Monthly Archives: November 2009

The GOP Divide

There's a lot of information to be gleaned from this Washington Poll.  Most of it isn't terribly surprising — for example, Republicans really really really don't like Obama.  In this sense, the Republicans are united.  In fact, Republicans appear to be very united in what they don't like, including their dissatisfaction with their own party (In 2005, 76% of Republicans were satisfied with the direction set by the party's leadership; now that number is 49%. About a third believes GOP leaders do not stand up for the party's "core values.". 

And they love them some Fox News.  Some 46% of them watch it regularly.

But the WaPo poll stress not only their unity, but their division.  And they are that, too.  About a third of Republicans believe the GOP should spend more time opposing gay marriage, but nearly as many believe the party should do the opposite. About a third of Republicans want to see more focus on abortion, and nearly as many prefer less. GOP voters expressed concern about taxes, spending, and the economy, but that's pretty much what the party leadership focuses on already. To me, however, this one graphic explains the whole divide:

Dividedgop It shows that the Republicans are even split (more or less) on whether to be conservatively pure, or to allow for moderate positions.

That's bad enough, but note that 58% feel strongly on whether to be conservative-only versus moderate-accomodating.  And I'll venture to guess that the 21% (let's call them the "teabaggers") are a lot more vocal than the more moderate 37% (let's call them the "big tenters").

This is where the friction is, and will be, for several years.

The problem for the GOP is, in order to get control of Congress and the White House, they need to appease both the tea baggers and the big tenters.  But what kind of candidate fits both those camps?  Remember, these voters feel "strongly" about their positions.

In the end, if 2012 presidential candidate X is too conservative, eschewing moderate positions, enough big tenters might stay at home and not vote at all, or even vote Democratic.  Result?  Candidate X loses.  On the other hand, if Candidate X has more moderate views, the teabaggers might stay at home, or vote for a third-party candidate.  Result? Candidate X loses.  Either way, it's a Democratic win.

When 58% of a political party holds opposing views and is strongly entrenched in those views, the political party lacks sustainability.  To paraphrase another Republican, a house divided cannot stand.  This is good news for those seeking the emergence of a third party, including Democrats who would love to see the "other side" divided and conquered.

Bad News For Huckabee 2012 Campaign

That shooter (still on the loose) who shot and killed four cops in Tacoma?  The suspect's name is Maurice Clemmons and:

Nine years ago in Arkansas, The Seattle Times reported, Mr. Clemmons was released from prison after Gov. Mike Huckabee commuted his lengthy prison sentence, over the protests of prosecutors. Late Sunday night, Mr. Huckabee’s political action committee released a statement saying that “a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State” would be to blame if Mr. Clemmons were found responsible for the shootings.

Not good for the "tough on crime" crowd.

Then again, Huckabee has been in this spot before….

The Cutest Video Ever?

God knows the Internet is full of cute, so I tend to ignore it all, at the risk of serious cute overload.  Still, this is probably the cutest thing out there:

White House Crashers

First balloon boy, now the White House crashers – seems people will do anything to get on reality TV.

Can't we just outlaw the practice of trying to make yourself a media sensation?

Or better yet, can't we just make reality TV illegal?

UPDATE:  Some depressing stats and thoughts from the New York Times

Once you throw in the ever-expanding club of reality alumni, and account for shows that go through several rounds in a year, it is clear that a near army of non-professionals has been tramping through prime time starting almost a decade ago, when CBS introduced “Survivor” to television and lit the fuse that became the reality explosion. Considering the whole reality universe, then, 1,000 sounds like an undercount.

Ten thousand, anyone?

The numbers are not likely to shrink soon, not as long as all these networks need programs and don’t want to pay for actors. That’s if viewers keep watching. Ratings for reality are not what they once were, but no ratings in television are. The likelihood is that the programmers will keep running out these shows until either the ideas or the viewers are exhausted, whichever comes first.

It's not even "fame" anymore to be a reality star.  So why do people pursue it?

Potential Terrorist Caught In Ohio Making Bomb

You know why you haven't heard this story?

Because the would-be terrorist wasn't Muslim and didn't have a funny-sounding name.

He was an extreme right-winger teabagging anti-government type:

Thumb_mediumMarkCampano_c3716 CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio – Following a pipe bomb explosion Monday night, police and federal law enforcement officials are trying to figure why a Center Avenue man turned his apartment into a bomb factory.

Police said no charges have been filed against Mark Campano, 56. Police found 30 completed pipe bombs in his apartment along with components to make more, plus 17 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Campano is in an Akron hospital with injuries received when one of the bombs exploded.

As police and federal authorities puzzle over Campano's past and what he planned to do with the bombs, a former neighbor said Campano often railed against the government.

Barbara Vachon lived next door to Campano at the Center Park Place Apartments for several years and said he was a big reason she moved.

"He was always trying to get me and another neighbor to listen to anti-government tapes and watch anti-government videos," said Vachon. "I would never watch them. He was some kind of radical, and he didn't believe in the government."


Can Someone Factcheck This?

From Raw Story:

In an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity Tuesday night, the onetime Bush spokesperson attacked President Barack Obama's administration for not labeling the recent killings at Ft. Hood a terrorist attack.

She then took one step further — and claimed there had been no terrorist attacks under President George W. Bush.

"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during president Bush's term," Perino quipped. "I hope they're not looking at this politically. I do think that we owe it to the American people to call it what it is."

I realize my memory may not be the best, but I seem to recall — vaguely — some little terrorist attack of sorts during the Bush Administration…..

Now, to be fair, she probably does realize that there were terrorist attacks during the Bush Administration (9/11, anthrax, etc), and she's smart enough to know that arguing otherwise is a no-brainer, even for Fox news watchers.  But I'm stumped… what was she trying to say?

Christian Side Hug

For those of you who, like me, think that hip-hop/rap has been around waaaaay too long, I have some good news: that particular musical genre has officially died with this Christian rap song called "Christian Side Hug":

The side hug is a safe "Christian" way to show affection because, as we all know, the full frontal hug often leads to the mashing of genitals in a way that (I guess) creates accidental pre-marital intercourse.

Why Is The Gun Lobby Weighing In On Health Care Reform?

Steve Benen writes: "It's not an abortion bill, but the debate managed to turn to abortion. It's not a gun bill, but the debate has managed to turn to guns. It's funny how the culture-war issues manage to sneak their way into everything."

How did guns get into the picture?  Well, about a week ago, Gun Owners of America told its 300,000 members that the reform bill pending in the Senate "would mandate that doctors provide 'gun-related health data' to 'a government database,' including information on mental-health issues detected in patients, which could jeopardize their ability to obtain a firearms license."

This is simply not true (although I wish it was).  The Senate healthcare bill requires doctors to report anonymous statistical information to help with research, but none of this would lead to gun ownership or "gun related health data" being included in reporting to the government.

The Gun Owners of America go even further, alerting their members that "nothing within the bill would prohibit rabidly anti-gun HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from decreeing that 'no guns' is somehow healthier", resulting in higher premiums for gun owners.

That's just stupid semantics.  Guess what?  Nothing in the bill would prevent Obama from raping your kittens either — doesn't mean it's going to happen, and it certainly doesn't mean the bill is flawed.

I guess health care reform is so big that it's like a Christmas tree bill upon which everyone wants to hang their own ornament.  Still, it's more propaganda and disinformation which detracts from an honest debate.

Pardoning Courage

If you're into that sort of thing, the White House is pardoning a turkey at 11.28 a.m. today, and you can view it live on the White House website here.  The turkey's name is "Courage", and he's from North Carolina.

In the meantime, here's a classic scene from The West Wing where CJ asks President Bartlet to pardon a second turkey.

President Lou Dobbs?

Yup, he's mulling a White House run in 2012.

He's smarter than Palin; I'll give him that.  And caters to the same crowd.  He'll probably run as an independent third party candidate though.  He doesn't stand a chance, especially in a country with 25% non-white voters.

I think 2012 is going to be interesting in a popcorn eating kind of way.

Man Discovers His Biological Father Is Charles Manson

That's gotta mess with ya:

Read the whole thing.

If I had to guess though, I'd say the guy's biological father is Nathan Lane.

“Last Night On Twisted River”

ImageDB How was I not aware of a new John Irving book?

It's supposed to be a throwback to his earlier "better" books.  Best since Owen Meany and all that.

Set in New Hampshire?  Check

Absent parent?  Check

Wrestling?  Check

A gruesome accident?  Check

Bears?  Check

Spans several decades?  Check

No Vienna though.

Fox News Won’t Tolerate “Mistakes” Anymore

After a couple of days of questionable "mistakes" with its news programming (see here), Fox News’s management has issued a memo declaring that “Effective immediately, there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors”:

Effective immediately, there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors. Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the “mistake chain,” and those who supervise them. That may include warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination, and this will all obviously play a role in performance reviews. So we now face a great opportunity to review and improve on our workflow and quality control efforts. To make the most of that opportunity, effective immediately, Newsroom is going to “zero base” our newscast production. That means we will start by going to air with only the most essential, basic, and manageable elements. To share a key quote from today’s meeting: “It is more important to get it right, than it is to get it on.” We may then build up again slowly as deadlines and workloads allow so that we can be sure we can quality check everything before it makes air, and we never having to explain, retract, qualify or apologize again. Please know that jobs are on the line here. I can not stress that enough.

We'll see what kind of impact this has on….. wait — this just in:


Really?  193 percent of Republicans support Palin or Huckabee or Romney?  Really?!?

(Actually, this probably happened before the memo….)

“Pray for Obama” vs. “Pray for Obama’s Death”?

Teddypsalmobama Apparently, "Psalm 109:8" appeared at the top of Google Trends last week, the internal Google device that sees what people are searching most.

And why?  Because of a new bumper sticker popping up all over the country.  The bumper stickers say "Pray for Obama", but the biblical reference is Psalm 109:8, so it's not as "nice as it sounds.

Psalm 109:8 reads "May his days be few; may another take his office."

Yup, it's an anti-Obama sticker.

Psalm 109 belongs to a special category of the psalms known as "imprecatory" prayers–it is a lament in the form of petition to destroy one's enemies.  It is the personal prayer of an individual, someone who has been dealt an injustice by another–and usually more powerful — person.

One could argue that those who sport the bumper sticker merely want him to be a one-term president.  However, the next passage opf the Psalms reads: ""May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow", suggesting a more — uh — violent end to Obama's presidency.

The Christian Science Monitor picks up the story:

The slogan comes at a time of heightened concern about antigovernment anger. Earlier this year, the president’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, said that Tea Parties could lead to something unhealthy. In September, authorities shut down a poll on Facebook asking if President Obama should be killed.

Still, that doesn’t push the Psalms citation into the realm of hate speech, says Chris Hansen, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The use of Psalm 109:8 is ambiguous as to whether its users are calling for the President to serve “only one term, or less than one term,” he says.

Deborah Lauter, director of civil rights at the Anti-Defamation League agrees that the bumper sticker falls within acceptable political discourse.

For it to be considered hate speech, it “would advocate actual violence or cite scripture that was more clear in its message.”

But that doesn’t mean that it’s completely innocent.

“Are we concerned about real hostility towards [President Obama]? Absolutely,” says Ms. Lauter. “Is this a part of that movement? It may be, but in terms of this message itself, we would not criticize it.”

“The problem is you don’t know if people who are donning that message in a shirt or on a bumper sticker are fully aware of the quote or what follows. Obviously that message makes the ambiguity disappear. If they’re just referring to him being out of office, that’s one thing. If they’re referring to him being dead, that’s so offensive. It’s protected speech, but it’s clearly offensive.”

This week, both the websites of and decided to stop selling merchandise that featured the slogan “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8.” However, Cafe Press then changed its mind and said it was reinstating the merchandise, which fell within “fair political commentary.”

As a free speecher myself, I tend to agree with Cafepress's final assessment.  It shouldn't be banned (although CafePress, not being a government entity, can ban anything it damn well pleases and not violate the First Amendment).  Still, it's unnecessarily ugly, and quite anti-Christian.  We ought to keep that in mind, especially at this time of year when a President was shot down by an assassin's bullet 46 years ago.

If one is so inclined to pray for Obama, perhaps a better prayer would be

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” – I Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)

Just a thought…

Galileo’s Fingers Found


Two fingers cut from the hand of Italian astronomer Galileo nearly 300 years ago have been rediscovered more than a century after they were last seen, an Italian museum director said Monday.

They were purchased recently at an auction by a person who brought them to the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, suspecting what they were, museum director Paolo Galluzzi said.

Three fingers were cut from Galileo's hand in March 1737, when his body was moved from a temporary monument to its final resting place in Florence, Italy. The last tooth remaining in his lower jaw was also taken, Galluzzi said.

Two of the fingers and the tooth ended up in a sealed glass jar that disappeared sometime after 1905.

I mention this only because it provides me the opportunity to note that "Galileo's Fingers" is a good band name.

Sarah Palin On Whether She Thinks She’s Qualified To Be President

Bill O'Reilly asked her if she thinks she's qualified to handle "the most powerful job in the world", and Palin offered up this bowl of word salad :

O'REILLY: Do you believe that you are smart enough, incisive enough, intellectual enough to handle the most powerful job in the world?

PALIN: I believe that I am because I have common sense, and I have, I believe, the values that are reflective of so many other American values. And I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the kind of a spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite Ivy League education and a fact resume that's based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles. Americans could be seeking something like that in positive change in their leadership. I'm not saying that has to be me.

Her response started to get all mangled somewhere at "fact resume" — I don't know what that is, but presumably it's bad.  As opposed to — I don't know — fiction resumes?

Anyway, I thought I'd do a check to see if Palin think I'm qualified to be president:

  • common sense – check
  • not elitist – screwed (I'm elistist – I value book learnin' and acknowledgement of reality)
  • not spineless – check
  • no elite Ivy League education – I guess not (Tufts, NYU not "Ivy League")
  • no fact resume that's based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles — ummmmmmm

Oh, well….

What's scary about this is that Palin thinks she's qualified to lead, not in spite of her inexperience and ignorance, but because of her inexperience and ignorance.  She's got that common sense, you know.

Real Americans Speak At Palin Book Signing

This speaks for itself…

Nice people.  They don't strike me as the teabagger type, and probably aren't (most of them).  What concerns me is how massively un- or under-informed they are…. and how unconcerned they are about how un or under-informed they are.

The Judean People’s Front versus The People’s Front of Judea

Sounds like the Tea Party people can't get along:

Tea partiers turn on each other

After emerging out of nowhere over the summer as a seemingly potent and growing political force, the tea party movement has become embroiled in internal feuding over philosophy, strategy and money and is at risk of losing its momentum.

The grass-roots activists driving the movement have become increasingly divided on such core questions as whether to focus their efforts on shaping policy debates or elections, work on a local, regional, state or national level or closely align themselves with the Republican Party, POLITICO found in interviews with tea party organizers in Washington and across the country.

Many of these differences date to the movement’s beginnings last winter in an outpouring of anger about the huge increases in government spending enacted by President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress. But they were overshadowed by the initial explosion of activism that culminated during the congressional town hall meetings in August.

Now the disagreements and the sense of frustration they have engendered could diminish the movement’s potential influence in state and national politics.


[Adam] Brandon [vice president of communications for tea bagging group FreedomWorks] acknowledged the “rivalries and turf battles” now gripping parts of the movement but said “that’s normal because people have different ideas about what they want. That’s what’s happening now, and it’s sometimes a painful process.”

Those fights have been waged over issues that go to the heart of the movement’s purpose and strategy as well as more mundane rivalries and personal feuds.

This is even affecting local groups:

In Myrtle Beach, S.C., disputes within the local tea party about how much to engage in partisan politics and whether board members were profiting from contracts to print paraphernalia emblazoned with the group’s logo prompted the treasurer to resign and join with defectors from a North Carolina We the People group to form a new organization.

“There’s a lot of fighting, and everyone wants to be in charge, and that’s why you have so many splinter groups,” said ex-treasurer Janet Spencer, who charged her adversaries within the tea party with saying “derogatory things about me that were very unprofessional.”

She said her new group, called Patriotic Voices of America/Carolina Patriots, counts about 100 members and will not coordinate with the Myrtle Beach Tea Party, whose treasurer, David Ognek, said the friction is “just group dynamics.”


In Texas, a handful of thriving tea party groups severed their ties from the national Tea Party Patriots group after it ousted, then sued a founding board member who had affiliated with a rival group called the Tea Party Express.



ACORN Madness

Everyone is talking about this Public Policy Polling survey, and in particular, one particular chunk of data.

1,065 registered voters were asked:


Now… think about this.  One in four registered voters think that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama.  What accounts for this oddly high number?


Are you serious?!?

Half of all registered Republicans — that's about 40 million Republicans — are now convinced that ACORN somehow managed to steal an election that McCain lost by seven percentage points???  And another 20 million think they might have stolen it but aren't sure???

And what is the basis for this?  How was ACORN, which aided in registering 1.3 million voters in 2008 (a good portion of which were rejected), able to pull this off?

Look, in 2000, there was a legitimate dispute about who won the presidency, becausethe controversy was centralized on one very close swing state in a very close election.  We had chads, butterfly ballots, and all kinds of things which made it feasible that Bush didn't actually win (which, by the way, he didn't).  But even there, nobody claimed an orchestrated conspiracy conducted by some organization prior to voting.

Yet, that's just what 40 million Repubicans apparently believe now — that ACORN had the massive resources, means, desire, and capability to cause McCain to lose by over 5,000,000 votes.

The GOP rank-and-file is now officially in conspiracy theory, tin foil hat, territory.

RELATED:  Speaking of polls, you know how Fox News has been on a tear about Obama bowing to the Japanese emporer?  Well, Fox News went out conducted a poll to find out how Americans feel about Obama's bow.  And Americans answered overwhelmingly that it was fine: 67% to 26%.

Guess that meme didn't take….

RELATED:  Yet another poll showing the stupidity of most Americans….

Stumping A Palin Supporter

Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC talks to a 17 year old girl in line at a Sarah Palin book-signing.  The girl is whereing a tee-shirt saying "The U.S. Government handed out $700 billion in bailouts and all I got was this lusy T-shirt".  O'Donnell asks the girl if she was aware that Sarah Palin supported the bailouts (which is true).  The clueless girl doesn't know how to respond.

That's amusing enough, but this article about the interview is funnier.  The girl was "badgered" and "hectored" by the "uncooth" [sic] Norah O'Donnell, who "swooped down" on the girl.

Just another example of how conservatives claim victimhood by the "librul" media whenever they can't articulate their views.

Foxx’s Latest Stupid Statements

During a debate on the House floor today over designating 21 miles of the Molalla River as "wild and scenic," Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who opposes the legislation, tried to claim a progressive environmental record for her party. "Actually, the GOP has been the leader in starting good environmental programs in this country," said Foxx.

She didn't say what those environmental programs were, tellingly.

But then she went into loony-land territory.   Foxx extended her claims of the GOP's progressive history to the issue of civil rights. "Just as we were the people who passed the civil rights bills back in the '60s without very much help from our colleagues across the aisle," said Foxx. "They love to engage in revisionist history."

Fortunately, Foxx was slapped down by Dennis Cardoza (D-CA):

CARDOZA: Today, what I'm hearing on the floor really takes the cake. The gentlelady from North Carolina, in her statement just now, indicated that the Republican GOP had passed the Civil Rights Act legislation with almost no help from the Democrats. I can't believe my ears. It was the Kennedy and Johnson administration where we passed that Great Society legislation. It was over the objections of people like Jesse Helms from the gentlewoman's state that we passed that civil rights legislation. John Lewis…

FOXX: Would, would the gentleman yield?

CARDOZA: No, I will not yield. John Lewis, a member of this House, was beaten on the Edmund Pettus bridge to get that civil rights legislation passed. Tell John Lewis that he wasn't part of getting that legislation passed.


The truth of the matter is that it is a bit more complicated.  Of course, there were Southern Democrats (Dixiecrats) who opposed civil rights legislation.  But as Think Progress points out:

To support the claim that Republicans were actually the architects of civil rights, conservatives often point out that a "higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats supported the civil-rights bill." But this ignores the "distinct split between Northern and Southern politicians" on the issue. When this is taken into account, the facts show that "in both the North and the South, Democrats supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act at a higher rate than the Republicans."

Steve Benen also provides this refresher:

This comes up from time to time, and since some confused people like Virginia Foxx have trouble remembering the details, it's worth the occasional refresher.

The Democratic Party, in the first half of the 20th century, was home to competing constituencies — southern whites with abhorrent views on race, and white progressives and African Americans in the north, who sought to advance the cause of civil rights. The party struggled, ultimately siding with an inclusive, liberal agenda.

As the party shifted, the Democratic mainstream embraced its new role. Republicans, meanwhile, also changed. In the wake of LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party welcomed the racists who no longer felt comfortable in the Democratic Party. Indeed, in 1964, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater boasted of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and made it part of his platform. It was right around this time when figures like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond made the transition — leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP.

In the ensuing years, Democrats embraced its role as the party of diversity, inclusion, and civil rights. Republicans became the party of the "Southern Strategy," opposition to affirmative action, campaigns based on race-baiting, vote-caging, discriminatory voter-ID laws, and politicians like Helms, Thurmond, Pat Buchanan, and Virginia Foxx.

Finally, it's all very nice to talk about Republican's civil rights initiatives of the past (after all, President Lincoln — a Republican — freed the slaves, yes?), but even assuming there is cause for the GOP to crow, that's what we call "resting on one's laurels".  Where is the Republican party today on issues like gay marriage or immigration?

Fox News: Worst TV News Ever

Perhaps some of you are aware of the fact that Jon Stewart — a guy on a comedy channel — last week caught Fox News showing false footage.  In a news story about the Tea Bag rally held by Backmann (attended by a few thousand at best), Fox showed footage of the 9/12 rally (attended by tens of thousands), passing it off as part of the Bachmaan rally.

“If I didn’t know any better I’d think they just put two days together and acted like they didn’t,” said Stewart, before going on to present video evidence that that was precisely what they did — including Hannity exclaiming over how many people cared enough about freedom to come down to be heard on a Thursday. Er, Saturday.

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Hannity subsequently apologized for the Fox News "mistake".

But, it happened again, this time on a news program.

Here's a screenshot of the footage of one of the rallies that Fox's Gregg Jarrett showed yesterday and claimed was "just coming into us" as part of the Sarah Palin book tour:


See the "Happening Now" chyron?  Well, not so much.

Here's a photo posted last year by Florida TV station CFNews 13 of a November 1, 2008, Palin rally in Ocala, Florida:


Notice any similarities?

UPDATE:  Fox apologizes (again)….


In Its Haste To Ban Gay Marriage, The State Of Texas May Have Inadvertently Banned ALL Texas Marriages

Way to go, y'all:

In 2005, the state of Texas adopted an amendment to its Constitution that said marriage in the state could only be between one man and one woman. The amendment also declared: “This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” Now, Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, is saying that the second section effectively “eliminates marriage in Texas”.

Obviously, the second part of the amendment was an attempt to ban same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships.  But if you believe in strict interpretation of the original text of the law (as conservatives do), then that language clearly bans common law marriage, and — at least arguably — bans regular marriages as well.

The War On Christmas Is Starting Early This Year

From the American Family Association:

Boycott Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic this Christmas

November 11, 2009

AFA is calling for a limited two-month boycott of Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic, the three stores owned by San Francisco-based Gap Inc., over the company’s censorship of the word "Christmas."

The boycott is part of our ongoing campaign to encourage businesses, communities and individuals to put Christ back in Christmas. The boycott runs from November 1 through Christmas Day.

For years, Gap has refused to use the word Christmas in its television commercials, newspaper ads and in-store promotions, despite tens of thousands of consumer requests to recognize Christmas and in spite of repeated requests from AFA to do the same.

Last year, Gap issued this politically-correct statement to Christmas shoppers: "Gap recognizes that many traditions are celebrated throughout this season and we feel it is important to display holiday signage that is inclusive to everyone."

Christmas is special because of Jesus. It's not just a "winter holiday." For millions of Americans the giving and receiving of gifts is in honor of the One who gave Himself. For the Gap to pretend that isn't the foundation of the Christmas season is political correctness at best and religious bigotry at worst.

The Gap is censoring the word Christmas, pure and simple. Yet the company wants all the people who celebrate Christmas to do their shopping at its stores? Until Gap proves it recognizes Christmas by using it in their newspaper, radio, television advertising or in-store signage, the boycott will be promoted.

Yeah.  The thing is…. The Gap isn't censoring Christmas….

… it's celebrating as well as other holidays that come this season.  checked out the websites of Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy and quickly found several items that feature Christmas items including several Christmas books, a pair of boxer shorts that says “Christmas” in several languages and pajama pants that also have “Christmas” written on them.

This isn't about censoring Christmas or Christianity; it's about failure to censor other religions.  In other words, the AFA wants you to boycott The Gap because The Gap isn't bigotted, much to the AFA's disliking.

Is The Sarah Palin Newsweek Cover “Sexist”?

From Sarah Palin's Facebook page, posted last night:

The choice of photo for the cover of this week’s Newsweek is unfortunate. When it comes to Sarah Palin, this “news” magazine has relished focusing on the irrelevant rather than the relevant. The Runner’s World magazine one-page profile for which this photo was taken was all about health and fitness — a subject to which I am devoted and which is critically important to this nation. The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: it shows why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin. The media will do anything to draw attention — even if out of context.

Descriptionnewsweek Her point is worthy of consideration, but in the end, I don't buy it.  And here's why.

What Sarah is saying is that Newsweek purports to be a serious "news" magazine, dealing with serious issues, etc., and therefore, it's not right that its cover depicts her in running shorts — a "cheesecake" shot, for lack of a better phrase.

The biggest problem with that argument, as I see it, is that Sarah Palin herself isn't "serious news" or about "serious issues".  She's in the spotlight now because she came out with a book.  Is she running for political office?  She has no plans to, but hasn't ruled it out — that's been her pat response over the last few days.  Is she a serious analyst on serious issues?  No, she's not.

Sarah Palin this week is using the media to plug her own book — a book which is about her, her family, her life, etc.  From everything I have read, the small portions of the book that deal with her political philosophy are rather mundane (certainly nothing "deep" or novel) — she's boilerplate Reagan-worshopping.  Is that news?  Is she to be taken seriously for holding views also held by half the country?

So she's using the media to plug her non-academic book, and she scolds the media for not being taken seriously?  Taken seriously about what?

Let's not forget, she posed for that photo, only a few months ago.  During the presidential race, she spent $150,000 of campaign money on clothes (a time when she did warrent some respect, if only because of the office she sought).  In other words, she's quite happy to eschew serious issues if it gets her the spotlight.  So what exactly is her problem?

Don't get me wrong — I think a woman can use her "female appeal" and still ask to be taken seriously in matters political, academic, etc.  But Sarah hasn't asked us to take her seriously — not yet.  You can't cry "sexist" or claim to be the victim of media bias, when you yourself use your sex to the exclusion of what supposedly passes for thoughtful discourse, or even political ambition.  You have to have a cause — something other than self-promotion — in order to accuse someone else of trivializing it.

When Sarah gives a lecture at Harvard School of Political Science, or announces her intentions to run for office, or does something instead of appearing on Oprah or Runner's World, I will acknowledge that she is a "newsworthy" woman with something to say or something to contribute.  But until then, she's nothing more than a media star — someone famous for being famous.  Or more accurately, she's someone famous for (once) being famous (last year). 

At this point in time, Sarah Palin is a mere media outlet using other media outlets to promote her media ("Going Rogue").  So what exactly is wrong with media outlets (Newsweek) using "cheesecake" shots of her to sell their wares?  Sarah Palin is knowingly selling herself as a pop icon — not a world leader, great thinker, learned author, etc.  And since people are buying, then why shouldn't Newsweek get in on it?

On Trying Suspected Terrorists In Civilian Trials In NYC

Andrew Sullivan gives the background:

When you listen to the Fox News right speak about this, they reveal amazing levels of fear. They have been truly spooked by these men with long beards and chilling eyes. They are so scared of them they are willing to drop any and all legal principles that the West has historically used with respect to mass murderers. Their fear brought them to institute torture, and to engage in mass brutality against prisoners of war in every theater of combat in a manner that will tragically taint the honor of the US military for a very long time. It led them to establish Gitmo, to create for the world a reverse symbol of the Statue of Liberty, and imprint it on the minds and in the consciences of an entire generation of human beings, whose view of America will never be the same.

I've read all the "concerns" about trying suspected terrorists in NY, in a civil (as opposed to military) trial, and none of them make sense.

For example, some fear there will be retribution against New York, a fear best represented by Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ). Speaking on the House floor last night, Shadegg went after Mayor Bloomberg personally, suggesting that the mayor's daughter could be "kidnapped at school by a terrorist" because of the trial:

SHADEGG: I saw the Mayor of New York said today, "We're tough. We can do it." Well, Mayor, how are you going to feel when it's your daughter that's kidnapped at school by a terrorist? How are you going to feel when it's some clerk — some innocent clerk of the court — whose daughter or son is kidnapped?  Or the jailer's little brother or little sister? This is political correctness run amok.   

It's not political correctness; it's simply not allowing ourselves to be terrorized by terrorists.  We've tried foreign terrorists in civilian courts before, including the so-called "20th" 9/11 terrorist.

Other fears are just plain silly, i.e., that the suspect al Qaeda terrorists will recruit the prison population and, well, and something.  Right, because prisoners are unpatriotic?  I have a feeling that if you allowed Khalid Sheikh Mohammad to roam amongst the general prison population, he'd end up like Jeffrey Dahmer — lying in a pool of blood.

Then, of course, you have those who fear that KSM and others will get off on a technicality.  Specifically, that the confessions that were obtained through torture won't be admissible, and they will end up getting off scot-free.

This is just as absurd.  For one thing, the federal prosecutors have already thought of that, and they have enough to convict even without the tainted confessions.  (Oh, and by the way, where's the outrage at the Bush Administration for allowing the torture in the first place?)

Secondly, KSM and others have indicated that they will enter a guilty plea, so it's not like there's going to be an actual trial.

Look, if we really hate these people as terrorists, and really believe in our way of life, then we show our strength by doing what we do.  A fair trial  right to attorneys, the whole bit.  As Sulllivan writes:

I believe this is the best symbolic answer to 9/11: a trial, with due process, after tempers have calmed somewhat, that exposes this evil for all it truly was. And also reveals the tragedy of an American government that lost its nerve and has now, under a new president, regained it.

Not surprisingly though, the GOP is fueled on fear, not strength.  And that's why you have the "outrage" that you see in some quarters of the rightwing.  Witness this from O'Reilly's show last night where he was talking with Fox's legal analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano — who has been known to disagree with Fox’s right-wing narratives on legal issues.  Napolitano disputed the argument that the suspected terrorists shoudn't be tried in NYC, citing the constitutional right to be tried in the place where the crime has been committed. “I don’t care about the Constitution!” host Bill O’Reilly responded. The debate continued:

O’REILLY: So why is he entitled to come to New York City to be tried in the civilian criminal court if he’s arrested in Pakistan?

NAPOLITANO: Because the document you don’t want me to talk about says when the government is going to prosecute you, it must do so in the place where the alleged harm was caused.

It's a very revealing exchange, because it shows how the rightwing doesn't care about the Constitution when it comes to things they fear.

RELATED: Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast takes a look through a wider lens:

A funny thing happened after the September 11 attacks. Americans talked tough, especially the bantam rooster-in-chief, about "dead or alive", or "turning their sand into glass." But it wasn't about toughness, it was about fear. We were a nation that had experienced (or viewed on television) something unthinkable, and rather than rally around the documents and laws that have kept us strong for over 200 years, we en masse reverted to the very same lawlessness that the right wing uses to characterize the Middle East.

In right-wing America, fear = strength and respect = weakness. This is why you have people like Karl Rove referring to Barack Obama bowing to the Japanese Emperor as "a gesture of weakness." Of course to people like Karl Rove, respect = weakness. Because after all, look how far the bellicosity of the Bush years got us — by the time Bush left office, the entire world hated America because we were fool enough to let George Bush and Dick Cheney lead our country for eight years. If Obama bowed perhaps more than was necessary just to show respect (and I would say that a very tall man bowing that deeply to a very short man isn't beyond the pale at all), after the last eight years, perhaps it's warranted.

But there is nothing that the right-wing wants more than another major terrorist attack on our soil. Glenn Beck talks about returning this country to how it was on 9/12, and it's not about good will and helping out. It's about fear — that blind, shit-your-pants fear that gives the right so much comfort. How fear makes them feel more secure, I have no idea. Perhaps someone can enlighten me how fear = strength while respect = weakness, and how hoping for a terrorist attack is somehow patriotic.

Word Of The Year Announced

Oxford University Press, who edits and publishes the Oxford English Dictionary (the source of all words English) and the New Oxford American Dictionary, has announced its "word of the year" for 2009:

unfriend – verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.

As in, “I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.”

“It has both currency and potential longevity,” notes Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program. “In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year. Most “un-” prefixed words are adjectives (unacceptable, unpleasant), and there are certainly some familiar “un-” verbs (uncap, unpack), but “unfriend” is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of “friend” that is really not used (at least not since maybe the 17th century!).

Follow the link to see what other words were considered for the 2009 edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary ("tramp stamp", "death panel", "teabagger", "birther", etc.)

“The Sound Of Music” Turns 50

Fifty years ago today, The Sound of Music opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

Odd. I had a dream about that show (sort of) this weekend.

Did you know that Christopher Plummer didn't like working in the film, calling it "The Sound of Mucus"? He even detested singing the song 'Edelweiss,' calling it "schmaltzy."

'Edelweiss' was the last song written by Oscar Hammerstein (it was written for the movie).

This Week’s Newsweek Covers

U.S Edition:


International Edition:


Says it all.

By the way, Christopher Hitchens nails Sarah Palin Bible Spice in Newsweek.  An excerpt:

The Palin problem, then, might be that she cynically incites a crowd that she has no real intention of pleasing. If she were ever to get herself to the nation's capital, the teabaggers would be just as much on the outside as they are now, and would simply have been the instruments that helped get her elected. In my own not-all-that-humble opinion, duping the hicks is a degree or two worse than condescending to them. It's also much more dangerous, because it meanwhile involves giving a sort of respectability to ideas that were discredited when William Jennings Bryan was last on the stump. The Weekly Standard (itself not exactly a prairie-based publication) might want to think twice before flirting with popular delusions and resentments that are as impossible to satisfy as the demand for a silver standard or a ban on the teaching of Darwin, and are for that very reason hard to tamp down. Many of Palin's admirers seem to expect that, on receipt of the Republican Party nomination, she would immediately embark on a crusade against Wall Street and the banks. This notion is stupid to much the same degree that it is irresponsible.

Then there's the question of character and personality. Decades ago, Walter Dean Burnham pointed out that right-wing populists tended to fail because they projected anger and therefore also attracted it. (He was one of the few on the left to predict that the genial Ronald Reagan would win for this very reason.) Let's admit that Sarah Palin is more attractive—some might even want to say more appealing—than much of her enraged core constituency. But then all we are considering is a point of packaging and marketing, where charm is supposed to make up for what education and experience have failed thus far to supply. We are further obliged to consider the question: exactly how charming is the Joan of Arc of the New Right, who also hears voices speaking to her of "spiritual warfare"?

He also writes: "Sarah Palin appears to have no testable core conviction except the belief (which none of her defenders denies that she holds, or at least has held and not yet repudiated) that the end of days and the Second Coming will occur in her lifetime."

Good Year For The Leonids

Leonid We're passing through the Leonid meteor shower, and the moon is new (meaning, there's not much of it there), so you should be able to see a lot this year.

Some background: The Leonid meteors are debris shed into space by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, which swings through the inner solar system at intervals of 33.25 years, looping around the sun then heading back into the outskirts of the solar system. With each visit the comet leaves behind a trail of dust in its wake.  Every November, the Earth, orbiting around the Sun, goes through some of those trails.

As the comet approaches the sun, it heats up, and the dust trails are quite dense.  This is what happened in 1998, giving us a huge number of meteors (thousands visible per hour) in 1999, 2001, and 2002.

But Tempel-Tuttle is now receding away from the sun, so it will be a few decades before we see Leonids at that level like a decade ago.  Ten meteors per hour is average.  This year, however, we will be skimming the outside edge of a particular dust cloud emitted from Leonid in 1567, and (as I said), the moon won't be bright. 

The comets themselves may be brighter this year, too.  When the "comet bits" in the dust trail circle the sun for many hundreds of years, the tinier (dust grain) material tends to be pushed away from the sun and dispersed by the pressure of solar radiation. Conversely, because they are relatively unaffected by radiation pressure and leave the comet nucleus with less velocity than their smaller brethren do, the larger pebble-to-marble sized particles tend to linger for a much longer time.  Since we're going through a centuries-old cloud, we'll see brighter comets, perhaps even a fireball or bolide (a meteor that silently explodes like a strobe along its path). About half might leave luminous trains lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

All in all, it means that in some parts of the world (including ours), 20-30 meteors per hour will be visible (one every 2-3 minutes).

The trick is to know when and where to look.  As you might have guessed, the Leonid meteors emanate from the constellation Leo.

North Americans – especially those living near and along the Atlantic Seaboard – will be able to watch for Leonids from after 1 a.m. local time right on until the first light of dawn, which comes soon after 5 a.m. local time.

Those in the eastern U.S. and Canada are especially favored because Leo will be high in the southeast sky between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m. EST, just before Earth is expected to exit the meteor cloud. For the West Coast, this translates to 12:30 to 2:30 a.m. PST, when Leo is much lower down in the eastern sky.

That's the PEAK: 3:30 to 5:30 a.m.  But obviously, you might see something prior to that, if you look in Leo.

So what should you do?

No two observers prepare for a meteor vigil the same way. It helps to have had a late afternoon nap, a shower, and to wear all fresh clothing.

Be sure to keep this in mind: at this time of year, meteor watching can be a long, cold business. Expect the ambient air temperature to be far below what your local radio or TV weathercaster predicts.

Watching a meteor shower consists of lying back, looking up at the sky . . . and waiting.

When you sit quite still, close to the rapidly cooling ground, you can become very chilled. You wait and you wait for meteors to appear. When they don't appear right away, and if you're cold and uncomfortable, you're not going to be looking for meteors for very long! Therefore, make sure you're warm and comfortable. Heavy blankets, sleeping bags, groundcloths, auto cushions, and pillows are essential equipment.

Warm cocoa or coffee can take the edge off the chill, as well as provide a slight stimulus. It's even better if you can observe with friends. That way, you can keep each other awake, as well as cover more sky.

Keep in mind that any local light pollution or obstructions like tall trees or buildings will reduce your making a meteor sighting. Give your eyes time to dark-adapt before starting. Probably the best bet is to rest on a lawn lounge, all the way back, so you can look up and see the whole sky.

771px-Leo-constellation-map-3689 Find the constellation Leo, and locate the radiant, or originating point, of the meteor shower. The radiant rises between 1 am and 3am (EST) for the bulk of the Northern Hemisphere. The picture shows the constellation Leo to help you find it in the sky. The meteors will emanate from the "head" of the Leo.

If you have trouble finding Leo, look for the Big Dipper. Leo is below the bottom of the dipper.

Worst Book Burning Ever

About a month ago, I blogged about a "Halloween Hootenanny" which was to take place at the Amazing Grace Baptist Church down the road in Canton, NC.  There was going to be fried chicken, and book-burning.  Also burning of music: everything from rap to rock to country to contemporary Christian.  Oh, yeah — they were going to burn non-Kings James versions of the Bible, too.

What happened?

But when the big day came around, a combination of rain, protesters, and a state law against burning paper all conspired against them.

Here is actual video of the event:

Yup.  No burning.  Just throwing things in a white kitchen trash can purchased from Walmart.

Aren't you sorry you missed it now?

For their part, the Amazing Grace Baptist Church felt it all went just fine thankyouverymuch:

We wanted to say that the Book Burning was a great success[.] We wanted to thank all the Bible doubters who prayed for rain with us. All the protestors and media got wet; we were inside where it was nice and dry[.] We are not glad people got wet, we are glad that His Word was honored. Some have written praising God that he intervened and stopped the Book Burning because of the rain, protestors, and state laws about burning paper. Nothing was stopped. Our goal was to destroy garbage as noted below, and we did just that. We didn't care how it was destroyed; only that it was destroyed. These same people must have never heard about "Paper, Rock, & Scissors." Scissors cut paper, and paper tears real easy. We destroyed everything as planned. Praise God! God answered every prayer that everyone prayed, but they don't like the answer.


Vaccine Waiver For Creationists

This guy has a good point. 

If you don't believe in evolution, you should not be getting any flu or H1N1 vaccines.  Why not?  Because flu strains evolve each year, and since you don't believe that living things evolve, then why are you taking a vaccine shot every year?  Especially this year, when flu vaccines are in short supply?

Instead, creationists should get a vaccine waiver.


We Get Emails

I received this email from Erick Erickson, proprietor of Redstate, the pre-eminent right wing blog:

Today Barack Obama is going to announce that the terrorist mastermind of September 11th, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be sent to New York City for a criminal trial in a civilian court.

In that trial, the terrorist will get all the rights afforded an American citizen in a criminal trial, including the right to a fair trial, the right to a taxpayer funded attorney, the right to review all the evidence against him, potentially including classified intelligence matters, the right to exclude evidence against him including, potentially, any confession obtained through enhanced interrogation techniques, etc.

So far, so good.  But then, the next paragraph…

At best, this will be a show trial fit not for the American Republic, but a third world kleptocratic totalitarian regime.

Screeeeeeeech — BANG!  ExCUSE me?!?

A fair trial, an attorney, the right to see evidence against him, cross-examine that evidence, etc?  These are earmarks of a trial "not fit for the American Republic?"  These are the kind of things thay have in "a third world kleptocratic totalitarian regime"?!?

Erick needs to read the U.S. Constitution to have a better understanding of the principles of this country.

From The West Wing:

JOSH:  What do you say about a country that gives all kinds of rights and protections to the very people who want to destroy it?

TOBY:  God bless America.

UPDATE:  Nice discussion of Erick Erickson's email over at John Cole

UPDATE:  Bill Kristol gets into the act, too.  Seriously, what is up with the right wing?  They want to have a banana-republic trial (at best), because that's American??

ALSO READ:  The Rude Pundit points out that "Conservatives Are Scared of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Liberals Are Not"

If You Are A Republican, Guess What’s Covered Under the RNC Insurance Plan?


(No further comment from me required)

NEXT MORNING UPDATE:  Okay, not anymore.  That was quick.

But Steve Benen notes:

But does that actually "settle" the matter? The new RNC policy, apparently, is to have insurance through Cigna, opting out of abortion coverage. But let's not lose sight of the original fungibility problem — the RNC is taking Republican money and giving it to an insurance company through premiums. That company will then use its pool of money to pay for abortion services, not for RNC employees, but for other customers.

In other words, the Republican National Committee will still indirectly subsidize abortions, every time it writes a check to Cigna.

As does Focus On The Family.

The Stupak Amendment

It won in the House – the amendment to the health care bill that makes sure that no government health care plan will subsidize abortions, which — last time I checked — are legal medical procedures.

You see some people don't want their insurance premiums for the health care plan to be used for a purpose that they find immoral.  Never mind the fact that their private insurance premiums go for that purpose right now.  Never mind the fact that *I* have to pay taxes to support schools, and I don't have any kids.

And never mind that, as Digby points out, that the government health care plan will pay for Viagra.

Yes, the whole thing stinks.  Blatently anti-women.

But I don't despair.  If that's what it takes to get a health care plan passed, it's worth it.  Plus, we can always revisit the issue in a few years.  Heh.

Then again, maybe it won't be so bad.  In his Washington Post column today, E.J. Dionne claimed that pro-choice lawmakers and advocates are overstating how detrimental the Stupak amendment would be to women’s access to abortion:

The Michigan Democrat’s measure — passed 240 to 194, with 64 Democrats voting yes — would prohibit abortion coverage in the public option and bar any federal subsidies for plans that included abortion purchased on the new insurance exchanges. […]

Whatever else is true, Stupak’s amendment is unlikely to have a significant effect on the availability of abortion. And most abortions are not paid for through health insurance. The Guttmacher Institute, for example, reported that only 13 percent of abortions in 2001 were directly billed by providers to insurance companies — although the institute has cautioned that the proportion of women whose abortions were covered by insurance could be higher because the figure did not include those “who obtain reimbursement from their insurance company themselves.”

About Carrie Prejean’s New Book, “Still Standing”

1.0 out of 5 stars Inapprpriate Role Model for Young Women, November 11, 2009

Freakshow As a professional working with young women I have to say that this woman is an inappropriate role model for young women no matter how you look at her story. Her book is an example of what not to do to gain respect. Her lack of self awareness and her inability to understand her own manipulative nature clearly suggests a young woman with a disturbing point of view about life and its fairness or lack thereof. Ms. Prejean is 22 years old, has made serious errors in judgment and has yet to do anything at all to be proud of. I would rather she live her life, do something with it and then write a memoir about what she has learned. Rather we see a woman who has very little life experience who has used her body and her sexuality to get where she is today and is now claiming to be pure and Christian. Walk the walk Carrie, then tell us what you have learned. So far you have done nothing but take off your clothes and arouse yourself and your boyfriend while taping it and then not being truthful when participating in of all things, a beauty pageant. Holy Moly girl! What were you thinking and why should anyone consider you a role model? I don't get it.

The book itself is an empty attempt at self glorification with absolutely no real value. It is simply a rip off of consumer's money and a girl's attempt to hold on to another few minutes of false fame.

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7 of 49 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Standing tall!, November 10, 2009
By  J. Curtis (Baywood Park, CA) – See all my reviews

Carrie speaks from her heart. How God influenced her and changed her life. It's deplorable how the God haters, Christiphobics, and Christian bashers-who never picked up the book-spew their acidic, trashy hate! They're just using this platform to bash! That's wrong. It amazing how these hypocrites expect squeaky clean when their own lives are so riddled with dysfunction. Never the less, the candidness, the honesty, and reality of the story is dead on and exposes the liars for what they really are, starting with the judge who was out to ruin her. This is reality in America. Prejean exposes the liars and sexual trash for what they are. As if she is saying she's glad she is not like them. I, too, am glad. Don't listen to a word of the tripe. This is a success story. You go, girl!!

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This last review by J. Curtis is alarming.  Yes, J Curtis, it is Prejean's critics who are "hypocrites", not the gay-bashing moral Christian who happens to make sex tapes and lies.

[NOTE:  The graphic was stolen from Jesus' General, who has an Amazon review of his own to share].

UPDATE:  Here she is being a prick on Larry King last night:


For what its worth, his question wasn't inappropriate and there never are any confidentiality clauses about WHY people CHOOSE to settle.  She's too stupid, however, to know that, and so she gets all defensive.  (Of course, we know why she chose to settle — because of the sex tape).

Catholic Church Threatens To Stop Feeding The Homeless Over Gay Marriage Issue

Because that's what Jesus would do?

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Fearful that they could be forced, among other things, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, church officials said they would have no choice but to abandon their contracts with the city.

"If the city requires this, we can't do it," Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Wednesday. "The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem."

No, Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.  The laws do not require you to be "secular".  They rely you to be non-discriminatory (except when it come to performing gay marriage, and they allow you to be discriminatory).  Now, if Susan Gibbs wants to stand up there and say that "religion" is synonymous with "discrimination", well… actually, I think she just did.

I'm no biblical scholar, but I'm pretty sure that when Jesus healed lepers and fed the hungry, he didn't take a litmus test of those he was helping ("Are you gay?  Do you eat shellfish on Friday?")

And actually, the issue here really is about public funds.  The Catholic Church, which doesn't pay taxes, receives public funds — your tax dollars — to help with the charitable wing of their organization.  But those public funds come with strings attached — one being that you can't discriminate against who you help.  So yeah — they have to provide adoption services for gay couples.  Sorry.

In Which I Get All Politically Incorrect And Puffed Up About Veteran’s Day

You know what?  I'm not going to go up to a veteran and thank him for protecting my freedom.

You know why?  Because unless he is a hundred years old, chances are that that ex-soldier didn't do a damn thing to preserve and protect my freedom.

Don't get me wrong.  I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who choose to enter the service.  I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who put their life on the line in service to their country (even when their service takes place in wars and conflicts with which I strongly disagree).

In fact, I respect and admire so much what our armed forces do, that I get a sense of outrage or… or… something… when they get patronized from the mouths of people who apparently overstate what soldiers do.

Because, in point of fact, soldiers do not preserve our freedoms.  To do so, our freedoms have to be under attack.  And I am hard-pressed to think of a war since the Civil War when this was an issue.  You know who preserves our freedom?  The same people who enshrined our freedoms in the Constitution — lawyers, activists, politicians.  Civil rights workers, the ACLU, etc.  Not the 82nd Armored Division.

It's true!  Take one freedom — say, free speech, embodied in the First Amendment.  Now tell me the soldier, the unit, the branch of the military in which that freedom was "preserved".  Tell me the war, and identify the enemy who was attacking free speech in the first place.  You see what I mean?

"Ah," you say.  "But what about national defense?  Certainly, soldiers provide for our national defense."

No argument there, but when was our national defense breached to such an extent that our freedoms were threatened?  Not 9/11.  Yeah, 3,000 people were killed by al Qaeda, but did al Qaeda even target, much less threaten, freedom of speech?  Of course not.  The terrorists took lives, not freedoms.  And but for the Bush administration circumventing the Constitution here and there, our First Amendment freedoms are as they were on September 10, 2001.

Even with WWII, could Hitler and Japan have actually conquered the United States and maintained control over it, such that we would lose our freedoms?  Personally, I don't think it was possible, and not because of our WWII soldiers at the time, but because the world is too big and the German army was too small.  We would have, at worst, lost our sovereignty, which is not the same thing as losing our freedoms.

All I am saying here folks is, let's get real.  Most of the wars and conflicts in the last century and this one were wars to protect American geopolitical interests — those interests of the country as determined by its Commander in Chief — and were not wars to protect the freedoms of American's citizenry.  Korea?  Vietnam?  The Gulf War?  Iraq?  Afghanistan?  Panama?  They were wars for land, to prevent aggression, to combat ideologies, and lots of other things, but NOT to "preserve our freedom"  What freedom would you have lost had those wars been losses?

So thank a soldier for his sacrifices.  Her valor.  His dedication. Her willingness to risk her life.  But don't patronize what they do by saying they "protect our freedoms", because — unless you happen to be saying that with respect to George Washington or General Grant — that kind of praise is nothing more than mindless Sarah Palinesque "look-how-great-I-am-because-I-am-pro-military" pablum.  Frankly, our soldiers deserve better — meaning, more thoughtful – commendation than that.

Breaking News: More Mass Shootings

In downtown Orlando (Gateway Center, if that means anything to you).  Live local news video fee here.

8 shooting victims.  Shooter not caught.

1:06 pm — Interviewed woman says it was a male disgruntled (fired) co-worker of hers.  Police stopped the interview though.

1:44 pm — Suspect's name is Jason Rodriguez.  He's on the loose, driving a silver Nissan SUV.  One person confirmed dead.  Reynolds Smith & Hills, a design firm, was where the shooting took place, and Rodriguez was laid off there a year or so ago.

2:00 pm — I suspect the shooter will be located dead, having shot himself.

2:09 pm — A blogger names Jason Rodriguez implores his readers: "It's not me!"

2:20 pm — Jason Rodriguez apprehended says Orlando mayor.  Apparently he went to his Mom's house, and she turned him in.

What You Look At When You Look At This Blog


The Feng-GUI heatmap is a composition of several algorithms from neuro-science studies of Natural Vision Processing, Computational Attention, eye-tracking sessions, perception and cognition of humans.

Or in English: "What people are looking at?"

This artificial intelligence service simulates human vision during the first 5 seconds of exposure to visuals.  It generates a heatmap – from dark blue through green to red, describing the regions of interest that catches attention.

More Bad Symbolism: Biting The Hand That Heals Them

I reported on some "bad symbolism" to emerge in the anti-health care rally in D.C. yesterday.  Dana Milbank reports another incident:

More ominously, a man standing just beyond the TV cameras apparently suffered a heart attack 20 minutes after event began. Medical personnel from the Capitol physician's office — an entity that could, quite accurately, be labeled government-run health care — rushed over, attaching electrodes to his chest and giving him oxygen and an IV drip.

Milbank added that, by the end of the day, “medics had administered government-run health care to at least five people in the crowd who were stricken as they denounced government-run health care.”

Ironic.  A rally against government-run health care, and government-run health care comes to the aid of a guy who collapses at the rally.  That's almost like Glenn Beck praising his nurses yesterday — nurses who belong to the SEIU, which Beck often demonizes.

UPDATE — Steve Benen adds:

On a related note, I can't help but wonder how many of the lawmakers who spoke at yesterday's rally also like to stop by the Office of the Attending Physician — the elaborate, government-run health care office conveniently located between the House and Senate chambers, staffed with a team of medical professionals who are "standing by, on-call and ready to provide Congress with some of the country's best and most efficient government-run health care."

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), for example, hates government-run, taxpayer-subsidized health care, but he just loves the Office of the Attending Physician on the Hill.

I don't imagine this came up during yesterday speeches. I wonder why.

Jobless Rate Worse Than At Any Time Since 1983


The Labor Department said Friday that jobless rate rose to 10.2 percent, the highest since April 1983, from 9.8 percent in September. The economy shed a net total of 190,000 jobs in October, less than the downwardly revised 219,000 lost in September, but more than economists expected.

Well, we knew that it would hit 10% for nearly a year now.  And now it has.  And we know that it will be 10% for a few months.

DOW is up over 10,000 again.  Wall Street bonuses are going up this year too.  Socialism is actually looking kind of good right about now.

Fort Hood Shooting

I guess everyone will have their own theories about why Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, killing 13, and wounding dozens.

How much of it had to do with the fact that he was a Muslim?

How much of it had to do with the fact that he was taunted as a Muslim?

How much of it had to do with his apparent opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars?

How much of it had to do with his pending deployment to Afghanistan?

How much of it had to do with his familiarity, as a psychiatrist, of the horrors of war and PTSD?

Experts will scour the Internet looking for clues, people will be interviewed, etc.  Hopefully, over time, a clearer picture can be drawn.  In the meantime, one could play these guessing games forever, and I supposed one's speculation at this point says more about the speculator than Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.

Shooting At Fort Hood: Seven Twelve Dead, Twelve Twenty 31 Injured

Story breaking now.

Fort Hood hash tweet stream is here.

It's possibly too soon to say this, but the NRA argument that if everyone is armed, everyone is safe, is pretty much belied by the fact this incident at an army base.

UPDATE:  2 to 3 suspected shooters involved, reportedly wearing U.S. Army uniforms (although this doesn't mean they are U.S. soldiers).  One suspect possibly still at large.

UPDATE (4:10 pm):  Well, with the caveat that there is confusion and (probably) some error in the news reports, one first thought is that this might be a couple of oathkeepers.  Or some terrorist attack.  Since there were three two suspects, one can almost rule out the lone mentally deranged PTSD guy.

Latest reports say only two shooters, both caught, but some SWAT people are wounded.

UPDATE (4:30 pm):  Some reports saying 9 dead, up to 30 wounded.  Also scattered reports of another shooting at an Army residence, and it is unclear whether the base is secure yet.

UPDATE (4:50 pm):  Local Tx affiliate says one of the apprehended suspects is a military officer, an Army major.  CNN now reporting 12 dead, including one gunman.

Army spokesman just confirmed 12 dead, 31 wounded.  Shooter was killed; two other suspects arrested — ALL of them US soldiers.

UPDATE (5:00 pm): Shooter was Army major "with Arabic-sounding name", MSNBC reports.