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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Mother seeking support, cursed at for questioning war

One mother's war after Son survived suicide bomb

Marsha Walker's son survived a suicide bomb in Iraq.

Her daughter spent a year in Kuwait last year, and her father is a former Marine reservist. She’s part of a military family; she and her sister went into criminal justice because their father dissuaded them from a military career. Marsha is a Blue Star mother, meaning a mother whose son is serving overseas.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when an email exchange with her local Blue Star chapter concluded with an expletive: "fuckoff."

The Ohio mom had contacted her local chapter after coming across their website earlier this month. It’s a plain, bright page, one that doesn’t stand out at first glance.

But there was something that caught her eye: an animate montage of planes hitting the World Trade Center and the resulting aftermath. In one image, a man in a bloodstained shirt teeters on the verge of collapse, in another, a panicked crowd looks on in horror. None of the photographs reference current U.S. military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Beneath the graphic is a live clock: "War was declared on the United States of America, 1,414 days, 15 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds ago," referring to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"They’re trying to make a connection between Iraq and 9/11," she asserts. "I guess that's supposed to make parents feel better in some way but only the uninformed ones–because if you're informed, it infuriates you."

After seeing the site, which was taken down after an inquiry by RAW STORY, she dispatched an email.

Hello. I am a blue star mom of two reservist soldiers. My 20-year-old-son is "Soldier of the Month" and has been awarded the Purple Heart. He is a reservist with the Ohio National Guard.

"I am not a “Spartan mother” and I feel no need to sacrifice my children’s lives for this war. People willing to give their children’s lives for the war in Iraq are grossly misinformed, and I question their love for their children and their country...

"I do not see any reference to groups that many blue and gold star families may not be aware of. I realize you are not a political organization, but I am not going to stand by idle, wearing a pin, while my son's life and other soldier’s lives continue to be misused for a cause that is not reality based. 911 had NOTHING to do with Iraq or Saddam-your website, much like this President’s talking points do not balance with the truth of this situation. Please give your members something besides more hand wringing and a pin to wear.”

"...Military personnel have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, not an allegiance to this President-whose own mother, of course, did not have to endure being a "blue star" mom for a similar senseless war. This war is illegal, goes against the Constitution….a person of my background does NOT make these accusations lightly."

Marsha says she felt an obligation to correct misinformation on the site. Just four months before, her son Chris was part of a convoy outside Baghdad ambushed by a suicide bomber.

"I had just come home from protesting the war, in March," she recalls. "When I heard that my son had been injured, I called to get the details."

An officer fielded the call.

"I said, 'It seems awfully ironic that I'm just coming home from a protest,'" she says. "And he said, 'Yes ma'am.' I said, 'I think it's pretty ironic, don't you,' and he said, 'Yes ma'am, I'm sorry I do.'"

"It was mostly cuts and abrasions," she adds. "The others were more injured than my son."

Two hours after her email came this anonymous reply.

"Facts? Where are yours?"

"Im sorry to hear you dont support the career choices your sons have made, it must make them feel good about themselves that momma doesnt [sic] give a rats ass about them ." Maybe you should go join up Code Pinko at Walter Reed Medical Center they are there every Friday jeering our wounded troops.

"Bush's Mother did indeed have to endure being a Blue Star Mother, or have you forgotten all of John Kerry's accusations of him ditching his service during Vietnam, which was proven false he did serve his full time. You do not have to wring your hands and wear a pin to be recognized as a Blue Star Mother, we honor all members of the US Military.

"Illegal war? Congress voted overwhelming to go to war in Iraq. "We are not obligated to link to any other website other than those we feel fit to link to, don't like it start your own website...

“The Democrats in Congress speak out of both sides of there [sic] mouths Bush lied about WMD yet when their man was in charge these were there responses."
The email listed roughly a dozen quotes from leading progressive politicians who believed Iraq had or was pursuing weapons of mass destruction. They indicate Democrats believed Iraq’s weapons program posed a grave threat and were serious about eliminating it, but the context suggested Democrats had sought to start a war with equal fervor as President Bush.

Marsha was outraged. She didn’t take lightly to being told she didn’t give a “rat’s ass” about her son. Nor was she amused by the falsehood that Bush had “served his full time.” So she fired off another letter.

Dear Nameless Bush worshipper, (idolatry, according to the bible)

I got my “facts” from places like the CIA, allies’ newspapers, ect. [sic] You see, I will not set my kids out like lambs to slaughter –I am far better informed than your “talking points.” I have no time to start my own website and little to educate you. But I am here to tell you-“Commie Pinko”- I am the daughter of a Marine officer and have a background in law enforcement so for you to imply I’m even a Democrat is a joke. I am an informed person who knows the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Geneva protections...

Our troops recently trained on what to do if their camps are overran. Do you understand the implications of that? Our soldiers are greatly outnumbered, their equipment is getting broken, and replacements are behind. Do you understand? If you continue to support this war, you will eventually be standing alone. Educate yourself-do not take my word for it.

Funny you would think my SONS were involved. My daughter just returned from a year in Kuwait. My children and other soldiers are proud of the military but not proud of politicians who have sent them unprepared into a war of choice. That is unacceptable. My own family has spent thousands of dollars for equipment for my son-some of it needed JUST SO HE COULD DO HIS JOB IN THE WAR. I guess this is acceptable to you. It is not to me...

So no, I am not willing to shove my kids out the door and say die for this war, because I know what this war is really about. Did you notice there aren’t any WMD in Iraq? Mr. Bush takes advantage of people’s faith and ignorance-they, like you, will heatedly stand up for him-right or wrong without examining facts or solid intelligence. He counts on the fact that you will take him at his word, as obviously you have. That is too bad; I find it easier to live with the truth than to attempt to justify this war.

She included a quote from the twenty-sixth president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.

“That we are to stand by the president, right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

It was this missive that earned the reply "fuckoff."

Marsha's frustration is palpable. She's against the war and is not shy about it, and it's not simply about the effort to tie Iraq to Sept. 11. It's about Chris.

Marsha tells how her father, a former Marine, supported the war and maintained that the troops would have everything they needed.

"My dad said, I know they're getting everything they need," she recounts. "I thought, okay, what can you say? He's your father."

"Six months later, he was having to send things to his grandson to help assist in the war effort, that he did not have."

Marsha says her father helped pay for body armor. Her son, Chris, is a communications specialist.

"We've sent him extra armor," she says. "He did have new armor when he left, it was military issued, it was not the best – there are police officers on the street who have better armor, and I know that because I have a degree on criminal justice. We've had to send him tools so he can literally do his job of repairing radios."

Beyond armor, she says she's also sent basic tools like sockets and wrenches. She laughs as she says it, but she's obviously pained by how little support she's seen from those who would send her son to fight, and perhaps to die.

"I did send him a whole ratchet set," she recalls. "It's outrageous. We have to pay to send him things, and of course we have to send him things all the time, hair gel even, for instance. It costs a lot of money to send those packages. I took three small boxes to the post office last week and spent $40."

Chris will be deployed until October–or at least that's how long he's supposed to serve in Iraq. I ask her when she thinks he'll be back.

"I don't know," she says wearily. "I told him, that I have his orders here, and he better not volunteer to go back there."

"He needs to get home, go to classes, and stop worrying his mother," she continues. "I can hope."

"My son is someone who is going to contribute to this world," she adds. "He was raised with public service in mind. This is a gross misuse of his patriotism."

categories: Outrages
Other Stories according to Google: The Raw Story | One mother's war : Mother seeking support cursed at | Blue Star Mom Irate over False Connection of Iraq War and 9/11 | Kryten42's blog | Loaded Mouth | DSM Headlines | Loaded Mouth | Loaded Mouth | We've got a Reality Bias | amerpie's reviews | Mother seeking support cursed at for questioning war | Open Thread | The Al Franken Show | Air America Radio | Jabberwonk.com

10:58:18 PM    

Vienna museum opens 'Naked Truth' to nudes

Scores of naked or scantily clad people wandered the museum, lured by an offer of free entry to "The Naked Truth," a new exhibition of early 1900s erotic art, if they showed up wearing just a swimsuit -- or nothing at all.

With a midsummer heat wave sweeping much of Europe, pushing temperatures into the mid-90s Fahrenheit (mid-30s Celsius) in Vienna, the normally staid museum decided that making the most of its cool, climate-controlled space would be just the ticket to spur interest in the show.

Peter Weinhaeupl, the Leopold's commercial director, said the goal was twofold -- help people beat the heat while creating a mini-scandal reminiscent of the way the artworks by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and others shocked the public when they first were unveiled a century ago.

"We wanted to give people a chance to cool off, and bring nakedness into the open," he said. "It's a bit of an experiment. Egon Schiele was a young and wild person in his day. He'd want to be here."

Most of those who showed up in little or no attire Friday opted for swimsuits, but a few hardy souls dared to bare more. Among them was Bettina Huth of Stuttgart, Germany, who roamed the exhibition wearing only sandals and a black bikini bottom.

Although she used a program at one point to shield herself from a phalanx of TV cameras, Huth, 52, said she didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

"I go into the steam bath every week, so I'm used to being naked," she said. "I think there's a double morality, especially in America. We lived in California for two years, and I found it strange that my children had to cover themselves up at the beach when they were only 3 or 4 years old. That's ridiculous."

For years, the Austrian capital has been known for a small but lively nudist colony on the Donauinsel, an island in the middle of the Danube River where people disrobe, often startling the unsuspecting joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers who happen upon them.

Overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Austria has always been somewhat more conservative than many other European countries. The Viennese were scandalized when native art nouveau masters like Klimt -- best known for his sensuous "The Kiss" and the subject of an upcoming film starring John Malkovich -- began producing works that some critics panned as "indecency," "artistic self-pollution" and borderline pornography.

The 180 works on display at the Leopold through Aug. 22 include Klimt's "Nude Veritas," an 1899 painting of a naked young woman with wildflowers in her hair, and Schiele's "Two Female Friends," a 1915 rendition of two nude women entangled in each other's arms.

Max Hollein, director of Frankfurt's Schirn Kunsthalle art museum, likened the public uproar at the time to "the visible outcry at the live transmission from last year's Super Bowl when, for a few seconds, CBS broadcast shots of the singer Janet Jackson's exposed nipple."

Mario Vorhemes, a 20-year-old Vienna resident who strode into the Leopold on Friday wearing nothing but a green and black Speedo, was nonchalant.

"What's the big deal?" he asked. "We're born naked into this world. Why can't we walk around in it without clothes from time to time?"

Elina Ranta, a fully clothed tourist from Finland who checked out the art -- and the audience -- left amused.

"I thought, 'This is strange. How is this possible in a museum?"' Ranta said. "We've been in many galleries and I've never seen people walking around like this."

"In English, my name means 'beach,"' she added. "That's pretty funny under these circumstances, isn't it?"

categories: Body
Other Stories according to Google: Vienna museum opens to nudes beating the heat | Vienna museum opens to nudes beating the heat | CNN.com - Vienna museum opens to nudes - Jul 29, 2005 | Vienna museum opens to nudes beating the heat - Yahoo! UK | AOL News - Art Lovers Wander Nude in One Museum | ART- Naked -at-the- Museum , Bgt | The Seattle Times: Travel Outdoors: Real nudes roam through an | Museum to let naked people in free: SouthFlorida.com | Austria Museum Lets Naked People in Free | AccessAtlanta | Austria Museum Lets Naked People in Free

12:28:17 PM    

Friday, July 29, 2005

A Stroke of Genius: Lapdance

This passage Armando quotes is embarrassing.  I mean, if I were in charge and surrounded by sycophants, really, it would be best if their flattery were thoughtful and did not provoke immediate laughter.  

Powerline disturbs me.  It's the tone, really.   They're like groupies.

Armando at Kos caught this   from Hindquarter and the Gang:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

Hyperbolic? Well, maybe. But consider Bush's latest master stroke: the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. The pact includes the U.S., Japan, Australia, China, India and South Korea; these six countries account for most of the world's carbon emissions. The treaty is, in essence, a technology transfer agreement. The U.S., Japan and Australia will share advanced pollution control technology, and the pact's members will contribute to a fund that will help implement the technologies. The details are still sketchy and more countries may be admitted to the group later on. The pact's stated goal is to cut production of "greenhouse gases" in half by the end of the century.

What distinguishes this plan from the Kyoto protocol is that it will actually lead to a major reduction in carbon emissions! This substitution of practical impact for well-crafted verbiage stunned and infuriated European observers.

I doubt that the pact will make any difference to the earth's climate, which will be determined, as always, by variations in the energy emitted by the sun. But when the real cause of a phenomenon is inaccessible, it makes people feel better to tinker with something that they can control. Unlike Kyoto, this agreement won't devastate the U.S. economy, and, also unlike Kyoto, the agreement will reduce carbon emissions in the countries where they are now rising most rapidly, India and China. Brilliant.

But I don't suppose President Bush is holding his breath, waiting for the crowd to start applauding.

Reminds me of a documentary I once saw in which they interviewed a guy who was in a Russian gulag on the day Stalin died. He said all the prisoners in the gulag were weeping at the announcement of the death of the man who had sent them there -- because Stalin had made himself so huge and important and synonymous with their country that they literally could not imagine the world without him.

This is what the Right is trying to do -- and it scares me to death to see how close they come.

True believers (and there were plenty) said the same things about Nixon. And, in fact, some of the same folks (e.g. Noonan) still do. But it's important to distinguish those who rhapsodize over their chosen demigod hypocritically, and those who are actual believers. The latter will continue to redouble their fervor right up until the moment that their faith evaporates, while the former never had any actual faith to begin with, and will simply bend with the political tide.

Stated differently, self-delusions are often clung to hardest when the evidence supporting them is least.   But once brought to the breaking point, the delusions will evaporate, with some former believers opportunistically joining the hypocrites (perhaps to save face as much as any other form of self-interest) while others will flee to the "enemy" camp. Such people do exist -- I know some of them -- and we need to be ready to welcome them.

categories: Outrages
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11:26:52 PM    

N.D. Man Winner, Annual Bad-Writing Contest

July 28,2005 | SAN FRANCISCO -- A man who compared a woman's anatomy to a carburetor won an annual contest that celebrates the worst writing in the English language.

Dan McKay, a computer analyst at Microsoft Great Plains, N.D., bested thousands of entrants from the North Pole to Manchester, England to triumph Wednesday in San Jose State University's annual Fiction Contest.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire," he wrote, comparing a woman's breasts to "small knurled caps of the oil dampeners."

The competition highlights literary achievements of the most dubious sort -- terrifyingly bad sentences that take their inspiration from minor writer Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel "Paul Clifford" began, "It was a dark and stormy night."

"We want writers with a little talent, but no taste," San Jose State English Professor Scott Rice said. "And Dan's entry was just ludicrous."

McKay was is in China and could not be reached to comment about his status as a world-renowned wretched writer. He will receive $250.

Rice said the challenge began as a worst paragraph contest, but judges soon realized no one should have to wade through so much putrid prose -- such as this zinger, which took a dishonorable mention.

"The rising sun crawled over the ridge and slithered across the hot barren terrain into every nook and cranny like grease on a Denny's grill in the morning rush, but only until eleven o'clock when they switch to the lunch menu," wrote Lester Guyse, a retired fraud investigator in Portland, Ore.

"That was the least favorite of the five I entered, but you win any way you can," Guyse said.

Ken Aclin, of Shreveport, La., won the Grand Panjandrum's Award for his shocking similes and abusive use of adjectives. He wrote that India "hangs like a wet washcloth from the towel rack of Asia."

"I just saw that washcloth hanging in the shower and it looked like India," he said. "I'll be doggone."

categories: Humor
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2:44:35 AM    

More on Turd Blossom

categories: Politics
Other Stories according to Google: Turd Blossom Must Go - There is no moral case for keeping Karl | Turd Blossom Must Go - There is no moral case for keeping Karl | Turd Blossom Must Go - There is no moral case for keeping Karl | Salon.com News | All eyes on Turd Blossom | Salon.com News | All eyes on Turd Blossom | Karl Rove | Eschaton | Turd Blossom Must Go - There is no moral case for keeping Karl | MyDD :: More Droppings from Turd Blossom *

1:02:38 AM    

Friday Cat Blogging

Please help save the kittens!

categories: Humor
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12:28:33 AM    

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Targeted Killing Is A Recipe For Disaster

The key section of Bush's National Security anti-terrorism manifesto discusses the Cold War doctrine of deterrence and why it doesn't work in the age of terrorism. The section makes three points. First, compared to the old Soviet politburo, rogue-state leaders who sponsor terror are "more willing to take risks, gambling with the lives of their people." Second, whereas the Soviets saw weapons of mass destruction as a last resort, today's rogues "see these weapons as their best means of overcoming the conventional superiority of the United States." Third, "deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents" and "whose so-called soldiers seek martyrdom in death."

The British anti-terror policy of targeted killing which saw an innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes shot dead by London undercover police officers who mistook him for a terrorist last Friday, is a recipe for disaster.

Despite Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair’s assurance that "everything is done to make it right", the use of deadly force against one’s perceived real or imagined enemy carries the huge risk of backfiring and accomplishing the complete opposite — making Britain even less safe than ever.

All one has to do is look at the chaos brought about by the liberal use of targeted killing in the Middle East by Israeli Defence Forces in Palestine and Coalition Forces in Iraq. Largely ignoring criticisms of its strong arm tactics when it comes to dealing with Palestinians in general and militants specifically, Israel employs the "shoot first and ask questions later" policy.

Todate, according to the respected B'Tselem organisation which keeps statistics on casualties from both sides of the conflict, 187 Palestinians were assassinated under the targeted killing policy since September 2000.

The most highly visible of these killings were the assassinations of Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin on March 22, 2004 and less than a month later his replacement Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi in a missile strike on his car on Saturday, April 17, 2004.

Naturally, there are criticisms from around the world of Israeli tactic of targeted killing. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw condemned Israel's policy of targeted killings as "unlawful, unjustified and counterproductive".

The reality check for Israeli, though, is the fact that suicide attacks on civilians continues unabated — in fact, if anything, the targeted killing appears to have inflamed the situation that has claimed as many as 665 innocent Israeli civilians.

Much as the IDF would like to claim a higher moral ground vis-a-vis the suicide bombers, it finds itself mired in a bloody tit-for-tat war that it cannot win.

Meanwhile, employing targeted killing, Coalition Forces have desperately attempted to push back Iraqi insurgents. Trigger-happy Americans troops are quick to let out a round of automatic fire into anything that moves that is not in a fortified Humvee.

Last month, for instance, Ahmad Wail Bakri, director for Al-Sharqiya television, was reportedly trying to pass a traffic accident in the Sayyidiyya district when US troops opened fire at his car, killing him on the spot.

In March, Italian secret agent Nicola Calipari was killed while on his way to Baghdad Airport after securing the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena. The Americans claimed, and the Italians disputed, that the car carrying Mr. Calipari did not stop even after warning shots were fired.

Regardless of what really happened, Mr. Calipari was one of the lucky ones in that his death made the news and the Americans were forced to "look into the circumstances leading to his death".

Unfortunately, according to Iraq Body Count, thousands of Iraqis have perished, not because of misdirected fire, but as a direct result of US policy that targets the wrong person. And although the US loathes to admit it, the targeting of anyone suspected of links to Iraqi insurgency has made the job of the real insurgents very easy — not only are civilians now reluctant to provide valuable intelligence to the Coalition Forces, it is apparent that so-called fence-sitters are now firmly taking the side of the insurgents.

In Britain where the Muslim community is in shock like everyone else over the home-grown terror, there is united effort to help police investigation of the terrorists.

Muslim leaders have openly condemned the attacks and have supported initiatives to make the city safer. This, however, will change very rapidly if another innocent person, a Muslim, is killed by London Police.

The accumulated goodwill from the community will dry up like morning dew, and in its place will grow hardened resentment that is easily exploited by extremists.

True enough, in war, there is what former US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara called the fog of war -- a situation of confusion where you hit innocent bystanders or take out the wrong neighbourhood.

Today it is known as collateral damage which is usually chalked up as the cost of doing the business called war.

However, targeted killing is a deliberate decision to shoot to kill because of perceived threat that may or may not exist. The person who pulls the trigger is the judge, jury and executioner.

What happened last Friday in Britain was therefore a targeted killing where officers were acting under orders to take out a suspected terrorist regardless of the possibility that the person could be innocent -- which is what it turned out to be. Mr. de Menezes never really knew what hit him, five bullets were pumped into his head at close range.

His death and the insistence by London Police that sometimes the innocents may have to die reinforces the obnoxious view expressed by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who said in April 2003 after the fall of Baghdad that, "Freedom's untidy."   Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things”.

One would prefer what Mr. Rumsfeld said in the next sentence “They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things”. Mr. Menezes was not given that chance.

According to the document, "History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action." But this is a backward-looking policy disguised as a forward-looking policy. It focuses on what history has already judged harshly. Bush is afraid that if we don't err on the side of shooting first and asking questions later, what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, will happen again.

That isn't the new world we're entering. The new world is the one rationalized by Bush's manifesto: a world in which great powers wink at each other's misconduct, every threat is imminent, self-defense means pre-emptive action abroad, interests are dressed up as values, and cooperation means cooperating with the United States.  We don't know what history will judge harshly about this era, but there's a good chance it'll be the compromises we embraced to rectify the mistakes of Sept. 11.  Perhaps those compromises are necessary.  Covering them up surely isn't.

categories: Outrages
Other Stories according to Google: SpinWatch - 'Muslim World Outreach' another US recipe for disaster | SpinWatch - 'Muslim World Outreach' another US recipe for disaster | 'Muslim World Outreach' another US recipe for disaster | Israel News - Daily News Alert from Israel | SpinWatch - 'Muslim World Outreach' another US recipe for disaster | Mold Killer Recipes & Instructions Report | VDH's Private Papers :: Lest We Forget :: Assassinating the President | Dangerous Times By Nick Pretzlik | Brace Yourself: The months ahead will be momentous | The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

8:41:06 PM    

Monday, July 25, 2005

"Real beauty" -- or really smart marketing?

The words appear slowly, against the familiar powder-blue shape of the bird in flight -- the Dove soap symbol -- like soothing, watery poetry:

For too long
beauty has been defined by narrow, stifling sterotypes [sic].
You've told us it's time to change all that.
We agree.
Because we believe real beauty comes
In many shapes, sizes and ages.
It is why we started the Campaign for Real Beauty.
And why we hope you'll take part.

This is the lilting intro to the Web site that Dove has dedicated to its "Real Beauty" advertising campaign, for which it has picked six women who are not professional models -- each beautiful, but broader than Bundchen, heftier than an Olsen twin -- to model in bras and panties.

The campaign is massive; these six broads are currently featured in national television and magazine ads, as well as on billboards and the sides of buses in urban markets like Boston, Chicago, Washington, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. And they've made quite an impact. Apparently, this public display of non-liposuctioned thighs is so jaw-droppingly revelatory that recent weeks have seen the Real Beauty models booked on everything from "The Today Show" to "The View" to CNN.

All the hoopla is precisely what Dove expected.   According to a press release, Dove wants "to make women feel more beautiful every day by challenging today's stereotypical view of beauty and inspiring women to take great care of themselves." The use of "real women" (don't think too hard about the Kate Mosses of the world losing their status as biological females here) "of various ages, shapes and sizes" is designed "to provoke discussion and debate about today's typecast beauty images."

It's a great idea --- a worthy follow-up to Dove's 2004 campaign, which featured women with lined faces, silver hair and heavy freckles, and asked questions like, "Wrinkled? Or Wonderful?" and also got a lot of attention, including a shout-out on the "Ellen DeGeneres Show."

As Stacy Nadeau, one of the Real Beauty models and a full-time student from Ann Arbor, Mich., says on the campaign Web site, "I have always been a curvier girl and always will be. I am proud of my body and think all women should be proud of theirs too. This is my time to encourage and help women feel great about themselves, no matter what they weigh or look like. Women have surrendered to diets and insane eating habits to live up to social stereotypes for too long. It's time that all women felt beautiful in their own skin."

But let's hope that skin doesn't have any cellulite. Because no one wants to look at a cottage-cheesy ass.

That's right. The one little wrinkle -- so to speak -- in this you-go-grrl stick-it-to-the-media-man empowerment campaign is that the set of Dove products that these real women are shilling for is cellulite firming cream. Specifically, Dove's new "Intensive Firming Cream," described as "a highly effective blend of glycerin, plus seaweed extract and elastin peptides known for their skin-firming properties." It's supposed to "go to work on problem areas to help skin feel firmer and reduce the appearance of cellulite in two weeks." There are also the Intensive Firming Lotion and the Firming Moisturizing Body Wash, which do pretty much the same thing.

But as long as you're patting yourself on the back for hiring real-life models with imperfect bodies, thereby "challenging today's stereotypical view of beauty and inspiring women to take great care of themselves," why ask those models to flog a cream that has zero health value and is just an expensive and temporary Band-Aid for a "problem" that the media has told us we have with our bodies. Incidentally, cellulite isn't even a result of being overweight! It's the result of cellular changes in the skin. Skinny people have cellulite. Old people have cellulite. Young people have cellulite. Gwyneth Paltrow has cellulite. All God's children have cellulite.

Why not run an ad that proclaims, "Cellulite: Uniquely MINE!"

Or, more realistically, why aren't these women selling shampoo? Or soap? Or moisturizer?

It's a great gimmick -- one that few of us can take issue with. But just like Dove's "love your ass but not the fat on it" campaign, much of this stuff prompts grim questions about whether it's even possible to break the feel-bad cycle of the beauty industry. Blanchett, after all, recently signed on as spokeswoman for SK-II line of cosmetics. And while it's all well and good to tell 8-year-old girls that real beauty is about trust, it's sort of funny to think about doing it while selling them minty lip shine or fruit-scented "My Way Styling Gel" for eight bucks a pop.

Let them be. After all, they have decades ahead of them in which to worry about eradicating the cellulite from their really beautiful curves.

categories: Body
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2:26:48 PM    

Friday, July 22, 2005

Rove, Libby May Be Subject To Perjury Charges

Below is a Bloomberg article which is reporting that Karl Rove, senior adviser to the President and deputy chief of staff, and Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, are being investigated for having lied to a federal grand jury about how they learned the identity of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame (Murray Waas at the American Prospect wrote a similar story yesterday).

Rove, Libby Accounts in CIA Case Differ With Those of Reporters

By Richard Keil

July 22 (Bloomberg)  Two top White House aides have given accounts to the special prosecutor about how reporters told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to persons familiar with the case.

Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn't tell Libby of Plame's identity.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who was first to report Plame's name and connection to Wilson. Novak, according to a source familiar with the matter, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor.

These discrepancies may be important because one issue Fitzgerald is investigating is whether Libby, Rove, or other administration officials made false statements during the course of the investigation. The Plame case has its genesis in whether any administration officials violated a 1982 law making it illegal to knowingly reveal the name of a CIA agent.

The CIA requested the inquiry after Novak's July 14, 2003, article that said Plame recommended her husband for a 2002 mission to check into reports Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger. Wilson, in a July 6 column in the New York Times, said the Bush administration "twisted" some of the intelligence on Iraq's weapons to justify the war.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, said today that Rove did tell the grand jury "he had not heard her name before he heard it from Bob Novak." He declined in an interview to comment on whether Novak's account of their conversation differed from Rove's.

There also is a discrepancy between accounts given by Rove and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. The White House aide mentioned Wilson's wife " though not by name" in a July 11, 2003 conversation with Cooper. Rove says that Cooper called him to talk about welfare reform and the Wilson connection was mentioned later in passing.

Cooper wrote in Time magazine last week that he told the grand jury that he never discussed welfare reform with Rove in that call.

The leak case shows that administration officials have in effect been using reporters as shields by claiming that the information on Plame first came from them.

One reporter, Judith Miller of the New York Times, has been jailed on contempt of court charges for refusing to testify before the grand jury about her reporting on the Plame case.

Cooper testified only after Time Inc. said it would comply with Fitzgerald's demands for Cooper's notes and reporting on the Plame matter, particularly regarding his dealings with Rove.

Libby didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

The various accounts of conversations between Rove, Libby and reporters come as new details emerge about a classified State Department memorandum that's also at the center of Fitzgerald's probe.

A memo by the department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) included Plame's name in a paragraph marked "(S)" for "Secret," a designation that should have indicated to anyone who read it that the information was classified, the Washington Post reported yesterday.

The memo, prepared July 7, 2003, for Secretary of State Colin Powell, is a focus of Fitzgerald's interest, according to individuals who have testified before the grand jury and attorneys familiar with the case.

The three-page document said that Wilson had been recommended for a CIA-sponsored trip to Africa by his wife, Valerie Wilson, who worked on the CIA's counter-proliferations desk.

In his New York Times article, Wilson said there was no basis to conclude that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material in Africa and that the administration had exaggerated the evidence.

Bush had said in his State of the Union message in January, 2003 that Iraq was trying to purchase nuclear materials in Africa.

The memo summarizing the Plame-Wilson connection was provided to Powell as he left with President George W. Bush on a five-day trip to Africa. Fitzgerald is exploring whether other White House officials who accompanied Bush may have gained access to the memo and shared its contents with officials back in Washington. Rove and Libby didn't accompany Bush to Africa.

One key to the inquiry is when White House aides knew of Wilson's connection to Plame and whether they learned about it through this memo or other classified information.

Some Bush allies were hopeful that the Fitzgerald investigation, which dominated the news in Washington for the first part of July, would subside as the focus now is on Bush's nomination of Judge John Roberts to fill the first vacancy on the Supreme Court in 11 years.

Yet special prosecutor Fitzgerald, not media coverage, will determine the outcome of this investigation.

It appears to me the more spin we hear from the White house, the more stories come out totally refuting the spin doctoring, this administration has been coasting too long with their veils of secrecy and villifying anyone who questions their policies so it is about time that they have finally got caught hopefully it will steamroll as watergate did, because this country is becoming dangerously divided and our president and his band of merrymakers is to blame!

categories: Outrages
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2:21:43 AM    

Friday Cat Blogging

Don't let stereotypes define you!

categories: Humor
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1:31:05 AM    

New York City Subways About to Lose Valuable Pot Dealer Fares

We must invade your privacy for the sake of your security. Don't you see? We can only maintain your freedom by taking it away from you and putting it in this box over here. You can come visit.

The New York Times reports that New York City police officers will begin random searches of passengers' bags, supposedly as a security measure after the London bombings. And when they start arresting people for misdeamenor contraband items, I'm sure that people are going to feel real fucking safe. Safe as in not taking the subway if they're going to get searched safe.

Random searches are totally unacceptable. If these searches are truly random, they are unlikely to detect, much less deter, suicide bombers. How many million riders are there on the MTA on any given weekday? How many transit cops would have to be diverted from more pressing duties to search the bags of random subway riders? What happens when we remember that many suicide bombers strap explosives to their bodies? Maybe the next step will be random frisks or even random strip searches.

Do we really think that these searches will be random? Mayor Bloomberg insists that the police will make every effort to avoid racial profiling. What will the subway cops actually do? Random searches will be very unlikely to catch or deter anybody, as others have said. The police know this. They also know that profile based searches are politically unacceptable. So, the subway-riding public gets the worst of both worlds: The police will do profile based searches. The police will also do "affirmative action" searches so as to "equalize" adverse treatment.

"The police can and should be aggressively investigating anyone they suspect is trying to bring explosives into the subway," said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union. "However, random police searches of people without any suspicion of wrongdoing are contrary to our most basic constitutional values. This is a very troubling announcement."

This is not a serious counter-terrorism effort. This is a public relations move by Mayor Bloomberg and the MTA. They want to convince the public that they're doing something to prevent terrorism on the subways. Random searches are much more telegenic than long term plans to safeguard the subway's underwater tunnels. It might also be a good idea to increase the number of K-9 officers and explosive-sniffing dogs, but that would cost money.

Bruce Schneier refers to this sort of thing as "security theater." It'd be funny if it wasn't such an obvious invasion of privacy. Schneier's newsletter is a must-read for anyone interested in security issues and public policy. No bullshit, thoughtful, well reasoned, and to the point.
link : http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram.html

categories: Outrages
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12:42:59 AM    

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Damage Control

categories: Politics
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5:17:05 PM    

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Orgasm Blows The Mind - literally

Orgasm is literally a mind-blowing experience for a woman, scientists revealed on Monday.

Much of her brain shuts down when she reaches a sexual climax, including areas that deal with emotion.

The discovery was made during a bizarre set of experiments in the Netherlands in which couples were asked to stimulate each other while undergoing brain scans.

It seems to explode the myth that while men switch off during sex, the part of women that is most turned on is in their heads.

By looking at the brain scans, researchers had no trouble telling when women were "faking it".

The brains of volunteers who were asked to simulate orgasm after a period of stimulation remained fully active and in conscious control.

Neuroscientist Dr Gert Holstege, from the University of Groningen, who led the research, said: "The main thing we saw in females is deactivation of the brain, which was unbelievable; really very pronounced.

"I think that's the major outcome of the study. What you see is deactivation of large parts of the brain, especially the emotional brain, the fear centres."

The only part of a woman's brain that was activated during orgasm was the cerebellum. Although chiefly associated with the control of movement, scientists think it may also play an emotional role.

The cerebellum was also active during fake orgasms, but elsewhere the picture was very different.

"If you look at the women who faked orgasm, we see the same kind of thing in the cerebellum taking place, but the cortex, the conscious part of the brain, is also active," said Dr Holstege.

"Women can imitate orgasm quite well, but in the brain it's not the same."

Even the body movements made during a real orgasm were unconscious and did not involve the "thinking" part of the brain, he said. This was not the case with a fake orgasm.

Shutting down the brain during orgasm ensured that obstacles such as fear and stress did not get in the way.

"Deactivation of these very important parts of the brain might be the most important necessity for having an orgasm," said Dr Holstege.

"When you are fearful or have a very high level of anxiety, then it's hard to have sex because during sex you really have to give yourself and let go."

Men were studied in the same way. But because the male orgasm during ejaculation takes such a short time - typically 20 seconds - it was difficult to obtain meaningful brain scan data.

The scans showed a similar activation of the cerebellum in men. Dr Holstege suspected other parts of men's brains mirrored those of women and became deactivated during orgasm.

However, another part of the study in which couples stimulated each other for two minutes without reaching orgasm showed distinct differences between men and women.

In both, a "fear centre" called the amygdala was deactivated. But in men alone, the scientists saw activation of an ancient, primitive part of the brain linked to emotion called the insula.

There was also a difference in the way touching the genitals affected the somatosensory cortex of the brain. Women merely experienced a sensory feeling, whereas in men emotions were involved.

"Men are seeing it as a big deal, the interpretation of what is happening is important to them," said Dr Holstege. "Women apparently do not have this idea that, OK, this is so important. With women the primary feeling is there, but not the interpretation."

Another odd observation was that the hippocampus, which deals with memory, was deactivated in women. The researchers have no idea why.

A total of 13 women and 11 men, ranging in age from 19 to 49, took part in the experiments at Dr Holstege's laboratory.

Presenting the findings today at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Copenhagen, Denmark, he admitted it was a not the easiest of studies to carry out.

The volunteers, all partners, were recruited through advertisements placed in Dutch magazines.

To put participants in the right mood, members of Dr Holstege's team spoke reassuringly to them, and dimmed the lighting in the scanning room.

Since it was vital to remain completely still in the scanner, volunteers had to have their heads restrained while being sexually stimulated. The rest of the body was free to move.

"We are neuroscientists, so we're only interested in the brain," said Dr Holstege.

The men and women, who were all heterosexual and right-handed, stimulated each others' genitals, but did not have full intercourse.

Participants lay naked on a table with their head inside the scanner. Dr Holstege said a major problem was that they got cold feet - literally. A solution was found in the form of socks supplied by the scientists.

Dr Holstege added that the research could in future lead to better treatments for sexual dysfunction.

The key appeared to be to reduce fear and anxiety - as was illustrated by the aphrodisiac effect on alcohol.

"Alcohol brings down the fear level," said Dr Holstege. "Everyone knows if you give alcohol to a woman it makes things easier."

categories: Mind
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8:54:57 PM    

College-Type Hazing Interrogations Get Rougher, As Medical Doctors Join Interrogators.

Were Some Doctors Bad Apples Too, or Just Caught-up In Systemic Abuses

Last summer, an article in the Lancet charged that doctors at Abu Ghraib knew about the abuse that was going on, and aided the process by not providing adequate care, and by helping to design physically and psychologically coercive interrogations. They also helped cover it up by falsifying medical records and death certificates.That aspect of the scandal is rarely mentioned, because it doesn't fit in the bad apple container.

At about the same time, the Washington Post reported that doctors at Guantanamo were sharing prisoners' medical records with interrogators. The Red Cross had complained that the information was used to develop interrogation plans. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commanded the prison at the time of the complaints, denied the allegations. Next month, an article will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine charging that doctors and mental health professionals didn't just hand over the records, they used the information to help interrogators develop methods of interrogation:

All of the evidence is fitting together into a pattern: in a systemic fashion, health information and clinical judgment played a role in developing interrogation strategies that included some pretty harsh abuses," Mr. Bloche said.

According to the NEJM, there is a standing order, dated August, 2002, and signed by Richard A. Huck, at that time Chief of Staff of the U.S. Southern Command, which says that there is no medical confidentiality for prisoners. The DOD memo requires medical personnel not only to hand over prisoners' medical information on request, but to volunteer any information that they think might be useful. The NEJM piece discusses how this policy differs from that in American prisons, and how it contradicts the laws of war:

Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions provides that medical personnel “shall not be compelled to perform acts or to carry out work contrary to the rules of medical ethics.” Although the protocol has not been ratified by the United States, this principle has attained the status of customary international law. International human rights law (most important, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) provides additional protection for privacy in general — in wartime and peacetime. Although this protection isn’t absolute, exceptions must be justified by pressing public need, and they must represent the least restrictive way to meet this need. Wholesale abandonment of medical confidentiality hardly qualifies, especially when the “need” invoked is the crafting of counter-resistance measures that are prohibited by international law.

In addition, the New York Times has interviewed former interrogators who backed up the journal's charges about the illegal blurring of the lines separating interrogators from doctors:

The former interrogators said the military doctors' role was to advise them and their fellow interrogators on ways of increasing psychological duress on detainees, sometimes by exploiting their fears, in the hopes of making them more cooperative and willing to provide information. In one example, interrogators were told that a detainee's medical files showed he had a severe phobia of the dark and suggested ways in which that could be manipulated to induce him to cooperate.

But there's a huge difference in emphasis between the NEJM piece and the NYT report. The Times focuses on how psychologists and psychiatrists are working with interrogators, but they fail to even mention the 2002 memo requiring medical professionals to cooperate. They only cite a more recent and vague "policy statement" that "officials said was supposed to ensure that doctors did not participate in unethical behavior." This is very odd because the NEJM emphasizes the memo.

The NYT also discusses the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (or BSCT, pronounced "biscuit" teams), which advise interrogators on techniques, or, in the cruder terms of an interrogator interviewed by the Times, "help us break them." But the Times leaves out an important bit of information: The teams were created in 2002, and approved by Major General Geoffrey Miller, who took command of Guantanamo at about that time, specifically because of the "growing frustration with the slow pace of intelligence production at Guantanamo."

Overall, the NEJM piece reads as a denunciation of a policy of making caregivers accessories to intelligence gathering, putting prisoners at greater risk for abuse. The NYT piece, in contrast, by focusing on more amorphous ethical debates, and failing to discuss the role of military officials in crafting this policy, leaves the impression that the problem is a few caregivers put into a sadly difficult ethical situation.

Conduct contrary to the laws of war is a bit more serious than a vague ethical dilemma, but this is so typical of the corporate press, which, even when it reports on abuses, manages to dance around the direct responsibility of high level officials for that abuse.

categories: Outrages
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6:48:49 PM    

Monday, July 18, 2005

Underfunded VA

As the VFW Commander-in-Chief Edward S. Banas has commented:

"The DVA [Department of Veterans Affairs] has been chronically under-funded for decades, yet thousands of dedicated medical professionals see to it that millions of veterans receive high-quality DVA health care annually at 162 hospitals across the country." (link)

Currently, the VA (The Department of Veterans Affairs) is coping with increasing demand, both from new veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan as also from veterans now relying on VA benefits because of the economic downturn. According to the OMB report:

"more veterans are seeking VA medical care services... This increased demand has put pressure on VA's ability to care for its core-mission veteran population (military disabled, lower income, and those with special needs such as spinal cord injuries)."

Although the overall VA budget (as well as discretionary spending for the VA) has gone up every year, budget increases are simply not keeping up with this increase in demand.

Early this year, changes at the VA as well as the Bush Administration's projected 2005 budget led to a storm of controversy. As the Washington Post reported in March, veterans groups have strongly criticized these new policies and the planned budget. As yet, the budget has not been introduced to Congress.

Here are some of the major issues that have concerned veterans groups.

Inadequate Increases in VA Health Care Budget

The VA's Under Secretary testified last year that the VA health care system needs a 13-14% increase annually to maintain the services they provide now. The Administration request of $27.4 billion for 2005 provided for an increase of about 1% over the last year, and fell $2.9 billion short of the amount recommended by veterans groups (including AMVETS, the VFW, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Disabled American Veterans) in their Independent Budget. (See the Administration and vets' groups budget numbers side-by-side here.) Following the Bush Administration's announcement, the House Committtee on Veteran's Affairs released a bipartisan plan calling for at least $2.5 billion more than the Administration proposal. On Feb. 4th, 2004, VA Secretary Anthony Principi admitted to a House Committee that he had asked for "1.2 billion more than I received." (link)

New Drug Co-Pays and Annual Fees

For veterans who are currently paying a small pharmacy co-pay (7$ per month per prescription), the co-pay would rise to $15. In addition, these vets would have to pay a $250 annual fee.

New Eligibility Requirements

As of January, 2004, the VA has also announced new rules that exclude hundreds of thousands of vets whose incomes are now considered too high to qualify for benefits. The income threshold depends on where a vet lives, but ranges between about $26,000 and $40,000 per year. The VA has not pushed any enrolled vets out of the system, but veterans who now wish to enroll will be subject to the new rules.

Hospital Closures

The VA is planning a number of hospital closures as part of a larger "restructuring" plan. Originally, the VA intended to close at least 7 hospitals, but outrage from veterans groups led to a revision of the plan by an independent commission. Now, only three hospitals are slated for closure, and two new hospitals are planned in Nevada and in Florida. However, some smaller clinics are also going to be closed or cut down. Some of these clinics are underserved. But other cutbacks, like those at the clinic in Saginaw, Michigan, have angered local politicians and veterans groups. Read the article in USA Today or the AP story for details of specific clinic closures.

What about next year?

There is some speculation that the already stretched VA may be up for cuts next year, according to White House documents released in May. These planned cuts were covered by CNN.

What should be done for the VA?

Mandatory Funding of Health Benefits: Currently, VA health benefits are part of the VA's discretionary spending. This means that the federal government is not obliged to provide enough money for veterans' health benefits. When the federal money is inadequate, the states are left with the bill. Click here to see the funding gap in your state. Making funding for health benefits mandatory would ensure that the VA's budget would always cover the demand. Bills have been introduced in both the House (H.R. 2318) and the Senate (S. 50) to make this possible.

Increased Funding: Click here to view the recommended Independent Budget proposed by AMVETS, the VFW, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Disabled American Veterans, and endorsed by 30 other groups, including Vietnam Veterans of America, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and at least 15 medical organizations.

What can you do?

The next step is to spread the word. Encourage your friends to learn about the issues. Click here to spread the word about Operation Truth.

categories: Outrages
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9:10:56 PM    

The Running Of The Bull

Lets all root for the bulls this time.
Quote-of-the-Month:  From Randi Rhodes:

"If Karl Rove is a whistleblower, then Jeff Gannon is a whistle!"

categories: Humor
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5:30:47 PM    

Stripping Off In The Name Of Art

Makes me think of those dreams I used to have where I'd go to school in my underwear . . . or less.

When Yve Ngoo announced she was going to take part in this culturally historic event, reactions ranged from "are you mad?" to "you pervert". Even her mother feared she could suffer some sort of post traumatic stress disorder - and be blighted by flashbacks for the rest of her life. But all she wanted to do was experience what thousands of people across the world had previously done - take part in a Spencer Tunick installation.

What I had signed myself up for didn't really hit home until I received the lengthy email containing my consent form, which included the demands for sobriety and the banning of socks, hats and sunglasses.

Once undressed you had to leave your clothes, possessions and dignity in an unidentifiable plastic carrier bag in the middle of a car park.

After maybe 30 minutes, Spencer Tunick and his crew welcomed us, addressing the crowds via megaphone, whilst perched precariously on a step-ladder.

Spencer explained the "set ups". These would involve walking three abreast (if you can have three breasts) across the magnificent Millennium Bridge, along the Newcastle Quayside, up historic Dean Street across the Swing Bridge, along the side of the Sage Gateshead to return to the car park.

Getting naked

At advantageous points that would take in the exciting and the fantastic surroundings of regenerated Quays, we would be asked to stop and pose.

You could sense tension, excitement and apprehension in the air. There was also a final rush for the loos.

Finally, Spencer, spoke the words we all waited for: "OK, you can get naked now".

Everyone started stripping, very rapidly, as if it were a race - men were particularly quick at disrobing.

I took off my sweat top and jogging bottoms. I was naked.

Other naked people were appearing everywhere, some balancing on one leg trying to remove socks and shoes without bending over. I didn't look at either of my friends.

In less than two minutes, only naked bodies were visible. People started looking at each other, friends and strangers, seeing their bodies totally uncovered in the diffused early morning light, in a Gateshead car park!

Dunkirk spirit

Then people began to whoop and cheer, laughing and talking like nothing had happened. Tunick had to call for quiet.

To be surrounded by hundreds of naked people is an awesome, overwhelming sight. So many different shapes and sizes, in varying hues, blending into a uniform mass.

Then we all started walking towards the bridge. The only people clothed were Spencer, his crew, security and the police.

When you're surrounded by total nudity in all its diversity, inhibitions gradually become less.

We dutifully fell into rank - full of the Dunkirk Spirit, we marched triumphantly from Gateshead to Newcastle across the magnificent Millennium Bridge to embark on cultural expedition that would affect each and every one of us.

Three hours later, and it was a bit sad to dress again, People dressed slowly - some holding onto their precious naked moment as long as legally possible.

It was just after 7.30 am, and Newcastle Gateshead was beginning to wake up to lazy sunny Sunday morning.

Attention Homeland security and Police Security types. Don't you realize this is a foolproof new method for avoiding suicide bombers. These people could be commuters safe and without fear on their way to work! A second benefit would also be protection against pickpockets and pursesnackers. Wouldn't it also be great for the sales of suntan-in-a-bottle and sunglasses.

categories: Miscelleous
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5:19:40 PM    

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Rove's War on Wilson and US

He rose using tactics his foes are turning against him. But never bet against Karl Rove.

Howard Fineman has always had good, but often deliberately whitewashing insight into Karl Rove. But his latest is, I think, an excellent explanation of how Rove's war on Joe Wilson came about:

Wilson had been obscured from view, peddling his story and his doubts--but not his own name--to selected reporters, officials and Hill staffers. The resulting stories had attracted the administration's attention. In May [The NYTimes' reporting dates this memo as June 10, UNLESS there is another memo!], the State Department's intelligence unit had prepared a secret memorandum about the provenance of Wilson's journey and its classified results . . . But then Wilson went public.

Soon enough, Rove had drawn a bead on Wilson . . . In the World According to Karl Rove, you take the offensive, and stay there. You create a narrative that glosses over complex, mitigating facts to divide the world into friends and enemies, light and darkness, good and bad, Bush versus Saddam.

. . . You use the jujitsu of media flow to flip the energy of your enemies against them. The Boss never discusses political mechanics in public. But in fact everything is political--and everyone is fair game.

From this morning's Press the Meat transcript:

MR. PODESTA: ...they want us to be talking about Wilson. If you listen to what Mr. Mehlman just did this morning, it's just more of the same: attack, attack, attack. That's what got him in trouble two years ago. They tried to smear Mr. Wilson. They tried to as one anonymous source, again in the White House, said, it was about revenge back in 2003. And now they're trying to change the subject, attack Democrats, attack their critics. But the facts are that Mr. Rove said he wasn't involved. Clearly, the one thing we know at the end of this week was that that was a lie. McClellan's credibility is in shreds. I think Mr. Rove's credibility is in shreds. He holds a senior-level national security position, Tim. You know, they kind of make him out to be just a political guy. He's the deputy chief of staff in charge of coordinating the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council. He doesn't belong in the White House at this point.

MR. RUSSERT: He has, as you know, a security clearance. Do you believe he has violated that?

MR. PODESTA: I think that you read the applicable paragraph, from both the Executive Order 12958 and from this and from the briefings that he got, which is that he had an affirmative obligation not to just repeat reporters what information that he learned from reporters and, by the way, today we learned from another source, probably Mr. Luskin, that he's not quite sure whether he learned it first from another source or perhaps another aide, and obviously the independent counsel, special prosecutor, is looking at other people Ari Fleisher, Stephen Hadley and others and Lewis Libby. So maybe he learned it from an aide, maybe he learned it from reporters, but wherever he learned it, he shouldn't have repeated it without affirmatively knowing that that information had been declassified, and he couldn't have possibly known that.

Wayne Madsen:
In that position, Rove is responsible for chairing meetings of the Principals and Deputies Committees, which bring together high-level representatives from various intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security agencies for regular and ad hoc briefings. Rove has access to “all source intelligence,� meaning he has a Top Secret/Special Background Investigation (SBI) clearance with access to numerous compartments and special access programs (SAPs): Special Intelligence (SI), COMINT, Byeman, ECI, Endseal, Gamma, H, Talent Keyhole (TK), Pearl, and VRK (Very Restricted Knowledge).

This means that Rove can access signals intelligence (SIGINT) information, including trancripts of domestic FBI wiretaps, human intelligence reports, reports on "black bag" and other "sneak and peek" operations, and internal CIA, NSA, DIA, FBI, and Homeland Security documents.

Oh yeah. Rove's exactly the person we want with access to all that, because we know how he always puts the interests of our country above partisan politics. NOT!

How do you say, ROVE BIN LYIN!

And let's not forget this little nugget;

On Oct. 28, Talon News, a news company tied to a group called GOP USA, posted on the Internet an interview with Wilson in which the Talon News questioner asks: An internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel details a meeting in early 2002 where your wife, a member of the agency for clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested that you could be sent to investigate the reports. Do you dispute that?

Josh Marshall:

So a few questions. Who requested that the memo be written? Who actually wrote it? Why does it contain the inaccuracies the CIA claims it does? Who were the administration officials who continued to circulate the classified document to conservative news outlets even after Plame's identity was initially revealed? And how did it get into the hands of Jeff Gannon?

Well, yes. That is a very, very good question. How did this classified memo get into the hands of a male prostitute? Jeff Gannon, after basking in the spotlight about having access to this secret memo, said later that he learned about it in the Wall Street Journal. We know Gannon testified before the grand jury; I wonder if he was truthful.

Omg this just keeps getting better. No GOP outrage that Gannon was a gay whore tied to outing a CIA agent, but godforbid he should ever try to marry another gay!

categories: Outrages
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10:35:20 PM    

Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging

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8:37:22 PM    

Swan Song For DOUG FEITH...

Do you fucking believe these people? With the US mired in the Iraqi quagmire, Feith says My work here is done. What about the war in Iraq that was a Feith-based initiative.

"Our intelligence community made, apparently, an error, as to the stockpiles" of weapons it assured President Bush existed in 2003, Feith said. Thus that part of the administration's argument for why war was necessary was overdone, he said, adding, "Anything we said at all about stockpiles was overemphasis, given that we didn't find them."

Our intelligence community made, apparently, an error. Yep, it was all the CIA's fault! Damn their lies!

This really takes some balls considering that it comes from the guy who was ultimately in charge of the Office of Special Plans, the Pentagon outfit charged with ferreting out evidence of WMD and al-Qaeda connections in Iraq that the squishy analysts at the CIA were too reality based to acknowledge. The OSP was practically created to find WMD whether it was there or not. If the CIA did screw up, Feith's shop made them look like pikers.

Yeah, here's the quote from Feith's statement that got me really howling. "Since it turned out we were caught in this lie, I wish we'd not made such a big deal of it in the first place." And as you say, not that they had much choice.

"Had Saddam Hussein not been a supporter of terrorism and a guy who developed and used WMD, I don't think that simply saying he's a tyrant and we have a chance to replace a tyrant would have motivated the war," he said.

NO SHIT, SHERLOCK.  Right, Dougie, that's the whole goddamned point, we would not have been bamboozled into this insane immoral and illegal war if you'd told the truth.

Check out this devastating quote from Krugman's latest:

"But Mr. Rove understood that the facts were irrelevant. For one thing, he knew he could count on the administration's supporters to obediently accept a changing story line. Read the before-and-after columns by pro-administration pundits about Iraq: Before the war they castigated the C.I.A. for understating the threat posed by Saddam's W.M.D.; after the war they castigated the C.I.A. for exaggerating the very same threat."

Ballsy indeed. Of course, Once Mr. Feith returns to the private sector, he'll need to update his resume. I suggest that for the years 2001-2005, he can use General Frank's endorsement. Feith is the guy that Gen. Tommy Franks memorably called "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth."

Perhaps that's the perfect combination for this administration: ballsy and stupid.

categories: Outrages
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10:20:24 AM    

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Clearing Out The Downing Street Memo/Rove/Plame Cobwebs

In his op-ed on July 6th,2003, Wilson gave a straighforward account of who he is and why he went on this fact-finding trip to Niger. He says "I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report." He does not say that Cheney had sent him personally on the mission. He reports that he found no evidence that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger.

He says that he assumes from working in the government for many years that his report had been forwarded through channels. When he heard the president use the claim about African uranium in the SOTU, he became alarmed and asked the State department about it. He concludes at this time, based upon the fact that he had personally been involved in debunking this claim, that the administration had been "fixing" intelligence as stated in the Downing Street Memo.

The administration was now for the first time explicitly and openly being accused of knowingly using false information to sell the war. And since Wilson had specifically named the Vice president as having been the one to request additional information that led to his trip, the White House was involved at a very high level.

When it came out, exposing Valerie Plame as an undercover operative, Wilson believed that it was an act of retaliation and a signal to anyone else who might be thinking of coming forward. Novak was quoted shortly after the column ran saying: "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." (He has since said that he used the term "operative" inappropriately, although he has used that word very precisely throughout his career to mean "undercover.") In the days after the column appeared there were reports that the administration was actively pushing the column, claiming that Wilson's wife was "fair game."

I have no idea if Joe Wilson's wife or the ghost of Ronald Reagan was involved in sending him on that trip and I don't care. It's irrelevant and it's always been irrelevant and they were either incredibly malevolent or incredibly negligent in settling on using her as the best way to discredit Wilson. But as I wrote earlier, I think it was a P.R. decision, and it has the mark of Rove all over it. Thuggishness is his hallmark. Any chance they have to portray a male opponent as a milksop, they do it. I think the "wife" being involved in getting her husband a job was central to their calculations.

That is what sent the administration into overdrive --- Wilson merely mentioning Cheney in the context of fixing the intelligence. Quite a panicked reaction, don't you think?

The White House response to Joe Wilson's report was that it was something cooked up in the bowels of the CIA by his (gasp) wife and it was not very compelling and nobody paid any attention to it, even there, and they never sent the information back to the White House anyway.

If it weren't for the fact that Wilson's conclusions about the uranium were right, you might even believe their tale. If it weren't for the fact that Dick Cheney was knee deep in the intelligence, even personally spending time at the CIA, leaning over the shoulders of desk officers, you might believe it. If it weren't for the fact that the aluminum tubes "evidence" was shown to be false, the drone plane "evidence" was shown to be laughable and the mobile labs "evidence" was shown to be non-existent you might even believe it. If it weren't for the fact that the meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta and the Iraqis was proven false, that we had chances to take out Zarquawi and refused and that the inspectors were at the very moment of the SOTU reporting that they were not finding any stockpiles, we might even believe it. If it weren 't for the fact that the Downing Street Memos show definitively that the US knew its intelligence was weak and decided to "fix" it we might even believe it.

If we'd found even one scintilla of evidence that Saddam had the stockpiles, the programs or the means to make weapons of mass destruction, we might even believe it.

Unfortunately for the White House, there have been so many revelations now aside from the "16 words" that they no longer can claim credibility on this issue. It is quite clear to any sentient being that they manipulated, misled and outright lied about the intelligence. Joe Wilson knew back in 2003 that something was wrong. He had been involved in one particular part of the intelligence gathering and he knew the facts were being misrepresented. He spoke out. And the white house responded by portraying him as a partisan loser whose report was so low level that nobody ever saw it. In the course of that they also exposed his wife's covert status, likely endangering national security.

If we knew then what we know now, would there be any question as to who should get the benefit of the doubt about this?

And knowing what we've always known about how the Rove operation works, is there really any question that they were smearing Wilson in the press and were thoroughly capable of outing an undercover operative in retaliation for attacking the white house? It occurs to me that all this talk about Valerie Plame these last few days --- how she wasn't "credible" as an NOC, how she was a "desk jockey," how her cover was thin etc --- I'm beginning to wonder if they weren't retaliating against her as much as him. If she was involved in the meeting in which it was decided to send Joe Wilson to Niger I wouldn't be surprised if they decided to teach her a little lesson too. It's what Tony Soprano would do.

Remember. It doesn't matter who sent Wilson on the trip. What matters is that his questions in that op-ed, the questions they didn't want anyone asking --- have been answered. As the drip, drip drip of new evidence comes to the fore, we become more sure, not less, that the administration took this country to war on false pretenses. That's what they are trying to hide.

I think it's important that everyone should re-read these two things:

Joe Wilson's op-ed of July 6, 2003

Bob Novak's column of July 13, 2003

I think you'll find it amazingly bracing to see in stark relief the two columns at the heart of this. You'll see why it's so absurd that they tried to make these questions about Joe Wilson's wife so central to the story. The story is about Dick Cheney. And they knew it.

If he hadn't defaulted to his patented South Carolina smear tactics, Karl would be in a much safer place today.


categories: Outrages
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11:39:22 PM    

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Top Ten George W. Bush Observations About Europe:

George W. Bush has is back from Yerp (don't everyone clap at once), and we honor his return from the `Wow, I Could've Had a V8' summit with a classic Letterman Top 10 from  July 25...2001:

Top Ten George W. Bush Observations About Europe:

10. Europeans speak worse English than I do

9. That Eiffel Tower would make one mother of an oil well

8. Austria looks nothing like it looked on "Survivor"

7. The time difference screws up your nap schedule

6. British beef not only tasty, it gave me a buzz I haven't felt since college

5. The Polish people tell some great "Bush is dumb" jokes

4. In France, you don't have to say, "French fries," you can just say "fries"

3. Due to the metric system, my ten-gallon hat is a whopping 37.84 liters

2. The Irish drive on the left side of the road, like I used to

1. One of these countries is where my dad urped on the king

Late Show with David Letterman

Welcome back, sir.  We understand you've got some firing to do.  Cheers and Jeers starts in There's Moreville... [Swoosh!!]  RIGHTNOW!  [Gong!!]

categories: Humor
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1:32:35 PM    

Terrorism and Bush's Endless "War on Terror"

To begin with the "War on Terror" is a ridiculous phrase. Terrorism is a tactic not an enemy.

The American Conservative has an interview with Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago who has written the book Dying to Win on suicide terrorism. The interview points out how little we know about terrorism and terrorists.

Who originated modern suicide bombing? The Islamic terrorists, right. No, that would be wrong.

This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.
This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.
So what motivates them? Fundamentalist religion. Wrong again.
The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign--over 95 percent of all the incidents--has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

I imagine we can figure out what motivates al-Qaeda.
Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us.

Since 1990, the United States has stationed tens of thousands of ground troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and that is the main mobilization appeal of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. People who make the argument that it is a good thing to have them attacking us over there are missing that suicide terrorism is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.

So do you still think the Iraq war has resulted in more security at home?
Osama bin Laden's speeches and sermons run 40 and 50 pages long. They begin by calling tremendous attention to the presence of tens of thousands of American combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula.

In 1996, he went on to say that there was a grand plan by the United States--that the Americans were going to use combat forces to conquer Iraq, break it into three pieces, give a piece of it to Israel so that Israel could enlarge its country, and then do the same thing to Saudi Arabia. As you can see, we are fulfilling his prediction, which is of tremendous help in his mobilization appeals.
There is much more and I suggest you go read the entire interview. As many of us have suspected 911 is a direct result of the first Gulf War and the Bush's invasion of Iraq has only fueled the fire.

It's not what we are the Islamic terrorists hate, it's where we are.

categories: Outrages
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12:49:16 AM    

PLAMEGATE:  White House Gets Tangled In Web of Deceit

An e-mail sent by Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper on July 11, 2003, and recently uncovered by Newsweek magazine reveals that White House deputy chief of staff and senior political adviser to the president, Karl Rove, was a disseminator of classified information. The e-mail states, "it was, KR [Karl Rove] said, wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd issues who authorized the trip.” The new revelation also contradicts Rove’s previous denial that he “had any knowledge” of who in the White House leaked the classified, covert identity of a CIA agent. It also disputes earlier assertions by the White House that Rove was not involved in the outing of the agent and forces President Bush to come to terms with his previous pledge to take this action “very seriously” and “hold someone to account.”

ROVE IS DECEIVING THE PUBLIC WITH WORD GAMES: When asked in September 2003 if he "had any knowledge" or leaked "the name of the CIA agent" to the press, Rove simply answered, "no." On July 4th, 2005, Rove appeared on CNN and slightly amended his carefully parsed talking point: "I'll repeat what I said to ABC News when this whole thing broke some number of months ago. I didn't know her name and didn't leak her name." But the question from ABC also asked whether he "had any knowledge" of the leak. Now we know exactly what Rove told at least one reporter -- Time magazine's Matt Cooper. Newsweek is reporting that an e-mail from Cooper to his editors at Time stated, "it was, KR [Karl Rove] said, wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd issues who authorized the trip." In the context of the new revelation, Rove's duplicitous strategy has revealed itself. In essence, by suggesting that he did not reveal Plame's actual "name" (but instead mentioned her to be wife of Joseph Wilson), Rove is attempting to escape accountability for a national security violation.

ROVE'S ACTIONS MAY ALREADY BE ILLEGAL: Rove clearly had knowledge about the leak and disseminated classified information to reporters. Recall that Rove told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that Plame was "fair game." NBC's Andrea Mitchell said in 2003 that she "heard in the White House that people were touting the Novak column and that that was the real story." One interpretation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act suggests that Rove's role in confirming and further disseminating the identity of the leaked agent was in itself illegal

ROVE'S REVISIONIST HISTORY CANNOT HIDE HIS TRUE INTENT: The most recent argument from Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, for Rove's behavior is that he was merely "discouraging Time from perpetuating some statements that had been made publicly and weren't true." That's a convenient explanation coming from an attorney who has already discredited himself by previously stating Rove "did nothing wrong, did not disclose Plame's identity, and did not reveal any confidential information." Luskin's newest assertions that Rove was merely trying to correct the public record are completely at odds with what an administration official quoted in the Washington Post candidly admitted in 2003. That official said the leaking "was meant purely and simply for revenge." Columnist Bob Novak, the conduit for the leak, confirmed the leaker's intent in July 2003: "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me.... They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." Rove appears to be acting in revenge against a man who was undermining Bush's case for attacking Iraq, and in doing so, acted in a manner unbecoming of an adviser to the president.

WHITE HOUSE STANDARD SHOULD MEAN TROUBLE FOR ROVE: In the 9/29/03 WH press briefing, Scott McClellan laid out the White House standard for dealing with the leak. McClellan: "If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration." In the gaggle that morning, McClellan was asked whether the leaker should be "fired" and he answered, "If a source leaked information of this nature, yes." Similarly, Ed Gillespie told Chris Matthews on 9/30/03 that if someone in the White House leaked the information, "I do not believe it would be hard for President Bush to ask that person to walk the plank." But it has been and will likely continue to be hard for President Bush to enforce some measure of accountability. The White House has stood firmly behind Rove as more and more information has come forward to suggest his growing involvement. McClellan, in the 9/29/03 briefing, said that he had "spoken with Karl" about the leak, but then added, "I didn't even need to go ask Karl, because I know the kind of person that he is, and he is someone that is committed to the highest standards of conduct." When Joe Wilson floated the idea that Rove was behind the leak, McClellan responded vigorously: "It is a ridiculous suggestion, and it is simply not true."

categories: Outrages
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12:26:53 AM    

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Of course it's genetic--what else could it be?

PZ Myers has gotten deluged again by anti-feminists because he dared inject some actual scientific understanding of genetics into the debate about whether or not men are "naturally" smarter than women. In this case, of course, it's all about men's big ol' math brains and women's superior diaper-changing brains. It's a lengthy thread, but highly funny.

I won't quote at length, though, but I do want to address this ridiculous belief that there is any socialization has anything with differences between men and women's willingness to enter fields like science or mathematics or compete at chess or any of these other things. Of course it's pure genetics--that or you don't believe in science and are a creationist or something. It's as simple as that.

That being said, I want to address this interesting T-shirt I found at a livejournal on feminism.

I have never seen this particular biological theory advanced before, so you can imagine how surprised I was to see it first on a T-shirt. But that's okay--you can get first class biological thinking on the inherent differences between men and women's intellectual capacity on the op-ed page of the NY Times, so why shouldn't a T-shirt be a way to publicize the cutting edge of biological thinking? While the correlation between being female and being stupid has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by male wannabe scientists, who are equipped with the masculine ability to theorize about female inferiority without having their thinking muddled by wishful thinking, I have never seen anyone propose that there is a genetic link between prettiness and inaptitude at math.

It is an interesting theory, of course. We all know that prettiness is strictly a result of genes and has no enviromental component, or what little it does is mere window dressing. (Sorry, ladies, but Mother Nature is no feminist.) You can tell prettiness is pure genetics because women put forth hysterical and emotional arguments about diet, exercise, hair care, shaving, make-up and clothing--if women have an emotional investment in having men believe that prettiness takes effort, then clearly that demonstrates that it's nothing but ruthless evolution that creates prettiness. And since prettiness is genetic like intelligence, it's certainly possible and downright likely there is a link between prettiness and intelligence.

And, as this T-shirt suggests, there is plenty of clothing-related evidence that there is an inverse relationship between prettiness and mathmatical aptitude. And of course, that makes perfect evolutionary sense, if you understand that prettiness would be an indicator of inability to challenge the male ego in primitive societies, and men would select mates with traits we deem pretty so as best not to feel that there's a chance they were with someone who might make more money than them one day after money was invented.

Of course, this explains the ovary-infested temper tantrum that female scientists threw when non-biologist but very much male and intellectually superior Larry Summers indicated he was willing to face the truth about female inability to do math. They weren't mad that he was speaking the truth about the average woman's lack of aptitude--they were simply angry, as women get in all their silliness, that they were being told that they were never going to be Homecoming Queen. Frankly, I think a nice pair of shoes is all it's going to take to calm them down, or perhaps a dozen roses sent to each scientist to let them know that certainly it's not them he was speaking about when he slurred women, just every woman that's not them.

categories: Mind
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12:55:36 PM    

We're Not Afraid

Show the world that we're not afraid of what happened in London, and that the world is a better place without fear.

Great collaborative photo blog with contributions from all over the world.

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration, I will face my fear; I will permit it to pass over me and through me, and when it has gone past me, I will turn to see Fears' path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain. And live my life. Not afraid. Frank Herbert's "Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear"

categories: Soul
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1:10:53 AM    

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Phelps: The London Sodomites Deserved It.

"Radical" Russ notes over at his pad that The Rotting CryptkeeperTM didn't wait for the dust to settle in London to comment.

And no, I'm not going to link to his website... just trust me that this is what is posted there in big bold letters:

Thank God for the bombing of London's subway today - July 7, 2005 - wherein dozens were killed and hundreds seriously injured. Wish it was many more.

Because, you see, God hates gay people and since the UK government won't endorse the stoning of gay people, God lets extremists kill people in the UK with bombs. If only there were no gay people, all the terrorist activity would be stopped by God.

Just in case you're a new reader or you suffer from sarcasm impairment, Fred Phelps is the former civil rights lawyer (!) who runs the Westboro Baptist Church and the website GodHatesFags, who regularly shows up to protest at gay pride events, memorials for AIDS victims, and even the funerals of US soldiers. I'd say that he gives Christianity a bad name, but that's plainly obvious. He gives humanity a bad name and is #1 on my list of Obituaries I Can't Wait To See.
I always feel compelled to point out a couple of things about Phelps, however...it doesn't let anyone else off the hook, but it does help keep things in perspective. "Westboro Baptist Church" is not just a congregation - it is a denomination...that just happens to have only one congregation in it. But they regard themselves as so theologically distinct (and superior) to other Christians that they are the ONLY ONES who will go to heaven.

Which is a pretty amazing statement when you consider that over half of Phelps' congregants are his relatives by blood or marriage. And that there are fewer than 200 members total. And that they pretty much all live in a single compound.

All of which is to say that I always wince when people point to Phelps as evidence of Christian homophobia. Westboro Baptist is a cult, represents no one but itself, and really has no other purpose or ideology but the whole "God hates fags" thing. It is a church in name only.

Lord knows there's plenty of homophobia and heterosexism in the church. But Phelps isn't a good example of it, because he's not really "in the church". He is his own church, I suppose you might say but since they're only 200 in number and mostly related, they're really a cult.

What is important is the uses to which the religion is put.   Is it there to support moral behavior, and flexible enough to feel that love is a better moral behavior than hate? Then, cult or religion, it doesn't matter. It is then a good thing.

categories: Outrages
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8:36:54 PM    

Friday, July 08, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging

categories: Humor
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12:24:19 AM    

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Super Secret Terrorist Group Takes Credit for London Blasts

It's interesting that terrorism and Iraq was originally not on the agenda at G8. Guess it is now.

I guess I'm just sort of surprised that this kind of thing doesn't happen more often. Also, it just seems sort of, well, small for al-Qaeda, especially considering London's history of being a frequent, smaller-scale terrorist target. At this point they're saying it was 4 bombs-- 3 on the Underground, 1 on a doubledecker with 160 wounded and 40 or so deaths.

Regardless, it's tragic and my heart goes out to Londoners everywhere. We're all Londoners Today!

So far the most interesting, honest thing I've heard anyone say was on NPR this morning, from a former CIA-agent who used to work on the Osama Bin Laden team. He pointed out that if it's al-Qaeda that this is mutually embarassing for both British and American intelligence operations because no one had any warning whatsoever. He said he hopes it's a significant wake-up call for America, that this summer had started shaping up like the summer of 2001-- with the news obsessed with missing girls, shark attacks, etc. He said he was worried about our complacency most of all because people aren't paying attention to how little things have really changed since the War on Terror began. He also had some heavy criticism for the way the war on terrorism has been fought thus far.

A group calling itself "The Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe" posted a claim of responsibility for Thursday's blasts in London, saying they were in retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghistan.

The group al-Qaida in Europe claimed responsibility for the last major terror attack in Europe: a string of bombs that hit commuter trains in Madrid, Spain in March 2004, killing 191 people. Two days after that attack, a video was found in a trash can outside a Madrid mosque with a statement purported to be from the group's spokesman, called by the nickname "Abu Dujan al Afghani."

In the new statement, the group said "the heroic mujahedeen carried out a blessed attack in London, and now Britain is burning with fear and terror, from north to south, east to west."

"We warned the British government and the British people repeatedly. We have carried out our promise and carried out a military attack in Britain after great efforts by the heroic mujahedeen over a long period to ensure its success."

"We continue to warn the governments of Denmark and Italy and all crusader governments that they will receive the same punishment if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan," the statement went on.

It was signed "The Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe."

categories: Outrages
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11:39:57 AM    

The Designer Was A Dipshit

The joke goes like this:

Three engineers are arguing about what background a Creator must have to have built a human body. "He must have been a mechanical engineer," said one, "because, look at the joints, the hydraulics of circulation!" A second nerd disagreed vehemently: "Nonsense! He was a chemist! Look at the subtlety of nerve transmission and of oxygenation of the blood!" The third, I think, was closer to the truth, though: "He was a civil engineer. Who else would put a sewer line through a recreational area?"

David Barash wipes the floor with "intelligent design" in the LA Times:

Current believers in creationism, masquerading in its barely disguised incarnation, "intelligent design," argue similarly, claiming that only a designer could generate such complex, perfect wonders.

But, in fact, the living world is shot through with imperfection. Unless one wants to attribute either incompetence or sheer malevolence to such a designer, this imperfection — the manifold design flaws of life — points incontrovertibly to a natural, rather than a divine, process, one in which living things were not created de novo, but evolved. Consider the human body. Ask yourself, if you were designing the optimum exit for a fetus, would you engineer a route that passes through the narrow confines of the pelvic bones? Add to this the tragic reality that childbirth is not only painful in our species but downright dangerous and sometimes lethal, owing to a baby's head being too large for the mother's birth canal.

This design flaw is all the more dramatic because anyone glancing at a skeleton can see immediately that there is plenty of room for even the most stubbornly large-brained, misoriented fetus to be easily delivered anywhere in that vast, non-bony region below the ribs. (In fact, this is precisely the route obstetricians follow when performing a caesarean section.)

Why would evolution neglect the simple, straightforward solution? Because human beings are four-legged mammals by history. Our ancestors carried their spines parallel to the ground; it was only with our evolved upright posture that the pelvic girdle had to be rotated (and thereby narrowed), making a tight fit out of what for other mammals is nearly always an easy passage.

An engineer who designed such a system from scratch would be summarily fired, but evolution didn't have the luxury of intelligent design.

Admittedly, it could be argued that the dangers and discomforts of childbirth were intelligently, albeit vengefully, planned, given Genesis' account of God's judgment upon Eve: As punishment for Eve's disobedience in Eden, "in pain you shall bring forth children." (Might this imply that if she'd only behaved, women's vaginas would have been where their bellybuttons currently reside?)

On to men. It is simply deplorable that the prostate gland is so close to the urinary system that (the common) enlargement of the former impinges awkwardly on the latter.

In addition, as human testicles descended — both in evolution and in embryology — the vas deferens (which carries sperm) became looped around the ureter (which carries urine from kidneys to bladder), resulting in an altogether illogical arrangement that would never have occurred if, like a minimally competent designer, natural selection could have anticipated the situation.

There's much more that the supposed designer botched: ill-constructed knee joints that wear out, a lower back that's prone to pain, an inverted exit of the optic nerve via the retina, resulting in a blind spot.

And what about the theological implications of all this? If God is the designer, and we are created in his image, does that mean he has back problems too?

In a letter to the editor, Ben Akerley asks (what should be) the obvious:

David P. Barash's scathing indictment of oxymoronic ID (Intelligent Design) immediately brought to mind one of the favorite stories that America's great agnostic orator, Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899) used to tell his audiences: A devout clergyman one day pointed out a crane to his young son explaining that God, in his infinite wisdom, had designed his short legs and long, slender bill to enable him to catch fish easily. Then the little boy protested quizzically, "I understand God's goodness as far as the crane is concerned, but father, don't you think the arrangement a little tough on the fish?"

Of course ID also begs the unanswerable question that if creationism explains all origins, who designed the designer?

It concerns me a great deal that the issue of "first cause" is never given a second thought. Who made me? cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question, Who made God?"

categories: Soul
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12:04:31 AM    

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bush hits police officer while on bike ride

GLENEAGLES, Scotland - President Bush collided with a local police officer and fell during a bike ride on the grounds of the Gleneagles golf resort while attending a meeting of world leaders Wednesday.

Bush suffered scrapes on his hands and arms that required bandages by the White House physician, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

The police officer was taken to a local hospital as a precaution, McClellan said. The extent of the officer's injuries was not known, but he might have an ankle injury, the spokesman said.

It was raining lightly at the time.

The officer was on a security detail. He is a member of the police department of Strathclyde, a nearby town, McClellan said.

The president was concerned about the officer's condition, and talked with him for some time after the collision, McClellan said. The president also asked White House physician Richard Tubb to monitor the officer's condition at the hospital.

The fall did not affect the president's schedule. Dressed in a tuxedo, he attended a dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth at the annual Group of Eight economic summit. He showed no signs of distress. (link)

He falls off a couch chokes bruises? and one or two other time bruises, the first thing he hits with a hammer is his finger, he falls off the Segway and once before on a bike and now; KLUTZ stirkes again.

I'm sending him ice skates for xmas - pretty white ones.

Once you learn how to fall off a bike, you never forget.

categories: Miscelleous
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9:19:17 PM    

An Honorable Man

Salt Lake Tribune

I'm appalled that anyone would dare question President Bush's statements about the imminent collapse of Social Security or our triumphant success in Iraq. Blue state crybabies don't seem to understand that Americans trust the president to do what he wants, because what he wants is the right thing. It's obvious that if you criticize Bush, you're against the truth.

All of Bush's past predictions have proved true, including his prediction about WMD in Iraq. Remember, just because you can't see them, doesn't mean they aren't there. Many Americans believe in angels, which are also invisible, except when they appear in TV shows.

Just listen to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh - they'll give you the unvarnished truth. Fox News is also an unbiased source of the truth. It even says so on their Web site, which proves that modern technology stands for what's right.

And you can be sure that when President Bush decides to invade France, or slay dragons, or woo the fair Dulcinea, whatever reasons he gives for doing so will be true, even when they change repeatedly. If something is true and honorable, then it's also right.

Honorable people only support the truth, and President Bush is an honorable man. I don't know how anything could be clearer than that.

J. Bryan Larsen

categories: Politics
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1:24:21 AM    

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

God Is Still Speaking: UCC Supports Gay Marriage

It's interesting how Jesus never uttered one peep about homosexuality, yet evangelical "Christians" have decided that an anti-gay hate campaign should be the centerpiece of their faith. Helping poor people? Fostering peace? It all been forgotten in their zeal to bash the fags.

The United Church of Christ chose Independence Day to have its general synod vote and affirm the Church's support for "equal marriage rights for couples, regardless of gender."

It's the first mainline Christian denomination to support same-sex marriage. The vote was overwhelming and likely won't lead to the schisms that have rocked the Episcopal Church worldwide for its more ginger steps.

It's just the latest vanguard movement by UCC, which was among the first churches in America to condemn slavery (in 1700) and the first to ordain a woman in 1853.

And yes, the people who oppose equal rights for gays are the same people who opposed equal rights for women and equal rights for blacks. And they will be proven just as wrong and fifty years from now their opposition will seem a dim, silly memory.

This what Lush Bimbo tells his listeners:
"The religious left in this country hates and despises the God of Christianity and Catholicism and whatever else. They despise it because they fear it and it's a threat, because that God has moral absolutes, that God has right and wrong, that God doesn't deal in nuance." (via good article in Yahoo today)

Good christians... the Jesus christians, must not allow the fundies to steal Christianity. It's been done for thousands of years to instigate wars and oppression and I am fed up with it. I'm fed up with evil right wingers proclaiming that their belief in war and imperialism is both pro-american and pro-christian. It's neither.

I am simply saluting the real Christians in the UCC for this moral values stand and I want them to be heard. Real Christians can put the fake ones back in their places better than non believers can in this political climate. Take your pick, Lush Bimbo, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Dr. Laura, all the gay bashers, they suck as human beings and they suck about their use of religion. Real Christians believe in separation of church and state and we aren't hearing from them. Real Christians don't support war mongering and war profiteering.

categories: Outrages
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9:47:21 PM    

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Freedom is Nothing But a Chance to be Better

Ron Kovic served two tours of duty during the Vietnam War. He was paralyzed from the chest down in combat in 1968 and has been in a wheelchair ever since. Along with Oliver Stone, Kovic was the co-screenwriter of the 1989 Academy Award-winning film based on his book, Born on the Fourth of July (Akashic Books). The following is the introduction to the new edition of the book.

It was exactly forty years ago this past September that I left my house in Massapequa, New York to join the United States Marine Corps and begin an extraordinary journey that was to lead me into a disastrous war which would change my life, and others of my generation, profoundly and forever. There are times in the lives of both individuals and nations when we cross certain thresholds where there is no going back, no return to the innocence we once knew; the change is utter and irreconcilable. We often sense these moments. I know I did that day.

Happy 4th of July to Ron Kovic and all the other veterans and servicemen and servicewomen today!

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. ~Erma Bombeck

categories: Miscelleous
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8:20:10 PM    


Syndicated radio newsman / reactionary pundit Paul Harvey said on his segment Thursday (heard on WGN-AM 720) that he'd been "choking on something for weeks" and decided to "get it up and get it out for what it’s worth."

Now it's our turn to choke on it.

Here's a transcript of what he said, beginning about 12 minutes into a 15-minute broadcast (Audio clip):

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill said that the American people ...he said, the American people, he said, and this is a direct quote, "We didn't come this far because we are made of sugar candy."

That was his response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. That we didn't come this far because we are made of sugar candy.

And that reminder was taken seriously. And we proceeded to develop and deliver the bomb, even though roughly 150,000 men, women and children perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With a single blow, World War II was over.

Following New York, Sept. 11, Winston Churchill was not here to remind us that we didn't come this far because we're made of sugar candy.

So, following the New York disaster, we mustered our humanity.

We gave old pals a pass, even though men and money from Saudi Arabia were largely responsible for the devastation of New York and Pennsylvania and our Pentagon.

We called Saudi Arabians our partners against terrorism and we sent men with rifles into Afghanistan and Iraq, and we kept our best weapons in our silos.

Even now we're standing there dying, daring to do nothing decisive, because we've declared ourselves to be better than our terrorist enemies -- more moral, more civilized.

Our image is at stake, we insist.

But we didn't come this far because we're made of sugar candy.

Once upon a time, we elbowed our way onto and into this continent by giving small pox infected blankets to native Americans.

Yes, that was biological warfare!

And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on to grab this land from whomever. And we grew prosperous.

And, yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves.

And so it goes with most nation states, which, feeling guilty about their savage pasts, eventually civilize themselves out of business and wind up invaded, and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry and up and coming who are not made of sugar candy.

Harvey's evident approval of slavery, genocide and nuclear and biological warfare would seem to put him at odds with Disney's family-friendly image. The media conglomerate syndicates Harvey to more than 1,000 radio stations, where he reaches an estimated 18 million listeners. Disney recently signed a 10-year, $100 million contract with the 86-year-old Harvey.

In 2004, Disney forbid its Miramax subsidiary to distribute Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11, even though Miramax was the principal investor in the film. A Disney executive told the New York Times (5/5/04) that it was declining to distribute the film because, in the paper's words, "Disney caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore's film...could alienate many."

One wonders whether Disney executives are worried about alienating families who oppose slavery, nuclear war and Native American genocide.

Ask Disney why it finds Paul Harvey's nostalgia for slavery and genocide and his calls for nuclear war acceptable, but deemed Michael Moore's film unacceptable.

categories: Outrages
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2:06:38 PM    

Friday, July 01, 2005

Lawrence O'Donnell Just Said Something Big

Seemed like he was more than guessing. He also said Novak has surely testified who it was, and Fitzy's going after Cooper and Miller to corroborate it.

Tivo transcript

Below is the text of Lawrence O'Donell's revelatory statement on McLaughlin Group today. He began talking about Time having to pay for holding the documents/emails, and not serving its shareholders by defying a (Supreme) court order. He ended with this: "What we're going to go to now in the next stage, when Matt Cooper's emails-within Time Magazine, uh, are handed over to the grand jury is the ultimate revelation, probably within the week of who his source is.

And I know I'm going to get pulled into the grand jury for saying this but the source of-for Matt Cooper was Karl Rove, and that will be revealed in this document dump that Time Magazine's going to do with the grand jury."

After O'Donnell said that about Rove, then McLaughlin and I think also Buchanan (sp?) and Blankley ALL talked about Rove's connection to this case for several minutes. They all seemed completely accepting that Rove is the WH source, and their take on it is that there is perjury as the jackpot.

And O'Donnell was STELLAR!!

And the delicious dessert to end this gourmet-fest
...would be that the originator of the leak, the one who told Rove in the first place... was John Bolton... and he got the info from looking at those cables they won't release to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

UPDATE:  Digby has this  interesting theory from super-smart commenter Sara

Has anyone here carefully read Joe Wilson's Book?

He provides plenty of carefully crafted information -- for example see p. 443-445.

Wilson indicates that the work up on him beginning March, 2003, turned up the information on Valerie -- which was then shared with Karl Rove who then circulated it through Administration and neo-Conservative circles. He cites conservative journalists who claimed to have had the information before the Novak column.

So the question is -- in the work-up process beginning about March 2003, who had the information re: Plame?

I think it was John Bolton. At the time he was State Department Deputy Secretary with the portfolio in WMD and Nuclear Proliferation. Assuming that Valerie Plame's identity was that of a NOC (No Official Cover) the information about her would have been highly classified, compartmentalized, and only those with a need to know would know. Bolton's Job probably gave him that status. However to receive it he would have to sign off on the classification -- that is he would have to agree to retain the security the CIA had established.

At the time, Bolton had two assistants who also worked in the White House in Cheney's office, David Wurmser and John Hannah. Their names have been around as the potential leakers -- Hannah if you remember is the guy who kept putting the Yellow Cake back in Bush's speeches even though Tenet had demanded it be removed.

So -- I think we have a game of catch going on here -- or maybe some version of baseball, and the scoring is Bolton to Wurmser and Hannah, to Cheney (and/or Libby) to Rove.

I suspect getting Rove on Perjury is more or less step one in walking back the path of the ball.

By the way, reading about some of the prosecutions of al-Qaeda, I just read the cross examination Fitzgerald did on witnesses in the E. African Bombing prosecution in Southern District of NY. Smart Court Room Lawyer in my mind.

categories: Outrages
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10:49:05 PM    

War of Words

GO, BROOKE SHIELDS! In the New York Times, no less.


Published: July 1, 2005


I WAS hoping it wouldn't come to this, but after Tom Cruise's interview with Matt Lauer on the NBC show "Today" last week, I feel compelled to speak not just for myself but also for the hundreds of thousands of women who have suffered from postpartum depression. While Mr. Cruise says that Mr. Lauer and I do not "understand the history of psychiatry," I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Mr. Cruise has never suffered from postpartum depression.

rest of editorial here.

Tom Cruise should step away from the crack pipe he's been doggin'.

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10:42:51 AM    

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