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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

We're Desperately Turning Some Corners

Good news from Vice President Dick Cheney!

The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline.  I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

We've been hearing this kind of talk a lot lately...

“We see these attacks as another desperate attempt by the terrorists to discredit the newly formed Iraqi government,” US-led forces said in a statement. (29 April 2005)

Maybe it means they really are getting desperate...

"So the level of violence will be high during this period of time because they're desperate.  They know the window is closing.  They know they've either got to derail the process now, or ultimately we'll succeed in our objectives there." (Cheney, 29 September 2004)

"They are becoming more deadly because we think they are getting more desperate," Dr Allawi said. (24 September 2004)

"The general said the letter-writer's recommendation of instigating sectarian violence in Iraq "is almost a sign of desperation." (Gen. Kimmet, 9 February 2004)

"As they approach Baghdad, our fighting units are facing the most desperate elements of a doomed regime." (President Bush, 27 March 2003)

Or maybe it just means we're getting really desperate. 

(hat tip to hairy fish nuts)

UPDATE: Josh Marshall notes that Cheney declared that the insurgency was in its last throes, and that the insurgency would be over by 2009.  I just love how this man can say whatever the hell he wants, with no logic or sense,  and the media just lets it go. 

 At least they're consistent.

But I guess you don't even need a ministry of truth to destroy the past if no one pays any attention anyway.

 One of the lamest statements of the year.  Bush at his news conference: I think the Iraqi people dealt the insurgents a serious blow when they had the elections [in January]."  That's right, kids...the bad guys have been blowing themselves up for the last five months because of low self-esteem.  

Paging Dr. Phil...  

categories: Outrages
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11:16:50 PM    comment []


A coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups announced a campaign today to urge that the U.S. Congress launch a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war. The campaign focuses on evidence that recently emerged in a British memo containing minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials.


John Bonifaz, a Boston attorney specializing in constitutional litigation, sent a memo to Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, urging him to introduce a Resolution of Inquiry directing the House Judiciary Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House to impeach President Bush.

Bonifaz's memo, made available today at www.AfterDowningStreet.org, begins: "The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution."

In February and March 2003, John Bonifaz served as lead counsel for a coalition of United States soldiers, parents of U.S. soldiers, and Members of Congress (led by Representatives John Conyers, Jr. and Dennis Kucinich) in a federal lawsuit challenging President George W. Bush’s authority to wage war against Iraq absent a congressional declaration of war or equivalent action. Bonifaz is the author of Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush (NationBooks-NY, 2004, foreword by Rep. John Conyers, Jr.), which chronicles that case and its meaning for the United States Constitution.

The organizations forming the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition include: Global Exchange, Gold Star Families for Peace, Democrats.com, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Progressive Democrats of America, and Democracy Rising. These organizations, beginning today, will be urging their members to contact their Representatives to urge support of a Resolution of Inquiry.

Congressman Conyers is now seeking 100,000 signatures to sign a letter on the Downing Street Inquiry. Information available at Raw Story and dKos.

Sign the letter here. Write to your Congresspeople here.

Daniel Ellsberg once said that what's good about the American people is that you have to lie to them. What's bad about Americans is that it's so easy to do.

..It is our duty to ensure that [soldiers] never are called to make that sacrifice unless it is truly necessary.. In the case of Iraq, the American public has failed them; we did not prevent the Bush administration from spending their blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes. Perhaps it happened because Americans, understandably, don't expect untruths from those in power. But that works better as an explanation than as an excuse.

The "smoking gun," as some call it, surfaced on May 1 in the London Times It is a highly classified document containing the minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting at 10 Downing Street...

Also comes word, from the May 19 New York Times, that senior U.S. military leaders are not encouraged about prospects in Iraq. Yes, they think the United States can prevail, but as one said, it may take "many years."

As this bloody month of car bombs and American deaths -- the most since January -- comes to a close, as we gather in groups small and large to honor our war dead, let us all sing of their bravery and sacrifice. But let us also ask their forgiveness for sending them to a war that should never have happened. In the 1960s it was Vietnam. Today it is Iraq. Let us resolve to never, ever make this mistake again. Our young people are simply too precious.

categories: Outrages
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12:30:05 AM    comment []

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day

"Adventus" is the exact Christian Latin equivalent of the Greek "parousia."--H.A. Reinhold

The stories about its origin are indeed varied. Perhaps it began as "Decoration Day." The stories I heard was that families would go out to the cemeteries to honor the dead from the Civil War. Graves would be decorated, picnics would be held. The dead and the living would both be honored. Where it originated, and how, is still subject to debate and conjecture. But this much seems clear: we used to be more mature about such things.

We used to recall that war had a high price, and yet we too easily forget how easily is it paid when all the bodies are out of sight. It wasn't long after the Civil War, after all, that we were engaged in the glorious adventure of liberating the Philippines. Apparently inspired by that venture, Mark Twain wrote his famous "War Prayer." But even so, we used to honor our dead soldiers.

Perhaps the Gettysburg Address is linked to Memorial Day, too. The eloquence of Lincoln is unimaginable in any living politician. But just try to imagine any of them even addressing the subject of death in this way:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that "all men are created equal"

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow, this ground -- The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln praised those who died in a valiant struggle to preserve the union, to keep the nation from ending. "I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,/And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps./ What do you think has become of the young and old men?/What do you think has become of the women and children?" I think: "A wise man who speaks his mind calmly is more to be heeded than a commander shouting orders among fools." I think: "Wisdom is better than weapons of war, and one mistake can undo many things done well." (Ecclesiastes 9:17-18, NEB)

categories: Soul
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7:12:46 PM    comment []

Friday, May 27, 2005

Phthalates and Semen Quality

Scientists say chemicals have gender bending effect

GOP don't blame feminism or the Democrats for pussifying the Western male, blame the plastics industry:

Toxin in plastics harming unborn boys

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Friday May 27, 2005
The Guardian

Scientists in America have found the first evidence that common chemicals used in products as diverse as cosmetics, toys, clingfilm and plastic bags may harm the development of unborn baby boys.

Researchers have long known that high levels of substances called phthalates have gender-bending effects on male animals, making them more feminine and leading to poor sperm quality and infertility. The new study suggests that even normal levels of phthalates, which are ubiquitous, can disrupt the development of male babies' reproductive organs.

The discovery poses a huge problem for the chemical industry, which is already embroiled in a battle with the government over EU proposals on chemical safety.

Several types of phthalates, which are used to make plastics more pliable, and have been around for more than 50 years, have been banned, but many are still produced in vast quantities.

The study was carried out by scientists from centres across the US, including the University of Rochester and the National Centre for Environmental Health.Several types of phthalates, which are used to make plastics more pliable, and have been around for more than 50 years, have been banned, but many are still produced in vast quantities.

The study was carried out by scientists from centres across the US, including the University of Rochester and the National Centre for Environmental Health.

The researchers measured the levels of nine widely used phthalates in the urine of pregnant women and compared them with standard physiological measurements of their babies.

Tests showed that women with higher levels of four different phthalates were more likely to have baby boys with a range of conditions, from smaller penises and undescended testicles to a shorter perineum, the distance between the genitals and the anus. The differences, say the authors, indicate a feminisation of the boys similar to that seen in animals exposed to the chemicals.

Gwynne Lyons, toxics adviser to the WWF, said: "At the moment regulation of the chemicals industry is woefully inadequate."

She added: "Right now the government is looking at how the regulation of hormone disrupting chemicals could be made more effective under new EU chemicals law, but the chemicals industry is lobbying very hard to water down this legislation.

"Political agreement on this legislation is not expected until later this year so it remains to be seen whether the UK government has the guts to stand up to industry lobbying. If they don't, wildlife and baby boys will be the losers."

All sick joking aside, this is a very worrying result. This story isn't new and it has lots of hard data to back it up. I first saw a documentary on it in Canada about eight years ago and the WHO has been trying for ten years to figure out why Men's sperm counts have been in dramatic decline for the last twenty years.

At the rate that we're going... we may not need birth control in a few more years!

categories: Outrages
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9:34:32 AM    comment []

The Religious Right's Golden Rule

Inspiration: Rick Santorum compares Senate Democrats to Adolph Hitler
Santorum's Infamous Man on Dog Interview

categories: Politics
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1:16:08 AM    comment []

Friday Cat Blogging

Common Emoticons





























categories: Humor
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12:41:55 AM    comment []

Thursday, May 26, 2005

When The President Talks to God

This week's installment of the Presidential iPod Commission is a fine ditty from the young indie rock sage Bright Eyes. Bright Eyes is the musical vehicle of Conor Oberst, a young singer-songwriter from Nebraska. Looking like a young Bob Dylan, he actually performed When The President Talks to God on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno a few weeks ago. You may download a free mp3 of the song and watch the video of the Tonight Show performance here. Don't ask me how or why NBC (General Electric) gave him airtime. The executives probably never listened to the song.

I'm glad he received that exposure. The song deserves it.

When The President Talks To God by Bright Eyes

When the president talks to God
Are the conversations brief or long?
Does he ask to rape our women's rights
And send poor farm kids off to die?
Does God suggest an oil hike
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
Are the consonants all hard or soft?
Is he resolute all down the line?
Is every issue black or white?
Does what God say ever change his mind
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
Does he fake that drawl or merely nod?
Agree which convicts should be killed?
Where prisons should be built and filled?
Which voter fraud must be concealed
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
I wonder which one plays the better cop
We should find some jobs. the ghetto's broke
No, they're lazy, George, I say we don't
Just give 'em more liquor stores and dirty coke
That's what God recommends

When the president talks to God
Do they drink near beer and go play golf
While they pick which countries to invade
Which Muslim souls still can be saved?
I guess god just calls a spade a spade
When the president talks to God

When the president talks to God
Does he ever think that maybe he's not?
That that voice is just inside his head
When he kneels next to the presidential bed
Does he ever smell his own bullshit
When the president talks to God?

I doubt it

I doubt it

I doubt it too. What do you think God tells President Bush?

categories: DigitalMedia
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5:12:49 PM    comment []

 Freedom Marches On With the Gloves Off

Torturing prisoners, rather than making the U.S. safer, puts us all in greater danger.

People have been murdered, tortured, rendered to foreign countries to be tortured at a distance, sexually violated, imprisoned without trial or in some cases simply made to "disappear" in an all-American version of a practice previously associated with brutal Latin American dictatorships. All of this has been done, of course, in the name of freedom.

And if that does not make you angry, this will.

 We are what we have always been. It's just that the mask has slipped. Think of Birmingham and Watts, of Wounded Knee, of the Phillipines and Cuba, of Central American wars fought over fruit, of Hiroshima and Hanoi, of steel strikes and all the rest of the places where American brutality has surfaced.

We remember what we want to remember, most of the time. We are not all evil, but we've never been what we wanted to be, either. And it's grieving for the death of the myth, the dream, the goal, that makes us Progressives instead of Republicans, I think.

 What keeps me awake at night is that this is our tax dollars at work. Sometimes I think about it and makes me very uneasy: no matter how much I protest, a huge chunk of the money I pay in taxes is being used in these neocon adventures. I know there's not much of an alternative to that and this is how our society works, but I feel used: they take the largest part of my tax dollar to finance delusional crusades around the world, something I strongly oppose. Then they turn around and tell me they are doing it on my name.

It blows.

In the meantime public schools are going to hell, teachers are paid miserable salaries, our infrastructure is decaying at an alarming rate, and more Americans than ever have to get around without health insurance.

categories: Outrages
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10:15:55 AM    comment []

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

 Soooo, the FBI Says Newsweek was right

 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An FBI agent wrote in a 2002 document made public on Wednesday that a detainee held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had accused American jailers there of flushing the Koran down a toilet. 

The American Civil Liberties Union released the memo and other FBI documents it obtained from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.

"Personally, he has nothing against the United States. The guards in the detention facility do not treat him well. Their behavior is bad. About five months ago, the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Koran in the toilet," the FBI agent wrote.

"It's not credible," chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said of the allegation regarding a Koran in a toilet. Di Rita said the U.S. military questioned the detainee on May 14, and that the man was "very cooperative and answered the questions but did not corroborate the allegation recorded on Aug. 1, 2002." Di Rita said he did not know whether the man actually recanted the allegation.

"These kind of, sort of, fantastic charges about our guys doing something willfully heinous to a Koran for the purposes of rattling detainees are not credible on their face," Di Rita told reporters.


The documents indicated that detainees were making allegations that they had been abused and that the Muslim holy book had been mishandled as early as April 2002, about three months after the first detainees arrived at Guantanamo. In other documents, FBI agents stated that Guantanamo detainees also accused U.S. personnel of kicking the Koran and throwing it to the floor, and described beatings by guards. But one document cited a detainee who accused a guard of dropping a Koran, prompting an "uprising" by prisoners, when it was the prisoner himself who dropped it.

"Unfortunately, one thing we've learned over the last couple of years is that detainee statements about their treatment at Guantanamo and other detention centers sometimes have turned out to be more credible than U.S. government statements," said ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer. Former detainees and a lawyer for current prisoners previously have stated that U.S. personnel at Guantanamo had placed the Koran in a toilet, but the Pentagon has said it also does not view those allegations as credible.

In document written in April 2003, an FBI agent related a detainee's account of an incident involving a female U.S. interrogator.

"While the guards held him, she removed her blouse, embraced the detainee from behind and put her hand on his genitals. The interrogator was on her menstrual period and she wiped blood from her body on his face and head," the memo stated.

A similar incident was described in a recent book written by a former Guantanamo interrogator.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan last week said Newsweek "got the facts wrong" and Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman called the article "demonstrably false." Di Rita said last week the Pentagon had received "no credible and specific allegations" that U.S. personnel had put a Koran in the toilet.

 Will Newsweek Retract its Retraction?  And Isikoff un-apologize?

 Who will they blame for the Iraq and Afghanistan setbacks?  Don't worry, there's always the usual gays, blacks, women, liberals, communinsts, atheists, the all-around infidels,  and the Clintons.

categories: Outrages
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8:37:43 PM    comment []

 Quote of the Day

now it is true that i believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. i oppose this--in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. but to attain any success it is quite clear that the federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. the political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the constitution. this is what i mean by my constant insistence upon "moderation" in government. should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. there is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. among them are h.l. hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. their number is negligible and they are stupid.

- president eisenhower letter to his brother, edgar newton eisenhower, on 8 november 1954.

you know...i kinda like ike.

categories: Politics
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2:33:59 PM    comment []

F.B.I. Is Accused of Ignoring Abuse of Americans

Two Times makes a pattern

 Just as FBI agents stood aside as the Saudis tortured American Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, they also allowed Pakistani agents to torture two American citizens in Pakistan.

 American F.B.I. agents repeatedly interrogated two United States citizens who were illegally detained for eight months and did nothing to stop them from being tortured by Pakistani authorities, a human rights group said Tuesday.

The brothers, Zain and Kashan Afzal, ages 23 and 25, respectively, both Americans of Pakistani descent, were arrested at their Karachi home last August and kept in secret Pakistani detention facilities for eight months until their release on April 22. No charges were ever filed, and for many months their family did not know where they were, according to a report by the group, Human Rights Watch.

"What crime did we commit?" a distraught Zain Afzal said in a brief telephone interview from Karachi. "If we did something wrong, would they let us go? It was an illegal detention."

The Afzal brothers' claims suggest a close collaboration of American and Pakistani intelligence officials in vetting terror suspects, and they raise questions about the responsibilities that the United States has for its own citizens abroad.


The two told Human Rights Watch that they had been interrogated six times over the eight months by F.B.I. agents and had been repeatedly questioned by American and Pakistani intelligence officials about their role in Al Qaeda - a role they denied having - and were threatened with detention at the American base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday that the F.B.I. agents did not intervene to end torture, insist that the Pakistani government comply with a Pakistani court order to produce the men in court or provide consular services normally offered to detained Americans.

"Instead," the group said, "they threatened the men with being sent to the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay if they did not confess to involvement in terrorism." 

 The Supreme Court got it right over a century ago in Ex parte Milligan (1866):

....No graver question was ever considered by this court, nor one which more nearly concerns the rights of the whole [71 U.S. 2, 119] people; for it is the birthright of every American citizen when charged with crime, to be tried and punished according to law. The power of punishment is, alone through the means which the laws have provided for that purpose, and if they are ineffectual, there is an immunity from punishment, no matter how great an offender the individual may be, or how much his crimes may have shocked the sense of justice of the country, or endangered its safety. By the protection of the law human rights are secured; withdraw that protection, and they are at the mercy of wicked rulers, or the clamor of an excited people.

The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, [71 U.S. 2, 121] and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false; for the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it, which are necessary to preserve its existence; as has been happily proved by the result of the great effort to throw off its just authority....

Sorry, these 'americans' are not white enough for amerikans to care.

 Some people keep forgetting that everything changed on 1/20/01. The world shifted on its axis. Old rules and laws became inoperative. Everything became legal for government to do. Remember, that was when our country came under attack and the long, long war began. Never forget it.

categories: Outrages
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12:57:12 PM    comment []

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

 Republican Family Values

It's bad enough these "values" charlatans are moral degenerates. They have to try and foist their false morality down the rest of our throats.
Bennett, Bakker, Swaggart, Limbaugh, and the rest of the hypocritical moralistic gang need to get their own house in order before they preach their brand of cynical morality on the rest of us.

Myth: Republicans value sexual morality

Fact: There’s an entire newsgroup just for right-wing Christian pedophiles.

   Police say a Pierce County foster dad charged with molesting and photographing young boys in his care posted messages in an Internet newsgroup catering to Christian pedophiles….describing himself as a "boylover that has devoted my life to boys and introducing the love of Christ to them.” [And then this typical hypocrite says] “homosexual desire is unnatural”.

Outrageous: A republican politician’s smear campaign against the child his son viciously raped

WARNING:  Reading this list of 45 GOP sex offenders can leave you feeling dirty.  Republican Hypocrisy Revealed - STOP REPUBLICAN PEDOPHILIA

There is almost too much to explore here, too much twisted psychology and inverted morality though it's safe to say perhaps the most insidious angle of this story is the vicious hypocrisy of the gay-hatin' Republican Party itself, along with their giddy self-righteous fluffers from the Religious Right.

And someone should really do a national, once-and-for-all study to back up what everyone already knows -- which is, that the more repressed and sanctimonious and uptight you are about sex and love and gender and religion, the more likely you are to be involved in secret kink, in deep perversion, illegal perversion, perversion that crosses the line from healthy and slippery and delicious to degrading and morally reprehensible.

Which brings up one more tidbit. A twisted kicker. Spokane, homogeneous, uneventful, wildly uninteresting (well, until now) hometown with the not-so-secretly gay and possible pedophilic Republican hypocrite mayor, is also the home of only the third Roman Catholic archdiocese in the nation (after Portland and Tucson) to file for bankruptcy protection. Because of all the lawsuits. Dozens of lawsuits, all against Spokane's archdiocese. Lawsuits over, you guessed it, sex scandals.

Pedophilia. Sexual abuse of young boys. About $76 million worth of lawsuits, to be exact, most stemming from allegations against one Spokane priest, Patrick O'Donnell, who admitted molesting young boys from the time he was in the seminary. Coincidence? Something in the Spokane water? Karmic connection with West? 

There is, of course, zero causal link between homosexuality and pedophilia. I couldn't care less that West, and other GOP people like him, might be gay, or bisexual, or whatever the hell else he tells himself he is when he goes to sleep at night and dreams of, I don't know what. Bunnies. In leather chaps. On fire.

Here's what does it. Here's what makes West, and people like him, rife with potential for, well, some of the nastiest and most dishonest and dangerous abuses humans are capable of.

It's the ability to ignore the incredible hypocrisy of their own lives, the staggering amount of self-loathing, the pathetic insincerity. It's the ability to join a political party that not only openly loathes, but actually violently condemns, your choice in sexual partners, a sexually ignorant platform that claims to have some sort of direct line to a gay-hating war-loving God, and then, in the middle of who knows how many gay affairs, to feel no shame as you step right up and endorse that exact same hateful agenda as public policy.

It's the fact that, in West's case, you can still sleep at night after you've voted against gay love and railed against healthy teen sex and bashed women's rights and criticized adult/youth sex when you are, in fact, so confused and lost and deeply engaged in much of it yourself that it's very likely your mangled, hypocritical mind has lost the ability to distinguish between informed, consensual, happily kinky adult relationships and, say, abusing the honest trust of a pre-teen boy. Or, for that matter, many boys.

Join that party and toe that line and swallow that nasty doctrine and spit it out into the world like oozing red-meat dogma while you secretly use your power to lure in teenagers and men for sex, and I don't put anything past you. To my mind, this gang of GOP fundies are capable of anything. Anything at all EXCEPT anything that is healthy, decent, kind and loving.

categories: Outrages
Other Stories according to Google: T. Rex's Guide to Republican Family Values | The American Street » Blog Archive » moderate Republican family values | Republican family values sex criminals | firedoglake: 05/08/2005 - 05/14/2005 | Needlenose | Daily Kos :: Republican family values | Adult Children of Family Values , by Susie Bright | babble: Republican Family Values | Martini Republic - Lead, follow, or have a drink. | Bob's Links and Rants: Republican Family Values

9:44:16 PM    comment []

 All Markets Are Free, Except Some Are More Free...

A car company can move its factories to Mexico and claim it's a free market.

A toy company can out source to a Chinese subcontractor and claim it's a free market.

A major bank can incorporate in Bermuda to avoid taxes and claim it's a free market.

We can buy HP Printers made in Mexico. We can buy shirts made in Bangladesh.

We can purchase almost anything we want from 20 different countries .......

BUT,- - - heaven help the elderly who dare to buy their prescription drugs from a Canadian pharmacy. That's called un-American!

And you  think the pharmaceutical companies don't have a powerful lobby with a strangle hold on us and on congress?

Think again!

categories: Outrages
Other Stories according to Google: The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities | Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism | Feature: No More Free BitKeeper | EmptyFree.com | Northoftampa: Tax- free , except we pay, pay some more | Online Games | Cigarettes shop - $14.95 for Marlboro, Camel, Kent !!! Free | Get Free Public Relations + PR Tips

3:03:22 PM    comment []

The Filibuster Deal

St. Frist, the patron saint

of catkillers, fundamentalists, and the undead:  seems like his nuclear option was more bluster than "shock and awe"...

 Seems to me that the biggest take-away is that this is a no-confidence vote for Senator Frist. These seven Republicans undercut his agenda and committed not to follow his lead on the nuclear option. While that deal can be broken at any time, any Senator who signed the document and then votes for the nuclear option is set up for a flip-flop charge at their next election. It puts them on the defensive if they choose to break the deal later.

Reid is simarly undercut but he was not the one who staked his reputation on this issue. In fact, he may even have approved but was unable to enter into the negotiations as leader. Can the minority leader negotiate with anybody on the other side, or is there a tradition that the leadership only deals with the other side's leadership?

Now, on the merits, it's clearly a loss that these three get confirmed. But maybe that was inevitable anyway, and now there's a majority of Senators who have committed not to go nuclear, regardless of the firmness of that commitment. That repudiation leaves Frist weakened, which can only be a good thing.

 Given the last head count, it looked like Frist was going to have enough votes to pull the trigger on the nuclear option tomorrow and get all the judges through. This deal bloodied his nose and will keep at least two of the five, maybe three, from getting through.

Was it everything we wanted? No. But we wound up getting a lot more than we would've, and the first round of press spin is marking this round to the Democrats.

Frist is dead in the water for '08, the conservative base is going to howl for a while and turn on its moderates, Dobson has steam coming out of his ears, etc. All in all, the 2006 midterms are going to be great for us.

categories: Politics
Other Stories according to Google: CNN.com - Bush demands vote on judges - May 17, 2005 | CNN.com - Fight over judges heats up in Senate - May 18, 2005 | Political Wire: Filibuster Deal is Close | ScrappleFace: Filibuster Deal Aborts 'Nuclear Option' | Democrats Hint At Filibuster Deal | FOXNews.com - Politics - Moderate Senators Seek Filibuster Deal | The Spoons Experience: Soon to be the last surviving solo blog. | CNN.com - Fight over judges heats up in Senate - May 18, 2005 | ProfessorBainbridge.com: Adler on the Deal | ProfessorBainbridge.com: Filibuster Deal

11:41:12 AM    comment []

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging

Revenge of the Sith - The Unknown Wookie Jedi Warrior




















categories: Humor
Other Stories according to Google: Watermark: Friday Cat Blogging | Watermark: Friday Cat Blogging | Watermark: Friday Cat Blogging | Watermark: Friday Cat Blogging | Watermark: Friday Cat Blogging 3 | Watermark: Friday Cat Blogging 2 | Trish Wilson's Blog: Friday Cat Blogging | Trish Wilson's Blog: Friday Cat Blogging | Friday Cat Blogging | Le Sabot Post-Moderne: Friday Cat Blogging

12:11:32 AM    comment []

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars photoshopping contest.

Cory Doctorow: There's loads of great stuff to love in this Worth1000 photoshopping competition to remix Star Wars cliches, but the Beverly Hillbillies mashup, "Return of the Jed," (pictured here) made me laugh aloud. Link








categories: Humor
Other Stories according to Google: FARK.com: (924636) Theme: One sci-fi show stumbles across another | Boing Boing: February 2004 | Blue Sky On Mars: September 2004 Archives | PC World | The Web’s picture perfect places | Bloggerheads:: Welcome to the hard shell | Bloggerheads:: Welcome to the hard shell | Top 11 geek break-up lines | MacDood | BeforeTheDarkTimes.com - A Star Wars Site That Tells It Like It Is! | Worth1000.com | Photoshop Contests | Are you Worthy™ | contest

12:38:43 PM    comment []

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Words To Live By

 "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." Hunter Thompson

And if you swear that there's no truth and who cares, how come you say it like you're right? - Conor Oberst

The greatest paradox in life is that the average person believes themselves to be better than the average person.

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person

"One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws"-- Martin Luther King Jr.

Marijuana, pornography and illegal labor account for 10% of the American economy.

"Fellatio is the ultimate act of trust" - Albert Einstein.

"90% of everything is crap." - "Sturgeon's Law"

Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go it's one of the best. -Woody Allen

you don't need to be religious to be moral and ethical.

It takes courage to be happy

don't search, stumble!

If your glass is half empty, fill it.

"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."- Albert Einstein

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley

War is God's way of teaching Americans geography

Know thyself

American are 6% of the world population, but consume 30% of the resources.

The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers; it takes a creative mind to spot wrong questions.

"I think there is a world market for maybe 5 computers" - Thomas Watson (IBM Chairman) 1943.

Moderation in everything.

Moderation is a fatal thing.  Nothing succeeds like excess.  Oscar Wilde

"It isn't necessary to have relatives in Kansas City in order to be unhappy."  Groucho Marx

categories: Mind
Other Stories according to Google: The StoryBin: Words That Point The Way | yada yada yada alphabet soup | Words to live by (wowzone.com) WOW Poetry, lyrics, music, stories | Words to Live by | Amazon.com: Books: Words to Live By : The Origins of Conventional | Words to Live By | Sofine's Words To Live By | The Volokh Conspiracy - Words To Live By : | Words to Live By | Relevant History: Words to live by

1:23:45 AM    comment []

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging

Bedtime for Kitty....



















categories: Humor
Other Stories according to Google: Watermark: Friday Cat Blogging | Watermark: Friday Cat Blogging | Watermark: Friday Cat Blogging | Watermark: Friday Cat Blogging | The Washington Monthly | Le Sabot Post-Moderne: Friday Cat Blogging | Friday Cat Blogging | Trish Wilson's Blog: Friday Cat Blogging | Trish Wilson's Blog: Friday Cat Blogging | The New York Times > Technology> Review> On Fridays, Bloggers

2:29:34 AM    comment []

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

John Bolton Is Dead Meat

Remember it was the multiple adulterous affairs that shot down Bernie Kerik's nomination as Fatherland Security Chief, rather than the corruption and incompetence.

It's all about the sex.

And now, according to The Raw Story, Larry Flynt has the goods on John Bolton.

Corroborated allegations that Mr. Bolton’s first wife, Christina Bolton, was forced to engage in group sex have not been refuted by the State Department despite inquires posed by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt concerning the allegations. Mr. Flynt has obtained information from numerous sources that Mr. Bolton participated in paid visits to Plato’s Retreat, the popular swingers club that operated in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The first Mrs. Bolton’s conduct raises the presumption that she fled out of fear for her safety or, at a minimum, it demonstrates that Mr. Bolton’s established inability to communicate or work respectfully with others extended to his intimate family relations,” said Mr. Flynt. “The court records alone provide sufficient basis for further investigation of nominee Bolton by the Senate.” These court records are enclosed here as an attachment. Mr. Flynt continued, “The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations must be free of any potential source of disrepute or blackmail.”


 the sheeple only listyen to the sex.

MONETARY rape by the bush maladministration just doesn't get their blood boiling, even if it's THEIR MONEY.

It's the Jeri Ryan thing all over again isn't it? Even if the allegations turn out to be only half true (who knows which half), Bolton's not going to smell of roses.

 Just like his defenders say being an asshole doesn't disqualify him for the position. As a matter of fact, Bolton probably wants in on some of the hot foreign sex action he might get at as ambassador to the U.N.

categories: Outrages
Other Stories according to Google: Daily Kos :: New Accusations: Bolton Interfered in Nuclear Treaty | Features | Catch-22, Vatican-style | John Kerry & John Edwards News - US Politics Today | David Corn | BUSH - DEAD MEAT LYRICS | Patterico's Pontifications » Bolton ’s New Accuser | rand holman's THE DAILY POLEMIC: The perfect choice: John Bolton | Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader | Really Scary Reviews: Fleshrot Tales from the Dead | War Without End :: View topic - When you get John Bolton you also

8:40:23 PM    comment []

Captured Al-Qaeda Kingpin Is Case of 'Mistaken Identity'  

Remember last week, when newspapers were trumpeting the capture of "the third in line behind Bin Laden"? Turns out they got the wrong guy:

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.

Another Libyan is on the FBI list — Anas al-Liby, who is wanted over the 1998 East African embassy bombings --- and some believe the Americans may have initially confused the two. When The Sunday Times contacted a senior FBI counter-terrorism official for information about the importance of the detained man, he sent material on al-Liby, the wrong man.

I wonder whether Newsweek is going to retract their "Got him!" story from this week's issue.

How about a follow-up on the captured letter that supposedly indicated that the insurgents in Iraq were becoming discouraged?

categories: Outrages
Other Stories according to Google: Captured Al - Qaeda kingpin is case of ‘ mistaken identity ’ - Sunday | Captured Al - Qaeda kingpin is case of ‘ mistaken identity ’ | Captured Al - Qaeda kingpin is case of ‘ mistaken identity | The Agonist | Captured Al - Qaeda kingpin is case of ‘ mistaken identity ’ | LP: Captured Al - Qaeda Kingpin Is Case Of ‘ Mistaken Identity ’ | Captured Al - Qaeda kingpin is case of ' mistaken identity | Captured Al - Qaeda kingpin is case of mistaken identity | Captured Al - Qaeda kingpin is case of ‘ mistaken identity ’ | Nick | Captured al - Qaeda Kingpin Is Case of ‘ Mistaken Identity ’ | Captured Al - Qaeda Kingpin , Al-Libbi, Is a Case of ' Mistaken Identity '

8:14:21 PM    comment []

Blaming the Victim is an Old Habit by Ira Chernus 

Old habits are hard to break. European-Americans started doing it 400 years ago. Invade the territory of a darker-skinned people, although they have never attacked you. Bring overwhelming military technology, leaving them little chance to defend themselves. When they dare to fight back, using whatever means they can, cry "Foul! Unfair! Savages! Terrorists!" Blame the victim.


But I should not rush to judgment. After all, these professor are experts in international law. They explain that civilized nations have developed rules of war, to tell everyone what is fair and what is not. I'm just having a bit of trouble understanding these rules. After many hours of watching network TV news, here is what I have learned:

If we spend 12 years destroying a nation's anti-aircraft defenses, then drop tons and tons of bombs on a defenseless people, that is fair.

If some of them take off their uniforms and fight in civilian clothes, that is unfair.

If we use sanctions for 12 years to deny a nation any new military technology, while we build several generations of new computer-based weapons to use against them, that is fair.

If they turn a school into a military base, that is unfair.

If we order our uniformed soldiers into a battle where they might be killed, that is fair. We call those soldiers heroes.

If they have people who wear civilian clothes and volunteer for missions where they will surely be killed, that is unfair. We call those suicide bombers cowardly, villainous, and insane.

If we invade their country, knowing that this may very will trigger terror attacks in the U.S., putting thousands of U.S. civilians at risk, that is fair.

If they place guns next to private homes, putting civilians at risk, that is unfair.

So now I get it. The basic principle that determines the rules of war is crystal clear. If we do it, it is fair and within rules of war. If the Iraqis do it, it is unfair and violates the rules of war. By definition.

The British figured out this principle back in 1776, when their neatly arrayed, technologically superior redcoats were bedeviled by colonists, who used tactics they had learned from the Indians.

Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer reminds us (April 1): "How easy to forget that our own war for independence was largely fought by 'irregulars' condemned as terrorists by the British because they would snipe from behind scattered trees rather than fight from the tight parade formations that were the civilized form of warfare in those days. Ours is a long history of covert actions, political assassinations, special ops, anti-democratic coups and dirty tricks that are, even today, being used in Iraq. And we claim that the ends of U.S. policy are so noble that even clearly illegal means, such as a preemptive invasion, are justified."

The ends justify the means. And our ends are so noble. We are so civilized, so far superior to the life of savagery our enemy lives. That is why, if we do it, it is fair. If they do it, it is unfair. By definition, blame falls on the victim.

Los Angeles Times columnist John Balzar (April 6) also asks: "Will the Seeds of Freedom Take Root in the Mideast's Soil?" He just wants the Arabs to understand us Americans. We are romantics, sentimental and often naive, he tells them. "Our president is such a man, and he has dared to proclaim that war will liberate an oppressed people in Iraq." Since we are a democracy, we have the right to dissent, and many of us "see misguided imperialist motives by our leaders, and a forfeiture of morality."

So is our president a sentimental romantic or an immoral imperialist? Balzar's rather bizarre argument is that the Arabs themselves, not Bush and his advisors, will determine the answer. He tells Arabs that they must decide whether to "take a chance on Bush's promise of opportunity or decide on confrontation, or seek some other path. Whichever view prevails depends on you." The Arabs, not the White House or the Pentagon, will determine U.S. policy and "the order of this coming new world." If we turn out to be imperialists, it is the Arabs' own fault!

Yet Balzar immediately tells the Arabs that in fact the choice has already been made for them. We are obviously liberators and not conquerors, he implies, precisely because we are giving them the freedom to determine the future: "You are empowered. Self-determination? This is no longer something for the future. We call it voting with your feet. Drink it in. This is what democracy tastes like." The sooner they welcome their conquerors, the sooner they will be just like us. They will even have the right to dissent - though not, apparently, to dissent from being just like us.

Four centuries ago, the first English invaders came to these shores with the same vision of innocent righteousness. They were sure they were here to do God's will. So how could they not be righteous and innocent? They were inviting the Indians to receive the Lord's salvation. If the Indians declined - if they chose deceitful terror over enlightened civilization and had to be exterminated - whose fault was that? Surely their own.

Blaming the victim is a very old game here in America. Sadly, much of our public swallows it whole. And there is no end of it in sight. The only question is which victims we will be blaming next.  


categories: Outrages
Other Stories according to Google: Blaming the Victim is an Old Habit | Blaming the Victim is an Old Habit | Choices: Iraq: Blaming the Victim is an Old Habit | IraChernus-BlamingVictimAnOldHabit | The Trouble with Liberals - ‘ Blaming the Victim ' | A Small Victory - six degrees of victimization | brooks.html | portland imc - 2003.10.02 - The Trouble with Liberals - ‘ Blaming | CANCER: Breaking the grip - NI 198 - The fault line | FranklinCovey > Solutions for You > Articles > Knowledge Sharing

12:08:58 AM    comment []

Friday, May 06, 2005

 Merck Salesman A Modern Day MLK

This just in from Judd at Think Progress

At the House Government Reform Committee’s hearing on Merck’s attempt to bury relevant safety data about its signature painkiller, Vioxx, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) read from a Merck training manual that directed instructors to play a recording of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech and then say to the sales force: “King was someone with goal-focus – he kept getting shut down but kept going. . . Just as with a physician, you must keep repeating the compelling message and at some point, the physician will be ‘free at last’ when he or she prescribes the Merck drug, if that is most appropriate for the patient.” [Read the whole thing.]

 I have a dream that one day black children and white children will be victimized by politically skewed FDA drug approval processes concerning our drugs, and are then denied the class action they deserve by federalism-sapping, plutocracy-emboldening "tort reform" legislation.

 I don't know whether to laugh at their total immaturity, cry at their hijacking of a social drive for corporate ends, or be appalled that the medication that my doctor writes me could be the result of one of these vapid bimbos.

categories: Outrages
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12:36:15 PM    comment []

Friday Cat Blogging

ohhhhhh.... I shouldn't have eaten that mouse
















categories: Humor
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12:27:19 AM    comment []

The Wreck of the HMS Beagle

From CNN:

TOPEKA, Kansas (Reuters) -- Evolution is going on trial in Kansas.

Eighty years after a famed courtroom battle in Tennessee pitted religious beliefs about the origins of life against the theories of British scientist Charles Darwin, 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...

"I feel like I'm in a time warp here," said Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray who has agreed to defend evolution as valid science. "To debate evolution is similar to debating whether the Earth is round. It is an absurd proposition."

Irigonegaray's opponent will be attorney John Calvert, managing director of the Intelligent Design Network, a Kansas organization that argues the Earth was created through intentional design rather than random organism evolution...

"We're not against evolution," said Calvert. "But there is a lot of evidence that suggests that life is the product of intelligence. I think it is inappropriate for the state to prejudge the question whether we are the product of design or just an occurrence."

 The problem is proof.  I think it was best summed up by noted philosopher Donald Rumsfeld, on the subject of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction:

"The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

Neither evolution, or a six day creation, or a sort of evolution by some sort of intelligent creator can be proven. Any one of these COULD be correct, although the evidence is overwhelmingly in the favor of the first. The point is that you can't know, any more than you could know if you are going to win the lottery. That's the problem with proving a negative. Every thing is possible, but there is much that is just not probable. Most of life is this way. I can't prove that you won't win the Nobel Prize in physics next year. It's possible, just not probable. I can't prove that death rays from mars won't annihilate you in the next two minutes. It's possible, just not probable.  Creationalists and IDers don’t mind believing in what is not probable and are checking their mailboxes everyday wondering when Ed Mc Mahn will deliver their Nobel Prize, while putting tin foil under their caps to deflect those death rays.

 This is the sad heart of this whole brouhaha. It simply doesn't matter how much evidence from geology, paleontology, genetics, comparative anatomy, and a dozen other fields you bring to the table, all converging to a single line of reasoning. These people want us back in the dark ages, teaching kids that the Bible is the truth. Even if they can't get through the first two chapters of Genesis and tell you whether God made trees or women first.

Intelligent Design? Then why do we have a fallible heart instead of a neat system of general peristolsis to circulate our blood? Why do we have the knee instead of a good joint that works in an upright stance? Why do we get hemorrhoids because our blood column pushes down too hard (which it doesn't in our four-legged and knuckle-walking ancestors?) This is the best God could come up with? C'mon!!

Sure, to the thinking human, there is no conflict with a Designer with a lovely sense of humor and an elegant creation process through 3 billion years of evolution. But that is not what these folks want. In their hubris, they want a bearded old potter who spit in some dirt and molded us and blew in our mouths. They think they can understand a mind that created the Universe, and stands outside of time and space. And they whine at "her," and ask for favors they could never pay back, ask "her" to change his whole plan to suit their convenience.

And they seek to impose this narrow, selfish, perception on everyone, exactly like the Catholic Church, which they loathe, imposed it's world-view on Europe for centuries and used it to destroy one of the most enlightened civilizations of the day in the Middle East.

If God created the world in 6 days only 6,000 years ago why did SHE make all of the evidence say a 13.8 billion year old universe and 4 billion year old earth.  How do you explain the light from the Andromeda Galaxy that took 2 million years to get here?  What about ice layers in Greenland that go back, year by year, for 250,000 years.   Perhaps the creator slipped up when She created so many bacteria that change so quickly that they can adapt to new antibiotic drugs. Either the creator slipped up (d'oh! Those pesky Staphylococcus aurelii!), or She deliberately creates organisms that adapt to and attack innocent folks.  Why would God create a world 6000 years ago and make it look 4 billion years old.

My only explanation is that God is getting a big laugh out of it  and included all sorts of amazingly clever traps in order to fool our (god-given) intellect into thinking that science really works.   We have to accept that god is an infinite prankster, constantly controlling all the laws of nature and every scientific experiment in order to fool us since millions of clues say 4 billion years ago ...but only the most dedicated Christians really know the truth.

categories: Outrages
Other Stories according to Google: Fanatical Apathy: THe Wreck of the HMS Beagle | History News Network | Mary Rose | beagle | Sea and Sky: Ocean Exploration 1800 AD - Present | Detailed Descriptions of Ship Anatomy | Detailed Descriptions of Ship Anatomy | References Cited | Science Network WA :: Science News Archive | Review - Fossils, Finches and Fuegians: Charles Darwin's

12:07:06 AM    comment []

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

 Bush's "Final Solution" for HIV+ Jezebels 

Everytime I think the Bush administration can no longer shock and awe me, they prove me wrong.  Excuse me while I go pick my jaw up off the floor and reattach it to my face.

Found on the DKos diaries: BBC: Brazil turns down US Aids funds

Aids campaigners have welcomed a decision by Brazil to turn down US funds because of a clause in the agreement condemning prostitution.

The US development agency, USAid, had offered Brazil around $40m (£21m).

But Brazil's top Aids official, Pedro Chequer, said the US' conservative approach to treating the disease would not help.

Correspondents say references to prostitution are likely to become a condition for all US Aids funding.

Washington says it is important not to promote prostitution, and does not want any of its funds to be spent on treating prostitutes...

Does this make the least bit of sense to you?  Block AIDS funding because the host country wants to treat sex industry workers with HIV?  Sex industry workers who are the primary transmission source of the virus?? How in the sam hell does treating HIV-positive prosititutes “promote prosititution”?  All a person can read into this is that BushCo would rather the hookers just die.  That's their “final solution” to the AIDS epidemic in Brazil.

 Where in their bible does it say to let someone die a slow and miserable death if you do not agree with them?  This is wrong in so many ways that it makes me cry. I suppose you're right, just let the prostitutes die, but before they die, they'll continue to spread the virus so there really is no desire by the US to help anyone. It's all show and no heart. There is no culture of life, it's instead a culture of lies.

 Not treating the prostitutes falls right in line with “abstinence only” and demonizing the folks who try to institute needle exchange programs.

The needle exchange program is one of those items that just makes so much sense. It's not as if young people (or anyone else) is going to say, “Oh,wow, I get free, clean needles if I become an IV drug abuser--way cool!” However, the Holier Than Us sneer at the idea that slowing down the spread of AIDS might keep someone they care about (son, daughter, wife, self) from getting that particular affliction.

Heartless and, actually, brainless behavior on the part of the folks who dreamed this up.  Hope W's keeping Neal from going to Mardi Gras in Rio--never mind his partying in Bangkok.  

These people are truly evil — nothing more than discrete nazis. And they're even losing their sense of discretion.

categories: Outrages
Other Stories according to Google:

3:07:18 PM    comment []

Monday, May 02, 2005

 Conservatives Love 'South Park'


 Conservatives can't stop whining about Hollywood, but the embarrassing reality is that they want to be hip, too. It's not easy. In the showbiz wrangling sweepstakes of 2004, liberals had Leonardo DiCaprio, the Dixie Chicks and the Boss. The right had Bo Derek, Pat Boone and Jessica Simpson, who, upon meeting the secretary of the interior, Gale Norton, congratulated her for doing "a nice job decorating the White House." Ms. Simpson may be the last performer in America who can make Whoopi Goldberg seem like the soul of wit.

What to do? Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger's poll numbers have sunk, the right's latest effort to grab a piece of the showbiz action is a new and fast-selling book published by Regnery, home to the Swift Boat Veterans, and promoted in lock step by the right-wing media elite of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page and The New York Post. "South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias," by Brian C. Anderson of the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute, gives a wet kiss to one of the funniest and most foul-mouthed series on television. The book has even been endorsed by the grim theologian Michael Novak, who presumably forgot to TiVo the "South Park" episode that holds the record for the largest number of bleeped-out repetitions (162) of a single four-letter expletive in a single television half-hour. Then again, The Weekly Standard has informed us that William Bennett, egged on by his children, has given the show a tentative thumbs up.

Cynics might say that conservatives, flummoxed by the popularity of Jon Stewart, are eager to endorse any bigger hit on Comedy Central: The animated adventures of four obstreperous fourth graders in the mythical town of South Park, Colo., outdraws "The Daily Show" by a million or so viewers. But Mr. Anderson has another case to make. He quotes "South Park" profanity without apology and cheers the "scathing genius" with which it mocks "hate-crime laws and sexual harassment policies, liberal celebrities, abortion-rights extremists."

In one episode he praises, "Butt Out," a caricatured Rob Reiner journeys from Hollywood to South Park to mount a fascistic antismoking campaign that "perfectly captures the Olympian arrogance and illiberalism of liberal elites." Mr. Anderson also applauds last fall's "South Park" adjunct, "Team America: World Police," the feature film in which the show's creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, portray Michael Moore as a suicide bomber and ridicule the antiwar activism of Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn and Janeane Garofalo by presenting them as dim-witted, terrorist-appeasing puppets (literally so, with strings) who are ultimately blown to bits at a "world peace conference" convened by Kim Jong Il. (The film is out on DVD, with an expanded marionette sex scene featuring coprophilia, on May 17.)

So far, so right. Among their other anarchic comic skills, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone have a perfect pitch for lampooning what many Americans find most irritating about liberals, especially Hollywood liberals: a self-righteous propensity for knowing better than anyone else and for meddling in everyone's business, whether by enforcing P.C. speech codes or plotting to curb S.U.V.'s and guns.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the publication of "South Park Conservatives": Emboldened by the supposed "moral values" landslide on Election Day, the faith-based right became the new left. Just as Mr. Anderson's book reached stores in early April, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone, true to their butt-out libertarianism, aimed their fire at self-righteous, big-government conservatives who have become every bit as high-handed and meddlesome as any Prius-pushing movie star. Such is this role reversal that the same TV show celebrated by Mr. Anderson and his cohort as the leading edge of a potential conservative victory in the culture wars now looks like a harbinger of an anti-conservative backlash instead.

In the March 30 episode, Kenny, a kid whose periodic death is a "South Park" ritual, lands in a hospital in a "persistent vegetative state" and is fed through a tube. The last page of his living will is missing. Demonstrators and media hordes descend. Though heavenly angels decree that "God intended Kenny to die" rather than be "kept alive artificially," they are thwarted by Satan, whose demonic aide advises him to "do what we always do - use the Republicans." Soon demagogic Republican politicians are spewing sound bites ("Removing the feeding tube is murder") scripted in Hell. But as in the Schiavo case, they don't prevail. Kenny is allowed to die in peace once his missing final wish is found: "If I should ever be in a vegetative state and kept alive on life support, please for the love of God don't ever show me in that condition on national television."

This remarkably prescient scenario, first broadcast on the eve of Terri Schiavo's death, anticipated just how far the zeitgeist would swing in the month after the right's overreach in her case. A USA Today poll a week later found that Americans by 55 to 40 percent believe that "Republicans, traditionally the party of limited government, are 'trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives of most Americans' on moral values." In other words, what Hillary Clinton's overreaching big-government health care plan did to the Democrats a decade ago is the whammy the Schiavo case has inflicted on the G.O.P. today. And like the Democrats back then, the Republican elites have been so besotted with their election victory and so out of touch with the mainstream they didn't see their comeuppance coming. At the height of the feeding-tube frenzy, Peggy Noonan told her Wall Street Journal troops that federal intervention in the Schiavo family brawl was a political slam dunk: "Politicians, please, think of yourselves! Move to help Terri Schiavo, and no one will be mad at you, and you'll keep a human being alive." (Italics hers.)

Oops. But what's given the Schiavo case resonance beyond the Schiavo story itself is that it crystallized the bigger picture of Olympian arrogance and illiberalism on the right. The impulse that led conservatives to intervene in a family's bitter debate over a feeding tube is the same one that makes them turn a debate over a Senate rule on filibusters into a litmus test of spiritual correctness. Surely no holier-than-thou Hollywood pontificator could be harder to take than the sanctimonious Bill Frist, who, unlike Barbra Streisand, can't even sing.

The same arrogance that sent Republicans into Terri Schiavo's hospice room has also led them to try to police the culture of sex more rabidly than the left did the culture of sexism. No wonder another recent poll, from the Pew Research Center, finds that for all the real American displeasure with coarse entertainment, a plurality of 48 percent believes that "the government's imposing undue restrictions" on pop culture is "a greater danger" to the country than the entertainment industry itself. Who could have imagined that the public would fear Focus on the Family's James Dobson more than 50 Cent?

But in this crusade, too, few on the right seem to recognize that they're overplaying their hand; they keep upping the ante. One powerful senator, Ted Stevens of Alaska, has proposed that cable and satellite be policed by the federal government along with broadcast television - a death knell for even the Sirius incarnation of Howard Stern, not to mention much of Comedy Central. A powerful House committee chairman, James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, topped that by calling for offenders to be pursued through a "criminal process." Last week President Bush signed a Family Entertainment and Copyright Act that allows "family-friendly" companies to sell filter technology that cleans up DVD's of Hollywood movies without permission or input from the films' own authors and copyright holders. That sounds innocuous enough until you learn that even "Schindler's List" isn't immune from the right's rigid P.C. code. As the owner of CleanFlicks, the American Fork, Utah, company that goes further and sells pre-sanitized DVD's, once explained to The New York Times: "Every teenager in America should see that film. But I don't think my daughters should see naked old men running around in circles." And so Big Brother can intervene to protect our kids from all that geriatric Holocaust porn.

On the first page of "South Park Conservatives," its author declares that "CBS's cancellation in late 2003 of its planned four-hour miniseries 'The Reagans' marked a watershed in America's culture wars." It did, in the sense that the right's successful effort to stifle what it regarded as an un-P.C. (i.e., somewhat critical) treatment of Ronald Reagan sped the censorious jihad that's now threatening everything from "The Sopranos" on HBO to lesbian moms on PBS. Of course "South Park" is also on this hit list: the Parents Television Council, the take-no-prisoners e-mail mill leading the anti-indecency charge, has condemned the show on its Web site as a "curdled, malodorous black hole of Comedy Central vomit." Should such theocratic conservatives prevail, "South Park" conservatives will be hipper than they ever could have imagined - terminally hip, you might say.

categories: Politics
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11:33:51 PM    comment []

Sunday, May 01, 2005

 Italy Media Reveals Iraq Details  

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.

 A Greek medical student at Bologna University who was surfing the web early on Sunday found that with two simple clicks of his computer mouse he could restore censored portions of the report.

He passed the details to Italian newspapers which immediately put out the full text on their own websites.

The missing text contains the names and ranks of all of the American military personnel involved in the killing of Nicola Calipari, the Italian agent who was given a state funeral and awarded Italy's highest medal of valour.

It also reveals the rules of engagement in operation at the military checkpoint near Baghdad airport which have been contested by the Italian authorities.

The censored sections include recommendations that the American military modify their checkpoint procedures to give better and clearer warning signs to approaching vehicles.

The official Italian report on the incident expected to be published this week will accuse the American military of tampering with evidence at the scene of the shooting.

The Americans invited two Italians to join in their inquiry, but the Italian representatives protested at what they claimed was lack of objectivity in presenting the evidence and returned to Rome.

A direct link to .doc format

 The report is really sad reading. The US soldiers were clearly devastated when they realized what they'd done (and the name of the US soldier who shot at the car sounded Italian American), and the Carabinieri agent/driver who had been on the phone throughout with Italian officials alerting them to the progress of their travel to Bagdhad airport was a wreck. What a tragic mess. Bush should have apologized from the beginning, as opposed to niggling over who's fault it was leading to this absurd stand off between the US and Italians. US troops killed the agent of an allied agent rescuing their citizen who had been held hostage by terrorist kidnappers. Say you're sorry, and move on.

 The Italians have some questions (from Corriere della Sera)

The decision on the part of the US to publish its final report on the death of Nicola Calipari without awaiting the conclusions of the Italian members of the Joint US-Italian commission is the latest slap in the face to Italy from the United States. This example, as if another were needed, confirms that the Italian members were permitted no input--not even into the timing of the release. Italy will respond tomorrow afternoon with its own report which will be handed to the government and forwarded to magistrates investigating the shooting. While Premier Silvio Berlusconi is back to claiming that no ransom was paid and repeating "our unquestionable friendship with the United States", the Italian team is rushing to complete a report contesting point by point the US findings to which video files and photographs of the behavior of US troops while manning checkpoints will be attached. Among the video attachments is a file showing what is considered to be a typical "dirty trick"--a patrol laughing and joking about the corpse of an Iraqi motorist whom they shot in cold blood behind the wheel of his van.

ACCUSATIONS LEVELED AT THE USA. In its conclusions, signed by Ambassador Cesare Ragaglini and General Pierluigi Campregher, the Italian team faults the Americans for refusing a dynamic reconstruction of events. The Italians specifically mention "tampering at the scene of the incident" and of the Toyota Corolla, a key piece evidence, in which the Italian intelligence officers and Guiliana were traveling. At the end of its investigation, the Italians even proposed concluding the report by saying it was impossible to attribute responsibility. The US military rejected this compromise, saying it would completely exonerate the patrol to close any loophole permiting further legal action on the part of the Italian judiciary.

THE "BLOCKING" POSITION. This arrangement differentiates the type of checkpoint. This type of arrangement, underscores the Italian findings, is not subject to any rules because it is generally employed "on the battlefield" and in fact does not incorporate signposting and barbed wire. The Italians particularly fault the US decision of placing "it at the end of an elbow curve." The report then concentrates on the crime scene investigation carried out together with US officials. "The scene of the incident"--they write--"was altered and the soldiers were unable to indicate their positions at the time of the shooting. They add that the alteration prevented the investigating team from determining the source of weapons fire. Not only that: but according to the Italian team, "between the illumination of the spotlight and the warning shots far more than the three seconds alloted by the patrol would have been required for the driver to come to a complete stop".

THE HIDDEN NAMES. In the US version of the report, 12 names were blacked out in the interests of military secrecy. Italy believes in confidentiality, but in the report the Americans wrote that it was not possible to determine which servicemen were part of the patrol on 4 March. "The soldier who fired", says the USA, "was Hispanic." But the Italian delegation suspected that "at least three soldiers opened fire." "Testimony," says the Italian team, "was contradictory and in some cases totally unreliable."

COMMUNICATIONS. In the report to be handed to the Italian government tomorrow, the CIA station chief was informed of the operation and in the early afternoon he was given the details of the rental car. Also, "US Command was informed 25 minutes before the shooting that the hostage [Mrs. Sgrena] was released." In any case, the Italians underscore that confidentiality is absolutely routine, even between allies, in such a mission. The statements of the SISMI station chief in Baghdad affirm that he was on the phone with Calipari when the shooting occurred. "It was the [SISMI Station Chief] who asked that all [US-manned] checkpoints be informed and was told that "there were not any checkpoints". Shortly later, on the request of the [SISMI Station Chief], a US military officer contacted the patrol and this demonstrates that it would have been possible to warn the soldiers that the automobile with the released hostage on board was on the road leading to the airport.

 I really hate the way that Americans often seem to lose their sanity the minute the word "communist" is mentioned, since it seems like such a knee jerk reflex, especially since the cold war ended around 15 years ago. However, I think that Sgrena's attitude toward the US was probably not the most favourable, as I can't imagine a European communist paper employing a giddy yay america type person. While communist papers and parties in Europe are dinosaurs, as not many are interested in them, I think that the general view of the US in Europe has nothing to do with being communist or not.

I simply see European attitudes as being one's of suspicion and disbelief at the rhetoric and actions of the current US government.

However, a lot of Europeans are just as supicious of their own governments as these are just as opaque in the way they do things.

 The US government has for a long time, and this adiminstration in particular, classified things reflexively, whether secrecy was actually required or not.

In many ways it'll be scarier if the redactions show nothing of interest at all: not protecting anybody's privacy or any actual secrets. (A quick scan suggests exactly that.) It leaves open the question, "Why is the government keeping that information secret? Why is the government keeping so much information secret?"

There are many things that people would like to know to keep an eye on their government. Not all of that information should be released, for national security reasons, but it's always been the government who makes that decision. This lack of a check on the power of government makes people increasingly nervous as crimes (e.g. Abu Ghraib) are discovered anyway.

categories: Politics
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10:14:31 PM    comment []

Creationism in Schools at Fault for Dwindling Science Skills

 According to a 2004 article from The New York Times, "The United States has started to lose its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation."

Our Republican-dominated government hasn't exactly leapt into action. Although, to be fair, the issue of science has never been a high priority for them. They're kept pretty busy running up record deficits, undermining church/state separation, engaging in pre-emptive wars and enriching the wealthy at the expense of the poor. The title of a February 2004 CNN article, "Scientists feel stifled by Bush administration," nicely captures President Bush's feelings for science.

Numerous factors contribute to our slipping science and technology leadership. Most would undoubtedly agree that a robust science education is crucially important for our children to be internationally competitive. Such an education, despite the protestations of theocrats, requires comprehensive instruction in the central, unifying concept of modern biology: evolution. As the eminent geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky observed, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

The gradual and insidious imposition of religious beliefs (creationism) in public science classes represents more than a violation of church/state separation; it's a waste of valuable time. As the National Academy of Sciences bluntly put it: "Creationism, intelligent design and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science."

Each creationist victory promises increasing numbers of students who are poorly informed about evolutionary theory and hostile toward the topic. In fact, these students might be indoctrinated with serious misconceptions about evolution.

With this problem in mind, I have a suggestion for how introductory evolutionary theory might be more effectively taught. Educators could exploit creationist-spawned misinformation by using commonly held misconceptions of evolutionary theory as a springboard to the introduction of central concepts.

Misconception #1: "Evolution is random, and randomness can't produce complexity."

Like many creationist falsehoods, this one contains a kernel of truth. Chance does, indeed, play a role in the evolutionary process; mutation is a random change in a gene or chromosome. However, the process of natural selection is decidedly nonrandom. Put simply, natural selection acts like a filter on genetic variations within a population, weeding out deleterious genetic changes, while favoring mutations that tend to improve reproductive fitness. Beneficial mutations (largely defined by environmental conditions) increase in frequency within a gene pool. Fast-evolving antibiotic resistant bacteria provide a great example. Evolution is not random.

Misconception #2: "Evolution is just a theory."

This misunderstanding provides a superb opportunity to remind students what science is, what a scientific theory is and how science differs from other ways of knowing. Although in the common vernacular the word "theory" denotes a rudimentary idea or guess, a scientific theory is far more than that. Scientific theories are well-substantiated explanations of natural phenomena. Evolutionary theory is accepted as fact by an overwhelming majority of scientists all over the world. In contrast, creationism represents a mere unsubstantiated belief or guess.

Misconception #3: "There are gaps in the fossil record, and transitional fossils don't exist."

Of course there are gaps in the fossil record - fossilization is a rare occurrence. However, despite this limitation, numerous and superb examples of transitional fossils have been found. This common fallacy that evolution is poorly supported offers an excellent opportunity to discuss examples of transitional forms and the vast corroborating evidence for evolution drawn from various disciplines. A recent article in Scientific American put it well: "We know evolution happened � because of the convergence of evidence from such diverse fields as geology, paleontology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, molecular biology, genetics and many more."

Numerous additional misconceptions about evolution exist, including one of my favorites, "If we came from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?"  "Teaching to the misconception" provides an effective means of introducing fundamental principles of both evolution and the scientific method, while simultaneously undermining the well-funded creationist misinformation campaign. It's all good.

 Call it creationism, or call it intelligent design, it has no basis in the scientific method, and thus it is not science, and thus it doesn't belong in science class. It is analogous to require a discussion of Darwinism in Sunday School or comparative religion--an interesting concept, but it has nothing to do with doctrine or chapter and verse. Anyone who does not grasp that there is a bright line dividing these concepts has not been taught science adequately. It may be useful for teachers to discuss creationism, ID or criticisms of Darwinism in class, but there certainly should be no mandate for it. Science rejects strict theism out of hand, just as theism rejects strict empiricism out of hand. Only one group is forcing children to have their educations muddled and diluted in the name of pushing dogma.

 Remember the Kennewick Man some years ago and all the controversy that it generated, partly because it contradicted some of the cherished beliefs of local Native American tribes? Science is not PC--it often offends someone. It might be Christian fundamentalits some day, it might be Native Americans another, or it could be industrialists one day, and environmentalists another. But, if we are to be committed to science, we can't be partisan about its implications.  

categories: Mind
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1:06:16 PM    comment []

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