Pastafarians, Wiccans, Others Banned from Green Bay Pack

Thursday, December 20, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

Pastafarians may not participate in a holiday display in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Mayor Jim Schmitt described the proposal as "silly." He declared a moratorium on additional displays after a Wiccan wreath displayed with the nativity scene was vandalized.

After police announced Monday someone stole and damaged a Wiccan display overnight that had been placed on the roof Friday, Schmitt ordered that it wouldn't be replaced and that no other displays would be permitted until the City Council debates the issue tonight.

Schmitt's declaration means that the nativity scene, placed by Council President Chad Fradette last Tuesday, is the only holiday display over City Hall's northwest entrance.

Schmitt said he and City Attorney Allison Swanson developed proposed guidelines governing the size and style of future religious displays. His list limits such displays to December and attempts to limit such displays to legitimate religious symbolism.

In fairness, the mayor may be well within his rights to put a stopper on the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Seinfeldian Festivus (for the rest of us). But there are serious constitutional questions when the only remaining display is a Christian one.

"Who is to say what is a legitimate religious institution?" said Maureen Manion, a retired St. Norbert College professor of political science, with a specialty in constitutional law. "Is there a check-off list? That's shaky constitutional ground, as far as I'm concerned."

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is purposely ambiguous in that it tries to protect religious practices without establishing a religion, and "the courts have always bent over backward to not define religions," Manion said. "I think that's what the framers (of the constitution) were trying to protect — not having a sanctioned church.

. . .

Limiting displays to December is clearly an attempt to put Christian ideals first, which ignores minority religions that may have important holidays at different times of the year, said Terri Johnson, a professor of American government and politics at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

"The Bill of Rights was about protecting minority rights," she said. "Freedom of speech, of religion, all of those weren't to protect the majority, they were to protect the minority."

Faced with a law suit, after its Tuesday night vote to restrict the display, the city is scrambling to cover its bases.

Schmitt on Wednesday directed city maintenance workers to move a Christmas tree and wire reindeer next to the nativity display.

True, the christmas tree is one of the many vestigial pagan symbols that remain in the Christmas tradition. I doubt that it sufficiently replaces the damaged pentacle.

Schmitt said Monday he didn't realize until that day that the wreath and pentacle involved witchcraft. Wicca is a nature-based religion based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons, but Schmitt said he believed it was wrong to allow a Wiccan display next to the nativity scene.

"Wrong" to allow a Wiccan symbol near a Christian one... Well then, I guess we can be pretty sure that no bias went into his decision to restrict all but the nativity scene.

Not a fan of nativity scenes, myself. Although every year I play with the idea of putting up a display of the newborn Mithras in his cave, surrounded by the magi and shepherds, just to see if anyone notices the difference. I doubt Mayor Schmitt would catch on. After listening to this interview on NPR, I'm not sure he's ever heard of any religions other than Christianity. Certainly, he has never been touched by the noodly appendage. For my part:

I Want To Believe

Rich on O'Donnell on Mormonism

Monday, December 17, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

I love the smell of a Lawrence O'Donnell meltdown in the morning. He goes off the rails better than any talking head in memory. Last Sunday may have been his best tirade ever; if for no other reason, the fact that he did not later retract it. If you're not a fan of The McLaughlin Group, you might have missed it.

I grew up on John McLaughlin and it's something of a tradition in my house. Every Sunday my husband and I drink our morning coffee to the mingled sounds Pat Buchanan's bloviating and my daughter's complaints of boredom. She sounds just like I did way back when my grandmother sat on her perch in front of the kitchen black and white. There are so few constants in the world of mass media. The McLaughlin Group is one to savor. At least once during every show, my husband or I will proclaim, on cue, "Wraaaahhhnng! I had oatmeal and banahnaaaaahs." It's kind of like "Hi Bob," only without the booze.

After last Sunday's McLaughlin offering, I searched the tv line-up for another airing. It was too good not to watch at least twice. YouTube to the rescue. (see above)

Here's what Frank Rich had to say, yesterday, about O'Donnell's anti-Mormon rant.

THIS campaign season has been in desperate need of its own reincarnation of Howard Beale from “Network”: a TV talking head who would get mad as hell and not take it anymore. Last weekend that prayer was answered when Lawrence O’Donnell, an excitable Democratic analyst, seized a YouTube moment while appearing on one of the Beltway’s more repellent Sunday bloviathons, “The McLaughlin Group.”

Pushed over the edge by his peers’ polite chatter about Mitt Romney’s sermon on “Faith in America,” Mr. O’Donnell branded the speech “the worst” of his lifetime. Then he went on a rampage about Mr. Romney’s Mormon religion, shouting (among other things) that until 1978 it was “an officially racist faith.”

That claim just happens to be true. As the jaws of his scandalized co-stars dropped around him, Mr. O’Donnell then raised the rude question that almost no one in Washington asks aloud: Why didn’t Mr. Romney publicly renounce his church’s discriminatory practices before they were revoked? As the scion of one of America’s most prominent Mormon families, he might have made a difference. It’s not as if he was a toddler. By 1978 — the same year his contemporary, Bill Clinton, was elected governor in Arkansas — Mr. Romney had entered his 30s.

O'Donnell, for his part, followed his shocking television appearance with a more moderated, but still scathing write-up on Romney's Mormonism.

Romney felt politically forced to give the speech specifically because evangelical Christians seem to know a little too much about the faith of his fathers. Many evangelicals believe and have said publicly that Mormonism--contrary to Romney's assertions--is not a Christian religion but an abomination of Christianity. Here's a sampling of why: Mormons believe that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri; that Jews were the first people in America; that Indians descended from Jews and are a lost tribe of Israel; that Jesus came to America; that after the next coming of Christ (which will be the second or third, depending on how you count his trip to America), the world will be ruled for a thousand years from Jerusalem and Missouri; and to answer Mike Huckabee's now famous question, yes, they believe "Jesus and Lucifer were brothers, in the sense of both being spiritually begotten by the Father."

When Matt Lauer asked Romney the Huckabee question about Jesus and the devil being brothers, Romney refused to answer and handed the question off to the Church of Latter Day Saints. The Church issued a deceptively worded statement that most reporters incorrectly read as a denial of the brotherhood of Jesus and Satan. In fact, the Church could not and did not deny it. The Church did correctly point out that attackers (meaning critics) of Mormonism often use the brother bit. Critics also use the Church's 70 year delight in polygamy and sex with very young girls, which also happens to be true. Critics of Mormonism have plenty to work with without inventing anything.

The pundits had no idea how deliberately misleading Romney's speech was. They loved the bit about Romney's father marching with Martin Luther King. None of them knew that if at the end of the march with George Romney, Martin Luther King was so taken with Mormonism that he wanted to convert and become a Mormon priest, George Romney would have had to tell him that they don't allow black priests. George Romney might also have had to explain to the Reverend King that Mormons believe black people have black skin because they turned away from God.

I find it disturbing that this is a conversation we even need to have. I agree with Eleanor Clift that all religions have some kooky notions; especially before they've had millenium or two to mature. But Romney opened the door with his passionate defense of his religion. I would have a far higher comfort level with Romney's Mormonism if he had forcefully stood up for separation between church and state, in his speech. He failed to meet that bar, saying instead:

Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom ... Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

He put his religion in play. We all have a right to know exactly what he believes, as it seems he doesn't know how to separate those beliefs from his governance. Lawrence O'Donnell had the balls to call him on his duplicity. That's exactly the kind of righteous indignation we need.

Military Families Turn On Bush Republicans

Saturday, December 08, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

"The man went into Iraq without justification, without a plan; he just decided to go in there and win, and he had no idea what was going to happen. There have been terrible deaths on our side, and it's even worse for the Iraqi population. It's another Vietnam."

-- Mary MacNeely, Mother of Air Force Reservist

Vietnam, which ruptured this country in incalculable ways. Among them, a right/left split that moved most military and military families to kneejerk Republican allegiance. Speaking as a member of one of those few left-leaning military families, let me say that I have seen this this coming; this Republican loss of its reliable military voter base.

Families with ties to the military, long a reliable source of support for wartime presidents, disapprove of President Bush and his handling of the war in Iraq, with a majority concluding the invasion was not worth it, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.
Candle with USA Flag Behind
The views of the military community, which includes active-duty service members, veterans and their family members, mirror those of the overall adult population, a sign that the strong military endorsement that the administration often pointed to has dwindled in the war's fifth year.

The Bush Administration's obsessive pursuit of "victory" in Iraq has not only managed to destroy its own support from military culture, but that of its party.

When military families were asked which party could be trusted to do a better job of handling issues related to them, respondents divided almost evenly: 39% said Democrats and 35% chose Republicans. The general population feels similarly: 39% for Democrats and 31% for Republicans.

And, I'm sure it doesn't help when chicken-hawks like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell belittle the sacrifice of our all-volunteer military.

Unfortunately, most of our friends on the other isle are having a hard time admitting things are getting better; some days I almost think the critics of this war don't want us to win. Nobody is happy about losing lives but remember these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers.

How much is wrong with that statement? For one thing... Democrats live on a island? Shouldn't that be "other side of the aisle?" Perhaps it was a transcription error and I should point the finger at the Grayson County News-Gazette. Or perhaps McConnell really does strand the Democrats of his imagination at sea, with Gilligan and the Skipper, too. It would not surprise me. The man is apparently so out of touch with reality that he has no awareness that we are losing members from every branch of the military, not just the army (soldiers), and that many of those currently risking life and limb are not full-time military professionals, but reservists who are, on top of other indignities, losing the income of their regular salaries to collect, in many cases, significantly lower military wages.

Mitch McConnell, a shining example of Republican military advocacy; lionizing our "brave troops" one minute, and displaying his near total ignorance of the realities of military life the next.

"I don't see gains for the people of Iraq . . . and, oh, my God, so many wonderful young people, and these are the ones who felt they were really doing something, that's why they signed up. I pray to God that they did not die in vain, but I don't think our president is even sensitive at all to what it's like to have a child serving over there."

-- Sue Datta, Mother of Army Staff Sergeant

Being in an active duty military family creates a certain isolation and a sense of internal community. We are, in many ways, cut off from the sense of geographical community that many Americans define by. We move a lot, so it is the military bases, commissaries, and the surround of other military families that is the most reliable constant. The result is, among, other things a conformity of viewpoint within that community. Particularly because he is an officer, my husband has long dealt with the "presumption of Republicanism." You are assumed to be Republican and conservative unless you openly state otherwise. That's been the case throughout my husband's military career, but it may not be so for much longer.

From the beginning of this push to go into Iraq, there were rumblings. I was somewhat surprised to learn that I was not the only military spouse who was pissed as hell at the idea of my husband deploying for a war that made no fucking sense. One of my husband's Marines officially changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent the day he got his orders. And, when I went to protests in my largely military town, Marines were seen walking by giving the thumbs up to the protesters. This war has never been as popular with military culture as Bush's staged photo-ops, with their props in uniform, would have you think.

Five years later, what we are seeing is a sea change. Military families are becoming fed up with a President and a political party that does not serve their interests.

Asked about the Bush administration's handling of the needs of active-duty troops, military families and veterans, 57% of the general public disapprove. That number falls only slightly among military families -- 53% give a thumbs-down.

And most military families and others surveyed took no exception to retired officers publicly criticizing the Bush administration's execution of the war. More than half of the respondents in both groups -- 58% -- say such candor is appropriate. Families with someone who had served in the war are about equally supportive at 55%.

The Bush Administration will not be able to hide behind the military for much longer, and defend his misguided policies as supporting troops who want "to get the job done." Not when 60% of military families say "the Iraq war is not worth the cost," and 58% want the within a year.

"We support the troops; we don't support Bush. These boys have paid a terrible, terrible price."

-- Linda Ramirez, Mother of US Marine

Natalie Maines: Free the West Memphis Three

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

The most fascinating thing about Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines's newest cause is Fox News's spin on the story. Here's their lede:

The Dixie Chicks have a new controversy on their hands. Lead singer Natalie Maines is urging people to contribute money to a defense fund for three Arkansas men that she (and many others) believe were wrongly convicted of killing three children in 1993.

Oh that Natalie, with her outré political notions. She's so controversial. Is it time for another Dixie Chicks cd burning?

The only thing controversial about the cause Maines's has taken on is the prosecution that landed three innocent boys in jail thirteen years ago. And as the article goes on to point out, the conviction of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley has inspired outrage and activism all across America. It has been a cause célèbre for years.

Maines writes her plea on the Dixie Chicks Web site, which has already been answered by several celebrities including, I am told, Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Eddie Vedder, Jack Black and Henry Rollins.

Henry Rollins? You mean the former Black Flag front man who put out an album called Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three five years ago? That Henry Rollins?

The story of the West Memphis Three came into broad public awareness when HBO aired a documentary on the case; Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. Its film makers became interested in the sensational story of what was reported to be a Satanic ritual murder, carried out by 3 teenage boys. Instead their cameras exposed a town in the grip of "Satanic panic" and the prosecution/perseuction of three boys for wearing black, reading about Wicca, and listening to Metallica. Their follow up documentary Paradise Lost: Revelations focused largely on the burgeoning movement to "Free the West Memphis Three." Thirteen years after their conviction, they remain in prison; Damien Echols on death row. They were convicted with absolutely no physical evidence, and on the basis of hearsay, a prison informant of questionable character, and the coerced confession of the mentally retarded Jessie Misskelley. This, even though he recanted the same evening, his confession was riddled with inconsistencies, and he did not testify in court.

The end of this nightmare may now be in sight. New evidence and advances in DNA technology go a long way to clearing these three boys. Some months ago, it was reported that no DNA found at the murder scene belongs to Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, or Jessie Misskelley. There is DNA that does not exclude the step-father of one of the murdered children, Terry Hobbs, and an associate of his, however. While that evidence would probably not be enough to bring new charges, it most certainly makes the two far more credible as suspects than the three young men currently sitting in prison. More disturbing, Hobbs's ex-wife, Pamela, has come forward with more evidence implicating him. A knife belonging to her late son, and missing since the murders, was found amongst her ex-husband's effects.

What follows is video of the recent press conference of with the West Memphis Three defense attorneys and forensics experts. I watched both sequences last night, in their entirety. They are poorly shot and recorded, but I couldn't peel myself away.

All information in this diary comes from repeated viewing of "Paradise Lost," parts I&II, and from the website dedicated to release of the wrongly convicted Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Also of interest, read Natalie Maines's statement regarding her interest in the West Memphis Three here or here.

Why Does the Military Hate the Troops?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

"I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they're telling me they want their money back." -- Jordan Fox

Jordan Fox accepted a $10,000 signing bonus from the US Army. Then like so many of our troops in Iraq, he got blown up by a roadside bomb. He suffered back and head injuries and lost vision in his right eye. His injuries left him unable to pursue his dream of joining the police force... and continue serving in the military. He was sent home 3 months before his contract was up. Then he got a bill from the Pentagon for nearly $3000 of his signing bonus. They want their money back because he didn't fulfill his entire contract.

Jordan Fox is not alone. According to reportage from KDKA, thousands of injured troops are being denied signing bonuses because of injuries that cut that service short. It would seem that sacrificing vision, limbs, and futures, in the service of their country, is not enough. The government would also like them to relinquish money they promised to pay them for risking death and disfigurement, in the first place.

When I first heard about this story, earlier today, I thought, the Pentagon will fold on this one. The publicity is just too heinous, especially when they are still waving signing bonuses under the noses of potential enlistees, in their desperate effort to meet enlistment quotas. Cave they did, but so far, only in the case of the young man who has gotten media attention. (Power of the press, we call it.) According to this follow-up report from KDKA, they will not explain whether Fox's bill was sent in error, nor on the status of the thousands of other injured vets who are reportedly being denied what was promised to them.

Jason Altmire, a freshman Congressman from Pennsylvania, last month introduced a bill called the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act. Altmire is, of course, a Democrat, because, as we know, Republicans only care about the troops when they are using them as set dressing and propaganda tools.

Is It the Apocalypse?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

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Book Review: How To Win A Fight With A Conservative

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

The holidays are breathing down our necks and we all know what that means: fighting with relatives. I am blessed to be from a primarily liberal family, as is my husband, so political discussions rarely turn Thanksgiving Dinner into a blood sport. Many are not so lucky. Daniel Kurtzman offers a few helpful tips on political family squabbles in How to Win a Fight with a Conservative. (A companion volume, How to Win a Fight with a Liberal is available to balance out the playing field. I skimmed the latter.)

DON'T let Uncle Buckwald hold the dinner table hostage. Fact-check him right then and there using the Internet browswer on your BlackBerry or cell phone. Counter him point-for-point, fire off contradictory statistics, and apply duct tape as needed. Rembember, conservatives hate facts. They get in the way of sweeping generalizations. It's like sunlight to a vampire.

. . .

DO attempt to recruit impressionable family members to your side, particularly when they're young; for example, give your seven-year-old nephew a copy of the complete Star Wars saga on DVD and explain how Jedis are Democrats and the evil Sith Lords are Republicans -- as identified by their blue and red light sabers.

DO quote the Bible when arguing with your religious relatives, as beating zealots with their own stick can be a blissful religious experience. Be sure to bring up the parts they choose to gloss over, like "love thy neighbor," "the meek shall inherit the Earth," and "thou shall not molest thine underage page."

The books are at turns glib, cliched, and surprisingly insightful. Kurtzman, who defines himself as a liberal, explains the companion books as an attempt even out the debate. Despite his lighthearted approach, he clearly takes politics seriously. While he offers basic information on rhetorical devices and tips for spotting weaknesses in arguments, he also includes talking points and step-by-step guides on some of the more longstanding issues, such as "Iraq: Why It's a Catastrofuck."

Especially good are numerous Cosmo style quizzes designed to help you pick your battles and assess your own strengths and weaknesses before you wade into the fray. They're fun, humorous, and very much on target. From the first quiz, "What Breed of Liberal Are You?" I learned that I am a "label-defying iconoclast." Okay. No shock there.

If I have a single bone to pick with Kurtzman's approach, it's in his section on internet flamewars. Some of us take flaming quite seriously and will want to shun such as advice as: "feel free to invent your own facts" and "pretend to be someone you're not."

I also think the simplistic, binary, Democratic=liberal, Republican=conservative format of the books limits the potential for a truly constructive political dialog. But then, I am a "label-defying iconoclast."


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

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The new season has started. This laid me out.

Do As Bush Says, Not As He Does

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

I mean, is he kidding?

It was the first phone conversation between Mr. Bush and the Pakistani president since General Musharraf seized emergency powers on Saturday, a move that sent his country into political and legal disarray. During the phone call, Pakistani and American officials said, Mr. Musharraf sought to assure Mr. Bush that his power grab is temporary and that he still plans to call for elections. “My message was that we believe strongly in elections, and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform,” Mr. Bush said he told Mr. Musharraf. “You can’t be the president and the head of the military at the same time.”

You tell 'im, Commander Codpiece!

Proving that he doesn't consult our own Constitution often, if ever, our President seems blissfully unaware that his frequent pronouncements that he's Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Services are, in fact, consistent with that document. Legal authority, illegal authority... all the same to him, I guess. So, yes, Mr. President, in our own ostensibly democratic republic you can be president and head of the military at the same time.

This is but the latest entry in the Irony is Still Dead files, that have been steadily expanding over the last few days, since Musharraf suspended Pakistan's constitution. This from Generalissimo Bush?! I repeat:

Never has a US President painted himself so completely as a military leader, and never has one been less qualified to do so. From day one I have found it sickening the way this Vietnam-avoiding, AWOL-from-the-National-Guard President uses the men and women of our armed services military as set dressing.

. . .

Bush and his stage manager Rove have done everything in their power to cement the image of Bush Republicans as the embodiment of military authority. Bush has become nothing but a tin-horn dictator. You'd think they'd instigated a military coup, instead of an electoral one. Think of it. An administration of chicken-hawks with the audacity to do what Eisenhower, a former 5 star general, never did.

And the punchline? Musharraf really is a general. He, at least, showed up for duty. Where as our power-abusing, constitution-ignoring, dictator-in-training, only plays one on television.

Fight the Power

Monday, November 05, 2007

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I've been thinking a lot about Mona Shaw.

We spent the weekend at my mother-in-law's. She has Verizon high speed internet; FIOS. Quite speedy... when it works. Not this weekend, though. Nope. So my husband spent about four hours, cumulatively, with customer support. At one point he clocked 40 minutes on hold... just listening to the pretty music. Three days later, my mother-in-law still has no internet. See, they have to make absolutely certain that it can't be resolved over the phone, without sending out a tech, even though everybody knows that it's an equipment problem. Everybody knows it. The techs know it. My husband knows it. The switchboard operators know it. The entire city of Mumbai knows it, because my husband was on the phone with most of the population. But, they can't just send out a tech... not until they execute a tier 3 support ticket. They'll call back, within 24 hours. The tier 3 techs. Just like the tier 2 folks did... except that they never did. Come to think of it... Nope. We just sat by the phone waiting, like a bunch of teenage girls, for the call that never came.

So, I've been thinking about Mona Shaw. The woman has guts. Guts and nothing left to lose. Mona Shaw is my new hero.

It seems that Mona bought into one of those "bundling" packages that cable companies like to arm-twist you about through endless phone calls and mailings. The service combines phone, cable and Internet service.

Her provider was Comcast. Without saying anything more about Comcast's reputation in the cable community, I will merely point out that there's a blog called that does a lively business on the Web.

Anyway, Mona and her husband scheduled a service call. The company failed to come on the appointed date. When they did show up two days late, they left with the job half-done.

Two days after that they cut off her service.

Mona and her husband decided the best way to get this misunderstanding straightened out was to visit the local cable office. When they arrived, a customer service representative told them the manager would be right with them and asked them to please take a seat.

They did - for two hours. At that point, the customer rep cheerfully announced that the manager had left for the day.

Shaw told the Washington Post, "They thought that just because we're old enough to get Social Security that we lack both brains and backbone."

So after a weekend spent at low boil, Mona, armed with a claw hammer, visited the Comcast office again.

But there was no waiting this time. Mona delivered a few well timed blows to a computer keyboard and monitor and, for good measure, to the telephone.

"After I hit the keyboard," Mona said, "I turned to the blond who had been there previously, the one who told me to wait for the manager, and I said, `Now do I have your attention?"

Mona Shaw is a 75 year old woman with a heart condition. Comcast left an elderly woman with a life threatening condition and her elderly husband without phone service and blew off her every attempt to rectify the matter. But to hear them tell it, they're the victims, so scared of a little old lady they took out a restraining order.

"Nothing justifies this sort of dangerous behavior," Comcast spokeswoman Beth Bacha said.

Police arrested Shaw for disorderly conduct. She received a three-month suspended sentence, was fined $345 and and is barred from going near the Comcast offices for a year.

Mona has no regrets.

"I stand by my actions even more so after getting all these telephone calls and hearing other people's complaints," she told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.

Mona Shaw got fed up. It's passed time to be fed up. The law is not on the side of the citizen; not on the side of the voter; not on the side of the consumer. The day is coming when none of us will have anything left to lose.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

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This isn't directed at anyone in particular. Just a mood thing.  I'm choking on my own misanthropy and I thought it might be better to spit it out. Enjoy.

Naomi Wolf: Blueprint for Tyranny

Monday, October 22, 2007

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Zedaker says this is a must see, and I agree. In this lecture Wolf lays out the central argument of her new book, The End of America. She explores the blueprint, the ten steps taken by would-be despots to close down open societies, and shows how these techniques -- employed and perfected by Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin -- are being employed in this country right now.

There is a growing awareness, in this country, that we are slip-sliding into tyranny. It is less and less considered a thoroughly outré notion, that there are parallels between what is happening here and what happened in Nazi Germany, as discussed here and here. As Wolf described in her blog on The Huffington Post, people are aware and they are frightened.

I wish people would stop breaking into tears when they talk to me these days.

I am traveling across the country at the moment -- Colorado to California -- speaking to groups of Americans from all walks of life about the assault on liberty and the 10 steps now underway in America to a violently closed society.

The good news is that Americans are already awake: I thought there would be resistance to or disbelief at this message of gathering darkness -- but I am finding crowds of people who don't need me to tell them to worry; they are already scared, already alert to the danger and entirely prepared to hear what the big picture might look like. To my great relief, Americans are smart and brave and they are unflinching in their readiness to hear the worst and take action. And they love their country.

But I can't stand the stories I am hearing. I can't stand to open my email these days. And wherever I go, it seems, at least once a day, someone very strong starts to cry while they are speaking.

It was apparent to me, shortly after 9/11, that I was watching my country slide into a dystopian, positively Orwellian, nightmare. I quickly surmised that Bush was a Hitler wannabe. I was very lonely, but the awareness is dawning for many now. Bottom line, we have to stop thinking of what is happening in this country, in terms of our own history, because there really is no precedent; not the Nixon years, nor even McCarthyism. We need to look at what happened in Italy and Germany as their democratic governments were subverted by the tyranny of Mussolini and Hitler. It is an ugly reflection, but we had better start looking at it now before that looking glass is pressed to the tips of our noses.

The End of America is available in Curmudgette's Reading Room.

Debut: My Left Wing Talk Radio

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It's the maiden voyage of Maryscott O'Connor's My Left Wing Talk Radio on Blog Talk Radio.

Maryscott O'Connor hosts a show to discuss the godawful mess of a world in which we're living -- and what, if anything, we can do about it. And she'll probably end up talking about blogging -- a lot. Call-in listeners and live bloggers at are essential. This show is designed to be INTERACTIVE; MSOC will respond to livebloggers and callers alike; so JOIN THE PARTY, people.

More details can be found here.

"The Opposite of Rape is Enthusiasm"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

The Rape of Proserpine

When Sara Wilson (not her real name), a 23-year-old woman was raped by a long time college friend, she found little support and a great deal of self doubt. Shortly after moving into her first apartment, Steve her former classmate, dropped in with a bottle of wine and some take out. One bottle of wine turned into two. Later that evening Sara suggested it was time for him to go. She remembers that out of the blue, "Steve was there kissing me. I tried to push him away but he just kept kissing me." Her head felt cloudy and hazy from the wine. Steve started to move her skirt up her leg. "I was telling him to knock it off, it wasn't what I wanted but I was so drunk. I definitely didn't want to have sex with him. We were friends for God's sake!" Sara recalls. But Steve did have sex with Sara that night. She remembers being pushed down on the couch. She remembers his hands on her shoulders. "It was like it was happening but not to me to someone else." The next day Sara awoke alone with her head throbbing to find a note on the kitchen counter from Steve. It read "I had a nice time. I'll call you later — S." Sara didn't know what to think but she knew what she felt — ashamed, betrayed, and embarrassed. Looking back at that morning Sara recalls, "I kept thinking how could this happen? I felt sick to my stomach and violated and I didn't use that word at the time, but looking back that's exactly what it was — a violation."

Late last night, or early this morning, depending on your timezone, thereisnospoon attempted to clarify statements that have earned him the moniker "thereisnorape." While I witnessed the original exchange -- much of which was subsequently deleted due to administrative error -- I have always thought said moniker was overstating his position. He absolutely did not say that rape did not exist. He simply narrowed the definition beyond what many of us particularly those of us who have lived experiences of date rape, would be comfortable with. Sadly, he has done little to diffuse such judgments with his most recent statement, nor, in my opinion, the discussion which followed.

what I said, very specifically (0.00 / 0)

was that women who are intoxicated and conscious and do not specifically say "no" to sex while intoxicated and conscious, should not be able to say later that they were unable to assent to sex because of their intoxication.

Dear god.

I cannot help but notice the total absence of the word "yes" in that statement. It is ideas like this which make necessary campus prohibitions against sex with any intoxicated person. Think of the latitude a fella gives himself by using such criteria as a guide. Well her eyes were open and she didn't actively resist, so... Sadly, for a fair number of men and boys, such passivity is an open invitation.

I contend that fundamental to this confusion is the idea that women "consent" to sex, rather than actively choose it. It is an ingrained notion; this idea that men should always be the pursuers, women the pursued, and that women have a responsibility to actively "opt out." It falls to us to be gatekeepers, responsible not only for our own sexual choices but for those of men who might want to fuck us.

A tip of the hat to the blogger formerly known as nonpartisan who introduced, into that heated discussion, the ideas of Hugo Schwyzer. Here is what that history and gender studies professor says about the word "no" when it comes to consent.

Most boys, for example, get the “no means no” message pretty loud and clear in high school and college workshops. It’s a worthy if basic message, and one well worth repeating over and over again. But as anyone who works around young people and sexuality will tell you, in and of itself a “no means no” reminder is woefully insufficient. Many of the young men and women I work with, for example, talk to me of what I’ve come to call the “stoplight” phenomenon. Traffic signals, of course, have three colors: red for stop, yellow for caution, green for go. Good drivers are taught to stop on “red”, which functions as a “no”. But of course, even at the busiest urban intersections, no light stays red indefinitely. If you wait long enough at a stoplight, every red will become green. And when all we do is teach young men that “no means stop” when it comes to sexual boundaries, we often send them the message that if they just wait long enough (or pester, push, nag, beg, play passive-aggressive games) they’ll get the “green light” they’re so hungry for. Good “sexual boundaries workshops” go beyond the “no means no” message.

That relentless cajoling will be familiar to many women and girls who have dated. I have also encountered a fair number of men who doubt that women enjoy sex enough to actively choose it. Having sex with a woman or girl who has been thusly cajoled tends to reinforce that notion. There comes a time, for many, paricularly young, girls, when they resolve that their resistance is futile, and finally lie back and think of England. Convince enough gals to have sex on those terms, and you will likely deduce that women are far less sexual than men.

Hugo Schwyzer again:

The message that needs to be repeated over and over again is this one: true consent is never tacit, it is never silent. Too many young men become date rapists by confusing silence with a clear, verbal affirmation.

Believe it or not, females do enjoy sex. If the woman you're with does not appear to enjoy sex, you really should consider the following possiblities:

  • She doesn't want to have sex with you, but has consented because you wore her down.
  • She is a rape and/or childhood sexual abuse survivor and has sustained significant damage to her sexuality. (This requires sympathy and patience.)
  • She is asleep.
  • She is dead. (This may sound over the top, but I have been with men who were so self-serving, that I'm quite certain they would not have noticed if I had been dead.)
  • You are terrible in bed and incapable of interpreting meta-communication, so she has resigned herself to just getting it over with.
  • She is too intoxicated to know quite what is going on.

Some but not all of the above are examples of rape. None of them are "good" for her.

Hugo Schwyzer introduced a concept, which has become viral to some extent, and should be spread far and wide.

A dangerous line I sometimes use: “The opposite of rape is not consent. The opposite of rape is enthusiasm”. It’s dangerous because it’s shocking, and of course, it’s dangerous because it twists the purely legal meaning of the term “rape.” But from the standpoint of one who cares desperately about the well-being of young people, my goal in offering workshops like these is not merely to prevent sexual assault that meets the legal standard of a criminal act. My goal is to prevent that, of course, but to also offer shy and uncertain young people tools to prevent them from having bad sex characterized by obligation, confusion, and detached resignation. I always argue that anything short of an authentic, honest, uncoerced, aroused and sober “Hell, yes!” is, in the end, just a “no” in another form.

This is my advice to men who may be still be confused. No matter how homely, or stupid, or assholeish, or loserish you are, there is a gal out there who will genuinely want to fuck you. (Lid for every pot, and all that.) She will not have to be persuaded, begged, convinced, coerced or plied with alcohol. Look for her. And until you find her, keep it in your pants.

Addendum: The thread in question continues and worsens, with a pronouncement from thereisnospoon that... well..

Seems to me, spoon.... (4.50 / 2)

Women who are drunk or stoned should be off limits then...yes?

I mean, if he doesn't want to take the chance of a "post-facto" rape charge, yes?


right--that makes great sense
(1.00 / 1)

Hey guys--never have sex with drunk women--ever! You might get lucky, but they could also accuse you of rape for no other reason than that they were drunk. Oh, and just avoid bars altogether--nobody picks people up at bars, because that would be rape.

Hey women--get drunk! You either bed the guy and like it--or if you don't like it, you can accuse him of rape afterwards! Or both! Nothing to lose!

Do you have any idea how ridiculous it sounds to tell decent men to avoid drunk women for fear that they may rape them inadvertently?

So the idea that a man should ever have to face adverse consequences for bedding a drunk woman is ridiculous. This seems like something of a double standard, considering the resurrected comment of his that touched off this firestorm, all those months ago. (Sadly I have no link to this as it was troll rated out of existence on DKos, resurrected, deleted from MLW and the cache, from which I once resurrected it, is now gone as well.)

actually, i'm saying that (0+ / 5-)

the "victim" doesn't even know if she was victimized here.
She was too fricking drunk--if the eyewitnesses are correct--to even remember.

She left smiling, she arrived battered, and people are REALLY quick here to scream "rape" and blame these "horrible" men.

And quick to lambaste the WSJ writer for suggesting that MAYBE, just MAYBE, if a woman does not want to get taken advantage of, that MAYBE she shouldn't get passed out drunk at a frat party.

And that's insane.

What is the Nexus?

by thereisnospoon on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 02:21:10 PM PDT

So, if a woman gets passed out drunk and leaves her body unprotected, it's "insane" to think that she doesn't bear some responsibility for consequences. But if a man has sex with a drunk woman, the idea that he should face consequences is "ridiculous." Wow.

Derangement and Denial

Monday, October 15, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.


Update: Blog Action Day 2007 has been declared by its organizers an "unprecedented success." They have documented the participation of 20,603 bloggers who blogged on the environment on October 15, 2007.

With that the Blog Action Team appears to have folded its tent and gone home, taking their graphics with them. (Art for this entry has been replaced.) Thanks for reading.

Krugman hits it out of the park once again, with a send-up of conservative dissonance. Faced with the reality of Al Gore's Nobel win, denial rules the right.

On the day after Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize, The Wall Street Journal’s editors couldn’t even bring themselves to mention Mr. Gore’s name. Instead, they devoted their editorial to a long list of people they thought deserved the prize more.

And at National Review Online, Iain Murray suggested that the prize should have been shared with “that well-known peace campaigner Osama bin Laden, who implicitly endorsed Gore’s stance.” You see, bin Laden once said something about climate change — therefore, anyone who talks about climate change is a friend of the terrorists.

And so the slime machine slugs along in its tireless disregard for troublesome facts. Still more merriment was to be found on Fox News Sunday, where Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer came not to praise Gore but to bury him.

Sarcastically calling Gore’s win “deeply moving,” Kristol disparaged Gore and the Nobel prize itself, saying “it’s a prize given by bloviators to a bloviator”:

KRISTOL: Friday, I felt a warm glow thinking that this man got the Nobel Peace Prize for bloviating about global warming. I mean, it’s a prize given by bloviators to a bloviator for nothing. What did he — he was Vice President of the United States for eight years. I missed the Clinton administration’s bold initiatives on global warming and carbon caps. Did they enforce the Kyoto Treaty? I don’t think so. You know, so he gets the Nobel Peace Prize for talking.

Claiming that the Nobel Peace Prize is “the Kentucky Derby of the world left,” Krauthammer was even more shrill than Kristol, saying “Al Gore now joins the ranks of Yasser Arafat, the father of modern terrorism.” He then claimed the award “has nothing to do with peace” and that “it gives it to people whose politics are either anti-American or anti-Bush, and that’s why [Gore] won it.”

Laying aside, for the moment, the hilarity of warmongers like Kristol and Krauthammer discussing what does and doesn't advance peace, I must point out that the issue of global warming, which the Nobel committee has underscored with Gore's award, has a very direct connection to issues of peace and security. Or so the Pentagon learned when it commissioned a risk assessment study... which they promptly buried. Appointed to head that study was Edward W. Marshall, or "Yoda," as he is referred to in Pentagon circles. The findings could only prove embarrassing to an Administration in denial of the reality of global warming.

Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters..

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'

Global warming, a bigger threat than terrorism! Where is our war on greenhouse gases? Krugman explains why the Bush Administration has it's head in the sand -- looking for oil, presumably -- while we are teetering on the brink of a genuine security nightmare.

Today, being a good Republican means believing that taxes should always be cut, never raised. It also means believing that we should bomb and bully foreigners, not negotiate with them.

So if science says that we have a big problem that can’t be solved with tax cuts or bombs — well, the science must be rejected, and the scientists must be slimed.

Frank Rich Gets It

Sunday, October 14, 2007

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What is "it?" The fact that there are real parallels between what is happening in this country and what happened in Nazi Germany and that too many Americans are being Good Germans. Only enablers of fascism could keep turning a blind eye to the atrocities being committed by our government. Citing the Andrew Sullivan column discussed here, Rich lays out a laundry list of crimes from torture to the shoddy treatment of our troops to lawless mercenary contractors, and questions American apathy.

I have always maintained that the American public was the least culpable of the players during the run-up to Iraq. The war was sold by a brilliant and fear-fueled White House propaganda campaign designed to stampede a nation still shellshocked by 9/11. Both Congress and the press — the powerful institutions that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration’s case — failed to do their job. Had they done so, more Americans might have raised more objections. This perfect storm of democratic failure began at the top.

As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin.

. . .

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name.

Now, Has She Gone Too Far?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

I think Ann Coulter goes too far every time she opens her mouth. I thought she went too far when she said, of Muslims, that, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." I thought she went too far when she said that you can't be anorexic if you have a boyfriend. I thought she went too far when she advocated revoking women's suffrage. I thought she went too far when... This is tedious. I'll be here all day. Here's a pretty good list.

That Ann Coulter continues to have a career as a political pundit stands as a daily reminder of how much trouble we are in as a country. But this time she may really and truly have gone too far. Not because she advocated turning this country into a theocracy, which alarmingly few people seem concerned about. But, because now she's given the lie to they myth that the Christian right isn't, at heart, anti-Semitic. Sure the ex-girlfriend of Bob Guccioni, Jr., who once said that because she was unmarried there was nothing immoral about sleeping with a different man every night, is an unlikely spokesperson for the family values set, but she has set herself up as one repeatedly. Her horrific performance on CNBC's "The Big Idea," was such an instance, as she regaled her Jewish host, Donny Deutsch, with stories about the wholesomeness of all the "megachurches," where she frequently lectures.

Her aggressive proselytizing of poor Deutsch, and admonition that Jews must be "perfected" by accepting Christ, has touched off a firestorm that may put even Coulter's natural allies on alert. Insulting Jews does nothing to advance a rightwing agenda. Consider the number of Jewish neoconsertives, or what a force AIPAC is to reckon with, for both parties. Let alone Republicans who want to bomb Iran... or, as they put it, "transform the Middle East." (Although, so far, David Horowitz is gaffing off any concern about her remarks.)

Coulter's latest verbal tick underscores one of the dirty little secrets of the Christian Zionist movement; that they are using Jews to bring about the rapture, after which they fully expect them to go to hell.

The issue is spelled out in segment three (above) of recent edition of "Bill Moyer's Journal," when Rabbi Lerner and evangelical Christian Dr. Timothy Weber address the concept of dispensationalism and how disadvantageous it is to Jews who wish to remain Jews, rather than converting to Christianity.

BILL MOYERS: Before we go any further, give me a shorthand definition of dispensationalism.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Dispensationalism is a particular way of reading Bible prophecy which divides the Bible into two stories. There's a story about God's earthly people, Israel. And then a story about God's heavenly people, the Church. And the basic premise of dispensationalism is that all Bible prophecies concerning earthly events applies to the Jews. And all of those events will be fulfilled literally in the End Times. So, Israel must be returned to the land. They must stay in the land. Without Israel in the land, there can be none of the other events prophesied in the Bible. There can be no rise of Anti-Christ. There can be no rebuilding of the Temple. There can be no Battle of Armageddon. And there can be no second coming of Jesus Christ. So everything is riding on the Jews, getting them there and keeping them there in the Holy Land.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: But I think-- but what you have to add in there is that when this is a step in the process that they see towards the end of end times in which the Jews will be cast down into eternal damnation and to the fires of hell. And only those Jews who convert to Christianity will be okay. And everyone -- all the rest of us so they're welcoming us now -- with open arms and saying, "Oh, we love the Jewish people" But they love the Jewish people literally to death because they they want see those of us who stay Jews burn in hell but not-- not right away. They don't imagine it will happen right away. So there's a staged process. And this is the first stage in the process that will eventually lead either to us converting totally to Christianity or burning in hell. So it's not a really great future for the Jews that those theological people have in mind.

Is She Fucking Kidding?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

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Jenna Bush has her father's talent for treating people like idiots. Her answers in a Q & A in Time show her to be an expert in insulting people's intelligence, which she apparently intends to do professionally as a teacher and writer.

Of course she's not in Iraq, silly citizen. That's not a "practical question." No, the chicken-hawk doesn't fall far from the nest. And, um... how can a question be practical or impractical?

I think my skills are better suited for teaching and representing the U.S. in Latin America through UNICEF.

Oh, where to begin...

As a teacher, the most important thing is that all kids get a quality education.

Huh? I think what you're going for, Jenna, is more along the lines of "As a teacher, I think the most important...[bla, bla, bla]"

There are millions of kids that aren't in school.

Oh dear. No, Jenna. "There are millions of kids who aren't in school."

I think it's very sweet that you want to educate little brown children in the third world, but I think it would be a good idea if you put the beer down and learned some grammar.

So, let's see... She thinks the idea of serving in the war of her generation -- a war she believes in -- is absurd. She's pursuing career goals for which she is completely unqualified... Yeah, she's Dubya's daughter, all right.

Southern Trees Bear a Strange Fruit

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And so do the halls of Columbia University, apparently. Well, fortunately no bodies; just threats. What year is it? I keep loosing track because we seem to be going back in time.

Students and faculty at Columbia University expressed outrage over the discovery of a hangman's noose dangling from the door of a black female professor at its Teachers College, prompting the school to call a town hall meeting to discuss the matter.

"This is an assault on African Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us," President Bollinger said in a statement. "I know I speak on behalf of every member of our communities in condemning this horrible action."

Madonna Constantine, a professor of psychology and education, was the target of the alleged hate crime. On Wednesday, she addressed reporters, saying, "Hanging a noose on my door reeks of cowardice on so many levels. I want the perpetrator to know I will not be silenced."

As the recent occurrences in Jena indicate, there are still people in this country who don't like the idea of black folks getting too uppity. And to drive the point home, these atavistic morons are brandishing grizzly reminders of what just what can happen when they do. Nooses seem to be coming back into vogue, even in the New York area.

Nooses _ reviled as symbols of lynchings in the Old South _ have been showing up in other incidents around the country lately. Last year in Jena, La., three white students hung nooses from a big oak tree outside the high school, inflaming racial tensions. Other nooses have cropped up at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the Hempstead Police Department locker room.

The U.S. Justice Department and Nassau County district attorney created a joint task force to investigate the noose found in Hempstead two weeks ago. No arrests have been made.

The Columbia investigation also follows the arrest Sunday of a white woman on hate crime charges alleging she hung a noose over a tree limb and threatened a black family living next door in Queens. The two incidents were "the first noose cases in recent memory" in the city, Osgood said.

"I hope it's not a growing thing," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "I think the noose thing is despicable and disgraceful. I don't know whether it was a hate crime or a very sick joke, but we take every one of these very seriously, and our hate crimes unit is investigating."

Anyone who thinks threatening a black person with a noose is a "joke" needs a history lesson. It is not a symbol that can be taken lightly. Whether it's kids who think they're being funny or Senator "Macaca" Allen decorating his ficus tree, this shit has to stop.

Bush v. Congress: Armenian Genocide

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

As discussed here and here, there is still ongoing debate over whether or not the mass slaughter of Armenians at the hands of the Young Turks qualifies as a "genocide." A symbolic piece of legislation, pressed by Speaker Pelosi and approved by committee to go to the full Congress, hours ago, would acknowledge the Armenian genocide. This, over President Bush's objections, as he moves aggressively to sideline it.

President Bush and two top cabinet members urged lawmakers today to reject a resolution describing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians early in the last century as genocide — a highly sensitive issue at a time of rising tensions with Turkey over northern Iraq.

“We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915,” Mr. Bush said in a brief statement from the White House. “But this resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to relations with a key ally in NATO and to the war on terror.”

. . .

Adding to the tensions are the recent Turkish preparations for a possible invasion of northern Iraq in an effort to stop lethal incursions by armed Kurdish militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

. . .

When the resolution seemed likely to reach a vote last spring, Ms. Rice and Mr. Gates joined in a strongly worded letter to Ms. Pelosi warning against passage. They repeated their arguments Wednesday.

“The passage of this resolution at this time would be very problematic for everything we are trying to do in the Middle East,” Ms. Rice said.

Yes, acknowledging that Armenians were subject to a genocide would make President Bush's job even harder and we all know that being President is hard work. But one must truly wonder where all that "moral clarity" he's so famous for goes when it's inconvenient. Over this, he wants to be a diplomat?!

So, was what happened to the Armenians a genocide? According to the late Raphael Lemkin, who created the word "genocide," and spent his life pressing for international law forbidding it, it most definitely was.

The Crime With No Name

“I became interested in genocide because it happened to the Armenians; and after[wards] the Armenians got a very rough deal at the Versailles Conference because their criminals were guilty of genocide and were not punished. ”

-- Raphael Lemkin

Andrew Sullivan Notices Nazi Parallel

Monday, October 08, 2007

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"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

-- President George W. Bush

"The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan."

-- Adolf Hitler in "Mein Kampf"

It's ever so politically incorrect to compare anyone at all to the Nazis, even when the similarity is obvious, but maybe Andrew Sullivan can get away with it. He is a conservative, after all, if not a neoconservative. As Glenn Greenwald has explained, if right-wingers do it, it's all good.

In a column entitled "Bush’s torturers follow where the Nazis led," Sullivan catalogs his unfolding horror as he learned that the Bush Administration did, indeed, authorize torture. Hurts to learn that you've been a good German and enabled atrocities, doesn't it.

I remember that my first response to the reports of abuse and torture at Guantanamo Bay was to accuse the accusers of exaggeration or deliberate deception. I didn’t believe America would ever do those things. I’d also supported George W Bush in 2000, believed it necessary to give the president the benefit of the doubt in wartime, and knew Donald Rumsfeld as a friend.

. . .

They redefined torture solely as something that would be equivalent to the loss of major organs or leading to imminent death. Everything else was what was first called “coercive interrogation”, subsequently amended to “enhanced interrogation”. These terms were deployed in order for the president to be able to say that he didn’t support “torture”. We were through the looking glass.

. . .

So is “enhanced interrogation” torture? One way to answer this question is to examine history. The phrase has a lineage. Verschärfte Verneh-mung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the “third degree”. It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.

. . .

The Nazis even argued that “the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement”. This argument is almost verbatim that made by John Yoo, the Bush administration’s house lawyer, who now sits comfortably at the Washington think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

I think Sully has a rather idealized image of America's past, but at least he's awakened to its present. We are now a country that worships at the altar of Jack Bauer and venerates idiocy as long as it looks really bad-ass.

"It's better to be strong and wrong than weak and right."

-- Bill Clinton

Obama Bitch Slaps Jingoism

Friday, October 05, 2007

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Patriotic Greetings

Sure, it's political theater, but I give Senator Obama major props for taking off his flag pin and taking, well, something of a stand for civic responsibility over empty symbolism.

"The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin," Obama said. "Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.

"I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest," he said in the interview. "Instead, I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism."

On Thursday, his campaign issued a statement: "We all revere the flag, but Senator Obama believes that being a patriot is about more than a symbol. It's about fighting for our veterans when they get home and speaking honestly with the American people about this disastrous war."

Ironically, Bill Moyers said much the same thing when put his flag pin on. But being Bill Moyers, he said it much better.

I put the flag in my lapel tonight. First time. Until now I haven't thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind, and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans. Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustained me, whose armed forces protected me, and whose ideals inspired me; I offered my heart's affections in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother's picture on my lapel to prove her son's love. Mother knew where I stood; so does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15.

So what's this flag doing here? Well, I put it on to take it back. The flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo - the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On those Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it is the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. And during the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration's patriotism is ever in doubt, only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao's Little Red Book on every official's desk, omnipresent and unread.

But more galling than anything are all those moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag in their lapels while writing books and running Web sites and publishing magazines attacking dissenters as un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting. They're in the same league as those swarms of corporate lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for tax breaks even as they call for more spending on war.

So I put this on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don't have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the coalition of the willing (after they first stash the cash). I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government. And it reminds me that it's not un-American to think that war -- except in self-defense -- is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomatic skill. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country.

What do you think?