Women in the War Zone

Well, I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising that we aren’t too concerned about the treatment of women in Iraq when we don’t even give a shit about our own female solders:

Gina W. went to Iraq, and came back with a different kind of war story. Her battlefields were in the barracks and the mess hall. The weapons were innuendoes and threats. And the enemy? Her own boss.

"When you go there, you have to be prepared for war," she says. "And then you have to be worried about being raped by your own people."

The former Army specialist is one of dozens of military women interviewed by The Bee who say they faced some kind of sexual harassment while in the combat theater in Afghanistan or Iraq.

[…]

Testifying before a congressional women's caucus last summer, Army Capt. Jennifer Machmer said she was assaulted by her jeep driver in Kuwait, 17 days before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

After reporting it, she told the panel, she was forced to work in the same unit as the man and was threatened with fraternization charges. Her assailant, who never was charged, eventually was promoted.

Machmer, a West Point graduate, was forced to accept an early retirement when she developed post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Every time you turn around, you're re-victimized and re-traumatized," Machmer told the caucus.

[…]

In testimony at a congressional hearing on sexual assault in the military, Gen. George Casey Jr., the Army's vice chief of staff, acknowledged that when a female soldier files a complaint against someone in her unit, it is strictly up to the unit commander to decide if anyone should be transferred - even if the accused is the alleged victim's commander.

"We don't dictate that," Casey said. "We leave that up to the commander on the scene to make an evaluation."

Critics of the military's attitudes point to problems that range from a shortage of rape examination and HIV testing kits in the war zone to encouraging women to use an injectable contraceptive called Depo-Provera so they won't menstruate during their tour.

"One woman rape victim in Afghanistan was given high doses of antibiotics after a rape and told, 'This will kill anything,' " said Summers, of the Miles Foundation. "It took her two weeks to get to a hospital."
The way these women are being treated is absolute madness. There is nothing, nothing, more painful than being revictimized after being raped (whether by being refused justice, denied proper medical care, or anything else), and nothing, nothing, more terrifying than being put in the position of seeing your rapist day after day after the assault. Suffering such fear and indignity while also facing the horrors of war is a nightmare I cannot even begin to imagine.

This is how we reward the women who serve on our behalf? This is the way we support our troops?

And give me one good reason why gay men should be denied the right to serve openly when these piece of shit harassers and filthy rapists are not only allowed to continue to serve, but are in some cases promoted after being accused?

Unfuckingbelievable.

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Question

What’s your greatest fear about the Bush administration?

Be honest or be funny. And if you’re feeling feisty, follow it up with any suggestions about how to prevent it from becoming reality.

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“Bush to UN: Bend over, bitches!”

…So says John at Blogenlust, adding:

I wonder if Bush had nominated a pacifist to head the DoD whether the media would find it relevant to note the ideological conflict of interest. They sure seem slow to point out that John Bolton, Bush's nominee for UN Ambassador, thinks the work of the UN is irrelevant. I'm sure he'll be able to leave his personal opinions at home.
I’m sure he will. Because if there’s one thing you can say about Bush and his buddies, it’s that they’re not ideologues.

And Dave at Seeing the Forest notes:
President Bush has nominated "hardliner" John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations. "Imagine Jerry Falwell being placed in charge of marriage in Massachusetts."

This is where Bush has apparently been getting his ideas about how the country should work with the rest of the world. (Hint: scroll to the lower right hand corner.)

Just a coincidence, look at who provides the core funding of the modern right-wing "noise machine" that put Bush into office.
That’s a mighty interesting coinkydink.

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Mr. SquarePants Goes to Washington



Via AMERICAblog.

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Being Helpful

In reporting on the latest lunacy being advanced about gays and lesbians, this time the rather bizarre contention by a Florida Juvenile Welfare Board Member that PFLAG and GLSEN (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) promote pedophilia, Ms. Julien asks:

What I want to know is where in the HELL do they come up with these comparisons?
I do believe the Welfare Board Member in question, Cecilia Burke, may well have her head up her ass.

Being in the midst of a long-term anthropological study of “asshatters,” I’ve found that apparently there are all kinds of bizarre opinions up there just waiting to be discovered and summarily spewed into the public discourse without a moment's hesitation about whether ass-generated ideas are perhaps not the finest or wisest one might share with the rest of the world.

My research is still ongoing, so I can’t really say anything conclusively, but at this point, Ms. Burke definitely shows telltale signs of asshattery.

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A Woman on the Man's Field

Phoebe:

"His accusers were relentless and, as always with feminists, humorless."--Harvey Mansfield, on Summers vs. Harvard feminists.

Writing in that well-known Onion rival, the Weekly Standard, the anti-PC professor Harvey Mansfield declares feminists--all feminists--"humorless." I'm wondering, then, which political subgroup Mansfield finds more amusing. And no, unintentionally amusing doesn't count.
Well, I did come across an animal rights’ activist in Edinburgh who wore a picture of a tiger ’round his neck, at which he pointed, then pointed at me and made a rather amusing growly face accompanied by clawing gestures in the air. I thought it was funny, although Mr. Shakes didn't seem to; he had a face like thunder.

I also have a great pal from Nottingham, who was head of his local Greenpeace chapter, and is now teaching English to children in Taiwan. He can make me laugh as hard as just about anyone else alive, and I him. Although, it occurs to me that when we’re talking specifically about environmental, educational, or feminist issues, the laughter tends to die down a bit. A-ha—I think we’re on to something here…

Dear Mr. Mansfield,

I suspect that perhaps because of your unbridled chauvinism, many women don’t enjoy speaking to you unless compulsory. For that reason, you might rarely have an opportunity to be engaged with women outside of an academic arena. I can assure you that many feminists are great big balls of giggly fun in their free time. (I know I am!)

Also, when you talk to women in future, try not to say anything sexist and/or condescending. This will allow you to have a conversation with a woman without triggering an understandably humorless lecture on why you’re a giant, useless, stinky taint.

Instead, consider the women with whom you converse your equals; after 10 minutes of conversation sans highly offensive misogynism, try a little joke, and see if that otherwise unfunny feminist doesn’t give ya a wee chuckle. We modern sassy broads tend to laugh more with people who don’t seek to belittle us.

Good luck, Mr. Mansfield! I’m sure you’ll have the ladies laughing in no time.

Sincerely,
Shakespeare’s Sister

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He's Lost His Bloody Mind

Democratic Underground’s Top 10 Conservative Idiots this week features at #3 none other than Jeff Gannon. Their reason for Jeff’s inclusion is that he’s losing it big time, evidence of which is broken down into two subcategories, the first of which is funny, but the second of which will just leave you shaking your head in disbelief:

Second, Gannon appears to be attempting to transform himself from "Bulldog," the 8" cut hot military m4m stud, into a red-blooded womanizing good-ol'-boy. On his blog, Jeff says "My faith and my ideology are rock solid" (interesting choice of words). And picking a bone - if you'll pardon the pun - with Maureen Dowd, Gannon refers to her as "this gal who probably needs a bit of the old Jeff Gannon to relieve some of that pent up whatever." Uh, sure thing, Jeff (wink).
Okay, so if a gay prostitute making it within yards of the pres wasn’t cause for concern, according to the White House, how about someone who is seriously, seriously delusional?

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Mitch Daniels is a Horse’s Patoot (Part of an Ongoing Series)

Last week, the Indiana State House Democrats did something really cool—they left the House floor shortly after the chamber convened and refused to return to vote on pending legislation.

Democrats, upset about several bills they consider partisan power grabs, left the House floor shortly after the chamber convened Tuesday and didn't return to vote on pending legislation. Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the House, but at least 67 members need to be present to conduct business.

House Democrats said they had legitimate, philosophical reasons for blocking votes on bills before Tuesday's midnight deadline to advance the bills to the Senate. Among the bills derailed by the tactic was a provision to put all of Indiana on daylight-saving time.

[House Minority Leader Pat Bauer] was ill Wednesday and wasn't at a press conference held by House Democrats. But Rep. Russ Stillwell, D-Boonville, said Democrats had exercised their rights as the minority and representing their constituents.

"I'm offended that some people would call the leader of the Democrat caucus certain things when it's absolutely not true," Stillwell said. "Pat Bauer has served the state of Indiana admirably for 30 years."
So who exactly was calling Bauer “certain things” that aren’t true? Governor Mitch Daniels, of course:
Daniels also took a swipe at House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, calling him a "throwback politician" who would put his party over jobs and reform.

"If you want to know why Indiana's economy fell behind, why state government is broke, broken, and awash in scandal, just look at Mr. Bauer," Daniels said.
With a solidly Republican-majority State government, it’s amazing that all of Indiana’s problems come down to the House Minority Leader, isn’t it? I think that maybe the solution to our problems in Indy might be passing a bill that takes all that power away from Pat Bauer and gives some of it back to the statehouse!

But back to the legislation that prompted such a reaction from the Dems, which included, as an example:
a bill giving Daniels' inspector general power to prosecute government crimes when local prosecutors fail to file charges are among Daniels' top priorities.

Daniels said the inspector general bill is needed to help root out government corruption, but House Democrats say it would give the governor unprecedented power to stage partisan witch hunts.
I can’t begin to imagine why Hoosier Dems might feel their GOP governor might be interested in partisan witch hunts. I mean, he never acts like a raging paranoiac and always speaks respectfully of his opposition:
Daniels, reading a prepared statement at the Statehouse, said he believed Tuesday's floor boycott was planned from the start of the session.

[…]

The governor said it was hard for him to understand why House Democrats didn't have "the courage or conscience to stay at work" when Bauer led them off the floor.

"I guess they were just following orders," Daniels said. "I'm embarrassed for them, but it was their choice."
I’m not embarrassed for them; I’m proud of them. Way to go, Dems!

What I do find embarrassing, however, is my governor’s insistence on being an unadulterated jackass. You see, I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. Daniels, aka Pouty McPouterson, was so unhappy with the Dems for not directly and utterly complying with his partisan agenda that dignified discourse just wouldn’t suffice. Instead, Daniels, in a prepared statement to the media, said:
"Indiana's drive for growth and reform was car bombed yesterday by the Indiana House minority. "
Car bombed. Car bombed! That’s right. They’re terrorists.

I once questioned the wisdom of turning “terrorist” into a catch-all phrase invoked to denigrate anyone with whom one disagrees. Since the, the practice has only proliferated, with Bill O’Reilly referring to the ACLU as terrorists being the most public recent example. And as despicable and inexcusable as I find O’Reilly’s bloviations, I am more dismayed by a state governor who utilizes the same repellent tactic.

It’s divisive, at a time when the last thing we need is even more discordance; it’s unproductive; it’s small-minded and spiteful; and, most importantly, reducing something as heinous as a car bombing to a political metaphor is insulting to our troops who have been maimed by real car bombings, and to the families of troops who have been killed by them.

Support the troops ought to, by any reasonable interpretation, also include showing them a little respect, too.

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Action / Reaction

Ugh.

(Link via Court Fool. Warning: Graphic images.)

Does anyone else find it bitterly ironic that in our attempts to protect ourselves from Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction,” we ended up polluting their entire country with depleted uranium?

Let me just reiterate this one more time: things like 9/11 don’t happen in a fucking void. Our actions have consequences.

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The Four-H Club

Corrente’s Lambert says:

I keep trying to think of a catchy name for the party of Lincoln, who must be spinning in his grave, and the one I keep coming back to is...

The Four-H club. The party of

1. Hypocrisy
2. Hysteria
3. Hate
4. ...

And I keep not being able to come up with the fourth H. Readers, ideas? Better ideas for renaming The Partei?
My suggestion was Hegemony, of course. Other suggestions included homophobia, hubris, and horseshit. Whatcha got?

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Poverty of Ideas

Via Matthew Yglesias, we find a link to this insightful post from Phoebe examining an irreconcilable tension between defining one’s social consciousness by what’s fashionable and defining it by reality—often unpleasant, almost never chic. The story Phoebe references features an attempt to stave off gentrification that is more likely to reinforce the divisions between the rich and the poor than diminish them in any way.

Even activists with the best of intentions don’t always take the best course of action; it’s hardly uncommon for plans meant to alleviate poverty to have the opposite (and unintended) affect. It’s truly frustrating how inept we continue to be, across the board, in effectively dealing with endemic poverty. We’re the richest nation on earth, yet U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations (only Mexico scores lower), and:

Twelve million American families--more than 10 percent of all U.S. households--"continue to struggle, and not always successfully, to feed themselves." Families that "had members who actually went hungry at some point last year" numbered 3.9 million.
We’re not even very good at acknowledging it, no less solving it. One of the things that has always bothered me about the reception of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 as a Democratic polemic is that it simply wasn’t one. F 9/11 was about classism; Moore was (rightfully) angry about the rich bitch powerbrokers who have control of everything in the Beltway (and everywhere else, for that matter) and their willingness to perpetuate a classist system that ensures a volunteer military will always seem like an attractive solution for youth in poverty-stricken communities.

If a Democrat with the same ties to Saudi royals were president and led our troops into the same war under the same circumstances, Moore would have made the same film. Liberals just conveniently overlooked how hard Moore was on the Senate Dems (especially Daschle and Gephardt, who looked like total asses) at the beginning of the film. I understand why ignoring the complicity of Dems in a lot of what was covered in F 9/11 was attractive; if the Dems hadn’t been such a pathetic, capitulating excuse for an opposition party for the preceding four years, but instead had given their constituency something around which to rally, Moore’s film wouldn’t have been immediately embraced by a nation of angry liberals who were just so fucking glad to have someone finally be willing to take on Bush. (And because Moore is an inveterate attention whore, he gladly played the role of liberal mouthpiece when his film was received thusly.)

Ultimately, it was a very effective film about classism (and associated racism), but it shouldn’t have been the rallying point for Dems in the manner it was. That it filled that role so easily speaks to the void left by our elected representatives, and they deserve the blame for its status as liberal battle cry eclipsing its more important message of the wrenching dichotomy of the Haves’ America and the America of the Have-Nots.

The one man who was able to clearly articulate the real message of F 9/11 was John Edwards, whose “Two Americas” stump speech was roundly castigated by conservatives as contrary to the American spirit (which should have been our first clue that he was really onto something). Genuinely dedicated to finding solutions for lifting Americans out of poverty, Edwards now heads the Poverty Center at the University of North Carolina. And although none of us really want to hear his son-of-a-millworker story ever again, it is surely no coincidence that the candidate who has truly known poverty was the one who was best able to communicate its ugly, oppressive reality.

One of America’s most unattractive—and dangerous—habits is our collective inability to be self-critical, and although we on the Left tend to be better at it (thereby eliciting continual charges of anti-Americanism from our less reflective opponents), we’re still far too reluctant to stare our underclass in the face.

We want to protect Social Security and the 40-hour work week, we want to raise the minimum wage and provide universal healthcare, and we believe that every child should get a quality education from teachers not hampered by unfunded mandates. But a comprehensive strategy to eradicate the worst poverty—the kind that is beyond struggling to pay the gas bill; the kind that means hunger, or homelessness—eludes us. It is in no small part because we are reluctant to talk about the reality of Americans who are living as though they were in a third-world country.

There will likely always be working poor in America; capitalism all but demands it. But beyond the working poor are those who have fallen off the edge, those for whom the safety net in which we believe and for which we fight so passionately was not enough. Where are the nearly four million American families that went hungry at some point last year, and what are we going to do about it?

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Hellfire and Brimstone!



Mr. Shakes’ favorite comic book hero is Captain America. Do you think Jesus will make an exception for that, since he loves America best?

(Image via Trust Me, You Have No Idea How Much I Hate Bush—a blog that will never be accused of ambiguity.)

[UPDATE: Okay, I'm an idiot. This is a fake. Scary how easy it was to believe, though. And if you follow the link, there are pictures of real church signs that are just as loony!]

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You Can't Claim to Love America if You Hate Americans

The tired conservative contention that liberals hate America is never supported by anything other than vague allusions to alleged contempt for things that aren’t even uniquely American (the free market) or historically accurate (the founding of the country on Judeo-Christian principles), and by deliberately misconstruing legitimate philosophical differences (believing national security is bolstered by strong global alliances) to attempt to frame them as somehow traitorous.

But between a conservative agenda that seeks to undermine protections for average Americans such as Social Security and the 40-hour work week, and the increasing visibility of shockingly rancorous conservative hate groups, I think there is mounting reason to ask the question why so many conservatives seem to hate Americans.


Topeka-based anti-gay protestors show up in Cleveland


Topeka group goes to Dover


The leader of the Topeka group, crypt keeper Fred Phelps


More anti-gay protesters


Neo-Nazis rally in D.C.


The Neo-Nazi group National Alliance takes their message roadside


Protestors show a unique brand of ignorance while hurling insults at undocumented workers who were promoting their reform agenda


A member of the National Socialist Movement, which calls for a "greater America" that would deny citizens to Jews, nonwhites, and homosexuals

That these extreme attitudes are becoming mainstream conservative values is evidenced by the frequency with which polarizing figures such as Pat Buchanan are becoming regarded as reasonable spokesmen of the conservative movement. Pat Buchanan is a regular conservative commentator on a variety of news shows, despite his appalling attitudes on gays and lesbians:

The poor homosexuals -- they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution.

-- discussing AIDS in 1983, quoted from Political Amazon's "Quotes from Hell"

civil rights:

[For President Nixon to visit King's widow on the anniversary of King's assassination because it would] outrage many, many people who believe Dr. King was a fraud and a demagogue and perhaps worse.... Others consider him the Devil incarnate. Dr. King is one of the most divisive men in contemporary history.

-- while working as a White House adviser to Nixon, reported in the New York Daily News, October 1, 1990, quoted from Political Amazon's "Quotes from Hell"

the Holocaust:

[Despite Hitler's anti-Semitic and genocidal tendencies, he was] an individual of great courage.... Hitler's success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.

-- in a 1977 column, The Guardian, January 14, 1992, quoted from Political Amazon's "Quotes from Hell"
and women:
Rail as they will about "discrimination," women are simply not endowed by nature with the same measures of single-minded ambition and the will to succeed in the fiercely competitive world of Western capitalism.

-- November 22, 1983, quoted from Political Amazon's "Quotes from Hell"
Even the bow-tied broadcaster Tucker Carlson, not known for being inflammatory nearly as much as being stupid and annoying, has an abysmal record:
While co-hosting Crossfire, Carlson referred to crossdressing as a "Democratic value" (7/16/03); accused Begala of being homophobic for pointing out that Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) was a cheerleader at the University of Mississippi (9/25/02); regularly made snide remarks about the transgendered community being a constituency of the Democratic Party; and mocked outreach by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) community. Regarding goals to increase GLBT delegate representation at the Democratic National Convention, which Carlson ridiculed, he said, "And if you don't find them at least mildly funny, you're probably a Democrat," while falsely claiming the efforts included the establishment of quotas (5/19/04).
The truth of the matter is, conservatives hate lots and lots of Americans—anyone who isn’t like them, or fails to share their condemnation of people who aren’t like them. Liberals may be roundly perplexed and frustrated by Americans who seem to vote against their own best interests, but when was the last time card-carrying ACLU members were seen marching down Main Street Red State America after a devastating flood, carrying signs declaring that Mother Nature had gotten her revenge against those who sought to pollute her with the exhaust of their behemoth SUVs? It just doesn’t happen.

We need to get tough and brutally honest in our response each time we’re accused of hating America from here on out. We don’t hate America, and we don’t hate Americans, either…but we’re damn sure our accusers can’t say the same.

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Yawn

Further evidence Dem strategists pay absolutely no attention to the blogosphere…

Senior Democrats in Washington are privately expressing stinging rebukes of the mainstream media’s lack of coverage on recent issues concerning what Democrats see as systematic media manipulation and partisanship, RAW STORY has found.

While few were willing to speak by name, aides and strategists alike made harsh attacks on large media organizations.

For the first time, one Democratic strategist even singled out a specific publication, The Boston Globe, for failing to reprimand reporter Hiawatha Bray. Media Matters for America, a watchdog group, revealed that Bray had made online attacks on Sen. John Kerry and praised President George W. Bush during the presidential campaign.

The same strategist, who spoke only on condition that his name not be used, even went so far as question the “courage” of Democrats in Congress for failing to respond to what he described as a myth–that major media outlets are liberal.

“We’re living in the post-Jeff Gannon era where the left can finally show we know how to fight back and hold the media accountable,” the strategist told RAW STORY.
“The right wing spent 30 years telling America about the liberal media, it’s time Democrats found the courage to set the record straight.”

If they did, questioning media bias and Congressional Democrats’ courage wouldn’t be “news.”

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What's the Matter with Texas?

Pam has an excellent post up today about the the 40th anniversary of Selma's Bloody Sunday and its role in the Voting Rights Act, in which she reminds us that the president might be in need of some civil rights education.

I know he’s the president and all, but maybe we’re being too hard on him. It might just be Texas’ fault, which is still so rife with racism that even in the “liberal” oasis of Austin, the police cheer on the burning down of a nightclub with a predominantly black patronage (link):

Five police officers and four dispatchers were suspended for sending computer messages after a nightclub caught fire joking about the blaze and quoting a line from the song "Disco Inferno" -- "burn baby burn."

Witnesses at the Midtown Live club saw the "burn baby burn" message on the computer screen inside an officer's patrol car during the February 18 fire. Police Chief Stan Knee said a commander and corporal who responded to the scene worked to calm angry witnesses.

The club has a mostly black clientele, and there were suggestions after the fire that the messages revealed racial bias in the department.

Documents released Friday indicate that after hearing a transmission about the fire, officer John Lengefeld sent a message from his patrol car to fellow officer Josue Martinez that said "burn baby burn."

Martinez replied that he was laughing, and "Those were my exact thoughts." Other officers chimed in with more than two hours of messages.

Among those receiving 15-day unpaid suspensions was officer William White, who sent a note that said, "U can smell from (Interstate) 35. It is the smell of victory."

Dispatcher Susan Negron wrote, "I have some extra gasoline if they need it," according to the documents, and "My nite is made. I just had a lady ask me if it was burning. I said yep. She was upset. I was enthralled."

Dispatcher Ashlye Bauerle wrote, "You hear that Midtown is on fire!! The roof of a club . . . That's funny! Gives a whole new meaning to the roof, the roof is on fire," the documents said.

Knee called the messages "inappropriate." All the suspended dispatchers and officers said they regretted their actions and that their messages were intended as jokes. A sixth officer received a written reprimand.

The messages also indicated that the officers were tired of responding to calls at the establishment. Statistics show that police responded to 129 calls last year for reports that included a stabbing, gunshots and public intoxication. The calls made Midtown the fifth busiest club for police response citywide, according to police statistics.

Knee said a sergeant and an additional dispatcher remain under investigation.
That’s some seriously old school racism they’ve got going on at the Austin PD.

Get a clue, wankers. Yeesh.

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Mwah ha ha ha



Which Villain Character Are You?


Hello, Mr. Anderson...

(Via 42).

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Give Me Quality, or Give Me Death

Majikthise has an interesting, and comprehensive, post on the myths about the Terri Schiavo case. (If you’re not familiar with it, the short story is that Terri is a woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, and her parents are trying to keep her alive, while her husband is fighting to let her die, which is what he says she wanted.)

I personally believe that Terri should be allowed to die. Those who are in a permanent vegetative state do not have any higher cognitive function, which frankly, seems like a blessing, as having self-awareness while trapped inside a totally nonfunctional body seems a fate worse than death.

This case seems to pit those who believe we should have the right to die with dignity at our own choosing, should we be faced with a terminal affliction (barring extraordinary measures) that allows no chance of recovery, with those who believe in a right to life at all costs—that "culture of life" our president (who signed the execution orders on over 100 people while governor of Texas) is so keen on talking about. However, what’s always missing, it seems, from right to life arguments is the concept of quality of life. Is a child that would be born into a life of atrocious abuse, for example, really better off being born? Is a person who will suffer endlessly until an inevitable death really better being off forced to endure unrelenting agony until their final day?

Quality of life means something; that’s what “pursuit of happiness” is all about. In a perfect world, parents who have no will or ability to properly care and love a child would give it up for adoption into a suitable home, and the practice of medicine would be so exact as to never leave anyone hanging in an earthly purgatory between life and death. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and so we must be responsible in our approaches to managing that imperfection.

In a perfect world, the gift of life should always be the answer, but in the flawed world in which we live, sometimes it isn’t.

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Here's What's...

...Left. I'm doing some more housesitting over at Ezra's this weekend, and this time I'm sharing duties with Heather and Michael of Here's What's Left, a nifty site that I've added to the blogroll. Check 'em out!

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The Curse of "Freedom"

In a radio address today, President Bush said:

[T]he trend is clear: In the Middle East and throughout the world, freedom is on the march…
The women of Iraq might beg to differ (hat tip Green Knight):
The women at Nasar's beauty salon were Christian and Muslim, Sunni and Shiite, but they spoke with one voice on an issue that worries them all.

"I'm sure they will form an Islamic government and our freedom will be gone," Suzan Sarkon, 30, said as she settled in to get her long black hair trimmed. "We've never lived freely in Iraq, and now I think we never will."
This situation makes my blood boil. That the administration seeks to declare a victory of democracy in a country whose women are fearful that will never live freely is indicative of a sexism that knows no shame. Freedom means everyone. It is notable that in the same address, the president also stated, “Freedom is the birthright and deep desire of every human soul.” Every human soul. That means women, too, dammit.
As Iraq embarks on its uncertain journey toward crafting a new constitution, Iraqi women have perhaps more to win or lose in the process than anyone.

Since the election results were confirmed, many women have expressed deep concerns about the direction in which they see their country headed. A coalition of Islamist Shiite parties won the largest share of the seats in Iraq's new National Assembly. The parties have nominated an Islamic scholar to be prime minister, and though they insist they do not want to impose a religious government on Iraq, they have made it clear they expect Islam to feature in the new constitution.

[…]

At a minimum, that likely will mean applying Shariah [or Islamic law] to civil and family laws, according fewer rights to women than men in areas such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, said Joyce Wiley, an authority on Iraqi Shiites at the University of South Carolina. "I'm afraid it's not going to be very good for women," she said.
I am also curious as to how Christian and atheist Iraqis, of which there are a sizable number, can be considered “free” if they will be beholden to Shariah as well.
The marked increase in the number of women wearing head scarves these days is only the most outwardly visible sign of the creeping Islamization of society that has already taken place since the U.S. invasion, leaving many women living under a de facto form of Islamic rule, she said.

"There are armed men everywhere. If you go without the protection of the scarf, they can stop you and you may get assaulted," Mohammed said. "And there's pressure from husbands and fathers. Being good and chaste means you put a veil on. They tell you it's voluntary, but how can it be voluntary when there's that much pressure on you?"

The liberation promised by the U.S. invasion has so far eluded most Iraqi women. With gunmen roaming the streets and kidnappings a daily occurrence, protective fathers and anxious husbands keep their daughters and wives at home. Women have been targeted for failing to cover their heads and for expressing views such as those of Mohammed, who has received several death threats.

[…]

"If there is Islamic law, it will be worse," [Tara Husham, 22, whose Muslim father and Christian mother say she must be home by 5 p.m.] said. "Islamic law is very traditional--women must obey everything men say. It means democracy will be denied to us."

As she spoke, a figure cloaked in black entered the salon, striking a stark contrast with the other women dressed in jeans and tight sweaters.

Tearing off her head scarf and shaking loose her blond-streaked hair, Anwar Sobhi, 30, explained that she traveled from a neighborhood overrun by radical Sunni insurgents, where graffiti on the walls threatens death to women who don't cover their hair and where the beauty salons were forced to close months ago because they are deemed un-Islamic.

"Of course, I don't want to dress like this. ... I want to wear what I like," said Sobhi, who is Shiite. "When I was a child, my parents used to try to make me wear hijab to school, and when I got around the corner I would take it off. It was just like suffocation."

She only began covering up last month, after she was threatened by armed men.

"Where I live, not even one lady can go out without completely covering her hair," she said. "It's just too dangerous."
How is this freedom? This is abject oppression, right down to the very clothes against their skin. Is this the result for which we hoped when we set out to “liberate” Iraq—that its women would end up with fewer personal freedoms than before our arrival? The right to vote is a futile right indeed if one cannot even wear the clothes of one’s choosing when heading out to the voting booth.
"If George Bush thinks this is liberation, then he should make his own wife and daughters wear hijab," said Hanan Azzawi, 36, one of the salon's stylists.
No, if Bush thinks this is liberation, then he needs to get himself a fucking dictionary.

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Spiders, Man

Mr. Shakes was sitting next to me as I was doing my blog rounds, and saw this picture at the Poor Man:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Camel spiders. Eugh.

Somehow he had missed seeing it when it was going around before. He has a wee bit of arachnophobia (if wee = massive).

“Ahhhhhh! What the fuck is that thing?! Those are the grossest fucking things I’ve ever seen in my life!”

And he’s eaten haggis.

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My Hero

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
That “old Arab,” Helen Thomas

I’ve always revered Helen Thomas, and today I dig her a little bit more (via WTF Is It Now??):

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer is on book tour.

Howard Kurtz writes: "Fleischer's book, 'Taking Heat,' is out today, and while his style isn't to smack people around, he is the first Bush administration insider to offer a sustained indictment of the media. White House correspondents, he says, are mostly liberal. Mostly negative. Mostly opposed to tax cuts. Mostly unwilling to give his president a break. Mostly interested in whipping up conflict. . . .

[…]

In the book, Fleischer criticizes Hearst columnist Helen Thomas for asking loaded questions. Here's what Thomas tells Kurtz:

"'The questions I asked should have been asked by 10 more reporters in the run-up to war, which proved that everything they said was not true.' She says Fleischer was not only a spokesman for the president but 'owed credibility to the American people. I'm sure he got mad at me. He had to defend what was indefensible, in my opinion.'"
Love her.

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Terrorism 101

Remember Afghanistan? We had a war there once. Not too long ago, in fact. It was, as I recall, because the government was suspected of harboring this guy, who was responsible for the tragedy we call 9/11. Soon after toppling that evil regime and bringing democracy and freedom to the Afghanis, we all but left, because we had to move on to our next stop on the Freedom Express, Iraq. Here’s the problem (hat tip Crooks and Liars):

Afghan heroin production represents an "an enormous threat to world stability" and the country is "on the verge of becoming a narcotics state," the U.S. State Department said in a report released on Friday.

Despite steps by the Afghan government and foreign donors, the U.S. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report found the Afghan "narcotics situation continues to worsen" more than three years after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban regime.

[…]

The most dramatic conclusions in the report, an annual survey of the world drug trade, were about Afghanistan, where it praised U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai's efforts, but said Afghan poppy cultivation more than tripled last year.

"Afghanistan's illicit opium/heroin production can be viewed, for all practical purposes, as the rough equivalent of world illicit heroin production, and it represents an enormous threat to world stability," it said.

The area devoted to poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose to 206,700 hectares (509,050 acres) last year from 61,000 hectares (150,700 acres) in 2003. Citing International Monetary Fund estimates that drugs account for 40 percent to 60 percent of the Afghan economy, the report added: "Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a narcotics state."

The report said Afghan political conditions improved last year, which included its October presidential election, but "criminal financiers and narcotics traffickers in and outside of Afghanistan take advantage of the ongoing instability."
What possibly could have been the cause of such ongoing instability? Might it have been this?

The high point of the American involvement in Afghanistan came in December of 2001, at a conference of various Afghan factions held in Bonn, when the Administration’s candidate, Hamid Karzai, was named chairman of the interim government. (His appointment as President was confirmed six months later at a carefully orchestrated Afghan tribal council, known as a Loya Jirga.) It was a significant achievement, but there were major flaws in the broader accord. There was no agreement on establishing an international police force, no procedures for collecting taxes, no strategy for disarming either the many militias or individual Afghans, and no resolution with the Taliban.

[...]

The Bush Administration, facing a major war in Iraq, seemed eager to put the war in Afghanistan behind it. In January of 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, made a fifteen-hour visit to Kabul and announced, “We’re clearly moving into a different phase, where our priority in Afghanistan is increasingly going to be stability and reconstruction. There’s no way to go too fast. Faster is better.” There was talk of improving security and rebuilding the Afghan National Army in time for Presidential and parliamentary elections, but little effort to provide the military and economic resources. “I don’t think the Administration understood about winning hearts and minds,” a former Administration official told me.

The results of the postwar neglect are stark. A leading scholar on Afghanistan, Barnett R. Rubin, wrote, in this month’s Current History, that Afghanistan today “does not have functioning state institutions. It has no genuine army or effective police. Its ramshackle provincial administration is barely in contact with, let alone obedient to, the central government. Most of the country’s meager tax revenue has been illegally taken over by local officials who are little more than warlords with official titles.” The goal of American policy in Afghanistan “was not to set up a better regime for the Afghan people,” Rubin wrote. “The goal instead was to get rid of the terrorist threat against America.”
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that a singular goal of getting rid of the terrorist threat against America was acceptable—that we had no further responsibility toward Afghanistan and that as long as the terrorist threat had been removed, the war was a success. Turns out, we failed on that front, too, because there are immutable and demonstrable links between the drug trade and terrorism, intersecting at three key points: money, tools of the trade, and geography.

Someone* once said: It's so important for Americans to know that the traffic in drugs finances the work of terror, sustaining terrorists, that terrorists use drug profits to fund their cells to commit acts of murder. If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terror in America. One might reasonably suggest, then, that quitting a country in which you’ve toppled the government and leaving it in a state of chaos, thereby rife with the opportunity for exploitation by drug traffickers and terrorists alike, is perhaps indicative of a significant contribution to terrorism.

How much longer will this kind of ignorant refusal to acknowledge the realities of our actions go on before we realize that we are our own worst enemy?

(Crossposted at Ezra Klein.)

* President George W. Bush (probably easily identifiable by the idiotic misstatement “if you quit drugs,” which should really have been something like, “if you quit paying attention to drugs”).

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Pass the Smokes

"Qutting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times." - Mark Twain

We lasted 3 days.

Link:

Probably the greatest barrier to quitting -- and the hardest for smokers to overcome -- is withdrawal. Withdrawal is the body's response to the physical need for nicotine and the psychological need or desire for a cigarette. Immediately after quitting, many smokers will experience headache and dizziness, coughing and sore throat, and hunger. These symptoms usually last a few days to a week. As cessation progresses, other symptoms can develop, including anger, frustration, irritability, difficulty in concentrating, impatience, insomnia, fatigue, and even intense anxiety and depression.

I've had every one of these symptoms. These have been the worst three days ever. I'm still determined to quit, but this wasn't it.

By the way, Mr. Shakes is sitting beside me smoking, and I still haven't had one yet. I give myself a matter of time before I cave, too.

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Yeesh

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Girlzzz

Elayne Riggs has been doing a little contest of sorts to see which female bloggers are deserving of wider readership. Go on over and check out the existing list, and leave your favorites in comments. If nothing else, you’ll have the opportunity to check out quite a comprehensive list of female bloggers.

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

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A Must Read

Mahablog on the evil and inevitably social Darwinist realities of the new bankruptcy bill, Joe Biden’s ongoing identity crisis, and the possibility that the hubbub about Social Security is really just a red herring so that bullshit like this can get passed without much notice.

Go ahead, big dogs. Write a few more posts about Social Security. Rove needs some more blog porn to jerk off to while he manically laughs and plots your next distraction.

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We Turn Our Backs on Africa

Dear President Bush…

Please read the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s about a man of a different background giving aid to someone who was left for dead. If you’ve already read it, please read it again, because I don’t think you understood it.

Sincerely,
Shakespeare’s Sister


The AIDS crisis in Africa has reached such shocking proportions that the lack of attention afforded this urgent tragedy by Western governments, including our own, compels us to question by what moral contortionism we have excused ourselves from intervening. How, exactly, do we justify showing this singular contempt for our African brothers and sisters? Via Pam:

More than 80 million Africans may die from AIDS by 2025, the United Nations said in a report released Friday, and infections could soar to 90 million -- or more than 10 percent of the continent's population -- if more isn't done soon to fight the disease.

More than 25 million African have been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. UNAIDS estimated that nearly $200 billion is needed to save 16 million people from death and 43 million people from becoming infected, but donors have pledged nowhere near that amount.

In its report, "AIDS in Africa," the U.N. agency examines three potential scenarios for the continent in the next 20 years depending on the international community's response. The three scenarios include a best-case situation, a middle-case and a doomsday scenario. They all warn that the worst of the epidemic's impact is still to come. "There is no single policy prescription that will change the outcome of the epidemic," the report stated. "The death toll will continue to rise no matter what is done." Under the worst-case scenario, experts have plotted current policies and funding over the next two decades.

UNAIDS has reported that life expectancy in nine countries has dropped to below 40 because of the disease. There are already 11 million orphans because of AIDS, while 6,500 people are dying each day. In 2004, 3.1 million Africans were newly infected, the agency said.
"Never again," say our leaders when they visit Auschwitz. “Never again.”

Somber they remember the human toll of a madmen’s excesses, failing to see that a genocide of commission versus one of omission are of a distinction without a difference.

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Martha Stewart’s Coming Home

Jill exactly articulates my feelings about Martha Stewart:

Martha Stewart may be the most polarizing figure of our time whose name is not George Walker Bush. Either you loved her or you hated her.

I always fell into the latter category. The last thing I, a mediocre housekeeper at best, wanted to hear was some multikazillionaire telling me to grow my own herbs…

But when Martha Stewart was convicted of refusing to acknowledge guilt in the timing of her sale of ImClone stock, at a time when Kenny-Boy Lay, Bernie Ebbers, Scott Sullivan, and the rest of the corporate crooks who caused hundreds of thousands of people to lose all of their retirement money, and in many cases, their jobs, it became clear that this was a Federal witch hunt against a relatively small player who just happened to be a Democrat....sort of like impeaching a Democratic president for a blowjob while a Republican president gets a free pass for lying to the American people to justify a war.

So today Martha Stewart goes home, and this former Martha-hater is cheering. I'm not the only one, either. Shares of Martha Stewart Omnimedia have been rallying of late, and rather than being a pariah, she will go back to running the company after her release from home confinement, AND she'll get her own version of The Apprentice. And there are a bunch of people like me, former Martha-haters, who are now cheering, "You go, girl!"

Dorothy Parker was right. Living well truly IS the best revenge.

Right on.

(Ten points to the person who can name the star of the obscure ’80s movie referenced in the title of this post and at least 2 other ’80s movies in which he starred.)

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Friday Limerick

If faith-based groups get things their way,
Discrimination will soon be okay.
They don’t want to be near
An atheist or queer,
Though still welcome is the fiend BTK.

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Friday Bookishness

Today’s recommendation is Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, which is one of my favorite books; I’ve read it at least 4 or 5 times. The story is about the Binewskis, Al and Crystal Lil, the proprietors of a failing traveling circus who have the great idea to save it by breeding their own freak show. Imbibing various drugs and chemicals, they end up with quite the litter of sideshow attractions. The story jumps back and forth between the Binewski children’s childhood and the present day, where one of the Binewskis is stalking her own long lost daughter.

And with all of that, I gave absolutely nothing away you don’t find out at the beginning of the book. There’s tons of great weird and creepy and disturbing and sad and sometimes quite touching stuff in this book. The main reason I’m recommending it, though (and for those who have read it, don’t give anything away!), is that I want new readers to answer this question:

Who do the Arturians remind you of?

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A Consensus for Good Government

Digby has a great post about finding (perhaps, rediscovering) the American consensus, which is "the mainstream majority belief in liberalism that held that the government should actively expand 'to new frontiers' to promote the welfare of its citizens." His examination of the loss of the American consensus, and his call for liberals to find it again, dovetails nicely with my recent piece, A Liberal Argument, in which I suggested that we must somehow move voters beyond voting purely out of self-interest. Digby says:

The difference between Republicans and Democrats isn't about who cares more for the people. All politicians say they care about the people and the people are always justifiably skeptical. The difference between us is how we believe the good of the people is best achieved and liberals have a fundamentally different philosophy than the Republicans. Government is our preferred method to advance progressive ideals. Capitalism cannot substitute for a democratic government that answers to all the people. The invisible hand doesn’t give a shit if children starve or old people have to work until they are eighty or if half the country has to work at slave wages to support the other half. Only government can guarantee its citizens the equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that progress toward that end requires that the government be active and engaged in delivering those things.
I said:
The way to get past that inequality is not to constantly try to reframe each argument individually, because there are some, like the example offered, that just aren’t ever going to be able to compete with the delicious simplicity and immediacy of the counterargument. Instead, we must lead the nation away from self-interest; we are all dependent upon each other in infinite ways and it is our obligation to remind the electorate of the importance of such interconnectedness. No man is an island. So said John Donne, and so should we say. We are in this thing together, and our policies are geared to ensure that no man is ever left adrift on his own, without a safety net, without the help he needs, without a community. To vote purely out of self-interest is to turn one’s back on the belief that there is a social conscience to be nurtured for the benefit of us all.
Just as capitalism cannot substitute for a democratic government that answers to all the people, a government that relieves itself of the obligation to ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by allowing a social Darwinist free-for-all among its masses isn’t exactly an appealing option, either. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it should be increasingly obvious to everyone by this point that as government shirks its duties, leaving industry to self-regulate, allowing religious groups to discriminate if it’s necessary for maintaining their identities, refusing to strengthen legal protections of groups targeted for hate crimes, encouraging citizens to patrol the borders, etc. etc. etc., that “the People” can’t handle the responsibility of picking up the government’s slack. Of course they can’t—the People are dicks.

We have always needed government for good reason, but without the American consensus, that there was once goodness in government is becoming ever more difficult to recall.

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Friday Blogrolling

First up, some long overdue additions:

Corrente
Echidne of the Snakes
Francesca's Liberal Wingnut Corner

Pinko Feminist Hellcat
Worshipping at the Altar of Mediocrity…

Now that's a list that happens to include some mighty fine female bloggers, for any boys who claim they have trouble finding them. Ahem.

And now some more recent discoveries:

The Green Knight, who is just all kinds of good, and who deserves special recognition for such a lovely literary allusion in the name of his blog.

CommonSenseDesk, which combines good aggregation with concise commentary. From the Flattery Will Get You Everywhere files, CSD once suggested that Dr. Dean should be reading my blog, an assertion with which I totally agree, of course, but I never expected to get independent confirmation of such flagrant narcissism.

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The Immigrant Hunters

So the Department of Homeland Security is trying out a new method of tracking immigrants: ankle bracelets. You know, the electronic monitors that parolee sex offenders are often required to wear? Yeah, I know this sounds like a story from the Onion, but it’s not.

Francesca of Francesca’s Liberal Wingnut Corner, who, like me, is married to an immigrant, has the scoop, including her husband’s reaction. Mr. Shakes is too disgusted to even acknowledge it, I think. I’m just afraid they’re going to snatch him, tag him, and release him back into the wild too far from home, and he won’t be able to find his way back.

Go read Francesca’s post; it’s just unbelievable what’s going on in this country.

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#@!$%!!@@!###

IS IT JUST MY IMAGINATION OR HAS BLOGGER BEEN NOTHING BUT A PAIN IN THE MOTHERFUCKING ASS FOR DAYS???

I'M TRYING TO QUIT SMOKING HERE!!! I DON'T NEED THIS CRAP!!!

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Imagine How Diverse the Disciples Would Have Been if Jesus Hadn't Had to Worry About Federal Funding


“That’s right—compassion. Or as some of you liberal
traitors might call it—wanton discrimination.”


You know, I’m getting really fucking tired of this shit.

In case you didn’t think that there was enough reason to fear the Bushies if you’re a non-Christian, atheist, homosexual, or find yourself otherwise outside the realm of what’s acceptable among the churchly, here’s one more: if you happen to work for a federally funded faith-based organization, they’re now one step away from being able to legally fire your ass if you don’t agree with their religious beliefs.

The House on Wednesday approved a job-training bill that would allow faith-based organizations receiving federal funds to consider a person's religious beliefs in making employment decisions.

Under current law, religious groups that receive federal money for job-training programs must obey civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring or firing.

Passage of the bill, on a largely party-line vote of 224-200, came a day after President Bush told a group of religious leaders that he would attempt to institute the faith-based employment policies through an executive order if Congress did not approve them this year.
So basically, even if the Senate sees fit to not pass this bit cynical and unconstitutional effort to do an end-run around civil rights guarantees, the president will step in and ramrod it through into being, anyway. What a democracy we’ve got! As Pam notes:

If Chimpy gets his hands on the Supreme Court vacancies, we might as well kiss our rights goodbye.
No shit.
In a statement Wednesday supporting the bill, the White House said, "Receipt of federal funds should not be conditioned on a faith-based organization's giving up a part of its religious identity and mission."

First of all, I question the motive of any religious group that has an identity and mission in direct conflict with civil rights guarantees. I also can’t imagine many people who disagree with the ideology of a faith-based group are applying to fill roles where ideological differences matter, but instead probably work in support positions. If a Sikh is comfortable working as an accountant for a Christian outreach group (for example), why should they be allowed to fire him? More importantly, why would they want to? It’s difficult to imagine how this bill is even useful, aside from legalizing any prejudice that can remotely be deemed rooted in religion. And ain’t that a slippery slope to start on.

Secondly, I’m getting pretty motherfucking sick of the word faith being used to disguise what is a strictly religious agenda. There are those of us who have faith (constantly challenged though it may be) in humankind, but not any god(s) to speak of, and we’re not going to get any kind of funding from the faith-based initiative. So let’s start by calling a spade a spade—this is law specifically designed to free religious groups to practice bigotry against those who disagree with them, without losing their federal funding.
Joe Conn, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the group was very disappointed with the results of Wednesday's vote but nonetheless hopeful.

"We are confident that the Senate will not go along with this, and ultimately it will not become law," Conn said. "President Bush has pushed this faith-based initiative for years now, but he hasn't been able to get it through Congress due to concerns over civil rights."
Come on, Senate Dems, do yer stuff! You gotta remember…the Jews, the queers, the godless heathens—we’re your people, and we’re counting on you.

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Question

Excluding the Pres & VP, who is your least favorite person in the Bush administration and why?

(No fair saying, "Ann Coulter!" and making the case that she's part of an extension of the administration by virtue of the current media environment. We'll save who's your least favorite pundit and why? for another day.)

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Red State Values

Still welcome at church.



Dennis Rader, charged with 10 killings, also known by his self-created nickname BTK, which stands for Bind, Torture, Kill.

Not welcome to take communion at some churches.



John Kerry, Senator, Former Presidential Candidate, and War Hero, who believes in a woman’s right to choose.

Generally not welcomed by the church; recently deemed part of a “new ideology of evil” by the Pope.



Richard M. Raymen and Steven P. Hansen of Portland, Oregon, whose wedding picture was stolen by USA Next for use in a rightwing propaganda piece targeting AARP.

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The End of Political Blogging?

This is truly unbelievable:

In just a few months, [Bradley Smith, one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission,] warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

[…]

If Congress doesn't change the law, what kind of activities will the FEC have to target?

We're talking about any decision by an individual to put a link (to a political candidate) on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet.

Again, blogging could also get us into issues about online journals and non-online journals. Why should CNET get an exemption but not an informal blog? Why should Salon or Slate get an exemption? Should Nytimes.com and Opinionjournal.com get an exemption but not online sites, just because the newspapers have a print edition as well?

Why wouldn't the news exemption cover bloggers and online media?

Because the statute refers to periodicals or broadcast, and it's not clear the Internet is either of those. Second, because there's no standard for being a blogger, anyone can claim to be one, and we're back to the deregulated Internet that the judge objected to. Also I think some of my colleagues on the commission would be uncomfortable with that kind of blanket exemption.

So if you're using text that the campaign sends you, and you're reproducing it on your blog or forwarding it to a mailing list, you could be in trouble?

Yes. In fact, the regulations are very specific that reproducing a campaign's material is a reproduction for purpose of triggering the law. That'll count as an expenditure that counts against campaign finance law.

This is an incredible thicket. If someone else doesn't take action, for instance in Congress, we're running a real possibility of serious Internet regulation. It's going to be bizarre.
You’ll have to read the whole interview to get the full background and the breadth of what this means for political bloggers, but the thing that I find most distressing about all of this is that the internet, and specifically blogs, have become an important resource for people who want to educate themselves about politicians and their platforms during campaigns. Our electorate is ignorant enough as it is; do we need to close off such a valuable conduit of information because a link to Kerry’s website could be construed as coordinated communications? Honestly, this could severely damage the grassroots movement that has flourished on the internet. That wasn’t supposed to be the point of McCain-Feingold.

In as soon as a few months from now, any of us could risk being hit with fines if we “improperly link to a campaign’s website.”

Welcome to the new America, where if you’re not willfully ignorant, we’ll do our best to try to enforce it.

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Short Takes

Wanna read one hell of a rant? Linnet takes on the Moose. Yowza. Right on, girl.

Reason #1,643,297 (or so) why Rush Limbaugh is a disingenuous pile of vitriol-spewing lard who feeds on the fear-generated hatred he evokes from his vile army of mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging Dittoheads.

Even dead and gone, the unceasingly brilliant Tennessee Williams is still one of our best social commentators—the most recently unearthed of his lost plays takes on torture.

Lawrence J. Korb examines the Bush administration’s repeated violation of the policies established to support the all-volunteer Army. Do you feel a draft?

The Washington State Supreme Court prepares to take on gay marriage. (Quite long, but well worth the read, wisely noting, “it's hard not to foresee a time when its prohibition is viewed as archaic and appalling—as appalling as the old laws against miscegenation seem today, part of a shameful past.”)

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32% Chance of Evil

The Dark Wraith points us this evening to the Gematriculator, which uses a complex numerical algorithm to analyze the content of a website to discern the balance between good and evil at the site.

Shakespeare’s Sister’s results were as follows:

This site is certified 32% EVIL by the Gematriculator This site is certified 68% GOOD by the Gematriculator

I am 2% less evil and more good than the Dark Wraith. I think the difference in background color alone accounts for that. We’re probably equally evil otherwise.

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Get on the Girl Train

Here’s a good example of why high-traffic male bloggers who normally don’t cover women’s issues should perhaps consider doing so:

Pharmacists for Life was birthed in part because of the number of pharmacists who are facing legal action for refusing to fill birth-control pills on the basis of religious and moral objections. With the morning-after pill already on the scene -- and the possibility it may soon become almost as simple to buy as aspirin -- members of the organization are deeply concerned about legal action that may be forthcoming against their colleagues, if they refuse to provide the medication.

For instance, Pharmacists for Life is currently following the case of Neil Noesen, a pharmacist in Wisconsin, who in 2002 worked as an independent contractor at a K-Mart pharmacy and refused to refill a woman's birth-control prescription because it was against his religion. Amazingly, Wisconsin responded by trying to take away Noesen's license to dispense medication in that state.

Because of such cases, and the potential for others like it, Pharmacists for Life is calling for federal and state lawmakers to pass "conscience clause" legislation that would protect the rights of pharmacists who wish to avoid dispensing hormone-containing birth-control pills, which can operate by abortive means -- that is, by taking a human life…

"We don't take a stand on contraceptives," said Barbara Holt of North Carolina Right to Life, "However, the national (Right to Life) organization worked on the federal level to make sure there was legislation that provided a 'conscious clause' for health-care providers and hospitals in particular so they don't have to provide services which are against their beliefs."

Mrs. Holt is referring to the Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment, which was signed into law by President Bush last December as part of the 2005 Health and Human Services appropriations bill. The legislation grants freedom of choice to a "health-care entity," which means an individual physician or other health-care professional, a hospital, a provider-sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health-care facility, organization, or plan, does not have to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.
It’s also a good example of why women get annoyed when abortion is cited as an issue on which the Left should be willing to compromise. No. N-o. No. Because, see, they won’t stop at criminalizing abortion…they want to make it legal for doctors, pharmacists, and even EMT crews to be able to dispense healthcare services and drugs based on their own personal religious beliefs. First it will just affect women, especially women in highly conservative/religious areas, where there might not be a pharmacist for miles who is willing to fill a prescription for birth control.

But once that door’s been opened a crack, what’s to stop them from throwing it wide? Will healthcare workers be legally allowed to refuse medical care to someone of another religion? Will they be legally allowed to refuse medical care to gays and lesbians? Oh, wait—that’s already happening.

Disguised as legislation promoting one’s right to “protect one’s conscience,” Hyde-Weldon is just another step in eroding the rights of anyone who isn’t “them.” And while, as Rox says, you’re busy penning “the same 'ol Social Security post written 18 different ways by 27 different male bloggers, regurgitated day after day after day after day,” they’re coming after our rights, slowly but surely, doggedly trying to make our bodies property of the state again.

And guess what? We’re just a pit stop on the road that will eventually lead them to your door, too.

(Thanks to John at AMERICAblog, who actually writes about these things.)

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Stressin'

Did I mention that Mr. Shakes and I work together?

And that we're both quitting smoking?

At the same time?

So we're together, like, 24 hours a day. And we're both kinda cranky. Right now, I can hear him crunching potato chips really loudly in the other room. I may have to go in there and put the bag over his head. That's if he doesn't come in here and put it over mine first.

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So Long, John

John Emerson, one of the contributors at the always stellar Seeing the Forest, is taking a break from blogging, maybe permanently. (Dave and the rest of the STF crew will still be there.) He’s having a serious case of the fuckits, and I can’t say I blame him:

I really dread the next four years. I expect the worst from Bush -- specifically, war fever plus McCarthyism. There have been a number of positive changes in the Democratic party, but Democrats as a group still don't seem prepared for what's going to happen, and it may be too little, too late.

At the beginning of my blogging career I was happy just to vent, but over the last year or so I've tried to figure out a way to make something of my political writing. That really hasn't happened -- I still seem to be speaking to the same small audience of people who basically already agree with me, without really getting my message out the generic Democrats or the big-time bloggers -- much less the party leadership.

I will always be angry about the crappy 2004 campaign, the overpaid consultants, and the unresponsive and bureaucratic Democratic Party (and Kerry campaign) -- and especially, the New Dems who are only now finally realizing that perhaps their destruction of the left wing of the Democratic party left them vulnerable to attack. Lieberman's hot wet kiss with Bush at the State of the Union speech was just the killing blow.

[…]

The United States has been taken over by a cult -- the hardcore 30% who think that nuclear war is a fun idea, that France is an enemy nation, that the Confederacy was perfectly wonderful, that Armageddon is coming soon and is something to pray for, and that the federal government should be starved to death. They're the bad guys, but the ones who you really have to blame are the ones who don't bother and don't care: the cynics, the apathetic, the non-voters, the game-players, the media careerists, and the self-described "moderates". By the time those guys get the idea, it will probably be too late.
Go read the whole thing. John’s mad at and disappointed in a lot of stuff, all of which any of us can understand. I wish he weren’t leaving, but I can totally relate, I totally commiserate, and I’ll totally miss him.

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Social Security Shocker!

My word, Senate Majority Leader Bill “Kitty Cutter” Frist is saying that Bush’s Social Security reform might be delayed as much as a year.

Hmm. Wonder why that could be?



Oh right. Despite having sent every available GOP Senator and Rep, plus all their paid and unpaid shills, out to promote the president’s lunatic reform plan for Social Security to every speaking venue and media outlet that would have them, the administration is finding that the Democrats just aren’t caving on this one, and the American people aren’t proving to be as easily swayable as usual. Stubborn commoners!

Frist's comments came as lawmakers returned from a week-long break during which many held town meetings to discuss the president's Social Security plan. Some Republicans were shocked by the intensity of opposition expressed, while many Democrats seemed emboldened by the reaction.

[…]

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that the past week of public forums "has proven that the president's message is not selling."
I think the GOP is starting to discover some interesting things about their supporters. First they found out the churchly types in the red states actually are the religious nutjobs Bush & Co. only claim to be, so even though gay marriage might be little more than a wedge issue as far as Rove is concerned, Dobson and his minions aren’t about to be satisfied with mere lip service. (Wow—ever since Gannon, it really is impossible to talk about gay issues and the White House without everything becoming a double entendre.)

Now Bush discovers that lying to them about his reasons for killing some dirty Arabs isn’t the same as lying to them about their checks. Lying about the Iraq War, well shit—when the half-assed, badly concocted tale of national security using dubious intelligence was revealed as a fairy tale, sure red America shrugged. Such careful posturing had been an unnecessary political formality as far as they were concerned; they were quite happy to go along with bombing the ragheads for no reason at all. Lying about their checks, though—hold on a second now. They’re sitting up and paying attention on this one, and they don’t like what they’re hearing. Go figure. Each week, the figures look worse for the pres.

You can only sell someone a bill of goods if they’re willing to buy. Bush’s supporters gave him a pass on the war because they’re inveterate racists and warmongers. But they won’t let themselves be swindled, dammit!

(Kudos to the Dems for staying strong on this one, too. It’s nice to see a vaguely solid opposition again. As always, Joe Liebertwat can lick my clit.)

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Quitter

All right, I’m three cigarettes away from quitting.

They’re lying here in front of me, and I wish there were more—I wish there were endless rivers of beautiful, tasty cigarettes in front of me—but there aren’t. There are three. And then I’m supposed to quit. In fact, Mr. Shakes and I are both quitting.

I feel really nervous about quitting, for the stupidest reason imaginable—I’ve smoked for 12 years, and it’s such a part of my identity; I can’t imagine myself without a cigarette. How am I going to sit at the computer and write a post without a fag dangling from my lips, the lovely smoke curling around between myself and the monitor? I also feel really nervous because I’m scared to fail.

Now I have 2 and ¾ cigarettes left.

Smoking is, of course, the most disgusting habit in the world, and I love it endlessly. It makes me short of breath, lethargic, congested, and stinky, and I can’t imagine why I would ever consider giving it up because it makes me so happy. When I see public service announcements about the dangers of smoking, they make me want a cigarette. This is my sickness. I am a serious, serious addict, and I’m going to die if I don’t stop. Still, this has no effect on me. I suffer from a complete disconnect between the reality of smoking and my slavish devotion to it.

The insane amounts of money I spend on cigarettes goes to Big Tobacco which then goes to the GOP. I’m literally killing myself for Republicans. Sadly, that—and the fact that smoking is getting far too expensive—are the only reasons I can convince myself to give it up. And I really hope it sees me through, because when I start jonesing, there are going to be some desperately ugly moments, and I need my hatred for Bush and his corporate contributors to pull me through.

2 and ½ cigarettes left.

I may be pretty cranky for awhile. I hope that, if nothing else, the shame of admitting to you all that I’ve started again will keep me from doing just that.

Why did I ever start smoking? What an asshole.

2 cigarettes left.

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Death and Stuff

I don’t have much to say about the Supreme Court decision to outlaw the death penalty for juvenile criminals, except that it’s a good thing. I don’t support the death penalty at all, because I believe anyone who commits a crime worthy of death deserves far worse—to sit for the rest of their lives in a tiny cell, hopefully quite miserable and haunted by nightmares of the horror they perpetrated against others.

I know that’s a lot to hope for, but I think death is too kind an end for monsters.

I also believe that our criminal justice system is imperfect, and that putting people to death who might well deserve it by some measure is not worth the risk of executing even one innocent man or woman.

I’ll get more excited if they ever see fit to legalize euthanasia, so people who don’t deserve to suffer and have no hope of recovery can end their anguish should they so choose. There’s something incredibly fucked up about forcing people to linger; prolonging agony when death in inevitable seems the very definition of cruel and unusual to me.

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Bloggrrls (Part 3)

Okay, so maybe I was a little hard on Kevin Drum. Not to say he wasn’t wrong, but picking on him singularly when he’s certainly not the only one who’s said something less than thoughtful to get we girls’ ire a-firing, and certainly not the only one who maybe hasn’t done everything he could to promote bloggrrls, might have been unfair.

So here’s my final word on the matter (unless someone wants to challenge me a duel a la Zell Miller at any point, in which case I’ll be happy to oblige), and it’s directed to any popular male blogger who has a genuine interest in addressing the disparity between male and female bloggers in the upper echelon:

Part of the reason women get angry about the periodic navel-gazing about aforementioned disparity is because it gets old hearing you talk about it without actually ever seeming to do anything about it (with some exceptions). When the issue raises its head every so often, all of us girls say, “Here we are! Here we are!” and then it settles down, back to status quo. If you are legitimately concerned about the lack of women among the most highly trafficked political sites, stop talking and just take action.

Add a few chicks that you like, whose content you think is right on. If nothing else, doing so will help discern whether a lack of links from popular male bloggers is really the issue, or part of it. Continual wondering from the big dog male bloggers about whether it’s an issue is just irritating, when they’re the ones who have control over whether to change it.

Because if we have to read what amounts to the equivalent of, “Gee girls—why aren’t you more popular? Do you think it’s because we don’t link to you?” one more time, there may well be bloodshed.

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Question

What would you most like to hear in a speech from a Democratic presidential contender (not necessarily a specific person)? Let's just say it's still before the election (sigh)--and our guy/gal is giving an important policy speech. What would make you cream your britches if they said it?

It can be serious, funny, anything. I'm just curious to hear what isn't getting said that people want to hear.

(No fair copying the opening line from my previous post. We all want to hear that--it's a given.)

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The Price of Free Speech

Motherfucking cockwanking dicklicking cunts!

If Bush has his way, it would cost me $2,000,000 to say that on national television.

(Unless "cockwanking" is counted as two separate offensive words, in which case it would cost me $2,500,000. Or unless the whole thing was counted as one offense, which would cost me a mere $500,000—what a bargain!)

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Editor's Choice

Incredibly busy at the moment. Will be back later with more of the regularly scheduled rants and raves. In the meantime, here’s some good stuff to check out:

Pam culls Freeperisms on the NC beating of a gay man. No surprise here—Freepers prove exactly why the existence of hate crime laws are necessary.

Linnet and Rook debunk David Brooks’ stealth antifeminism. Yo, Dave—there are some guys (and girls) who think that fiercely independent women are sexy. And guess what? They get all the cool chicks.

The Fixer on zombie terrorism and what must surely be the end of free speech as we know it.

Gary on the RNC plot to drive him insane.

Mahablog on Albert Einstein, Juan Cole, and other good stuff. (That’s not a good sell, I know—read it, anyway.)

Ezra on how completely idiotic this country can be when it comes to abortion rights.

Enjoy!

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