Saturday, May 29, 2004

Republican shamelessness, part (?? I've lost count) --
I'm smacking this up a day later than I intended, so you've undoubtedly seen the stink somewhere (e.g., Altercation, Eschaton, Political Animal, and the Progress Report). Demonstrating just how willing the press is to regurgitate administration talking points, CNN reporter Kelli Arena tells us that Al Qaeda wants John Kerry to be elected because they'll have a better chance of winning Iraq. How long will the press get away with this crap? The Eschaton link above has the email address for registering your disgust...

Meanwhile, was the latest warning really necessary, or was Ashcroft just starting to miss being in the spotlight? You know how he likes his face time.

Sad but true? --
George Monbiot has some bitter reflections on the western brand of "democracy." These two paragraphs are not sequential in the essay; I've snipped them out for the points they make...
The real reason why Kerry won't discuss the issues Kettle lists or, for that matter, any issues at all, is that the powers behind the powers in the US forbid both meaningful discussion of policy in public places and meaningful dissent in private places. This, of course, is why Kerry is the Democratic nominee, rather than someone who represents that portion of the electorate which isn't married to heiresses and didn't learn its politics at Yale's Skull and Bones club. He could have offered the citizens of America free healthcare, but only if he was prepared to lose the support of the medical companies which will help to fund his re-election. He could have voted against the decision to attack Iraq, but only if he had been prepared for Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and every other major media outlet to ensure that he never again dared to show his face in public. John Kerry is the product of a system which has reduced democracy to a spectator sport. Democracy is the means by which the elite resolves its trifling differences while the rest of us look on...
From time to time a genuinely popular government, like Nelson Mandela's ANC or Lula's Partido dos Trabalhadores, will win the popular vote and stay in office. But it will retain power on one condition: that it compromises with capital (Mandela's failure to pursue a coercive land reform programme, Lula's capitulation to the IMF) until it differs from a government of the propertied class only by being a passive rather than an active partner in exploitation. Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall (and for quite a while before that), the triumphalists of the West have insisted that democracy is impossible without capitalism. It should surely be pretty obvious by now that democracy is impossible in the presence of capitalism or, for that matter, any system which permits the concentration of wealth.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Catholic leaders overplaying their hand? --
Amy Sullivan wonders if Catholic voters are going to tolerate the intimidation:
This conflict is about the fact that the church has not been successful at convincing lay Catholics to abide by its teaching regarding reproductive control. Catholic leaders can't go into the voting booth with individual Catholics to see if they support pro-choice politicians or policies, but they can target visible Catholics and hold them out as examples. That is upsetting enough to many Catholics, but when the leaders then tell them who they can and cannot vote for, the dams burst loose.
Dan Carpenter wryly comments upon the selective enforcement of Catholic church doctrine (thanks for the link, A.):
How is a poor bishop or even pope to keep up with all the insidious ways in which public servants can fail their religious masters? The most gallant try made so far is that of the Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colo., who has informed his flock they may not take communion if they vote for politicians who support abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia or gay marriage. But even Bishop Sheridan left out the death penalty and the bombing, saying they weren't as big a deal as, like, women holding hands.
And Anna Quindlen discusses some of the obvious hypocrisies in the policy, and the "curious" timing of the sanctions:
What of the pro-life policies of a living wage or decent housing? The church is opposed to the death penalty, yet no bishop has yet suggested he will deny the sacrament to those who support capital punishment. And sanctions for Democratic candidates have far outnumbered those for Republicans, even Republicans who favor legal abortion. The timing of all this is curious as well. It coincides with that new Catholic holy day, the feast of the first Tuesday in November, known to secularists as Election Day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The worst of Times --
The New York Times admits that it was a little lazy in some of its Iraq reporting:
...we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.
Interestingly, they avoid specifically naming Judith Miller, who, as Slate noted, "deserves special scrutiny because so many of her sensational stories never panned out." Granted, the Times also provided this sample of the suspect stories and their problems, so you can simply survey the authors' names and draw your own conclusions. But why tippy-toe? Why not fire her? I'm sure Rupert Murdoch can put her to work.

While we're on the subject of the Times, this weasly gloss job on the Florida 2000 debacle rankled me greatly when it ran Monday, but I didn't get back to it to provide a link and a rant. (Body and Soul expounds on it, though -- and in greater detail than I would have.) Times writer Abby Goodnough informs us that "...intentional disenfranchisement was never proved, and blatant voter intimidation now seems to have been far more limited than first reported," and that "(Repubicans say) rumors of black voter intimidation in 2000 remain grossly exaggerated: a Florida Highway Patrol investigation of an unauthorized police checkpoint near a precinct in a black neighborhood outside Tallahassee, for example, found no evidence that it delayed or prevented blacks from voting." Isn't that a relief? 'Cuz, it sure seemed like intentional disenfranchisement and blatant voter intimidation. But the most amazing reconstruction was this one: 2000, the counties mistakenly purged an unknown number of legitimate voters from the rolls because of faulty data.
"Mistakenly purged." Who is this woman?! If you don't remember how they were "mistakenly purged," see this old Greg Palast article, or the first couple chapters of his book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, or just watch this little presentation which I've pointed to in the past...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

5 pages of nothing new --
I know I'm not the only one who heard nothing new in the president's "major speech" last night. But this piece by William Saletan sums up my thoughts better than I can... I guess, technically, the part about razing Abu Ghraib was new, but it's also symbolic of the Bush administration response to anything reflecting badly on the administration: Bulldoze it! (The speechwriters were working overtime to make Bush look "in command," though: "I have instructed...," "at my direction...," "I will send...," "I've asked...," "I've directed..." Unfortunately, those assertions weren't followed by any new initiatives or plans.) Meanwhile, just as so many warned at the outset of the invasion of Iraq, US actions there continue to inspire new legions of terrorists from all over the region. And is the UK trying to distance itself just a bit from US policies in Iraq?

Losing control of the media, too? --
You know they just hate it when they can't keep everyone on message.

Tax exemption for Texas Unitarians --
Deciding, apparently, that Unitarianism is a religion, afterall, Comptroller Strayhorn reversed her decision on their tax-exempt status.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Well, I thought I'd give Blogger's new photo feature a test drive and display this photo of a mystery cactus blossom from the backyard. The cactus is an orphan from a friend's mother's garden. (The blossom comes from the long, flat green "tongues," not from the stubby succulent underneath.) It beats discussing Bush's comments, which I could not watch (as usual) and will have to read instead... Posted by Hello
Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain...
Kevin Drum's links and comments yesterday, and Elisabeth Bumiller today point to the same basic conclusion: This president has to be the most tightly scripted, tightly protected, tightly controlled figurehead of any president we've seen outside the movies. At least Americans are increasingly waking up...

Fight global AIDS, fight extreme poverty...
Go sign this petition. You KNOW this administration needs help locating the moral highground.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

It's abuse, not torture --
Truthout links to this Newsday op-ed about the US media's reluctance to use the word "torture" to describe what has been happening at Abu Ghraib. I heard on the news last night that the administration plans to release photos and interviews with Iraqis who were tortured by Saddam Hussein, apparently so that we can see how abuses by US prison guards are really much nicer by comparison. Isn't that pathetic?

And how would you like your crow done? --
Eric Alterman doesn't have much patience for the reassessments coming from the so-called Neocons and hawky journalists who are beginning to realize that Bush could lose his war on Iraq:
...Excuse me, but just what was so hard to understand about this bunch? We knew they were dishonest. We knew they were fanatical. We knew they were purposely ignorant and bragged about not reading newspapers. We knew they were vindictive. We knew they were lawless. We knew they were obsessively secretive. We knew they had no time or patience for those who raised difficult questions. We knew they were driven by fantasies of religious warfare, personal vengeance and ideological triumph. We knew they had no respect for civil liberties. And we knew they took no responsibility for the consequences of their incompetence. Just what is surprising about the manner in which they've conducted the war?

There's a reason we call ourselves progressive Christians --
Roberta Ahmanson, board member of the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD):
The Christian community isn't just who is alive... Christians believe that we are in communion with the living and the dead. We pray each week for the living and the dead, and most of the previous generations are in disagreement with a lot of this stuff... If you take the weight of Christianity for 2,000 years, all that weight is on the orthodox side.
Oh, so many ways to go with this... A friend who pointed me to this Times article profiling the IRD wondered if they would use the same weighting system to reverse all of our 20th century achievements in civil rights, health care, chid care, etc. But of course! They are conservatives, afterall. Another friend wrote, "I guess they forgot about what Jesus was doing in his ministry, which at least to some of us, seemed to be entirely not about the orthodoxy of his time." Well, the IRD is an organization whose raison d'etre is to divide Protestant denominations into bitterly warring conservative and liberal camps (on a spectrum of biblical orthodoxy), with the goal of getting the liberals to leave (according to the president of the organization). Writers Goodstein and Kirkpatrick declare that the IRD is "now playing a pivotal role in the biggest battle over the future of American Protestantism since churches split over slavery at the time of the Civil War." Well, that says a lot right there, but today, instead of slavery "...the flashpoint is homosexuality, but there is another common denominator as well. In each case, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a small organization based in Washington, has helped incubate traditionalist insurrections against the liberal politics of the denomination's leaders." In other words, if your church insists on ordaining women, or on using the NRSV, or on treating gay and lesbian individuals like human beings, withhold your money! Starve the beast! The piece is worth reading, if only to learn more about the interdenominational efforts and tactics this group of unhappy people will use to press their religious and political agenda.

Take that! --
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 takes the top prize at Cannes!!!

Keep on them --
Nationwide momentum is building to protect electronic votes from power outtages, software glitches, and database tampering...

Thursday, May 20, 2004

"Let my people go!" --
Yes, Ahmad Chalabi actually said that. The big story is, of course, the US raid on Chalabi's home -- evidence, on the heels of the recent announcement that he is no longer being payed for faulty intelligence, that his relations with the White House have finally gone sour. But Atrios linked to this alternative hypothesis, suggesting that the raid is a bit of a ruse to make Chalabi look less like a US installation:
The still-neocon-dominated Pentagon—which this week stopped funding Chalabi’s INC —is playing its last card, hoping that it can boost Chalabi’s sagging fortunes by pretending to sever ties with him. That, the neocons hope, will allow Chalabi to strengthen his ties to Sistani, the king-making mullah who, they hope, holds Iraq’s fate in his wrinkled hands.
But Joshua Marshall thinks that might be giving planners more credit than they deserve:
I don't doubt that some of Chalabi's Washington supporters have encouraged him to take a more oppositional stand toward the occupation authorities to bolster his own popularity. But there are many US government players in Iraq right now. And many of them really are hostile to Chalabi.

Something quite that orchestrated would, I suspect, be far too difficult to pull-off. And are we dealing here with smooth operators? Answers itself, doesn't it?

One other point: You only have to look next door to see what happens to American puppets after they have their fallings-out with the Americans. Clue: They don't get embraced by the other side. In fact, that guy from nextdoor was lucky to get out of the country in one piece.

Another theory -- or at least a portion of one -- is contained in an article appearing this morning in Salon by Andrew Cockburn. The article points to US government suspicions that Chalabi may be plotting against the soon to be announced caretaker government, chosen by American officials and UN representative Lakhdar Brahimi.
And Newsweek says the raid stems from an ongoing investigation into corruption in Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. We sure can pick 'em!

Could he be a little more insulting? --
Bush says Iraqis are ready to "take the training wheels off" and assume governance of their occupied country. (Rep. Pryce helpfully expands on the analogy, in case it was too abstract for us: "The Iraqi people have been in training, and now it's time for them to take the bike and go forward.") As Josh Marshall observed:
That's a bit of a condescending thing to say about a country which encompasses what is generally considered to be the cradle of civilization. But the thought that an extra set of training wheels may now be available prompts the question of whether the Iraqis might be willing to hand their pair off to the White House.
Well, someone had to say it --
Congresswoman Pelosi:
I believe that the president's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers.
Now, three guesses as to what Tom Delay said! Right, you probably won't need all three:
She apparently is so caught up in partisan hatred for President Bush that her words are putting American lives at risk.
Here's your chance to protect Ohio's election results! --
Go here. Sign petitions, send money, help, help, help.
This is your government on drugs --
I get the Progress Report each day from the Center for American Progress. Today's links to this Common Cause report on the Medicare sham. Some of the lowlights:
REPORT ALLEGES CONSERVATIVE HOUSE LEADERS BRIBED MEMBERS FOR VOTES: ...conservative leaders in the House held the vote on the Medicare bill open for 3 hours in the middle of the night while they pressured Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) and others to switch their votes. Normally, votes in the House are open for 15 minutes. In a 11/23/03 column on his website Rep. Smith wrote, "members and groups made extensive financial campaign supports and endorsements for my son Brad who is running for my seat. They also made threats of working against Brad if I voted no."

CONSERVATIVE HOUSE LEADERS CENSORED C-SPAN: The House leadership controls the C-SPAN cameras in the chamber. Normally, during a vote, the camera constantly pans side to side monitoring floor activity. But during the three hours the conservative leadership was harassing members to switch their votes, the camera was locked on the Democratic side of the chamber. As a result "there is no visual record of who was talking to whom that night while votes were sought by the leadership."

ADMINISTRATION THREATENED GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES TO HIDE TRUE COST: Chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster "was threatened with dismissal if he released his official estimate of the cost of the prescription drug bill," which was $156 billion higher than the administration promised. The White House was well aware of the higher estimate because Foster gave the estimates to them in June 2003.

EMPLOYEE WHO ISSUED GAG ORDER CASHES IN: In December 2003, just after the president signed the Medicare bill, chief Medicare administrator Tom Scully joined a law firm that represents drug manufacturers and other major players in the health care industry who benefited from the law. The Bush administration granted Scully an ethics waiver "so that he could negotiate with potential employers while he helped write the Medicare law."
(An ethics waiver. That's a good one!)

And don't forget the fake news segments touting the bill, which the GAO has declared illegal.

Just another day in the Bush Administration. Honor and Integrity-R-Us!

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

How scary is this? --
Remember last month, when Bush made a "historic policy shift" that endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's plan for withdrawing from Gaza, annexing West Bank Jewish settlements, and prohibiting Palestinian refugees from returning to Israel? More than a few comments I read at that time suggested that Bush was more aggressively courting the Jewish vote. But Rick Perlstein shows us what might really have inspired the seachange.
It was an e-mail we weren't meant to see. Not for our eyes were the notes that showed White House staffers taking two-hour meetings with Christian fundamentalists, where they passed off bogus social science on gay marriage as if it were holy writ and issued fiery warnings that "the Presidents [sic] Administration and current Government is engaged in cultural, economical, and social struggle on every level"—this to a group whose representative in Israel believed herself to have been attacked by witchcraft unleashed by proximity to a volume of Harry Potter. Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios.

But now we know.

"Everything that you're discussing is information you're not supposed to have," barked Pentecostal minister Robert G. Upton when asked about the off-the-record briefing his delegation received on March 25. Details of that meeting appear in a confidential memo signed by Upton and obtained by the Voice.

The e-mailed meeting summary reveals NSC Near East and North African Affairs director Elliott Abrams sitting down with the Apostolic Congress and massaging their theological concerns. Claiming to be "the Christian Voice in the Nation's Capital," the members vociferously oppose the idea of a Palestinian state. They fear an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza might enable just that, and they object on the grounds that all of Old Testament Israel belongs to the Jews. Until Israel is intact and David's temple rebuilt, they believe, Christ won't come back to earth.

Abrams attempted to assuage their concerns by stating that "the Gaza Strip had no significant Biblical influence such as Joseph's tomb or Rachel's tomb and therefore is a piece of land that can be sacrificed for the cause of peace."

Three weeks after the confab, President George W. Bush reversed long-standing U.S. policy, endorsing Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank in exchange for Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
The whole feature is alternately amusing and frightening. (Thanks for the heads-up, J.) My question to the president's apocalyptic Christian advisors: do you really think God needs our help with this?
Noooo --
The General Accounting Office says Bush's fake Medicare news videos constitute "covert propaganda" and made illegal use of taxpayer funds. Isn't that shocking? (Look for more budget cuts for the GAO next year, in the nightmarish event Mr. Honor-and-Integrity is re-elected.)
"Where is the line that separates church and state?" --
It was only a matter of time before church officials expanded their obsessive attacks on presumed Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry (a pro-choice Democratic candidate; they are strangely silent about pro-choice Republican politicians) to try to influence the votes of citizens at large. Colorado Bishop Michael Sheridan has warned citizens that they can be denied communion if they vote for politicians who defy church teachings. I've left this very distressing item on my notepad for several days while I tried to figure out how to address it. Nevermind. Patricia O'Connell does a pretty good job of briefly spelling out the obvious conflicts and asks:
What are Catholics -- and all Americans -- to make of this increasing clerical activism in trying to shape their political decisions? The bad news is it shows that the Church -- for centuries no stranger to abuse of power, muddled priorities, and interfering where it shouldn't -- seems to be at it again. The good news: Perhaps now the media will stop personalizing the matter vis-a-vis a Presidential candidate and be forced to frame the issue in its proper context: Where is the line that separates church and state?
Where, indeed --
Meanwhile, a Texas comptroller has revoked the tax exempt status of a local Unitarian congregation because the group "does not have one system of belief" and if they extend exemption to them, "any wannabe cult who dresses up and parades down Sixth Street on Halloween will be applying for an exemption..." (Here's a little history of court decisions on tax exempt status.)
Ridding the world of Evil Doers and nearby civilians --
This is just nauseating. And so is this.

Death by taxes --
Here is an introduction to (or update on, if you already knew about it) The Religious Freedom Tax Fund Bill.
Draftees have been given alternatives to serve their country non-militarily. Tax law, however, continues to draft the tax dollars of conscientious objectors who see no moral difference between killing and paying for someone else to kill... In a country founded on ideals of freedom of religion and belief, shouldn't conscientious objectors to military taxation be given a way to pay their taxes without paying for war?
Go here for even more info, and to support the effort!

Gore nailed it on the head --
Al Gore, quoted in this outtake from the new David Brock book, The Republican Noise Machine:
Something will start at the Republican National Committee, inside the building, and it will explode the next day on the right-wing talk-show network and on Fox News and in the newspapers that play this game, the Washington Times and the others. And then they’ll create a little echo chamber, and pretty soon they all start baiting the mainstream media for allegedly ignoring the story they’ve pushed into the zeitgeist. And then pretty soon the mainstream media goes out and disingenuously takes a so-called objective sampling, and lo and behold, these RNC talking points are woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist...
I guess the quote originally came from an interview Gore gave the New York Observer (see this review of Eric Alterman's terrific What Liberal Media? for some context). If I read it before, I'd forgotten it; but he certainly captured what we're seeing and reading in the "news" media today!

Brilliant campaign strategy --
Take credit for all the things Congress managed to accomplish despite your vigorous opposition and obstruction! That's got Rove and Racinot all over it!

Kubi --
...didn't make it. Here is the story.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Bush: The Anti-Buddha? --
The writer of this thoughtful Alternet feature likens Bush to the anti-Buddha (first ticking off a nauseating list of this administration's "achievements") and reflects on a Buddhist dilemma:
How does a student of the Dharma deal with the rising temptation to wish ill will on the perpetrators of such shocking and detestable undertakings? To the specter of four more years of Bush, what is an appropriate Buddhist response?

Do you suppose he'll just donate that faulty intelligence, now? --
Chalabi's group claims he's off the dole as of June. No more monthly $300,000 payments. But I'm curious - why won't the Pentagon confirm it?

"Significant Adverse Effects" --
Newsweek finds that people who worked or lived near Ground Zero are even sicker. Remember how the White House hurried everyone back to business and school, assuring all that the air was safe to breathe? Daily Kos helpfully reminds us of that highly edited report here.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Daily Kos links to this terrific photo from the Boston Globe and notes that six hours into legalized gay marriages in Massachusetts, his heterosexual union seemed to be holding up: "maybe, just maybe, my family will survive this gay onslaught." See this thoughtful post from Kevin Drum, too.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Do they also get the Lincoln Bedroom? --
--Or are Bush's high donors satisfied with merely writing their own industry regulations? Because that makes for a pretty good Return On Investment. This trio of Washington Post stories (here, here and here) shows how Bush raises his money, and what the big donors get for their generosity. (This is strangely reminiscent of critical reporting. So don't get used to it.)

What a difference a year makes --
"When we weren't staging the news, we were covering it up." Frank Rich compares the media treatment of Private Jessica and Private Lynndie.

More numbing news from Seymour Hersh --
Seymour Hersh has yet another bombshell on the prisoner abuse scandal on the New Yorker site, but I can't get the link tonight. I'll try to link to it Monday.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

International Election Monitors for Florida?! --
Oh, this makes me very happy. A few weeks back, I mused about the possibility of inviting international election monitors to the US for the November 2004 elections. Well, Pax Christi has done it! -- for Florida, anyway. I would've missed this item, but Renee at the Religious Left linked to this follow-up story about Jeb Bush's protest of the plan, and so I looked for the original announcement. I think it's just grand! I even bought the t-shirt. By the way, if you want an entertaining 2.5 minute refresher on why Florida needs this help, watch this (you might want to watch it on mute; the music is a bit much).

Friday, May 14, 2004

The new CNN poll --
A new CNN poll has Kerry over Bush 51% to 46%, and 49% to 44% with Narcissis [6%] in the matchup. But --
Kerry and Bush are essentially tied over who would handle Iraq better -- 46 percent to 43 percent.
Bush appears to have an advantage over Kerry on the war on terrorism with 49 percent saying he would do a better job, compared to 42 percent for Kerry.
Help me understand this. The war on Iraq IS Bush's "War on Terror!" It's the whole enchilada! The efforts of the skeleton crew left in Afghanistan were compromised from the moment Bush asked for a war plan for Iraq and permitted the illegal redirection of funds approved by Congress for Afghanistan. The Department-of-Homeland-Security-That-Bush-First-Opposed-And-Then-Took-Credit-For has been severely underfunded since its inception. Yes, the "War on Terror" gave the Justice Department the authority to track our library book choices and banking transactions, but the really big money is going to Iraq. If he's screwing up in Iraq, how can people still trust him to wage the "War on Terror?"
We knew this would happen --
"Already the political tug-of-war over Berg's life and his death has begun."

Mideast opinion --
This is an interesting compilation of mideast press commentary on the murder of Nick Berg. Most, in addition to condemning the savagery, recognize that it was terribly damaging in the so-called court of world opinion.

Maureen Dowd sharpens up a bit --
She has been writing some pretty lazy commentary for awhile (for example, see here), but Thursday's is good, and I like the way she ends it:
The hawks, who promised us garlands in Iraq, should have recalled the words of the historian Daniel Boorstin, who warned that planning for the future without a sense of history is like planting cut flowers.

Things we'd rather not know about ourselves --
The awful thing is, I can kind of understand...

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Friedman converts
Thomas Friedman has been so hawky that I simply stopped reading him, but Kevin Drum linked to him today, so I read the whole column. I beg to differ with Friedman's characterization of Bush as having "strong moral vision" (there's a big difference between having strong moral vision and merely using the code words), but I'm impressed at Friedman's reassessment.

Glad tidings from Ohio
Some very good news from a new Ohio poll, posted on Daily Kos.

Autumn-Spring romance...
J-1 gets a girl, well, a female giant octopus...

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

More on the Biblical World Order...
Wow. Remember that Monbiot piece on the "Left Behind"ists, and the Kevin Phillips chapter upon which I commented awhile back? Have a look at David Batstone's new column in Sojomail. Here's a chilling outtake:
It was jarring to realize that many American Christians reject the notion of a separation of church and state as a "humanistic secular plot" to obstruct God's proper ordering of U.S. society. They want to see the establishment of a theocracy that puts into place many of the Mosaic laws as established in the Old Testament. At the moment, they are mobilizing a strong cadre of religious leaders and members of the U.S. Congress to rewrite the legal system.
Can Dems remember how to speak Religion?
Amy Sullivan has a terrific article in Blueprint. Here's a taste:
So for the past few decades, conservatives have redefined what it means to be religious, what the right values are, and what morality means. And Democrats have let them. This is, we have learned, a critical error. Staying silent has not meant that religion stays off the agenda. It has meant that conservatives have the opportunity to determine how it will become part of the agenda. That, in turn, has meant arguments over displaying the Ten Commandments, keeping the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and allowing school prayer, instead of debates over how to care for the poor, protect God's creation, or other more substantive issues...

When it comes to religion, Republicans have a media strategy, outreach, and code words. But what they don't have is political substance that reflects their religious commitment. And that's where Democrats have an opportunity. The Democratic platform -- issues Democrats already care about -- reflects the values of many religious moderates and progressives; yet many of them have been voting with Republicans simply because they feel more welcome in that party. The dirty little Republican secret is that they rely on religious rhetoric and strategy because they have to. If they don't, Americans might notice that they're not walking the walk when it comes to policy. They're not caring for the sick, the poor, the widowed, the orphaned. They're not acting as stewards of God's green earth. They are suffering the little children, but not in the way that Jesus meant.
A convenient case in point (and here).

Bush doesn't even GO to church...
...but the press is obsessed with whether Kerry deserves to commune?

No holding back in "Le Figaro":
"By daring to address such a mediocre response to the members of Congress, the Defense Secretary revealed to the world the face of the team managing Washington, the face of stupidity."

Torture coverage proves liberal media bias!
Well, in a way, it took the Right Wing Media an unusually long time to amp this up...

Remembering those lost...
Another opportunity to reflect on American lives lost in Iraq...

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Is the Honorable Senator Imhofe truly this mentally ill, or is he deliberately appealing to a particularly scary contingent of voters?
For those of you who have received this blog address (from me or from someone I gave it to) and asked "what's a blog?" - there's this story from the CS Monitor, and this one from the Boston Globe. Also on the Monitor site is this piece on "e-serenity," which I am probably not helping you to achieve...
Finally, some good news.
Let the windfalls begin...

"...companies that won approval from Thompson's department to be the first Medicare drug discount card providers spent at least $35 million lobbying in 2003, and their executives and lobbyists donated or raised hundreds of thousands of dollars more for Bush's re-election effort, an Associated Press review found."

Do you suppose they're being exempted from the abuse?

70-90% of the Iraqi prisoners detained by "coalition" forces were "arrested by mistake," according to the Red Cross (ICRC). But something else is bugging me about this statement: "The Swiss-based ICRC, which made 29 visits to coalition-run prisons and camps between late March and November last year, said it repeatedly presented its reports of mistreatment to prison commanders, U.S. military officials in Iraq and members of the Bush administration in Washington." Why didn't the ICRC give up and "go public" with these reports to the international media, since the administration was clearly ignoring or suppressing the evidence?

Talk about "nuance" --

Last week they claimed to be blindsided by the reports of prisoner abuse. But look at the president's words yesterday: "In January, shortly after reports of abuse became known to our military, an investigation was launched. Today, several formal investigations led by senior military officials are under way." Yessir, they were right on top of it!

Peregrines Gas and Electric --

We need a story like this. A pair of peregrine falcons are nesting on the PG&E building in downtown SF! Palemale WHO?

Monday, May 10, 2004

A good friend and mentor, a retired anthropologist who lived with and studied a nomadic tribe in Pakistan, has begun his own blog, MetaThink. He plans to use it to discuss events in the Middle East with the cultural and historical perspective that seems to have been largely absent from the planning and conduct of the war in Iraq. I'm not sure how often he will update it, but it will be worth checking in on from time to time. I'll be keeping an eye on it. And telling you about it gives me a reason to point you to two somewhat recent NY Times editorials I keep meaning to mention. They're now in the pricey archives section of the Times, but the History News Network picked them up. Niall Ferguson compares the current US effort in Iraq to the "compromised colonisation" of Iraq by Britain in 1920. Sandra Mackey discusses the Pentagon's failure to understand the role of tribal structure in Falluja. (It's a great web site, actually. Check it out.)
An important item here warning about the redirection of humanitarian aid to support the war on terror.

"You're doing a superb job. You're a strong secretary of defense and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude." -- Bush on Rumsfeld. "Secrecy and wishful thinking, the Pentagon official said, are defining characteristics of Rumsfeld's Pentagon...'They always want to delay the release of bad news - in the hope that something good will break'." -- Seymour Hersh on Rumsfeld (et al), in his continuing report for New Yorker.

Oh, here's a little item about the aforementioned Blogger facelift.
A new look (already)! I was getting irritated by those jellybean colors I picked when I launched this blog. Lo and behold, Blogger offered new templates when it revamped the site this weekend. Now just please bear with me a day or so, while I figure out how to put my links and commenter and site counter back onto the page!

Sunday, May 09, 2004

I'm trying to give myself a day off of looking at the news. Instead, in honor of Mother's Day and in view of ongoing world events, here's something timeless. Julia Ward Howe, lyricist of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," wrote this Mothers Day Proclamation in response to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War:

Original Mothers Day Proclamation
Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Arise then, women of this day!

Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:

'We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agenices.

'Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage, for caresses and applause.

'Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience.

'We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

'From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own, and it says "Disarm! Disarm!"

'The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.

'Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.'

As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote and alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, the Senate's second-leading recipient of campaign contributions from oil and gas industries, has made it his raison d'etre to suppress, misuse, and ignore scientific evidence of global warming. Here's an entertaining two-fer: Read this profile of his feverish efforts, and then read this story about the melting of Glacier National Park.
Excerpts from the Red Cross report on US-controlled detention centers in Iraq...

And "the worst is yet to come," according to Rumsfeld today. "There are lot more pictures and many investigations underway... If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse. I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe. Be on notice... It's not a pretty picture."
I couldn't post anything during the day yesterday, due to connection problems. By last night, when I could post, I couldn't bear to look at the news yet again. So I watched the "Friends" finale. For those of you keeping score, I thought it was pretty lame. I should have stayed with the public television program on tropical storms.

So now we know the abuses were likely not the isolated practices of six prison guards, that there were multiple reports to the Pentagon, including repeated warnings from the Red Cross, before the first set of pictures were finally broadcast, that the targets of abuse are not always enemy combatants, and that at least two prisoners were killed by their American captors. But Rush Limbaugh says the soldiers were just blowing "some steam off" (makes you wonder how Rush blows off steam when he's out of vicodin, doesn't it? Except that you don't want that "visual"), and a guest on Hannity and Colmes compared the US treatment of Iraqi prisoners to "frat hazing." Any guesses as to how these idiot commentators will respond if captive American forces are similarly treated by Iraqis? Any concerns about what the Iraqis will tell us to do with our Geneva Conventions?

Predictably, White House apologist Tom DeLay lobbed treason charges at anyone expressing outrage or criticism: "They want to win the White House more than they want to win the war, and our enemies know it." And the press seems singularly focused on getting the President or Rumsfeld or SOMEONE to "apologize." Is it just me, or is that a pretty low bar to set? It took a couple days, but once his handlers realized it could turn down the heat a little, he did it. And just how much can we expect to learn from an "independent investigation" ordered by Rumsfeld? Meanwhile, while Democrats in Washington make symbolic calls for Rumsfeld's resignation, "a large majority of Americans" believe he should not! A few weeks ago, one of the too-many-different-writers-I-read-during-the-week suggested that this Administration might actually benefit from bad news in Iraq, just as it does from good, because Americans rally around the President, not wanting "him" to lose this war. Does Rumsfeld benefit from that, too?

EJ Dionne today: "...dumping Rumsfeld and Myers is not enough. Ultimately the buck stops with President Bush. No, I don't think for an instant that Bush knew anything about this. That's the problem. Reports of prisoner abuse have been around since the war in Afghanistan and the opening of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The president needs to explain why he wasn't more curious about what was happening, and whether his management style delegates so much authority that the White House could be caught so unprepared for this catastrophe. Are we dealing here with a culture of unaccountability?"

Moving on... (I've got to learn how to create headings and delineators; bear with me)

Be very afraid. One of these kids could grow up to run the White House science policies one day...

This almost makes you feel sorry for the guy, until you remember his daddy's friends gave him your country to play with.

Did you happen to catch the name of the Honorary Chair of this year's National Day of Prayer?

Remember, oh ye of non-evangelical Christian faiths, he' s a "uniter, not a divider." (Check out the suggested prayer list.)

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Here is a brilliant solution to the infernal "registration" problem you probably run into each time this and any other site links to an article in a major newspaper. (I keep trying to find alternate sources that don't require registration, but alas, often you can only get a NY Times story on the Times site, or a Washington Post story on the Post site, etc.) Many thanks to "PB," who provided the info with an item posted on his blog, Onfocus. If you are reluctant to register at a particular site, go to and paste the URL in the search engine. If it's one of the sites covered, you'll get a log-in ID and password that does not require giving up YOUR personal information!
Doesn't Disney own a whole bunch of the liberally biased media? As a friend pointed out before I'd had enough caffeine to thank her, they're censoring a movie that takes its title from a book about censorship?

Did you catch Donald Rumsfeld this morning on Today? Matt Lauer asked if he thought he needed to apologize to the Iraqi people about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Rummy answered "anyone who sees those photos would apologize to the people abused... That apology is there." So is that the same as "yes"?

Kevin Drum asks "Want proof that a picture is worth a thousand words?" Apparently, just telling the Administration that American forces were abusing Iraqi prisoners was not enough.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

So it wasn't just me thinking press converage of the March for Women's Lives was skimpy.
"This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts." I probably would not have read George Will this week if Joshua Marshall hadn't highlighted that paragraph. Will even chides Bush for "trying to deflect doubts about policy by caricaturing and discrediting the doubters." (Yeah, I had to keep checking the byline, too. I have long abstained from George Will for my mental health, but maybe I've been missing some interesting developments?)

I have friends who work out at Curves gyms who won't be happy about this.

Good luck, Kubi.

Monday, May 03, 2004

What exactly IS a "good Catholic?" I can't remember which of these items I stumbled onto first, but they all link to each other in helpful ways, so all I can say is "thanks" to each! If you're willing to follow the thread, first go here for Atrios' comments on, and the transcript of, a recent NPR report by Barbara Bradley Haggerty, which declares for some mystifying reason that John Kerry must convince voters he's a good Catholic. Then go over to Body and Soul for more on why these "good Catholic" challenges are so disturbing. Then go to No More Mister Nice Blog to see how selectively the "good Catholic" criterion is being applied: Democrat John Kerry will not be invited to a fundraising dinner that has been attended in the past few years by PRO CHOICE REPUBLICAN CATHOLICS Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki. I guess my question is: Does the Bush/Cheney machine really want to go down this road - comparing Christian credentials, implying hypocrisies? If so, we might at least have an entertaining sideshow for the next few months. I have fond recollections of a not-so-distant impeachment proceeding, preceded by a barrage of pre-emptive confessions of adulterous affairs by Robert Livingston, Henry Hyde, Helen Chenoweth... What a hoot that was. I'll make the popcorn.
A party-barge capsizes as it approaches a nude beach, and the police spokesperson says it's "unclear why the people all were on one side of the boat." Just savor that a moment.
David Brock is the ex-conservative character assassin who "came clean" in the book Blinded by the Right. His new project is a website, Media Matters, that promises to be a terrific watchdog resource. (I learned of it through Eric Alterman's blog this morning, but Common Dreams and others are linking to it, also.) But it will only work if journalists and media consumers alike actually use the information to hold the "misleaders" accountable. Vote with your feet, vote with your dollars, vote with your remote!

First George Soros and now Warren Buffet: Two of the richest men in the world are committed to regime change in the United States.

This story just keeps getting worse. Here is the Seymour Hersh New Yorker piece you've probably heard about. Over the weekend, I heard at least one commentator suggest that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, deplorable though it was, was instigated by reservists with no training in the Geneva Conventions - as if that fact somehow explained it. So THANK YOU! to Joshua Marshall who linked to one of those stories (actually, he linked to Newsday, but I can't make the link work here) and then observed: "A question: Can this possibly matter? Perhaps as a fine point of law this would be relevant in court-martial proceeding. And the tolerance or intolerance of these soldiers' commanding officers for this behavior is relevant. But surely no formal training in the Geneva Convention guidelines should be needed to warn people off these sorts of outrages."

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Here's hoping Kevin Shelley's decision to ban Diebold voting machines from a number of California counties becomes a nationwide trend! Here and here are good summaries of how little your electronic vote can mean. Go here for current news and investigations about electronic voting. I'm all for the technology in theory. How hard can it be to make these systems secure and verifiable?!