Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Geldof urges millions to join 'long walk to justice'

Sir Bob--who seems not to have slept in the interim since Live Aid--goes for it again:

He wants it to be the biggest political protest ever, aimed at convincing eight men in one room in Scotland that they can - and should - change the world. With characteristic ambition and political passion, superlatives and expletives, Sir Bob Geldof explained yesterday why Live8, his 20th anniversary successor to Live Aid, should be far more than simply the most impressive concert fans will have ever seen.

Taking place on 2 July, the Saturday before a summit of the most powerful leaders in the world at Gleneagles, Live8 will comprise simultaneous concerts in five of the G8 countries - Britain, France, Italy, Germany and the US.


Whereas 20 years ago, millions of individuals gave donations to help ease the famine in Africa, the aim now is to make the politicians play their part in tackling poverty which is killing 50,000 people a day, or a child every three seconds.


After the concerts, planes, trains, boats and lorries are being lined up to carry up to a million protesters to Scotland to lobby the world leaders to cancel debt, double aid and remove trade barriers that hobble Africa's capacity to harness its own potential.


"The G8 leaders have it within their power to alter history. They will only have the will to do so if millions of people show them that enough is enough," he said.

He admitted he had long held the view that another Live Aid should not be attempted. "I couldn't see how anything could possibly be better than that glorious day 20 years ago, almost perfect in what it achieved. I didn't want to do 'Bob's best bits', but Bono and Richard [Curtis] kept saying, do it again."

And having persuaded Tony Blair to hold the Commission for Africa, he was not going to allow a year's work to gather dust on a shelf. "It seemed to me we could do it again, not for charity but for political justice. We've never been wealthier, we've never been healthier. We know what it costs. Do it." He told the world leaders that they should not come unless they were willing to act.

Make Poverty History is not asking for money from the public; instead it has focused on attracting support to influence world leaders. Its main demands are for debts owed by developing nations to be cancelled, richer governments to commit to spending at least 0.7 per cent of their gross national income to help poorer states, and for fundamental reform of trade rules.

Whatever you may think of Geldof--and he has surely done, said or thought something during his career to piss you off--you have to admire his resilience and the scope of his ambition. It has never been his style to do anything in half-measures, and it makes perfect sense that he's going for the deep pockets this time around.

How close he can actually get to the G8 leaders is another matter; barracades have already gone up around Edinburgh. Even more to the point, it's unlikely that Geldof et al will be greeted by the leaders with the same sort of enthusiasm shown by sun-baked stoners everywhere from LA to London twenty years ago. For instance, we know our Dear Leader has already dismissed the 0.7 per cent target and regards millions of protests marchers around the globe as being nothing more than "focus groups."

Godspeed, Sir Bob.

Yes, we can spin history as well as current events

Over at The Corner, John Podhoretz takes Mark Felt's self-outing as Deep Throat to put a slightly different spin on the essence of the Watergate scandal: Woodward and Berstein were part of a weird FBI anti-Nixon subplot!

Bonus post: Johnny's initial post on the topic suggests that he had no idea who Felt was, even though his name has been kicked around as viable candidate for the DT sweepstakes for oh, thirty-one years or so. I suppose it makes rewriting history that much easier.

What would (Republican) Jesus do?

Forest City pastor not flushing sign

The pastor of a small Baptist church has refused calls to take down a sign posted in front of his church reading: “The Koran needs to be flushed.”

“My creed is the Bible, which tells me I am supposed to stand up and defend my faith,” said the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, pastor of the 55-member Danieltown Baptist Church in Forest City. “I don’t hate Muslims; I just hate their false doctrines.”

But the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C., called on Americans of all faiths to demand the removal of the message.

“Christians often ask themselves, ‘What would Jesus do?”’ said the group’s spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper. “I don’t think Jesus, who is loved by Muslims and mentioned frequently in the Quran, would use such hate-filled and divisive rhetoric.”

Earlier this month, Newsweek magazine apologized for errors in a story alleging that interrogators at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, desecrated the Quran, including flushing one down a toilet.

Following the story’s publication, 15 people died and scores were injured in violence between protesters and security forces in Afghanistan, prompting U.S. promises to investigate the allegations.

Charles Kimball, a religion professor at Wake Forest University, called the church’s decision to put up the message “highly inappropriate and deliberately provocative.”

“It also shows a great deal of ignorance and a lack of civility,” he said Tuesday. “What is most distressing is that this sort of self-righteous speech suggests a total disregard for the words of Jesus, who told us to love our neighbor.”

Lovelace said he knew before he put up the sign that some people would disagree: “I expected some people would be offended, just as if someone put up a sign that said the Bible should be flushed.”
I'm becoming increasingly convinced that The General is no longer a satirist as much as he is a trendsetter.

Just in case you were on the fence about Okrent

This NY Magazine item, via the most excellent First Draft:

“Krugman’s been writing to me two, three times a day demanding a retraction or apology, and I’m not going to give him either.”
It's a short bit about how Okrent didn't mean to piss off his colleagues on the way out the door, or maybe he did. The Daily Howler lays into Danny Boy at length in his characteristically understated manner here, but I thought the quote above elegantly captured the infantile, two-year-old-on-a-power-jag approach that he brought to the job.

Mrs. Dr. Bloor and I have more or less decided to bag the Times, where the mucky-mucks seem to have come to the conclusion that advertising revenues aren't contingent upon aggressive, independent reporting, so why bother? The anorexic New England edition was scarcely worth subscribing to beyond Krugman and Herbert anyways, and there are always spare copies strewn about the coffee houses on college hill that we can peruse for free.

Better we should lay out the dollars on a newspaper that hasn't forgotten the role of a free and independent press in a functioning democracy. Like, maybe, the Minneapolis Star Tribune or the Toledo Blade.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

barrage balloons in the rain
the stain on the captain's holster
how do you work this mortar
where has the minesweeper gone
this is a gatling gun
a chopper lands in the pasture
we are at war never again

somewhere an eye
is filling with tears
so slowly
it takes hours

from David Young's Dreams of the Wars (1969)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Stripper at boy's party was hired by mother

A mother who hired a stripper to perform at her son’s 16th birthday party is facing a jail sentence for involving a minor in an obscene act.
Ten of the guests were under 18. Police said that the stripper, Cassandra Joyce Park, 29, crossed the line when she accepted a $150 whipround to remove all her clothes.

“In some of the pictures, she is sitting in their lap or her breasts are in some of the children’s faces,” Detective Matt Chance, of Nashville’s Sex Crimes Unit, said.

A grand jury studied about 100 photographs from the party and indicted Mrs Pharris and her husband, also named Landon, on charges including contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The stripper, her escort and her manager were also charged.

Mrs Pharris said that she had obtained permission from all the children’s parents for them to be there and that police overreacted. “Who are they to tell me what I can and can’t show to my own children?” she said.
Something to annoy everyone here, eh? The bible thumpers will of course be shocked at the enduring legacy of Bill Clinton, the libertarians will be pissed about the invalidity of the permission slips and the invasion of privacy, feminists will be upset about adolescent boys being encouraged to objectify women, and any of the kid's classmates who weren't invited to the party will be pissed about being cut out of the action.

Me, I'm just glad the grand jury took its job so seriously. I'm sure every one of those hundred photos included a unique piece of evidence crucial to arriving at the proper decision.

All chain saw, no cattle

Larry McMurtry on the Boy King's Texas spread:

I find it hard to think of it as a ranch. Crawford is basically a suburb of Waco, and I have been through it a million times. The president has this obsession, which he inherited from Reagan, of brush clearing. I don't get it. What do you get when you clear brush? You get a photograph of yourself with a chain saw and a cowboy hat.

Frist to moderates: thanks for saving my bacon

Dr. Kittykiller responds to pressure from the center to start acting like an adult:

Judicial Nominee Compromise Under G.O.P. Pressure

Just days after a bipartisan group of senators agreed to defuse a standoff over judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, found a new tool for interpreting their compromise: a Magic 8 Ball, the fortune-telling toy.

Mocking the agreement's provision that Democrats can block judicial nominees in "extraordinary circumstances," Dr. Frist suggested in a dinner speech on Wednesday that the Democratic leaders might gather around a Magic 8 Ball to decide how the phrase applied to each judicial nominee.

"Will Brett Cavanaugh get an up-or-down vote? The Magic 8 Ball says, 'Don't count on it,' " Dr. Frist said, pulling out the toy in a speech to the conservative group Gopac. "Will William Myers get an up-or-down vote? The Magic 8 Ball says, 'Better not tell you.' "

Social conservatives, meanwhile, have directed special outrage at Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mike DeWine of Ohio, the two Republicans from relatively conservative states who provided the last votes needed to make the compromise come together. Both had agreed to vote for Dr. Frist's proposal to end judicial blockades by changing Senate rules, but last Monday they joined five other senators from the 55-member Republican majority in the compromise, denying Dr. Frist the 50 votes needed to change the confirmation rules.

"It makes no sense for them to be involved here," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a Christian conservative group.

For Dr. Frist, a potential presidential candidate who is courting conservative voters, the battle over judicial confirmations has become a test of his credibility with the party's social conservative base. And for many conservatives, that now means breaking the compromise.

No surprise here, although a glowstick would have been a more appropriate prop during his speech. Frist has to do this, and--who knows?--he might even believe it's the right thing to do; at this point, the melding of his ambition, impatience and belief system is pure Vader.

The real issue is how the Gang of Fourteen responds to this challenge. I'm interested to see how the "Centrist" Republicans respond, but I'm even more interested to see how much our "Centrist" Democrats will contort themselves to maintain all that "comity and goodwill" in the Senate.


Marjane Satrapi nails it here.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Will cocktail weenies be served with the Night Train?

The Poor Man is reeeeeeally edgy today, which of course means you must visit.


Slain soldier's mom rejected by Gold Star

Everyone agrees that Ligaya Lagman is a Gold Star mother, part of the long line of mournful women whose sons or daughters gave their lives for their country. Her 27-year-old son, Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Lagman, was killed last year in Afghanistan, but American Gold Star Mothers Inc., has rejected Lagman, a Filipino, for membership because - though a permanent resident and a taxpayer - she is not a U.S. citizen.

"There's nothing we can do because that's what our organization says: You have to be an American citizen," national President Ann Herd said Thursday. "We can't go changing the rules every time the wind blows."

"Whatever the excuse, American Gold Star Mothers' decision smacks of xenophobia and is in stark contrast to what Mrs. Lagman's son fought and died for," Engel said.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "We now have many noncitizens serving honorably in our armed services, and I hope that this can be satisfactorily resolved."

A past president of the mothers' group, Dorothy Oxendine, of Farmingdale, said, "There's no discrimination in a national cemetery. There's no discrimination when they get killed side by side. So how can we discriminate against a mother?"


But the organization's 12-member executive board voted against any change.
"We can't go changing the rules every time we turn around," said Herd, the national president. "When we have problems within our organization with people not abiding by the rules, we just get it straightened out, we don't change the rules."

I'm sure this makes perfect sense to Michelle Malkin.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

CNN: The most trusted name in news

Via Democratic Underground, the News Hounds' transcript of an interview last week with CNN co-founder Reese Schonfeld:

Abu Ghraib is the greatest foul up of all time. Those pictures were on the internet. The problem is not that we were - we - I only wish the Pentagon could have been able to deny that story, to be able to li - that's the right of the Pentagon to lie, when it is in the country's best interest to lie, you do lie. And when I made that statement in my book, an undersecretary - well - at Defense told me I don't have it quite right, the - uh - Rumsfeld, the Secretary can never lie but any, anybody under him can, that you have to do it when it's in the public, in the government interest.

Even if the [Koran flushing] story was 100% right [Newsweek] would still have to retract 17 deaths 'cause it shouldn't have been published. It was in nobody's interest. It wasn't in American interest. It wasn't in the interests of anyone and I can't understand still sitting here. This whole idea - the public has a right to know - the public does not have a right to know. The editor has a right to publish - that's what the First Amendment is about. The guy who owns the paper, the editor, says what goes in and what doesn't and he doesn't have to tell everything he knows and, God forbid, that he ever should.
As terrifying as it is disgusting. Remind me never to accuse Mr. Bluememe of sporting Reynolds Wrap hats in the future...

Up next: Ye Olde Samuel French sues Globe Theater, King's Men

All-female 'Grease' faces legal challenge

An all-woman production of Grease planned by two small Philadelphia theater companies has been threatened with legal action by the licensing agent and may not go on as scheduled.

The production of the popular high school musical by Brat Productions and Tapestry Theatre had been scheduled to preview tonight and open tomorrow at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia.

But on Friday, lawyers for Samuel French Inc., which licenses the script, sent a letter threatening legal action if the show went on with an all-female cast. Madi Distefano, artistic director of Brat and director of Grease, said the objection was later broadened to include the production's premise that the musical is being presented by a girls' high school.

Distefano said Samuel French "claims that we are in violation of our contract. We are of the belief that we are not in violation of our contract." She said that the contract she signed says nothing about casting or directorial vision. It stipulates only that no omissions or changes be made in the script, she said, adding, "We've not done any of that."
Distefano characterized the all-female casting as being akin to the now-common practice of "racially blind casting," casting a role written for a person of one race with a person of another race. "I don't think it's a big deal at all," she said. "I don't think it's anything radical that we're doing. I'm not claiming to be particularly adventurous casting women in men's roles."
No doubt French, Inc. are just trying to protect the sterling legacy of the Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta production. Too bad Rosie O'Donnell slipped in under the radar.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

More news from Jesusland

ACLU sues Tangipahoa School Board and SLU

NEW ORLEANS — The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana today filed a lawsuit in behalf of a student teacher against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board and Southeastern Louisiana University. The suit alleges that the board and university violated student Cynthia Thompson’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process in their refusal to enforce laws relating to prayer in public school settings and in terminating Thompson from her position.

Accoding to the ACLU, the naming of the Tangipahoa school board in this suit represents the fourth time that the system has been sued in an ACLU-sponsored action during the past 11 years. All of the actions have related to the endorsement of religion by school officials. Two motions for contempt related to the latest lawsuit are pending a hearing in federal court.

You really must read the whole thing, and don't skip over the part about her University supervisor's response. John Kennedy O'Toole lives.

A Wolfowitz by any other name...

Egyptian opposition rejects Laura Bush comments

CAIRO (Reuters) - Opponents of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak objected on Tuesday to U.S. First Lady Laura Bush's support for Mubarak's approach to political reform, and several said she did not know what she was talking about.

"What she said is really frustrating for most opposition forces in Egypt," said Gameela Ismail, wife of opposition leader Ayman Nour and a spokeswoman for his Ghad (Tomorrow) Party.

"She seems not to know enough about Egypt. I'm really amazed," Ismail told Reuters outside a downtown cinema where police and men in plain clothes dispersed a small protest against Wednesday's referendum on the Egyptian constitution.
Laura Bush adopted the Egyptian official line when she said on Monday, on a visit to the Giza pyramids, that Mubarak's proposal to introduce direct presidential elections was bold and wise and political reform must happen slowly.

The government is holding a referendum on Wednesday on a constitutional amendment letting independents and political parties compete for the presidency but setting tough conditions.

Opposition groups say it will enable the ruling party to stay in power indefinitely and Egyptians should not vote.

A leading member of the liberal Wafd Party, Mohamed Elwan, said: "What she said matters to the rulers because it is in the hands of foreigners to keep them in their positions."

Washington gives Egypt, one of the few Arab countries to have signed a peace agreement with U.S. ally Israel, about $1.8 billion a year in economic and military aid.

It doesn't matter if the messenger puts on lipstick or spits on his comb before delivering the message--cynical and ignorant is still cynical and ignorant.

Lugar on Bolton

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Oh, OK

I was wrong.

It's Myers, not Saad, and Frist didn't even wait 'til next week:

Senate Majority Leader Frist will file for cloture on President Bush’s nomination of William Myers to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later this week, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill, wasting no time in testing the resolve of 14 Republican and Democratic senators who forced at least a temporary halt to the battle over Democratic filibusters of President Bush’s judicial picks.

(via Atrios, Thinkprogress)

There must be a pony in here somewhere

FWIW, my two cents on the Great Compromise:


I have no doubt that many of the men and women trying to find the middle ground in this mess were making an honest effort to preserve the essential character of the Senate, in addition to whatever personal/political motives may have been in play (and they are too numerous to count). I also have little doubt that the Democrats win a short-term advantage in Spin Alley. And let's face it, it's fun watching Faus--er, Frist getting knocked down a peg or two for the time being.

But I can't find the pony in here.

First, the "Extraordinary Circumstances" clause makes the deal one of convenience for the Republicans. Extraordinary? I'd say having three Radical Right Activists who were defeated last year jammed up the Senate's ass again this year is pretty extraordinary, but all three will be appointed to their circuits by the end of the week. And as for SCOTUS nominees, the bar has already been set so pathetically low and right with Silent Clarence and Fat Tony that the Repubs will dismiss claims of "extraordinary" for anyone sent up who isn't frothing at the mouth and branded with a "666" on his/her forehead.

Second, even for the Repubicans acting in good faith, this thing works only as long as the Wingnuts interpret the message from the moderate Republicans as being "back off" rather than "try jamming a little harder next time." And there's absolutely no reason to expect that they won't try the latter. They do not respond rationally to rational actions. Dobson's already providing cover for Frist by dismissing the deal as the act of a breakaway cabal; it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see Frist bring everything back to square one by reintroducing Henry Saad next week.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The (Science) Corner

Over at The Corner, Jonah the Nutty Professor suggests that embryonic stem cell research has all the scientific validity of alchemy and making dreams come true, and that scientific curiosity leads to nothing but bad writing and bad television acting:

One of the things I think is interesting in a way I've never really thought through is how we've been fascinated by certain things long before science has caught up (by "we" I mean us humans). My dad always used to point out articles that dealt with science's efforts to make alchemy a reality. We've always wanted to transform lead into gold, Paul Krugman's column into genius etc. Science isn't completely there yet, but tinkering with molecules and whatnot to make X into Y still fascinates. And we do make our own diamonds already.

Humans have been looking for other dimensions, planes, realms ever since we were convinced dreams might be real. Physcists have been working hard to put meat on the bones of this instinct.

Something similar goes for cloning. We've been fascinated by dopplegangers, doubles, twins, clones for centuries. Science fiction drips with plotlines involving doubles, bodysnatching, lifelike replacement androids and the like. How many Star Treks involved doppleganger Captain Kirks? (I had to get that in there).
I think that's one of the problems the anti-cloning forces will always have to contend with. There's just something about the idea which titilates as much as it horrifies.

Unusually insipid, even for him.

Your papers, please

From USA Today, via Atrios:

"James Dobson: Who does he think he is, questioning my conservative credentials?" Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said in an interview. Dobson, head of the conservative group Focus on the Family, criticized Lott for his efforts to forge a compromise in the fight over the judges. Lott is still angry. "Some of his language and conduct is quite un-Christian, and I don't appreciate it," the senator said.
The criteria for ideological purity in the Land of Wingnuttia are tightening up even faster than I thought they would. Senator Man on Dog, a devout Catholic, should watch his back--he may be the right wing's "It" boy for now, but he'll be just another cult member in no time at all.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Senator Man-on-Dog's Shaky Marriage

From Michael Sokolove's portrait of Rick Santorum in today's NY Times Magazine:

When I asked him if he viewed gay marriage as a threat to his own marriage, he answered quickly. ''Yes, absolutely,'' he said. ''It threatens my marriage. It threatens all marriages. It threatens the traditional values of this country.''
I'll leave the broader dissection of Santorum in general and Sokolove's article in particular to abler minds than my own. Lord knows, between the bilge he spews and the hand jobs offered up by Unca Joe Lieberman, Mushy Republican Susan Collins and others (including, at some points, Sokolove himself), we all should be busy for the next day or two.

I was just taken by the passage above. Unfortunately, the article does not move beyond the demagoguery in his comments; there was no follow up in which he is asked to explain exactly how he thinks two guys getting hitched in P-Town has anything to do with what goes on in his own home.

"It threatens the traditional values of this country"? So what? What does that have to do with the conversation at the Santorum kitchen table at dinner or the warmth of their marital bed at the end of the day? I don't know who he hangs with, but my friends and relatives, of all religious stripes, appreciate the fact that the strength of their marriages are entirely a function of the spouses' commitments to one another. Big church weddings, expensive wedding bands, even the embossed paper provided by City Hall--they're all nice and to many very meaningful, but ultimately not terribly relevant to whether the marriage lasts or not.

If the Santorums measure the strength of their marriage not by the depth of their feelings for one another but by the exclusivity of the club they're in, I feel sorry for them.

Wasted Space

This week in the NY Times Sunday Magazine, Deborah Solomon's always hard-hitting "Questions for..." column takes on Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. The format of the column is mindless enough--so short as to prevent her from following up on obvious evasions by the interviewee, which Spellings provides in copious amounts--but does she have to waste her space and our time with garbage like "Can you tell us the capital of Illinois" and "Does the president have a nickname for you?" (He does--"Margarita," perhaps because he's already given away "Nose Candy" to someone else).

The space would be better spent on an extra crossword puzzle.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

"...character is formed and shaped in institutions like family..."

The Boy King earlier today at commencement exercises for Calvin College:

At Calvin College, you take this call to service to heart. You serve as "agents of renewal" across the Earth. You volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters to mentor young people. You work at Bethany Christian Services here in Grand Rapids, one of the best-known adoption services in America. A former Calvin student and professor, Vern Ehlers, serves in the halls of Congress. As the Class of 2005 goes out into the world, I ask you to embrace this tradition of service and help set an example for all Americans. As Americans we share an agenda that calls us to action -- a great responsibility to serve and love others, a responsibility that goes back to the greatest commandment.

Of course, some of us respond to the call to action by serving one citizen at a time:

The image “http://www.higherpieproductions.com/jennadrink.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

And is notJenna fighting AIDS in Africa yet?

(photo via higherpieproductions.com)

Jury of Cronies

Always looking to rig the game a little further in their favor, it looks like the fair citizens of Wingnuttia are brewing up a new theory of criminal prosecution: only Republicans can indict and convict other Republicans.

Not content to limit the smear machine to Democratic prosecutors like Ronnie Earle, the 'Pubs are going after jury members now. In Maine, James Tobin--who crippled New Hampshire Democrats' Election Day 2002 GOTV efforts by jamming their phone lines--is seeking to have his indictments thrown out because the grand jury included members of the Democratic Party.


Friday, May 20, 2005

Will they seat her at Jeff Gannon's table?

Porn star and former gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey will be joining her boss, Kick Ass Pictures president Mark Kulkis, in attending a dinner with President Bush in Washington, D.C. on June 14th. Kulkis was invited to attend the event by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which is organizing the event.

Over a two-day course of NRCC events preceding the dinner, Carey and Kulkis will be attending a meeting with presidential advisor Karl Rove, giving their recommendations on important national issues.

"I'm hoping to run as Lieutenant Governor of California next year," Carey said. "Since Arnold is a Republican, I thought this dinner would be a great networking opportunity for me."

"I'm honored to be invited to this event," Kulkis said. "Republicans bill themselves as the pro-business party. Well, you won't find a group of people more pro-business than pornographers. We contributed over $10 billion to the national economy last year."

"I'm especially looking forward to meeting Karl Rove," Carey added. "Smart men like him are so sexy. I know that he's against gay marriage, but I think I can convince him that a little girl-on-girl action now and then isn't so bad!"

You know the old saying about politics and strang bedfellows?


Oh, please

The cover of today's ever illustrious New York Post:

Front Page

The Post reported that the photos were released by "a source in the U.S. military who hoped the release of the pitiful pictures will deal a body blow to the lingering Iraqi insurgency."

A DoD spokesman responded to the photos stating that "These photos were taken in clear violation of DoD directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals."

Let's just set aside for the time being the bizarre notion that taking and releasing photos of Iraqis being humiliated will do anything except piss the insurgents off even more than they are already, if that's possible. Whoever did it must have missed the reaction to that piece in Newsweek about messing with the Koran, as well as that little dust-up about Abu Ghraib.

The Bushistas whitewash Abu Ghraib and pin the responsibility for institutionalized torture on a few underlings, they open a gulag down at Gitmo that they assert is outside the jurisdiction of every judicial panel on the planet, and cram Canadian and German citizens into private planes and buses for "additional questioning" in nations with well-earned reputations as being black holes for human rights. And now, all of a sudden, they're concerned that leaking a picture showing Saddam in his tighty whiteys might violate the Geneva Convention?

How precious. Fuck you, Rummy.

Sometimes "Wanker" just doesn't do it

Richard Boucher earlier this week, in the wake of Newsweek's el foldo over Korangate (Flushgate?):
The White House called the retraction a good first step, but expressed doubt that it would undo the considerable damage that has been inflicted on U.S. credibility throughout the Muslim world.

"This report has had serious consequences," said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. "It has caused damage to the image of the United States abroad. People have lost their lives." Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher added: "It's appalling, really, that an article that was unfounded to begin with has caused so much harm, including loss of life."

Richard Boucher yesterday, after the International Red Cross reported that U.S. interrogators at Gitmo did indeed abuse the Koran, and that the administration was well aware of it:
Spokesman Richard Boucher acknowledged on Thursday that the ICRC had warned the US State Department of the allegations, and that the Pentagon had responded to the warnings in 2003 by issuing strict guidelines on the treatment of the Muslim holy book by US military personnel, CNN reported. But ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno said the allegations had continued after the issuing of the guidelines.


Thursday, May 19, 2005

So sayeth the Go-gos....

All I ever wanted
Had to get away

I will be out of the country for three blessed weeks, starting tomorrow afternoon. I'm not sure if I will have the strength to go cold turkey on American politics for that long, so there may be a random post or two during that period. (I'm also not sure I will recognize American politics when I get back...) I will try not to post any Tom Friedmanesque I-talked-to-an-actual-foreigner-so-now-I-know-what-the-world-thinks pieces.

This is still a very small blog, but I have noticed that we do have a few regulars, and I want you to know I appreciate your electro-patronage. I hope you will stick around while Dr. Bloor carries the load, and I look forward to being back in the saddle in mid-June.

Cheers, y'all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

We have nothing to fear...

Except PETA itself

Terrorism by Activist Extremists Rising - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON - Environmental and animal rights activists who have turned to arson and explosives are the nation's top domestic terrorism threat, an FBI official told a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, the Earth Liberation Front and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty are "way out in front" in terms of damage and number of crimes, said John Lewis, the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism.

"There is nothing else going on in this country over the last several years that is racking up the high number of violent crimes and terrorist actions," Lewis said.

ALF says on its Web site that its small, autonomous groups of people take "direct action" against animal abuse by rescuing animals and causing financial loss to animal exploiters, usually through damage and destruction of property. ELF is an underground movement with no public leadership, membership or spokesperson.
Al Qaeda don't worry me. No siree, Bob. They's God-fearin' folks. But I lays awake nights, worryin' that some animal rights fundamentalist is going to break into my house and set my ferrets free. And the missus... she cain't hardly go out in her mink coat no more what for all them PETA wackos with their paint cans and all. That there's your real terrorists, lemme tell ya.

What Frist has already won

Senate Democrats accuse Bolton of misleading them

John Bolton, nominated as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, planned to seek the help of the CIA director to punish an intelligence officer who disagreed with him and later misled a Senate panel about the incident, Democratic senators said in a report on Wednesday.
The Foreign Relations Committee last week voted on party lines to advance Bolton's nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation -- an extremely rare move -- after Ohio Republican George Voinovich gave a blistering statement against Bolton.
Democrats have not decided whether to use the procedural roadblock known as a filibuster to block a Senate vote on Bolton's nomination, but several senators have said they doubted that tactic would be used.

And there, in a nutshell, is the damage already done by the filibuster jihad. If Frist and his wacky lackeys were not threatening to blow up the Senate, I doubt the Dems would be at such pains to express their reticence to deploy the tool. "Don't take away our guns, please, sir. We promise never, ever to use them...."

Jury of his pee-ers

Boston.com :Former GOP official says grand jury included Democrats

A former Republican official charged with helping orchestrate political dirty tricks wants to know whether prospective jurors at his trial consider themselves aggressive or laid back, naive or perceptive.

James Tobin also wants to know whether they're Democrats, Republicans or independents and whether they watch TV shows such as "West Wing," CNN's "Crossfire," MSNBC's "Hardball," or "The McLaughlin Group," which mostly runs on public television stations.

Those questions are part of a proposed jury pool questionnaire for Tobin's trial on charges he conspired to jam Democrats' get-out-the-vote phones on Election Day 2002, as well as a ride-to-the-polls line run by the Manchester firefighters union.
Tobin, who at the time was the Northeast political director of the Republican Senatorial Committee, also says the charges should be dismissed because the grand jury that indicted him included Democrats.

The grand jury "included purported victims of the alleged scheme -- Democrats,"
said a motion filed by Tobin, who at the time was the Northeast political director of the national Republican Senatorial Committee. He was indicted in December.

Would these be the same "lawn order" Repugs who trumpet victims' rights (when they are the victims, to be sure)? The ones who resist tossing convictions of black defendants judged by all white juries? Thought so.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

How to punk the press

1. Do evil things (hereinafter, the "Evil"). Systematically physically and psychologically torturing illegally held prisoners, for example. Or desecrating the Koran as part and parcel thereof.

2. When you discover that the media has the story on the Evil, have an unnamed official leak an inflammatory but highly specific fact that is emblematic of the Evil -- e.g., that at a specific place, a specific incident of Evil (hereinafter, the "Bad Thing") happened. Flushing the Koran down a toilet in Gitmo, just to pull an example out of thin air.

3. Wait for a news outlet to report the the Evil, which includes the Bad Thing.

4. Observe shit hitting fan.

5. Officially deny the Bad Thing, scrupulously avoiding larger questions re: the Evil.

6. Have unnamed offical back away from story re: the Bad Thing.

7. Observe all other news outlets feasting on entrails of news outlet that reported the Bad Thing.

8. Enjoy atmosphere in which (a) no one dares to speak of the Evil, which you never denied, and (b) news outlets fall prostrate in efforts to remove all vestiges of blasphemous "liberal bias" from their sycophantic coverage of White House talking points.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Leaving nothing to Chance (the gardener)

McClellan Says No Need to Notify Bush in D.C. Scare

I guess if those of us outside the Kool-aid circle know what a mindless doofus Dubya is, it stands to reason that his handlers know it to infinity and beyond, and have systems in place to protect themselves from his stupidity. That explains the decision to let him him ride his friggin' bicycle while his wife and 30,000 of her closest friends fled. After "My pet goat," I doubt they let him near the football.

I guess we should consider ourselves fortunate third party beneficiaries -- what they do to protect their own asses sometimes helps us, too.

Read the full E&P piece, which quotes Scott McLellan tap dancin' away from the closest the WH press corps has come in some time to actual questions.

Let them eat cake

Corporate America Pulling Back Pension Safety Net - Yahoo! News

Last week's court decision permitting United Airlines' parent to dump its pensions on the federal government is part of a sweeping trend that could make the nation's employers more competitive, but at the cost of leaving workers and their families bearing big new risks.

In a nutshell, a broadening swath of corporate America is retreating from the safety-net business and is shifting responsibility to employees.

Newsflash -- while a big portion of the net effect of UAL's pension punt is to shaft its employees by changing the employment contract post facto, the portion of their pensions that has not disappeared is being picked up by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a government agency. Granted, it is not directly taxpayer funded, but the money has to come from somewhere, and where it comes from premiums paid by every other company with a pension plan. You know, kinda like .... um... er... Social Security!

The decision by a Chicago bankruptcy court focused on the problems of a company strapped with $6.6 billion in pension costs. But the court's solution is one that even healthy firms are seeking to copy in one fashion or another, shifting benefit costs away from themselves and making fewer promises to their employees.

"People like to think of employers as social welfare organizations, but they're not," said Sylvester Scheiber, a partner with the financial consulting firm of Watson-Wyatt and a member of President Bush's 2001 Social Security Commission. "In an increasingly competitive world, they don't have room to do much else but focus on the competition."

Isn't it fascinating the way the same kinds of folks who push "right to work" labor laws because they believe in the sanctity of the employment contract and the freedom to enter into one no matter what the terms are so quick to applaud the breaking of contracts when the net effect is to screw the powerless?


Condi Nasty

Oh yeah, she's running.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Whiskey Bar: Scenes We'd Like to See

Whiskey Bar: Scenes We'd Like to See

Photoshopping with a purpose....

Frank Rich on the case

via AMERICAblog

Today's NYT: "Just how gay is the Right?"

"What adds a peculiar dynamic to this anti-gay juggernaut is the continued emergence of gay people within its ranks. Allen Drury would have been incredulous if gay-baiters hounding his Utah senator had turned out to be gay themselves, but this has been a consistent pattern throughout the 30-year war. Terry Dolan, a closeted gay man, ran the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which as far back as 1980 was putting out fund-raising letters that said, "Our nation's moral fiber is being weakened by the growing homosexual movement and the fanatical E.R.A. pushers (many of whom publicly brag they are lesbians)." (Dolan recanted and endorsed gay rights before he died of AIDS in 1986.) The latest boldface name to marry his same-sex partner in Massachusetts is Arthur Finkelstein, the political operative behind the electoral success of Jesse Helms, a senator so homophobic he voted in the minority of the 97-to-3 reauthorization of the Ryan White act for AIDS funding and treatment in 1995.

But surely the most arresting recent case is James E. West, the powerful Republican mayor of Spokane, Wash., whose double life has just been exposed by the local paper, The Spokesman-Review. Mr. West's long, successful political career has been distinguished by his attempts to ban gay men and lesbians from schools and day care centers, to fire gay state employees, to deny City Hall benefits to domestic partners and to stifle AIDS-prevention education. The Spokesman-Review caught him trolling gay Web sites for young men and trying to lure them with gifts and favors. (He has denied accusations of abusing boys when he was a Boy Scout leader some 25 years ago.) Not unlike the Roy Cohn of "Angels in America" - who describes himself as "a heterosexual man" who has sex "with guys" - Mr. West has said he had "relations with adult men" but doesn't "characterize" himself as gay. This is more than hypocrisy - it's pathology.

Goes with my current Raw Story piece rather like chianti and pasta, no?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Robert Novak cancels UC Santa Barbara debate on media bias

Conservative columnist Robert Novak has dropped out of a scheduled debate at U-C Santa Barbara about media bias.

Novak says he canceled the May 25th appearance after learning he would face liberal critic Eric Alterman.

The two have a history of clashes, and Novak says he won't appear publicly with Alterman because he feels the debate would devolve into a critique of him instead of the bias issue.

Novak's decision left organizers with little time to find another speaker, so they canceled the event.

In his criticism, Alterman has criticized Novak for disclosing in a column the name of C-I-A agent Valerie Plame. The revelation, based on unnamed sources, triggered a federal probe to determine who leaked the information.

Poor baby. Can't expect him to confront someone who refuses to play by the lame-ass rules of the Washington press corps -- you know, never ask embarassing questions, no matter how shameful the behavior of the subject, pretend the press still does its job, pretend sucking up to power is inevitable and proper...

Can't imagine why therey are having trouble meeting recruiting targets

USATODAY.com - Armor issued despite warnings
The Marine Corps issued to nearly 10,000 troops body armor that military ballistic experts had urged the Marines to reject after tests revealed life-threatening flaws in the vests, an eight-month investigation by Marine Corps Times has found.

In all, the Marines bought about 19,000 Interceptor outer tactical vests from Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Point Blank Body Armor. According to a government memo, the vests failed tests because of "multiple complete penetrations" of 9mm pistol rounds and other ballistics or quality-assurance tests.

Defective flak jackets. Unarmored Hummers. Thousands of tons of high-energy explosives that walked out of ammo dumps and into a gazillion roadside IEDs.

Can't imagine why Michelle Malkin, Jonah Goldberg, et. al are not helping to "bring it on."

Betty Bowers was there first

Is Fabulous President George W. Bush a Fabulous Homosexual? Baptists Are Saving Homosexuals asks what conservative Christians demand to know

A reader of the latest Raw Story piece points out that the intrepid Betty Bowers has been questioning the direction of Dubya's current for some time. Fun stuff.

I'm just asking...

New piece up @ Raw Story. Innuendo is alive and well.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

BushFish.org: Supporting God and Country

Do you believe God belongs in government?
Do you believe President Bush is doing The Lord's Work?

If this country's legislature and judiciary are supposed to
reflect the values and beliefs of The People, then send them
a message that they are WAY off course!

If you are tired of secularists telling you that The Lord has no place
in our government and our public institutions, then show them that
you disagree.

This symbol, this site, and this car magnet have been created for the millions of Americans who support the President and his vision for a government that embraces religion, morality, and family values. It shows worship to the Lord, respect for the President, and hope for all.

Join the millions of Americans who believe that President Bush’s faith-based administration presents the best hope for America’s future. The future is in your hands. Stand up and be counted.

This is an actual emergency. If this had been a drill, you would have read this story on The Onion's site.

Self-parody has become so pervasive that it is starting to look like water must look like to a fish.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Wavering senator to vote for Bolton

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One of the Republicans who has been wavering on the nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Tuesday that he will reluctantly support him.

Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee's decision gives momentum to Bolton ahead of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote Thursday.

A 10-8 party-line vote on the GOP-led panel would send Bolton's nomination to the full Senate and probable confirmation.

Pray tell, Dr. Bloor. What drives a man to (a) equivocate, and thereby squander any possible political value in his decision to the loyalty-obsessed theocracy, and then (b) do the manifestly wrong thing, thereby abandoning all chance of redemption in the eyes of the rest of us?

What makes a man so totally screw the pooch?

United gets approval to shift pension plans

...but let's privatize Social Security!

The cognitive dissonance between taking a public program for paying retirement benefits to workers and making it private, on the one hand, and taking a private program for paying retirement benefits and making it public, on the other, might at first seem overwhelming. But the two are in fact easy to harmonize. Nobody gets rich manipulating the Social Security system that benefits millions. A much smaller number of Wall Street types will get rich(er) if it is privatized.

None of the retired UAL employees will get rich from their pensions. But a few folks will get richer by dumping that liability on the US government. Simple, no? Just the new utilitarianism -- the greatest good for the smallest number.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Clusterfuck Nation by Jim Kunstler : The Rapture

When exactly the American public entered the Rapture is a little hard to say -- maybe as long ago as the Reagan years -- but it is not the same Rapture as the Born Agains are gleefully awaiting -- the absurd cosmic vacuuming up to heaven that leaves behind all the rest of us sinners. No, the Rapture I speak of is the stupendous complacency of a people convinced that the future is going to be just like the past.

Always nice to find another readable curmudgeon. AND he digs Zippy.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Darwin's Lament

Darwin's Lament, by punpirate - Democratic Underground

Excellent piece @ DU.

Ever hear a born-again Kansan rail against the science that made the automobile? Nope, me neither. Periodically, some of those Kansans get into a long metal tube with wings (some of which are made in, gasp, Wichita, Kansas!), strap themselves in and are then accelerated to nearly 600 mph and are lifted into the sky to an altitude of about 33,000 feet, without the aid of Jesus, and directed to their destination by a strange assemblage of wires and glass known as a klystron tube (or its post-millennial equivalent), an essential part of what silly scientists refer to as radar.

Ever hear a born-again Kansan harp about the inherent ungodliness of airplanes? Nope, me neither.

Or wail about the evil of having to pick up a plastic pen, or drag a synthetic rubber-hosed sprinkler into the back yard and turn the handle of a sophisticated metal and plastic object and have water come out, water provided by distant, complicated pumps (run by even more distant and more complicated generators making the electricity to run them) and industrial processes to kill the germs and remove the gritty bits as flocculants, and inject a bit of sodium fluoride to keep their teeth strong and free of cavities?

Me neither.

And how 'bout those Internets? They seem all science-y to me.

OK, now I'm confused

Rice withholds Bolton docs
The State Department is refusing to make public internal documents sought by Senate Democrats in their attempt to seek more information about repeated clashes between John R. Bolton and American intelligence agencies over Syria, administration officials tell the registration-restricted New York Times. Excerpts follow.

In rejecting the request, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that the information involves "internal deliberations" and their disclosure could have a chilling effect on debates within the administration.

Wait a minute here. I could've sworn that eliminating debate within the Administration was in fact the highest goal of the Bush White House.

Politics is so confusing.

Daily Kos :: "Suicided" Lobbyist tied to "Jeff Gannon"?

Daily Kos :: "Suicided" Lobbyist tied to "Jeff Gannon"?

All the JimmyJeff that's fit to post.

Separation of Church and State (from the Constitution)

Americans United: Church Split In North Carolina Shows Dangers Of Partisan Politics In Pulpit, Says Americans United

H.R. 235, a measure introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), would allow clergy to endorse candidates from the pulpit and still retain a tax exemption of their house of worship.
Yes, this is serious. They have their ownwebsite. The bill has a 165 co-sponsors. They have a pretzel-logic euphamism - the 'Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act.' They have you-can't-even-see-reality-from-here talking points.

And like all good wingnuts, they have no answer for the obvious, even-Homer-Simpson-gets-it answer to their lament -- give up your tax-favored status (which is surely a law 'respecting an establishment of religion') and Uncle Sam will be more than happy to let you advocate that George W. Bush descends directly from the Virgin Mary, or that the rapture gets your clothes whiter, or whatever lame-ass, alternative-universe drivel floats your boat.

At any other point during the last 50 years, this outrage would have lasted 30 seconds before the Supreme Court smacked it down. But with Monsignor Scalia and Reverend Thomas driving, all bets are off.

Kansas school board approves new science text

from Sadly, No!: The Truth for Youth!

OK, not literally. Yet.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

74-Year-Old Man Sentenced for pushing oxycodone

via Yahoo! News:

A 74-year-old man who illegally sold prescription drugs was sentenced to 70 years in prison, but the judge suspended all except 10 years of the term.

Lloyd Edgar Williams Sr. pleaded guilty in January to distributing the powerful pain killer oxycodone and conspiracy to distribute.

Expect a full airing of the implications of the story on a forthcoming Rush Limbaugh show.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Fool me once, shame on you

Fool me 87,453 times, shame on me.

Captured Al-Qaeda kingpin is case of mistaken identity - Sunday Times

The capture of a supposed Al-Qaeda kingpin by Pakistani agents last week was hailed by President George W Bush as “a critical victory in the war on terror”. According to European intelligence experts, however, Abu Faraj al-Libbi was not the terrorists’ third in command, as claimed, but a middle-ranker derided by one source as “among the flotsam and jetsam” of the organisation.

Al-Libbi’s arrest in Pakistan, announced last Wednesday, was described in the United States as “a major breakthrough” in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

Bush called him a “top general” and “a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al- Qaeda network”. Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, said he was “a very important figure”. Yet the backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI’s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department “rewards for justice” programme.

Note to mainstream media: there's this concept called credibility. The way it works is that the extent to which you give credence to what someone tells you today is based upon the truth value of things they told you yesterday. Shall I repeat that for you? Use smaller words?

If you are willing to concede that this is the first time anyone has explained this concept to you, I might be willing to give you a pass for your complete failure to apply it to date. (Well, everyone but Judith Miller, who is apparently beyond redemption. And Bob Woodward, who knew this shit cold once upon a time.)

Once you have mastered that concept, you can try this: when evaluating the likelihood that someone is blowing smoke up your collective journalistic asses, ask yourselves: how does this story serve the interests of the source of the story? You know, context. Like the WMD schtick and the Bush team's obvious desire to control Iraq's oil. And, oh, let me go out on a limb here, the amazing confluence of the capture of this Al Qaeda dude and the British elections. Not that the adorable canine Blair himself has the power to bring even third-rate terrorists to heel, but consider the possibility that the way Bush gets his favorite pooch to sit and stay is with these kinds of Persian-flavored Beggin' Bits.

Oh, I can see by the looks on your faces that I have totally lost you. Let's start over...

Bible :: Beast's real mark devalued to '616'

Satanists, apocalypse watchers and heavy metal guitarists may have to adjust their demonic numerology after a recently deciphered ancient biblical text revealed that 666 is not the fabled Number of the Beast after all.

A fragment from the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, dating to the Third century, gives the more mundane 616 as the mark of the Antichrist.

Ellen Aitken, a professor of early Christian history at McGill University, said the discovery appears to spell the end of 666 as the devil's prime number.

"This is a very nice piece to find," Dr. Aitken said. "Scholars have argued for a long time over this, and it now seems that 616 was the original number of the beast."

Like Bureau of Labor Statisitics output, it appears the Bible's numbers require revisions after initial publication. And the real world implications may be equally important. Think of all the tattoo artists working overtime trying to figure out how to change goth sixes into ones...

Oh, and can someone remind me which version of the Bible is the inerrant one?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Another missing link is no longer missing

from BBC NEWS:

Fossils of an ancient fish - dating back 450 million years, when the creatures had neither bones nor teeth - have been found in South Africa.

The finds, which are 50 million years older than any other fossil fish in Africa, will help provide a "missing link" in the evolution of early fish.

The point is mere preaching to the converted to everyone here, but it bears repeating: the primary rap Creationists level against the theory of evolution is in fact the source of its strength.

Given the special circumstances that spell the difference between a dead trilobyte leaving behind a fossil or coming back a few million years later as a spoonful of petroleum, rational thinkers are amazed at how good the known fossil record already is -- they don't see the current holes as flaws in the theory, but as an opportunity to refine and extend what is already known.

But more to the point, the "flaws" in evolution, as in all scientific concepts, are inevitable but also generally transient. Evidence will continue to refine the theory -- or contradict it, in which case a new theory takes its place. So it must be in a reality-based world-view.

But how does one fix flaws in received wisdom, imported from an unchallengable source? They cannot be fixed, so eventually creationists and Intelligent Design lackeys must admit that they simply will not consider the possibility that their premises might be false. And that, my friends, is where religion and science cleave.

Evolution Isn't a Natural Selection Here

Wingnuts in charge, Kansas edition:

Kathy Martin, a member of the state board of education, and her family built it on their farm this spring, gathering weathered chunks of limestone from the horse pasture and laying them on a hillside.

The cross is a proud expression of Martin's faith. And as hearings challenging the role of evolution in the state's school science curriculum began Thursday, that cross left little doubt about where she stood in the debate.

"Evolution is a great theory, but it is flawed," said Martin, 59, a retired science and elementary school teacher who is presiding over the hearings. "There are alternatives. Children need to hear them…. We can't ignore that our nation is based on Christianity — not science."

The hearings in Topeka, scheduled to last several days, are focusing on two proposals. The first recommends that students continue to be taught the theory of evolution because it is key to understanding biology. The other proposes that Kansas alter the definition of science, not limiting it to theories based on natural explanations.

I'm sure it would come as quite a surprise to Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, et.al to learn that the founding of our nation was based on Christianity. But that view is one we've seen before.

What scares the bejeezus out of me is that we have come to a point at which adults can stand up and advocate self-negating nonsense like "not limiting science to natural explanations" and get mainstream news sources to cover them as proponents of a serious worldview.

If there was a futures market for world events, I'd be long in a revival of Salem witch trials.

But at least they ain't queer...

'Pleasure marriages' regain popularity in Iraq - Yahoo! News

The 1,400-year-old practice of muta'a- "ecstasy" in Arabic - is as old as Islam itself. It was permitted by the prophet Mohammed as a way to ensure a respectable means of income for widowed women.

Pleasure marriages were outlawed under Saddam Hussein but have begun to flourish again. The contracts, lasting anywhere from one hour to 10 years, generally stipulate that the man will pay the woman in exchange for sexual intimacy. Now some Iraqi clerics and women's rights activists are complaining that the contracts have become less a mechanism for taking care of widows than an outlet for male sexual desires.
Pleasure marriages began to resurface after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. One reason is that Shiites, 60% of Iraq's population, have a greater ability to shape social mores than they did under Saddam, a Sunni Arab whose top aides were also Sunnis.
A woman agreeing to a pleasure marriage that involves a one-time encounter might be able to count on about $100. For a muta'a that runs longer, she might be paid $200 a month, though the amounts vary widely and can depend on whether she has children.

Zeinab Ahmed, 31, lost her husband in a car accident five years ago. She says she has considered entering into a muta'a contract with a man, but the stigma attached has kept her from doing so.

"All my friends who have done this have told me they got married in this way just to meet their sexual desires," Ahmed says, "but later on they started to love that man, and he does not accept to get married permanently. ... Most of the men, at the end of the contract, they feel contempt towards the woman."

Since this policy seems entirely consistent with the "marriage is between one man and one woman" thing, I can't see how Dubya, Spongedob, or any of their ilk can have a problem with it.

On the other hand, if they do object, it will be hard to blame anyone other than ... ourselves. Or the flowering of democracy. Take your pick.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

RollingStone.com: The Quagmire

What a strange place we find ourselves inhabiting, when the home of sex, drugs and rock & roll becomes a virtual lone truthful voice countering the Administration's spin on Iraq.

In private, however, senior military advisers and intelligence specialists on Iraq offer a starkly different picture. Two years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is perched on the brink of civil war. Months after the election, the new Iraqi government remains hunkered down inside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, surviving only because it is defended by thousands of U.S. troops. Iraqi officials hold meetings and press conferences in Alamo-like settings, often punctuated by the sounds of nearby explosions. Outside the Green Zone, party offices and government buildings are surrounded by tank traps, blast walls made from concrete slabs eighteen feet high, and private militias wielding machine guns and AK-47s. Even minor government officials travel from fort to fort in heavily armed convoys of Humvees.

"I talk to senior military people and combat commanders who tell me that the situation is much more precarious than admitted," says Col. Patrick Lang, former Middle East chief for the Defense Intelligence Agency. "Even inside the Green Zone you are not safe, because of indirect fire. And if you were to venture outside at night, they'd probably find your headless body the next morning."

Car bombs rock Baghdad and other cities virtually every day, and insurgents conduct hundreds of attacks each week on U.S. troops, Iraqi recruits and civilian police. Thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers have scattered or disappeared, and countless others either do no fighting or covertly support the insurgency. The out-of-control security situation means that few reconstruction projects can get off the ground. Transport is crippled, and Iraq's core infrastructure -- its roads and bridges, its power plants, its water-treatment facilities, and its all-important oil fields, pipelines and oil terminals -- remains heavily damaged from the war.

Let freedom reign.

Siding with stupidity

from The Connecticut Post Online

House Republicans Wednesday soundly rejected an effort by Democrats to ban the Department of Education from spending money on "covert propaganda."

The House voted 224 to 197 against a measure, championed by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, and George Miller, D-Calif., aimed at blocking the department from creating sham news stories or hiring columnists to promote policies.
Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, argued against the proposal saying that newly appointed Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has taken steps to ensure such contracts will not be awarded again.

"What happened with Armstrong was stupid, but passing laws to outlaw stupidity is not Congress' job," he said.

I hear that. House Republicans voting to outlaw stupidity would be like Tom DeLay arguing for campaign finance reform.

Judicial activism: the new missionary position

Sorry, I forgot. When the wingnuts create law from whole cloth, that isn't activism. it's "intent of the framers."

Paperwight's Fair Shot: Does She Weigh The Same As A Duck?

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled a Virginia county can refuse to let a witch give the invocation at its meetings by limiting the privilege to clergy representing Judeo-Christian monotheism.
While the U.S. Supreme Court has limited government entanglement with religion in the past, the 4th Circuit’s decision relies heavily on a case in which the high court carved out separate and broader boundaries and guidelines for prayer at legislative gatherings. In that 1983 case, the court ruled there was no violation of the establishment clause when the Nebraska legislature used a Presbyterian minister over a number of years to lead its invocations. Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783.

The court said in Marsh that as long as the selection of a particular minister did not stem "from any impermissible motive," it was constitutional. The Marsh opinion also strongly emphasized the long history of prayer in both Congress and the Supreme Court itself.

The 4th Circuit ruled Chesterfield County’s Board of Supervisors did not show impermissible motive in refusing to permit a pantheistic invocation by a Wiccan because its list of clergy who registered to conduct invocations covers a wide spectrum of Judeo-Christian denominations.

So, Judeo-Christian (a made-up term) denominations can now stand in for any other religion as the official religion requested to participate in government business. Because, you know, the Bible really does encompass every other sacred text, and there's never been any problem with, you know, silly little religious tiffs, arising between Judeos and/or Christians (who are, after all, completely interchangeable), and anyone else.

From theocracy watch to theocracy alert to Federal Court of Appeals-sanctioned, 100% made in USA theocracy. In a week.

Efficient buggers, aren't they?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Defending snobbery

dKos linked approvingly to a piece on Steve Gilliard's News Blog arguing that we need to at least fake an interest in pop culture in order to grab the proles and lead them slowly back into the real world, as opposed the MTY's Real World.

If CNN basically covers this story all Saturday, it's news. It's not a debate. It is news, and malaria isn't. Instead of wishing it wasn't news, we need to subvert it. We need to discuss it in wider terms, class, race, sex. We need to bring depth to the debate. I mean this story gets weirder by the day. But if you don't engage it, bring different perspectives to it, the media gets away clean again. When people say "you don't cover this story" people think "liberal whiner". If they want to talk about runaway brides, let's talk about runaway brides, but intelligently, questioning the sex roles of men and women and the economic cost and pressure in a large wedding. There is fertile ground for smart people, but they have to seize the target and change the debate.

One of the great tricks of conservative pundits was to talk about ANY topic. No matter what it was, they had an opinion, got face time and then book deals. They saw this as fertile ground to extend the debate. We have to engage these issues and bring new perspectives on them.
There's a sort of snobishness about news on the left. I don't watch TV, I only read the Guardian. Give me a fucking break. Most people think Angel comes after Guardian and when you don't watch TV, you might as well say pinko hippie. If you want to change minds, you have to speak their language and it's in things people care about.

If you don't have an opinion on the latest circus, your opinion on more serious matters will not count. You don't have to spend every day repeating Eonline, but you have to understand the culture, even the vulgar parts, to change it. If you do not engage the debate at hand, you will become irrelevant. Even if the debate is not a big deal in the end. Walking away, as we did so many times before, is no longer an option.

Now I am probably the worst person in the world to listen to on this issue. My most culturally literate friends all consider me an insufferable snob. I despise reality TV. I steadfastly refuse to join the Paris Hilton/Michael Jackson/BenJLoBrad rubbernecking. I know intelligent people who watch and enjoy this stuff. Please include me out.

But more to the point, I don't see how pandering and pretending to give a rat's ass about this stuff gets us anywhere we want to go. And if anyone thinks that trying to open a debate on the sociological implications of the runaway bride is going to make the flesh-eating zombies see us as less leper-like, then I have a used bowl of Wendy's chili to sell you.

Treasury says may reintroduce 30-yr bond

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury, faced with large budget deficits, said in a surprise move on Wednesday it is considering regular sales of 30-year bonds, which were suspended in 2001.

The Bush administration scrapped the long-dated security in late 2001 as a cost-saving move, saying it no longer needed the bond for the government's borrowing needs. The move also came during the fourth consecutive year of budget surpluses.

Many bond dealers were stunned by that decision, which some viewed as a move to lower long-term interest rates, although Treasury officials said that was not the case.

But after years of mounting budget deficits -- fueled by recession, a stock market collapse, the costs of war and tax cuts -- bond dealers began lobbying for reintroduction of the security to support the long end of the market.

I've never seen an actual T-bill--do they put portraits on them, as they do with currency? If so, the choice for the new thirty year issues is really too easy:
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Looking at the sports page this morning, I was struck by what an affirmation of statistical probability the NBA play0ffs have been so far this year. In both of the 1st vs. 8th seed match-ups, the #1 team swept 4-0. In the two 2-7 series, the #7 teams have won a single game each. The 4-5 matchups are a combined 5 and 4.

And, why, you might ask, have I not taken the opportunity to heap scorn on Kobe Bryant, now a fellow playoff spectator for the first time in his career? I got my digs in back in November. and December. And January. No need to pile on now.

National Lampoon-quality stuff

I liked this column from JON CARROLL:

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!

People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to ... you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.

Uh oh

Soldier: England Pics Had Legitimate Use - Yahoo! News:

Isn't it always the way? You go to all the trouble of crafting a lie and getting everyone reading off the same page in the hymnal of bullshit. It seems to be effective -- the proles take the fall, and the money walks, as usual. You get within inches of the fnish line... and some danged fool tries to help with a bit of freelancing and screws the pooch.

FORT HOOD, Texas - The reputed ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal on Wednesday contradicted a key part of Pfc. Lynndie England's guilty plea, in which the defendant said she knew she was committing wrongful acts when she took part in the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees.

The testimony of Pvt. Charles Graner Jr., contending that notorious photos taken of England at the prison were to have a legitimate use, could endanger England's guilty plea to seven abuse charges. Under military law, a judge can formally accept England's guilty plea only if she knew at the time that what she was doing was illegal.

The judge, Col. James Pohl, planned to question England again Wednesday afternoon to try to clarify her state of mind when the abusive acts occurred.

Graner, who is said to be England's ex-boyfriend, was found guilty in January and is serving a 10-year prison term for his role in the scandal.

Pohl abruptly stopped England's sentencing hearing after Graner testified for the defense that three pictures he took of England holding a naked prisoner on a leash were meant to be used as a legitimate training aid for other guards.
In a handwritten note given to reporters Tuesday, Graner had said he wanted England to fight the charges.

"Knowing what happened in Iraq, it was very upsetting to see Lynn plead guilty to her charges," he wrote. "I would hope that by doing so she will have a better chance at a good sentence."

Graner maintains that he and the other Abu Ghraib guards were following orders from higher-ranking interrogators when they abused the detainees.

It would not surprise me in the least if there was a new Yakuza-like response to this bad news: someone needs to sacrifice a finger to atone. Whose fast food will it be placed in to push the real news off CNN this time?

Pat Robertson's contradictory theology

from Media Matters for America:

Responding to a question from ABC host George Stephanopoulos about why a God "so involved in our daily life" would allow a tsunami to kill hundreds of thousands of people, Rev. Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America, replied: "I don't think He reverses the laws of nature." That statement, on the May 1 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, conflicts with other meteorological comments by Robertson, who has repeatedly linked natural disasters to the will of God.

After Orlando, Florida, city officials voted in 1998 to fly rainbow flags from city lampposts during the annual Gay Days event at Disney World, Robertson issued the city a warning: "I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you. ... [A] condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs, it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor."

Robertson claimed that his prayers to God helped steer Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and Hurricane Felix in 1995 away from Hampton Roads, Virginia, the headquarters of Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, according to The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA) on June 10, 1998. The Virginian-Pilot further noted that "Robertson also believes that various natural disasters are signs of God's will and that the world will suffer more of them before the arrival of 'the end of the age.' ''

I am far beyond amazement at everyday ordinary contradictions in the world views of theocrats. But when I saw the clip referred to here, my jaw dropped.

This isn't a relatively subtle gotcha game like "who was Cain's wife?" or the like flowing from what Hollywood would call continuity issues in the Bible. This is fundamental confusion about the omnipotence of God from one of the godliest fundamentalists.

A God who can actually bring plague and pestilence would reward such equivocation from one of His highest shepherds with a thunderbolt up the ass, don't you think?

David Espo gets it

Analysis: Senate Shifts on Filibusters

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Time was, Republicans buried Bill Clinton's judicial picks by the dozen in the Senate Judiciary Committee and Democrats indignantly demanded a yes-or-no vote for each.

That was then.

This is now, when Democrats block a far smaller number of President Bush's court nominees - and Republicans heatedly insist the Constitution itself requires a vote.

"Give them a vote. A vote up or down," Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said recently, speaking of seven appeals court nominees Democrats have vowed to block. "That's what we've always done for 214 years before this president became president."

Except for more than 60 nominees whose names Clinton sent to the Senate between 1995 and 2000.

Republicans didn't resort to filibusters in many of those cases. They didn't need to.

They controlled the levers of Senate power at the time, and simply refused to schedule action on the nominations they opposed. Hatch, a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, played a pivotal role in the blockade.

Espo's piece isn't a big wet kiss to the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy; he also takes care to point out how the Dems have jumped sides over the years. But he seems to realize that being "fair and balanced" doesn't necessarily involve unzipping Republican trou.

Incidentally, as I write this, a poll accompanying this piece on AOL (you know, that infamous mouthpiece for MoveOn, Media Matters and the like) indicates that 84% of their closeted-commie subscribers think Frist's push to ban the filibuster is all about politics rather than principle, and two-thirds oppose a rule change.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

And they STILL can't make their numbers

via the Rocky Mountain News:

Two Army recruiters in Golden have been suspended from their jobs while military officials look into allegations the two men used improper tactics to get an Arvada high school student to sign up for duty.
The report featured David McSwane, an Arvada West High School honors student and editor of his school newspaper, who was "curious" to see what recruiters at a Golden recruitment facility would do if he told them he wanted to join the Army as a high school dropout with a serious marijuana problem.

McSwane, 17, said he had read about the challenges the military was facing in recruiting and wanted to find out "how desperate they really are."
Starting in January, McSwane met with two recruiters in Golden several times and secretly taped a series of phone calls with them. On the tapes, one recruiter is apparently heard encouraging McSwane to create a fake high school diploma to cover for the fact that he had dropped out.

"It can be like Faith Hill Baptist School or something - whatever you choose," the recruiter said.

McSwane said he bought a phony diploma, complete with a transcript, from a Web site for $200. He was told that it passed the Army's academic evaluation.

"At one point, I thought he would look up my academic record, but he never did," McSwane said.

McSwane got a friend to film another recruiter driving him to a store to purchase a detoxification kit to rid his system of supposed marijuana traces.

So much to marvel at here. The tactics. The immorality. And the fact that even when the Army is willing to go to such lengths to drug-using high school drop-outs, they are still falling short of their recruitment goals. And the Times reports that this is no rogue prison guard scenario -- this stuff is going on everywhere.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Draw your curve, then plot your points

Blair hit by new leak of secret war plan - Britain - Times Online

A SECRET document from the heart of government reveals today that Tony Blair privately committed Britain to war with Iraq and then set out to lure Saddam Hussein into providing the legal justification.

The Downing Street minutes, headed “Secret and strictly personal — UK eyes only”, detail one of the most important meetings ahead of the invasion.

It was chaired by the prime minister and attended by his inner circle. The document reveals Blair backed “regime change” by force from the outset, despite warnings from Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, that such action could be illegal.

At least he didn't finance Arkansas real estate, or try to fix health care, or fool around with an intern. So (repeat as nauseum) nothing to see here -- just move along to the next runaway dead Pope found in a bowl of chili.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Stoopid is as stoopid does

fromThe Washington Monthly

....The U.S. military released a report last week clearing American troops in the March gunfire incident that injured Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena and killed Nicola Calipari, an Italian intelligence agent, as they were driving to the Baghdad airport. Italian reaction has been outraged, and the Italian government is expected to issue a report on Monday contradicting many of the U.S. findings.

But here's a question: do you think the Italian computer whizzes will be any more competent than their American counterparts when they release their report? The U.S. report is full of redactions, as you can see in the picture above, but once again an American agency has used the searchable PDF format to distribute a report, and all you have to do is save the report as a text file in order to recover all the redacted parts.

I feel safer already.

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