The Downing Street Minutes

Shakespeare's Sister, who has been the organizing force behind the Big Brass Alliance, has her Downing Street post up. It's thorough, and it's well written, and I heartily encourage everyone who comes here to give it a look. But here's the purpose of the alliance--to spread this specific part of the message:

Our intention is to tenaciously pursue this story, even if the mainstream media will not, and vigorously support the efforts of Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and After Downing Street, a Coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups, which launched on May 26, 2005 a campaign to urge the U.S. Congress to begin a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war.


I bolded what was to me the most important part of that statement, because I want to make absolutely clear what we're asking for--we want a formal investigation. We're not asking for impeachment proceedings. We're asking that the House of Representatives do its job and act as a check on the Executive branch, not its toady.

I've said it before--I expect nothing to come of this request. The Republican leadership in the House is corrupt and beyond reclamation and will never desert their President. But still we must make the demand that they do their duty, if only to require them to make a public repudiation of it. The information that has come out thus far warrants an investigation, an honest and open investigation, and should the House leadership refuse this request, as they almost certainly will, then they will have said clearly and openly that they have put partisan politics above their duties as public citizens, and over the oaths they took to defend the Constitution of the United States.

Is that what Jesus was talking about?

Scary article in Harper's magazine called Soldiers of Christ. It's largely about Pastor Ted, the most powerful evangelical you've probably never heard of. He runs the New Life mega-mega-mega church in Colorado Springs, and has at least the pull of James Dobson, if not more. I haven't finished the article yet, both because it's long and because I keep getting scared of this place the more I read about it.

But about halfway through, I came upon this quote, and I think it says pretty much all that needs to be said about Pastor Ted:

“They’re pro-free markets, they’re pro-private property,” he said. “That’s what evangelical stands for.”

I think Jesus might have disagreed a bit with that description of evangelical. In fact, I think I'll let Jesus speak for himself
As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.
That's from Matthew 10:7-10, New International Version. That doesn't sound very pro-free market, pro-private property to me, but hey, I'm not Pastor Ted either.

On Memorial Day

My mom's side of the family has a long record of military service, clear back to the Revolutionary War. I know this because of a family tree project I did in 5th grade--my granddad, who was in the Navy for both WWII and Korea, gave me an entire tree dating back almost 250 years for his family. Wish I still had it.

That tradition pretty much ended with my mom's generation, because my grandmother became a Jehovah's Witness, and raised all her children as such. They in turn passed it along to my generation, and while some of us have moved away from the church, we've never quite gotten back into the military tradition.

I almost did, about 7 years ago. I was twenty-eight, a junior in college, and a lot of my fraternity brothers were in the Reserves. It paid for college, and they got both a drill check every month and the GI Bill. Clinton was President and we hadn't had any major callups since Gulf War I, so I looked into it.

I got as far as the physical, and found I had a slight depth perception problem, which meant that I couldn't go into the speciality I'd signed on for. Nothing else they had to offer interested me, so I caught the bus home with everyone else who had taken the oath.

I've never regretted that decision, and in fact I celebrate it now, faced as we are with a war that I find despicable in every possible way. For all I know, I may have fraternity brothers over there right now--I lost track of most of them when I went to grad school six years ago--and I will mourn them if they fall. I respect and honor their service.

But I don't respect or honor this war, this president, this Defense Department, or anyone who suggested that this war was either necessary or a good idea. You folks can all rot in hell.

Earlier this year in workshop, a number of us got on a tear and started writing political poems. It's not something I've done very much. I worry about being didactic instead of artful. But I did write one, and I'm going to post it here today for Memorial Day.

Everyman and the National Guard


My friend Jesus, backstage in a crown-of-thorns
bikini bottom and a floor length faux mink.
I, practicing a benediction in Confession’s regalia
(dress rehearsal that night, you know)
To remember thy Saviour was scourged for thee
with sharp scourges and suffered it patiently

took the meeting as a sign. Jesus told me
how in Maine he’d pissed his feet
to keep them from freezing-—I thought
about the photo clipping thumbtacked
to the frat house corkboard; frostbitten toes,
blackened, separated from their feet.
It came from the Army Times my roommate
got when he joined the Reserves.
I spent two days once, taking the ASVAB,
getting a physical, ready to sign a six year hitch-—
they’d cover tuition and pay me besides.
I stood in boxer shorts with thirty others,
in a room so tiled it echoed breathing.
One man squeaked his bare feet on the floor,
squinching the arches perceptibly higher
so he wouldn’t be sent home.
The best advice the sergeant gave us
was not to clench during the hernia exam;
when I had to duck behind the curtain,
I wondered if Jesus would let a doctor,
let anyone slide a thumb up his ass
and grab his balls, would turn his head
and cough for the promise of only
one weekend a month, two weeks a year.
In the depth-perception exam,
I couldn’t pick a pale yellow dotted six
out of a green dotted background,
so I didn’t take the oath—-the Army
wasn’t so desperate then. I learned
in 2002 that my old roommate,
six months before the end of his hitch,
three weeks before his Master’s defense,
went to Kabul to rebuild the airport
we’d bombed the hell out of. I told him
to watch his ass and keep his feet warm.


Let's get those soldiers home so we can appreciate their lives instead of remembering their deaths.

They fired her?

This is another one of those "what the hell?" stories.

EAST LYNNE, Mo. - Seven of 10 classroom teachers in a tiny school district resigned after a colleague was fired for helping an 11-year-old girl who was left alone in a playground to pick up rocks as punishment.

The fourth-grader in the East Lynne School District in Cass County was assigned the task last September for refusing to do her schoolwork, but she was unsupervised except for a security camera. The playground was near a road but inside a fence.

The fired teacher, Christa Price, went to the principal — who is also the district superintendent — and asked him to reconsider the punishment, but he wouldn’t. So on her free period, Price helped the girl pick up rocks. Other teachers watched the girl the next day.

At contract time in March, Superintendent Dan Doerhoff recommended firing Price, a popular teacher who had had good performance evaluations, for insubordination. Seven other teachers then chose not to return their contracts.

Huh? There's nothing about this principal's decision that makes the slightest bit of sense, other than the possibility that he didn't like having his authority challenged and decided to take it out on a teacher who stuck up for a student. I'd like to think that I'd have at least done the same, perhaps even called the child inside and taken the heat for it. Picking up rocks because she didn't do her schoolwork? That's nuts.

The fact that the principal is also the district superintendent sounds like a horrible idea as well--where are teachers and others in the community to go with disputes? And as the article points out, this guy is continuing to be a dick because he won't sign her certification renewal so she can get another job--claims it would be inconsistent and "it could put me in a pickle." I get the feeling you're already in a pickle if this gets national play--leaving a small child in an unsupervised yard near a road with only a security camera to protect her? Was anyone even watching the camera? If this child had disappeared, Doerhoff would be public idiot number one.

Not quite sure what to make of this

It's an odd story that conflicts me in some ways. Take a read

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A mother faces criminal charges after she hired a stripper to dance at her 16-year-old son’s birthday party.

Anette Pharris, 34, has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and involving a minor in obscene acts. The boy’s father, the stripper and two others also face charges.

“I tried to do something special for my son,” Pharris said. “It didn’t harm him.”

Now the easy thing to do is point and laugh, so I'll do that first. You've got to be pretty dumb to think that this is a good idea, especially if you're involving your son's underage friends. She may have a defense for hiring the stripper for her kid, but letting the friends get in on it was just stupid.

But that said, the mother does have a point, at least in this respect. By 16, I had my own porn stash, and if I'd had a chance to see a woman naked, I'd have jumped at it, as most 16 year old boys would. I'd snuck into bad movies just to see a titty or two. And that was twenty years ago. Advertising and popular culture is forever pushing the limits of what's acceptable in terms of sexuality involving people below the arbitrary age we've set for adulthood, and looking at the age differnce between this mother and her son (she was apparently 18 when she had him), it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he's already sexually active, and perhaps on his way to becoming a teen father in his own right.

And here's the point where I get conflicted. Child abuse laws are necessary, no doubt, but they're always treading that fine line between governmental interference and personal judgment, and there's no way to change that. But there's a reason that they tend to focus on physical abuse--that's because physical abuse, even sexual, can usually be proven with physical evidence. But is this abuse? Do these parents have the right to teach their kid about sexuality in a way of their choosing? Sure, I may not agree with the method--I'm certainly not taking my daughter to the Chippendales for her sweet sixteen--but I also know that kids develop sexually at different paces, and the only reason we have a bright line definition of 18 is that we've got to have one somewhere and we agreed upon 18 as a society.

Not to be flip about this, but here's one more indication of the intelligence level of the parent here. She got busted because she took pictures and the drug store turned her in when she got them developed. Lady--digital cameras are the way to go if there's going to be nudity involved. Jeez.

The Big Brass Alliance

Shakespeare's Sister has done some organizing and has put together this group, called Big Brass Alliance, a take off of Big Brass Blog in order to support After Downing Street.

Confused yet?

Anyway, After Downing Street is a coalition in its own right, and they're asking Congress to begin investigations into the information coming out of Britain about the Bush Administration's conduct as regards intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War. The media is treating the overall story as little more than a curiosity right now, and that's about all they'll treat it as unless we make a lot of noise.

Now, I'm realistic about what we can accomplish. There won't be any investigation into anything unless we win control of a House of Congress in 2006, so first things first. I'm also of the opinion that talk of impeachment is not only premature, but is potentially counterproductive, as it makes us look like ineffectual whiners.

That said, I'll still support this effort because I think the plusses outweight the negatives. It's important that the way the Bush administration fixed intelligence to say what they wanted it to stays in the public eye for the next year and a half and even beyond. It's important that we hang this albatross around not only the Bush administration, but around the necks of every Republican congressperson who supported him.

So count me in. I'm part of the Big Brass Alliance now.

Got some pictures developed today

These are the first I've taken with my new camera--my trusty Nikon N2000 died a month ago and it killed me. That camera had taken some truly incredible shots for me over the last five years--made me look like a far better photographer than I think I am.

So now, I have a Nikon N75 which I've basically been using as a point-and-shoot until I get it figured out. I'm going to try some black and white on my trip across the country in a couple of weeks--got a red filter and everything--and we'll see how those come out as well.

I shoot film pretty much all the time right now--I've had digital in the past and would use it again without reservation, but I can't afford the digital SLR I want, so I'm sticking with film for now. There's just something so satisfying about the tactile sensation of holding a snapshot in your hand. But since publishing pictures online is a stone bitch without a digital camera, I settle for second best--I get the pics on a cd when I get them developed. That's what you're seeing here.

And for any weekend photogs out there, even using your basic point and shoot camera, take this one piece of advice. Get your pics developed by a camera shop, and not by Wal-Mart, Walgreens, or any other place that doesn't specialize. You'll pay more, but the color in your pictures will amaze you. I'm convinced that I'm the least important part of my picture taking success--it's the camera and the developing.

So anyway, these pictures are of a mural a block off Mission St, between 22nd and 23rd. I happened upon the mural when looking for a parking spot and didn't have my camera on me at the time, so I went back deliberately for this (and for the Popeye's Chicken on the corner--my one fast food craving to this day). The first is of the mural and the second is a detail of the remote control in the right bottom of the mural. The mural is titled "Do Androids Dream?" and it was done by the Precita Eyes Urban Youth Art Class.






Out of the mouths of babes, I believe the Book says.

You know what this is a crappy picture of?



That's a crappy picture of my crappy ankle which I sprained--and I'm not making this up--crossing the street on my way to yet another dentist's appointment. No crazy potholes, no psycho cabbies to dodge--crossing the goddamn street and it just rolled under me and I knew I was screwed. At least it was at the dentist's, so I spent a good portion of the next three hours on my back with my ankle elevated (and the assistant even went to the oral surgery for a couple of ice packs for me.

I can limp on it, and it doesn't hurt presently, although whether that's from the handfuls of ibuprofen, the ice packs, or the 126 proof whiskey I've been drinking (and am now completely out of, alas) or a combination of the three, I don't know, but it would have to happen on Memorial Day weekend when I've got, for the first time in recent memory, social engagements out the ass, not to mention packing to do.

And I don't even have my Amy here to listen to me bitch and whine. Waaaaaaaaaah! I'm such a little baby when I get hurt.

It's happened again

Those of you who flinch at f-bombs might just want to click a link or open your bookmarks and go somewhere else until I post again, 'cuz it's about to get ugly up in here.

Remember how I went off on a 4th Circuit Court ruling about discrimination against non-Judeo-Christian religion? Well, fuck, fuck, fuckity, fuck fuck fuck, I'm pissed again, and perhaps even more than then.

Who the fuck does this judge think he is?

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

Read it again to make sure that you got it. This isn't one parent asking for a court order against another parent, which, while it would be despicable, would at least be tactically understandable. No, this is a judge imposing this order on parents. He's decided that they are not to be allowed to teach their children the religion they follow.

What?

How did this asshat get to be a judge? Who does this fucker think he is to tell two parents--parents who obviously aren't fighting over religion even though they're getting divorced--that they can't teach their kid the tenets of their faith?

Take out the word Wicca and replace it with any christian sect and imagine the shitstorm that would follow. Replace it with Catholic, with Baptist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Mormon. Hell, replace it with Jehovah's Witness and you'd still get some clamor, even though they scare most of the other christian sects. Why? Because most religious people understand that the teaching of articles of faith is one of the most personal, private, family matters that exists. You just don't fuck with that.

But this guy did, and I guarantee you he did it because he thought he could get away with it because the parents aren't christian. And the scariest part of all this is that in this country, at this point in time, he just might. Not that that will stop the parents from teaching their kid about Wicca--you may as well believe in the Easter Bunny as believe that those parents will stop. But it's really sad that we've come to this point.

Let me point out one thing here--I don't know the religious beliefs of the judge in question. I don't know if he's an evangelical or an Dominionist or an atheist or just an idiot, but I know this much--he's not on solid legal ground here, and the appellate court better get this one right.

Excellent question

Diarist freepress4all over at the Daily Kos asks How does Dobson stay tax exempt?

I have no idea, but you can bet the IRS will be climbing through the colons of any liberal religious group that decides to get involved in party politics.

It had to happen



I am certain that this attitude is not the prevailing one among American christians, but can you imagine what the reaction is going to be in the Middle East when it gets broadcast?

Filibuster compromise

Just got home from work and haven't read all the stories yet, but here's my first reaction--I don't like it. Kos is spinning it as the best we could do considering we only had 49 sure votes backing us and we needed two more to be assured of victory. Here's What's Left isn't happy, but hopes that the conventional wisdom will evenutally be that the Dems won this one and Frist looks weak as a result. Avedon, subbing for Atrios, doesn't like it. And DHinMI over at the Next Hurrah is saying that victory is ours if we can claim it.

Here's why I don't like it. I looked at it as a win-win propostion, as long as we took it to the hoop. If the Republican "moderates" didn't cave to their leadership, then we defeated the nuclear option, and those odious nominees never make it to the bench. If they caved, and the filibuster is gone, then we suffer a bit for the moment, but we do better in the long term, because no matter how the Republican leadership would try to limit this only to judicial nominations, in the end, it would involve other legislation--the filibuster would be gone for good--and the Republicans won't always be in power. We'd have a shot at really pushing through some progressive legislation, and the second they started to bitch, we'd be able to say "what's your problem? You're the fuckers who changed the rules to get rid of the filibuster, so shut it and cast your up or down vote on Chief Justice Dennis Kucinich, bitches."

Of course, I'm living in my own reality, I realize, as the Democratic party I'm a member of would never have the stones to keep the filibuster off the books once they returned to power, but I can dream, can't I?

Howard Dean on Meet the Press

Here's the transcript and here are some highlights:

MR. RUSSERT: But is it appropriate for a physician to mock somebody who has gone into therapy and the abuse for drug addiction?

DR. DEAN: Here's the point I was trying--as most of these things are taken by the Republicans, spun around Washington saying this in a one sentence, which I generally had said. But then they're sort of manipulated around, saying this is the kind of thing he said. The Rush Limbaugh comment was one that I made about Rush Limbaugh, and I also said something about Bill O'Reilly. The problem is not that these folks have problems. They do, and they have problems in the case of a drug addiction. That's a medical problem. And I respect those who clearly, in my profession, who are trying to overcome their problems.

The problem is it is galling to Democrats, 48 percent of us who did not support the president, it is galling to be lectured to about moral values by folks who have their own problems. Hypocrisy is a value that I think has been embraced by the Republican Party. We get lectured by people all day long about moral values by people who have their own moral shortcomings. I don't think we ought to give a whole lot of lectures to people--I think the Bible says something to the effect that be careful when you talk about the shortcomings of somebody else when you haven't removed the mote from your own eye. And I don't think we ought to be lectured to by Republicans who have got all these problems themselves.

Rush Limbaugh has made a career of belittling other people and making jokes about President Clinton, about Mrs. Clinton and others. I don't think he's in any position to do that, nor do I think Bill O'Reilly is in a position to abuse families of survivors of 9/11, given his own ethical shortcomings. Everybody has ethical shortcomings. We ought not to lecture each other about our ethical shortcomings.

MR. RUSSERT: But should you jump in the fray and be mocking those kind of people?

DR. DEAN: I will use whatever position I have in order to root out hypocrisy. I'm not going to be lectured as a Democrat--we've got some pretty strong moral values in my party, and maybe we ought to do a better job standing up and fighting for them. Our moral values, in contradiction to the Republicans', is we don't think kids ought to go to bed hungry at night. Our moral values say that people who work hard all their lives ought to be able to retire with dignity. Our moral values say that we ought to have a strong, free public education system so that we can level the playing field. Our moral values say that what's going on in Indian country in this country right now in terms of health care and education is a disgrace, and for the president of the United States to cut back on health-care services all over America is wrong.

Democrats have strong moral values. Frankly, my moral values are offended by some of the things I hear on programs like "Rush Limbaugh," and we don't have to put up with that. Our problem in this party is we didn't stand up early enough and fight back against folks like that who thought they were going to push us around and bully us, and we're not going to do it anymore.

snip

MR. RUSSERT: It's interesting. You said that the issue is are we going to live in a theocracy where the highest powers tell us what to do? And I was reading the Pew Research Center where they went out and surveyed 11,000 of your closest advisers...

DR. DEAN: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...contributors, activists, volunteers. It was quite striking. Dean activists vs. all Democrats--attend attend church seldom or never, 59 percent of Dean activists seldom or never as opposed to 25 percent of all Democrats; 92 percent white, 82 percent liberal, 45 percent over 75,000. Is your base secular, affluent, white and liberal?

DR. DEAN: I think not quite as much as the Pew folks. That was a very fascinating study. The only methodological problem is they only went on the Internet, and, therefore, you could answer or could not. But I think it's a great piece.

Look, I fit into some of those categories. I don't go to church all that much. I consider myself a deeply religious person. I consider myself a Christian. And I don't--you know, some of the other Christians would dare to say that I'm not a Christian. Frankly, it's what gets my ire up. We get back to the Rush Limbaugh stuff. I am sick of being told what I and what I'm not by other people. I'll tell you what I am. I'm a committed Christian. And the fact of whether I go to church or not, people can say whether I should or shouldn't, I worship in my own way. It came out in the campaign that I pray every night. That's my business. That's not the business of the pharisees who are going to preach to me about what I do and then do something else.

You know, I care about values a lot. And one of the reasons that I care a lot is because of my upbringing. And it was a--I grew up in a Christian household. Now, because I grew up--I'm a congregationalist. People say, "Well, those are liberals." Well, since when do Christians get tagged liberal or conservative? You either believe in the teachings of Jesus or you don't. I do. And I'm not ashamed to admit it. But I don't go around wearing it on my sleeve. And I think that's a private matter. And I'm happy to talk about it. I've been through a political campaign. There are a lot of folks to whom, you know, that's very important. I respect that. But I'm not going to be lectured to about my own private morality and my own private business by people who don't have the mote taken out of their own eye.


There's lots of other good stuff in there as well. Worth reading.

On the lighter side

I don't know where I saw this story first, but it's too funny to go unblogged here:

The following cautionary tale must surely rate in the top five of "most embarrassing things that can happen to you in public - ever". According to UK tabloid the Sun, a 33-year-old Welsh housewife ended up in hospital after wearing Ann Summers vibrating Passion Pants to her local Asda supermarket in Swansea.

Unfortunately, she became "so aroused by the 2½-inch vibrating bullet inside that she fainted" then "fell against shelves and banged her head". This prompted the attendance of the paramedics who "found the black leatherette panties still buzzing". Having disabled the orgasmatronic underwear, they then whisked the senseless shopper to hospital where she made a complete recovery. Staff handed her back the Passion Pants upon discharge, discreetly concealed in a plastic bag.


The offending garment?


Think they sell that in white with an off-center red racing stripe? Or perhaps with a picture of Der Hasselhoff?

Gonna beat the rush

and get my Friday random ten up early, before I go to work. As usual, feel free to mock the music on my computer and add your own in the comments below.

Little Red Rooster--Big Mama Thornton
Bad Luck--Albert King with Otis Rush
What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding--Elvis Costello
Candy Man Blues--Mississippi John Hurt
Life By the Drop--Stevie Ray Vaughan
Keep On Movin'--Soul II Soul and Caron Wheeler
The Language or the Kiss--Indigo Girls
Blacking Out the Friction--Death Cab for Cutie
Steel Rails--Alison Krauss
The Walking Blues--Blind Snooks Eaglin

As per usual, the most of the music on the list is pretty old and pretty bluesy, but thanks to my pal Brendan, I've gotten some new stuff lately--the Death Cab for Cutie is from him. I'm trying hard not to go quietly into old-fartdom.

Read this article

from the New York Times and then tell me again how Newsweek's story about prison abuse at Guantanamo Bay--accurate in all but a single detail about who confirmed the story--caused the recent riots in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries. If you defend this action, if you defend this administration, then you are as guilty as they are.

And on a side note, Rick Santorum--Fuck you.

For those of you who don't know why I'm particularly pissed at Rick Santorum today, here's an excerpt from his speech today on the floor of the Senate about the filibuster:

It's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 "I'm in Paris. how dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine." This is no more the rule of the Senate than it was the rule of the Senate before not to filibuster.

Of all the replies I've read today, I like Steve Gilliard's the best:
In 1942, the Nazi Armies owned Europe, they were marching to Stalingrad, which would be the site of one of the bloodiest battles in history. Comparing Senate rules to this is like shitting on the WWII memorial....

How easily he compared his collegues to oh, Nazis. You mean John Kerry and Tom Harkin are gonna show up to his house with some of their war buddies and toss hin into a van? He's gonna do slave labor for Michael Moore? Clean Barbra Streisand's house? Exactly how are his Democratic collegues like the Nazis? Are they meeting at Greenbrier for the final solution of the Republican Party? Are camps being built in the Sonoran desert for Republicans and will they have their property stolen?

I, like the rest of the left side of the blogworld, await the denunciations of Santorum's comments to come forth from the likes of Assrocket and Little Green Fascists and Instahack (and their legions of minions). I'm not holding my breath.

Why not?

I'm not going to see the movie this week--I've been burned too badly by the last two pieces of shit--but hey, I took the quiz and here's who I got:

Can I vote for this guy?

Don't get me wrong--I love Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi, but this George Galloway guy doesn't screw around. That link in the title goes to crooksandliars.com, and they've got video of George Galloway's testimony before the Senate today, in which he makes Norm Coleman look like the mental midget he is. Here's an excerpt:

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

Preach it, brother! I hope his entire testimony becomes available for download, because I'd love to see it all.

GM has bigger problems than pensions and health care

But that's the meme that has come out of the recent news that both GM and Ford have serious financial issues and are losing market share. Sure--the expense of their health care and pension funds doesn't help matters a lot in a soft economy, but that's not the reason Ford and GM are losing market share to Toyota, who is poised to become the world's number one automaker. The problem is far more basic than that.

Ford and GM vehicles suck.

That's why they're not selling at premium prices, why Ford and GM are practically giving them away and providing low APR loans to move them off the lot. They're crappy cars, and have been for quite a while. If Ford and GM were making the American equivalent of the Prius--hell, if they were making the equivalent of the Corolla--we wouldn't be hearing about GM and Ford losing market share to Toyota. But they don't make the equivalent--they make crap cars that look flashy for about two years and then fall apart.

There's another problem with those cars--they're not fuel efficient. Ford and GM were riding high not too long ago with the SUV craze. Their quest seemed to be to put thirty-inch rims on a school-bus, trick it out with a dvd player and a Playstation in the back for the kids, make sure it got less than 8 miles to the gallon, and then sell it for as much as they could. And they made money doing it.

But they had no foresight, and this time there's no excuse, because the auto industry has been through this before. It was called the Carter administration.

The OPEC oil crunch during the Carter administration is the reason companies like Toyota, Honda, Nissan (nee Datsun) and others were able to make real inroads into the American car market, and it looks like they never forgot that oil is a limited resource, and that gas wasn't always going to be cheap. Even when Toyota and the other Asian manufacturers stepped into the SUV market, they did so gingerly, and with smaller vehicles which were--surprise!--more fuel efficient and better built.

So now Toyota is cleaning GM's clock, and the only reason the press can come up with is that GM spends more on health care costs and pensions. Sorry--there's far more to it than that.

On the plus side, there's always the remote chance that pressure from big automakers will force the issue on universal health care, and I'd like to see that happen, but it won't solve GM's problems. Until they start looking forward and building better cars, they're not going to recapture any of the market they've lost.

Newsweek, it's time to fight

The headline is everywhere: Newsweek Sorry for Quran Fallout or something similar. You'd think Newsweek's reporting of allegations that have been around for over two years caused the unrest in Afghanistan or something. Of course, that's the retarded line that the entire right-wing blogosphere is pushing, not to mention Scotty McClennan's demand for a full retraction from Newsweek.

So Newsweek--here are your options. You've already screwed up by taking a step backward on this story, but you can't undo that. Remember Dan Rather and 60 Minutes? They got the story right but used some iffy documents to try to take the case to the next level and got ratfucked for it. You're on even steadier ground than 60 Minutes was, but you won't win this fight if you back away from it.

First thing you have to do is realize that Rove and the right-wing blogospehere accord you no respect or quarter--they will destroy you if they can, even if you back down on this story. To them, you are the enemy, and while they may not be able to put you out of circulation, if they can remove your willingness to actually report the news, they'll consider that a victory. But they will never be nice to you--you are an enemy to be destroyed, because you have strayed from the party line and must be made to pay.

So you can either fight back, empty the vault of all the dirt you have accumulated on Bushco over the last five years and blast them into the ether, or you can back away, secure in the knowledge that the people on the right will never respect you as a news organization, and neither will the people on the left. You will have become just one more example of the co-opted news media. Don't do it. You've seen what's happened to Time Magazine over the last few years--in fact, you've benefited from their descent into irrelevance. you've seen what happened to CBS and 60 Minutes when they bowed to pressure. Don't follow them down.

Quick update: Newsweek is fighting back, not loudly enough or strongly enough in my opinion, but they are fighting back, defending their reporting the way they should. Support them--drop them an email letting them know that you appreciate the stand they're taking and how it's necessary that they be part of an independent news media.

Update 2: Stupid, stupid, stupid

On moving companies and alumni discounts

So we'm moving across the country in about a month--San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale--and it's expensive. But looking through our alumni association stuff from the University of Arkansas a few weeks ago, Amy came across an offer from National Van Lines offering a 62% discount on interstate moves. I pop over to the website, use their little calculator and discover that a move of that sort would very roughly run somewhere between $2,500 and $3,500. I figure, factor in my discount and I'm golden, right? I can't rent a truck and drive it across the country for that much.

So I jump through the hoops--play phone tag, get someone out to look at our paltry possessions and work up an estimate. I get the call on Wednesday--the move will cost right at three grand, after the discount. When I asked how that was possible, I was informed that every customer gets a minimum of a 45% discount, and most get one somewhere between 55% and 68%, so I fell right in the middle. In other words, my wonderful 62% discount is in reality at best a 17% discount, and could actually be a +6% premium price.

My girlfriend has complained to the alumni association, who told her that they've gotten other complaints and are currently working to get a deal with another company, but that'll happen too late to help me out.

So I'm going to give my contact a call on Monday and blast her--I'd be a lot more tactful if I were going to just call a customer service rep that I'd not developed a relationship of any sort with. Any suggestions on subjects to cover? I'm planning on accusing the company of misleading advertising, if not outright fraudulent business practices. And in the meantime, I've rented a U-Haul.

Another sign US influence is waning

Brazil decided to tell the US to go sit and spin even though there was $40 million on the table.

In early May, Brazil declared its defiance of American diktats abroad. The country's national AIDS commissioner, HIV doctor Pedro Chequer, turned down $40 million in US assistance for its fight against AIDS rather than sign a statement condemning prostitution. "For us it was an ethical issue," Chequer told The Nation. "We have to reach every segment of society, with no discrimination. Besides, no country is supposed to decide what another country must do."

Brazil balked with good reason--their current strategy seems to be working despite the fact that prostitution is legal, a development that must have the "sex is dirty" crowd scratching their heads.

The reason this is a major issue isn't so much because of Brazil--they self-fund 90% of their program according to the Nation article, and have decided to find a way to fill the gap themselves--it's because of the smaller countries, particularly in SE Asia, and even more importantly, NGOs that have precious little other options for funding, that are being forced into these situations. On an especially hypocritical note, I'd like to point out that one of the US Congressmen pushing hardest on this is Henry Hyde (R-Philanderer), he of the Clinton impeachment team who was outed as having broken up a marriage other than his own and of having an illegitimate child.

Look, I don't like prostitution, but I think it ought to be decriminalized. I've never gone to one, and never will, and the people who argue that a woman ought to be able to sell her body if she chooses are being more than a touch naive about the amount of choice most prostitutes have in the matter. All that aside, prostitution is very much a reality, and in a very cold, pragmatic way, it's a world health issue, especially in the poorer parts of the world, and for self-styled moralists in the US Congress (one of the most immoral places on earth in my view) to act as if their political wedge issues are more important than literally millions of lives is despicable.

Friday Random Ten

Because usually I do this in the comments on other blogs and I might as well just face up to the fact that I'm following along with the crowd on this. I'm such a wannabe sometimes.

I Don't Really Love You Anymore--Magnetic Fields
Pot Kettle Black--Wilco
Snake Drive--R. L. Burnside
I Took Your Name--REM
Hey Hey What Can I Say?--Hootie and the Blowfish
Shut D Fonk Up--Dr. John
Don't Drink the Water--Dave Matthews Band
Wishing (If I Had a Photograph)--A Flock of Seagulls
Now Is Here--Clannad
Rosalita--Bruce Springsteen

Feel free to post your own in the comments, or to mock the music on my computer if you wish. And if you're not sure what I'm talking about, just set your mp3 player (portable or desktop) to random and post the first ten songs that come out of it.

Just to clarify

And this will have to be quick because I have to catch the bus to work momentarily. I don't hate Christians, I don't hate conservatives, and I don't hate conservative Christians. In fact, I have love and respect for individual members of all three groups. What worries me is that there's a movement made up of people inside those groups that, to me and others, seems to be attempting to remake this country, and indeed society in general, in their own image, and that image largely consists of their singular, closed view of Christianity. I'm not exaggerating when I write about this, and I'm not being paranoid when I worry about it. Dominionists scare the ever-loving hell out of me, and with good reason.

So when I rail about the extremists in the Republican party or on the christian right or both, that's generally who I'm talking about. On occasions when I get really pissed off at people outside that group, it's because they're aiding and abetting the Dominionists, whether wittingly or not.

And follow that link above--it's to David Neiwert's blog, and he has an amazing, albeit long piece on exactly what I'm talking about here.

Quote of the century

Okay, so Kos gets roughly a billion times the traffic I do, and I suspect that most of the people who come here go there as well, so you've probably all seen this already, but damnit, sometimes it's just too good not to post.

From Kos via Sirota:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11/8/54

Is it any wonder Ike's son changed parties before the 2004 election and supported Kerry?

An addition

I'd like to welcome my friend Bacchus Witch to the blogroll. We went to high school together and she's one of the few people from that era I'm still in contact with. She's new at this, but is doing some pretty good stuff I think. Drop by and give her a gander.

I take good news where I can get it

And this is pretty good news, at least for those of us with any love of schadenfreude.

A CNN insider wrote in to TVNewser noting O'Reilly's ratings "hemorrhage" since October.

October: 3,166,000
November: 3,080,000
December: 2,610,000
January: 2,478,000
February: 2,391,000
March: 2,320,000
April: 2,178,000
May-to-date: 2,096,000

Sure, some of it can be attributed to the normal falloff after a hotly contested election, but a third of his viewers, and a continued free-fall? I mean, even since January, we're talking about 100k viewers a month. That's got to upset the big giant head of O'Reilly, and when the head gets upset, the falafel comes out, and you don't want none of that.

Looks like Chandler got that call

He's history. From the AP:

A Baptist preacher accused of running out nine congregants who refused to support President Bush resigned Tuesday.

snip

Chandler's resignation came a day after a national group that lobbies for church-state separation urged the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the tax-exempt status of the East Waynesville Baptist Church.

Chandler learned the most important rule of preaching--don't ever put the church in danger of losing its tax exemption. And congratulations again to those members of the congregation who stood up to the bullying of Chandler--they stood up to the bully and the bully flinched.

Now the real story begins for that congregation. How are the people who cheered when the Democrats were tossed going to deal with the fact that they lost, and lost big? Will there be a request for forgiveness or will there be long-term recriminations? If my experience with these types of Baptists is any indication, there will be a schism in this church within the year, and a small fringe group of the most hardcore will split and form their own group. There is no one more stubborn than a self-righteous Southern Baptist.

Update in East Waynesville

From the AP via Salon:

Chandler said before Sunday's service that he wouldn't preach about the controversy, but he called it "a great misunderstanding."

Several members who said they had been kicked out went to services Sunday, as did lawyers for the pastor and the ousted members.

"A great misunderstanding," my ass. My bet is that Chan-baby got a call from his superiors in the church about the potential loss of the church's tax exempt status and told him to do whatever it took to stop the shitstorm. This is a 450 member congregation--that's a lot of money, and a huge potential hit if the church suddenly has a tax liability because a kid preacher decides he's untouchable thanks to the power of the lord.

But the part I'm happiest to see is that a number of the members who were kicked out, went back and forced the issue, complete with lawyers. They understood that you can't let these fuckers just roll over you, or they won't stop. They're schoolyard bullies, made worse by the notion that they're allowed to get away with this kind of shit because they have God on their side. You really do have to pop a bully in the mouth if you want the bullying to stop, and these folks did it.

Will there suddenly be a transformation in the church? I doubt it. This is the stuff of which schisms are made. But a stand had to be taken, and I'm glad they took it.

And now for something completely different

What is sin? Not bad as a philosophical question goes, I think--lots of options, lots of belief systems to discuss. I tend to go with Robert Heinlein's definition that sin is hurting another person unnecessarily, but there's lots of open space for debate there.

Unless you're a member of East Waynesville Baptist Church. There, it seems, the most heinous of sins, is to be a Democrat who voted for John Kerry. Now, to have voted for Kerry in the primaries may indeed have been sinful, even by my definition (but I snark here), but it certainly wasn't "you've got to repent or you'll be cast out of the church and into the everlasting pits of damnation and hellfire" sin. It was more of a "if you live in Iowa and you vote for him again in 2008, I'll kick you really hard" kind of sin.

But that's not good enough for--and I'm not making this name up--Chan Chandler, pastor of East Waynesville Baptist. From the Asheville Citizen-Times:

WAYNESVILLE — Nine members of a local church had their membership revoked and 40 others left in protest after tension over political views recently came to a head, church members say.

About 20 members of the 400-member East Waynesville Baptist Church voted the nine members out at a recent deacon meeting, which turned into an impromptu business meeting, according to congregants.

Chan Chandler, pastor of East Waynesville Baptist, had been exhorting his congregation since October to support his political views or leave, said Selma Morris, a 30-year member of the church.

“He preached a sermon on abortion and homosexuality, then said if anyone there was planning on voting for John Kerry, they should leave,” she said.


Now for a quick theology lesson. The New Testament is pretty explicit about the place of the church in politics--it doesn't belong there. Forget that the Catholics have ignored that injunction since the tenth century at least, and that Protestants have ever since they first protested--Jesus and Paul were on the same page on this one. The church shouldn't get involved in politics. Jesus told Pilate "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36) He said much the same to Peter earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane when he told Peter to return his sword to his sheath after healing the ear of Malchus, slave of the high priest. (John 17:10,11) As for Paul, well, chapter 13 of his letter to the Romans pretty much sets out the church's official opinion on who has secular authority--"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God."

Pretty clear to me that if you're a christian, then your church has no fucking business dealing with politics. You can have all the opinion you like as an individual--there's no injunction against it in the Bible as far as I can tell--but the church is supposed to stay the hell out of it.

Chan Chandler, your theology is seriously fucked up. I understand how it could happen, what with you spending all your time hating on gays (something else the New Testament is strangely silent on) and abortion and obviously neglecting your Bible study, but you know, maybe you could get back to it, especially if your church loses its tax exempt status as a result of this action.

When Hippies Attack

After reading the comments on my last post (and damn, I've gotten more trackbacks in the last week than in the whole year plus I've been doing this, I think), when I read this story, I had to post it.

So Ann Coulter's doing a speech/q&a at UT Austin, oddly enough at the LBJ Library, and according to Poor Mojo (linked above), she's having every crevice of her being licked and kissed and fondled (metaphorically) by the sycophants who think she's actually got a brain. So Poor Mojo asks a very reasonable question:

She had just said something about gay marriage, the typical rightwing bullshit spiel that is still convincing people that the Bible is really the Constitution. Knowing that taking the time to say something insightful, specific, or even slightly critical would get me a lame comeback and a ticket back to my seat, I realized that the only way to win this battle was to fight fire with fire. Or bullshit with bullshit. So, as reported in yesterday's Texan, I fired:

"You say that you believe in the sanctity of marriage," said Ajai Raj, an English sophomore. "How do you feel about marriages where the man does nothing but fuck his wife up the ass?"

Fucking A

He defends his actions thusly:
From the beginning I was yelling obscenities along with my friends, roaring at Ms. Coulter's right-wing bullshit festival the way no one else had the balls to. Mr. Sampath writes in his article that (and this is my take) the protestors were told to be good all along. They were told to sit in the back and hold their signs and leave quietly. No wonder hippies get such a bad rap nowadays; protestors today might as well be ornaments on the Rightmobile. When I want someone to know I'm pissed off, I'm going to throw down and give them a good shit-ruining. I wanted to show Ms. Coulter that people are down if she wants to hold a circle-jerk, but we're not gonna do it her way. Not me, at least.


To which I say again, Fucking A.

Now, this isn't the rhetorical style I'd use on, say C-SPAN, but in a discussion with Ann Coulter, I'd say it's right at her level. Same goes for a discussion with Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Tom Effing DeLay, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and about ninety percent of the other morons who pass themselves off as public conservatives in this country. Poor Mojo, you keep on stirring the shit. I got your back.

Maybe I'll pass this tidbit along to my daughter

After all, she's taking the SAT in the not too distant future, and she wants to go to a school I can't afford.

Perelman studied every graded sample SAT essay that the College Board made public. He looked at the 15 samples in the ScoreWrite book that the College Board distributed to schools nationwide to prepare students for the essay. He reviewed the 23 graded essays on the College Board website meant as a guide for students and the 16 writing "anchor" samples the College Board used to train graders to properly mark essays.

He was stunned by how complete the correlation was between length and score. "I have never found a quantifiable predictor in 25 years of grading that was anywhere near as strong as this one," he said. The shortest essays, typically 100 words, got the lowest grade of one. The longest, about 400 words, got the top grade of six. In between, there was virtually a direct match between length and grade.

He was also struck by all the factual errors in even the top essays. An essay on the Civil War, given a perfect six, describes the nation being changed forever by the "firing of two shots at Fort Sumter in late 1862." (Actually, it was in early 1861, and, according to "Battle Cry of Freedom" by James M. McPherson, it was "33 hours of bombardment by 4,000 shot and shells.")

Perelman contacted the College Board and was surprised to learn that on the new SAT essay, students are not penalized for incorrect facts. The official guide for scorers explains: "Writers may make errors in facts or information that do not affect the quality of their essays. For example, a writer may state "The American Revolution began in 1842" or " 'Anna Karenina,' a play by the French author Joseph Conrad, was a very upbeat literary work." (Actually, that's 1775; a novel by the Russian Leo Tolstoy, and poor Anna hurls herself under a train.) No matter. "You are scoring the writing, and not the correctness of facts."

How to prepare for such an essay? "I would advise writing as long as possible," Perelman said, "and include lots of facts, even if they're made up." This, of course, is not what he teaches his MIT students.

I hate to break it to all you kids who are going to use this strategy--it'll work in the SAT, but it won't work in Comp 1 when you get to college, especially not if you get Amy or me as your teacher. Fair warning.

Hat tip to PZ

Enough already

I swear to god, the next time someone tries to pull that "christianity is under attack in America" bullshit again, I'm gonna pop 'em right in the fucking mouth. You want to know just how much of a vise grip christianity has on the nuts of this nation? Check this story out.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled a Virginia county can refuse to let a witch give the invocation at its meetings by limiting the privilege to clergy representing Judeo-Christian monotheism.

snip

The 4th Circuit ruled Chesterfield County’s Board of Supervisors did not show impermissible motive in refusing to permit a pantheistic invocation by a Wiccan because its list of clergy who registered to conduct invocations covers a wide spectrum of Judeo-Christian denominations. Simpson v. Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, No. 04-1045 (April 14). Chesterfield County is in the Richmond suburbs.

That link in the quote is to a .pdf of the decision.

So here's the "logic" of the 4th Circuit. Chesterfield County isn't discriminating against the religious beliefs of non-Judeo-Christians because their list of clergy to conduct invocations covers a wide range of Judeo-Christian denominations. Yeah--when you puzzle that one out, come and get me. I'll be in the bar.

I mean, it's as if Chesterfield County and the 4th Circuit Court has said that it's okay to discriminate against polytheistic religions, as long as you're representing people who recognize the big JC. Or Jews. But otherwise, you're like an atheist--unrepresented, and apparently, unprotected by the courts, in our society. Christians under attack? Give me the biggest fucking break.

Ah, football

For as long as I can remember being a football fan, I've been a Saints fan--comes from growing up on the northshore, and from the fact that, except for a very short period of my youth when the Jazz played in town, there was no other professional sports team there. (You could make the argument, based on the Hornets' record last year, that there's still only one.)

But quite frankly, I'm a little tired of their shit, and I'm not talking about their performance on the field (although they have underachieved the last couple of seasons).

More to the point, I'm tired of owner Tom Benson's shit.

I'm tired of his bellyaching about how the state doesn't give him enough money to keep his team in New Orleans.

Look--the Saints are a profitable team, despite the fact that they play in one of the most economically depressed parts of the country. In fact, they were in top quarter of profitable teams last year. Louisiana has been very good to the Saints over the years, supporting them even when they were so bad people wore bags over their heads at the games--they were at the games, you see, paying for tickets to see a team that was so bad that they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when no one else had. For almost two years.

And they were there for the good years as well, when Jim Mora was coach, and in Haslett's first year, and even since then, when they've been promising and yet haven't fulfilled that promise.

This is not the first time Benson has poor-mouthed the state. We've practically given him the Superdome, and yet that's not enough. He wants a new stadium, he wants subsidies, he wants cash, or he may just take his team and leave for greener pastures, like, say, Los Angeles, a city that has twice lost teams and doesn't seem all that eager to acquire another one. (I suspect it has something to do with the fact that it's not as easy for a celebrity to be in the spotlight as it is, say, courtside for the Lakers.)

So here's what I have to say to Tom Benson. Take them. Take them to L.A. or shut the fuck up, because I'm tired of hearing you bleat that a state that has major problems in terms of education and health care, and that has one of the highest cancer rates in the country, needs to pay you hundreds of millions of dollars for the privilege of being home to your fucking team.

I am a fan of the New Orleans Saints, and I hope they don't leave, but if I have a choice between having a home team (in my heart, since I don't live there anymore) or watching my former home improve the lots of its millions of citizens, I'll lose the team in a heartbeat. I can always adopt a new home team.

Truth in Broadcasting

Via Kos diarist MH in PA, I see a terrific piece of legislation which will never be passed, precisely because it's a terrific piece of legislation:

On Thursday, 4/28/2005, Senators Lautenberg and Kerry introduced the Truth in Broadcasting Act.

From the press release found on both Senators' websites:

The Lautenberg-Kerry Truth in Broadcasting Act would follow the legal ruling of the GAO and establish permanent federal law that prepackaged news stories by the government must disclose the government's role with a disclaimer. The disclaimer would run continuously throughout the "news story." Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens has committed to holding a hearing and a markup on the bill in early May.


Here's what I'm betting will happen to this--the White house will want to kill it, but they can't get Senators, no matter how stupidly loyal (okay, except maybe for Santorum, Brownback and Coburn--those tools would vote for anything) to vote against this if it's solely on this issue. Therefore, they'll attach it to something--the Pedophilia Protection Act or something similarly vile in order to get people to vote against it. It'll die, and we'll be left with more of the same old shit--propaganda disguised as news.

Texans hate Willie?

I read this over at Pandagon earlier, where Amanda was so kind as to post it, but I'm still boggled by it. A couple of moralizing, idiot Republican (but I repeat myself) state senators have held up the naming of a 49 mile stretch of highway around Austin after Willie Nelson.

But two Republican senators, Steve Odgen of Bryan and Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, said they didn't want Nelson's name on the road that crosses their districts, citing the musician's fondness for drinking and smoking, and active campaigning for Democratic candidates.

You know, I imagine Willie won't go after these guys publicly, but if I were going to challenge one of these dumbasses in the next election, I'd hang this around their necks as much as I could. I mean, how much of a tightass do you have to be to object to naming a stretch of highway--around Austin, no less--around one of the biggest musical influences in the last fifty years, simply because he talks about drinking and smoking and happens to be of another political persuasion?

Google bombing Ezra

Because he was willing to beg for it

Go visit Ezra Klein.

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