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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Of course your personal identity will be safe with RealID! 

(For more on RealID—the Republican's new RFID-enabled digital national ID—see back here.)

I mean, a RealID is a digital ID, so it would be almost impossible to steal!


Whoops! We Seem to Have Misplaced Your Identity
Iron Mountain [is] the dominating presence in the off-site data protection business. Its customers include more than three-fourths of Fortune 500 companies, and it had revenue of $1.82 billion last year, earned largely out of public sight as its unmarked vans shuttled among the back-office operations of its clients.

Last week, however, Iron Mountain lost the luxury of going about its rounds invisibly. Time Warner, one of its clients, disclosed that personal information - including names and Social Security numbers for 600,000 current and former employees - had gone missing six weeks earlier while in the care of an unnamed "leader in data storage."

Gee, this keeps happening, doesn't it?

The data had been, in fact, in an Iron Mountain van, and the few details about the incident that it and Time Warner have grudgingly divulged - such as the fact that the pick-up at Time Warner was 1 of 19 the van made bouncing around Manhattan on the fateful day - raise all sorts of questions.

To begin with, why would such sensitive information be handled less like a guard-this-with-your-life briefcase entrusted to Brinks than like a fungible bundle handed to the Dy-Dee Diaper Service? Why was the data unencrypted? And why were trucks involved at all?
(via the actually doing some reporting on this on Times)

Of course, RealID information is government information. So maybe I'm just being way too paranoid.

After all, there's no reason to believe that your RealID identity would ever be compromised, right?

I mean, just because you swiped your RealID at the airport wouldn't mean that the airlines would give your ID and your travel plans to the government! Oh, wait, that already happened...

Or just because your political affiliation and ID wer available digitally, that wouldn't mean that "overzealous volunteers" would use it to create blacklists! Oh, wait....

Or just because your political affiliation was known, that wouldn't mean you could be kicked out of your church! Oh, wait...

What a loser 

The guy's such a loser, He has to grab the stage from the President of Latvia, fer gawdsake.

After Bush finished, [Host President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia] then explained that they would take four questions _ one for each president. Again, Bush tried to interrupt, saying, "Or you can have all four questions to me," knowing that foreign reporters usually want to use the opportunity to probe the U.S. president.

Vike-Freiberga ignored the remark as she called on a Latvian journalist, and Bush threw his arms up and looked to help from aides offstage. The Latvian journalist said he would prefer to question the U.S. leader, and Bush responded, "Yeah, I thought that might be the case."
(via WaPo)

Way to hide those insecurities, loser.

NOTE I want to thank Harry Reid for introducing a new level of civility to American political discourse. I was going to call Him an asshole. But loser is so much more polite!

UPDATE I forgot to say: How can a man whose wife can tell a good horse cock joke to a national audience possibly be a loser? Let's be reasonable, here

I didn't know Darwin was a Jew! 

Or an American, for that matter. Anyhow, Islamic creationists are at work too: "Evolution is presented as a conspiracy of the Jewish and American imperialists.". Click through the read the hilarious comment of our home-grown theocrat. Politics does make strange bedfellows...

Pharyngula also has a fine set of links The Kansas Creationist Kangaroo court.


08derby.1843"Personally, I like underdogs. If they lose, it's not a terrible surprise, but if they win, it makes you feel so damned good, like finally somehow, somewhere, somebody got some justice."--Riggsveda


More On Honoring Our War Dead 

As an extension to yesterday's post....

Don't miss T. Bogg's celebration of the government's reluctant decision that it is okay to show flag-covered coffins.

In case my recommendation of this not-to-be-missed post by Lance Manion got lost in my verbiage, here's another chance for you to read it.

I think the kids who died at Kent State some thirty-five years ago deserve to be considered as honorary war dead and The Heretik, in his own inimitable way, memorializes them here and here. Another don't miss; in fact I'd linked to them in a brilliant post on the actual anniversary day of Kent State only to have Blogger gobble it up without remorse before it could be born. (recognizing, of course, that such was Blogger's choice if it so chose)Thus, there is lots more up at The Heretik since these two posts; if you haven't been there in the last two days, just start here and start scrolling.

Cui bono .... 

Give the Republicans need a time-out and stop RealID 

So, the "nuclear option" would shut down the legislative branch. Is that such a bad thing? I mean, the Republicans are going so totally crazy—breaking the rules to change the rules, threatening to assassinate judges, politicizing Schiavo, and don't get me started on fiscal policy—that it would be a blessing for the country if we sent them to the quiet corner for awhile. And isn't "giving the Republicans a time-out" a much more family-friendly framing than "the nuclear option"?

And maybe when the time-out is over, the Republicans would remember to use their indoor voices. For a change.

One really good reason to shut down the legislative branch is the RealID bill that Congress is about to send to Bush. RealID is, in essence, a system of internal passport controls. Kinda like Russia not under Stalin, but under the Czars. Tim Sparapani, the ACLU's legislative counsel:

"If the states aren't ready within three years, citizens of states that haven't made the changes won't be able to board a flight, take a train, enter a federal courthouse or even go to a Social Security building," if they use their state-issued driver's license as identification, Sparapani said.

For those states that do comply, he said, "this really does, for the first time, create a national identification card and allows every single American to be tracked by all the states and the federal government."
(via Contra Costa Times)

Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center spells out what this means for our democracy:

"The simple answer is that it gives the government greater ability to control the actions of private individuals. It has generally been the view in this country that one of the core aspects of personal freedom is to be free of government control."

"Identification is a form of coercion. It's a way someone says you can't do what you want to do unless you prove who you are."
(via Village Voice)

The Repubublicans tied the RealID bill onto a military appropriations bill, and sold it as being needed to secure the heimat. Of course, RealID is the mother of all hitchhikers: It has nothing to do with Homeland Security; it's an anti-immigrant provision by the same clowns who brought you the Minuteman:

But many of the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attack had student visas and were at one point in the United States legally. The provisions in "RealID" would not have nabbed them.

We suspect the true targets are illegal immigrants, who won't be deterred from coming across the Mexican border as long as American companies keep hiring them with a wink and a nod.
(our own Inky)

But even if RealID starts as "just" an anti-immigration bill, it won't end that way ("First they came for my Nanny..."). After all, the Czars and Stalin only had paper to work with; but we have digital technology!

If only it were some dystopian fiction, but the Senate is slated to pass the Real ID Act next week, which specifies that by 2008 all Americans who want to enjoy privileges such as bank accounts and air travel will be issued what will most likely be RFID-enabled ID cards (Homeland Security hasn’t completely decided which machine readable technology they’ll use, but they’re leaning heavily towards RFID since the chips are already going to be used in our passports). The card will likely take the place of your driver’s license and will store at the very minimum your name, birthdate, sex, ID number, a digital photograph and address, with the possibility of additional data such as a fingerprint or retinal scan. State DMVs will be receiving federal funds to hand over their databases, with the goal of making each state’s data available to all other states.

And I'm sure after all that data somehow escaped from the highly secure ChoicePoint and LexisNexis systems, we've learned from our mistakes, and the system will be completely secure.

And of course, there's no chance, no chance at all, that all the RealID identities will never, never be exchanged with the likes of MBNA for enforcing debt peonage. Wouldn't that synergy be nice? The Bankruptcy Bill and RealID making beautiful music together?

As a final bonus, the bill also give the unelected head of of the Department of Homeland Security the power to set aside all law:

Finally, just for fun, the bill includes a cheery little fascist measure granting the Secretary of Homeland Security “the authority to waive…all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads” claimed to be vital to national security. No courts are allowed “to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security” in this process, nor to order any relief for damages incurred by the exercise of the Almighty Secretary’s unchecked authority. You don’t have to be a tree-hugger to feel wary of giving the non-elected Secretary such singular power to alter the landscape—especially if those roads cut through your back yard.
(via University of Chicago)

And I just know the Republicans would never abuse the law or the Constitution by expanding "expeditious construction of the barriers and roads" to mean, well, whatever the hell they want it to mean.

The only consolation I can see is that bill requires four pieces of ID to get a driver's license. I'd be happy to see long lines at the DMV hung round the neck of the Republican Party... If, by 2008, we have any shreds of Constitutional government and the rule of law left.

NOTE Donate to the ACLU.

No Contest 

Here's some traditional values for ya:
Liberals: We got Bacall.

Right wingnut McCarthyites: you get this:

Any questions?

Interview: Larry King Live, May 6, 2005:

KING: Wait a minute. Are you a liberal?

BACALL: I'm a liberal. The L word!

KING: Egads!

BACALL: I love it. Being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everyone when you're a liberal. You do not have a small mind. Little picayune things. You want to welcome everyone. Liberal, little picayune thing.

KING: You're open to...

BACALL: You want to welcome everyone. Liberal, I'm a Roosevelt. I'm a -- and I hear anyone say anything about FDR...

KING: You're a new dealer, fair dealer.

BACALL: I'm a total -- and I was a kid and I'm total, total, total liberal and proud of it. And I think it's outrageous to say the l word. I mean, excuse me. They should be damn lucky that they were liberals here. Liberals gave more to the population of the United States than any other group.

KING: Well, Social Security.

BACALL: Everything.


KING: Very well said. Spoken as a true liberal.

BACALL: Don't knock the liberals.

KING: I'm not.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Man, that mint julep recipe sure looks tasty.

And if I didn't have to limit my intake of all the good things in life due to B.S.S. (Bush Stress Syndrome) I think I'd be having one now...

Back to water and dry crusts in the tiny room under the stairs in The Mighty Corrente Building....

Just wild about Harry! 

But this latest, I just don't get:

"[Bush's] father is a wonderful human being," Reid said in response to a question about President Bush's policies. "I think this guy is a loser.

"I think President Bush is doing a bad job," he added to a handful of chuckles.

"He's driving this country into bankruptcy," Reid said, referring to the deficit. "He's got us in this intractable war in Iraq where we now have about 1,600 American soldiers dead and another 15,000 injured."

After the statement was released, Reid phoned the Review-Journal to acknowledge he thought he crossed the line.

"You know the president is in Europe, probably sleeping," Reid said in an interview this afternoon. "But I called (Karl) Rove and apologized for what I said."
(via Las Vegas Review Journal)

I don't get it.

What's to apologize for? I'm sorry I said that the Emperor has no clothes? WTF?

Anyhow how can a man whose wife can tell a good horse cock joke to a national audience possibly be a loser? Let's be reasonable, here.

Greatest headlines of our time: "Delay calls for greater humility" 

I kid you not:

"Just think of what we could accomplish if we checked our pride at the door, if collectively we all spent less time taking credit and more time deserving it," [Tom "Bug Man"] DeLay told the 54th annual National Day of Prayer gathering on Capitol Hill. "If we spent less time ducking responsibility and more time welcoming it. If we spent less time on our soapboxes and more time on our knees."
(via WaPo)

Heartwarming thought.

But Bug Man needs to give his party more credit: There are plenty of Republicans who spend time on their knees...

Bring Me The Rest Of Ricardo Sanchez 

And all the other military top brass who have been so willing to play war and punishment with this ungodly administration. Riggsveda takes care of the Sanchez "head" here.

I'm not sure I agree that General Karpinski "deserves" this demotion; here's the headline on the Wa Po story:
General Demoted, But Cleared in Abuse Probe
And among the more bitter ironies: whereas it was President Bush himself who selected the three key architects of his Iraq policy for bestowal of the Medal of Freedom...

President Bush approved yesterday an order demoting Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, the only general to be punished in connection with investigations into detainee abuse at U.S. military prisons.

Karpinski's rank was reduced to colonel, and she was issued a reprimand and relieved of her command. But the Army's inspector general recommended the sanctions based on a broad charge of dereliction of duty, as well as on a charge of shoplifting, essentially clearing her of responsibility for the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.


Pentagon officials have cited Karpinski's punishment as evidence that the military has taken the Abu Ghraib abuse seriously. But the inspector general's report does not link Karpinski's deficiencies to the abuse and, as reported last week, clears four other top officers who were in charge of the war in Iraq....

I think Riggsveda is right that the Sanchez head on a platter is a sufficient symbolic price for the refusal of this administration to come clean on a policy that was approved at the highest level, a policy that was inherently immoral, undemocratically secretive, contrary to solemn, sworn, commitments made by this country in international agreements entered into voluntarily, (in fact, most of those agreements were the result of US leadership when that phrase meant that a good portion of the world was willing to follow such leadership), and which ultimately managed to make us less secure while it damaged our reputation around the world.

Still, it seems to me we need a sequel to plumb the depths of the failures of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, for which General Sanchez is but a handy symbol. Chief among these failures would have to be the deaths and injuries suffered by our own troops and so many more of the Iraqi people. And by "failures" I don't merely mean the decision to go to war, I mean the way it was waged and the way the occupation that followed was conceived of and administered.

However, since we are approaching Memorial Day at the end of this month, let's stay focused on the young men and woman and their families who have suffered the greatest loss. I can't find a better way to do that than to point you to an wonderful post/essay by Lance Manion currently available at his eponymous blog.. I will say no more about it; trust me and go and read it here. And the comments as well. Lance links to three related posts by Tom Watson you should also read, along with the comments, which ask questions about our lack of a national way to grieve..

Both bloggers are accused of using the deaths of soldiers to advance a political agenda. Falsely. The critics have their own politics, of course, but what I found most disappointing was their inability to read the language in which both Tom and Lance speak of our national loss. Words matter, the way words are put together matter. The voice in which these posts are written rings true, and it is an insult to that which unites us as Americans across political differences, not to be able to hear that truth.

Tom also posits a suggestion for the upcoming Memorial Day, about which Lance has questions with which I agree. However, there is something appealing about blogtopia (thank-you skippy) as a whole finding some way to grieve for those of our American families who are the ones who have directly experience the most tragic loses ensuing from our engagement in Iraq. See what you think. Then let Tom, Lance, and/or us know.

I'm usually reluctant to link to old posts of mine, I did some thinking of my own on this subject in November, 2003, stimulated by the occasion of Veterans' Day. If you're interested to see what things looked like back then, you can find the related posts, here, here, and here.

*Corrected for errors caused by the wrong draft being published.

Mint Julep Blogging 

In honor of the venerable Kentucky Derby, I offer you Mint Julep Blogging Friday,top_mint_julep and a little something to go with--a story on making the perfect julep, and a recipe for it as well. First, the recipe:

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water (branch water is ideal)
Fresh Mint
Crushed Ice
Kentucky bourbon (2 ounces per serving)

Make a simple mint syrup by boiling sugar and water together for 5 minutes; cool. (This recipe makes enough syrup for 44 juleps.) Place in a covered container with 6 or 8 bruised mint sprigs. Refrigerate overnight.
Make a julep by filling a julep cup or glass with crushed ice well-packed into the cup, then adding 1 tablespoon of mint syrup and 2 ounces of bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost outside of cup or glass. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and a straw cut short enough so that you almost bury your nose in the mint as you sip.

And now, the story, from a 1937 letter at the Buckner Family website:

"Go to a spring where cool, crystal-clear water bubbles from under a bank of dew-washed ferns. In a consecrated vessel, dip up a little water at the source. Follow the stream through its banks of green moss and wildflowers until it broadens and trickles through beds of mint growing in aromatic profusion and waving softly in the summer breezes. Gather the sweetest and tenderest shoots and gently carry them home. Go to the sideboard and select a decanter of Kentucky Bourbon, distilled by a master hand, mellowed with age yet still vigorous and inspiring. An ancestral sugar bowl, a row of silver goblets, some spoons and some ice and you are ready to start.

In a canvas bag, pound twice as much ice as you think you will need. Make it fine as snow, keep it dry and do not allow it to degenerate into slush.

In each goblet, put a slightly heaping teaspoonful of granulated sugar, barely cover this with spring water and slightly bruise one mint leaf into this, leaving the spoon in the goblet. Then pour elixir from the decanter until the goblets are about one-fourth full. Fill the goblets with snowy ice, sprinkling in a small amount of sugar as you fill. Wipe the outsides of the goblets dry and embellish copiously with mint.

Then comes the important and delicate operation of frosting. By proper manipulation of the spoon, the ingredients are circulated and blended until Nature, wishing to take a further hand and add another of its beautiful phenomena, encrusts the whole in a glittering coat of white frost. Thus harmoniously blended by the deft touches of a skilled hand, you have a beverage eminently appropriate for honorable men and beautiful women.

When all is ready, assemble your guests on the porch or in the garden, where the aroma of the juleps will rise Heavenward and make the birds sing. Propose a worthy toast, raise the goblet to your lips, bury your nose in the mint, inhale a deep breath of its fragrance and sip the nectar of the gods.

Being overcome by thirst, I can write no further."
Me, too.

As usual... 

it's always about the money:
A year after FBI and Homeland Security agents raided his home in a terrorism investigation, Muslim businessman Syed Maswood is lucky to get on an airplane without being detained and searched.

But that didn't stop him from getting an invitation to dine with President Bush.

Maswood, a nuclear engineer who has not been charged with any crime and has been trying for months to get his name off no-fly lists, received an invitation to serve as an honorary chairman at the President's Dinner, a Republican fundraiser with Bush in Washington next month.
(via AP)
That's hilarious, isn't it?

Tells you just how much this stuff we hear from W about the "war on terra" really means, huh?

Faith-Based Economy 

I’m trying hard to make sense of the economic news. Granted, I’m no economist, and I’m lousy at capitalism, but I’m reasonably intelligent and should be able to figure this out. Unless the idea is to make it so complicated that nobody can figure it out.

First, jobs were added in April, but mostly from what I can tell, McJobs in the “retail and service sectors,” while manufacturing is still tanking. So, jobs that don’t pay well or carry benefits are being added.

Yet, “consumer confidence” is down, and unemployment remains the same.

The logic of this defies me. If consumers aren’t buying, how in the hell are jobs being added in retail and services? Unless we’re talking about dollar stores and Waljobs (which is like a job, but not really). And how does unemployment stay the same when jobs are being added? It must be a numbers game. Especially when I hear about all of these massive layoffs.

Economic growth is dropping, but productivity is up. So, more people are working harder to produce more, but that doesn’t translate into growth. Huh? And, in my simple mind, if the jobs that are mostly available are in retail or service, what the hell are these workers producing at a greater rate? Ten McBurgers a minute instead of five? Five shoe sales an hour instead of three?

And the stock market wankers are excited about this. Why? They make more money on their stocks when the workers are getting screwed, I guess.

Wait, if most folks are spending more and more of their income on housing and fuel, how are they affording burgers and shoes? Maybe the retail and service industries include credit card companies? You know, those folks who call the poor schmucks who are late on their payments with threatening messages?

Most people I know who are lucky enough to have decent jobs still live from check to check, and who would be mad enough to live on credit unless they absolutely had to, especially with the new screw-the-sick-and-poor bankruptcy “reform”? Even those with benefits are one serious illness away from going down in flames, and there is no help for those who are employed but don’t have benefits. A diabetic friend of mine was hospitalized following a bout of flu that left his metabolism all out of whack, his kidneys shutting down, and all other manner of badness. He was employed making about $24K at a non-profit and was already signed up with one of those credit counseling places to make reduced payments to creditors. No benefits, but he “made too much” to qualify for any kind of aid. So they wanted to stiff him for $200 a month to pay off a $12,000 hospital bill. He was barely making enough to scrape by already, living with friends, buying insulin and test strips and such without script insurance, making his payments to the credit counseling place. He eventually went bankrupt, and just in time, too. You can bet he was on the phone and mail, but that bastard Salazar voted for the bill anyway, along with 72 other Dems.

I know, none of this is news. But I heard all this chirping on the radio this morning about the "great economic news" and began throwing things and ranting.

The economy is GOOD? Good for whom? Arrrggghh! Sorry. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Bring Me The Head Of Ricardo Sanchez! 

Can you tell I've been feeling shrill lately?
Well, is it any wonder when you see things like this:

"The Army announced that it demoted Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, whose Army Reserve unit was in charge of the prison compound during the period of abuse. Dropping her in rank to colonel required approval from President Bush, and officials said that he granted it on Thursday.
The Army also said it cleared three other, more senior generals of wrongdoing in the prisoner abuse cases, actions that had been previously reported but not publicly confirmed by the Army."
In the meantime:
"Among those cleared by the Army was Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the top Army general in Iraq at the time of the prisoner abuses. He has been faulted by some for leadership failures but has never been accused of ordering or sanctioning any abuse of prisoners.
The Army said it could not substantiate two allegations against Sanchez: dereliction in the performance of duties pertaining to detention and interrogation operations and improperly communicating interrogation policies."
The memos! the memos!!

This is so typical...a macro version of placing the blame on a few bad low-level apples. Now that the Army has a head on the pike representing the higher-ups, there will be no need to pretend to care anymore. Karpinski becomes the pelt on the barn wall for Army "justice."

I'm not saying she doesn't deserve it--she does. But she knows that she's being made the convenient scapegoat (and she's been screaming it from the rooftops), and there are so many bigger culprits who will escape because of this symbolic action. Like, say, Ricardo Sanchez, who is being sued by the ACLU for having "direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody" , and Colonel Thomas Pappas, who commanded US military intelligence and police forces and is also being sued by the ACLU on behalf of torture victims because his "policies, patterns, practices, derelictions of duty and command failures caused Plaintiffs’ abuse."

Shrill? I not only want Sanchez on a platter, I want Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney surrounding him with decorative sprigs of dill and a drizzle of chipotle-ancho mayonnaise. Then I'll feed the whole thing to the pigs.

Next We'll Tackle Spontaneous Generation 

The Kansas B of E sitch offers a good time to re-visit a case in York, PA that blew up last November. I offer here a post I did on my own site back then, "Calling Clarence Darrow":

South of Harrisburg, Pennsylvanians in the Dover Area School District have adopted a familiar tack: bringing religion into the classroom.
“The rural, 3,600-student school district, 20 miles south of Harrisburg, is the first in the nation to require the teaching of "intelligent design," a theory that holds that the complexity of the natural world offers overwhelming evidence of a supernatural force at work.”
Not Christianity, per se, but the concept that a deity, not random chance or evolution as understood by scientists, is responsible for the progression of life as it exists. But there is no question that the people who pushed this agenda are Christian fundamentalists who believe in creationism and see this as a way to begin the introduction of that more blatant concept into the school.

"‘The only thing we want to do is provide a balanced playing field for the students, as opposed to just hearing about the theory of evolution,’ said school board member William Buckingham, a self-described creationist.”
Of course, since the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creationism was unconstitutional, the fundies have been not only fighting that decision, but coming up with something a little slicker to slip in, in its stead. In the meantime, that leaves the teachers, who of course would be the last people anyone would consult, confused and worried about what the outcome may be:

“The high school's three biology teachers, meanwhile, are wondering just what they are supposed to teach. They say they had no input into the new curriculum and worry that they could be sued.”
For those not familiar with it, “Intelligent Design” ostensibly stands alone as simply an idea that a god or supernatural being has set the forces of the universe into motion. But there is no question that it puts theology into the classroom, not as an idea to be studied critically, but as an alternate view of how the world was formed. Writings of Fellows from The Discovery Institute, which underwrites ID research, reveal a politically conservative agenda focused on supporting right-wing Republicans and their policies, and a careful monitoring of creationism legal fights across the nation. Millionaire Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson, deeply involved with the Christian Reconstructionists, poured millions of dollars into supporting the Institute in his attempts to discredit evolution theory. Concerned Women for America gleefully cites the Institute as an ally in its fight to eliminate evolutionary teaching on a webpage dripping with fundamentalist bile.
I don’t have the expertise nor the desire to get into an argument defending evolution here. I’ll leave that to the incomparable Stephen Jay Gould, God rest his soul, who tried endlessly to make people understand that just because evolution was a”theory” did not mean it was untrue or based on error. As he said in Hens’ Teeth and Horses’ Toes, Further Reflections in Natural History:

“Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.”
Funny, though, I’ve never heard anyone adequately explain how accepting the ideas of evolution renders belief in a purposeful creator untenable. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. In the meantime, for a good read on the anti-ID arguments, The Skeptic’s Dictionary has a worthwhile page.

The Earth Does NOT Revolve Around The Sun 

"My dear Kepler, what would you say of the learned here, who, replete with the pertinacity of the asp, have steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope? What shall we make of this? Shall we laugh, or shall we cry?"
--Letter from Galileo Galilei to Johannes Kepler

I've had the luxury of extra time at the keyboard the past few days, but today, time is tight, as Booker T and the MGs could tell you if they were still around.

In the meantime, I'm still marveling at the unintelligent design of the Kansas Board of Education and their pursuit of backwardness:
"Beaming from a laptop to a wide screen, the scientists showed textbook pictures of chicken, turtle and human embryos to try to undermine the notion that all species had a common ancestry. Diagrams of complex RNA molecules were offered as evidence of a designed universe. Dr. Harris displayed a brochure for his Intelligent Design Network, which is based in Kansas, depicting a legal scale with "design" and "evolution" on each side and the words "religion" and "naturalism" crossed out in favor of "Scientific Method."
"You can infer design just by examining something, without knowing anything about where it came from," Dr. Harris said, offering as an example "The Gods Must be Crazy," a film in which Africans marvel at a Coke bottle that turns up in the desert. "I don't know who did it, I don't know how it was done, I don't know why it was done, I don't have to know any of that to know that it was designed."
Can any of you folks out there tell me how looking at pictures of chicken and turtle embryos proves anything at all? "You can infer design by just examining something"? What is that supposed to prove? Meantime, the real scientists and their allies are across the street trying to get a fair hearing from the media by plying them with food, and the whole thing gets weirder by the minute.

Can the trial of Galileo be far behind?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Howie the Whore has awfully thin skin!

Way down at the end of his latest screed, he writes:

Finally, a Daily Kos poster named acbonin criticized The Washington Post's Brian Faler for writing an "occasionally accurate article" on whether the FEC should impose requirements on bloggers. Then he writes:

"As Brian Saler frames it..."

Faler, Saler. Looks like occasional accuracy isn't limited to the Old Media.
(via Wapo)

I love it. Millionaire pundit Howie criticizes a blogger working for free. And for what? A spelling error.

Alpo Accounts: Rep. Bill Thomas? We remember Rep. Bill Thomas! 

Apparently, Rep. Bill Thomas is now the Republican pointman on Bush's Social Security phaseout:

With President Bush's top domestic priority fading fast, Republicans once again have turned to one of their least liked but most effective colleagues: Rep. Bill Thomas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The California Republican saved President Bush's tax cut in 2003, has never lost a vote on the floor and, despite resistance among other House GOP leaders, is poised once again to try to revive the president's proposal to add personal investment accounts to Social Security.
(via WaPo)

Yes, we remember Bill Thomas. He's the guy who tried to have the Capitol Police arrest Democrats on the House floor.

Thomas was a fruitcake then, and he's a fruitcake now.

Hey, good luck to him! I mean, so long as he doesn't try to have Democrats arrested on the House floor again. Too, too '30s Berlin, know what I mean?

Anonymous sources 

As you can see, I'm plowing through The Amazin' Froomkin's online transcript, and it's interesting. I'm actually getting the picture of a Front Page-like reporter who cares about his craft:

Dan Froomkin: That's a very interesting point. Perhaps one solution, short of eliminating [anonymous sources], would be better explaining them to our readers. So: "Blah blah," said a senior administration official who, while anonymous, was designated by the White House to speak on President Bush's behalf." Whaddaya think?
(via WaPo)

Yeah, I knew Hildy Johnson, and, Dan Froomkin, you're no Hildy Johnson, but still, it's nice to see a journalist who cares about the craft.

Maybe, just maybe, there's hope for Pravda on the Potomac, unlike the hopelessly confused, deluded, and drifting toward the shoals Isvestia on the Hudson....

Good journalism 


My role is both to report events and hold the powerful accountable. That's what good journalists do.
(via WaPo)

Damn straight.

And I think that fella who threw the money changers out of the temple... Damn, what was his name? It'll come to me in a minute... Would agree with Dan.

"We create our own reality." 

But Republicans prefer to create their realities in the dark, or behind closed doors, or under rocks, where nobody can see. So it's rare to see a Republican creating reality right out in the open...

But leave it to Doug Feith to draw back the veil:

One day, I asked Feith to describe the importance to him of Lincoln. He admires Lincoln, he said, for many reasons, but in particular for the stalwart way that Lincoln confronted evil. When I suggested that Feith might also admire Lincoln because Lincoln shifted the rationale for his war in the middle of the fighting, Feith replied, with enthusiasm, “I never thought of that. That’s right.”

His answer surprised me. I had expected him to say something like “The Bush Administration has not changed the rationale for the war.”

The next morning, Feith telephoned. He had evidently been thinking about his answer, because he had searched out a better one. He found it in an article by Nicholas Lemann, published in this magazineshortly before the beginning of the war, in which Feith was quoted as saying: “When you can think that if we do things right, and if we help the Iraqis, and if the Iraqis show an ability to create a humane representative government for themselves—will that have beneficial spillover effects on the politics of the whole region? The answer, I think, is yes.”

He read this to me and added, “I must say, I’m damn proud of that sentence. That was right on the nose.”

Feith, though, had left out part of what he told Lemann. “Would anybody be thinking about using military power in Iraq in order to do a political experiment in Iraq in the hope that it would have positive political spillover effects throughout the region?” he asked Lemann. “The answer is no.” He continued: “What we would be using military power for, if we have to, would be the goals the President has talked about, particularly the elimination of the chemical and biological weapons, and preventing Iraq from getting nuclear weapons.”

(via New Yorker)

The first step in decieving others is decieving yourself.

Feith-based policy!

The Itch You Just Can't Scratch 


Via Fables of the Reconstruction, via iFlipFlop.

Sometimes a good visual joke just can't be improved on.


Intellectual Piracy 

films Don't think these scurvy dogs will get away with this:
"TOPEKA, May 5 -In the first of three daylong hearings characterized here as the direct descendant of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, a parade of Ph.D.'s testified today about the flaws they find in Darwin's theory of evolution, transforming a small auditorium into a forum on one of the most controversial questions in education and politics: How to teach about the origin of life?
The hearings by the Kansas State Board of Education- one part science lesson, one part political theater - were set off by proposed changes to Kansas's science standards intended to bring a more critical approach to the teaching of Darwinism. The sessions provided perhaps the highest-profile stage yet for the emerging movement known as intelligent design, which asserts that life is so intricately complex that an architect must be behind it. Critics argue that intelligent design has no basis in science and is another iteration of creationism."
Infidels! Poseurs! Hand in your sheepskins and reveal yourselves for what you are: mumbling flaks for the most inexcusable retreat from enlightenment ever inflicted on a so-called civilized people.

This insult will not go unanswered.

Could Someone Please Explain? 

To piggyback on Riggsveda's perfect, ideogramic (if that isn't a word it should be; think graphic haiku) post on the rupture of Lyndie England's plea agreement -- could someone please explain to me how it is that Charles Graner is serving a ten year sentence after having been convicted of all counts in a court martial in which the maximum sentence he faced was 15 years, while Lyndie England "originally faced charges that could have sent her to jail for 38 years," which her plea agreement reduced to 11?

There is something admirable about the insistence in our military code of justice that a guilty plea must truly be a recognition of guilt and an eschewal of all defenses of one's illegal actions, although I can understand why England's lawyers tried to present mitigating evidence to get her a lesser sentence than Graner, or am I just crazy in thinking that he has a higher level of responsibility for what happened than Pvt. England?

The straight-up reporting by T.R. Reid in the Washington Post of why England's plea was set aside still leaves me scratching my head that even as lame an institution as our SCLM has shown so little interest in connecting the dots that link Abu Graib to Guantanomo to rendition to the highest levels of this administration.

When the president's name was Clinton, that used to happen within the first twenty-four hour news cycle, whether the dots were real or were actually connectable. Remember when the first charges surfaced that China had managed to penetrate our most closely held secrets regarding our missile technology by means of espionage, and in less than 24 hours, Tim Russert was comparing "the scandal" to the Rosenbergs and the loss of the secret of the atom bomb to the Russians, and linking it exclusively to the policies of the Clinton administration. It mainly turned out to be nonsense, of course, because the leaks had been shaped to present a false picture. But that should have been immediately evident, when one considers the fact that the hardest piece of evidence, a Chinese test of a missile that appeared to utilize American technology, had happened under the first Bush administration, a moment in history for which even the idiot press were invited to meet with every Sunday should have had a difficult time making Clinton responsible.

On the other hand, compare that with just a few of the dots, actually huge smears of mud, presented in this report of what happened at the England trial yesterday.

The surprise mistrial in the high-profile prosecution does not mean the reservist will go free. The Army can charge England, 22, again and even add counts.

But the judge's rejection of her guilty plea -- together with evidence at her sentencing hearing that senior Army commanders tolerated chaotic, dangerous and illegal conditions at the notorious prison outside Baghdad -- could undermine the Pentagon's assertion that the Abu Ghraib scandal was solely the fault of a small clique of enlisted soldiers.


Since her hearing began this week, the judge, Col. James L. Pohl, had expressed skepticism about her admission of guilt. His decision to stop the hearing followed testimony Wednesday morning from a former Abu Ghraib prison guard, Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr. A military jury in January rejected Graner's argument that he had been following orders and convicted him of abuse at the prison; he is now serving a 10-year sentence for his role in the scandal.

Graner, who in civilian life worked as corrections officer, said that the widely circulated photo of England holding a naked prisoner on a leash was not abuse, but rather a standard method guards use to control unruly prisoners.

One of the charges against England was that she "did conspire" with Graner to mistreat prisoners. If Graner and England believed that use of the leash was proper, the judge concluded, there was no crime.

There is no finding of guilt that can be accepted any longer," Pohl said.

England was an office clerk who had no training as a prison guard when the Army assigned her to Abu Ghraib. She told the judge earlier this week that she followed Graner's direction in the prison "because he was an MP [military police], he had the corrections officer background. He was older than me."


The judge initially expressed concern Monday when England told him she was following the direction of higher-ranking soldiers when she posed for the pictures. Pohl told her that this statement could jeopardize her guilty plea. England then conferred with her lawyers and changed her explanation, saying she knew at the time that what she did was wrong.

Pohl's doubts emerged again Tuesday, when a school system counselor from England's home town, Mineral County, W.Va., testified that she was always a "compliant personality" who preferred to "listen to authority figures."

The judge interrupted this testimony to comment that "you're creating some inference that she had trouble knowing right from wrong."

Other witnesses testifying on England's behalf Tuesday described Abu Ghraib as a putrid, dangerous, overcrowded facility where inmates and their U.S. guards were constantly sick, U.S. soldiers received minimal training and Army commanders failed to apply the Geneva Conventions.

A military doctor who worked at the prison, Col. David Auch, said: "I do not condone what [England] did, but we cannot ignore the lack of leadership her unit received. The chain of command as a whole failed her."

It is now up to the chain of command here at Fort Hood to determine England's legal fate. With no charges pending against her, she will be assigned to office duties, Fort Hood officials said. Her case essentially reverts to the beginning for a third time; England's charges had been thrown out once before when her case was moved from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Fort Hood.

Fort Hood's commander, Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, as the "convening authority" of the Abu Ghraib courts-martial, will decide whether England should be charged again. "He could order another general court-martial. He could call for less stringent punishment. He could even drop the charges," said Capt. Cullen Sheppard, a lawyer in Fort Hood's judge advocate general's corps.

I think he'll have to charge her again, won't he? That's all part of the "a few bad apples" show, isn't it?

Of course, these soldiers are still responsible for what they did; we no longer accept "I was only following orders" as a defense against personal responsibility. I have fewer arguments with the way the military has handled this "scandal" than I have with the way the SCLM has persistently pretended that the Bush administration bears no responsibility for an outrage that has damaged this country at least as much as did what happened on 9/11, for which, interestingly enough, the Bush administration has also never been held to have any responsibility.

This administration has let the military be hung out to dry, when, in fact, it was not the military that came up with the idea that the Geneva Conventions are obsolete. Does anyone else wonder what the second rung of the command really thinks about Donald Rumsfeld?

Just a reminder that it was perfectly possible to "get it" way back in the Spring of 2004, here's what Sid Blumenthal was saying then.

Options & Leadership 

More on Peak Oil, and the politics of consumption, from Richard Heinberg of the New College of California, in an article written by Melanie Gosling for the Cape Times of South Africa. WARNING: Reading this may bum you out. Here’s the gist:

Natural gas extraction will peak a few years after oil, extraction rates for coal will peak in decades, nuclear energy is dogged by unresolved problems of waste disposal and solar and wind energy will have to undergo rapid expansion if they are to replace even a fraction of the energy shortfall from oil. And the enthusiasm about a hydrogen economy comes from politics rather than science, he said.

"Our real problem is that we are trapped in a perpetual growth machine. As long as modern societies need economic growth to stave off collapse (given existing debt-and-interest-based national currencies), we will continue to require ever more resources yearly. But the Earth has limited resources.

"The energy conundrum is thus intimately tied to the fact that we anticipate perpetual growth within a finite system," Heinberg said.

He sketches four main options available in response:

1. Following the US leadership in competing for remaining resources through wars;
2. Wishful thinking that the market or science will come to the rescue;
3. Assuming that we are already in the early stages of disintegration, devoting our energies to preserving the most worthwhile cultural achievements of the past few centuries.
4. "Powering down" - reducing energy resource use drastically through economic sacrifice, reducing the population size and developing alternative energy sources.

"The sooner we choose wisely, the better off we and our descendants will be," Heinberg said.

“Following the U.S. leadership…” The one area where we could lead with our hearts, and we're leading with imperialism, at the end of a gun barrel.

Oh, and Ira Chernus reminds us that the Pentagon is making first-strike plans for the use of its overstock of WMD's: New US Plan for Nuclear Intimidation

So option #1 isn't going to end anytime soon.

It's An Epidemic! 

Thanks to the heads up from alert reader yank in london, who in comments at my last post provided a link to New Scientist on the upcoming HPV vaccine that will prevent most cervical cancers, we read this:
"The trouble is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. So to prevent infection, girls will have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, which could be a problem in many countries.
In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.
"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus."
As mentioned, to be effective the vaccine will have to be given to girls just before they are sexually active, and the best age for this is believed to be about 12 years old. This creates two problems in the puritanical/patriarchal mind: giving the vaccine could be perceived as giving permission to have sex, and getting it would impugn a girl's purity prior to marriage.

This was actually anticipated back in November in an article in November's Technology Review, that quoted spokeswomen from the Abstinence Clearinghouse, Concerned Women For America, and Family Research Council. And from them we get the usual reasoned, fair, and logical arguments we've come to expect:
"This thing is motivated by money as usual—and in a worldview that not everyone subscribes to,” says Leslee Unruh, founder of the Abstinence Clearinghouse. Unruh believes that abstinence-only sexual education offers a better approach to preventing the spread of all sexually transmitted diseases. Other Christian values groups, such as Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, echo her point of view.
"We know that there is what could easily be called an epidemic of HPV infection, and that needs to be taken seriously,” says Pia de Solenni, an ethicist who serves as director of life and women's issues at the Family Research Council. “However, our concern would be that [a vaccine] really isn't comprehensive, especially when you're talking about administering it to 12-year-olds. It's important to focus on abstinence.” Abstinence, Solenni notes, would prevent not just HPV, but an array of other sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.
Many find the idea of incorporating the vaccine into school-entry requirements particularly troubling. “We need to look at this with a serious moral perspective and talk about it some more instead of just imposing it on every parent and every child,” says Wendy Wright, senior policy director of Concerned Women for America . “We're not saying don't make this vaccine available.” But, she adds, giving the vaccine at an early age sends a message. “What they've done is told this 12-year-old, ‘You can now become sexually active,'” she says. “Perhaps they could adjust this vaccine so that it could be taken at a later age.” Solenni concurs, saying that although she still wouldn't endorse it, the vaccine would best be offered only to people who are at least 18 years old. The only form of prevention she supports is abstinence from any sex outside marriage."
What a fucked up world. This is a VACCINE, assholes, not a diaphragm! It's supposed to save their lives!! It's like a polio shot, fools!

Can't somebody do something about the rampant stupidity infecting this country? Isn't there a vaccine fot that?

A Billion Here, A Billion There... 

Shocking, just shocking, the fiscal irresponsibility of Bu$hCo. Or at least it would be if we weren’t living in Bizzaro America. I mean, it’s even worse than we thought. It just never fails—as soon as you think the lying and looting can’t get worse, it does. According to AP:

Iraq became awash in billions of dollars in cash after the U.S. invasion two years ago, often with few or no controls over how that money was spent and accounted for. From the $8.8 billion provided to Iraq's interim government to millions provided to U.S. contractors, investigations have detailed a system ripe for abuse.

The latest indication of that came Wednesday when investigators released a report saying $96.6 million in cash could not be properly accounted for. The total included more than $7 million that was simply gone, according to the report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

But it’s okay, because congress has refused to allocate any more funds for King George’s Splendid Little War, realizing that it’s a waste of lives and money.

Oh, wait…House Approves $81.4 Billion Iraq War Package

$81.4 billion would buy health coverage for how many kids? How many schools could we build for that? Find out at National Priorities Project

Are You Sick Of Bad News? 

Well, look no further, because we here at corrente are dedicated to not only keeping you informed as to the most egregious horrors of day-to-day life, but also to bringing you the most joyous tidings, as well. Like this:
"Thousands of lives could be saved by a new vaccine that could virtually wipe out cervical cancer when it becomes available next year, it has been reported.
Doctors believe the drug could even end the need for regular smear tests.
The drug, administered with three injections for young girls before they become sexually active, would boost the immune system against the human papiloma virus."
HPV is believed to be the most common factor in developing cervical cancer. Over half a million cases of the cancer are diagnosed each year. Last year it was estimated that over 10,500 women in the the U.S. contracted the disease, despite pap smears and other preventive measures. Of those, almost 4000 were estimated to have died. And it hits African-American women much harder--the death rate is 6.7 per 100,000 for black women, compared to 2.5 per 100,000 for white women.

Pap smears are regular centerpieces in the lives of most women, a yearly requirment growing out of a low-level fear that never goes away. The possiblity of virtually eliminating this fear is well worth celebrating.

Santorum's occcluded privatization front 

Today's temperature is the exclusive property of:
What with being a leading proponent of the Cheney/Bush administration's scheme to divert Social Security funds to Wall Street, overturning Roe v Wade, and preventing homosexuals from undermining the very foundations of this great land, you'd think Ricky would have enough on his plate.

But no. Now he has, in a way, taken up Charles Dudley Warner's 108-year-old challenge: "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Ricky doesn't propose to actually do anything about the weather, but he is determined to make sure that only certain people talk about it.


According to the Tribune-Review, The National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005, introduced by Ricky on April 14, would, if passed, "bar the National Weather Service from providing any service that competes with the private sector."

In other words, American taxpayers, whose dollars support the NWS, would not, if this wacky legislation were to become law, be able to obtain weather information from that source, because the same or similar service is provided by private weather forecasting companies such as AccuWeather, and the Weather Channel.

Uh oh!, MSNBC is reporting a broken fire hydrant in California, really, I'm not making this up, they even have dramatic helicopter video of the big event. Lots of water spraying around. Very exciting. CNN is half heartedly reporting on a couple of "explosions" in NYCity (fifty first and 3rd Ave) which appears to have maybe (or maybe not) have blown out the back window in an SUV parked in the vicinity of the Bristish consulate. Apparently no-one is dead or injured or really too scared at this point but nevertheless it's a potential eye-popper for the wowsers at both CNN (what isn't these days,) and now MSNBC. I'm sure they'll further refine some mini-drama later this morning.

UPDATE: MSNBC is now reporting that one of the "explosions" was an "echo." No wait, two explosions. No wait, one, no wait two, no wait.... Anyway, according to CNN, so far, the explosive event includes a "novelty-type grenade," an "improvised explosive device," a "toy," a "pineapple," a "lemon," etc... deposited in or near a "planter." That ought to keep the big rogue fire hydrant story buried under the fold. Even if MSNBC does have helicopter video footage. Ha ha. Tough luck MSNBC. Big Media News is a cutthroat racket. Okie dokie.

Hey, you there, wanna buy a barometric pressure reading?


Or Was That "Ringmaster"? 

Already the spin has begun on the Lynndie England trial:

"Judge Tosses Out Abuse Plea After the Ringleader Testifies" reads the head on the NYTimes front page. "Ringleader" being applied in this case to that paragon of masculinity, Charles Graner.


You want "ringleader"?



Suagarland Swaggerdaddy and Comstock Annie! 

...and other poisonous creatures -- Via UNDERNEWS, "the online report of the Progressive Review"...

Curcuit Rider Coulter's Carnival of Comstockery:
YASHODA SAMPATH, DAILY TEXAN - Incessant heckling and shouting culminated in an arrest Tuesday night during a speech by Ann Coulter, an extreme right-wing pundit, at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Shouts became so pervasive during the question-and-answer session that Coulter informed the organizers she would no longer take questions if the hecklers were not silenced. For a time, the shouts were considerably lessened, until the issue of gay marriage was broached.

Coulter said she supported the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman on the basis that a good woman civilizes and inspires a man to strive for something better, leading to a question that was met with a stunned silence.

"You say that you believe in the sanctity of marriage," said Ajai Raj, an English sophomore. "How do you feel about marriages where the man does nothing but fuck his wife up the ass?"

UT Police officers approached Raj to arrest him, resulting in a mass exodus of protesters chanting, "Let him go.". . .

Just a reminder - Old Times There Are Not Forgotten:
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was once known as "Hot Tub Tom" for parties he threw in his Texas Legislature days when, by his own admission, he drank up to 12 martinis a night. He fought hard to impeach President Clinton in 1999 and made his name on family values. When asked if he had any advice on keeping a marriage together in Washington, DeLay replied, "Yeah. Move your family here. Don't leave them at home."

What did she know and when did she know it:
PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - One of the leads being investigated in the Chandra Levy case is that Levy was murdered by a professional hit man involved in the local gay S&M scene. Whether or not this proves to be the case, the mere possibility has created unusual problems on Capitol Hill and for the DC police. We hear that some big names on the Hill are extremely nervous at the moment - not because of the Levy mystery itself but because what such a solution might reveal. The MPD could also face possible blowback because of its involvement a few years back in a major gay blackmail scandal, perhaps involving some of the same players. . .

The story is being kept under wraps by news media lawyers - Newsweek and the Village Voice have both spiked articles - but this much can be told: A former Republican congressman wrote a lurid account for Newsmax, allegedly based on knowledgeable sources, that claimed Levy to have been the victim of a gay prostitute who has since returned to his native country. Newsmax quickly removed the story, but it has been the subject of intense media investigation since.

Maybe someone should ask this guy if he has any "funny notions" about who may have turned off Chandra Levy's lights. Ooops, sorry, just sayin'.

Horse Cocky
BTW: I thought Commander Sky Box (the Codpiece Cowboy) was afraid of horses. Guess not.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Say, if Al Qaeda's #3 was betrayed by his skin disorder, why hasn't Al Qaeda's #1 been betrayed by his kidney dialysis machine? 

Just asking.

(Skin disorder via Queensland Courier Mail)

Boy, that ice gets awful cold awful fast, doesn't it?

Goodnight, moon 

And if you want to sleep, stop reading now!

RDF caught this and I want to give it the kind of highlighting it deserves:

The proposal, spelled out in three short sentences, would give the president the power to appoint an eight-member panel called the "Sunset Commission," which would systematically review federal programs every ten years and decide whether they should be eliminated.

And of course, we can be sure the Republicans will treat sunset provisions in a totally apolitical and non-partisan manner, that is fair to all citizens. After all, the Republicans sunsetted the abolition of the inheritance tax in 2001 to massage the budget numbers.... Oh, wait, that proves the opposite, doesn't it?

Somehow, call me crazy, but I have the feeling that anything that doesn't help the uberrich or WalMart is going to get eliminated. Don't you?

NOTE Note from alert reader Osha: See also Kos; the bill that includes this language is not yet passed.

Alpo Accounts: Froomkin misses The Bush "Tell" 

The Amazin' Froomkin:

McClellan promised something new before Bush's Social Security remarks yesterday in Mississippi. But there wasn't much.
(via WaPo)

But (from the link Froomkin supplies) let's look at the transcript:

This is the math, folks, this is exactly what's going to take place unless we do something about it. I'm ready to -- people like me are retiring; we expect the government to make good on the promise, of course. But yet, we don't have enough money coming into the system to do so. So a lot of younger workers out there will be paying into a system that's bankrupt. And that's not fair.
(White House transcript)

What's The Bush "Tell"? When he says "of course," you know He's lying! (And Froomkin discovered this).

So, what lie does this telegraph? That the younger workers won't have their benefits cut under the Bush Social Security Phaseout.


Department of Wow, Ya Think? Color-code terror alerts lack credibility 

Film at 11!

U.S. government officials have issued confusing and at sometimes conflicting statements about the threat of terrorist attack in this country, with the result that the public often doubts the credibility of official pronouncements about terrorism, a congressional report said.
(via WaPo)

Say, has anyone noticed that the terror alerts died down right after the coronation election? I wonder why?

Total Recall 

Today is the anniversary of the Kent State murders. Lest anyone forget.

Sigh. Wonder when they'll formally start shooting us again? I mean, using the military, in formation. I know that brothers and sisters are getting shot every day informally on the streets and in their homes and cars.

Goddam, Kent State seems so long ago. And we're fighting forces now even more pathological than Nixon.


They Eat Their Own (Part Nth) 

Update on this earlier post on Lynndie England's guity plea: the military judge who accepted it has now thrown it out and entered a "Not Guilty" plea on her behalf, saying he's not convinced she knew what she did was wrong. Seems it was the ex-boyfriend/father of their child, the estimable Charles Graner's testimony that sent the judge over the edge:

"Graner, who was convicted separately in the scandal and sentenced to 10 years in prison, testified England was just following orders by placing a dog leash around an Iraqi prisoner's neck and leading the detainee out of his cell.
The technique was legitimate, Graner said.
Pohl excused the jury and admonished the defense team because Graner's testimony, he said, contradicted England's guilty plea Monday.
In making that plea, she admitted her participation and said she knew it was wrong. If she was just following orders, Pohl said, she should be pleading not guilty."

Well, it certainly contradicts Graner's defense, which had been that he was just following orders like a good German. He'd made no bones about his dissatisfaction with England's testimony, saying "well, I hope it gets her a lighter sentence" in the tone of someone who'd just as soon see her impaled on a sharp rock.

I see several things converging here:

    1.) If England truly is on the "slow" side, it doesn't necessarily mean she doesn't understand that it's wrong to hurt human beings; that would mean that lurking inside every learning disabled or mentally slow person in the world is a regular deSade;
    2.) There's no question the administrative shot-callers all the way up to the White House knew what was going on, and if England enters a not guilty plea, their culpability is much more likely to come out. Like the judge said, you can't have a "one-person conspiracy";
    3.) Either way, whether the torture was being done and the pictures taken just for the amusement of the guards, or whether the guards were just following the orders of the higher ups (which we know they were, but it doesn't mean the guards weren't enjoying themselves), this shit is going to once more besmirch the front pages of your local Disturbers. And that means, even allowing for the craven submissiveness of the general media, one more chance for the administration to be exposed for the cruel and psychopathic clods that they are.


Texas lawmakers vote to ban suggestive cheerleading
Now we know what unites both parties:

"Girls can get out and do all of these overly sexually performances and we applaud them and that's not right," said Democratic Representative Al Edwards, who filed the legislation.

Mr. Edwards argued bawdy performances are a distraction for students resulting in pregnancies, dropouts and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

I particularly liked this part:
The bill would give the state education commissioner authority to request that school districts review high school performances.

And not just once, I'll wager. And preferably on the other side of a one-way mirror.

So, again, for those keeping score: for Texan womanhood, bumping and grinding, bad; telling horse cock jokes on national television, just peachy.

Molly Ivins once wrote of a regulation on the books of the Dallas Police force that prohibited hiring male recruits who had had sex with another male since the age of 16, or with an animal since the age of 18. IIRC, Molly called this "The Texas Farmboy Exemption".

I'm beginning to think it's not just about the farmboys.

New Blatant Powergrab? 

A friend sent me this. She was filled with fresh new outrage, although how that's possible these days I don't know. She has a lot of energy, I guess. She wanted to know what we can do to stop it. And I confess, I'm stumped. Letters of outrage? The story sure sounds true. It's in Rolling Stone. If it is true, what CAN we do? The bill has passed.

If you've got something to hide in Washington, the best place to bury it is in the federal budget. The spending plan that President Bush submitted to Congress this year contains 2,000 pages that outline funding to safeguard the environment, protect workers from injury and death, crack down on securities fraud and ensure the safety of prescription drugs. But almost unnoticed in the budget, tucked away in a single paragraph, is a provision that could make every one of those protections a thing of the past.

The proposal, spelled out in three short sentences, would give the president the power to appoint an eight-member panel called the "Sunset Commission," which would systematically review federal programs every ten years and decide whether they should be eliminated. Any programs that are not "producing results," in the eyes of the commission, would "automatically terminate unless the Congress took action to continue them."

The administration portrays the commission as a well-intentioned effort to make sure that federal agencies are actually doing their job. "We just think it makes sense," says Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, which crafted the provision. "The goal isn't to get rid of a program -- it's to make it work better."

In practice, however, the commission would enable the Bush administration to achieve what Ronald Reagan only dreamed of: the end of government regulation as we know it. With a simple vote of five commissioners -- many of them likely to be lobbyists and executives from major corporations currently subject to federal oversight -- the president could terminate any program or agency he dislikes. No more Environmental Protection Agency. No more Food and Drug Administration. No more Securities and Exchange Commission.

Torches and pitchforks? Resurrect Jefferson? The whole thing’s at:

Reefer Madness 

Everyone from NPR to the Houston Chronicle is abuzz about the study, "The War on Marijuana; The Transformation of the War on Drugs in the 1990s", done by The Sentencing Project, which shows that a renewed focus on low-level marijuana users resulted in arrests rising from 28% to 45% of total drug arrests from 1992 to 2002. Of the rise in total drug arrests, 80% of the increase came from marijuana arrests of mostly small, recreational users. The price for this is high: the report estimates about $4 billion a year is spent on arresting and prosecution. Think of the health insurance or decent housing that could buy!

Also (unsurprisingly, given the racism of the enforcement mechanisms), although blacks make up only 14 % of the population, they accounted for 30% of arrests, despite the fact that 74% of regular marijuana users are white:
"A Maryland study on marijuana enforcement observed that police officers knew where to go if they wished to make an easy drug arrest, and suggested that they could do so whenever they wished in certain neighborhoods These neighborhoods are those where drug use and selling is most likely to be in public spaces, allowing for easy apprehension. Research by criminologist Alfred Blumstein supports this point, observing that disproportionate arrest rates are due to “a more dense police presence where blacks reside.”
The study also notes that possession cases generally receive longer sentences than trafficking cases. In fact, 24% of marijuana offenders in prison were found to have been first-time offenders with no weapons or trafficking issues.

And despite all this, use of weed has held relatively steady over the years, and NPR reported that approximately 47% of the general population has used it. From an anecdotal point of view, I can tell you I know a good number of folks who are regular smokers. Many are in their 40s and 50s, and all of them are taxpayers and productive human beings who have been smoking for anywhere from 10 to 35 years, and not one of them ever robbed a bank, raped a woman, or went mad. All of them live that part of their lives with a combination of martini-drinking casualness and furtive paranoia, and the idea of putting any of them in jail is not only outrageous, but daft. The fact that they cannot be open and truthful about it relegates them, in many ways, to the shadows in which women who had abortions live, except that being exposed as a person who once had an abortion doesn't put one at risk of jail time.

I'm not going to rant about the stupidity of our drug laws. Even the general public has gotten bored with marijuana as a scare tactic. But the report recommendations are extensive and include suggestions for a national dialogue on decriminalization, and at the very least, we need to heed them.

CYA, Donald 

Excellent piece over at Empire Notes on the outcome of the Lynndie England case, in which she pled to lesser charges yesterday to avoid a heavy sentence. After laying out the evidence presented at the court-martial, Rahul Mahajan breaks it down:
"What was the plea bargain really about?"
Was it about evidential issues relating to Ms. England's crimes or was it -- at least tacitly -- about an agreement to forget about implicating people higher up in the chain of command, indeed to forget about even subpoena'ing them?
It might be argued that prosecutors were actually worried that England's defense would successfully present her as a mentally defective person incapable of understanding what she was doing and get her totally or partially exonerated on those grounds, but I don't think that's how courts-martial generally operate.
The military officers who would make up the jury would know very well that the decision had been made at the top that these few people in the pictures were to be punished and would furthermore not want to cast the military in an even worse light than it already is by agreeing that the military recruits people who can't tell right from wrong and puts them in charge of prisoners.
So, the evidence is far from conclusive, but the inferential case seems to me quite strong, that the real terms of England's plea bargain were about covering the ass of the military hierarchy."
It was ever thus.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Does anyone besides me think Coingate is probably even worse than it sounds?

Sure, Republican and Bush Pioneer Tom Noe taking money from Ohio's workman's compensation fund and "investing" it in rare coins (!) through his own company (!!) and taking a hefty commission (!!!) is pretty bad, and does make you wonder what the Republicans would do if they got their greedy mitts on your Social Security money.

But what leaps to my (jaundiced, paranoid) eye is the possibility of a money laundering scheme. Noe "invests" in rare coins with a dealer. The dealer "loses" the coins (121 of them have been lost, that we know of). Well, suppose the lost coins really turned up somewhere—say, as an untraceable payment to an (Ohio-based) rogue Diebold programmer, who then cashes them in?

It would be irresponsible not to speculate! And please refer all complaints that contain the words "tinfoil hat" to The Department of No! They Would Never Do That!

IOKIYAR: Two seconds of Janet Jackson's tit, and America reeled! 

But (as Digby points out) let Waura tell a joke about horse's cocks at the White House Correspondent's dinner, and nobody raises an eyebrow.

I saw my in-laws down at the ranch over Easter. We like it down there. George didn't know much about ranches when we bought the place. Andover and Yale don't have a real strong ranching program. But I'm proud of George. He's learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What's worse, it was a male horse.
(via the transscript at USA Today)

You may file a complaint with the FCC here, since the dinner was broadcast on CSPAN (via Blog critics. (The FCC does accept comments on CPSAN, which I assume means that they regulate them.)

Say, did the ("sounds like"...) horse George tried to milk have a bald head?

NOTE Life imitates Corrente once again. We had it right on the bestiality, wrong on the animal. We thought goats. Dang.

Christian Supremacist Watch 

Frederick Clarkson:
This past weekend a big conference titled Examining the Agenda of the Religious Far Right was staged in New York. Over 500 people participated including numerous reporters and several documentary film makers. Conference participants heard an unusually diverse range of critical perspectives on the religious right. I was honored to be among the speakers -- but I spent alot of time in very worthwhile listening.


An unexpected highlight for me was meeting novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who was among many notables who had come to hear as distinguished, smart and often inconoclastic a bunch of journalists, authors, activists, and academics ever assembled to talk about this subject. Nothing quite like it had ever been done before. We can only hope that it will be done again and again, and all over the country.

continue reading NY Conference on Theocracy...


Jeff Sharlet (interview with On the Media - WNYC Radio):
If you go to churches and you talk to regular people, a lot of people on the religious right are talking about civil war, and they're talking about civil war in not a metaphorical sense, in a literal sense. They hope it won't happen, but they are afraid that it might. And I think that has come through this growing metaphor of spiritual war.

continue reading Messiah Complex (transcript)


Via Bartholomew's notes on religion:
...300 school districts are currently offering a course called "The Bible as History and Literature," a course curriculum from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS).

America's leading theocrats shower blessings upon the NCBCPS:
The site for the NCBCPS also contains endorsements from a number of PhDs, although that list is not encouraging: the top place goes to a motivational speaker called Joel A Freeman; under him we find J Randall Price, “P.h.D. in Middle Eastern and Asian Studies”. Price is in fact a Christian Zionist fundamentalist most noted for an absurd book called The Coming Last Days Temple. In fact, all the PhDs listed with Bible-related qualifications actually relate to Biblical studies the way Ken Ham does to science: there’s Robert G Cornuke, a crank who spends his time looking for the lost Ark of the Covenant; Roy E Knuteson is an obscure figure associated with the fundamentalist Dallas Theological Seminary (and I mean "fundamentalist" literally, not just as a polemical term).

The advisory committee is also rather alarming and completely devoid of serious Biblical scholars: instead, we find conservative politicians and the likes of D. James Kennedy (plus Rabbi Daniel Lapin as token Jew). Particularly disturbing, but not surprising, is the presence of pseudo-historian David Barton; the course claims to teach schoolchildren about how the Bible was understood by the US Founding Fathers.

Read Learning the Bible from Fundamentalists

"I see the day country we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!" ~ Rev. Jerry Falwell

Max Blumenthal:
The recent right-wing fixation on impeaching judges was conceptualized by David Barton, Republican consultant and vice chairman of the Texas GOP. In 1996 Barton published a handbook called Impeachment: Restraining an Overactive Judiciary, which was timed to coincide with Tom DeLay's bid for legislation authorizing Congress to impeach judges. "The judges need to be intimidated," DeLay told reporters that year.

In 1989 Barton published a book titled The Myth of Separation, which proclaims, "This book proves that the separation of church and state is a myth." The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, in a critique of his 1995 documentary America's Godly Heritage, stated that it was "laced with exaggerations, half-truths, and misstatements of fact." Barton is on the board of advisers of the Providence Foundation, a Christian Reconstructionist group that promotes the idea that biblical law should be instituted in America. In 1991 Barton spoke at a Colorado retreat sponsored by Pastor Pete Peters, an adherent of racist Christian Identity theology with well-established neo-Nazi ties. During the 2004 presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee hired him as a paid consultant for "evangelical outreach." The RNC sponsored more than 300 events for him.


On Monday, April 11, at Senator Frist's invitation, David Barton will lead him and other senators on an evening tour of the Capitol, offering "a fresh perspective on our nation's religious heritage."

Read: In Contempt of Courts, by Max Blumenthal; The Nation, 04.11.2005.


Alpo Accounts: Democrats have a plan; it's called "Social Security" 

EJ Dionne explains why it's important that no bill at all gets passed:

That the president is fixing the Social Security reform game should be obvious. The most basic corruption of the process is the way the Republican congressional leadership has transformed the bargaining that once took place between the House and the Senate.

In the old days, when each house produced different versions of the same bill, a "conference" committee typically including members of both parties from both houses would thrash out the details and reach a compromise. Now the Republicans will concede whatever is necessary to get a bill out of the Senate, even as the lockstep-Republican House produces a right-wing version of the same proposal. In conferences, Republicans routinely freeze out all but the most pliable Democrats. The supposed "compromise" that emerges is not a compromise at all. Democrats who go along become enablers of a game being played with a stacked deck.
(via WaPo)

So, since any "compromise" by Dems is going to get removed in conference, what's the point in compromising? No bill is better than a bad bill.

There's nothing wrong with "obstructing" destructionists!

MBF Watch: Schoolteachers strip searched at Partei Rally 

Nothing must pop Inerrant Boy's bubble:

Two teachers arrested at a 2004 campaign rally for President Bush and strip-searched at a county jail have filed a lawsuit alleging law officers conspired to violate their constitutional rights.

Alice McCabe and Christine Nelson, both in their 50s, were among five protesters arrested at the Sept. 3 rally. The pair were handcuffed, taken to the county jail, strip-searched and charged with criminal trespass. The charges were dropped months later.

"I believe the federal government behaved very badly in this situation," said David O'Brien, the women's attorney.

The lawsuit claims the strip search violated constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Typically suspects are searched only if authorities have cause to believe they possess a weapon or illegal drugs, O'Brien said.

"We don't think they had a reasonable belief that these two, 50-year-old school teachers had a weapon or contraband in their possession that day," O'Brien said, whose clients requested a jury trial and unspecified damages.

McCabe and Nelson — described in the lawsuit as political novices motivated by their opposition to Bush administration policies in Iraq — attended the rally at a city park, where McCabe held a sheet of paper urging, "No More War," and Nelson wore a John Kerry button.
(AP via Digby)

Well, since they wore Kerry buttons, they couldn't have been Christians, and thus have no place in our the Theocratic States of America. So what's the big deal here? Let's be reasonable, people!


So, speaking of septic tanks and what rises to the top, I see via AP that Don Evans, former Secretary of Commerce, is now the CEO of “The Forum,” a lobbying corporation that represents such fine upstanding corporate entities as Citigroup and JP Morgan. This “Forum” decided to not endorse aWol’s Alpo Accounts in March, but of course that’s a no-no. I suspect good ol’ Don will see to it that that changes, pronto. No doubt these financial service companies do need a little lobbying on their behalf—after all, it must have hurt profits to have Congress hand them their heads when they suggested that bankruptcy laws be “reformed” on the backs of the poor and sick. Oh, wait, sorry. That was what was supposed to happen, except that we’re living in Bizarro America.

In other startling news related to floaters on the public tank (Bolton), Tom Tomorrow of This Modern World notes that

Though Bolton supported the Vietnam War, he declined to enter combat duty, instead enlisting in the National Guard and attending law school after his 1970 graduation. "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy," Bolton wrote of his decision in the 25th reunion book. "I considered the war in Vietnam already lost."

So he supported the war, but considered it already lost, and didn't want to die there himself.

And you wonder why the term "chickenhawk" is bandied about so frequently these days?

And in that hotbed of radical freethinking, rebellion. Horrors! Utah Gov. Defies No Child Left Behind Act

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the GOP B-team is still at work: GOP Operative Launches Anti-Hillary Site (CAUTION: Not suitable for children, at least not literate ones.)

And, heck, let’s end this nauseafest by suggesting that maybe the cops would have time to focus on murderers, child molesters, domestic violence perps and other real crimes if it wasn't for the fact that Marijuana behind 45 percent of U.S. drug arrests

I Can Watch For Freedom Better From The Vantage Point Of Your Crumpled Body 

Remember the justification for the first Gulf war back in 1991? Let me refresh your battered memories, using quotes from George the First's own "Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf" from January 16th, 1991:
"This conflict started August 2d when the dictator of Iraq invaded a small and helpless neighbor. Kuwait -- a member of the Arab League and a member of the United Nations -- was crushed; its people, brutalized."

"Our objectives are clear: Saddam Hussein's forces will leave Kuwait. The legitimate government of Kuwait will be restored to its rightful place, and Kuwait will once again be free."

"Our goal is not the conquest of Iraq. It is the liberation of Kuwait."
Good times, eh? Freedom was on the march. Never mind that Hill & Knowlton, the world's largest PR firm, was hired to sell the war to the public. Never mind that the most poignant and horror-filled anecdote used to whip people into a war-mad frenzy was a complete and utter lie. Never mind that the Bush administration approved a sale of data-transmission devices usable for missile launching on the very eve of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, or that when Hussein made threats toward Kuwait to Ambassador April Glaspie and asked her thoughts, she told him the US had no opinion, which he took as a go-ahead.

Because the whole thing was about freedom. FREEDOM for the poor Kuwaitis. Freedom for them to do this:
"Kuwait's Parliament effectively killed a measure today that would have allowed women to participate in municipal elections for the first time this year, delaying any further discussion of the measure until after the elections are called. The measure's failure ends any chance that women will be able to vote or run in elections for another four years."
This is not new. This struggle has been going on for decades, and even as the women's suffrage movement grows, the government continues to vote against their right to vote.

So you see, all those people who died back then for "freedom", were only dying for the freedom of half the Kuwaiti population--and for that half's freedom to take freedom away from the other half. That's more of that Bush dynasty math.

Mebbe There's Hope (Of course there MUST be) 

Following up on our recent posts about deal-making and what Reid is up to, I see an article from Ruth Conniff over at The Progressive, wherein she thinks it’s all good. And she’s actually spoken to the Barbara Boxer…

There's reason to hope that the Republicans are cracking up. Barbara Boxer thinks so. I talked to her a few days ago in Washington--on the day the Republican leadership rejected Harry Reid's compromise to end the Senate filibuster standoff. It was "a perfectly reasonable compromise," said Senator Boxer, the combative hero of the left who is also friends with Senator Reid, the deal-making, pro-life leader of the Senate Democrats. Now, Boxer said, people are beginning to see how extreme the Republicans really are…

…We still don't know how the filibuster standoff will end. Will it be another Newt Gingrich government shutdown story--with the President looking good in the end? Or will the public look at DeLay's ethics rule changes, Frist's comments about Democrats being anti-Christian, and the rest of the excessively aggressive Republican team and fix blame on the overstepping Republicans in Congress? Judging from the gleam in Boxer's eye, I'd say it's looking like the latter option.

Meanwhile, more power to the Princeton students who are filibustering day and night outside Bill Frist's family's legacy building on campus. What the Democrats need now is a show of support from the rest of the public for standing firm and seizing the opening the Republicans are giving them.

I hope that Boxer eye-gleam is there because she knows something we don’t. Theocracy, powertripping, fearmongering, greed and septic tanks all smell very bad when exposed to the light. So, enjoy yourselves, GOP-thugs, while you can still keep the public in the dark. The day is coming (it has to be) when the light of reason will shine on your effluvia, and the voting public will run puking, either to the polls (if they can be trusted) or to grab their pitchforks and torches.

There's The T-Word 

Kansas is at it again:
"...Kansas is holding its own hearings on what school children should be taught about how life on Earth began.
The Kansas Board of Education has scheduled six days of courtroom-style hearings to begin Thursday in Topeka. More than two dozen witnesses will give testimony and be subject to cross-examination, with the majority expected to argue against teaching evolution."
Kansas' B of E has been trying for years to get rid of evolution and put creationism into the schools, but since the Christianists got a majority seat on the Board last year, they think they may really have a shot at it this time. But get this:
"School board member Sue Gamble, who describes herself as a moderate, said she will not attend the hearings, which she calls "a farce." She said the argument over evolution is part of a larger agenda by Christian conservatives to gradually alter the legal and social landscape in the United States.
"I think it is a desire by a minority... to establish a theocracy, both within Kansas and growing to a national level," Gamble said."
There it is...the T-word, and uttered not by some left-winger in a weblog, but by a member of one of the most conservative B of E's in the country.

The Christianists feel evolution is untenable as science, since, as the article says:
"Detractors also argue that evolution is invalid science because it cannot be tested or verified and say it is inappropriately being indoctrinated into education and discouraging consideration of alternatives."
As opposed to theory the apple and the snake and the sudden full-blown appearance of the earth as we know it today, which has been scientifically demonstrated to be true in countless reproducible experiments.

As Henry Drummond said in Inherit the Wind: "This is going to be a barren source of amusement."

I Can't Quite Put My Finger On It... 

but there seems to be some kind of thing happening lately:
"Wilmington television station WWAY reported that Stowers found the finger in frozen custard he purchased Sunday night...
Stowers, who did not immediately return calls Monday from The Associated Press, told the station: "I thought it was candy because they put candy in your ice cream ... to make it a treat. So I said, 'OK, well, I'll just put it in my mouth and get the ice cream off of it and see what it is.'"
Stowers said he spit the object out, but still couldn't identify it. So he went to his kitchen, rinsed it off with water -- and "just started screaming."
The Agriculture Department subsequently closed the ice cream shop to clean and sanitize the place, as unapproved additives other than rodent feces and beetle legs are strictly prohibted.

All right, all right, so it's not some ground-breaking Seymour Hersh piece, but would you rather read this or Laura Bush's jokes?

From The Department Of Obvious Obviousness 

On The Hindquarters of Rattus Norvegicus 

rat Please God. I've only been back to reading the net and watching TV for a few hours and already I can't bear the thought of one more article on the runaway bride, or Pickles and her hilarious stand-up routine Saturday night. Too tired to get it up? Starved for sex and hanging out at strip joints? Husband brain-dead? Aside from the fact that it came from the handmaid of the Dauphin, what on earth makes the cruelty and puerile subtext of such stupid yuks newsworthy? It certainly gives insight into what they must see in each other, if you subscribe to the theory that like attracts like--one shallow, smiling creep to another.

Aside from that psychological insight, who gives a rat's ass?

A Riddle 

While I was otherwise engaged in family matters, the world went on without me. And imagine my bemusement when I beheld this:
"With little fanfare and some adept bureaucratic maneuvering, a partnership between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and a select group of Justice Department prosecutors has been forged to identify and single out for prosecution the nation's most flagrant workplace safety violators.
The initiative does not entail new legislation or regulation. Instead, it seeks to marshal a spectrum of existing laws that carry considerably stiffer penalties than those governing workplace safety alone. They include environmental laws, criminal statutes more commonly used in racketeering and white-collar crime cases, and even some provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a corporate reform law."
But nowhere in the article is this mystifying empathy for working people, suddenly bubbling out of an administration notoriously hostile to labor or environment, ever analyzed for its motivation. The feds aren't giving anything away, and nothing I've been able to dredge up anywhere has offered a clue. Even under Clinton the agency was almost useless, though Bush's record has been abysmal.

This article from Occupational Hazards early last year predicted that the series "When Workers Die", written by David Barstow for the NYTimes in December 2003, may have set off tremors that could have substantive repercussions for the agency:
"While the long-term impact of the series is not clear, Congress has clearly taken notice, and legislation has been introduced that would increase the criminal penalties available for willful violations of federal OSHA standards that cause employee fatalities. It also seems likely that in high-profile cases, OSHA may become more reluctant to enter into settlement agreements and may refer more cases to DOJ. Also, even without an OSHA referral, DOJ has the power, so far seldom used, to initiate its own investigation of a workplace fatality, and the Times series may spur DOJ to take this initiative more often. Finally, employee advocacy groups have begun to clamor for criminal investigations where major accidents have occurred."
Barstow also co-wrote a January 2003 NYTimes series expose on McWane, Inc., serial killer of employees--a joint effort that included PBS' Frontline and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Connection? Sure enough, today's article in the Times notes that the DOJ is taking a high profile role in training and assisting OSHA to prep investigations for prosecution, and sure enough:
"The value of that coordination became obvious, he and other officials said, during a recent federal investigation into a New Jersey foundry owned by McWane Inc., the nation's largest manufacturer of cast-iron pipe. The investigation was prompted by articles in The Times and a companion documentary on the PBS television program "Frontline" that described McWane as one of the most dangerous employers in America...
In December 2003, several senior managers at the New Jersey foundry were indicted on charges of conspiring to violate safety and environmental laws and repeatedly obstructing government inquiries by lying and altering accident scenes. The case is pending, but Justice Department officials called it a "pioneering indictment."
But surely this can't be the whole happy story, can it? This is a government that has been almost unequalled in its ability to remain aloof and deaf to public opinion or the needs of the non-business community. I would dearly love to know whether any of you, dear readers, could shed further light on this mystery.

Truer Words Were Never Written 

"Once a program becomes the narrow concern of a minority of the population -- and not just any minority, but a minority that can't afford lobbysists, doesn't enjoy access to the media, is socially isolated from the American elite, etc. -- it gets squeezed out in favor of programs whose constituents do enjoy those things."
---quoth Matt Yglesias, guesting over at Talking Points Memo, on the likely fate of Social Security after Bush gets through with it.

John Ashcroft ~ R. G.O.P. D.D. (Divinitis Doctor) 

Don't forget to write:
John Aschroft resignation letter
Handwritten letter submitted to maintain confidentiality
Fact file Ashcroft's resignation

Office of the Attorney General
Washington DC 20530
November 2, 2004

Dear Mr. President:

Nothing in my life compares to the high honor of serving America as Attorney General in your administration.

The cause of justice is indeed a serious calling. Americans have been spared the violence and savaging of terrorist attack on our soil since September 11, 2001.

Yeah, sure, tell it to Tom's neighbor in Missurah (the flowering dogshit, I mean dogwood!, heh, Flowering Dogwood state.)

Meanwhile: exciting B-43 alumnus news via The Ghost of Joe Liebling's Dog!
Crisis Counseling Recommendations
At times the owner/operator of a Business Unit may find the Business Unit is experiencing a crisis. Aschroft Consulting, drawing on extensive personal experience, offers these recommendations:

1. Conduct of the Business Unit around Cats. No calico cat should ever, EVER be permitted in the vicinity of the Business Unit. Ideally the Business Unit should never have anything to do with a cat, but Aschroft Consulting is aware that some clients may wish to allow a cat near the Business Unit from time to time (see 1 Corinthians 7:9.)

For additional information and/or consultation please consult Aschroft Consulting


Hint = the correct answer is D) - PONY.

And why do (you know who) - ...give a damn. (?) Just askin' - about the Social Secuity End-times:
Are the fundamentalist end-timers among that 81 percent who think something major needs to be done? And, if so, why? Do they really think they are going to still need Social Security in forty years? If so, their idea of end times with this being the last generation and all is quite a bit different than I would expect. Maybe they’re thinking in terms of the generations of Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah, who each lived for many hundreds of years. That should give them a century or two margin of error for the definition of the last generation.

Time is a funny thang. Although many popular (BIG BOX OFFICE BLOCKBUSTER) horror movies command devoted followings for a long time. BTW: How old are you in Genesis years? Afterall, Seth was still screwing anything that moved after 800 years. Not ban for a horny old nomad. And, also, by the way, what the hell is a gopher-wood tree anyway? Really, I'm serious, that ones been driving me batty for at least the last 350 years.


Monday, May 02, 2005

Hermann Rumsfeld's Lightning War 

Lambert notes below an excerpt from "The secret Downing Street memo" - see entire post below: Whack: It's not like we didn't notice at the time:
(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

And then [Lambert] adds:
Generous of the Iraqis, what? But wait... Why is the Gulf of Tonkin coming into my mind? Or the Nazi invasion of Poland... Give me a minute, I'll get it...

Or, The Battle of Britian...?

Which, in turn, reminded me of the following exchange between Donald Rumsfeld and PBS's Jim Lehrer (NewsHour, February 4, 2002) in which Field Marshal von Rumsfeld shares his thoughts on the human resource economics of lightning war.
JIM LEHRER: But if somebody were to look at this budget - forget the money for a while - just look at what it buys, does it buy anything that different than what we already have?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I think when you say "that different," it's important to understand that you can - when the Germans transformed their armed forces into the Blitzkrieg, they transformed only about 5 or 10 percent of their force. Everything else was the same, but they transformed the way they used it, the connectivity between aircraft and forces on the ground, the concentration of it in a specific portion of the line, and it - one would not want to transform 100 percent of your forces. You only need to transform a portion.

Presumably transforming a portion of yourself into Hermann Goering is a grand idea too. Jeezis. "The Secret Downing Street memo," (IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING) is dated "23 JULY", 2002.

NewsHour transcript, Feb 4, 2002.


Goodnight, moon 

Great headlines of our time: Newspaper circulation continues to decline.

You can make up your own jokes—but could it be that people are figuring out that the newspapers are publishing less and less news? (The article is full of circulation and marketing wonkery; kinda like the Captain of the Titanic coming out on deck and saying: "I know what we need! Better deck chairs!")

The word "science" in the mouth of a Republican is like... 

... Well, you fill in the blank.

Please reward good behavior and buy the print version of The New Yorker;
Elizabeth Kolbert's third part of the "The Climate of Man" is out today, and it's as good as the first two. (Dare we hope for a "Silent Spring" II?) From the majestic perspective of the overall theme—the coming of the Anthropocene, with crocodiles at the poles once more—politics seems a little trivial. But revealing.

Taking these three quotes out of order, just to connect the dots in a way that Kolbert is, perhaps, too polite to do:

"[UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR GLOBAL AFFAIR, PATRICIA DOBRIANSKY:] Science tells us that we cannot say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of global warming and therefore what level must be avoided. ... We predicate our policies on sound science."

"[CHIEF EXECUTIVE BUSH:] When we make decisions, we want to make sure we do so on sound science."

"[GOP POLLSTER FRANK LUNTZ:] The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still an opportunity to challenge the science. ... Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordinglly... The most important principle in any discussion of global warming is your commitment to sound science.
(via the print version of The New Yorker—go on, support actual journalism and fork over the $3,95!)

Coincidence? You be the judge.

There really is nothing these people don't try to pervert, is there?

Whack: It's not like we didn't notice at the time 

But it's always nice for those of us in the reality-based community to be proved 100% right, all along.

From the Times (of London, The Secret Downing Street Memo:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
(via Times)

The grovelling by the wingers and the DINO apologists and the media whores may now commence.

I'll wait.

What's that I hear? A deafening silence? Look! Over there! Jennifer Wilbanks

NOTE A less notice paragraph in The Downing Street Memo is the following:

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up ...

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

Generous of the Iraqis, what? But wait... Why is the Gulf of Tonkin coming into my mind? Or the Nazi invasion of Poland... Give me a minute, I'll get it...

Open Letter to Zalmay Khalilzad 

Dear Zal, if I may be so familiar:

I know you’re a busy man, what with filling the shoes of Mr. Negroponte. So many clandestine operations, so little time. I’ll therefore be brief.

Knowing of your and the president’s deep and abiding concern for human life and dignity (I believe you call it a “culture of life”), I am writing today to offer a suggestion, modeled after the highly useful and successful color-coded terror alerts used by the DHS here in the U.S. (Although they have of late been less useful, it seems. Well, times change, needs change.)

I have noticed in today’s news that there are new deaths in Iraq. It seems to be a very dangerous place to live, and hardly an example of the “culture of life” so valued by the administration you serve. Surely this can’t go on. What I propose is that you institute a color-coded chance-of-dying alert for Iraqi citizens. It could go like this:

RED=1:10 chance of dying today
CRIMSON=2-5:10 chance of dying today
BRIGHT RED=6-8:10 chance of dying today
DAYGLO NEON RED=you’re fucked

Now, I realize that there are obstacles to making this work. For one, the hospitals are overcrowded and in worse shape now than before the illegal invasion occurred. For another, you aren’t technically in charge of Iraq. Finally, there’s the problem of knowing when to call an alert, and how red it should be. However, these obstacles are easily overcome. For the first, you could simply remind people that getting wounded is as good as getting killed. For the second, come on. You must have some pull. After all, the Army is still running things, and you and Don R. are as tight as ticks. As for the last, it’s easy. Just keep in mind that the idea isn’t really to keep the Iraqis safe, it’s to show the world how democratic and caring the new Iraqi government is. In this case, however, the lower the alert level is, the better, politically speaking. There is a time for everything, of course, and in the future it may be more useful to ramp up the alert level. You might also consider dishing out plastic sheeting and duct tape as a measure to show how we care. Oh, right, never mind. We did that already, at that prison, what was it called? Anyway, that, and asking Iraqi citizens and police (who are always to be on Dayglo Neon Red Alert) to watch for cars that have travel guides and almanacs (or Islamic literature) in them might help too.

None of this will save any Iraqi lives, of course. But remember, again, that’s not the point. Surely you recall that from your time in Afghanistan and your conversations with Mr. Ridge, before he left, and with Mr. Chertoff these days. And of course, for Americans like yourself working in Iraq the alert level must always be Dayglo Neon Red, since that whole “winning hearts and minds” thing didn’t quite pan out and the natives are little riled.

Well, it’s been a pleasure offering you this suggestion, and if I can be of any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to write. Give my regards to Saddam, whose memoirs will, I’m sure, show how this whole Iraq disaster was worth it. I'm sure your boss, Dr. Rice, will approve. But be careful. I wouldn't want you to get one of those pointy boot tips up your patootie. Unless, of course, that's your thing.

Yours in winning hearts and minds,


Poop Your Dog at Home 

I live next door to an elderly lady who is about 85 years old. She has, quite frankly, gone insane over the last two or three years. She now argues with us about everything and even had the gall to try to get the city to make me put weed killer on my lawn a couple of years ago. Now, admittedly, my lawn has a weed problem (although it is much better now than it was two years ago) but it's really none of her business.

She later tried to get the city to make me cut one of my trees down. Then she fussed at us because our trees were dropping leaves on her lawn. We told her that her trees dropped bags and bags of leaves on our lawn every year but we just raked them up. That's just how it works we told her.

You can imagine our surprise a month later when we came home from Thanksgiving and she had had EVERY TREE in her front yard removed -- all five of them. Holy cow. That's batshit crazy territory there folks.

Now, folks, I don't need to tell you that my neighbor is a conservative Republican, do I? The hypocrisy of a conservative trying to make the city government make me put weed killer on my lawn or cut down my trees is astounding, huh?

Well, as she's fallen more and more prey to what I'm sure is dementia, we've had struggles over everything. I called the city in to mark the property line so I could put a fence up. Well, naturally, we had to argue over that -- and she even stooped so low as to steal the property line markers five or six times. The fence served two purposes. It kept my dog in and it kept her out. After our little row about the weed killer, she began to spray Round Up weed killer 15-20 feet into my yard. She even killed one of my best patches of grass! Neighbors also began to tell me that she'd go prowling around in our backyard when we were out of town.

Well, anyway, two days ago, she put up a sign in the middle of her yard.

It reads:

Poop your dog at home
Or plan to pay my taxes.

Now, let's not wallow around in the fact that the sign is illiterate and ungrammatical.

What does it mean? Does it mean she plans to sue someone whose dog craps in her yard and then use that money to pay her dreaded property taxes on her home?

(And, by the way, property taxes here in red state Maryville, Missouri are next to nothing. Her property taxes on her house are probably $800. Mine are $750.)

Honestly, folks, help me out here.

What the hell does that sign mean?

Postcard from the Center 

There are still places in the world that take accountability seriously. Really.

Thanks to a garden-variety corruption scandal involving the Chretien administration that, near as I can tell, Paul Martin had no part in, Canadians have been staring at the prospect of yet another snap election as Liberal approval ratings plummet.

But now folks seem to be having second toughts. The reason: the other guy.

But a flurry of public-opinion polls in the past several days -- all showing that sharp Tory gains last month have evaporated, leaving the Liberals narrowly ahead -- appear to have given some MPs pause.

A key theme of the polls is that many Canadians remain leery of [Tory leader] Mr. [Stephen] Harper, suspecting him of having a so-called hidden agenda to the right of his stated views.

(via Globe and Mail)

Not a compassionate conservative after all? Really? Ya think? Tell us more:

In Calgary, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh unleashed a harsh personal attack on Mr. Harper, playing on perceived vulnerabilities that have emerged in polls over the past week.

Canadians shouldn't believe that medicare "will be safe in the hands of someone who has devoted his entire career to dismantling and destroying it," Mr. Dosanjh told a conference hosted by the Friends of Medicare. He added that the country is "rightly suspicious of Mr. Harper's hidden agenda."

Is there, like, an exception in NAFTA for common sense? Some kind of tariff on importing skepticism? Because it would, you know, explain alot about the discussion of Social Security "reform" down here, and the conspiracy of silence about stating the fucking obvious concerning those pushing it.

May Day, May Day 

It occurs to me that "may day" is a ship to shore call for help. At least that's what they say in movies; or perhaps that's only what it sounds like.

RDF notes below, May Day becomes an occasion for solidarity around the world, and a little bit here.

Solidarity otherwise not much appreciated in this country these days, even though that was the name of every wingnut's favorite Polish union; if only all unions could be Polish.

Have Americans lost the bottom line of what unites us all? Yikes. May day May day....

In honor of that other kind of May Day....

From Phillip Levine's "What Work Is;"

Coming Closer

Take this quiet woman, she has been
standing before a polishing wheel
for over three hours, and she lacks
twenty minutes before she can take
a lunch break. Is she a woman?
Consider the arms as they press
the long brass tube against the buffer,
they are striated along the triceps,
the three heads of which clearly show.
Consider the fine dusting of dark brown
above the upper lip, and the beads
of sweat that run from under the red
kerchief across the brow and are wiped
away with a blackening wrist band
in one odd motion a child might make
to say No! No! You must come closer
to find out, you must hang your tie
and jacket in one of the lockers
in favor of a black smock, you must
be prepared to spend shift after shift
hauling off the metal trays of stock
bowing first, knees bent for a purchase,
then lifting with a gasp, the first word
of tenderness between the two of you,
then you must bring new trays of dull,
unpolished tubes. You must feed her,
as they say in the language of the place.
Make no mistake, the place has a language,
and if by some luck the power were cut,
the wheel slowed to a stop so that you
suddenly saw it was not a solid object
but so many separate bristles forming
in motion a perfect circle, she would turn
to you and say, "Why?" Not the old why
of why must I spend five nights a week?
Just "Why?" Even if by some magic
you knew, you wouldn't dare speak
for fear of her laughter, which now
you have anyway as she places the five
tapering fingers of her filthy hand
on the arm of your white shirt to mark
you for your own, now and forever.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Crazy weekend. Ohio Republican (wouldn't you know it) official and Bush "pioneer" Tom Roe invests $50 million of worker's compensation money in rare coins (!) through a company he controls (!!), making himself a tidy little sum. And, oh yeah, Noe's company [cough] "lost" 121 of the coins in the mail. Seems an exotic way to launder money, but who am I to judge? Wonder who ended up with the coins? Diebold programmers? Republicans sure are are the people I want controlling my money!

Meanwhile, from Iraq we get the lovely picture of rogue mercenary procurer Custer Battles (love the name) taking $2 million away in a duffel bag from the CPA as startup money for a contract to protect the Baghdad airport. That worked out well, didn't it?

And poor Ken Salazar. Now that I know Colorado Springs, in his district, is the home of the Dominionists, I feel I can cut some more slack for the guy. He's got a lot of loons to cope with. And it does seem that Salaza calling the Dominionist James Dobson of 'Focus on the Family' the Antichrist raised a few eyebrows. Now Salazar is clarifying his remarks, saying "I regret having used that term ['Antichrist']. I meant to say this approach was unchristian, meaning self-serving and selfish."


For my money—whether the Republicans have invested it in rare coins, or taken it away in a duffel bag—Anti-Christ is, er, le mot juste.

And, oh yeah, when a pro-lifer asks a doctor for an abortion (yes, it happens, via Pandagon), should there be a conscience clause for the doctor? So they don't get sued later? Or have their head explode from the hypocrisy of it?

Wait, there's more! Can "Peter Whoriskey" truly be the name of a WaPo reporter? After "Jeff 'Looose' Gannon" you'd think he's want to change his name, too .... The Howler has a truly memorable takedown of Whoriskey gobbling Bush lies on Social Security. (Not distortions or deceptions or artful wording, mind you, but outright lies.)

Wear Your Red Shirt! 

Happy Mayday, everybody! And according to AP, it’s off to a bang:

Millions of workers staged largely peaceful May Day rallies worldwide, from a rally of 5,000 Bangladeshis seeking a minimum wage to the streets of Moscow where labor union workers rallied against sweeping social reforms. Workers gave voice to a wide range of demands or expressed their solidarity on the traditional international labor holiday.

For example:

Hundreds of thousands of Japanese workers also rallied for a global ban on nuclear weapons, ahead of the 60th anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender on Aug. 15, 1945, after U.S. planes dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaski.

House party tonight. Must go prepare the roasted lamb. My turn to host.

The Schiavo case was just a warning shot from the theocrats 

Along with the winger calls for assassinating judges, and all the rest of the frothing and stamping and whining. Because the real battles are yet to come.

Before reading this, be sure to read riggsveda on evangelism and political economy and farmer on Christian [cough] Reconstruction. I'll wait.

Dick Polman, the Inky's political analyst, writes:

Religious conservatives, emboldened by President Bush's reelection and confident of their political clout, are not interested in merely overhauling the judiciary. Ideally, they are seeking a judiciary that would remove the wall of separation between church and state.

Puts "Justice Sunday" in context, doesn't it?

This ambition is stated clearly in numerous legal briefs currently on file at the U.S. Supreme Court in connection with a pending case; they seek removal of "a Berlin wall" that is "out of step with this nation's religious heritage." In fact, their leaders argue in interviews that the church-state barrier is a "myth" invented by the high court in 1947, thanks to a twisted interpretation of our founding documents.

Mark Rozell, a political analyst at George Mason University who tracks the religious right, said Thursday: "They feel that the political circumstances won't be this good again - a strongly conservative Congress, a religiously conservative president. They've toiled for nearly 30 years, and the Republicans always said, 'Wait your turn.' They believe the time is now."

And that means it's time to convince Americans that President Thomas Jefferson, in a famous 1802 letter, was not really trying to curb religion when he endorsed "building a wall of separation between church and state." The high court invoked the phrase when it formally erected the wall in 1947. The religious right sees this as regrettable; its members believe the ruling is marred by "numerous and serious historical errors."

In legal briefs filed in a pending Supreme Court case on the posting of the Ten Commandments, religious-right groups point out (accurately) that Jefferson's phrase appears nowhere in the Bill of Rights or the Constitution and that Jefferson wrote the phrase merely as a show of support for Connecticut's Baptists, who were upset that the state government was officially favoring the Congregationalists (independent scholars say the religious right also is correct about this).

But the briefs don't mention 1786, when young Jefferson was the author of a Virginia law separating church from state. This law is cited on his grave, at his request. A preamble excerpt: "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagations of [religious] opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical." Another: "Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry."
(via our own Inky)

Um, anyone want to take David "I'm writing as bad as I can" Brook's "Well Meant" advice (back) and compromise on judges now?

Especially when the 45 Democratic Senators represent a majority of the country?

Didn't think so....

When they say it's not about hate, it's about hate 

Big doings up Boston way. One of those winger issues that superficially seems reasonable until everything spirals out of control in the service of their theocratic agenda:

arker and his wife, Tonia, 34, who was also in court yesterday, said the dispute arose because they asked school officials to notify them about classroom discussions about same-sex marriage and what they called other adult themes. They also wanted the option to exclude their boy, now 6, from those talks.

Parker said he met with school officials to gain those assurances and then refused to leave until he got them. Parker stayed at Estabrook School for more than two hours, according to Superintendent William J. Hurley, as officials and Lexington police urged him to leave. Finally, they arrested him for trespassing.

Parker, who refused to bail himself out of jail Wednesday night, said he spent the night in custody to prove a point.

''I chose to stay, which I'm not sure was a wise move," he said. ''But I wanted to see how far they would go for asking something simple." Parker said he wanted to control ''the timing and manner" in which his son learned about ''adult themes."

''This is not about creating a forum for hate . . . for any segment of society," Parker said after his arraignment. ''I'm just trying to be a good dad."

''We're not intolerant," said Tonia Parker. ''We love all people. That is part of our faith."

A handful of supporters of the Parker family appeared at the courthouse yesterday, including Brian Camenker, director of Article 8 Alliance. The group, which opposes same-sex marriage, posted e-mail exchanges between the Parkers and school officials on the matter on its website. Camenker said Parker contacted him in January.
(via Boston Glob)

Interesting that this media event was planned way back in January, isn't it? Too bad these guys are using their son as a political pawn; we saw that already in the Schiavo case, of course.

But who is Article 8 Alliance? Well, we went to their site. And found this:


"Can you believe this man is making your laws..." (Interesting that this exposes the theocratic agenda; the implication is that (some Christians' version) of God should make the laws...)


So, not about intolerance? Not about hate? Read the caption! Apparently, it's not enough for "this man" to be elected, in a democracy, to make the laws! And apparently "this man" shouldn't be in church, either!

Not about hate? Not about intolerance? Please.

Beware of creeps bearing gifts 

Could David Brooks have signed up for a Republican disinformation campaign?

Of course not! So we can take it as gospel truth when Brooks writes:

Let's make a deal
Bill Frist should have taken the deal.

Last week, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, made an offer to head off a nuclear exchange over judicial nominations. Reid offered to allow votes on a few of the judges stuck in limbo if the Republicans would withdraw a few of the others.

But there was another part of the offer that hasn't been publicized. I've been [cough] reliably informed that Reid also vowed to prevent a filibuster on the next Supreme Court nominee. Reid said that if liberals tried to filibuster President Bush's pick, he'd come up with five or six Democratic votes to help Republicans close off debate. In other words, barring a scandal or some other exceptional circumstance, Reid would enable Bush's nominee to get a vote and probably be confirmed.

Reid couldn't put this offer in writing because it would outrage liberal interest groups. Frist said he'd think about it, but so far he's let it drop
(via NY Times)

I guess Little Danny Okrent's strictures on anonymous sources don't apply to the OpEd page. And how could doubt that Brooks, "the reasonable one," and a former Weekly Standard editor, is a man of perfect integrity?

But still... There's a distinct genre of winger columns, let's call it "Helpful Advice," where the wingers, with all the best intentions in the world, give the Democrats sincere advice on how to win back power—generally by posing as Winger Lite. Of course, for the Dems to gain power, the wingers would have to lose it, so the advice is obviously complete bullshit disingenuous.

Brook's column strikes me as a very sophisticated version of the "Helpful Advice" column. While seemingly aimed at the (truly bungling) Frist, it is aimed to sow dissension in the united Democratic ranks ("reliable source" == traitor) and undermine Reid's leadership as well.

Unless, of course—which is entirely possible—there is also some wheels-within-wheels Democratic strategry and trickeration as well... Readers?

UPDATE See Kevin Drum take the bait. What's in the water down there?

Greed and God 

In his excellent post, Dominus Restituere, farmer again raises the specter of the Dominionist threat, and in it we read this:
"Accommodation is misapplying the Word of God in society and culture. This is by far the more subtle error. One glaring example would be "Christian socialism" like that espoused by Ron Sider in Rich Christians In An Age of Hunger. This perspective down plays biblical charity and poor laws (such as gleaning) in favor of the anti-biblical "solution" of government taxation and redistribution of wealth.
By way of contrast, the truly biblical welfare is local, personal, voluntary and usually requires the poor to work (2 Thes. 3:10)."
As an antidote and explanation of this secular embrace of high commerce and greed by the ostensible disciples of the man who said "Blessed are the poor", I implore you to pick up the May copy of Harper's and read "Let There Be Markets"(not online), Gordon Bigelow's excellent history lesson on the historical connection between economics and fundamentalist religion in the United States. The entire article is a wondrous read, but in regard to the above quote, let me reprint here for you a relevant piece of Bigelow's essay:
"At the center of this early evangelical doctrine was the idea of original sin; we were all born stained by corruption and earthly desire, and the true purpose of earthly life was to redeem this. The trials of economic life---the sweat of hard labor, the fear of poverty, the self-denial involved in saving---were earthly tests of sinfulness and virtue...the pain of earthly life as a means of atonement for sin...they regarded poverty as part of a divine program. Evangelicals interested the mental anguish of poverty and debt, and the physical agony of hunger or cold, as natural spurs to prick the conscience of sinners. They believed that the suffering of the poor would provoke remorse, reflection, and ultimately the conversion that would change their fate. In other words, the poor were poor for a reason, and helping them out of poverty would endanger their immortal souls. It was the evangelical who began to see the business mogul as an heroic figure, his wealth a triumph of righteous will...
By the 1820s evangelicals were a dominant force in British economic policy...evangelical Anglicans held significant positions in government...Their first major impact was in dismantling the old parish-based system of aiding the poor and aging, a policy battle that resulted in the Poor Law Amendment of 1834. Traditionally, people who could not work or support themselves, including orphans and the disabled, had been helped by local parish organizations. It had been a joint responsibility of church and state to prevent the starvation and avoidable suffering of people who had no way to earn a living.
The Poor Law nationalized and monopolized poverty administration. It forbade cash payments to any poor citizen and mandated that his only recourse be the local workhouse. Workhouse became orphanages, insane asylums, nursing homes, public hospitals, and factories for the able-bodied. Protest over the conditions in these prison-like facilities, particularly conditions for children, mounted throughout the 1830s...This first anti-poverty program in the first industrial economy was not designed to alleviate suffering, nor to reduce the number of poor children in future generations. Poverty was not understood as a problem to be fixed. It was a spiritual condition. Workhouses weren't supposed to help children prepare for life; they were supposed to save souls."
He goes on to illustrate his point by giving some background behind a well-known genocide--the Irish Famine. When it began, the British government responded by helping provide food to the Irish, via cornmeal shipments from the US. But when a new government administration headed by evangelicals took the reins in 1846,the program was regarded as an intrusion into the "free market", and insisted it would only allow the problem to continue. Charles Trevelyan, assistant secretary of the treasury,
"viewed the potato-dependent economy as the result of Irish backwardness and self-indulgence. This crisis seemed to offer the opportunity for the Irish to atone...Trevelyan stopped the supply of food. He argued that the fear of starvation would ultimately be useful in modernizing Irish agriculture; it would force the poor off land that could no longer support them. The cheap labor they would provide in towns and cities would stimulate manufacturing, and the now depopulated countryside could be used for more profitable cattle farming...
There was no manufacturing boom. Roughly a million people died; another million emigrated. The population of Ireland dropped by nearly one quarter in the space of a decade...When government food supplements stopped, food prices rose, private charities and workhouses were overwhelmed, and families starved by the side of the road."
Faced with the bad press of the thing, "political economy" was re-tooled to look more like hard science and renamed "economics". And to this day we find it ingrained in our culture that wealth is synonymous with virtue, and poverty with laziness and sin, an equivalence that all too many of us buy into, in spite of the plentiful evidence to the contrary. Think, for instance, of the many TV preachers in their fancy clothes with their hands out for money, promising true believers a life of wealth and ease, or the resplendent ostentation of Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral, the big business that is Oral Roberts, or the rampant growth of megachurches.

Is it any wonder that this administration, steeped in right-wing evangelical crusading, is so stingy with its "conservative compassion"? It's actually helping all those downtrodden unfortunates closer to the True Light of Eternal Salvation. How could I have been so harsh!

Dominus Restituere 

From the mouths of theonomists. What follows is a Christian Reconstructionist persepective on national, even international, renewal. A call to revival and reformation of all aspects of society. Note the recurrent themes emphasized below and recall how many times you have heard many of these very same themes repeated by politicians, preachers and media mountebanks over recent years.

One of those repeating themes (media buzzphrases) includes - and is touched upon in the text below - the increasingly common reference to an historical "Judeo-Christian" framework. As in: "our nations' Judeo-Christian heritage," and so forth. This may seem like a small point, but, emphasis on a "Judeo-Christian" standard, if you will, is important to Christian Reconstructionist theory because it validates the importance of the Old Testament; which is a key element of the CR theonomist's "legalistic" perspective on the role and applications of Biblical (Old Testament) Law within society as a whole.

So, here ya go. Apologies for the length of this post as well. I know it's a long one but I thought its worth reprinting here in full. Make of it what you will.
(Highlighted and bold emphasis in text below is mine.)

A Call for Reformation and Revival
By Robert Parsons

Christian Reconstruction is a call to the Church to awaken to its biblical responsibility to revival and the reformation of society. While holding to the priority of individual salvation, Christian Reconstruction also holds that cultural renewal is to be the necessary and expected outworking of the gospel as it progressively finds success in the lives and hearts of men. Christian Reconstruction therefore looks for and works for the rebuilding of the institutions of society according to a biblical blueprint.

Christian Reconstruction is also an attempt to answer the unprecedented threat facing the Church of Jesus Christ in the 20th century resurgence of secular humanism and parallel rise of statism. The state threatens to swallow the Church by such actions such as property taxation, zoning laws, and direct court action, all directly contrary to the Word of God. In one case, a church was taken to court for dismissing a practicing homosexual from its staff. In another, the church was padlocked by police for operating a Christian school without a licensed teacher. This is only the tip of the iceberg; there were several thousand civil cases pending against churches in 1985.

There are two fatal errors facing the Church as it is being called upon to respond to this threat.

Fatal Error #1: Retreat

Retreat is failing to apply the Word of God to society and culture. It seems as though many Christians are guided more by Plato in some aspects of their thinking than by Christ. They tend to deny the application of scripture to the secular. They fail to recognize that every sphere is spiritual and subject to the Word of God.

This shows up in a studied indifference to biblical teaching on civil law, economics, government and other cultural applications. It is pietism as opposed to true piety. There was, for example, little response to the abortion holocaust from the evangelical Church for over 10 years after the 1973 Supreme Court ruling.

Fatal Error #2: Accommodation

Accommodation is misapplying the Word of God in society and culture. This is by far the more subtle error. One glaring example would be "Christian socialism" like that espoused by Ron Sider in Rich Christians In An Age of Hunger. This perspective down plays biblical charity and poor laws (such as gleaning) in favor of the anti-biblical "solution" of government taxation and redistribution of wealth.

By way of contrast, the truly biblical welfare is local, personal, voluntary and usually requires the poor to work (2 Thes. 3:10).

The Christian Reconstruction movement has been raised up by God to awaken the Church to the reality of these two fatal errors.

Christian Reconstruction is a call to return to the vision of the Reformation, where men sought to restructure every sphere of life according to the Word of God. This is true biblical revival. Every example of revival in Scripture extended beyond individual repentance to impact every facet of culture. For example, rediscovery of the Law by King Josiah (2 Kings 22,23) produced a reformation (but not a revival) leading to reconstruction of the entire Hebrew culture. In the New Testament, proclamation of the crown rights of King Jesus resulted in changes to all life, it being said that the world had been turned upside down (Acts 17).

The Foundation: Sovereignty of God

Christian reconstruction rests on one solid foundation stone: the sovereignty of God. Sovereignty refers to God's supreme power and rule. His reign and control extends into every sphere of life, here and now, not just in eternity. To defer His Kingship is to deny His Kingship. The Bible contains the directives of the King of kings for every area of human activity, including civil government, economics, art, science, family, church, and more. Activity in each sphere is to be governed by the Law of God, with minimal interference from civil government. There are no neutral zones.

God exercises His sovereignty through many secondary agencies. For example, civil government is responsible to God to bear the sword, executing God's wrath against violators of His Law. The Church, as the depository of the Law of God, is to provide Biblical instruction for every sphere, including civil government. She is not to control civil government, but rather to provide expert legal counsel (Deut.17:8-13). Many of her sons are expected to assume the mantle of civil leadership.

Resting on the foundation of God's sovereignty, four vital pillars support the Christian Reconstruction movement:

Pillar #1: Redemption

This is the sovereignty of God in salvation. All men are disobedient and worthy of eternal separation from God in Hell. But Jesus Christ, the perfect man, died as a substitute for sinners. Because Christ shed His blood in their stead, God justly pardons everyone who believes the Gospel, granting them eternal life. This is called justification (Rom. 6:23).

Justification is accomplished entirely by the grace and mercy of God. Sinful man, being totally depraved, is utterly dependent on the provision of God for salvation, including the ears to hear and even the faith to believe the Gospel. Salvation does not rest primarily on the "decision" of a particular man for God, but rather on God's decision to save that particular man. Jesus said: "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you ..." (John 15:16).

Pillar #2: Law of God

Christian Reconstruction upholds the authority of the Law of God in every sphere of society. This is the sovereignty of God in ethics. 1 Tim. 1:8 implies a lawful and an unlawful use of the Law of God. It is unlawful to seek acceptance with God by trying to obey the Law of God, the ceremonial law, or any manmade additions to the Law. We are justified by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8). On the other hand, man must look to the Law of God as his guide for holy living and civil statutes. The perfect standard of the Law shows us how we are to live, how far short we fall and how much we need a Savior.

"We know that the law is good if anyone uses it lawfully" (1 Tim. 1:8).

Unlawful Uses of the Law:
1. Salvation by Works
2. Sacrificial Observances (Gal. 3:24)
3. Manmade Traditions Added to the Law (Mk. 7:7ff.)

Lawful Uses of the Law:
1. Guide for Life
2. Convict of Sin (Rom. 3:20)
3. Civil Use (1 Timothy 1:8,9)

Therefore, "not under the law" means that we are no longer condemned by the Law of God since we are justified by faith. It does NOT mean we are no longer ethically and morally bound to obey Old Testament law. Legalism results from a misapplication of God's moral Law or from traditions added to the Law. Simple childlike obedience to the Law of God does NOT equal legalism.

The faulty interpretive principle of Old Testament law is to assume the the [sic] Old Testament in [sic] invalid unless confirmed by the New Testament.

The faithful interpretive principle is to assume that the Old Testament is valid and still in effect unless specifically changed by the New Testament.

Covenantal shifts have occurred in areas such as sacrificial laws, ceremonial laws, Sabbath laws, dietary laws and agricultural laws. 1 Timothy 1:9 goes on to list a category of civil crimes that the Law of God is to restrain under the New Covenant: murder, kidnapping, adultery, perjury, etc. Therefore, one useful use of the Law of God is to restrain evil doers in society.

The theological name for this approach is "theonomy," from the Greek words "theos" meaning God and "nomos" meaning law. When men reject the Law of God as a standard, they are left with autonomy (self-law). This takes many forms, including common sense, pluralism, natural law, democracy (law of the people), and statutory law. The result of rejecting God's absolutes is always chaos.

When the Church rejects God's Law, it usually adopts what it calls the "law of love" in its place as the guide to action. Often this is a love devoid of content, that exalts unity over truth to avoid confrontation. But true biblical love goes hand in hand with the Law. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15,21). By rejecting the standard of God's Law, the Church has nothing of substance to offer the world and becomes irrelevant.

Pillar #3: Presuppositionalism

Presuppositionalism is the self-sufficiency of an authoritative Bible. This is the sovereignty of God in revelation. Pesuppositionalism defines our approach to the sovereign Word of God. Too often Christians try to "prove" the Bible to the natural man by presenting evidences from creation or logic. They assume the problem is merely intellectual and that belief will flow naturally from an airtight presentation of the facts.

But the Bible says that natural man willfully suppresses the truth (Rom. 2:15). The problem is not, therefore, a lack of evidence, but the basic tendency to set oneself up as the ultimate judge of truth. The heart of Eve's sin lay in exalting herself as the judge of what God had said. (Gen. 3:5,6).

These presuppositions radically alter our approach to the non-believer. If our defense of the faith consists solely of presenting evidences to his supposed independent reason, we are simply encouraging his independence, Instead of a focus on persuasion with facts and logic, Christian Reconstruction challenges the natural man, who presumes himself to be the ultimate judge of truth. The sword of the Spirit does not need to be proved, it needs to be used. We presuppose that the sword of the Spirit will penetrate the hearts of natural men knowing that the Law of God in their hearts confirms its truth.

Pillar #4: Assurance of Earthly Victory

This is the sovereignty of God in history. The Bible insists that God's Law is to hold full sway in every sphere of earthly activity, in history as well as eternity (Mat. 6:10). God's sovereignty ensures it will hold sway. He has commanded His Church to carry His gospel ("teaching them to observe all things" - Matt. 28:20 includes God's Law) to the nations. He has given us power for this task. The only hindrance is a faithless Church that can only see giants in the promised land of earthly victory.

Some Christians say God has turned world rulership over to Satan until the second coming of Christ. But this denies God's explicit claim to ownership (Ps. 24:1) and the decisive work of Christ in destroying the power of the devil (Col. 2:15, 1 Jn. 3:8).

This view overlooks the various meanings of the word "world" (Compare John 3:16 with 1 John 2:15). Satan may be the god of the world system that opposes God, but to grant him a sovereignty that belongs to God alone borders on blasphemy.

In The American Covenant, Marshall Foster observes that the implications of which view you hold are profound:

If you see God as ruling the earth:
1. Your commission is to subdue the earth and build Christian nations through evangelizing and discipleship.
2. You see Christian culture to be the only acceptable culture and you see all others as aberrations.
3. All of God's world is holy and every activity in life is a religious activity to be seen as a spiritual work for God.
4. Reformation is expected.

If you see Satan as ruling the earth:
1. You must just concentrate on saving souls from this evil world.
2. You see Christian culture as a counter-culture, a persecuted minority in an evil world.
3. Church activity is primary and spiritual, while worldly pursuits are secular and to be dealt with only as a necessity.
4. Reformation is impossible and suspect, since things must get worse before Christ returns.

The above dichotomy illustrates the importance of ideas in determining consequences, because to the degree Christians have abdicated their leadership role and denied the "crown rights of Jesus Christ," to that degree the humanists have filled the void.

In summation, Christian Reconstruction is the only view that biblically answers the question of how Christians should relate to their culture. Not RETREAT, that fails to apply the Bible to the problems of society (Fatal Error #1). Not ACCOMMODATION, that misapplies the Bible to endorse various forms of humanism (Fatal Error #2). But RECONSTRUCTION according to the Law of God.

Individual salvation is the necessary priority, but Christian Reconstruction teaches that cultural renewal is an expected outworking of the Gospel. When Jesus said "make disciples of all nations," He meant it literally.
The very cultural/govern-mental fabric of the nations is to be transformed by the preservative effect of their Christian citizens. This is the vision of the Reformers, the Puritans and the Pilgrims. This is the vision that we must rekindle anew today.

Above text can be found here: Christian RF (A Call for Reformation and Revival). Or GOOGLE "A Call for Reformation and Revival" and "Parsons" for additional sightings.


"Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" - former first lady Barbara Bush - "Good Morning America" March 18, 2003


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