. If the Bush administration was clever, they'd start feeding varied dummy "classified" information to certain individuals and segments of the CIA, NSA, FBI, Pentagon, Justice Dept. etc. All of the 'dummy info' will be somewhat selatious and damning of the Bush administration, and all of it will be false and harmless. When the leaks start coming out, hells should roll."

"Not a half bad idea. Such would help enable them to trace the leak and identify where it's coming from. It would also drive the Dems crazy ... which is a short trip, and is always fun to watch."

"Rush really took off after the traitors today. He said they're running around claiming they didn't know about the wire tapping, while they knew it all along. He said he wants them investigated and thrown out of Congress. Thank you, Rush."

""I'd call them trators" My beebers are stunned! Actually what scares me most is that this could enable the Islamofashists to carry out an attach right before 9/11/06. I hope that I am wrong. I am just getting a real uneasy feeling about this whole thing."

"I keep thinking, if the senators were of the same caliber as those who held that office during WWII, we'd be seeing NONE of these leaks....NONE of the two-faced, self-aggrandizing charades playing out today. The bulk of the senators today are not men at all...they're weasels."

"And all along the MSM knows that the President did not exceed his authority. The Patriot Act the Constitution the Congressional Resolution of Sep 18, 2001 give the president all the authority he needs to pursue anyone he thinks threatens the US. Read 'em and weep MSM...And know that I despise you, and even more for your hatred of my country and your siding with and aiding and abettin of its enemies."

"The only problem with that is that the MSM would roll with the fake stories and even a documented "sting" would be spun as the WH covering. Just look at how the whole timing issue and congrasional notification issue of this bogus "spying" story have been ignored."

"I think Bush is telling the Country that the Democrats think they can do it better, and the REpublican congressmen agree with the Democrats, so he is going to let them. Bush has no loyalty to the GOP that has abandoned him."

"Somebody needs killing over this/ Politics in which a rotten POS discloses secret information isnt politics any more Its treason."

"This is like blabbing that we broke the Enigma machina."

"First of all, I think we need to find out if these wiretaps were illegal. From all that I've read and heard, including from people whose opinion I respect on such matters, like Bob Barr, they were illegal and unconstitutional. If that's the case, then I'm more concerned about the people committing the initial illegal acts than some whistleblower who is merely exposing illegality."

"why have FISA warrants if you're not gonna use them? I read somewhere that 758 were applied for and the same # granted, so why not go through the warrant process? just wondering."

"I understand no president from any party has ever been quoted saying "I have too much power and I'd like to give some back to the people", but the arguments like 'I have nothing to hide so I don't care' and/or 'Clintoon did this ,too and more...' are getting tiresome. I'm reminded again: no matter who you vote for , the gubmint always wins. "

"We're long past the legality of the act. Attorney General Gonzales has already said Congress has given President Bush the authority for domestic surveillance after 9/11. Both Pelosi and Reid have now admitted that they were briefed on this as long as 4 years ago. In 1993, former Clinton CIA director confirmed that Clinton had been using ECHELON - a super-secret survailance program - to collect phone calls, private emails, etc, to collect economic intelligence, all this prior to the catalyst of 9/11."

"If you get your way, and there is another terror attack, as you lay there dying, look over at your wife and childrens as they slowly bleed to death and say "at least I know the government wasn't listening to the terrorists phone calls or reading their e-mails"."

"Actually, now that I think about it, you probably DON'T have a wife and kids. At least, I certainly hope you haven't reproduced."
Crossposted on Pam's House Blend

The FCAT = Freaking Corrupt and Tainted

by Ms. Julien in Miami

You can thank Neil Bush for this (and of course Gov(TX)/Pres Bush and Gov(FL) Bush for allowing it to explode to what "No Child Left Behind" is today.

From today's Miami Herald:

FCAT can destroy some students' futures

José and Franklin live next door to each other. Both are 18-year-olds who grew up in two-parent homes. José's parents enrolled him at Gulliver Academy while Franklin's parents decided he would enter public schools. As teens, both were active in their community and churches. José and Franklin were honors students, computer whizzes and boasted of 3.5 GPAs. Both young men aspired to become as successful as their parents.

After completing his mid-terms and final exams, José earned a 3.5 GPA, 30 credits and had decent scores on the ACT and SAT exams. José planned on attending Florida International University.

Franklin earned a 3.5 GPA after completing his mid-terms and finals. He, too, accrued 30 credits and made decent scores on the ACT and SAT exams. Unlike a private-school student, he was required to take the FCAT exam. He took the reading portion of the test five times, but did not pass. As a last resort, Franklin hoped to score a 14 on both the math and reading portions of the ACT, which was an alternative score to the FCAT. In the interim, the state raised the score to 15, and sadly Franklin only scored a 14.

Why didn't Franklin pass the FCAT? It is a flawed instrument that does not measure intelligence. It contains hundreds of ambiguous questions that frustrate children and provide more than one answer that could be correct on every question. It costs the state $120 million annually to administer. Why do we use it? Neil Bush, brother of our governor and president, owns the software to the FCAT and earns millions annually from Florida's state budget.

On graduation day, both young men donned their caps and gowns and walked across the stage. José proudly displayed his high-school diploma. Sadly, Franklin had only a certificate of attendance to show for his 13-year academic career. His dreams of attending college were shattered. He was confused, his spirit was broken and his psyche was damaged.

Franklin and his parents confided in me. Franklin was highly motivated, bright and caring and had what it takes to become a successful contributor to society. My first task was to engage a psychiatrist to work with Franklin. I enrolled him at a private school. The school analyzed his transcript, qualifications and gave him a series of tests. He passed his exams and received a Florida high-school diploma. Franklin's psyche was intact, and his confidence renewed. Franklin is attending Miami Dade College and doing well.

This scenario is repeated every day in Florida. Students like Franklin experience the effects of an educational policy that, at best, is aimed at confounding the confidence of our youth. At their worst, FCAT policies underscore the rising tide of inequity that currently has a stranglehold on the futures of our children. If we look honestly at this comparison, the superficial flaws become apparent. Current policy saddles public-school students with rigid, strenuous requirements not levied upon students attending private schools.

We lose hundreds of thousands of students to private schools each year. When public schools lose children, they lose money. We cannot afford to idly watch the dismantling of public schools as a consequence of high-stakes testing such as the FCAT. The oppressiveness of such a policy will ultimately be noticed in the swelling ranks of poverty, unemployment, crime and imprisonment. If we are to renew the hopes of our children for the future, we must not fail them today.

FREDERICA S. WILSON, Democratic Whip and state Sen., Dist. 33, Miami

Two reasons to do the happy dance:

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Ruling in Cuyahoga could gut Ohio ban on same-sex nuptial

(Bwaahhaahhaa - What Would Quicksand Jeezus Do???)


Report: Banner Year For Gay Rights

Yippee Skippee.....dum de dum de dum de dum.

Fighting Dems

by Shakespeare's Sister

Raw Story’s Larisa Alexander and John Byrne are reporting that tomorrow the Democrats will release a massive report critiquing the administration’s Iraq war policies.

House Judiciary Committee Democrats, spearheaded by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), are set to release possibly the sharpest congressional critique to date surrounding Iraq, RAW STORY has learned.

The report, titled "The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War," is slotted to be made available to the public Tuesday...

According to Democratic aides, the report will focus on alleged manipulation of pre-war intelligence by the White House, specifically covering such topics as the Downing Street Minutes as well as the White House position on the Geneva Conventions and international law as regards its policies toward prisoners of war. Sources say the report is slated to be published as a book.
I’m…speechless. And I’m looking forward to reading this document.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Pants on fire' press conference

by Pam

(AFP/Leslie Kossoff)

Liars, liars. Bush and his crew have no shame. But he has no choice -- he has to try to defend his Domestic Spying for Security InitiativeTM.

In what can only be described as a hastily held press conference (don't give the lazy-ass press a chance to prepare), he papered it all over with a thick coat of "9/11...terror...9/11, danger...danger...warning...warning...give me my Patriot Act and unlimited powers. Damn you for exposing my domestic surveillance program, you unpatriotic bastards." (AP):
Bush said the warrantless spying, conducted by the National Security Agency, was an essential element in the war on terror. "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is discussing the enemy," he said.

...Normally, no wiretapping is permitted in the United States without a court warrant. But Bush said he approved the action without such orders "because it enables us to move faster and quicker. We've got to be fast on our feet.
Ummm. What do you say behind this?
President Bush, brushing aside bipartisan criticism in Congress, said Monday he approved spying on suspected terrorists without court orders because it was "a necessary part of my job to protect" Americans from attack.

The president said he would continue the program "for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens," and added it included safeguards to protect civil liberties. [And what are left, at this point?]

Meanwhile, Alberto "Torture" Gonzales was weaseling and dissembling on the Today show, claiming Congress granted Bush the power to take on his Domestic Spying for Security InitiativeTM when the Authorization for War passed on September 14, 2001. Georgia10, over in a stellar DKos diary, calls "bullsh*t" on the administration's attempt to blame Congress for this.
Having scoured the authorization (read it here) I can't find anything that would grant the President the power to skirt the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  Was Gonzales referring to the fact Congress gave the President the authority to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to combat terrorism?  But the word "force" there is invoked  with respect to the use of military force.  And even if in GonzalesWorldTM "force" includes spying just like "torture" excludes almost everything short of death, Congress added the phrase "necessary and appropriate" precisely because it intended to restrict the President to the confines of the law.

So the "resolved" clause is out. What other aspect of the authorization gives the President the right to ignore the 4th Amendment and the centuries of case law supporting it? Was Gonzales referring to this?:
Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it resolved...
If he was referring to this clause, he should have his law license revoked. Because it is a basic tenet of statutory construction that "whereas" clauses have no binding legal effect.   Professor Glennon testified to the Senate that these specific "whereas" clauses have no legal effect back in 2002:nate that these specific "whereas" clauses have no legal effect back in 2002:
How much authority does this statute confer upon the President to use force in prosecuting the war against terrorism? Note at the outset that the statute contains five whereas clauses. Under traditional principles of statutory construction, these provisions have no binding legal effect. Only material that comes after the so-called "resolving clause"--"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled"--can have any operative effect. Material set out in a whereas clause is purely precatory. It may be relevant for the purpose of clarifying ambiguities in a statute's legally operative terms, but in and of itself such a provision can confer no legal right or obligation.
Let's step back into GonzalesWorldTM for a second and assume that his argument is operative; he says this clause recognized that the President has unfettered power under the Constitution to skirt the law and order warrantless spying.  But the Constitution mandates that the President preserve and defend the Constitution--which includes the Fourth Amendment and its protection against warrantless searches and seizures.

Naturally, being the stellar "inteviewer" that she is, Katie Couric failed to ask Gonzales any follow-up questions.  But at least Gonzales named a statute--as opposed to Condoleeza Rice who fumbled and squirmed when Russert asked her the same this weekend.
For additional MSM massaging of the message, the Dark Lord of Torture will appear on Nightline tonight.

Also surf over to Americablog, where John is speculating that the target of the surveillance could in fact, be journalists (though proving this one is going to be one tough nut to crack):
I don't have proof yet, but Bush spying on US journalists would explain everything UNEXPLAINED about this entire story. Bush refusing to follow the law, Bush refusing to go to court, Bush refusing to tell more members of Congress, Bush's concern that the terrorists, if they knew we were doing this, would be tipped off, and Bush's desire to keep this from the public. It all makes sense that the target of the domestic spying could be US journalists.

Crossposted on Pam's House Blend

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Special Report:
Feds Question Student for Requesting Book of Mao Tse-Tung Quotations

by Dark Wraith

The Standard-Times of New Bedford, Massachusetts, reports that a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student was interviewed by agents for the Department of Homeland Security based upon his interlibrary loan request for Mao Tse-Tung's The Little Red Book. The student was preparing a paper on totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, and he had planned to use the book in his research. Fearing further problems with federal law enforcement authorities, the student asked The Standard-Times to withhold his name from the news article, and his professors have similarly shielded his name, although they, themselves, have allowed their names to be put into print regarding the story.

The student said the agents told him that the book he requested was on a "watch list," and his "significant time" overseas, coupled with his request for the book, triggered the escalated level of scrutiny given to him. Provisions of the Patriot Act allow federal law enforcement authorities to compel surrender of library records based upon so-called National Security Letters, which function as extra-judicial subpoenas for documents and electronic records from libraries and other original sources of information regarding the reading, Internet surfing, and other information-gathering activities of individuals conducted at libraries. It is not clear the extent to which review of interlibrary loan requests would require such Letters.

Given that the targeted student's submission was made at a public university, the loan request likely went through one of the many such public networks that exist within the United States. Academic and other libraries participate in such interlibrary systems in order to provide patrons with broader access to literature than might be available within a given library. Many libraries, including those at the University of Massachusetts, subscribe to multiple services. The interloan library networks, generally governed by the Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States, have been a particular boon to smaller libraries without the resources to have vast collections on site and available for end users. Additionally, academic libraries—especially those at small, satellite campuses and at community colleges—can offer far greater opportunities for study, research, and general enjoyment to their students and faculty. The public nature of many of these interlibrary loan networks creates the possibility, however, that requests submitted through them are a matter of public record and are therefore open to scrutiny by law enforcement authorities without the need for either judicial or extra-judicial sanction.

Particularly troublesome, however, is the apparent ability of federal agents to survey these records and pick out information from what constitute many thousands of loan requests submitted on a daily basis.

Two broad possibilities can be conjectured. First, the Department of Homeland Security and perhaps other federal agencies simply have access to these networks, and document loan requests are being subjected to "keyword" searches that trigger "flags" based upon a "watch list" maintained by the federal law enforcement community. Second and more ominous is the possibility that requests are being fed into a database, which then applies more sophisticated analysis that includes the construction of a "threat matrix" based upon, among other criteria, the titles of literature requested, the individuals making the requests, the libraries from which requests are being made, and the types and patterns of literature that have been requested over a period of time by a given person. The fact that the student was interviewed based upon more than just the title of the book he wanted might indicate that some version of the second analysis is in use.

Neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation was contacted for information or comment regarding this article. (Yeah, right. Like I'm really going to call the FBI and say, "Hello, Mr. G-Man, sir, I'd like to ask you some pointed and probative questions about just what you guys think you're doing snooping into people's interlibrary loan requests." Sure, I'll do that; and I'll let you know what I find out just as soon as I get back from the rendition trip to Romania. The Dark Wraith might be odd enough to occasionally refer to himself in the third person, but he's not stupid enough to volunteer for a session with some very bad man named Omar who lacks many teeth and wears thick rubber gloves.)

As a matter of prudence, those seeking literature through interlibrary loan networks should be aware of the risks involved. Although it is unlikely that law enforcement authorities would provide a comprehensive list of literature that could trigger an escalation of analysis by authorities, it is clear from the incident involving the University of Massachusetts student that literature about Communism or writings by Communists are within the scope of the triggers. Further reports by individuals of interviews following interlibrary loan requests might reveal other types of literature that could be on a law enforcement watch list. More broadly, it is unclear whether or not the watch list is applied only to interlibrary loan requests or if the actual purchase of books through private vendors, particularly those selling online, is subject to scrutiny, as well. The latter means of accessing literature would, of course, not be a matter of public record in the same way as would be requests posted on an interlibrary loan network; but the curious reader might want to click on the graphic at the top of this article to go to the Barne's & Noble Webpage offering a nice book of quotations by Mao Tse-Tung, arguably the most successful despot of the 20th Century. (That book of quotations, above, essentially is The Little Red Book in translation, by the way.) Should the viewing of that page or the purchase of the book through that site trigger a non-custodial interview by law enforcement authorities, it would be appreciated if the incident were reported to the author of this article. Should the review or purchase lead to a custodial interview or more serious trouble, the author will understand the lack of feedback on the matter.

The Dark Wraith awaits any information that affected readers can provide.

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

Bob Barr: Bush committed impeachable acts

by Pam

Here again, this is absolutely a bizarre conversation where you have a member of Congress saying that it’s okay for the president of the United States to ignore U.S. law, to ignore the Constitution, simply because we are in an undeclared war.”
-- former Rep. Bob Barr, on CNN, about Bush's Constitutional "end run for democracy" -- which was being defended by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) is no softie; he's a fire-breathing conservative. He was one of the GOP attack dogs nipping at Bill Clinton's heels during the Monica mess.

You know things are bad if Barr is on CNN raking Bush over the coals over his Domestic Spying for Security InitiativeTM -- it is a beautiful thing. His response to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who was trying mightily to defend the Dear Leader's actions. (CNN via Pensito Review):
[ROHRABACHER:] I’m very happy that we have a president that, six months after they slaughtered 3,000 of our citizens, he decided to follow up on a lead that was given to our people by breaking up an al Qaeda cell in Pakistan, and followed through on that to make sure that there wasn’t another imminent attack, and thus probably saving many thousands of American lives. We can be proud of President Bush for protecting us…

BARR: Well, the fact of the matter is that the Constitution is the Constitution, and I took an oath to abide by it. My good friend, my former colleague, Dana Rohrabacher, did and the president did. And I don’t really care very much whether or not it can be justified based on some hypothetical. The fact of the matter is that, if you have any government official who deliberately orders that federal law be violated despite the best of motives, that certainly ought to be of concern to us…

BARR: Well, gee, I guess then the president should be able to ignore whatever provision in the Constitution as long as there’s something after the fact that justifies it.

[ROHRABACHER:] Bob, during wartime, you give some powers to the presidency you wouldn’t give in peace time.

BARR: Do we have a declaration of war, Dana?
Ouch. It goes on.


A Freeper is excited at the thought of an attempt at a Bush impeachment, and posted a vanity piece up in FR. Laugh away at his "essay" and the ensuing comments.

Freeper "Sam Katz," unedited:
"There is nothing I'd like to see more than a Democrat attempt to impeach GWB for doing his duty to proetct America. The backlash would be incredible. 58-60 Republican Senators in 2006. The true colors of the America haters and Al Quaida sympathizers would be out for all to see. Let the debate go on...

BTW, what about this descpicable headline on and elsewhere, written by AP " BUSH ADMITS.....,2933,179026,00.html"

To admit is to claim responsibilty for something you've done wrong. (from HM Web Def) 5. To recognize, often reluctantly, the reality or truth of: acknowledge, avow, concede, confess, grant, own (up). Slang fess up. Chiefly Regional allow. See affirm/deny/argue, knowledge/ignorance.

Bush is admitting nothing. He is declaring. He is acknowledging.

And while I'm at, please, Mr Bush, appoint a prosecuter to find out which member(s) of Congress, Democrat OR Republican leaked state secrets. They should be doing a "Perp Walk", rather than Scooter Libby, who's only crime was cooperating rather than stonewalling....
On to the commentary from his brethren...

Actual Freeper Quotes™

"Amen Brother. Thank God we have this man as President. Had Gore stolen the election in 2000, we would have had 10 more 911s and we would be sending billions to the Taliban not to hit us again. God Bless George Bush."

"Uh, Sam Katz. Doesn't impeachment initiate in the House of Representatives? How's this going to get through. "

"yes zot, I know impeachment begins in the House...I'm saying that the debate that would ensue would help elect more Reps to the Senate...."

"Impeach the Senate. That way, actual Americans can protect this country."

"We are at war with more than just the Islamic terrorists. The fifth column of communists in this country is like a pack of sharks. AOL commie news todays leads with "Berlin Wall on the border?" The Bolshevik media may get bit on this one as most people anymore don't knowing what the Berlin Wall was because the media downplayed communist atrocities all those years."

"We need to treat the Democrats and the media as we would relatives that will steal from us. Civility but that's it. Same for the Rino's. If we let McCain and company continue to lead our party we soon will see Democrats at all levels of government. People will elect bright red over pink every time."

"Well, there are some jackasses on FR who are planning to campaign for Democrats in 2006 in order to help them win the House so they can impeach President Bush. Heck, two of these same idiots have repeatably made suggestions about President Bush that are worthy of a USSC visit."

"Reprehensible, isn't it? The MSM has been pining for a "next Watergate" for 33 years now and they've finally realized that the only way they have a chance of seeing one is to manufacture it themselves. Fortunately, they have no chance in this case."

"I am currently pretty angry at President Bush for once again folding to McCain, though less angry today than yesterday because he came out with guns blazing at the New York Times and the left this morning. But any move to imoeach him by the left will be over my aging dead body."

"How do we impeach the entire Congress? There must be a way."

"I've overheard impeachment talk in our local coffee shop and I can usually shut it up by agreeing with them. I say,"Yep, lets get rid of W and get Chaney in. That will cinch his Presidency in 2008."

"I agree, let the Democrats try to impeach him, they don't have the votes to actually do so, nor do they have the balls to expose how they failed in their duty to the nation. They will drop like flies when it is exposed how little they cared to know prior to the invasion of Iraq and Bush will be vindicated and vleared of any charges the democrats will try to bring."

"With all the crap coming from the Dems, media and RINO's right now, what would make you think this would be a good time for this vanity?"

"It's far from just Communists. It's the crowd that wants to replace America First with Hate America First.

It's the college professors and professional welfare recipients who want to replace The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave with Free Handouts of everything and Welfare King Home Boys running everything.

It's lawyers, all the way from White House residents to the resident rot in every courthouse and law school that beleives that if they can get away with something, it was right in the first place.

It's the professional Race Baiting Poverty Pimps who have dome more to oppress Black Americans than a million night-riding Klansman ever could. The Klansmen stole their property and in some cases their lives, but the so-called leaders of today's Black America have stolen the hope of the past two and the next ten generations.

Who are the greatest racists? The so-called Black leaders to tell Black Americans that they are so inferior that they can't succeed in America without special help.

Finally the hate-America so-called journalists who will tell any lie, support any falsehood and change any statistic, as long at it boosts their ratings and derides Republicans.

We are all going to hell in a hand-basket... fast."

"See, that's the thing! Many do not realize that an impeachment of President Bush would put the VP into office, thus, more of the same. Surprised at how dumb some people are? Don't be, after all, there are supposedly some 11 million adults in America who can't even read!"

"I believe that Mr. Kerry ought to be suspended from the Senate"

"He should be taken out and beaten. This horse-faced traitor should get his arse kicked bigtime. I can't believe my taxes continue to pay this parasite's salary. Phoney Ph*ck in spades."

"With 60 GOP senators, we might actually have 50 who have cajones. I'm serious, just given the numbers, we have to have a 20% "padding" to offset RINO/moron/McLamiacs."
Crossposted on Pam's House Blend

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Criminal Complicity

by Shakespeare's Sister

One aspect of secret—and illegal—domestic spying program which I haven’t yet mentioned is that the NY Times, who broke the story, had known about the program for over a year, but held off its publication of the administration’s criminality at the request of the White House.

In an unusual note, the Times said in its story that it held off publishing the 3,600-word article for a year after the newspaper's representatives met with White House officials. It said the White House had asked the paper not to publish the story at all, "arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny."


In a statement yesterday, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller … wrote that when the Times became aware that the NSA was conducting domestic wiretaps without warrants, "the Administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country's security."
I admit, I’m no criminal mastermind, but I fail to see how the public being made aware that the government is evading official oversight of its spying would alert terrorists that they may be spied on. Don’t most people up to no good try to hide their schemes, specifically because they assume (and rightfully so) that the government has a pretty easy time securing warrants for eavesdropping under FISA? The government’s assertions are absurd, and hardly justification for the Times’ decision to withhold this damning information from the public. The Times is blowing as much smoke up our asses as the dirtbag Bushies who ran the scam in the first place.

Seriously, between the Judith Miller debacle and this bit of heinous criminal complicity, stick a fork in the Gray Lady. She’s one done turkey.

And hopefully, so is the Bush administration, at long last. This is, as said Hilzoy, “something that no American should tolerate. We claim to have a government of laws, not of men. That claim means nothing if we are not prepared to act when a President (or anyone else) places himself above the law. If the New York Times report is true, then Bush should be impeached.” Amen to that. Tom Watson deems it the Bush embolism, and I wish with all due gravity that he is right when he suggests it will

drain the Administration of its last twitches of legitimacy… Bush is now grievously wounded, and Congress - Republican or not - will not rescue him this time. The bleeding will grow, the stain will spread, and no one in the Administration (including the soon-to-be-indicted Karl Rove) will be able to close the artery. And that is terrible, because what is hemorraghing away in the dark night of this criminal administration is precious American freedom.
Yeah, I think Bush is an odious turd with some of the most appalling policy prescriptions ever to come down the pike, but this is beyond partisan bickering. An administration that places itself above the law, and convinces the media into keeping their sinister machinations locked in the safety of murkiness, is precisely why we have the system of checks and balances we do. Subverting them is to subvert the very foundations of America, and that, quite frankly, scares me more than any terrorist threat used to justify such repugnant actions.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare’s Sister.)

More on the NSA Spy Program

by Shakespeare's Sister

The domestic spy program authorized by Bush, and discussed in several posts below, is extremely troubling. Bush used his weekly radio address this morning to defend the program, and do his usual finger-pointing blame game, charging the media who exposed it to the sunlight with putting American citizens at risk and endangering the country.

There's clearly a lot of outrage about this issue, and none too few questions. A couple of good things I recommend reading:

Think Progress has a good analysis of the administration’s spinspeak on confirming the program’s existence.

For 24 hours, Bush and other top administration officials refused to confirm the existence of their secret domestic spying program, arguing that doing so would endanger the American people…

This morning, President Bush not only confirmed the existence of the program but provided details about how it worked.

This demonstrates that the administration’s initial refusal to comment was not motivated by security concerns. If that was the case Bush still wouldn’t have been able to comment this morning. Rather, the refusal to comment was a public relations strategy. When they decided it wasn’t working, they scrapped it and tried something else.
Ezra on what, exactly, was illegal about it:

On the wiretapping, I want to be crystal clear on one issue: the issue here isn't the espionage, it's the secrecy…

The law strikes a balance between broad executive powers and substantive oversight -- the president has full authority to assault the evildoers, but cannot deploy the law on behalf of his own political interests. It's a check on totalitarianism. What Bush has done is unilaterally decide the oversight unnecessary. Given the shape and safeguards of FISA, there was no operational need to evade it. It was an exclusively ideological decision in service of unlimited executive powers, and it's chilling.
Hilzoy, posting at Political Animal, also sees a president putting himself above the law:

This is exactly what got Nixon in trouble: he ordered his subordinates to obstruct justice. To the extent that the two cases differ, the differences make what Bush did worse: after all, it's not as though warrants are hard to get, or the law makes no provision for emergencies. Bush could have followed the law had he wanted to. He chose to set it aside.

And this is something that no American should tolerate. We claim to have a government of laws, not of men. That claim means nothing if we are not prepared to act when a President (or anyone else) places himself above the law. If the New York Times report is true, then Bush should be impeached…

They had no need to go around the law. They could easily have obeyed it. They just didn't want to.
More to come, I'm sure...

And Another Thing...

by TheGreenKnight

Pursuant to the post below, in which the American right goes bananas over Canada (again):

A few years ago, if you'd heard somebody say, "And they're going to cancel Christmas!" you'd know they were making a joke. The canceling Christmas gag was just a silly way of calling somebody a sourpuss. The whole idea is so self-evidently ridiculous that everybody knew it was just hyperbole.

Similarly, the whole idea that Canada could be an enemy to America, let alone a threat, was so obviously ridiculous that Michael Moore made a (rather mediocre) satirical movie about it, Canadian Bacon. It was obviously the sort of scenario that simply could not ever happen, and was therefore a useful gag to illustrate a different point.

The American right these days, though, is asserting that these scenarios -- canceling Christmas, and Canada as enemy -- are true. And apparently some people are buying it. Why? And what for?

I'd guess that there is one basic reason: the right just wants people to be afraid. If you can convince them that all of these self-evidently impossible scenarios are actually true, then you are giving them a portrait of a world that no longer makes any sense. Everything is turned upside-down; everything's out of control. Nothing is more terrifying than that.

Furthermore, in order to really make them afraid, you have to take away their ability to laugh. A sense of humor is a sense of perspective, after all; so if you can take away the sense of humor, then you can take away people's ability to comfort themselves by realizing the difference between what can happen and what cannot. So, you've got to destroy the jokes, replacing them with the sort of dank, bitter fury that alleged "humorists" on the right peddle.

The right's purchase on the American psyche will wither as people learn to laugh again. And here's my final thought on the matter: a sense of humor is not only a sense of perspective, but an affirmation of life and hope. The morbid love of despair sold by the American right is as far from a real "culture of life" as you can get.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.

Dear FOX News,

by TheGreenKnight

Screw you.

Love, Canada.


Really, that's all that needs to be said, except for the following: in the Moonie Times, one Douglas MacKinnon wrote a whiny little op-ed complaining, as the American right is wont to, about a good neighbor who's never done them any harm:
For a growing number of people in our country, "O, Canada" is now less about a national anthem and more about frustration, confusion, disappointment and anger. As in, "Oh, Canada! Why are you once again stabbing the United States in the back?"
Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! But more serious is this:
[T]he Canadian government not only willingly allows Islamic terrorists into their country, but does nothing to stop them from entering our nation.

Two cases in point out of many. The first being in December 1999, when al Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam entered the United States from Canada. By luck, he was arrested with a trunk full of explosives. His mission: to blow up Los Angeles International Airport.

Next were two Pakistani men on the "no fly" list, with possible terrorist connections, who were arrested in Seattle. They were caught buying one-way tickets to New York City with cash. How did these potential terrorists get into our country? From Canada. One of the men even had a driver's license from British Columbia.
I don't know how many ways to say this. First, Canada cannot prevent anybody from entering the United States. Canada, like Mexico, like any other nation, has no legal authority to patrol the US side of the border. Only the American government has the legal authority to patrol its own border. Just imagine what would happen if Canadian officials usurped the American government's right to decide who can and cannot enter the United States.

Second, the guy in 1999 driving to LAX? He got caught. He did not successfully enter the USA. The system worked.

Third, the two guys on the no-fly list? They got caught too. And, at least from what this op-ed says, they have not been charged with any crime; they may well be among the thousands of innocent people who've been caught up in the DHS's dragnet for no particular reason. They bought tickets with cash! Horrors! Again, the fact that they entered the USA is the American border guards' fault. And how does this writer know that the reason they were apprehended was not because of intel that Canada may have shared with the US?

No, the fact is that there is no record, nada, zip, of terrorists ever successfully entering the USA from Canada. But so what? The American right is never happier when it's whining, sobbing, and wailing with a false sense of persecution. Not to mention soiling its drawers with fear.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.

Gannon on Ron Reagan, Jr.: 'twinkle toes' and 'nancy boy'

by Pam

OMFG, what a laff riot! Hat tip to PageOneQ for alerting me to an unbelievable "breaking news" item from Jeff Gannon, "A Voice of the New Media."
Former White House journalist Jeff Gannon posted a blog entry on the cancellation of Ron Reagan Jr.'s television show on MSNBC. In the post, Gannon refers to the TV host and son of the nation's 40th President as "twinkle toes" and as a "nancy boy." Gannon also calls Reagan, Jr. a "disgrace" to his namesake father.
Here is the serious takes-one-to-know-one post, completely free of irony from the rentboy-cum-White House reporter:

Jeff in the good old butch Bulldog days. And today.

Nancy's nancy boy nixed
Ron Reagan, Jr., the embarassment that bears the name of one of the greatest American presidents is out of a job after his daytime talk show was mercifully cancelled last week. MSNBC put Reagan in the host's chair as the result of his election year masquerade as a "journalist" (btw, Twinkle-toes, what's YOUR journalism background?) proved to be a "stick in the eye" to those who revere his father.
PageOneQ also notes that Gannon was exposed as a plagiarist by the news site Raw Story.

I guess Jeff just wants you to understand that he's no Nancy Boy, just a butch ex-Marine for hire ("Ex-USMC Jock: Available for hourly, overnight, weekend or longer travel - OUT ONLY!"). Oh right, that ex-Marine thing was a lie too.

Crossposted on Pam's House Blend

Friday, December 16, 2005

Your GOP Congress at work: defending candy canes

by Pam

This one comes from my friend Chris Kromm at Facing South. He couldn't believe it, and neither can I. Think of all the critical issues of the day, Iraq, Gulf Coast reconstruction, the environment...and the GOP is focusing on this:
H. RES. 579 Expressing the sense of the House that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected.

She represents Virginia's first district

Mrs. JO ANN DAVIS of Virginia submitted the following

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;
(2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and
(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions.

Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Speaker, My difficulty with this resolution is that
it excludes some symbols and includes only certain symbols. So I would ask the gentlewoman, in the spirit of diversity, and of the many faiths that we celebrate in this body and throughout America, I would ask her not to withdraw the resolution, but allow this resolution to attract a very significant number of votes, maybe a unanimous vote, simply by adding the words "Kwanzaa,'' "Ramadan,'' and "Chanukah'' to her resolution. . . include holidays of all faiths so that this resolution can reflect the best of America, which is a place of justice for all.

Mrs. JO ANN DAVIS of Virginia. Madam Speaker, The reason for this resolution is that the attack has not been on the menorah or any of the other symbols of the other religions. But the attack has been and is being made on red and green colors, on candy canes, on Santa Claus, which are not even religious symbols. That is the point of the resolution.
Crossposted on Pam's House Blend

CNN puts a stake in Novakula's heart

by Pam

from Russ.

CNN boots the bloodsucking, CIA agent cover-blowing bastard. (Poynter Online):
"After 25 years of serving as a CNN commentator and program host, our colleague Bob Novak's tenure on the network will come to a close (effective 12/31)."
Novak told The Hollywood Reporter that "it was a mutual agreement," and that neither the Valerie Plame case nor the incident on the set had much to do with his departure. Right.

Last week Media Matters delivered a ton of letters to CNN's office, asking them not to renew Novak's contract. Guess someone over there got the message that the Prince of Darkness wasn't worth the effort.
Media Matters for America delivered nearly 5,000 letters to CNN's Washington Bureau today urging the network not to renew its contract with syndicated columnist and CNN contributor Robert D. Novak. Novak's contract with CNN is reportedly set to expire in early 2006, but the controversial conservative pundit has not appeared on the channel since August 2005, when he was suspended after uttering an obscenity and storming off the set. In the two years since he exposed Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, as a CIA operative, Novak has made several contradictory statements regarding crucial issues in the case; the ongoing leak investigation has so far led to the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
UPDATE: It looks like the undead will have his casket rolled into the Faux News building to join the rest of the journalistic rotting bodies (TVNewser):
As soon as Bob Novak's contract with CNN runs out on Dec. 1, he will become a contributor to the Fox News Channel, the AP scoops. FNC spokesman Brian Lewis confirmed his signing with the network to David Bauder. "Novak said the switch to Fox had nothing to do with finding a more comfortable home for his views."

"I don't think that's a factor," Novak said. "In 25 years I was never censored by CNN and I said some fairly outrageous things and some very conservative things. I don't want to give the impression that they were muzzling me and I had to go to a place that wouldn't muzzle me."
Crossposted on Pam's House Blend

More Ongoing BS

by The Heretik


MORE ONGOING BS Bush needs to find a new word, because if he keeps using the word ongoing, he will face more ongoing investigations of himself. The New York Times story on domestic NSA spying has come in out of the cold and it’s getting hot for Bush. Democrats and Republicans both seem more troubled than Bush himself about NSA spying on the domestic front. Bush said in an interview that “we do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country. And the reason why is that there’s an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we’re trying to do to stop them.
“I will make this point,” he continued. “That whatever I do to protect the American people — and I have an obligation to do so — that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people.”
WHAT BUSH CONSIDERS upholding the law will now be subjected to more ongoing scrutiny. More on this here.

The Heretik

Typepad Refugees Unite!

by The Heretik


Words have no meaning. I am a Typepad Refugee.

The Heretik

Blank Checks, No Balance

by The Heretik


BLANK CHECKS and no balance against unlimited executive power is what the White House thinks it got from Congress right after September Eleventh. Bush and Ashcroft got the Patriot Act waved through with no debate and the Democratic leaders don’t stop it in its tracks, that odious act will become permanent. But perhaps even worse, Bush signed an order allowing National Security Agency spying on American citizens without warrants.

At an April hearing on the Patriot Act renewal, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland, asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I., "Can the National Security Agency, the great electronic snooper, spy on the American people?"
"Generally," Mr. Mueller said, "I would say generally, they are not allowed to spy or to gather information on American citizens." President Bush did not ask Congress to include provisions for the N.S.A. domestic surveillance program as part of the Patriot Act and has not sought any other laws to authorize the operation. Bush administration lawyers argued that such new laws were unnecessary, because they believed that the Congressional resolution on the campaign against terrorism provided ample authorization, officials said.
Seeking Congressional approval was also viewed as politically risky because the proposal would be certain to face intense opposition on civil liberties grounds. The administration also feared that by publicly disclosing the existence of the operation, its usefulness in tracking terrorists would end, officials said.

WHY DIDN’T THE WHITE HOUSE TELL anyone? Why didn’t Bush ask for such power to be included in the Patriot Act? Because they didn’t think they had to. And why risk political opposition to something some might consider unconstitutional. . . . when all you would get is political opposition. This circle of logic will never be unbroken and we will always get the runaround.

THE WHITE HOUSE WON’T TAKE the time to get warrants, not even FISA warrants. You don’t need the Fourth Amendment’s “probable cause” a crime has been committed for a FISA warrant. All you need to show a FISA judge in a secret FISA court is a probable cause the person under surveillance may be an “agent of a foreign power.” May be.

the government needs as many tools as possible to stop threats before they happen, but in our haste to give the government whatever it wants something is lost. Lost is not just liberty of the innocent, but also the focus of those who should be watching out for us. In the blurring of procedures we know longer see who the true enemy is.

IT IS WORTH NOTING by its own admission, the New York Times sat on this story for a year. How different would the discussion of the Patriot Act be if this news had come out a year ago? And how would the President appear before the election?


FISA WARRANTS AREN’T HARD TO GET The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Annual Report (pdf) reveals that there were 1758 applications for secret surveillance in 2004, an all-time high. None of the applications for secret suveillance warrants were denied. In 2004, as in 2003, more secret surveillance warrants were granted than federal wiretap warrants, which have more stringent standards. A report on federal wiretapm warrants in 2004 reveals that state and federal courts authorized 1,710 interceptions in 2004, an increase of 19 percent over 2003 and more than in any previous year. Federal officials made an all-time high 730 intercept applications in 2004, a 26 percent increase over 2003. For more information, see EPIC's Wiretap and EPIC's FISA statistics pages.

NOTED HERE if you missed it. NO FISA WARRANTS WERE DENIED. But that is still too much of a bother for the government. Something above a one hundred percent success rate is not enough. And perhaps that is the problem. Nothing is enough.

THE NSA MISSION STATEMENT "The ability to understand the secret communications of our foreign adversaries while protecting our own communications -- a capability in which the United States leads the world -- gives our nation a unique advantage."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Folks, I would love to be proven wrong, but...

by Ms. Julien in Miami it now stands, Hillary could - in public - shoot a doctor who performs legal abortions, and - in public - chop off the penis of a gay man and...



No More Torture

by Shakespeare's Sister

Oh happy day! Our president has reversed course (please, liberal traitors—do not confuse that with “changing his mind”) and accepted McCain’s ban on torture.

Bush said the agreement will "make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad."

"It's a done deal," said McCain, talking to reporters in a driving rain outside the White House after he met with the president.
Ah, the poignant imagery of the driving rain as we call an end to torture. Or something.

Under the deal, CIA interrogators would be given the same legal rights as currently guaranteed to members of the military who are accused of breaking interrogation guidelines. Those rights say accused people can defend themselves by claiming they were obeying an order and did not know the actions were unlawful. The government also would provide counsel for accused interrogators…

McCain's amendment would prohibit "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held. It also would require that service members follow procedures in the Army Field Manual during interrogations of prisoners in Defense Department facilities.
Of course, “We do not torture,” so I’m not even sure why this amendment was necessary. Ahem.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


by Shakespeare's Sister

I guess it’s penis day at Shakespeare’s Sister, as more penises go MIA. This time, it’s a snowpenis, which was smashed to the ground by a marauding band of man-hating feminists. Oh wait—that’s not right. Actually, it was the police.

"We got some calls that people thought it was offensive," said New Windsor police Chief Michael Biasotti. "We assumed it was some kids who did it."

Officers found no one home. Assuming the snow sculpture was more prank than nod to Christmas' pagan roots, the police knocked it down. Beat it down with shovels, actually.

Larger image here.

No citations or criminal violations will be issued for the display, Biasotti said. The town codes prohibit lewd signs on businesses, but don't mention anything about public snow sculptures.

"We probably weren't 100 percent correct in going on the property and knocking it down," New Windsor Town Supervisor George Meyers said. "But our intentions were pure. Some people were offended. There are school buses going by there all day."
Seriously, I can’t remember a time in my childhood I would have been traumatized by a snowpenis. Collapsing into a fit of giggles, maybe.

Police and town officials aren't sure what their move will be.

"I'd want the police to talk to the property owner if we got complaints, ask them to take it down" Meyers said. "But after that, I don't think there's too much we can do."

Biasotti worries the display might give others ideas. "Now we're going to get snow penises popping up all over town," he said.
Attack of the Snow Penises! Build them and they will come.

Many scholars, of course, trace the origin of the modern-day yule log to ancient pagan totems to virility and sun-god worship. Is that what [Jessica Sherer] was going for?

"We just did it because we were really bored, and we thought it'd be funny," she said. "It was huge."

Via professional snowpenis model and dirty pervert Mannion.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Koufax Awards

by Shakespeare's Sister

Nominations for the Koufax Awards, which honor the best blogs and bloggers of the left, are now open. Awards will be granted in 15 categories: Best Blog, Best Blog—Pro Division, Best Blog Community, Best Writing, Best Post, Best Series, Best Single Issue Blog, Best Group Blog, Most Humorous Blog, Most Humorous Post, Most Deserving of Wider Recognition, Best Expert Blog, Best New Blog, Best Coverage of State or Local Issues, and Best Commenter.

At the above link, you’ll find the parameters for nominations in each category.

Be sure to stop by and nominate your favorites!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Daniel in the Writers Den

by The Heretik


DANIEL UPSET THE RULERS of the kingdom and now Froomkin finds himself among the lions. Or the hyenas. Or the high and mighty political writers at the Washington Post. The writers may be high and might be mighty sorry when the reckoning is done and the wreckage reveals who has won. And who has lost.

THE HIGH AND MIGHTY political writers might be seen more as writers if they didn’t suck up so much to the political high and mighty they write about. Write on, Daniel. Right on.

The Heretik

In Dreams

by The Heretik


himself a saint in his dreams. Redemption may be the most powerful narrative we know. Who has not fucked up sinned in an earlier life and wanted to change the world his life? When darkness falls, a dream may light the night for each of us. What we take from night’s sweet rest may be a taste of heaven or hell.

And I hope when it's all said and done, people will say that George Bush knew how to make a decision and to stick by it. You know, not let the polls or the focus groups determine the course of history, but he made decisions based upon principles and things I firmly believed in. I'll tell you one thing I firmly believe in: I think I believe liberty is universal. freedom is the deep desire of every human being and that a country with influence like ours ought to do things to free people. And there's all kinds of ways to do so. I meant what I said in my inaugural address, we ought to end tyranny in this century. And so long as I'm the president I'm going to follow through on what I said I would do.

WE SHOULD ALL BE thankful we only have to live our own dreams or not, not the dreams of others. To live in another’s delusion could be an endless ten or twenty year endless nightmare.

STATE MEDIA Left I hits right on: Repeating an Amy Goodman quote I've mentioned before:
"If we had state media in the United States, how would it be any
different?" In the post below this one, I note Bush's inaccurate answer
to the question of how many Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S.
invasion. Bush's answer, that 30,000 figure, is being reported, and
even headlined, widely -- The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and on
NBC Nightly News that I am currently watching (and no doubt on every other news outlet). Not one of them cast the slightest doubt on that 30,000 figure. Evidently, Bush's credibility has such a strong record that questioning a "fact" asserted by him is beyond the pale. Right.

The Heretik

NBC obtains secret Pentagon database of Americans under surveillance

by Pam

Who on earth is surprised at this, given the paranoid, delusional Bush Administration? This is an outrage.

Lisa Myers, Douglas Pasternak, Rich Gardella and the NBC Investigative Unit have obtained a secret 400-page Defense Department document listing peace activists and monitoring people at Iraq war protests. (Here is the PDF; there is video at MSNBC).
The Department of Defense declined repeated requests by NBC News for an interview. A spokesman said that all domestic intelligence information is “properly collected” and involves “protection of Defense Department installations, interests and personnel.” The military has always had a legitimate “force protection” mission inside the U.S. to protect its personnel and facilities from potential violence. But the Pentagon now collects domestic intelligence that goes beyond legitimate concerns about terrorism or protecting U.S. military installations, say critics.

The DOD database obtained by NBC News includes nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center. One “incident” included in the database is a large anti-war protest at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles last March that included effigies of President Bush and anti-war protest banners. Another incident mentions a planned protest against military recruiters last December in Boston and a planned protest last April at McDonald’s National Salute to America’s Heroes — a military air and sea show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Fort Lauderdale protest was deemed not to be a credible threat and a column in the database concludes: “US group exercising constitutional rights.” Two-hundred and forty-three other incidents in the database were discounted because they had no connection to the Department of Defense — yet they all remained in the database.
And the Pentagon's doing everything the tin foil hat conspiracy folks have been ranting about for years.
Still, the DOD database includes at least 20 references to U.S. citizens or U.S. persons. Other documents obtained by NBC News show that the Defense Department is clearly increasing its domestic monitoring activities. One DOD briefing document stamped “secret” concludes: “[W]e have noted increased communication and encouragement between protest groups using the [I]nternet,” but no “significant connection” between incidents, such as “reoccurring instigators at protests” or “vehicle descriptions.”

“It means that they’re actually collecting information about who’s at those protests, the descriptions of vehicles at those protests,” says Arkin. “On the domestic level, this is unprecedented,” he says. “I think it's the beginning of enormous problems and enormous mischief for the military.”
History is repeating itself. Anti-war and civil rights protestors ended up with government dossiers in the 50s and 60s, and the NBC report notes that a congressional investigation revealed that the military had conducted investigations on at least 100,000 American citizens during that time, with more than 100 military agents testifying that they had been ordered to spy on U.S. citizens.

Now it's happening again -- and do you think this Republican Congress will have any interest in addressing this violation of the American public? We won't see any hearings on this until all of those bums are tossed out. Writing your representatives and senators about this BS is at least a start.

Cross posted at Pam's House Blend

More lesbian-baiting charges against Penn State basketball coach

by Pam

Is Coach Portland worried Sapphic desires might be catching?

I had a post up at my place back in October, Gay-baiting coach needs to zip it, about Penn State's basketball coach Rene Portland's problem with lesbians, both real and imagined. Portland has a history of anti-gay recruiting methods and a well-known, infamous "no lesbians" policy on her team.

She repeatedly questioned Jennifer Harris, a 6 foot guard from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, about her sexual orientation, and threatened multiple times to kick her off the team if she found out Harris was a lesbian. Harris left the team, transferring to James Madison University after Portland finally told her to "find somewhere else to play."

Now, two other women have come forward to accuse Portland of this sleazy behavior -- note that Penn State added sexual orientation to the school’s non-discrimination policy in 1991, yet this behavior by the coach continued to the present day. (
Two more former players on Penn State's women's basketball team have come forward to accuse coach Rene Portland of making disparaging comments about lesbians.

Courtney Wicks, who played on the Lady Lions from 1996 - 1997, and Cindy Davies who played for Penn State in 1980, say that they also heard Portland make accusations about lesbians.

Davies who is a lesbian and Wicks who has a lesbian sister made the allegations on ESPN in a program looking into allegations made by former player Jennifer Harris. Harris, who is not gay, has filed suit with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission naming Portland, the university, and Athletic Director Tim Curley as defendants.

...On ESPN Wicks said that Portland's dislike of lesbians was clear. "She made it seem like if you have lesbians on your team at some point it will get into your locker room," said Wicks, who transferred from Penn State after a year and a half.

Cindy Davies, who acknowledges a lesbian affair with the team manager said she quit the team and the university after Portland confronted her with suspicions about the relationship and told her she would continue to investigat[e] if she proved the affair she would make the information public. Davies said that she became so depressed she considered committing suicide.

Crossposted at Pam's House Blend

'Ex-gay' orgs and AFA run anti-hate crime law ads

by Pam

Folks can agree to disagree on whether there should be hate crime laws, but those with legitimate concerns about equal protection under the law have to take a look at the kinds of groups that are opposing the legislation -- and their motives. For these groups, it's about ensuring gays are marginalized and have second-class citizen status. The demonization continues.

The American Family Association is just one of the groups involved (is this organization like a bad penny or what?). It is footing the bill for an ad against hate crimes legislation that has run in publications like Roll Call. [The above ad has also appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, The Indianapolis Star, and The Nevada Appeal.]

Here are some of the "values-based" organizations signing on to the ad:
Citizens for Community Values
American Family Association
Focus on the Family Action
Coalition of African American Pastors
Exodus International
Liberty Council American Values
Vision America
National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families
The Inspiration Television Networks Coalitions for America
Tradition, Family and Property
National Association of Marriage Enhancement
Point of View
Biblical Heritage Institute
Let Freedom Ring American Family Association of Pennsylvania
American Family Association of Indiana
American Family Association of Michigan
Indiana Family Institute
Florida Family Action
Paid for by American Family Association

You can view the full ad and its text here.

Featured in the above ad is Randy Thomas, a promoter of the work of "ex-gay" ministry Exodus International. He has been lobbying on the Hill working against the hate crimes bill.
My last two trips to DC were lobbying on Capital Hill, meeting with conservative groups and moderate groups about this type of legislation. I will continue to lend my voice and talents, as a minister of the Gospel first and of sexual redemption in that context. I will do so to talk about the issues of true instances of homophobia and also make sure religious liberties are preserved.
Wayne Besen is hopping mad about this development and Thomas's role in it.
Maybe Thomas is upset because he doesn't have a sexual orientation. Since the Exodus International leader became an "ex-gay," he has never had sex with a woman and presumably not a man.

What I find particularly disturbing is the heavy "ex-gay" involvement in federal politics. When these guys are on television they say they are about "helping" gay people and have no political agenda. Yet, they keep ending up in the middle of Inside-the-Beltway political battles. I've said this time and again - "ex-gay" leaders are consistently some of the biggest pathological liars I've ever seen. Randy Thomas is among the most congenital of them all. Has he ever told the truth?
I agree with Wayne on this point -- the open politicking of the fringe-nut/"ex-gay" crowd at this level is amazing. It shows a level of engagement (and financial backing) that can be intimidating - witness Ford and its bootlicking of the AFA. I think we'll see plenty more of this crap on all sorts of gay rights issues from these groups.

BTW, the automaker met yesterday with gay leaders, and a public response to the two-hour meeting is scheduled for today. We'll see if they have any cojones. Kraft told the AFA and their ilk to shove it when threatened with a boycott. Let's see if Bill Ford finds any balls.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bubble Boys and Girls

by TheGreenKnight

Jane at FireDogLake is absolutely right about this:
[T]he Washington press corps has no idea of the smoldering public rage that threatens to engulf them.
Or, as Digby puts it:
The DC press corps has no idea how they look to the rest of the country after more than a decade of running with GOP trumped up scandals, pimping for impeachment, trivializing the effects of an unorthodox presidential election in 2000, and then saluting smartly and following Dick Cheney over the cliff on Iraq.
But then, Bob Somerby has been pointing this out for years.

For example, take a look at Washington Post Political Editor John Harris's preposterous, powdered-wig musings on Dan Froomkin's useful on-line column:
I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism--or at least not trying very hard to avoid such perceptions....The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work.
And then there's this comment by Harris:
I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair.
And this gem from WaPo Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr.:
We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion.
And now take a look at the hundreds of comments by frustrated WaPo readers who've had it with perfumed toadies like Harris and Downie. A few of the better ones include:
WaPo- get this straight: this is not about left vs. right, Republican vs. Democrat, or Conservative vs. Liberal.
This is about truth vs lies, and a paper's duty to print the truth. Not spin. Not "anon. sources", not "DC insiders say". Not whatever is fed to you, that you print without verifying source & content as factual. Reporting.
Your attempt to frame Froomkin as "liberal" is a joke. He reports verifiable facts, and, because the facts don't fit your dogma, you make feeble attemts to mimimize him. You know and we know it, so why do you continue making yourselves irrelevant & untrustworthy?


Froomkin's column is largely made up of links and quotes. They may be framed in a context that makes some uncomfortable, but why is it Froomkin's duty to appeal to everyone? Is that what you see as journalism? To appeal to a customer?


Good grief- Froomkin writes though a liberal prism? Are you kidding me?

Froomkin may be snarky, but facts are facts. Just because they frequently make the current president look like a boob doesn't mean that Froomkin is writing with a liberal bias.


Harris, for heaven's sake get over yourself. Perhaps if you and the g*dforsaken excuse for an editorial board had done your g*ddamn jobs, we wouldn't be bellybutton deep in a war, and we wouldn't have this sorry wretch as a president. Stop being a stenographer and go re-read your J101 notes again on what it means to be a reporter.


Mr. Harris, I hope you and the other political recorders have fun at the Christmas parties with Rummy, Cheney and all. Your paper is going down the toilet.
And so on.

The reason that the Washington press corps took so long to notice what the rest of us have known for years -- that Bush is the Boy in the Bubble -- is because they're in the same bubble. So many of them have simply become courtiers to power, and are having such a jolly time of it, that they don't even realize that ordinary people hate courtiers.

I'm not saying it's time to break out the guillotines, but I'd guess that a lot of people out there wouldn't mind. There's an ugly mood out there, and the Washington press corps has no one to blame but themselves.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Outrageous Case of Cory Maye

by TheGreenKnight

The Agitator reports:
Sometime in late 2001, Officer Ron Jones collected a tip from an anonymous informant that Jamie Smith, who lived opposite [Cory] Maye in a duplex, was selling drugs out of his home....

On the night of December 26, the task force donned paramilitary gear, and conducted a drug raid on Smith's house. Unfortunately, they hadn't done their homework. The team didn't realize that the house was a duplex, and that Maye -- who had no relationship with Smith,-- rented out the other side with his girlfirend and 1-year-old daughter.

As the raid on Smith commenced, some officers - including Jones -- went around to what they thought was a side door to Smith's residence....Maye was home alone with his young daughter, and asleep, when one member of the SWAT team broke down the outside door.... Maye, fearing for his life and the safety of his daughter, fired at Jones, hitting him in the abdomen, just below his bulletproof vest. Jones died a short time later.

Maye had no criminal record, and wasn't the target of the search warrant....

In January of last year, Maye was convicted of capital murder for the shooting of Officer Jones. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Let's summarize: Cops mistakenly break down the door of a sleeping man, late at night, as part of drug raid. Turns out, the man wasn't named in the warrant, and wasn't a suspect. The man, frigthened for himself and his 18-month old daughter, fires at an intruder who jumps into his bedroom after the door's been kicked in. Turns out that the man, who is black, has killed the white son of the town's police chief. He's later convicted and sentenced to death by a white jury. The man has no criminal record, and police rather tellingly changed their story about drugs (rather, traces of drugs) in his possession at the time of the raid.
More here. Righties and lefties are agreed that this is an outrageous violation of justice:



Running Scared

The Middle Earth Journal

Balloon Juice


Cross-posted at The Green Knight.

Anti-Choicers: Not So Fast

by Shakespeare's Sister

A Norwegian study has found that women who have abortions can suffer “mental distress” longer than women who miscarry.

A study in Norway compared a group of 40 women who suffered a miscarriage with 80 who chose to have an abortion, questioning them ten days, six months, two years and five years after the event.

The team found that women who had a miscarriage suffered more mental distress up to six months after losing their babies compared with those who had an abortion. But women who had an abortion experienced more mental distress long afterwards compared with the miscarriage group.


Pro-life campaigners said the research confirmed the emotional consequences of having an abortion could be massive.
Great, I thought. Just what we need. Of course, I’m an anthropologist both by training and by nature, and so I had a few questions about this study. So I took a look at it and noticed a couple of things that might be of interest. For a start, the researchers set out with a hypothesis that women who abort will experience more mental distress than women who miscarry:

The process of deciding to have an abortion can be difficult, and the reason for electing to have an abortion can affect the psychological responses after the event. Thus, the social, moral and psychological context of an induced abortion may be more complicated than that of a miscarriage, and may result in different psychological responses. We hypothesized that women who undergo an induced abortion will have a more protracted course of mental disturbance than women who experience a miscarriage. (p6)
I don’t have a problem with the hypothesis in and of itself, but I do have a big stinking problem with the fact that, even after noting abortion can have a more complicated context than a miscarriage, the study itself seems to have made no attempt whatsoever to control for the contributions of external pressures as a control for any distress experiences by its participants, particularly as they did control for other “possible confounders,” including marital status, number of children, vocational activity, and former psychiatric health. And in fact, when scores for the mental health outcomes of the two groups were compared with those of the controls, “differences in IES avoidance [at the first two benchmarks] were no longer statistically significant.” So, couldn’t it be that the scores for women who had abortions and “had significantly more guilt [at the last three benchmarks], and more shame at all interviews” would no longer be “statistically significant” if external factors—such as religiosity, family influence, societal pressure, etc.—were taken into consideration? Unfortunately, we don’t know, because the authors of the study didn’t bother to find out.

The preexisting mental health of the study’s participants before the abortion or miscarriage is another issue that runs throughout the study.

[T]he mental health of aborting women was poorer (almost statistically significantly) than that of miscarrying women prior to the pregnancy termination event. Therefore, we cannot infer that induced abortion caused the elevated anxiety of the induced abortion group relative to that of the miscarriage group. (p18)

Other mental health outcomes, such as depression, trauma responses, quality of life and feelings, may likewise be poorer for women in the induced abortion group because of their mental health status before the abortion. (p19)

The responses of women in the miscarriage group were similar to those expected after a traumatic and sad life event. However, the women in the induced abortion group had more atypical responses. This may be because the mental health of the aborting women was somewhat poorer than that of the miscarrying women before the pregnancy termination event. The more complex nature of the induced abortion event may also account for differences in the course of psychological responses between the two groups.(p22-23)
So the mental health of the participating women who sought an abortion was almost statistically significantly poorer than the participating women who had a miscarriage, and the complexity of the abortion issue may account for discrepancies. That’s the problem with poor controls; you can end up with a study that has a completely meaningless conclusion. And yet here it goes—out into the world, reported as fact. Women who get abortions are more highly traumatized than women who have miscarriages. Even though it may be the women who got abortions and participated in the study were more inclined toward mental distress irrespective of their abortions, or that societal views of abortion—and specifically, women who get abortions—may facilitate feelings of shame and guilt.

An explanation for the unusual and divergent courses of the IES scores in the induced abortion group is not obvious, but may result from the characteristics of the abortion event. (p19)
It sure may. Maybe something worth finding out before the study is published, though.

The elevated scores for guilt, shame and IES avoidance for women who had had an induced abortion may require more attention. … It is possible that feelings of guilt and shame associated with the induced abortion contribute to a slower improvement in mental health. (p20-21)
Yep, that’s possible. Or it’s possible that preexisting mental distress unrelated to the abortion could be to blame. Or that the underlying causes of the guilt and shame might not be the actual abortion, and therefore aren’t ameliorated by the passage of time. Lots of things are possible.

Also missing from the reporting on this study is the fact that, along with grief, loss, guilt, shame, and anger, researchers also tracked relief.

Women who had had an induced abortion had significantly more relief at all interviews than women who had had a miscarriage. (p16)
We certainly wouldn’t want to broadcast the relief women feel at having aborted an wanted pregnancy. It might undermine the message that they ought to be suffering from guilt and shame.

The authors conclude that “Women in both groups should be given information about common psychological responses to pregnancy termination,” but without any depth of understanding of the driving forces behind those psychological responses, I’m curious as to what, exactly, they believe that information should be.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Social Darwinism

by TheGreenKnight

Barak Obama says:
It's called the "Ownership society" in Washington. This isn't the first time this philosophy has appeared. It used to be called Social Darwinism....They have a philosophy they have implemented and that is doing exactly what it was designed to do. They basically don't believe in government. They have a different philosophy that says, "We're going to dismantle government"....Republicans running the federal government believe, "You are on your own to buy your own health care, to buy your own retirement security ... to buy your own roads and levees."
He's right, of course, but a few things need to be added:

Social Darwinism was invented by a 19th-century English writer called Herbert Spencer. It was he, not Darwin, who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest." Spencer's basic idea was that economies and societies should mirror the recently discovered "laws of the jungle" of Darwinian evolution. It became very popular among the ruling classes of the time, because it told them that they were themselves the fittest -- after all, they were the ones on the top, and Spencer's theory told them that they deserved to be there. So, not only did they not have to care for the poor anymore, but it actually was seen as irresponsible and unnatural to do so. Charles Dickens's Scrooge was the archetypal Social Darwinist:
At the ominous word "liberality'', Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back...."Are there no prisons?....And the Union workhouses?...Are they still in operation?.... If [the [poor] would rather die....they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.''
Now it's a very curious thing that Social Darwinism has nothing to do with real Darwinism. Darwin himself, as I said, never used the phrase "survival of the fittest." Nor did he approve of this application of his theories to human society. Furthermore, then as now, the fiercest Social Darwinists are often rejecters of real Darwinism. They don't even use the term anymore, as Obama noted.

But the really important point is this: civilization developed in the first place as an alternative to the "law of the jungle." Human beings first began to develop agriculture, settled communities, polities, and so on, precisely so they didn't have to engage in survival of the fittest anymore. Cooperation, not competition, is the central idea of civilization. While competition can exist in civilization, it's always kept within careful boundaries: sports, regulated markets, and so on. Whenever Social Darwinism begins to take over, people start rejecting those boundaries, rejecting the notion of cooperation -- rejecting the very things that make a civilization stick together.

Ultimately, Social Darwinism is a contradiction in terms, because any attempt to impose "survival of the fittest" on people is anti-social. Similarly, an "ownership society" is impossible, because ownership is an economic relation between an individual and a thing. There's no society in the picture. So, let's keep in mind what Social Darwinism/the Ownership Society really means. It's more than a rejection of the public sector; it's more, even, than a rejection of compassion and decency; taken to its logical conclusion, it's a rejection of civilization itself.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I am so ashamed of my country.

by Ms. Julien in Miami

Binyam Mohammed, 27, says he spent nearly three years in the CIA's network of 'black sites'. In Morocco he claims he underwent the strappado torture of being hung for hours from his wrists, and scalpel cuts to his chest and penis and that a CIA officer was a regular interrogator.

You won't see this story in a US news site.

Where's the vomitorium?

Ms. Julien

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Head-Banger Primer on Tax Cuts and Job Formation

by Dark Wraith

As part of a tax-cut bill now subject to reconciliation with a Senate version, the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved legislation to extend for an additional two years the "tax relief," originally set to expire in 2008, on capital gains and dividends. The capital gains and dividends tax cut extension portion of the broader package will cost an estimated $21 billion dollars of which the overwhelming percentage will accrue to those making over a million dollars a year.

The theory of this kind of tax cut—painfully simplistic and dangerously misguided as that theory is—has to do with targeting fiscal stimulus on those people whose proclivities for the use of money are the most "productive" to economic growth. Rich people, according to this theory, will not only invest the tax savings, but they will also be more willing to move capital into investments that would otherwise be subject to taxation at unacceptably high rates. The capital thus flowing into productive investments will create jobs for average Americans, who will then earn more money, pay more taxes, spend more money, and thereby stimulate the economy. Essentially then, the rich will move benefits down the economic ladder, and those benefits will spread far and wide through the economy.

This is nonsense: it is predicated on several assumptions that tail off steeply in soundness, and it is to the credit of a thundering lack of economics training by the typical journalist that this silliness is actually taken as reasonable. It doesn't take much to expose these Creationists of economics to some withering scrutiny. Sadly, that scornful and rational eye is woefully lacking in its attention to the neo-conservative think-tank lifers and their Right-wing foundation grant-gobbling cousins in academia.

Let's hit three assumptions lurking behind the trickle-down drivel.

First, this old supply-side economics grind assumes that the marginal propensity of wealthy people to invest is high. That one's not too bad; but it makes facile use of the term "invest," and that's where the assumptive train starts down the long, greasy track to problems.

Second, trickle-down assumes that the investments the wealthy make will be primary capital investments. Just going out and buying stock is not an investment in the plant and equipment of a company; instead, it is an exercise in buying a security from someone else who's trying to unload it. Only if the money goes into a public or private offering of common stock, into a loan to a company (usually through the purchase of a bond the company is selling), or through some other investment vehicle by which a job-producing company then has more capital will the investment make business capable of offering new jobs on balance. Just throwing money "into the stock market" isn't going to create any jobs. At best, it will keep some Series 7 broker current on his house payments and hypertension medication.

Now, even if an investor is putting money into primary capital market instruments, he or she could be providing money to something other than a business enterprise. There are literally tens of thousand of government or quasi-government entities desperately howling for money: school districts that need to build new warehouses to minimally educate kids, municipalities suckered into thinking that a sports arena will really cause an inner-city Renaissance, and government-protected, corrupt, non-transparent mortgage re-sellers are but a few broad examples. But the biggest vacuum cleaner of available investment capital is the United States Treasury, which is sucking up money like it's going out of style from every corner of the Earth.

And the absurd part about capital invested in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds is that all the money flowing into the coffers of the federal government is simply replacing revenues the government has surrendered via tax cuts! And as the government goes deeper and deeper into debt, its appetite for money drives rational market participants to pump up the interest rates the government will have to pay. Uncle Sam will always pay whatever interest rate is necessary to obtain required funds, which means that, if businesses want to attract capital, they have to push the interest rate up that they're willing to pay. This makes it more and more painful for businesses to attract investors, and it drives businesses to abandon all projects but those that can clear a progressively higher hurdle rate for return on investment. Worse still, as the federal debt piles up, the service of it (the interest it must pay) becomes more and more onerous, thereby forcing the government to borrow at an accelerating rate to pay the interest on money it has borrowed in previous periods.

That spiral is, of course, exacerbated by a tax cut that starves the government of tax revenues, which are the alternative to cash inflows from borrowed funds. Fortunately, a prudent government could cut spending, and the House of Representative—may God bless its responsible Members—is doing that to some extent. No, the black hole of endless and unproductive war will continue unabated; but the lower chamber of the federal legislature has approved spending cuts of about $45 billion, these savings to be made largely in programs like food stamps and other aid to poor families. Who says those Congressmen aren't responsible little heathen?

Returning to the assumptions underlying the theory of tax cuts for the rich, there's a third one, and it's a doozy, but it's a little more complex. Brace yourself, Hazel, we're taking the cargo elevator.

Even if an investor makes available to a corporation money by which the company can expand its operations, there is no reason to believe that such expansion will, in some lock-step fashion, create jobs; and in particular, there is no reason to believe that the expansion of production facilities will create jobs at living wages, or even that the jobs created will be offered in the United States. The extent to which labor is hired as production increases has to do with the relative scarcities of various factors of production, the production technology employed, the ability of the enterprise to locate the production facilities next to factors of production that give the most efficient (that is, the minimum-cost) factor mix, and numerous other considerations. Simply waiving a hand and claiming that money flowing to corporations creates "jobs" is baloney. The questions are actually pretty simple: how many jobs? at what wage rates? where? for how long? and to the detriment of what opportunities foregone by the placement of the capital where it has decided to land for the maximum return on investment?

What does all this mean? Clearly, it means that the Dark Wraith is the indispensible guide to learning why Right-wing and assorted other neo-cons who have come to befart our world are twits. They rely on appealing, simplistic declarations that the mainstream media cannot fathom as deeply flawed.

The bottom line is this: stick with the Dark Wraith, and you'll know a lot that you wouldn't have known otherwise. We're all still going to Hell: the greedy, corrupt, amateurish, war-mongering nerds of neo-conservative nonsense are resolutely at the helm of the Good Ship Iceberg Bait; but if you keep reading economics articles posted by the Dark Wraith, at least you'll understand that the sudden collision with the giant chunk of ice isn't the Happy Hour call for chilled margaritas.

Yes, good readers, we shall all go down with this economic ship, despite the spigot of Federal Reserve money pouring in at the top of the food chain to keep the deck chairs dry. And once the mixing of metaphors gives way to the inevitable sound of band instruments impersonating bubble machines, you'll know exactly what happened and why it happened.

Sadly, unlike during the Crash of '29 and the following depression, the rich won't go down with this ship. The capital markets have too many lifeboats for any but the stupidest of the wealthy to get nailed this time. But if it's any comfort to you, they'll still be a little sore at the neo-cons for inconveniencing them with a recession that'll make people want to elect unrepentent Democrats and assorted Socialists. Elections are getting so expensive to rig these days.

The Dark Wraith has brought some cheer to an otherwise dull and listless weekend.

This article is based upon a portion of an Open Forum post at The Dark Wraith Forums.

More on Richard Pryor and Eugene McCarthy

by Pam

Both of these landmark figures passed away today. Shakes Sis also has a post below.

Pathbreaking Comedian Richard Pryor Dies. I remember vividly in the 70s and early 80s eagerly awaiting my older cousin to rush out and buy Pryor's latest concert LP. For you youngsters out there, prior to video, the only way to enjoy the great stand up comedians of the day was to buy one of those big albums played at 33 1/3-speed. Everyone would gather around the stereo system and have a roaring good time.

We listened to Bill Cosby to hear observations on the common, color-blind experience of being an American -- particularly the humor of family, but you just couldn't hear insight on race relations that spoke to the reality of what black and white America was really thinking about one another from anyone better than Richard Pryor.

Yes, he was profane, yes, he could be outrageous, but the things that made people uncomfortable were his observations on the painful truth about cultural difference between the races at a time when sensitivies were running high and emotions were barely in check. It was odd to see him on Saturday Night Live, when you knew he was constrained by the censors from tapping into his really biting stuff.

The one exception, and I bet most of you can guess which skit I'm going to mention, is the infamous 1975 SNL skit with Chevy Chase, the Racist Word Association Interview. Just go read the whole thing.

In searching for the transcript of this, I came across this essay, by writer Tim Wise, that is an interesting analysis of the skit's use of epithets and the power of the words (or lack thereof):
In the skit, Chase and Pryor face one another and trade off racial epithets during a segment of Weekend Update. Chase calls Pryor a “porch monkey.” Pryor responds with “honky.” Chase ups the ante with “jungle bunny.” Pryor, unable to counter with a more vicious slur against whites, responds with “honky, honky.” Chase then trumps all previous slurs with “nigger,” to which Pryor responds: “dead honky.”

The line elicits laughs all around, but also makes clear, at least implicitly that when it comes to racial antilocution, people of color are limited in the repertoire of slurs they can use against whites, and even the ones of which they can avail themselves sound more comic than hateful. The impact of hearing the antiblack slurs in the skit was of a magnitude unparalleled by hearing Pryor say “honky” over and over again.

As a white person I always saw terms like honky or cracker as evidence of how much more potent white racism was than any variation on the theme practiced by the black or brown.

When a group of people has little or no power over you institutionally, they don’t get to define the terms of your existence, they can’t limit your opportunities, and you needn’t worry much about the use of a slur to describe you and yours, since, in all likelihood, the slur is as far as it’s going to go. What are they going to do next: deny you a bank loan? Yeah, right.

So whereas “nigger” was and is a term used by whites to dehumanize blacks, to imply their inferiority, to “put them in their place” if you will, the same cannot be said of honky: after all, you can’t put white people in their place when they own the place to begin with.
I'm certain that there are many people that will only remember Pryor for setting himself on fire while freebasing in the 80s -- a spectacularly stupid act, but remember this was during the time when blow ruled Hollywood and everyone knew it. He wasn't the only casualty of excess.

I haven't watched much stand-up comedy over the years I remember Robin Williams being incredibly funny in his heyday on the stage, and I saw Bill Maher live waaaaay back at Catch a Rising Star in NY in the early/mid-80s (strangely enough, his timing was really off that night; I wasn't sure he was going to go anywhere, lololol). I have some pictures of him from that night. I ought to post them.

Of today's comedians, perhaps the one that reminds me most of Pryor -- and may, in fact, be as spot-on in his observations -- is Chris Rock.


Former Sen. Eugene McCarthy, 89, Dies. I was not old enough to remember his most significant run ('68), so it would be good to hear from folks old enough to compare his gadfly run to other "insurgent" candidacies (particularly to Dean in '04).
Former Minnesota Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy, whose insurgent campaign toppled a sitting president in 1968 and forced the Democratic Party to take seriously his message against the Vietnam War, died Saturday. He was 89.

McCarthy died in his sleep at assisted living home in the Georgetown neighborhood where he had lived for the past few years, said his son, Michael.

Eugene McCarthy challenged President Lyndon B. Johnson for the 1968 Democratic nomination during growing debate over the Vietnam War. The challenge led to Johnson's withdrawal from the race.

...Helped by his legion of idealistic young volunteers known as "clean-for-Gene kids," McCarthy got 42 percent of the vote in the state's 1968 Democratic primary. That showing embarrassed Johnson into withdrawing from the race and throwing his support to his vice president, Hubert H. Humphrey.

Sen. Robert Kennedy of New York also decided to seek the nomination, but was assassinated in June 1968. McCarthy and his followers went to the party convention in Chicago, where fellow Minnesotan Humphrey won the nomination amid bitter strife both on the convention floor and in the streets.

Humphrey went on to narrowly lose the general election to Richard Nixon. The racial, social and political tensions within the Democratic Party in 1968 have continued to affect presidential politics ever since.

..With a sardonic sense of humor, McCarthy needled whatever establishment was in power. In 1980 he endorsed Republican Ronald Reagan with the argument that anyone was better than incumbent Jimmy Carter, a Democrat.
I wonder what McCarthy would have thought about the current Adminstration's recent boondoggles. A telling quote about the Vietnam era may give us a clue, as well as a more recent one:
Although he supported the Korean War, McCarthy said he opposed the Vietnam War because "as it went on, you could tell the people running it didn't know what was going on."

...In an interview a month before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, McCarthy compared the Bush administration with the characters in the William Golding novel "Lord of the Flies," in which a group of boys stranded on an island turn to savagery.

"The bullies are running it," McCarthy said. "Bush is bullying everything."
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.

RIP: Richard Pryor and Eugene J. McCarthy

by Shakespeare's Sister

Former Senator and progressive presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy has died, as has comedian Richard Pryor.

It’s a strange combination, as the two might seem, at first glance, to be such vastly different men. McCarthy was a small-town white kid, who was a professor, a year-long resident of a monastery, a Congressman, a Senator, and a five-time presidential candidate, whose 1968 challenge of sitting president Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War led to Johnson’s withdrawal from the race. Pryor was a small-town black kid, who grew up in a brothel and served in the military before launching a long-term career in the entertainment business as a writer, actor, and hugely influential comedian.

But both of these midwesterners were controversial. Both of them challenged institutionalized ideas at a very tumultuous time in American history. Both of them were prolific writers and found solace in the process. Both of them even made famously bad mistakes in 1980—McCarthy endorsed Reagan; Pryor caught himself on fire while freebasing.

And both of them inspired those that followed to do things they may never have before considered—sometimes to amazing results, and sometimes not—but neither progressive politicians nor subversive comedians can avoid the inevitable comparisons to their respective forebears. Both of these men will be remembered for changing, forevermore, the paths that stretched behind them.

I had some great things and I had some bad things. The best and the worst. In other words, I had a life. — Richard Pryor

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"We complement each other in every way."

by Shakespeare's Sister

I love this story. Bernard and Joyce Rogers, a British couple, got married in 1967. In 1991, Bernard became Bernadette after undergoing a sex change operation. They have stayed married, because “We have exactly the same affection for each other we have always had. We have an absolutely ideal relationship. We complement each other in every way.” As long as they were married, however, Bernadette could not be legally recognized as a woman…until now.

Before "remarrying", the couple first had to divorce - because the Gender Recognition Bill does not acknowledge a change in a transsexual's gender if the person remains married. A judge this week granted the couple an early release from divorce proceedings at Northampton County Court, giving Bernadette a new birth certificate which showed she is a woman. They were then able to have their civil union ceremony.
How cool are these two? A relationship that can survive so much is really inspirational, and its circumstances exemplify exactly why we need the equivalent of Britain’s Gender Recognition Bill in America. In the confines of a single relationship, it has given one person the freedom to live (and be legally recognized) as she wants, and has given both of them the opportunity to have their relationship be as equal now between two women as it was between a woman and a man.

I wonder how it is that anyone could read about the Rogerses and object to granting the same rights, the same happiness, to people in America.

The proud 76-year-old added: "I stood in front of the mirror in my bedroom this morning and thought, 'Yes, you have done it now.' It is a sense of completion."
That’s not radical. That’s the same sense of joy and fulfillment that everyone wants.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Coulter Heckled

by Shakespeare's Sister

Saucy conservative vixen and professional rude asshole Ann Coulter was unable to finish a speech at UConn last night amidst heckling from the crowd:

Conservative columnist Ann Coulter gave up trying to finish a speech at the University of Connecticut on Wednesday night when boos and jeers from the audience became overwhelming.

Coulter cut off the talk after 15 minutes and instead held a half-hour question-and-answer session.

"I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am," Coulter told the 2,600 people at Jorgensen Auditorium.
She was then quoted as declaring the audience “full of poopyheads” and retired to the corner to eat wet cigarette butts and pout.

Apparently, some of those dumbos at UConn took issue with Coulter’s calling Bill Clinton an “executive buffoon” and Barbara Boxer “learning disabled.” One would think such well thought-out arguments would be met with fawning approval. Instead, several student groups, including Students Against Hate and the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center criticized Coulter “for spreading a message of hate and intolerance.”

Good for them. I’m all for free speech, even Coulter’s bile…and I wholly support the right of those who are willing to shout her down, too. (Via Raw Story.)

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Chimpy's 'holiday card' pisses off the bible beaters

by Pam

Hee hee. Nothing like a little political correctness by the White House to send the "base" into a tizzy. After all, they've been bashing retailers about putting the "Christ" back in Christmas, and their fearless leader has let them down -- the official White House card, sent to over a million people wishes recipients a happy "holiday season."

As the WaPo article says, "some conservative Christians are reacting as if Bush stuck coal in their stockings."

"[Bush] claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn't act like one. I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it."
-- wingnut extraordinaire Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site WingNutDaily

"This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture...Ninety-six percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Spare me the diversity lecture."
-- the barely sane William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

"It bothers me that the White House card leaves off any reference to Jesus, while we've got Ramadan celebrations in the White House," Wildmon said. "What's going on there?"
-- new best friend of Ford Motor Company, Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association

Also: check out The Pensito Review, which has a picture of the infamous card.


In an event to remember -- another one that ticked off the Right -- the Chimperor, at the White House tree lighting ceremony, went off script and made an ass out of himself. (WingNutDaily):
...President Bush made a remark alluding to Jesus Christ, which some feel compared Him with Santa Claus.

While alluding to Jesus, President Bush thanked Santa Claus for coming to National Christmas tree lighting a White House last night (White House photo by Paul Morse)

Flanked by the first lady, as well as members of Congress and the Cabinet, Bush told the public, "The lighting of the National Christmas tree is one of the great traditions in our nation's capital. Each year, we gather here to celebrate the season of hope and joy – and to remember the story of one humble life that lifted the sights of humanity. Santa, thanks for coming. Glad you made it."

The remark received a few chuckles from those in attendance, as Bush continued to speak to a Santa Claus figure, stating, "I know you've got a lot of commitments this time of year. By the way, we have a lot of chimneys at the White House if you're looking for something to do."
By the way, after this WingNutDaily piece ran, the White House damage control machine's whipping boy, Scotty McClellan, had to email an explanation for his brain-damaged master's miscue to WND. He reassured them that Bush was just "changing topics."
WND: Scott, just one question today. At yesterday's briefing, the transcript records my quoting the president in his saying, "Each year we gather here to celebrate the season of hope and joy and to remember the story of one humble life that lifted the sights of humanity. Santa, thanks for coming." When I asked you WorldNetDaily's question, will the president apologize to Christians offended by his referring to Jesus as Santa, you responded, "The president meant exactly what he said, Les." But last night, I received an e-mail which had your name on it, which said there were two separate – (laughter.)

McCLELLAN: Keep working on my e-mails, sending you things.

WND: There were two separate thoughts –

McCLELLAN: Must have been a little – must have been a little elf. (Laughter.)

WND: Well, wait a minute, let me just tell you what was in the e-mail –

McCLELLAN: Go ahead. I want to give you the stage.

WND: – which it said, there were –

McCLELLAN: I think I know where you're going with this.

WND: – two separate thoughts – after he spoke about the meaning of Christmas, he then recognized Santa. And first of all, I want to ask, was that your e-mail? And was it your final and conclusive answer rather than, the president meant –

McCLELLAN: Well, it was my e-mail. He wasn't, as you phrased it yesterday, comparing the two. Santa was at the event for the children that were there, and I don't think you want to take Santa away from all those children.
Cross-posted on Pam's House Blend.


by The Heretik


STAY THE COURSE? Or stay forever? The current situation in Iraq suggests that George “ Brand W” Bush’s "progress is" an illusion. Even the “successes” he cites are mixed. Mosul wasn’t a mess until we “fixed” it. We expect Fallujah will be fixed and see a lot more “progress” soon. Will only spin win? Or is something more sinister slouching towards Baghdad?

“I LOVE THE SMELL OF McLELLAN IN THE MORNING. . . It smells like complete victory. Some day this wore is gonna end.”
Q And I have one more question. How do you define "complete" -- how does the President define "complete victory in Iraq"?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he actually defines "victory" in his remarks. He talked about that today. Victory is when the terrorists and Saddam loyalists no longer threaten Iraq's democracy. Victory is when the Iraqi security forces can protect their citizens. And victory is achieved when Iraq is not a safe haven from which terrorists can plot attacks against America and others in the civilized world.

THE HERETIK NOTES "safe" is something the paranoid forever chase. Is the subject of this tale and chase the object of our own tail and fears? Forever is a mighty long time.

The Heretik

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Condi Dogged by Doubt

by Shakespeare's Sister

So, poor Condi has spent her whirlwind European tour being harassed by questions about our secret CIA prisons, alleged CIA prison flights to Europe, and our accidentally detaining a German citizen and flying him to Afghanistan for questioning. Poor dear—I bet she hasn’t even had time to go shoe shopping!

Condi has assured Europe that “Our people, wherever they are, are operating under US law and US international obligations,” but they’re not so sure. Huh. I can’t imagine why they might not believe her. The Bush administration has always been both honest with and respectful of them in the past.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)


by Shakespeare's Sister

Currently suffering from the misapprehension that elaborate beard-growing can garner a guy an Oscar—a theory disproved in 2000 by Tom Hanks—Mel Gibson, foremost purveyor of religious gore-porn and son of Holocaust denier Hutton Gibson, has been tapped to develop a mini-series for ABC about the Holocaust.

Mr. Gibson's television production company will base the four-hour miniseries for ABC on the self-published memoir of Flory A. Van Beek, a Dutch Jew whose gentile neighbors hid her from the Nazis but who lost several relatives in concentration camps.

The project is in its early stages, so there is no guarantee that it will be completed. Mr. Gibson is not expected to act in the mini-series, nor is it certain that his name, rather than his company's, will be publicly attached to the final product, according to several people involved in developing it.

But Quinn Taylor, ABC's senior vice president for movies for television, acknowledged that the attention-getting value of having Mr. Gibson attached to a Holocaust project was a factor.

"Controversy's publicity, and vice versa," Mr. Taylor said.
Call me old-fashioned, but generating buzzzzzz for a program about one of history’s most appalling tragedies by giving cash to someone whose best attempt at repudiating deniers of its existence is “Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps,” seems, oh, I don’t know, kinda nauseating.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Ford digs a very deep hole for itself

by Pam

Ford has agreed to no longer sponsor any gay events, and its spokesman now admits that the company has bowed completely to the American Taliban.]

Ford has decided that it would rather lose gay and gay-friendly business than face the wrath of the extreme fringe element of the Right Wing by agreeing to the demands of the American Family Association. Initially it was over the decision not to advertise in gay publications, but now we have learned that it's over way more than just a few ads...

Here's the info on Ford's complete cave-in posted at AmericaBlog.
This is from, the publication that broke the Ford story last week, and it's owned by Primedia, it's a real industry publication:
Ford Motor Co.'s decision to cease advertising in gay publications for its Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands is part of a truce between the auto maker and the American Family Assn. (AFA) to avert a threatened boycott by the right-wing Christian conservative group, Ward‚s learns....

As part of the latest agreement hammered out Nov. 29, sources confirm Volvo Cars will continue to advertise in the publications but will use generic ads not tailored to the gay community.

In addition, Ford has agreed not to sponsor any future gay and lesbian events but will continue to maintain its employee policies, such as same-sex partner benefits.
(Note: This is a subscription only publication.)

Gee, isn't that swell. Ford agreed not to viciously revoke its benefits for all of its employees. Gosh, I'm so proud of them. Not to mention, if Ford is stating that it's not revoking its benefits, then it sounds like the religious right wanted them to. Yet Ford told us that the issue was only about a few ads.
Damn...what must it feel like as a gay employee at Ford, to see your employer back away from public support of your community because of the likes of the AFA?


Eva over at Lloydletta has a great post up with more background, Ford Does More Self Inflicted Damage. She notes that Jerry Reynolds, who is an an influential Ford dealer in Garland, Texas, was the "broker" of the arrangement with the AFA officials and Ford, after his whining that many dealers were concerned about the AFA boycott.

Also, Eva points out that we should be all over Michigan's Carl Levin, who is already trolling for a handout for the financially troubled automaker.
Meanwhile Ford is looking for a bailout from Washington, but they don't want those words used.
They're also asking for one rhetorical favor: Please don't call the requests a bailout. "I don't view it as a bailout," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said.

"We're not looking for a bailout," agreed William C. Ford Jr., chairman of Ford Motor Co.
GM and Ford, if you add up their wish list of taxpayer pocketpicking, would cost tens of billions -- far more than Chrysler received back (it garnered $1.5 billion in loan guarantees in 1979 and 1980).

Look, I don't care if Levin's a Dem, he needs to be asking some hard questions of Ford executives about this bedding down with the AmTaliban. Those are my tax dollars wants to use to guarantee that Ford stays afloat.

This is war.

As John noted, folks might want to contact your local Ford dealership to express your dismay at the decisions Ford corporate HQ is making, and to let them know where your next car won't be purchased from.

Ford Motor Company

William Clay Ford, Jr., Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Board of Directors

800-232-5952 (TDD for the Hearing Impaired)

Ford Motor Company
Customer Relationship Center
P.O. Box 6248
Dearborn, MI 48126

Click here to email senior officials at Jaguar, Ford, Mazda, and Hertz all at once.

The pain is just beginning. The bad PR is clearly hurting Ford, because AB's got the Ford PR machine trolling in the comments. John chased the IP and found the post came from the automaker.


Below is a unity statement by LGBT groups that call on Ford to get its act together. I am sure after this latest bit of news, there will be more to releases come.
We are deeply dismayed by reports in the media and otherwise that the Ford Motor Company has entered into a confidential agreement with the extremist American Family Association (AFA) that requires Ford to stop advertising in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media. If there is an agreement with AFA, we expect Ford to disavow it. We expect Ford to publicly reaffirm its historic support for our community. And, we expect Ford to meet with LGBT representatives this week to resolve these concerns.

Family Pride
Freedom to Marry
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
Human Rights Campaign
Mautner Project, the National Lesbian Health Organization
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC)
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
Triangle Foundation

Cunningham's co-conspirator and his 'hospitality suite'

by Pam

Brent Wilkes (L), founder of ADCS Inc., is identified by officials as "co-conspirator No. 1" in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery case. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

The GOP sleaze knows no bounds. First we have the revelation that Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the disgraced corrupt Congressman is yet another self-loathing GOP homo.

Now we find out one of the co-conspirators in Duke's pocket-lining activities, formerly identified as "co-conspirator No. 1," is lobbyist and military contractor Brent Wilkes. Cunningham received more than $630,000 in cash and favors (more on those possible favors later) from Wilkes.

It should be noted that Wilkes also served as San Diego County finance co-chairman of The Governator's campaign and as state finance co-chairman for President Bush, but it looks like he was running something completely different in DC.

The San Diego Union-Tribune ran a lengthy piece that dug into all the connections, but The Hotline pulled out a most interesting snippet that sounds mighty randy to me...
According to the U-T, Wilkes also "ran a hospitality suite, with several bedrooms, in" DC -- "first in the Watergate Hotel and then" in a Capitol Hill hotel.

Come again? A "hospitality suite with several bedrooms"?

Talk about raising more questions, including:

-- Why does a lobbyist need a "hospitality suite with several bedrooms"?

-- Who uses those bedrooms and for what?

These lobbying scandals involving Cunningham and Wilkes and Abramoff are looking more and more like a bad movie script every day.
God, I am sick of the GOP claiming to be the party of values when you've got what looks like another Rethug rent-boy/rent-girl scandal just waiting to explode. Hey, was our boy Gannon working this story (in more ways than one)?

Look at who else is in Wilkes's contact file, and the cushy way he benefited from those relationships.
Over the past 20 years, Wilkes has devoted much of his career to developing political contacts in Washington. He and his associates have spent at least $600,000 on political contributions and $1.1 million on lobbying beyond the gifts mentioned in the Cunningham plea agreement, as they cultivated such politicians as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis.

And since 1996, he has received at least $95 million in government contracts for the small family of firms based in his $11 million headquarters in Poway, including ADCS Inc. and Group W.
If these were Democrats, you know it would be 24/7 on the newschannels, digging into the sex-potential of the story. Of course I really don't want to visualize what kind of actual deviance goes on in a Republican "hospitality suite."

Hat tip, BlogActive


by The Heretik


EUROPE IS BLUE ON BLACK site prisons and extraordinary rendition. Europe wakes today to a United States blind to the public relations and human rights disaster it sets on the table before the world. The United State admitted and then stopped admitting mistakes plural yesterday.

If anything, relations are worse now. [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel irritated US officials by telling journalists after the meeting that the US government had admitted making a mistake in the case of Khaled al-Masri, a Lebanese-born German citizen who was abducted by the CIA and claims that he was tortured while held in secret custody.
"We discussed the one case which was accepted as a mistake by the government of the United States," Merkel told a joint news conference with Rice after their meeting on Tuesday. US officials later told journalists that Rice had done nothing of the sort. "We are not quite sure what was in her head," Reuters quoted a senior US official as saying.
US officials said the US government had informed the German government about al-Masri's case but had not admitted making mistakes. Rice had merely given assurances that any errors made by the CIA would be corrected as and when they arose, officials said.

WHAT OFFENDS the Germans is the offending party the United States now plays the offended party. The world is upside down and the shake out will not be pretty. The one mistake admitted by the United States is the five month long kidnapping of non terrorist German citizen Khaled al Masri. Rice ironically was once instrumental in getting him released. Al Masri was dumped in Macedonia, far from home. You could call that a metaphor for United States policy now: headed toward decency, but not quite making it home.

SKEPTICISM RISES in Europe on Condoleezza Rice’s response. Words don’t say what they mean, don’t mean what they say. It’s a wordy rapping hood reality.

"I think what she means is, 'We don't use it as an official way to do things, but we don't look at what is done in other countries,' " Monika Griefahn, a Social Democratic member of [the German] Parliament, said in regard to Ms. Rice's comment on torture. "And that's the problem for us."

A PROBLEM FOR EUROPE will be a problem for Washington if it doesn’t come clean on torture. Reaction across the continent is harsh,
but you wouldn’t think it has crossover appeal in the White House. While some say George Bush is the least poll driven President ever, the lastest word is perhaps Bush is hoping “ticking bomb” scenarios and a culture soaked by shows like 24 will let him wring out more than a draw in the polls on a policy just short of drawing and quartering.

In America, 61 percent of those surveyed agreed torture is justified at least on rare occasions. Almost nine in 10 in South Korea and just over half in France and Britain felt that way.

CONGRESS MAY STAND UP and while the White House may back down on the McCain ban on torture, it continues to fight a back battle on prosecution of CIA torturers.

. . . administration officials concede that Mr. McCain's provision, which would also require a uniform standard on how to interrogate detainees, stands a strong chance of becoming law, despite a White House threat to veto any legislation containing it. The measure has already passed the Senate, 90 to 9, and senior House Republican staff members say it would probably pass by a large margin in the House.
Faced with that reality, administration officials said, Mr. Hadley has now retreated to seeking narrower language that could make it harder to prosecute intelligence officers charged with violating torture standards.
Mr. Bush, speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, repeated his statement that "we do not torture."

BLACK IS WHITE White is black. Black sites continue to make the Euros blue, but some will continue to see red.

PREVIOUS HERETIK POSTS on Rice and Extraordinary Rendition: Condi Must Be Tripping, Extraordinary BS

BEYOND THE PALE POLL Kathy at Liberty Street: Bush's "war on terror" has not changed the terrorist value system one iota. But it has changed our value system. Today, it would be far easier to find an American who thinks pulling out fingernails or delivering electric shocks to genitals is fine "if there's a good reason" than it would be to find a follower of Zarqawi who thinks religious pluralism is a fine thing.

THE HERETIK SHARES concern what now is most tortured is the American soul

The Heretik

West is OUT!

by JJ

Literally this time, let the lawsuits begin!

Spokane's "Gay Chat" Mayor has been recalled with 65% of the people voting to recall Jim West.

From the Spokesman Review:

Voters recall Mayor Jim West

Spokane voters ousted Mayor Jim West today.

Preliminary results in the all-mail special election have 65 percent of the ballots marked in favor of the recall, and 35 percent against.

The 59,501 ballots counted represent 54 percent of the 110,589 sent to voters nearly three weeks ago. Ballots will continue to arrive at the elections office for the next several days, but the margin of support for the recall makes it mathematically unlikely that West can reverse the results.

It is a sad day today, I am saddened that a man has brought this misery upon himself and this city. I am hopeful that the story is over, however, I know better. This will continue through the lawsuits and appeals until it fades into Spokane's colorful history.

It is time now for a fresh start, December 16th will be Jim West's last day as a city employee. We will move on, put this sordid affair behind us and now the healing process can begin.

cross posted at the blog of the Spokane Reality Based Community!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

More Culture War

by Shakespeare's Sister

Another story out of Kansas (has anyone figured out what, exactly, really is wrong with that state yet?) is getting me all kinds of hot under the collar. A religious studies professor at Kansas University, who has no love for fundamentalists, recently wrote online about a plan to teach intelligent design as mythology in an upcoming course, and said it would be a “nice slap” in the “big fat face” of fundies. Tactless, but not incorrect. Immediately, said fat face got all up in his grill, Mirecki apologized, and KU canceled the course. (Normally, I might consider that an overreach, but he hardly left KU with much choice after he decided to frame it the way he did.) It should have been the end of the story.

Kansas University religious studies professor Paul Mirecki reported he was beaten by two men about 6:40 a.m. today on a roadside in rural Douglas County. In a series of interviews late this afternoon, Mirecki said the men who beat him were making references to the controversy that has propelled him into the headlines in recent weeks.

“I didn’t know them, but I’m sure they knew me,” he said.
Mirecki was being tail-gated and pulled over so the pick-up truck closely following him could pass. Instead, the driver pulled in behind him, and two men got out. When Mirecki made the mistake of getting out of his car, they proceded to beat him up.

The sheriff’s department is looking for the suspects, described as two white males between ages 30 and 40, one wearing a red visor and wool gloves, and both wearing jeans. They were last seen in a large pickup truck.
If you’ve seen these two, who should be easy to find in any crowd in the Midwest by their descriptions, please call Crime Stoppers at 843-TIPS.

Now, I’m certainly not endorsing a professor’s decision to taunt any group; it’s inappropriate, no matter who the group is. But, after Mirecki issued an apology for what he had said and the class was canceled, that still wasn’t good enough for some folks. He had to have his ass kicked, too.

Let’s get real about what happened here. A liberal said something inappropriate. Not threatening, not inflammatory, not even especially provacative. And he got beaten up.

Meanwhile, conservatives go around with liberal hunting licenses stuck on their bumpers, Ann Coulter says a baseball bat is the most effective way to talk to liberals, Bill O’Reilly offers up San Francisco to terrorists, conservative hate groups are on the rise again, violence against the LGBT community is on the rise again, women who report rapes are being prosecuted, pharmacists are telling women they’re being punished by God as they rip up their prescriptions, the poor suffer a constant barrage of shit from conservatives and their policies that allow them to abstractly blather about an “ownership society” but have real-world, life and death consequences for the people subjected to those policies, and the asinine duo of O’Reilly and Coulter have the temerity to moan about how conservatives need to employ security details to protect them from liberals. Can we please have a modicum of perspective on who, exactly, is being attacked here? What’s Ann’s big concern? That she might get another pie thrown at her? Well, sorry—I don’t have a lot of fucking sympathy for someone who incites violence against liberals and then finds herself with whipped cream in her hair.

People like O’Reilly and Coulter bloviate endless vitriol with impugnity on a daily basis, all while casting themselves as victims of some nefarious left-wing conspiracy to hurt them, of which their best evidence is Pat Buchanan getting douched with salad dressing. And they like to dissociate themselves from the radical elements in the conservative movement that drag black people from the backs of their pick-ups and hog-tie queers to fences and shoot abortion doctors and beat up professors, but all the shit that comes out of their mouths every day is what gets the people who do these things riled up. When was the last time you heard Al Franken or even the great liberal boogey-man Michael Moore advocating violence, suggesting we pick up baseball bats to “talk” to conservatives? Give me a break.

Enough with the martyr complex already. The only thing you've got left to defend is an unimpeded ability to say whatever you want to say, whenever you want to say it, no matter how outrageous. And to do that, you've got to pretend that the evil liberals have taken you out of context, even when they're just reprinting your direct transcripts. You're pathetic. Every hate group in the world should have it so good as you.

And P.S. rest of America—they'll come for you, too, eventually. Then maybe the culture war will be more than just a source of amusement.

(Hat tip Agitprop. Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

DeLay Moves One Step Closer to Trial

by Shakespeare's Sister


A Texas judge dismissed one charge against Representative Tom Delay on Monday but let stand two more serious charges, complicating Mr. DeLay's hopes of regaining his post as House majority leader when Congress resumes in January.
You know, I think it’s a safe bet that he can wave bye-bye to that one at this point. Even the GOP can’t be crazy enough to let the Bug Man return in such a public position after all this.

The judge, Pat Priest of San Antonio, handed Mr. DeLay and two co-defendants a partial victory in dismissing charges of conspiracy to violate the election code by making an illegal corporate contribution.

Judge Priest left standing charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money against all three.

The decision moves Mr. DeLay and his co-defendants, the Republican fund-raisers John D. Colyandro and James W. Ellis, a big step closer to facing trial - perhaps as soon as January - on felony charges that carry long prison terms and fines...

One Republican lawmaker, who has supported Mr. DeLay in the past but is concerned about the political fallout from this case and others involving Republicans, said there was some sense of relief with the decision, since it postponed Mr. DeLay's return to the top.

Although DeLay’s team is calling the dismissal of one of the charges a victory, DA Ronnie Earle still has the opportunity to appeal the dismissal, and a defense lawyer involved (who requested anonymity so as not to “antagonize” the judge) said that the ruling “could be read as a substantial victory for the prosecution.”

Meanwhile, Cheney appeared with DeLay yesterday at another fund-raiser, which was closed to reporters. He sure knows how to pick his public appearances.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

Will O’Reilly add Fox News to his enemies list?

by Shakespeare's Sister

I’m just wondering, since they’re throwing a holiday party. Majority Report got a copy of the invite. (Hat tip AMERICAblog.)

Wow—sounds fun. My favorite holiday parties are always the ones where you’re “kinda working,” too.

I have it on good authority that attendees will also be playing sexually harass the female interns, and each employee will receive a clump of Murdoch’s corny poo as a holiday bonus. Everyone’s hoping Hannity gets drunk enough to eat his again this year.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

10 Questions

by TheGreenKnight

Michael Schwartz has written useful responses to 10 common questions about the Iraq war. Together, they constitute a good toolkit for responding to die-hard war supporters. The whole thing is worth reading, but here they are boiled down.

1. What about the good things happening in Iraq? They're few and insubstantial. Infrastructure is worse now than before the war, and the new Iraqi government is a sock puppet.

2. What about the Iraqis who want us to remain? They're a tiny minority. Mostly they're the Kurds, who only want us to remain in non-Kurdish territory.

3. What about the experience the U.S. military is gaining? It's of questionable value and is coming at too high a price in blood and trauma.

4. What about the future benefits of a strong Middle Eastern democracy? If there were going to be one, that would be great. But the Iraqi government is a sock puppet.

5. What about the oil reserves? They don't belong to us and never did.

6. What about the goals of fundamentalist Muslims? We're helping them gain public support by staying in Iraq.

7. What about the bloodbath that followed the withdrawal from Vietnam? It was nothing compared to the bloodbath that was the Vietnam War itself.

8. What about saving the reputation of the USA? Too late.

9. Haven't some wars in the past resulted in good things? Doesn't mean this one will.

10. What about 9/11? Nothing to do with Iraq.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.

Monday, December 05, 2005

'Gift card shopping while black' at Wal-Mart

by Pam

"I keep going over and over the incident in my mind. I cannot come up with any possible reason why I was treated like this except that I am black."
-- Reginald Pitts, human resources manager at roofing supplier GAF Materials, who was roughed up while trying to purchase gift cards for employees at Wal-Mart. His company will now buy the cards at Target.
Wal-Mart apologizes to corporate shopper for bad check accusation. Nice. The amoral big box retailer really doesn't need any more bad publicity, but here it comes again. How big does the check have to be before someone thinks a black man forged it? In Wal-Mart's case it was a $13,600 corporate check to pay for 520 gift cards for employees.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sharon Weber said Friday that the company does not tolerate discrimination. "We probably could have handled it better, but I won't know until we complete the investigation," Weber said.

Pitts said that when he went to the store last week to pick up the preprinted cards, store managers stalled for about two hours while he waited. He had handed over his business card, his driver's license and phone numbers to GAF's bank. His accounting supervisor assured them over the phone that GAF was good for the check.

Later, two Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies appeared. One grabbed Pitts by the arm. He objected to the rough handling and asked if he was being arrested. "We need to talk with you about this forged check that you brought in here," Pitts quoted one as deputy saying. The deputy said later Wal-Mart had called and reported that Pitts had committed a felony. A short time later deputies, determined there were no grounds for a criminal charge.
If any of you have seen Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, this story fits right in with the rest of the corporate culture exposed by the Robert Greenwald documentary.


Paul of Paul's Rants passed along more woes for Wal-Mart, this time in the shape of lawsuits slapped on the retailer for selling shoddy, defective child bikes. The front wheel comes off while in motion, causing crashes and injuries to the kids.

That kind of lawsuit is not surprising, but this is Wal-Mart and its suppliers, my friends. It looks like the importer and the retail giant failed to report injuries or the alleged defects to the government - and kept on selling the bikes. (SFGate):
Anthony McCurdy watched the front wheel fall off his bike while riding to a bowling alley, he says. The 12-year-old's face hit the sidewalk, and his bicycle landed on his chest. Short of breath, he got up, but then had a seizure and again fell face-first, knocking out his two top front teeth.

Anthony, now a high school junior in West Chicago, said the crash more than five years ago changed him. "I'm just not as able to absorb information as I was before," he said.

He and eight other boys from around the nation are suing retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which sold the bikes, and a San Rafael company that imported them from China. A trial in the case begins Monday in a Marin County courtroom, and the youths are expected to testify about smashing their faces into pavement after the front wheels came loose.

...The lawsuit asserts that the so-called quick-release devices on the front wheels malfunctioned when the bikes hit bumps. The clasps, used on millions of bicycles, are designed to hold the front-wheel axle to the frame and allow the wheel to be easily removed for repairs or transport.

...Under federal law, importers, distributors, retailers and manufacturers are required to tell regulators about anything "that could be a substantial product hazard or has injured or killed a consumer," said U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson.
Crossposted at Pam's House Blend.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

No More Wars

by TheGreenKnight

I know, it's probably far too idealistic to hope that actual wars will ever become a thing of the past. We live in an imperfect world, after all, and some people will always find things to fight about. That's not what I'm talking about at the moment.

At the moment, I'm talking about metaphorical wars, like the one you see in the picture. In case the picture is too small to read (I got it from Crooks and Liars, by the way), it's a FOX News money show; the caption reads, "Economic Disaster if Liberals Win the 'War on Christmas'?"

I've officially had it with metaphorical wars.

As the Green Knight has already said, there is no "War on Christmas." It's a phony scare campaign cooked up by the American right. The details and history of this scare campaign have been well laid out by Michelle Goldberg, and a good recent example of the sort of overblown tales that feed the myth has turned out to be a lot of nothing. But the "War on Christmas" is of course not the only fake, metaphorical war that the USA has fought.

Think of all the metaphorical American wars you've heard of: the War on Christmas, the Culture War, the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty, the War on Pornography, the Campus Wars, the Gender Wars, the Cola Wars. Those were just the ones that came to mind without searching my memory. Every time the USA wants to talk about a national effort, a cultural phenomenon, or even a corporate rivalry, it immediately reaches for the war metaphor. During the Bush era, this trend has reached both the sublime and the ridiculous: the entirety of global politics has been re-imagined as a war against an emotion -- terror -- and the essence of domestic politics has been recast this December as the struggle between the Grinch and Cindy-Lou Who.

But this is absurd. Not only that,
but it's pre-school absurd.

Has the United States really
become such a nation of children
that it sees its cultural and
political conflicts in such terms?

Apparently it has.

And how depressing is that?

Yet, it's probably the inevitable outcome of thinking of everything in terms of metaphorical wars. The thing about war is, in order to fight a war you must first stop seeing your opponent as an actual human being. You must dehumanize them in your mind, or else you cannot justify the anger, the hatred, the venom that is required to behave in a warlike manner. Second, you must put yourself in the position of victim; and as we know, the American right is never happier than when playing the role of the oppressed.

Combine the two, and you've got the perfect elements of war psychology. You also have an incredibly juvenile worldview: one that is capable of producing children's hate literature and paranoid comic books. One that thinks it's not only acceptable but desirable for grown adults to yell, interrupt each other, call people idiotic names, and pull the kind of bratty, peurile stunts that, back when I was a kid, would have gotten you hauled out to the woodshed and paddled -- and I'm only in my 30s.

Which brings me back to the question in the FOX caption: will there be an economic disaster if liberals win the "war on Christmas"? A grown human being should be embarrassed even airing such a ridiculous question in public. The question manages to lie, to smear, to fear-monger, and to make an absolute joke out of political and economic discourse all at the same time. Look at the false premises it's based on:

*That there is a coherent group called "liberals" all working in concert.
*That none of them celebrates Christmas.
*That none of them wants anyone else to celebrate Christmas.
*That they are actively trying to stop businesses from using the word "Christmas."
*That they are actively trying to stop businesses from having Christmas sales.
*That businesses would ever stop having Christmas sales.
*That people could be forced to stop shopping for Christmas presents.
*That even if this preposterous set of events were to happen there would be no other reason for retailers to hold end-of-the year sales.
*That even if that event were to happen retailers would not immediately invent some other big sale season.

And there are many many others. All of those ludicrous assumptions and more would have to be true before that question even made any sense at all. The fact that the question even got aired for serious consideration means that a significant portion of American political discourse has departed so far from reality and good sense that there may be no bringing it back to sanity.

But the question makes perfect sense if you put it in the context of a metaphorical war. In the context of a metaphorical war, none of these real-world considerations matter. All you have to say is, they are the all-powerful villains and we are the plucky little victims, and the real world falls by the wayside. You're free to imagine whatever daft thing you feel like: death rays on the moon, evil left-wing professors trying to destroy Western culture, an Iraq ready to drop a nuclear bomb on your tiny little farming town, a war against Christmas.

So let's stop all the metaphorical war talk. It hurts American culture, it reduces us to children, and it makes us forget what real war is actually like. I would say that we should declare war on metaphorical wars -- but that would be both self-reflexive and self-defeating. Let's have some metaphorical peace instead. We'll need it, because the only way that American culture will ever get onto a sane, well-balanced, grown-up footing again will be a long, long period of relative peace and stability. If we don't get that, and soon, then we're all in for more trouble than, even now, could possibly be imagined.

Cross-posted at The Green Knight.

Ford caves in to Wildmon and AFA

by Pam

The American Family Association called off its boycott of Ford, but apparently it was because the automaker agreed to cave, pulling its plan to target ads to the gay market in publications for Jaguar and Land Rover. It's calling it a "business decision." (Advocate):
The Dearborn, Mich., automaker came under fire from the AFA in May for its longtime efforts to increase LGBT workplace diversity and support gay rights causes. Ford has long been a regular advertiser within gay media, including The Advocate, and has donated significant sums to LGBT causes and nonprofit groups such as the Human Rights Campaign.

Threatened with a boycott by the Mississippi-based AFA, Ford and some of its dealers agreed to negotiate, and the AFA announced in June that it would hold off on its planned action. On Thursday, AFA announced the boycott would be canceled altogether.

"They've heard our concerns; they are acting on our concerns. We are pleased with where we are," said Donald Wildmon, AFA's chairman, in a statement. "Obviously there are still some small matters of difference, as people will always have, but generally speaking, we are pleased with the results-and therefore the boycott that had been suspended [is] now officially ended."

Specific terms of any formal agreement between the AFA and Ford-and whether any such agreement has in fact been reached-remain unclear.

When first contacted, Ford spokesman Moran referred to the AFA statement, suggesting that the company had no disagreement with Wildmon's assertions. In a second conversation he confirmed that the company would no longer advertise Jaguar and Land Rover products in the gay media, saying that the decision was strictly "business."
Ford said it will still advertise the Volvo brand in gay publications because "the company believes it's an effective strategy for that market." Boo, Ford.

Let Ford politely know that its otherwise progressive policies are in the mainstream and that caving to wingnuts like the Wildmons and their knuckle-dragging bible beaters is not a good business decision. Remind them of the company's own diversity statement:
Diversity embodies all the differences that make us unique individuals. Not limited to physical aspects of ra