Monthly Archives: April 2005

Legislating From The Bench

When the President came out against "legislating from the bench" did that mean he’s no longer supporting Janice Rogers Brown? Here’s the Alliance for Justice’s writeup:

Justice Brown’s disdain for government runs so deep that she urges “conservative” judges to invalidate legislation that expands the role of government, saying that it “inevitably transform[s]… a democracy … into a kleptocracy.” Following her own “pro-activist” advice, Justice Brown – always in dissent – uses constitutional provisions or defies the legislature’s intent to restrict or invalidate laws she doesn’t like, such as California’s anti-discrimination statute (which she condemns as protecting only “narrow” personal interests), hotel development fees intended to preserve San Francisco’s affordable housing supply, rent control ordinances, statutory fees for manufacturers that put lead-based products into the stream of commerce, and a false advertising law applied to companies making false claims about their workplace practices to boost sales. Justice Brown’s colleagues on the court have repeatedly remarked on her disrespect for such legislative policy judgments, criticizing her, in different cases, for “imposing … [a] personal theory of political economy on the people of a democratic state”; asserting “such an activist role for the courts”; “quarrel[ing]… not with our holding in this case, but with this court’s previous decision … and, even more fundamentally, with the Legislature itself”; and “permit[ting] a court … to reweigh the policy choices that underlay a legislative or quasi-legislative classification or to reevaluate the efficacy of the legislative measure.”

Food for thought? Of course not. Just rank hypocrisy.

Back To Blogging…

…after a few days hiatus.  Unusual work demands, home Internet problems, and amateur theatrics (literally) kept me busy.  Here’s a few things to amuse yourselves with:

Titanic Passanger List

The Gay Agenda

Computer Animation Get Better And Better (Check out the hands!)

Imagine/Take A Walk On The Wild Side Remix Sung By George Bush

Seeing With Sound

Alcohol Intake Without Liquid (no kidding!)

Gallery of UFO Images

Kinda Like American Idol (but for kittens!)

Terrorism Alerts

By the way, notice how we kept having "terror alerts" right up to the election, and then, you know, nothing.  Don’t tell me they color-code system wasn’t politically-motivated to manipulate the public.  Fear sells.

Family Research Council And the Klan

Max Blumenthal shines the spotlight on Tony Perkins, Family Research Council President and Friend of Frist. [Note: the Family Research Council, founded by James Dobson, held a little "Justice Sunday" fest last weekend — where Bill Frist spoke via tape — in which they complained that the Democratic filibuster of Bush’s judicial nominees was an attack on faith and religion]. Blumenthal writes in the Nation:

Four years ago, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), America’s premier white supremacist organization, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke.

Would Jesus pay 82K to a Klansman?

Sounds like Perkins has less of a problem with white robes than he does with black ones.

— from Roger Ailes

And while we are talking about the Family Research Council’s Klan connections, why not put the spotlight on their hypocrisy on the filibuster issue:

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann noted that the Family Research Council (FRC), which is currently campaigning to stop filibusters of President Bush’s judicial nominees by Senate Democrats, was quite vocal in the late 1990s in defending the right to filibuster another presidential nominee, James C. Hormel, who was nominated by President Clinton as ambassador to Luxembourg.

Dictating Moral Convictions

Log Cabin Republican Andrew Sullivan speaks out about the mindset of the religious right:

"However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being.

But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’"

Except that wasn’t really Andrew Sullivan.  It was Andrew Sullivan quoting Barry Goldwater, the co-father-of-modern-conservatism (with Ronald Reagan).  Like Reagan, Goldwater believed that the role of government should be small and unobstrusive.  It should allow for people’s personal beliefs to flourish, rather than instructing people on what to think and hold sacred.

Barry Goldwater was an S.O.B., warmonger, and avowed liberal-hater.  So how dangerous has the right side of the political/religious spectrum become when it turns the stomach of Barry Goldwater?  Could he even BE a Republican today?

Report Card On Bush’s Global War On Terrorism

A failing grade:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. count of major world terrorist attacks more than tripled in 2004, a rise that may revive debate on whether the Bush administration is winning the war on terrorism, congressional aides said on Tuesday.

The number of "significant" international terrorist attacks rose to about 650 last year from about 175 in 2003, according to congressional aides briefed on the numbers by State Department and intelligence officials on Monday.

The aides were told the surge partly reflected an increased tally of violence in Kashmir, which is claimed by India and Pakistan, and the devotion of more manpower to U.S. monitoring efforts, which resulted in more attacks being counted overall.

The State Department last year initially released erroneous figures that understated the attacks, fatalities and casualties in 2003 and used the figures to claim the Bush administration was prevailing in the war on terrorism.

It later said the number killed and injured in 2003 was more than double its original count and said "significant" terrorist attacks — those that kill or seriously injure someone, cause more than $10,000 in damage or attempt to do either of those things — rose to a 20-year high of 175.

The State Department last week unleashed a new debate about the numbers by saying it would no longer release them in its annual terrorism report but that the newly created National Counterterrorism Center that compiles the data would do so.

A spokesman for the CIA, which is handling media inquiries for the NCTC, last week said no decisions had been made although other officials expected the data to be made public.

***

"What it effectively means is that the Bush administration and the CIA haven’t been putting the staff resources necessary and have missed 80 percent of the world’s terrorist incidents" in past years, said a Democratic congressional aide. "How can you have an effective counterterrorism policy from that?"

The Nuclear Compromise Revisited

You know what I posted here about the Nuclear Compromise?  Turns out my tea-leaf reading was wrong.

Kos explains why:

So Frist says:

Reacting to a Democratic offer in the fight over filibusters, Republican leader Bill Frist said Tuesday he isn’t interested in any deal that fails to ensure Senate confirmation for all of President Bush’s judicial nominees.

Reid just engaged Frist in a game of chicken, and Frist blinked first.

Reid has been extrememly effective in whipping up opposition to the Nuclear Option, garnering strong grass- and netroots support, editorial board support, and popular support (as the latest polls show scant appetitite for ending the filibuster).

But in order to avoid looking like obstructionists, Demcorats had to make efforts to "find a compromise", lest the chattering class get the vapors from such Democratic intransigence.

Had Frist accepted the offers for compromise, Bush would’ve gotten the majority of his judges through, and Democrats would’ve gotten — who knows what. All published compromise offers didn’t seem to give our side anything.

So Democrats would’ve faced a sea of criticism from our own side for snatching defeat out of the hands of victory. Frist and Co. would’ve finally gotten a procedural victory against Reid (who has run circles around them thus far). And all that good will Reid had built in the netroots over the past four months would’ve evaporated in one fell swoop.

It was one heck of a gamble, but the Senator from Nevada played his cards right.

Frist painted himself into a corner, having whipped up the forces of wingnuttery into a froth, he could not back down without damaging his White House aspirations for 2008. He’s banking on the crazies to get him the nomination.

So Reid got the Democrats to look conciliatory, forcing Frist and his Republicans to look even more inflexible than before.

Damn the guy is good. I’m glad he’s on our side.

Melissa Rogers On Christian Manipulation

Melissa Rogers, a visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School, says it all:

I AM A CHURCHGOING, Bible-believing Baptist, but I recently learned that I’m not a Christian. Indeed, I’ve not only learned that I’m not a Christian, I’ve also learned that I’m anti-Christian and hostile to religion. Why? Because I dare to disagree with a certain political and legal agenda.

That’s the message that is scheduled to be preached in a Kentucky church Sunday, at an event sponsored by the Family Research Council and joined by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The event is titled "Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith."

The press release for the event states that certain judicial nominees are being opposed "because they are people of faith and moral conviction." It labels a broad range of court decisions as "liberal, anti-Christian dogma," claiming that "activist courts … have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms." In sum, the release says that "we must stop this unprecedented filibuster of people of faith."

Thus, according to supporters of this agenda, including one of the foremost leaders in Congress, anyone who has a different view of the Constitution is an advocate of "liberal, anti-Christian dogma." Anyone who takes a contrary position on Senate rules of procedure is hostile to faith. End of story.

It’s time to tell the truth.

There is no "filibuster against people of faith." Religious people are on both sides of the debate about the filibuster and certain Bush-nominated judges. And it’s wrong for one of the country’s foremost political leaders to lend legitimacy to a contrary notion. Just as no one should have to pass a religious test in order to hold political office, no one should have to pass a political test in order to claim religion or morality.

Further, the Senate has already confirmed the overwhelming majority of President Bush’s judicial nominees, and there is every reason to assume that most of these judges are religious people. Many of these judges presumably share the president’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Of course, it would be improper to oppose judges because of their faith, but it is legitimate for senators to inquire about a judge’s constitutional philosophy and ability to follow settled law, whatever his or her personal opinion. And surely reasonable minds can agree that something is seriously awry when a non-Catholic senator, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, lectures Catholic senators about Catholic doctrine during a hearing on judicial nominations.

Moreover, contrary to the Family Research Council’s claims, court decisions have not resulted in the "banning of school prayer" and "the expulsion of the Ten Commandments from public spaces." As courts have repeatedly recognized, students have every right to pray in public schools, as long as the school does not sponsor the prayer.

Similarly, the Supreme Court has held that if public parks are generally open for community group rallies and signs, religious rallies and signs must be welcome, too, so long as it’s clear that the government itself isn’t promoting religion. Indeed, many deeply religious people support these principles precisely because they don’t want the government secularizing the sacred and otherwise meddling in religion.

Just as the government always perverts the faith it promotes, politicians cheapen the religion they seek to embrace when they push partisan politics in churches. When Jesus cast the moneychangers out of the temple, He said, "My house shall be called the house of prayer."

Houses of worship are holy places, not political precincts.

Dr. Frist is wrong to seek political advantage through this event, and his error is compounded by his tacit approval of these illegitimate claims of persecution and the smearing of others as "anti-religious" simply because they differ on certain political and legal issues.

When I hear attempts to manipulate people in the pews, I always think of one of my grandmother’s favorite Bible verses: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

May people of all faiths and political stripes reject a spirit of fear and speak the truth, with power and with love.

Amen to that, sister!

Learnin’ The Facts Of Life (Child Abuse Episode)

I note with growing alarm at the Christian Right’s embrace of what appears to be, arguably, child abuse.  Stuff like this:

Bonney Lake police said Rachel Lambert claimed the children’s behavior had gotten progressively worse over the past month and that she disciplined the children by feeding them jalapeno peppers, the documents indicated.

The 10-year-old boy said "he had a hot pepper placed in his mouth and then had his mouth taped shut," the documents indicated. He told police "he swallowed the pepper so it would not be in his mouth anymore."

Police said another form of punishment Lambert used was to have the two children "stand in a tub of cold water and write out sentences."

Hot peppers in the mouth? 

What would possess a parenat to even think of doing such a thing?

Well, it all starts from charletons like James Dobson, who writes things like:

"Corporal punishment in the hands of a loving parent is a teaching tool by which harmful behavior is inhibited."

"Most (children) need to be spanked now and then."

"Two or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, ‘You must obey me.’"

"When a youngster tries this kind of stiff-necked rebellion, you had better take it out of him, and pain is a marvelous purifier."

"Minor pain can…provide excellent motivation for the child… There is a muscle, lying snugly against the base of the neck… When firmly squeezed, it sends little messengers to the brain saying, ‘This hurts; avoid recurrence at all costs’."

"When a youngster tries this kind of stiff-necked rebellion, you had better take it out of him, and pain is a marvelous purifier."

"Real crying usually lasts two minutes or less, but may continue for five. After that point, the child is merely complaining… I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears."

These quotes are from Dobson’s two best known books, Dare to Discipline and The Strong Willed Child.

Fortunately, not everyone is a convert to Dobson’s methods.  Amazon customers have described their experiences with Dobsonian discipline this way, in their comments to the original edition of Dare to Discipline:

"My father used Dobson’s methodology as a license to strike. If you wish to die alone in a nursing home, I suggest you listen to those who worship hate and violence."

"Book should be entitled "Dare to Hit Your Child with Whatever is Handy". Dobsen extols (sic) virtues of his wife snapping their not yet two-year-old with a switch across the shins, can you imagine? He also attests that he received great benefit, as a child, by being spontaneously walloped by his mom’s girdle, complete with buckles and straps."

For the new edition of Dare to Discipline:

"It seems to this reader that, at the core, Dr. Dobson has no trust in the abilities of children to learn, to reason, to develop as moral creatures from the example and gentle teaching of their parents. And, through the course of the discipline methods he advocates, he has no compunction about destroying a child’s trust in his or her parents."

For the new edition of The Strong Willed Child:

"His methods are mainly those of the schoolyard bully and seem to be contrived to raise kids who are afraid of you. Is that really the result you want?"

Still, those who rever Dobson typically see his child-whacking recommendations as sound.  After all, he is the "Focus on the Family" guy, so how could he be wrong? 

And so, armed with a license-to-hurt granted by an authority figure, it comes no surprise that many "Christians" have taken corporal punishment to the next step.

Enter the "Creative Correction" movement.  The name itself sounds like the whole point is to prevent the parents from getting bored with the same old blows, but that’s not it at all. The theory is that the punishment should fit the crime in a Biblically based way.

The guru of the movement is Lisa Whelchel, who is in a position to know how to raise children by virtue of the fact that she played Blair on "The Facts of Life".  Here’s what the Washington Post said on the issue, refereLisancing Whelchel’s popular book on the subject.

Hot sauce adds a kick to salsa, barbeque, falafel and hundreds of other foods. But some parents use it in a different recipe, one they think will yield better-behaved children: They put a drop of the fiery liquid on a child’s tongue as punishment for lying, biting, hitting or other offenses.

"Hot saucing," or "hot tongue," has roots in Southern culture, according to some advocates of the controversial disciplinary method, but it has spread throughout the country. Nobody keeps track of how many parents do it, but most experts contacted for this story, including pediatricians, psychologists and child welfare professionals, were familiar with it.

[…]

The hot pepper technique’s current popularity is due in part to Whelchel, a former Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer and actress who played the character Blair on the television series "The Facts of Life" in the 1980s.

In "Creative Correction," now in its fifth printing, the mother of three provides parents with a variety of tips.

For example, she suggests hiding something a child has failed to put away, to teach the lesson that things left out may disappear. She suggests telling a child who refuses to hold your hand while crossing a street, "I can either hold your hand or hold your hair."

In addition, Whelchel offers the following: "For lying or other offenses of the tongue, I ‘spank’ my kids’ tongues. I put a tiny drop of hot sauce on the end of my finger and dab it onto my child’s tongue. It stings for a while, but it abates. (It’s the memory that lingers!)"

Hot sauce on a child’s tongue, Blair?  I missed the episode where Mrs. Garrett made you taste Texas Pete as a disciplinary measure.

But now I see what may possess some parents to stuff peppers down their child’s throat.

Thankfully, McIlhenny Co., the maker of Tabasco Sauce, does not endorse "hot tongue" and calls the practice "strange and scary" and "abusive." They are right.  It’s also dangerous:

Kendrick [a Tabasco Sauce spokeman] says parents who use the technique are "at the very least… ill-informed." He pointed out that many parents are not aware that hot sauce can burn a child’s esophagus and cause the tongue to swell — a potential choking hazard.

"There are many different kinds of hot sauce on the market, and parents who say they know the dilution to use so it won’t sting, or say they only use one drop, are wrong," Kendrick said. "It’s done because it hurts. It stings. It burns. It makes you nauseous."

Capsaicin, the substance that makes peppers hot, inflames membranes in the eyes, nose and mouth. While many adults find this feeling pleasurable, capsaicin can cause negative reactions even in the third of the adult population that has no tolerance for ingesting it, according to Joel Gregory, publisher of Chile Pepper magazine.

There are additional risks for children. Giorgio Kulp, a pediatrician in Montgomery County, said that the risk of swelling as well as the possibility of unknown allergies make the use of hot sauce on children dangerous.

If a few drops of Tabasco can be a choking hazard in child’s mouth, how dangerous is swallowing a whole pepper with your mouth taped shut, after the adults have gone, and left you tied to the water heater?   And more importantly, is that what Jesus would do?   Just wondering…

The Last Word On WMDs

The final remaining hope of the WMD-last-gaspers has been the notion that Saddam did have WMD but transferred it all to Syria before the war. As I recall, the most popular scenario involved a fleet of ambulances and some hideouts in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

But no. Not only did Saddam not have any WMD in Iraq, the Iraq Survey Group has now officially concluded that he didn’t secretly hand it over to Syria either:

Although Syria helped Iraq evade U.N.-imposed sanctions by shipping military and other products across its borders, the investigators "found no senior policy, program, or intelligence officials who admitted any direct knowledge of such movement of WMD."

….Iraqi officials whom the group was able to interview "uniformly denied any knowledge of residual WMD that could have been secreted to Syria," the report said.

Like the grassy knoll folks, I’m sure the WMD conspiracy theorists will latch onto enough loose ends in the report to convince themselves that Saddam really did have WMD but hid it too cleverly for us to find it. You know, because Saddam and his crew were so clever and thorough in everything else they did.

For the rest of us, though, the story is over. Saddam was just a sorry and deluded tinpot tyrant. He posed a major threat to his own people, but never to us.

Kevin Drum

The Nuclear Compromise

I’ll let Josh Marshall set the stage and share his thoughts:

The Washington Post and other news outlets tonight are reporting that Senate Democrats are hinting about a possible compromise on judges — specifically, that they might cut a deal that would allow two or more of the seven filibustered judges to go through.

This in turn has caused splutters of outrage and bewilderment among some Democrats who believe Sens. Reid and Durbin are considering throwing in the towel just as it is becoming clear that voters overwhelmingly oppose what the Senate Republicans are trying to do.

But I’m not so sure.

Let me first stipulate that I know no more about any potential deal than what I’ve read in the papers this evening. And the devil is most certainly in the details.

A deal that would let most of the seven judges go through in exchange for assurances that would allow Senate Republicans to try to go nuclear again six months from now would be a disaster.

A deal that would allow perhaps the two least egregious judges to go through in exchange for taking the nuclear option off the table for good might not be a bad deal at all.

The key here is that there are many moving parts to this puzzle and it’s key to understand each one of them.

First, this isn’t just about these seven judges. It’s about three and a half more years of judges President Bush still has yet to appoint. And even more, it’s about one or more crucial Supreme Court nominations he’ll get to make. The American judiciary will look very different in 2009 with the filibuster than without it. And letting through a couple judges now to secure that difference isn’t necessarily such a bad deal.

Second, there are sometimes tactical advantages in appearing to be reasonable, even if the reasonable compromises you float are ones your political opponents will have a very hard time accepting.

And this brings us to the third and perhaps most important point. There’s no way to judge the best way to approach this stand-off without seeing clearly just what a powder keg Bill Frist and company are sitting on.

If you think ending the filibuster is the ‘nuclear option’, just watch what happens when Bill Frist rings up James Dobson and says, "Sorry about the judge thing. The Democrats won’t let us."

At that point you can start with the horizontal mushroom clouds coming out of Dobson’s ears and it’s pretty much a chain reaction through the rest of Wingnut Nation from there on.

That means two things. First, Frist probably just isn’t in a position to accept the ‘compromises’ Democrats are floating. And I suspect they know that. Second, should he accept such a compromise, it will unleash something close to a civil war on the right flank of the Republican party — a development with possibly grave consequences for Republicans in 2006 and thereafter.

So, to pull this all together, I’m not saying Democrats shouldn’t keep up the pressure on their senators. They must. And any deal that doesn’t put the nuclear option off the table in a permanent and meaningfully binding way is a joke. But let’s remember what this is about. It’s about whether the Democrats retain their significant lever of power to block President Bush’s most extreme judicial nominees. Democrats give that up, they lose. Republicans give that up, they lose. It’s really that simple. A couple judges passed through are a secondary matter. From having watched so far, I get the sense that Sen. Reid sees all those moving parts. So I’m inclined to give him the room for maneuver he needs to back these folks into a ghastly trap.

I’m not sure I agree.  These ten judges ARE the most extreme.  Democrats HAVE compromised, by allowing 95% of Bush’s judicial nominees through.  And I think the American people understand that.  And if they haven’t, this is an opportunity to educate them. 

Also, I’m not sure that the un-reality-based right flank of the right wing party will go into disarray if a two-judge compromise is reached.  Dobson perhaps, but not necessarily all of them.  These people have a tendancy to claim victory when such a victory is far from certain (witness, Iraq).

I’m not opposed to a compromise at some point, but since the tide is going toward the Democrats and against those who want to push through these ten judges, why start raising the subject now?  Are we going to snatch a compromise from the jaws of victory?

For those just tuning in, Media Matters has an excellent backgrounder on the birth of the term "nuclear option."

UPDATE:  Ezra agrees.

UPDATE #2:  Here’s the key data from the WaPo poll that I linked to above:

The Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush, while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others. Do you think the Senate Democrats are right or wrong to block these nominations?

Right 48
Wrong 36

Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush’s judicial nominees?

Support 26
Oppose 66

So I ask again, why should Dems feel compelled to compromise when the majority of people are opposing the Republicans on this?

Okay . . .?

I have no idea what it means, but this post on Fafblog — reprinted here in its entirety — brought a smile to my face:

We have been to the opera. And by "the opera" we mean "the post office" and by "been to" we mean "thrown buckets of fish at" and by "we" we mean "people who are not us."

WHO Is Against People Of Faith?

This past weekend, there was a liberal-bashing conference put on by Family Research Council in which it was said — falsely — that Democrats are against "people of faith", particularly judges.  It’s an insidious lie.  Most Democrats are people of faith; we just don’t believe that our faith (or anybody else’s) should be incorporated into laws and public policy (because religion is a private matter and all).

But that’s not what I wanted to write about.  I wanted to ask why the Christians Conservatives aren’t going apeshit about this photo:

Bushsaudiarabiatxgh20

That’s a picture of George Bush holding hands with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Abdullah at the Crawford ranch.  That was taken today.

No, it’s not the holding hands that should cause concern (although they do make a cute couple).  It’s what Abdullah did last Friday:

Before boarding his flight to Crawford to meet with President Bush Monday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah presided over the arrest of 40 Pakistani Christians on Friday. Their crime? The Pakistanis were caught praying in a private home in the capital Riyadh in violation of the state’s strictly enforced religious law that bans all non-Muslim worship.

Now, imagine that President Bill Clinton had met with, and walked hand-in-hand with, a Saudi Prince who had just arrested Christians for the "crime" of praying to Christ.  The Christian Right would have gone ballistic.  Like, Schiavo-ballistic.

But since it is George Bush and not Clinton, what do we hear from the Christian Right instead?

[Insert the sound of crickets chirping here]

Nope.  Not so much as a peep from Dobson or his brethren.  Mmmmmm.  IOKIYAR, right?  (See my post below)

This just proves that many Christians are willing pawns of the political right and/or they lack the courage of their supposed convictions.  Christian faith continues to be hi-jacked by the right wing in order to further their un-Christian political agenda, while the foolish illiterate and uninformed faithful just follow blindly.

IOKIYAR

Digby posts about the "It’s Okay If You’re A Republican" phenomenon, and hits the nail on the head.  I’ve boldened the best bits . . .

Matt Yglesias wonders why the Republicans have been so blase about nominees lying outright to the Senate during their confirmation hearings when they may very well be at the mercy of Democrats in the future. Yesterday, Bill Frist righteously rebutted the argument set forth by some Republicans that the nuclear option would leave them powerless when Democrats came into power, by saying that if it was wrong for Democrats today it would be wrong for Republicans tomorrow. In truth it doesn’t matter.

The trouble is that the IOKIYAR (it’s ok if you’re a republican) phenomenon is not just a little blogospheric joke. It’s quite real and it’s been demonstrated over and over again. There is absolutely no reason for the Republicans to fear that they will be held to the same standard as they hold Democrats, ever. These lies by Bush appointees are not going to be investigated and they will always remain in the realm of he said/she said, old news, whyareyoubringingthisupnow. Fuggedaboudit.

For instance, Matt brings up the fact that the Bush administration has hired convicted congressional liars from the iran Contra era. But, one must also remember that those same convicted liars were all pardoned by George Bush Sr at a time when he was personally under investigation by a special prosecutor, thus effectively ending the probe. Immediately after Senior left office, however, there began a relentless series of demands by Republicans for special prosecutors investigating a list of shockingly trivial charges that eventually led to the impeachment of the president. The Republicans didn’t worry that someone would make comparisons that would embarrass them. They are unembarrassable because they have found that they can ignore the prinicples of relevant difference, the universality principle, the golden rule or whatever you want to call it, and there will be no repercussions.

It may be that this is caused by a media that refuses to take a stance on even factual matters, which leaves people with the impression that there are no standards except those which are imposed by the loudest, the most powerful, the most entertaining or whatever. It’s a big problem for us in the reality based community, however, because we remain stuck in this rational mode of argumentation while they careen off into a relativist fallacy whenever they choose.

In other words, there are no rules — only actions that will keep them in power or strip them from it. The fight each battle separately and don’t worry about the one they are going to fight tomorrow. And when the worm has turned and Democrats gain power again, everything will go back to square one and all of the the crimes that we spent that last five years screaming to get covered and investigated will be turned by the Republicans into indictments of Democrats.

Yesterday, James Dobson, alleged arbiter of moral standards, came to a ringing defense of Tom DeLay. Using the approved right wing talking points, he claimed that DeLay was the subject of a witchhunt financed by liberal millionaires. This is, of course, exactly what they did to Bill Clinton for eight long years. They have no sense of embarrassment at this; no sense of irony; not even a little bit of shame for unoriginality. No, it is as if these arguments have never been uttered before and have the full force of moral righteousness even though it is, to our eyes, infuriatingly absurd. And, in truth, because we have uttered these words for so long they are out in the ether with some feeling of received wisdom to those who don’t follow the details of political warfare. (They are good at taking our received wisdom and turing it to their advantage. I wish we would start doing the same.)

The Republicans are rejecting reason in science, economics, rhetoric and governance and therefore we cannot expect that rules based upon a rational assumption that they will be applied to both sides equally are even relevant. We fight each battle anew. It’s never over. Nothing is settled. This is why they hate the courts. Reason and finality are their enemy. These are the "I Know You Are But What Am I" Republicans and they have taken us into a new world of post enlightenment reality. We’d better get used to it.

Understand Me?

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Gunning Fog Index 10.05
Flesch Reading Ease 65.11
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 6.75

So . . . it’s basically a 6th grade reading level of authorship, somewhat on a par with Time and Newsweek.

Read a more detailed explanation of the analysis below the fold.

Oh, the Irony!

"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special-interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know. I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure."

– Rep. Tom DeLay, delivered on the House floor, November 1995

Not Practicing What He Preaches

Then-Gov. George W. Bush as a presidential candidate in 2000:

The president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the price . . . [As President I will] convince them to open up the spigot to increase the supply.

President Bush yesterday:

I wish I could simply wave a magic wand and lower gas prices tomorrow.

Keep in mind that in April 2004, Saudi Arabia led the fight within OPEC to cut production to keep prices high. What did President Bush do?  He “refused to lean on the oil cartel” and refused to even “personally lobby OPEC leaders to change their minds.”   In a word, nothing.

A Link-o-riffic List

Top 10 Reasons Why Bolton Should Not Be Confirmed As U.S. Ambassador To the United Nations:

10. He hates the UN. He’s said that the U.S. should be the only country on the UNSC, that the UN building could be shaved of 10 stories without it making a difference, etc.  Check here for direct quotes.

9. He doesn’t believe in paying U.S. dues to the UN. And has said so.  A big part of the job of UN envoy is working with the Hill to get U.S. contributions paid.  Withholding dues in the ‘80s and ‘90s led to a diplomatic debacle that took years to put right.  We don’t have the time, energy or goodwill to waste on such battles.

8. He won’t enjoy the support of U.S. diplomats around the world. 60+ ex-diplomats have signed a letter opposing Bolton. Current envoys feel the same way.  But Bolton will need the embassies to back him in capitals to succeed in pushing through U.S. proposals (see Retail Diplomacy).  Personal views about Bolton will undercut this support. 

7. He and the Secretary of State are not on the same page. Insiders seem unanimous that Bolton was foisted on Rice.  This is a recipe for tension between USUN and the Seventh Floor, a fissure that other countries will try to exploit. 

6. His statements on China are reckless.  He clearly enjoys the role of provocateur vis-à-vis China and Taiwan.  At a sensitive point in relations, we cannot afford to have a flamethrower in the mix.

5. The damage will not be confined to the UN.  Bolton is not a team player.  He has  a track record of breaking rules and exceeding his mandate (including by setting an unauthorized deadline for Russian acceptance of US conditions for remaining in the ABM treaty).  The UN post touches on a wide range of issues, and is notoriously difficult for the State Department to control.

4. Denying confirmation would signal the world that the foreign policy opposition is alive and kicking.  If they see an active progressive opposition, the world will continue to distinguish between their view of this Administration and their view of America at large.  With Bush’s reelection and supposed mandate, the separation gets harder — and more important — to sustain. 

3. He will not change his spots.  Some, including progressives, have argued that Bolton may change his ways once at the UN.  But this is the man with whom Jesse Helms wants to stand at Armageddon.  Can you imagine, if the roles were reversed, conservatives giving the “benefit of the doubt” for a nominee they saw as weak on security (“well, once he gets to the Pentagon, that may toughen him up”).

2. He is a proven opponent of arms control.  Bolton has blocked a slew of arms control agreements, from the CTBT to a small arms accord and a biological weapons agreement.   With proliferation, terrorism and the combination thereof topping of the list of threats against the U.S., arms control belongs at the forefront of U.S. national security strategy.  Bolton will stand in the way of that.

1. He will be ineffective in representing U.S. interests.  And this is most important of all.  Promoting U.S. interests at the UN is an art and a science.  A hammer is an essential part of UN diplomacy.  But Bolton is missing the rest of the toolbox.  See my article on Retail Diplomacy (PDF) for more on how the US can get its way at the UN through crafty diplomacy.

— Courtesy of Democratic Arsenal

Dumb DeLay Quote Du Jour

Amazingly, Tom DeLay is going after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Apparently, DeLay is ignorant of the fact that Kennedy was a Reagan appointtee, and while occasionally a "swing vote", he is undisputably right-of-center.

But DeLay really steps in the steamy hot Texas cow manure when he says this:

“We’ve got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That’s just outrageous,” DeLay told Fox News Radio. “And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous.”

It’s "incredibly outrageous" for a judge to do legal research on the Internet?  I hate to burst your bubble, Tom, but every lawyer (except for the very aged who never learned computers) does research on the Internet.  The days of cavernous dusty-book lined law libraries are virtually over.  And it has been that way for over a decade.

Of course, what DeLay probably prefers is that judges resort to books when it comes to doing research.  Specifically, one book: the Bible. 

Viva Voinovich!

Credit should be given where credit is due.  It is not often when a politician — especially a Republican — especially a House Republican — goes against his party and acts on his conscience.  I’m still skeptical about the likelihood that Bolton’s nomination can be stopped, but it sure is nice to see a guy like Voinovich (R-OH) have the backbone to put the brakes on the process until (at a minimum) all the facts about Bolton are fully vetted.

Publius, who (thankfully) has more time to write lately than I do, is completely correct:

John Bolton is, by any objective measure, a horrid choice. Even if you hate the UN with every fiber of your being – even if your genetic sequence of A-G-C-T nucleotides consists of variations of the letters N-E-O-C-O-N – Bolton remains an absolutely dreadful choice. He treats subordinates like scum – he screams at them. He fires them for not agreeing with him. He spies on them. He withholds national security information from his superiors in government.

The fact that you hate the UN should not blind you to the systematic pattern of intolerance, abuse, recklessness, and lack of basic human decency. The man is scum.

And this is who we want to be our representative to the world? John Bolton? In a time when our troops are dying because we can’t persuade people to help us – in a time where world hatred of us has never been higher – do we really want to send a universally reviled asshole who has a history of enraging everyone he comes into contact with to be our public face to humanity?

What makes it all so ridiculous is that, given his history, there isn’t any objective reason to support him other than party loyalty or the hope of getting something in return from the administration. Hagel and Lugar and Chaffee are all decent people, but they sat there like spineless cowards and would have voted for that scumbag knowing full and well that he was not only a horrible choice, but a liability to our foreign policy goals – goals that affect our national security and the safety of our own troops.

I could go on, but I want to get back to Voinovich. I suspect that voters in Ohio wouldn’t have cared one way or the other how he voted. I also suspect the Democrats didn’t have much to offer him in return. He also knew the wrath he would face – and is apparently already facing – because of his decision. But Voinovich – for now anyway – put the public good of America first. I can’t think of any other reason why he would delay the vote (which will probably kill the nomination) other than his conscience. Maybe something will turn up, and I’ll have to rethink all this. But for now, it looks like someone put the public good before party loyalty.

So thank you Senator Voinovich – you restored my faith in our political process – at least for a few hours.

[UPDATE: NYT – Voinovich, "My conscience got me." Sleep tight Sen. Chaffee.]

For those of you who are on the fence about Bolton, ask yourself this: Is this the best guy that Bush could come up with for the job as a diplomat?  And if not, shouldn’t we have the best guy possible in that position?

Anti-Christian Bigotry In The Air Force Academy

I’ll let Josh Marshall tell it:

There’s a profoundly disturbing article out tonight from the AP about what appears to be a widespread climate of intolerance and even harassment of non-evangelical Christians at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. ‘Widespread’ is a vague word. And I’m only going on the basis of this one article — and I’d strongly recommend reading the whole piece to decide for yourself if I’m using the correct word. But what the piece describes at least is not a matter of a few outrageous incidents but something much more pervasive.

Here’s the passage that stands out to me …

”There were people walking up to someone and basically they would get in a conversation and it would end with, `If you don’t believe what I believe you are going to hell,”’ Vice Commandant Col. Debra Gray said.

Critics of the academy say the sometimes-public endorsement of Christianity by high-ranking staff has contributed to a climate of fear and violates the constitutional separation of church and state at a taxpayer-supported school whose mission is to produce Air Force leaders.

They also say academy leaders are desperate to avoid the sort of uproar that came with the 2003 scandal in which dozens of women said their complaints of sexual assault were ignored.

”They are deliberately trivializing the problem so that we don’t have another situation the magnitude of the sex assault scandal. It is inextricably intertwined in every aspect of the academy,” said Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque, N.M., a 1977 graduate who has sent two sons to the school. He said the younger, Curtis, has been called a ”filthy Jew” many times.

The superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Rosa, conceded there was a problem during a recent meeting of the Board of Visitors, the civilian group that oversees the academy.

”The problem is people have been across the line for so many years when you try and come back in bounds, people get offended,” he said.

The board chairman, former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, warned Rosa that changing things could prove complicated. He said evangelical Christians ”do not check their religion at the door.”

These articles are always hard to evaluate since you don’t get a sense of who the ‘critics’ are, how many of them there are, or even some objective measure of how legitimate their beef is. Though inappropriate, a few of the other incidents mentioned in the piece don’t seem in themselves to be causes of great concern. But the Rosa quote above seems to suggest that there is a very real problem. And what’s with Gilmore’s response?

The piece ends with this delightful passage …

Two of the nation’s most influential evangelical Christian groups, Focus on the Family and New Life Church, are headquartered in nearby Colorado Springs. Tom Minnery, an official at Focus on the Family, disputed claims that evangelical Christians are pushing an agenda at the academy, and complained that ”there is an anti-Christian bigotry developing” at the school.

Anti-Christian bigotry. That’s marvelous. Needless to say, Focus on the Family is SpongeBob persecutor and Arch-Wingnut James Dobson’s outfit.

Landmark Restaurant Going Bye-Bye

HojoPlaybill informs us that the curtain is coming down on the wonderful Howard Johnson’s in Manhattan’s Time Square:

Howard Johnson’s, Landmark of Old Times Square, to Shut Down

Howard Johnson’s, one of the last functioning remnants of the rough-and tumble, Runyonesque Times Square of yesteryear, will be torn down sometime this year, the New York Post reported April 19.

The restaurant and the land it sits on, a prime site on the northwest corner of 46th Street and Broadway, was recently sold for "more than $100 million" by longtime owner Kenneth Rubinstein to Jeff Sutton’s Wharton Acquisitions. Sutton plans to flatten the four-story edifice and replace it with a gleaming new retail outlet.

The Howard Johnson’s was built in 1955 and is the oldest, continually operated business facing directly on Times Square. Its squat dimensions once fit in nicely with the low-scale, slightly down-at-heel architecture that for a long time characterized the area. But the real estate revival of the late 1990s saw it dwarfed by glass towers and glossy stores like Toys ‘R’ Us and the Virgin Megastore. Increasingly, the venerable old institution looked like an anachronism.

To me, it’s anachronistic feature was part of it’s charm.  I’m sad to see it go.  Let’s just hope it is not replaced with a Gap.

Pope Benny 16

I have absolutely no thoughts on the subject, although that may be rightfully attributed to my fatigue arising from rehearsals for this.

Suffice to say this: I’m already sick of right wing pundits trying to make this a victory for conservative moral values, continuing Pope John Paul’s legacy.  Need they be reminded that the conservative Ratzinger — at Pope John Paul’s right hand — was adamantly against the Iraqi War?  That he has spoken quite eloquently about aggressive evangelical "sects" (which would include Prostestantism) drawing people away from the Catholic faith?    That he openly advocated banning Turkey, the only mostly-Arab democracy at the time, from entering the European Union?  That he pooh-poohed the uproar over priestly pedophilia in the United States?

I mean, is that a conservative value — denying priest pedophilia?

P.S.:  Yes, I accidentally caught portions of Rush’s show this afternoon, where he actually praised Ratzinger Pope Benedict XVI for having performed military service in his native country (And yes, Rush was aware that the country was Germany, and Germany’s leader at the time was Hitler, and the war was WWII).

Cold Black Hearts

Yesterday I posted about the sad death of Marla Ruzicka, the California humanitarian who went to Afghanistan and Iraq to help innocent victims (often, orphaned children) of those wars.  She was killed in a car bomb explosion in Bagdhad Saturday while en route to visit a young girl orphaned in the Iraqi War.

It seems that the right wing blogosphere has seized upon her death to basically trash her and her work.  Why?  Because she actually helped people rather than, you know, killing them, I suppose.   It’s creepy and revealing when the denizens of WingutLand disparage a woman who helps orphans.  Read more here, if your stomach can take it.

Dobson Christianity

The "influential" Publius has a post about Hugh Hewitt’s defense of James Dobson.  In it, Publius invokes the term "Dobson Christianity", distinguishing it from others forms of Christianity.  I’m sure this comes as a surprise to many on the religious right, who simply don’t believe in diversity of beliefs even within the Christian faith.  To them, you are either a Christian — meaning, their kind of Christian — or you are not a Christian at all.

But I’ll let Publius explain further, picking up from his post mid-stream:

An attack on Dobson Christianity is not an attack on Christianity. Just like an attack on the Ayatollah’s interpretation and exploitation of Islam for political purposes is not an attack on Islam itself.

On another level, I’m not sure there is such a thing as “Dobson Christianity.” Dobson actually represents the opposite of Christianity. If I’m recalling my Sunday School classes correctly, Jesus’s whole point was to emphasize love and tolerance, and to show the ridiculousness and spiritual bankruptcy of blind adherence to a rigid set of moral codes long since divorced from the more basic values of love, forgiveness, and tolerance. The hapless Pharisees – those rule-bound suckas – were always the butt of Jesus’s jokes.

Whether you’re a Christian, atheist, or anything in between, if you actually sit down and read the four Gospels, I suspect you’ll see that Dobson fits the role of “Pharisee” pretty well. He’s everything that Jesus opposed. That’s why it’s so utterly ridiculous for him to claim the mantle of the values of love and tolerance espoused in the Gospels – values that do not, by the way, require a belief in the divinity of Jesus or even in God at all.

Right. On. The. Money.

Of course, the thing to remember here is that Publius’ views on Christianity and Jesus (which parallel mine) are no more "correct" or "valid" than Dobson’s.  But that’s the point.  In this society, we don’t allow one religious view to have government-approved dominance over another view, because such a situation would be contrary to the notion of religious freedom. 

The goal of Dobson, Frist, and Co., however, is to saturate our political and legal systems with adherants to their brand of Christianity.  This should cause discomfort to followers of other faiths, followers of other brands of Christianity, and even to followers of Dobson as well. 

Why?  Because when you empower government to impose or encourage one particular religious view, you ipso facto empower that government — at some future point in time — to impose or encourage a different religious view, one with which you might not believe. 

As it is now — and as the Founders envisioned — government should not have such power at all.  That is precisely why our forefathers believed strongly in separation of church and state, even though many of them were themselves religious.  The role of government is to be religion-neutral, thereby permitting "Dobson Christianity" and "Publius Christianity" (not to mention other Christian views and non-Christian religious views) to flourish in society on an equal or equivalent parity.

If Bin Laden Strikes America Again, Blame Women

Some advocacy pieces are so off-the-chart bizarre that they defy parody or counter-comment.  This article qualifies.  The thrust?  The failure of the Bush Administration to capture bin Laden in Tora Bora when we had the chance had nothing to do with the fact that he diverted troops from Afghanistan so that we could invade Iraq to find non-existent WMDs.  Nope, the failure to capture bin Laden was because we were placing women in the military.

So it’s your fault, ladies.

This Is Disconcerting

Asteroid Earth’s gravity may lure deadly asteroid

A HUGE asteroid which is on a course to miss the Earth by a whisker in 2029 could go round its orbit again and score a direct hit a few years later.

Astronomers have calculated that the 1,000ft-wide asteroid called 2004 MN4 will pass by the Earth at a distance of between 15,000 and 25,000 miles — about a tenth of the distance between the Earth and the Moon and close enough to be seen with the naked eye.

Although they are sure that it will miss us, they are worried about the disturbance that such a close pass will give to the asteroid’s orbit. It might put 2004 MN4 on course for a collision in 2034 or a year or two later: the unpredictability of its behaviour means that the danger might not become apparent until it is too late.

Source

Thrillseekers Beware!

Mimwdbkoq2d09042005222102491886Rideaccidents.com is the world’s single most comprehensive, detailed, updated, accurate, and complete source of amusement ride accident reports and related news. The site includes a record of fatal amusement ride accidents in the United States since 1972, and, for the past six years, has recorded all types of accidents, including many from outside the United States.

Pictured at the right is a "flying Swinger" ride in Seville, Spain.  The central column collapsed last week, injuring 18.

Enjoy!

No Shit, Sherlock at Dobson Ranch

From Dobson’s Family Research Council’s webpage here comes this piece of utter stupidity:

Chapter 6: Is There a Link between Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse?

· A study of 229 convicted child molesters in Archives of Sexual Behavior found that “eighty-six percent of offenders against males described themselves as homosexual or bisexual.” (emphasis added)

(W. D. Erickson, “Behavior Patterns of Child Molesters,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 17 (1988): 83.)

That’s right.  86% of the men who molested males were homosexual or bisexual. 

Isn’t that like opening up your closet and discovering that it contains clothes?

You know what?  I’ll bet that roughly 86% of the men who molested girls were NOT homosexual or bisexual (a statistic that the Dobson website doesn’t give).  So what can be said of the "link" between homosexuality and child molestation?  Not much.

Ironically, the web page is all about a book called "Getting It Straight".  It’s a book designed to dispel some myths about homosexuality, and present the "facts".  The really sad thing is that people will read those excerpts like the one above, and not see how disingenuous and laughably unscientific that "study" is.

Why Does The Media Still Refer To Him As A “Popular President”?

This is not good news for Bush:

The last month has not been a good one for President Bush and the Republicans. Most people have opposed the President’s proposals for reforming Social Security and most were unhappy with the positions taken by Republicans in the Terri Schiavo case. The result is that the president’s job ratings have fallen to 44 percent positive, 56 percent negative, the worst numbers of his presidency, and a drop from 48 percent positive, 51 percent negative in February (and 50% positive, 49% negative last November).

Marla Ruzicka, R.I.P.

MarlaMarla Ruzicka is one of the heroes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  While surely there has been heroism and courage shown by the men and women in our military who fight with great honor and courage in what many of us still consider a flawed and stupid war, the courage and heroism is not limited to those Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan who carried a rifle or drove a military vehicle.  Marla Ruzicka’s tools weren’t rifles or Bradley fighting vehicles, but clipboards, computers, emails, and a remarkable ability to earn trust and persuade the powerful to do the right thing.

In her mid-twenties, Californian Ruzicka traveled to Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Taliban to conduct an empirically sound count of civilian victims killed by US bombs, and then to lobby for compensation Afghan civilian victims of US bombings. After confirming 824 dead–she figured the actual number was much larger, but those were deaths she was able to confirm–she returned to the US, where she successfully lobbied U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy to sponsor a $3.75 million appropriation for the Afghan victims and their families.

Ruzicka had founded her own NGO, The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC).  After returning for a while to Afghanistan, where she helped prod the US authorities on disbursing the funds authorized by Leahy’s legislation to the victims and their families, she eventually followed the US military into Iraq.  As in Afghanistan, she conducted extensive door-to-door canvasses with local volunteers, this time placing special focus on Iraqis hurt or killed after George W. Bush’s announced that the mission was accomplished. 

The story of an attractive, engaging and resourceful young woman from California who succeeded in bonding with Iraqis victimized by errant bombs and jittery 19 year old’s with M-4 rifles was quite a story, and she began to receive acclaim for her work and attention for her story.  She was interviewed on Nightline, written about in plenty of serious news articles, and was even profiled in "lighter" news sources like Elle and something called Travel Girl.

Leahy referred to her as a foreign policy "whistle blower."  The BBC declared that the "most reliable numbers so far are the work of this woman, Marla Ruzicka."  She spoke before the Soros-funded Open Society Institute, her work was incorporated into reports by Human Rights Watch, and she participated in a symposium sponsored by Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy along with top military leaders and theorists, military and political scholars, and accomplished writers and journalists.

But her focus remained on the innocent victims of war, like the three daughters of an Iraqi couple who were killed when an American tank swerved to avoid an exploding grenade and crushed their car.  Doing her work in Iraq meant, of course, that she herself was often in danger.  She was asked if she considered doing something safer, but her personal safety wasn’t as strong a feeling as the satisfaction she received from doing work that was important and rewarding.  "To have a job where you can make things better for people?  That’s a blessing…Why would I do anything else?"

Marla_1_4Saturday morning [April 16, 2005] she emailed this photo of herself with Harah, who was 3 months old when her entire family was killed by a U.S. rocket that destroyed the auto they were in.  Later that morning Ruzicka and CIVIC’s Iraq director Faiz Al Salaam drove near the Bagdhad airport to visit another little girl, one who had been injured by a bomb.  As they drove along the airport road, a car bomb exploded, and both Marla and Faiz were killed.

— "Death of a Hero", The Next Hurrah

Why Bolton Should Not Be Confirmed

From WaPo:

Bolton Often Blocked Information, Officials Say

Iran, IAEA Matters Were Allegedly Kept From Rice, Powell

By Dafna Linzer

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 18, 2005; Page A04

John R. Bolton — who is seeking confirmation as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — often blocked then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and, on one occasion, his successor, Condoleezza Rice, from receiving information vital to U.S. strategies on Iran, according to current and former officials who have worked with Bolton.

In some cases, career officials found back channels to Powell or his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, who encouraged assistant secretaries to bring information directly to him. In other cases, the information was delayed for weeks or simply did not get through. The officials, who would discuss the incidents only on the condition of anonymity because some continue to deal with Bolton on other issues, cited a dozen examples of memos or information that Bolton refused to forward during his four years as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

Read it all.

Monkey Cops

A punchline is needed for this.

Mesa police want to add monkey to SWAT team
Associated Press
Apr. 16, 2005 03:10 PM

MESA, Ariz. – The Mesa Police Department is looking to add some primal instinct to its SWAT team. And to do that, it’s looking to a monkey.

"Everybody laughs about it until they really start thinking about it," said Mesa Officer Sean Truelove, who builds and operates tactical robots for the suburban Phoenix SWAT team. "It would change the way we do business."

Truelove is spearheading the department’s request to purchase and train a capuchin monkey, considered the second smartest primate to the chimpanzee. The department is seeking about $100,000 in federal grant money to put the idea to use in Mesa SWAT operations.

The monkey, which costs $15,000, is what Truelove envisions as the ultimate SWAT reconnaissance tool.

Since 1979, capuchin monkeys have been trained to be companions for people who are quadriplegics by performing daily tasks, such as serving food, opening and closing doors, turning lights on and off, retrieving objects and brushing hair.

Truelove hopes the same training could prepare a monkey for special-ops intelligence.

Weighing only 3 to 8 pounds with tiny humanlike hands and puzzle-solving skills, Truelove said it could unlock doors, search buildings and find suicide victims on command. Dressed in a Kevlar vest, video camera and two-way radio, the small monkey would be able to get into places no officer or robot could go.

It has been a little over a year since Truelove filed a grant proposal with the U.S. Department of Defense under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and he is still waiting for word.

If the grant goes through, Truelove plans on learning how to train the monkey himself and keeping the sociable monkey at home, just like a K-9 officer would. He projects that $85,000 in grant money would outfit the monkey with gear and pay for veterinarian care, food and habitat for three years.

The Next Pope?

This can’t be good:

THE wartime past of a leading German contender to succeed John Paul II may return to haunt him as cardinals begin voting in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow to choose a new leader for 1 billion Catholics.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whose strong defence of Catholic orthodoxy has earned him a variety of sobriquets — including “the enforcer”, “the panzer cardinal” and “God’s rottweiler” — is expected to poll around 40 votes in the first ballot as conservatives rally behind him.

Although far short of the requisite two-thirds majority of the 115 votes, this would almost certainly give Ratzinger, 78 yesterday, an early lead in the voting. Liberals have yet to settle on a rival candidate who could come close to his tally.

Unknown to many members of the church, however, Ratzinger’s past includes brief membership of the Hitler Youth movement and wartime service.

Culture of Life?

"It’s really cute that the citizens of Wingnuttia, who truly should be given their own homeland somewhere (they can call it the Christian States of America, or whatever, I don’t care), would prefer women to die of cancer if the alternative is maybe, just maybe, increasing the likelihood of them engaging in any sexual activity", says Atrios.

He’s referring to the religious right, who is gearing up to oppose vaccinations for sexually-active women — vaccinations which might give them a chance against the growing problem of cervical cancer (the death rate worldwide is expected to reach 1,000,000 per year by 2050 — four times the death rate now). 

Dobson’s Family Research Council is opposed to the vaccine because young women "may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex".

You have to wonder about these wingnuts — they are soooo concerned about society’s moral purity that women dying is preferable to women not being chaste until marriage.  Truly frightening.

What Digby Says: “The Stakes Couldn’t Be Higher”

Reprinted in full from here, because it’s that good:

I am edified to learn that Dr Bill Frist, cat slayer, and Dr James Dobson, dauchshund beater, are joining hands to kill the independent judiciary. (As I have said before, while it’s true that not all animal abusers become serial killers, it is true that the vast majority of serial killers were once animal abusers. Not that I’m saying that Frist and Dobson are serial killers … let’s just say that they are in some pretty disgusting company.)

As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush’s nominees.

Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

The filibuster is being used against people of faith? Man, these wingnuts are feeling their oats.

Gawd I hope that the liberal media feel it is their duty to cover this telecast in great depth — to show that they are not hostile to religion, of course. This would be a wonderful way for them to prove once and for all that they are fair and balanced and believe that these religious issues should be well covered in the press. I think we need to write to all the networks and demand that they cover this important story. We need to tell them that the people have a right to hear what their leaders are saying.

I cannot stress enough how important I think it is to draw the contrasts between the Democrats and Republicans right now. Their ducky president looks lamer and lamer by the day and both GOP leaders of the congress are overreaching badly with this public soul kissing of the extremist religious right. (Giving them any cover for this wacky morals crusade is just dumb. Don’t go there, please.)

All we need to do is say we are defending the constitution. Most people may know nothing about civics in this country anymore, but they know damned well that disembowling one branch of government is not business as usual. This is a case where the Republicans have not done the spadework and spent years preparing the public with relentless soothing rhetoric meant to give the impression that this is a natural and inevitable political evolution that will disrupt nothing. Instead their rhetoric is uncharacteristically shrill and nervous. They are lurching around now, reacting to their riled up constituency and making mistakes.

They are leading the Senate to a big dramatic showdown and the stakes couldn’t be higher. But we should not flinch. They are the ones in the spotlight, they are the ones who look hysterical, they are the ones who have the stink of desperation all over them, not us. Tone will be important, here. We should make sure that in the debate we are defending the constitution and tradition and we should do it in modest language with common sense rhetoric. The media will cover this and it will be a perfect chance for us to persuade the public through our temperate but unyielding approach that we are operating from principle and committment. The other side is going to work itself into a frenzy. We need to be calm and cool and united.

The media will trivialize the Democrats’ position but we have to remember that this is also the kind of conflict they love so they’ll cover it and give Democrats some time to make their case. We should be preparing right now for that opportunity with a set of strong and persuasive talking points that we stick with throughout the controversy. According to this widely reported recent WSJ poll, people are already nervous. They want the Democrats to act as a backstop for this wild nonsense. And that was before Schiavo. We should be prepared to say over and over again that we feel it is our duty to prevent the Republicans from radically altering our way of governance. Do you suppose that most people agree with this?:

I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that’s nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn’t stop them.

That’s the most powerful man in the US House of Representatives saying that, not some no-name preacher from Arkansas.

Luckily it seems the Harry Reid has the smarts and the cojones to realize that this is as much a defining issue for us as is social security and he’s not going to flinch:

Alexander said Democrats "are badly misreading this politically" if they think the public would blame Republicans for a Senate breakdown orchestrated by Democrats. GOP aides say Frist has drawn the same conclusion. Nonetheless, Senate Democrats are vowing a scorched-earth response, noting that a single senator can dramatically slow down the chamber’s work by insisting on time-consuming procedures that are normally bypassed by "unanimous consent."

They also are portraying Frist as a tool of GOP extremists. Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), asked this week if the radical right is driving Frist and his lieutenants, replied: "If they decide to do this, which it appears they are going to, the answer is unequivocally — underlined, underscored — yes."

Frist’s political instincts are not very good as he has proven over and over again and it seems to have precipitated this showdown too:

"I think Senator Frist has backed himself into a corner where I don’t see how he can avoid pulling the nuclear trigger," said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. In terms of a presidential race, Cook said, "it hurts if he doesn’t come up with the votes. But it also hurts him if the Senate comes to a grinding halt and can’t get anything done. I think the guy’s in a real jam."

I think Reid has the argument here and I think we will prevail. Just as newt failed to realize that it was his intemperate over-the-top rhetoric during the government shutdown that turned the people against him, these guys don’t understand that allying themselves with the most extremist wing of the religious right is bound to do the same thing. Bubbles breed hubris and I think these people spend way too much time talking to each other.

Update: Does anyone out there know of any examples of moderate Republican religious types who have publicly come out against these recent extremist moves? I know that the polls indicate that a large number of them disagreed with the Schiavo matter, but I’m not aware of any of the people for whom morals are a voting issue moving away from the GOP because of it. Where I’m seeing the movement is in the libertarian, scientific and professional factions of the party.

For instance, I have not seen any full throated repudiations of the GOP by Republican religious moderates such as this from Bush voter, John Cole. My hunch is that people who vote on "morals" issues aren’t actually moderates so they aren’t disturbed in the least by what they are seeing. Therefore, posturing about the issue won’t get us anywhere. But, who knows? It sure seems to me that the way to win is to go where the votes are up for grabs — which seems to me to be among the people who really don’t want James Dobson and Pat Robertson running the country.

Lies

First, a Bush lie:

Bush on the Armstrong Williams payola scandal in a press conference, January 26, 2005:

And we didn’t know about this in the White House . . .

Page 8 footnote of the Inspector General’s Report, Department of Education, concerning the Armstrong Williams payola scandal, released Friday:

"During a meeting between the White House and Department officials on July 13, 2004, pertaining to communications strategy, the Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy briefly questioned the Deputy Director of OPA about the status of the Williams’ work request…"

And remember how Michael Schiavo supposedly abused his wife Terri? That was a lie put out by Frist & Co.:

State investigators in Florida have found no clear evidence that Terri Schiavo was denied rehabilitation, neglected or otherwise abused, according to documents released yesterday by the state’s Department of Children and Families.

The agency completed nine reports of abuse accusations made from 2001 to 2004, including neglect of hygiene, denial of dental care, poisoning and physical harm. The accusations, which have been widely reported, focus on Michael Schiavo, the husband of Terri. Ms. Schiavo died on March 31, nearly two weeks after her feeding tube was removed. … Judge George W. Greer of Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, who has presided over the dispute between Ms. Schiavo’s parents and her husband over her care, ordered the agency to make the documents public before Monday. Lawyers for Mr. Schiavo and Ms. Schiavo’s parents did not return calls seeking comment.

On The Internets

Digby has an excellent article comparing the right-wing vs the left-wing blogospheres.  The thrust?

The right blogosphere operates largely as part of the greater Republican message machine.

***

By contrast, the left blogosphere is populated by “citizen bloggers,” who work in non-political occupations for a living and blog for reasons of personal interest. This sphere actually operates as a unique and potentially powerful political constituency rather than a part of the Democratic Party apparatus.

Bush On Taxes

Treasury Secretary John Snow, 4/15/05:

President George Bush shares your desire to make paying taxes simpler.

Fort Wayne News Sentinel, 8/16/04:

Bush, despite his professed desire for simplicity, has not exactly acted that way. During his term in office, there have been 227 tax-code changes that added 10,000 pages to the monstrosity known as the tax code.

Bush Is Failing, But You’re Not Supposed To Know

From Knight-Ridder:

The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government’s top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.

Some current and former officials charged the report was stopped because it "raised disturbing questions about the Bush’s administration’s frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism."  You think?

False Dichotomy – A Rant

Ad05d01_largeTake a look at this poster:

Now what is it saying?

It is saying that in order to serve as a judge, you must abandon your Christian faith, because you cannot do both, yes?

Apparently, the right wing is in favor of the idea that judges should be able to follow their faith over what judges are supposed to be doing, i.e., following the law.

Excuse me, but isn’t ignoring the law and making decisions based on some outside influence (e.g., the Bible) a prime example of "judicial activism", the very thing that Republicans have been squalking about these past few weeks?

The truth is that judges can and do and always have been able to set aside their faith in the courtroom, while still worshipping (outside the courtroom) in according to their conscience as individual men and women.  Just as mail carriers can deliver the mail without lapsing into scripture, judges of religious faith can easily uphold the laws of the country, state, county and/or municipality that they have sworn (often on the Bible, ironicly) to uphold.

Check out this study, as reported in the Baptist Standard, from 2001.  Do "religious" judges then to make more "pro-religious" rulings than their "non-religious" colleagues?  Well, yes and no.  Although Baptist and Catholic judges tended to ruling more often in a "pro-religion" vein, it was not statistically significant.  In fact . . .

Being not religious did not make a significant difference in the outcome, since the non-religious still, in general, adopted a pro-religion position.

Furthermore, Lutheran judges "were more likely to take an anti-religion position".  Mmmmmm.

So what is the meta-conclusion?  Well, it’s hard to say.  And that’s the point.  Some judges with religious faith might take a pro-religion stance (although not consistently), but others might lean anti-religious (although not constistently).  The same holds true for non-religious judges — no consistent statistically-significant pattern.  Apparently, the only real conclusion is that there is no strong conclusion, only shades of tendancies.

So why does the ad make it seem like it is a pure "either-or" choice? 

The answer is that the ad is a lie, creating a false choice where, in reality, none exists.  And don’t think the people behind that ad aren’t aware of the deception.  After all, the manipulative ad was their own creation.

But more importantly, apart from the ad’s duplicity, the ad reveals what the religious right is truly seeking — not judges who will fulfill their oath to the Constitution or the laws passed by the peoples’ elected representatives, but instead — judges who will act according to a higher law.

Which begs the question: Whose higher law?  (Not those of Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, Native Americans, Deists, Atheists, etc., etc., I assure you.  The religious right hates pluralism when it comes to religion.) 

A final observation about the ad: the small print says "The filibuster was once used to protect racial bias, and now it is being used against people of faith."  No, morons.  It is not being used against people of faith — it is being used against religious bias.  Because BIAS in judges — any kind of bias (racial, sexual, religious, etc.) — is BAD!  Got that?  B-A-D!  Not too mention anti-American.

So we see what the religious right is really whining about.  They WANT judges to be biased.  They don’t want the scales to be balanced; they want them weighted. Weighted in their favor.  And when they can’t have it, they act like they are victims of religious discrimination.

For centuries, our judicial system has been the envy of the world simply BECAUSE we strive for fairness and equality in the courtroom.  Fairness and equality — that’s what the judicial scales actually represent, you know.  Now, the krazy kristian kooks want to tip those scales.  Because to them, God outweighs all.  Well, their God anyway.

But I ask you this: Can anything be more un-American than to create a court system where the faith and religion of the judge (attorneys, litigants, etc.) affects the outcome of a case?  And to help answer the question, pretend you are a patriotic, voting, taxpaying American whose life, liberty, and property depends on the decision of a judge (1) who holds a religious belief starkly different from yours AND (2) who has carte blanche to act on his religious belief rather than the religion-neutral law. 

You want that?  Is that your America?  Because that’s what they want.  They want service to (their idea of) God to be the basis of public service.

Don’t kid yourself.  This is the beginning of the American Taliban.  And I say, kill it where it breeds.

Friday Random Ten

Things Another Friday, another Friday Random Ten from the shufflin’ of the iPod:

  1. The Sound of Philadelphia – MFSB
  2. My Sweet Lord – George Harrison
  3. Along Comes Mary – The Association
  4. The Rumour – Lauren Christy
  5. There Are Worse Things I Could Do – Stockard Channing (Grease Soundtrack)
  6. The Man With the Child in his Eyes – Kate Bush
  7. I’ll Never Fall In Love Again – Elvis Costello
  8. Roam – B-52’s
  9. Magic To Do – Pippin
  10. O Tannenbaum – Vince Guaraldi

Why Do Republicans Hate America?

From here:

WASHINGTON – Republicans on Tuesday beat back a Democratic attempt to provide almost $2 billion in additional health care funding for veterans, rejecting claims that Veterans Affairs hospitals are in crisis.

The proposal was part of an $80.6 billion emergency spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other costs. The bill would give President Bush slightly less than the $82 billion he sought. It is also less than the $81.4 billion approved by the House.

The Senate’s Republican leaders hoped to have the bill approved by the end of the week and ready for Bush’s signature by the end of the month. But the timing of the bill has become uncertain, with Senate leaders dealing with stacks of amendments and a possible battle over immigration restrictions.

The first debate came Tuesday over a proposal by Sen. Patty Murray (news, bio, voting record), D-Wash., to provide an additional $1.98 billion for veteran’s care. She said VA hospitals are underfunded and overcrowded.

"There’s a train wreck coming," Murray warned.

I’ll say.

A Religious Test

You scored as agnosticism. You are an agnostic. Though it is generally taken that agnostics neither believe nor disbelieve in God, it is possible to be a theist or atheist in addition to an agnostic. Agnostics don’t believe it is possible to prove the existence of God (nor lack thereof). Agnosticism is a philosophy that God’s existence cannot be proven. Some say it is possible to be agnostic and follow a religion; however, one cannot be a devout believer if he or she does not truly believe.

agnosticism

88%

atheism

75%

Satanism

58%

Buddhism

58%

Paganism

54%

Hinduism

50%

Islam

42%

Christianity

42%

Judaism

17%

Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with QuizFarm.com

"However, one cannot be a devout believer if he or she does not truly believe?"  Who says, Mr. no-it-all Quizfarm?  Perhaps my belief is that God did not intend for us to know all there is to know about Him (or to paraphrase Carl Sagan, if God truly wanted us to know of Him, he would have written the Ten Commandments on the side of the Moon instead of handing them to Moses).  Isn’t that a religious belief?  Isn’t it just as bona fide as any other religious belief?  Can’t I believe in it just as devoutly as any else can in their religious belief?

And where does this Satanism come from?  Oh, I get it!  If I question God/Jesus, I am ipso facto a believer in Satan, is that it?  Try this on for size: Is it possible that a person can question the existance or influence of God/Jesus, but NOT believe or worship Satan?

Bolton v. Bolton

The Poor Man sets the record straight, in case you were confused:
Bolton: Michael Bolton John R. Bolton
Primary hair issue: Michaelbolton
Stole Robert Plant’s ‘do and chest hair
Johnbolton
Has been wearing the same unconvincing hairpiece since 1972
Early inspiration: Stevie Wonder Jesse Helms
spent 1981 in: Blackjack The Reagan Administration
later in the decade, teamed up with: Laura Branigan Ed Meese
has also been linked with: Peabo Bryson, Patti Labelle, and BabyFace Ahmad Chalabi, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith
most controversial quote: Love is a Wonderful Thing I’m with the Bush-Cheney team, and I’m here to stop the count
Works to rid the world of: poverty, homelessness, and sexual abuse The UN and non-proliferation treaties
If confirmed, will destroy: TBD The UN
If NOT confirmed, will destroy: a bunch more good songs TBD
Editors’ opinion: Sucks Sucks

Bible Libel

Red Harvest has an interesting post about a lawsuit in New York, where the plaintiffs sued a publisher of the Bible, claiming that the Bible contains libelous statements against certain races.  The court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, but it also (as an aside) addressed the merits of the argument.  An interesting case.

The Book Meme

There’s a book meme going around, so I will give it a shot, although I don’t really read as much as I should or as much as I would like to…

OwenmeanyYou’re stuck in Fahrenheit 451. Which book would you be?

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.  The first chapter alone never fails to make me laugh.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Um, not really.  Maybe the narrator’s mother in A Prayer for Owen Meany.

What is the last book you bought?

Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder

What are you currently reading?

God’s Politics by Jim Wallis, Aristotle’s Poetics by, um, Aristotle …and 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn.

What five books would you take to a deserted island?

I know I am cheating a bit here, because some of these are collections, but I don’t care.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by, um, William Shakespeare

The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote

The National Geographic Alamanac of World History

Hannity Coaches Interviewees

Can you imagine how the right-wing blogosphere would react if this was Dan Rather (instead to Sean Hannity)?

From the New York Daily News:

Fox News host: Repeat after me

If the conservative guests on Fox News’ "Hannity and Colmes" sound especially on-message, that’s because they’re being coached by the best:

Sean Hannity himself.

On the March 31 installment of the shouting-head show, the guests included two of the late Terri Schiavo‘s former nurses, Trudy Capone and Carla Sauer Iyer, arguing that their patient wasn’t brain-dead.

Between commercials, according to an off-air audiotape obtained by investigative comedian Harry Shearer for last Sunday’s episode of his weekly radio program, "Le Show," Hannity coached the women on exactly how to respond when liberal co-host Alan Colmes cross-examined them.

"Just say, ‘I’m here to tell what I saw,’" Hannity can be heard instructing his guests. "No matter what the question, ‘I’m here to tell you what I saw. I’m here to tell you what I saw.’"

Hannity adds helpfully: "Say, ‘I’m not going to be distracted by silliness.’ How’s that? Does that help you? Look into that camera. Look at me when I’m talking."

On the air, Iyer performs beautifully. "I don’t have any opinions or judgments. I was there," she declares

After the segment ends, Hannity gushes off the air to the nurses: "We got the points out. It’s hard, this isn’t easy. But you did great, both of you. Thank you, guys. Those nurses are powerful, aren’t they?"

On his radio show, Shearer injected: "Yeah, especially when they do what you tell ’em to do. Very powerful when they follow instructions from the host!"

A Fox News flack didn’t respond to Lowdown’s detailed message yesterday.

UPDATE: Audio available here.

Accountaability

Techpolitics has two interactive charts as to who voted for and against (1) the poor-and-middle-class-hurting, credit-card-company-kissing Bankruptcy Bill, and (2) the Paris-Hilton-Inheritance-Assurance Bill.

And courtesy of Steve Soto, we have the Democrats who embarrassingly voted for both:

Melissa Bean, Illinois
Robert Marion Berry, Arkansas (Member of the New Democrat Coalition)
Sanford Bishop, Georgia (Member of the Blue Dog Coalition)
Dan Boren, Oklahoma
Leonard Boswell, Iowa (Member, Blue Dog Coalition)
Rick Boucher, Virginia
Dennis Cardoza, CA
Ben Chandler, Kentucky
Jim Costa, CA
Bud Cramer, Alabama
Henry Cuellar, Texas
Lincoln Davis, Tennessee
Chet Edwards, Texas
Bart Gordon, Tennessee
Ruben Hinojosa, Texas
Darlene Hooley, Oregon
Steve Israel, New York
William Jefferson, Louisiana (Co-Chair of the DCCC)
Rick Larsen, Washington
Jim Matheson, Utah
Carolyn McCarthy, New York (member of the NDC)
Mike McIntyre, North Carolina (member of the NDC)
Charlie Melancon, Louisiana
Collin Peterson, Minnesota (Member, Blue Dog Coalition)
Nick Joe Rahall, West Virginia (DLC Member)
Mike Ross, Arkansas (Member, New Democratic and Blue Dog Coalitions)
Dutch Ruppersberger, Maryland
John Salazar, Colorado (Ken’s brother)
David Scott, Georgia (Member, Blue Dog Coalition)
Ike Skelton, Missouri
Albert Russell Wynn, Maryland

Let them know your displeasure.

Teen Virtue

TeenvirtueThe America Family Association is coming out with a new magazine, called TeenVirtue.  You can tell it is "hip" and "rad" because the words "teen" and "virtue" are smashed together, a surely boss way to get in with the kids.

From the picture to the left, you can see that the magazine is "by vicki courtney" — who doesn’t bother to capitalize her name because it is "hip" and "rad", I suspect.  (Just like the magazine article "r u alive" which is teenspeak for the question "Are You Alive?")

Let’s visit Vicki Courtney’s website to learn about this new magazine.  Ah, Vicki has an excerpt:

A common question we get at our events from Christian girls is this:

Q: All my friends are getting their belly button pierced but my parents won’t let me. I don’t understand what the big deal is- I mean, they let me get my ears pierced. What’s the big difference?

A: There is not a Bible verse that says, “Thou shalt not pierce thy belly button”, but

…fortunately, people like me are here to teach you that the Bible says that anyway.

[H]ere are some important factors to consider:

What is the purpose? 1 Timothy 2:9 tells women to dress modestly, so technically, girls should not be wearing clothes that expose their midriffs.

Actually what the passage says is: 9I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

So I guess that means you shouldn’t be giving advice, Vicki.  You whore of Babylon.

If you are living by God’s Word, why pierce something that you are going to cover up all the time? Most girls who pierce their belly buttons do so with the intent of showing it off—not covering it up. 

What about girls who do things to make themselves feel good?  They don’t do that anymore?

Consider the actual effect it has on guys. Some Christian girls try to justify piercing their belly buttons by saying they intend to cover it up except for when they are wearing a swimsuit. Piercing your belly button is different than piercing your ears.

Right.  It’s on your tummy.

While I understand that many girls innocently want to pierce their belly buttons because it is the current fashion trend, believe me, it will send a different message to the guys.

Vicki, apparently, knows a lot about today’s teenage guys.  Don’t ask how though — it’s best left undiscussed.

There is no arguing that a pierced belly button is considered by most to be sensual and even sexual. Case in point: If you put two girls side by side who are wearing the same swimsuit and one has a pierced belly button and the other one does not, and then line up a group of guys and ask them which girl was more likely to have loose morals, the majority of the guys would pick the girl with the pierced belly button.

Well, I’m not sure that’s true.  A pierced belly button doesn’t send a signal to me at all.  I don’t judge people that way, and neither do most guys I know.  Especially non-Christians.

And you know what?  If you placed the girl on the cover of your magazine beside a woman in a burka, the girl on the cover of your magazine would be the hussy.  See, it’s all relative.

In the end, do you want to risk sending a signal to guys that you may be willing to compromise sexually? I hope not.

That’s what they said about lipstick, too.

But I have a question, Vicki.   If teen girls shouldn’t be worrying about what guys think, why is the banner article in the magazine (picture above) entitled "25 GUYS Tell All"?  Just asking…

Think about the future. One sample group of students who opted to have their belly buttons pierced indicated that it took approximately thirty-eight weeks for it to heal verses the standard six weeks for pierced ears. Again, that’s a heavy sacrifice for a Christian girl who plans to cover it up.

Come again?  A hole in a belly button that is covered up is a "heavy sacrifice" how?

For those who are willing to assume the risks and attempt to justify it with the claim that it can always be removed, it is not uncommon for a navel piercing to tear or leave a permanent scar.

A scar on a belly button?  How can you tell?

Many girls fail to think past the moment and evaluate what a pierced belly button would look like ten, twenty, thirty-plus years later.

Don’t get pregnant either.  That reaks permanent havoc with your body, too, I’m told.  Right, Vicki?

You will spend the majority of your years in adulthood and the truth is, most adult women are not running around flashing their midriffs to show off their pierced belly buttons. Try to picture yourself ten to twenty years from now at the neighborhood pool party with your kids. Better yet, try to imagine your mom with a pierced belly button. OK, you get my point, right? 

I think so.  Teen girls shouldn’t get their belly button pierced because their moms would look silly with a pierced belly button.

No, I’m not sold yet.

What would God say? First Corinthians 6:19–20 says this: Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God with your body.  This is a hard concept to understand but the truth is, if you are a Christian, your body doesn’t belong to you—it belongs to God.

In the end, you must ask yourself, Would piercing my belly button bring honor to God?

Interesting, especially since an awful lot of women in the Mediterranean during biblical times wore belly button rings.

Just as we discussed with the issue of immodest fashions, God wouldn’t want you to decorate his temple with something that has sexual undertones. Life is full of situations where your desires and God’s will won’t always line up and you will be faced with choosing your way or God’s way. The temporary and fleeting satisfaction of piercing your belly button could never match the long-term and lasting satisfaction of submitting to his good, pleasing, and perfect will (See Rom. 12:2).

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."?  That’s talking about, you know, minds, not belly buttons, Vicki.  I guess she figures nobody is actually going to look up scripture, so she can feel free to quote it (and interpret it loosely) at will.

More on The Religious Left

Oh, you bet they exist:

Those on the left who are waiting for progressive religious leaders to add their voices to the national political debate need wait no longer. A powerful assembly of religious leaders from a variety of traditions gathered at Riverside Church in New York on April 4. Their message was loud and clear: the militarism of Bush, the widening divide between rich and poor, the failure to provide families with health care, education, safe neighborhoods, even food, demands a revolution.

It was three-hour rally, but you can watch a brief video recap of the Riverside event here. DriveDemocracy.org, helped co-sponsor Riverside, and, with Ben Cohen (of Ben and Jerry’s and True Majority.org) the subsequent national campaign.

You can read more about the event by clicking on the Break the Silence graphic. If you think this emergence of progressive religious leaders is as important as we do, hit the contributions button and help sponsor the campaign.

At a time of growing religious fanaticism and its embrace by the right, Americans need to see there is a community of conscience that speaks up for their values while preserving the essential constitutional separation of church and state.

Bubbling Crude, Black Gold

Gas22804marinI think you can see where Andrew Tobias is going, when he writes:

President Bush is an oil man. His pappy is an oil man. His VP is an oil man. His pals and his family’s pals are oil men. His virtual brother, Prince Bandar “Bush,” and the Saudi Royal Family generally, to whom the Bushes are closely tied, are oil men.

So when you say “energy crisis,” what exactly do you mean? This is a great time to be an oil man! All those guests at the early Cheney energy meetings — the ones whose names the White House would not reveal even after a subpoena from the General Accounting Office? Most of them are likely reveling in this so-called “crisis.”

The solution to the “crisis,” according to this administration, is to drill for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, not to promote conservation. Drilling for oil is what oil men DO. Conservation hurts oil men two ways. First, they sell less oil. Second, because of that lessened demand, the oil they do sell fetches a lower price.

With oil at $55 a barrel instead of $30, as I have pointed out before, the Saudis are making (roughly) an extra $250 million — extra! — a day.

Read the whole thing.  Eye-opening.

Tom DeLay Hates That You Have Privacy

He also doesn’t care for separation of church and state (should we start taxing churches, Tom?), or judicial review.  He even admits it, in this interview with the Moonie-owned Washington Times:

WASHINGTON TIMES: You’ve recently said you blame Congress for not being zealous in oversight.

MR. DeLAY: Not zealous. I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that’s nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn’t stop them.

P.S. to DeLay: Congress didn’t give courts the power of judicial review; the Constitution does in Article II:

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under the Constitution, the Laws of the United States [that means the laws that Congress passes, Tom] and Treaties made . . .

In other words, judges review laws because that is what judges do, per the Constitution.  Not too hard to understand, Tom.

And there is no congressional oversight of the federal courts in the Constitution.  All the Constitution allows Congress to do is to create "inferior courts" below the U.S. Supreme Court (i.e., federal district courts and appellate courts).  Which they did a coupla hundred years ago.

Crouching Homophobe, Hidden Legislator

Michele Backmann is a Minnesota State Senator who doesn’t like gay people.  In fact, she tried to force a floor vote on a ban on civil unions and gay marriage.  When did she try to do this?  During a gay pride day event.  Fortunately, she was unsuccessful.

But what she do afterwards?  Like a freaking kid, she went out and spied on the gay pride rally.

Bachfar Bachclose

That’s her on the right, spying on the gay people from a safe distance, behind the bushes so that she won’t get any gay coodies.

Read the whole story and see photos here.