ThePoliticalCat

A Blog devoted to progressive politics, environmental issues, LGBT issues, social justice, workers' rights, womens' rights, and, most importantly, Cats.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Politics - Action Item

Turkey receives oral from turkey

My first email is to Nancy Pelosi:
It has come to my attention thatGeorge W. Bush is planning to ask the Congress to give him yet another $50 BILLION to throw down the tubes in Iraq. Madam Speaker, I am writing you today to ask you to, for once, use the power of the purse that the Constitution's framers granted to Congress. Do not give Bush that money, and pass a law that restricts the use of the other $147 billion you recently gave him to the sole mission of shipping the soldiers safely home from Iraq. No other course of action is acceptable.

Sincerely,

Madame X
If you are a constituent, you can reach Nancy Pelosi at: http://www.house.gov/pelosi/contact/contact.html
If you are not a constituent, you can reach her at: http://www.speaker.gov/contact/comment_email

Tomorrow it's a postcard or two.

Next email is to Harry Reid:
Senator Reid,

The American people elected the Democrats in the hope that this would result in winding down the war in Iraq. To date, neither you nor Speaker Pelosi has shown the ability and the inclination to force an end to this unjust war. Next week, George W. Bush comes to you to request a further $50 billion to fund this illegal, immoral war.

I urge you to put your foot down, finally, and refuse to give him another cent. Moreover, I beseech you to pass legislation forcing Bush to end the war and safely bring the troops home. It doesn't matter if you don't have the required number of votes. Do it anyway, and send the bill back as many times as necessary. Your symbolic gesture will be greatly appreciated by those whose loved ones are dying in Iraq.

Sincerely,
You can contact Harry Reid at: http://reid.senate.gov/
Here (culled from Firedoglake), a handy list of tips from someone who actually has worked for a congresscritter:
Here are some suggestions about contacting your Representative and Senators.
  • First, remember what’s going on here. You are NOT, in all likelihood, going to change your Congress Critter’s mind. [This is especially true if your Congress Critter is “out there.”] What you are doing is letting your Critter know that there’s a VOTER in his/her district who has been paying enough attention to notice the Critter’s vote on an issue.

  • Second, remember the difference between Senators’ offices and those of Representatives: a Senator has to deal with an entire state. That means LOTS of mail. A Representative — not so much (but still a fair amount).

  • Third, what gets their attention is mail [or phone calls, e-mail, or FAXes]. LOTS of mail….In a Senate office especially, the Senator is not likely to see what you wrote. So your eloquent prose and flawless reasoning are not going to sway the day.

    The full mailbags of polite but angry letters will. It’s a game of numbers. (And BTW, that genuine-looking signature on the “thank you” letter will definitely be written with an auto-pen.)

  • Mail comes into the office [the DC office, anyway] and is opened & sorted by the lowest person on the staff totem pole. It’s “tallied” — first, letters (or postcards or FAXes or e-mails) are divided according to issue and counted. Then, for “big” issues, the pros/cons are tallied: X many letters “for” an issue; Y many letters “against.” The results are usually relayed to the Senator/Rep. or his/her chief of staff.

    Sometimes a few “representative” letters will be pulled out by the legislative assistant or someone else, to give the Congress Critter an idea of what the mail’s like. It all depends on the Critter: some care (especially new ones), some don’t.

    Someone on the staff is assigned to write a vanilla/milquetoast response for each issue. [”Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I will certainly keep them in mind when this issue comes to the floor.” ]

    You can spot the drill: they’re trying to make you feel as though your writing mattered, trying to provide a little “info” about what a great person your Critter is, etc. This end of the exchange [the letter to you] doesn’t really matter. [You don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy any more, do you?] What’s important is that you’ve sent a message to them.

  • In addition to his/her DC office, your Critter has one or more “district” or “home” offices. Most constituents know about the DC office & write their Critter there, but the home office(s) will usually keep a tally of mail as well. So hey, spend an extra 24 cents and send a postcard to the district office(s) as well.
Here are some ways to maximize your impact:
  • Go sit at your breakfast table, write a SHORT note, identifying yourself as a constituent, and give ‘em a POLITE earful.

  • Send one note to the DC office of your Critter, another [one or two] to the “District Office(s)” — they will be listed in your phone book.

  • Tell as many of your friends, family, co-workers, etc. to do likewise. Offer to provide them with names, addresses, text. (I send out a “mass e-mail” to my friends, urging them to write. On the current FISA issue, I’ve gone through my “friends” list, identified people in states with Traitorous Dems, provided a summary of the issue/vote, suggested a brief point or two to be made, and included the respective Critter’s addresses. And then begged them to write.)

  • You can call, write, e-mail and FAX. You want to generate a “man, are they pissed” reaction at the Congressional office.

  • Some have pointed out that it may be more effective to send a postcard rather than a letter. It may get through faster, since it doesn’t have to go through whatever “anthrax screening” may still be operating. Same is true for a FAX.

  • Quality does count for a bit. As someone said, as a staffer it’s nice to read something “readable” as opposed to a crazy rant. But, the truth is each communication represents a “voter.” No intelligence or style test before going into the voting booth – Congress Critters know that.

    You’re basically trying — with respect to the most recalcitrant, pig-headed ones — to let them know there’s a voter out there [hell, there are LOTS of voters out there] who pays attention to the news, who feels strongly about an issue, who knows who his/her Congress Critter is, who knows how his/her Critter voted on this important issue, and who will remember all of this when the next election comes around.

    Many “bad” Critters rely on the fact that most voters don’t pay attention to the issues. They believe they can sway them with platitudes and tv spots.

    But above all, most Critters want to stay in office. Even if your card/letter/phone call/e-mail/FAX, and those of your many friends/relatives/co-workers don’t “change a mind,” they WILL put a little fear into your Critter and make him/her just a little less sure he/she can pull off the usual song & dance.

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Politics - Today's Republican Scandal


It's Rudy's turn. The Miami Herald reports that one Barry S. Edwards, organizer of Rudy Giuliani's upcoming speechifying in the state of Florida for "Saint Reagan" day, has stepped down due to the exposure of criminal acts for which he was arrested.
The two criminal incidents involving Edwards were unrelated, and occurred within months of each other in 1998.

According to a Florida State University arrest affidavit: Edwards was first charged after a 19-year-old FSU political science intern claimed Edwards, then an adjunct professor, plied him with beers, trolled briefly for prostitutes, watched ''heterosexual'' pornography and then exhorted him to masturbate in a game.

The intern said Edwards threatened him with bad grades if he didn't ''get into it.'' He declined to press charges. Edwards said the claims were ''lies'' but he didn't ''want to revisit it.'' Edwards was fired from FSU.

Shortly after his extortion arrest, state Capitol police then arrested Edwards on charges of theft, burglary and dealing with stolen property after the cops said he stole at least $10,000 worth of computer equipment from offices of the Florida Legislature.
I thought the Democrats were the party of sex scandals, but the Republicans sure are giving them a run for their money this season. So soon after Larry Craig's bust, this has to hurt.

Bonus talking point:
Pinellas County Republican Party chairman Tony DiMatteo said he knew of Edwards computer arrest but didn't know about the extortion charge. DiMatteo noted that Edwards, a former Democrat who once worked at the party and fundraised for candidates, is not a party officer.

The fact that the charges are coming up again, Edwards said, is just another example of the viciousness and coarseness of politics today.

''Whether you did something or were accused of something you didn't do almost doesn't matter. Perception is reality,'' he said. ``This chills people from becoming involved.''

Said Elliott Bundy, a spokesman for Giuliani, ``this gentleman was organizing the event on behalf of the Pinellas County party and not us. We have no further comment.''
The hypocrisy. It simply reeks.

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Human Rights - Experimenting On People


It never fails to disgust me, though it has long since ceased to surprise me, that some of the most vocal critics of human rights violations are themselves guilty of human rights violations. Witness the U.S. taking China to task, for example, over documented violations of human rights by the Chinese government. While remaining conspicuously silent about the documented violations of human rights involved in the Trail of Tears, when U.S. soldiers deliberately gave the indigenous populace smallpox-infected blankets that wiped out large numbers of them, thus assuring that they could be driven from their homelands which would later come to house such eminent displays of human genius, architectural and otherwise, as the megamalls and suburbs of this groaning land. But I digress.

I sometimes think white people have this vision of themselves (and each other) as noble, restrained, generous, kind, civilized and caring people adrift in a sea of brown-black-and-yellowness chiefly distinguished by barbaric behaviours and a failure to appreciate the tremendously appreciationworthy qualities of whites. Ignoring completely, of course, the fact that what they possess of civilization - the alphabet, the numeric system, astronomy, mathematics, plumbing - all came to them from that very selfsame sea of yellow-brown-black barbarians, who invented these things while white people were still running around dying themselves blue, wrapping themselves in skins for warmth, and plotting which of their neighbours to loot or pillage next.

Why, you might ask, am I waxing wroth so umbrageously. Because I read the newspapers, of course. Which affords me the chance to stumble across something like this article in the Guardian, which describes how the British tested mustard gas on Indian soldiers, undoubtedly without their consent, possibly even without their knowledge.
The Guardian understands that the British military did not check up on the Indian soldiers after the experiments to see if they developed any illnesses.

[...]

Many suffered severe burns on their skin, including their genitals, leaving them in pain for days and even weeks.

[...]

The experiments took place over more than 10 years before and during world war two in a military installation at Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan. They were conducted by scientists from the Porton Down chemical warfare establishment in Wiltshire who had been posted to the sub-continent to develop poison gases to use against the Japanese.
I wonder how they held the Nuremberg trials, given the state of their own collective conscience.

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Entertainment - Interspecies Comity

Good grief! Here's a charming picture, indeed:



Apparently, the lion was raised by the two men featured in the video, then returned to the wild.

Why am I posting such insubstantial material today? Because a film has been made about the gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, the little Iraqi girl who was murdered, along with her whole family, and apparently, either the film previewed today, or was reviewed today, resulting in much chatter about the poor child. I've blogged about it several times. It's terribly depressing.

So interspecies comity it is.

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Entertainment - We Need It

Well, the Larry Craig affair is getting lots of attention everywhere, but nowhere quite so humourously as in this clip.



I am larfing so hard ...

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Consumer Alert - Contamination


From Associated Press via Raw Story comes a report that fresh spinach from California is being recalled for possible salmonella contamination.
There were no immediate reports of illness linked to the tainted spinach, distributed by Metz Fresh LLC of King City, Calif.

[...]

The recalled spinach was distributed throughout the 48 states and Canada and sold in both retail and food service packages. It covers 8,118 cases of spinach, although the company said more than 90 percent of that was on hold and would not be released.

[...]

The recall covers 10- and 16-ounce bags, as well as 4-pound cartons and cartons that contain four 2.5-pound bags, with the following tracking codes: 12208114, 12208214 and 12208314.

Consumers with questions can contact Metz Fresh at 831-386-1018.
I can't help wishing that some of the idiots who recommended closing down and defunding much of the enormous food and product safety monitoring agencies get some contaminated food and experience firsthand why we need our food safety monitored.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Social Justice - Happy Anniversary, NOLA!

Here's what Chimperor Awol was doing when Katrina hit New Orleans:

He went from the birthday party to another bash, I believe, where he clowned around pretending to have the first fucking clue about playing a guitar:

Meanwhile, in New Orleans:


1,500 people were dying, from various causes, including, in the case of disabled and bedridden elderly nursing-home patients, euthanasia. People were watching their spouses and partners and relatives and pets drown before their very eyes, as they screamed and wept and prayed and begged for help, for anyone to hear them and get them the fuck out of the hellhole that Katrina made of New Orleans.

That gracious and beautiful city, gone forever, swept away in minutes, drowned like Grover Norquist's proverbial baby in the bathtub of its low-lying land as the levees breached and the water came boiling in.

Mister MushMouth said, two years ago:
Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes … we will stay as long as it takes … to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives. And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know: There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again.
Today marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Much of the city's poor, especially minority, population continues to suffer in trailer parks, because affordable housing has not been constructed for residents who lost their homes. And Bush flew back there today to commemorate the drowning of NOLA. He should have waited another 2.5 weeks to show up, just like he did when the hurricane hit.

Other voices here, here, here, here, and here.

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Social Justice - Do You Think This Is Right?


Or fair? That a corporate CEO should make as much in a single day as an ordinary worker makes in a year? That's what NBC reports here.

And before you even begin to think to yourself that, after all, a corporate CEO adds much more value to a company's bottom-line than the grunts who do the work, consider this: These are the same crooks and liars, these corporate CEOs, who have destroyed the air your children breathe, the schools in which they are educated, the health care system that prevents their illnesses or treats them, these are the robber barons and scoundrels who drink $10,000 martinis while you go into debt paying for needed surgery; these are the people who sold your home loans into worthless paper instruments that are threatening now to destroy not just your economy but the economy of every other country in the world.

These are the thugs and crooked men who dreamed up schemes to rip the coal out of the veins of the earth, and they didn't mind killing some of your family in the process; who profited from the illegal, immoral war and occupation of a sovereign and unthreatening nation while feeding your soldier sons and daughters contaminated food and water and billeting their executives in fancy hotels while your kids sweated in quonsets in the desert sand. Who joked and laughed about ripping off your grandparents with padded energy bills. Who added impenetrable and incomprehensible language about fees and charges to every transaction you undertook, in the interest of squeezing a few more drops of blood from each of you stones.

We've all worked for CEOs who spent most of their time schmoozing, on the phone, playing golf, flaking off on long "business" lunches, skiving half the time while their paid dogs watched us rack up every hour and minute and extra without pay, just to get our paychecks every month. If you don't know by now that it's the grunts who do most of the work, your name must be George. Or Dick.

These people are not answerable to their minions, the government, such as it is, or their shareholders. It's time to reduce their rates of compensation and make them work for their livings like everyone else.

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Politics - Impeach!


Congressmember John Conyers said today that impeachment might be off Nancy Pelosi's table, but is not, apparently, off his. Raw Story has the details.

Folks - I think what Conyers is saying is that the people need to force impeachment. Politicians will not do anything to jeopardize their power, and impeachment is a big honkin' ugly ol' puppy. If we want it, we gotta get it, by standing together and yelling at each and every one of our political representatives.

I'm ready to start a campaign here. I think each of us who believes impeachment is the only way to keep these madmen from starting the nuclear holocaust that Boy George has already threatened is to inundate the Congress with mail, email, phone calls and actual visits. The time has come. Let us wait no more. Those of you who are comfortable with Code Pink or Cindy Sheehan or MoveOn, please contact those individuals/groups and see if they are organizing a visit to any congresscritters. Those who would prefer a peaceful, nonviolent campaign, please visit NTodd's site at PaxAmerica. He has links, campaigns, and what-all going on.

For myself, as an immobile person with health problems right now, I undertake to write daily and phone once a week. I'll scout around and see who's got anything going on that looks good, but for now this is all I can commit to. September 15th is coming soon, and it looks as if many people will be rallying for impeachment on that day.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Entertainment - Silly Tests


Well, maybe not so silly. I mean, I had fun! Go try your hand. I scored 80%, which is not too shabby but also not great for a person who read the whole damn dictionary before they turned 9.

Silly test this week courtesy of the Biomes blog, always a source of fun and information.

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Politics - Iraq Occupation On California Ballot


Well, I'll be pickled and sliced and slathered in sour cream. It looks as if the California legislature has decided to put withdrawal from Iraq on the ballot. If it passes, it ends up in the California presidential primary on February 5. It's already passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate.

Of course, there is a possibility that Schwarzie will veto it, but if he does he will piss off a lot of voters, possibly a majority. On the other hand, if he doesn't, he risks pissing off the Rethugs:
The Assembly vote split mainly along party lines, with Democrats arguing that the invasion of Iraq had been a disaster that had cost the United States dearly in lives and dollars.

"If silence equals consent, we cannot remain silent anymore," said Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. "We need to give the citizens of California a concrete opportunity to express their hopes."
It's symbolic and nonbinding, but I think people are longing for a gesture, any kind of gesture, at this point.

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Politics - Good Grief


Yet another Repugnican hypocrite outed. Senator Larry Craig (R-I_da_Ho)just got busted for soliciting men in the toilet of an airport.

This is what happens when people refuse to acknowledge that gaydom is part of the spectrum of human sexuality. Repressed closeted queer folk end up soliciting sex in public toilets and get busted, and they're usually, what, preachers? Republican congressmen or Senators? This is so disgusting.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Iraq - Honest, We Left 'Cos We Wanted To


At least that's what the British are saying. Right here, f'rinstance:
"By the end of August, there will be no presence for British forces at the palace or at the joint coordination center. Both will be in the hands of the Iraqi government," says the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter. "I think it's best if they leave, because they did nothing to stop the militias, which were formed in the womb of their occupation." A spokesman for the British military in Basra confirmed that a small force left the Provincial Joint Coordination Center (PJCC), site of a British-Iraqi security task force, Saturday.

[...]

Unlike their US counterparts elsewhere in Iraq, British forces have been gradually trimming their presence in the south since May 2003, when they numbered 18,000.
Steve Gilliard would've made it all so clear. I can't fill his shoes. But basically what this means is, the British are out of Basra. Either the U.S will have to send military reinforcements there, or our supply lines and retreat pathway (out of Kuwait) are totally fucked. If your kids/family are there, please, please, please to God, beat your Congresscritter senseless till they agree to bring your family out. It is not good. Not good at all.

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Young Voters Unhappy with GOP


Carla Marinucci in the San Francisco Chronicle today reports on young voters becoming more and more unhappy with Republicans:

A Democracy Corps poll from the Washington firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner suggests voters ages 18 to 29 have undergone a striking political evolution in recent years.

Young Americans have become so profoundly alienated from Republican ideals on issues including the war in Iraq, global warming, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration that their defections suggest a political setback that could haunt Republicans "for many generations to come," the poll said.

and further ...
Younger voters, who grew up in the Clinton years, are also increasingly at odds with the GOP and its leaders on social issues.

"This is a more diverse generation, racially and ethnically, and it's more progressive on social issues like gay marriage," Greenberg said. "They see the Republican Party as profoundly different on tolerance and identity."

The poll also suggests the GOP is not addressing young voters' deep concerns about their future economic security. "Young people's economic struggles, more than any other issue, defines their political agenda," she said.
And they should be concerned. To see the cost of the Iraq war, click here. As I type this it is at over $455 billion!!!!! And it's frightening, as I've said before, at how quickly that figure climbs.

To make a comparison ... it's hard to do because of the different financial situation now in the global economy ... but just so you have a figure: the Vietnam war cost $120 billion. And we're not out of Iraq yet.

We all should be concerned. Who is going to pay for this war? We are. And for a long time. And if you'd like to read about how we're still paying for past wars, go here.

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Politics - Snark, It's A Beautiful Thing

From Joshua Micah Marshall's blog, Talking Points Memo, comes a survey of reactions to the Goneness of Abu G:
And my favorite, from Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL): "Alberto Gonzales is the first Attorney General who thought the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth were three different things."
The house of cards is falling apart. Who's gone so far? Anyone keeping count? I'll make a list tonight.

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Politics - Celebrate! Down Goes The Weasel!

The Stinkeye. Let Me Give You Eet. (Image from Raw Story)

Professional lying weasel and practising amnesiac Alberto GONEzales hath resigned! Break out the party hats and chocolate cake. The despicable little wart on the bum of collective humanity will slither off to the bosom of his family, assuming their bosom does not collectively horripilate its way to the horizon.

I never thought he'd go, frankly. But I suppose getting the stinkeye from your boss AND every other person with whom you work in a professional capacity must be daunting even for someone possessed of so little by way of a conscience, a brain, a soul - in short, humanity.

Highlights of the story:
In an apparent answer to critics who say Gonzales's tenure at Justice has encouraged law enforcemet agencies to overstep their constitutional boundaries, Gonzales said Monday that he worked to ensure the "rights and civil liberties of our citizens are protected."

"It's a good day for justice in the United States," David Iglesias, one of the fired US Attorneys, said on MSNBC Monday.

[...]

Former Sen. John Edwards was the first Democratic presidential candidate to weigh in on the news of Gonzales' resignation, which broke early Monday morning.

"Better late than never," Edwards said in a prepared statement released by his campaign.

Critics said Gonzales' resignation should not end Congressional -- and possible criminal -- inquiries into his alleged misconduct overseeing the Justice Department.
Edwards is quite good with the terse comments, isn't he? Also quick on response. I like that. I also like that they're going to keep after the little creep with inquiries. I can't think of a more deserving person. Well, Karl Rove, but it would be a bit of a stretch to label that fat, pasty maggot a person.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Politics - Skeletor In, Meatpuppet Out


Well, well, well. It looks as if LSOS Alberto Gonezales (thanks Maru for the monicker) is planning to step down as attorney-general "to spend more time lying to his family," in the words of the one and only Crankpot of Snark.

Raw Story provides the link. His replacement? Skeletor, aka professional incompetent and nincompoop-in-chief Michael Chertoff. When is someone going to ask him what the fuck he was doing as New Orleans drowned? He did a great job of deflecting responsibility for that scandal onto the hapless horses' ass, Michael Brown, but he was ultimately responsible. Oh, yes, he was teleloafing that day, wasn't he? Not-working from home?

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Entertainment - A Little Cute At Close Of Day

I sry. 2 many depressing and annoying political posts recently, too little fun happy.

Well, I'm making up for it and for the missed Caturday posts with this little video of four kittens discovering a box:



Kittens-Coca Cola Box - video powered by Metacafe


From Cute Overload, your site for all things cute. Enjoy!

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Religion - The Last Resort Of Hypocrites


Okay, I do know that there are people in the world who lead exemplary lives and do good in the name of their religion. But the hypocrites who invoke "faith" to excuse their multitude of sins are legion. And one of them is none other than our dear old friend Ted "I'm 140% straight!" Haggard. The meth-snorting, manwhore-renting former head of New Life church. Go visit their website. Nary a one of those boys looks straight to me. In fact they look gayer than most of the screamingest nancy queens I know.

Ol' Ted, who owns a house worth $751k, walked away after being busted out of the closet with a $138K severance package. In addition to the $200K salary plus bonus for the year. He also continues to collect royalties for books he's authored. So we're looking at a minimum of $1M in assets.

How comes this worthy fellow to our attention? Why, he's just written a very cheeky letter asking people to empty their pockets to send him and his wife through grad school. He's getting a masters' in counselling, and his wife plans to study psychology. The Guardian has some of the less sordid details.

Over at his SLOG, Dan Savage has the juicier meat. For example, Ted advises the gullible among you to send money to:
two addresses .... Checks can be sent to Haggard’s mailing address in Phoenix or, if a supporter needs a tax deduction, checks can be sent to Families With a Mission, a charity based in Colorado Springs.
In return for your generosity, Ted promises you first crack (cut that out, you low-minded lout) at HEAVEN! Yes, Ted, despite his fall from grace, gets to decide who goes and who does not. However, Ted apparently neglects to tell his tax-deduction-seeking rubes that the "charity" in question is headed by a registered sex offender. Who has dissolved the charity. Is this an invitation to fraud? Colorado Confidential has details, including a copy of the infamous letter. This is the same Ted Haggard who starred in this little ep:



Now that he's been busted for sodomy and drug use, that clip does seem ironic, dunnit?

Ted, a word of advice. Sell the house, and either you or your wife get a job and support the other partner through school. Take loans, if you need to. Work two, or three, jobs, if you need to. After all, your personal friend and supporter, George Dub sez it's "uniquely American." Don't you want to be uniquely American, Ted? Instead of being the lying, hypocritical sack of shit that you are?

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Politics - Coinicidence?


Right on the heels of the Matt Taibbi/Rolling Stone expose of the incredible looting of the U.S. taxpayer taking place under cover of "war in Iraq" comes this incredible, no, hard to believe, but ultimately at some deep level you know it has to be true story of the Misadministration actively harrassing whistleblowers who expose the looting and pillage that is taking place.

And I sometimes wonder why my head aches so much all the time.

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The Fourth Estate And Its Role In The War Machine


There is no such thing as a free press. Not anymore. In this country, anyway. I marvel at the bravery of Russian journalists in defying the might of their oppressive, murderous government to speak the truth.

What the U.S. seems to be left with is a bunch of toadies, sycophants, hangers-on, lickspittles, flatterers, and marginally insane people like Chris Matthews, who recently embarrassed anyone left who is capable of embarrassment by gushing on in the most revolting manner about Fred Thompson's "manly smell."
Can you smell the English leather on this guy, the Aqua Velva, the sort of mature man's shaving cream, or whatever, you know, after he shaved? Do you smell that sort of -- a little bit of cigar smoke? You know, whatever.
Jeez, Chris, get out of the closet already, there's no shame in being gay. Transcript available here.

I often hear the mainstream media criticize bloggers for wanting to destroy journalists, or journalism, or the mainstream media. I'd like to point out (especially to Jon Carroll) that that is simply false. No one wants to get rid of the Fourth Estate. If anything, I'm fairly certain that the public wants MORE news, more coverage, more reportage. But not about Britney Spears' public vagination, or Paris Hilton's low-cut pants or Lindsay Lohan's drunk driving arrests, thanks.

What the public wants is real journalists. Amy Goodman. Juan Gonzales. Matt Taibbi. Greg Palast. Robert Fisk. People who actually zero in on the lies of the warmongers and ripoff artists currently screwing us all without so much as a kiss or a little lube.

So, please, if you want to know what the illegal war and occupation of Iraq was all about, do yourself a huge favour. Go to Matt Taibbi's coverage at Rolling Stone and read. I'm getting a subscription.

I'm tired of these idiotic Bill Kristols and David Broders and David Brookses wambling on endlessly about the many corners we are turning weekly in Iraq, when they should be outraged that nearly 1 million Iraqis have been killed, and 4 million more are refugees, half of them in their own country. That George W. Bush is now responsible for the deaths of more Americans than Osama bin Laden. That 30,000 men and women have come back from Iraq wounded and maimed in body and soul. Come back to a country that makes them homeless, or sends them back again and again to the meatgrinder, or leaves them lying in pools of their own bodily fluids, or denies them promised health care.

I'm revolted that these two-cent pundits, like Tom Friedman, are so devoid of moral compass that they talk about kicking shit out of some other country to show them - to show them what? Our balls are so big we need a wheelbarrow to carry them around?

I'm tired of these bloody-handed chickenhawks shipping everyone else's children out to kill and be killed while their own spawn live high on the hog and working people are ground into dirt, paying the cost of this war. Along with all its hidden costs, like the failure to suitably educate the populace, or provide it with adequate health care.

I would happily pay money to read Matt Taibbi. And I want to know why a fine journalist like him is not given weekly column space in our "newspapers of record."

Disclaimer: The NYT link for Friedman might require registration. Further disclaimer: Read Matt Taibbi's article after taking your blood pressure medication and well away from mealtime. It's that incendiary.

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What I did on my summer vacation


Very funny bit from Bill Maher here from the Huffington Post blog.

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Politics - Conflating Iraq and Vietnam

I didn't think Commander Awol von Bunnypants could surprise me. Ever again. After all, I've watched with horror for over six years as he has led this country into ruin, trampling everything I hold dear in the process. But to compare Iraq to Vietnam? Is he stupid? No, scratch that, we know he's stupid, although he also possesses a certain ratlike cunning. But he doesn't write his own speeches. He pays - we, the taxpayers, pay - to have someone who can string a dozen words into a sentence write something that doesn't sound like it emanated from a brain-dead alcoholic cokeheaded mushmouth. So maybe his speechwriters truly hate him.

For him to conflate Vietnam and Iraq is tantamount to handing everybody who ever served or knew someone who served, and everybody who has the slightest disaffection about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq a big fat sign something like this:


Poster courtesy of TRex at Firedoglake, although I snitched it from Skippy.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Review of No End in Sight


I have just posted a review of the very important film, No End in Sight, on our sister blog, TPC-CultureVultures.

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Long Time Comin'


By Rogelio Solis, AP

It’s been in the news yesterday and today: James Ford Seale, a Ku Klux Klansmen, was sentenced [finally!] in Mississippi for his role in kidnapping, torturing, and murdering two young African American men in 1964. The FBI investigated this at the time and arrested several men including Seale but the local authorities never prosecuted the case.

One of Seale’s cohorts ratted him out in recent years and was granted immunity. [I feel so conflicted about granting immunity. This other criminal walks!] Seale and his fellow gangsters kidnapped these young men, tied them to trees, and beat them. Then tied weights around their bodies and dumped them in the Mississippi River while they were still alive!!

Yes, yes ... another example of “Home of the brave”.

“This may be one of the most horrific crimes in my 31 years as a prosecutor, throwing these young men into the river while they were still alive," said U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton of Jackson.

The slain youths were Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore. Only 19 years old! The hero of all this is Moore’s brother, Thomas, who has pushed for justice in his brother's case since 1998.
The case was reopened in 2005 after Thomas Moore, a retired 30-year Army veteran and the brother of Charles Moore (one of the 1964 victims), returned to Mississippi with filmmaker David Ridgen of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on a search for justice in the case. There they met up with Donna Ladd and photographer Kate Medley from the Jackson Free Press, an alternative newsweekly in Jackson, Miss. During several days of reporting, the CBC and the Free Press discovered simultaneously from locals that Seale had not died, as had been reported to gullible press by Seale's family members. The discovery helped to re-energize interest in the case after Moore and Ridgen visited U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton on the same trip, and Lampton pledged to re-open the case.
There's that "gullible press" again. Gullible with an agenda.

To read the entry in Wikipedia, click here.

Seale got three life terms in prison.

Judge Wingate said that he took into account Seale’s advanced age and poor health, but added, “Then I had to take a look at the crime itself, the horror, the ghastliness of it.” Seale will serve his sentence at a medical facility.

Some folks might think this is cruel to send a 72-year old man to life in prison. Not me. Not for this guy. Did he take one moment to think that he was robbing those young men of their entire lives?

Throw him in the clink.

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Announcing DUI checkpoints: Seems crazy to me

Here's something I don't get. In today's Oakland Tribune there's a very specific announcement about a DUI checkpoint tonight in a certain area of Oakland. So, I wondered "Why announce it? Isn't that warning people to avoid that area?"

Of course, with the statistics this week about how few people read books ... and the articles talking about newspapers decreased readership, maybe it's a moot point.

Then I googled DUI checkpoints and found an article stating that they are announced because that is what the courts have decreed must be done for them to not run afoul of illegal search/seizure.

Can't they do it any other way?

PolCat, have any thoughts on it?

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Made in China: Lead in toys

In today's Oakland Tribune there's a sad-but-true-kinda-funny cartoon related to PolCat's Consumer Alert post.

It's a John Darkow cartoon that says: "Listen, Kid, since all the toys have lead in them, you'd be safer if you just played with the box!"

Darkow also has one about Rove's departure that you might enjoy. If you want to see more, click
Darkow cartoons.

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Human Rights - The Real Cost Of Immigration Policy


Seems to me the only time we hear people whining about immigration is when their own comfort is somehow affected. But do they target the people responsible for their discomfort? The big multinational corporations that ship hundreds of thousands of decent paying jobs overseas to be performed by prison labour and slave labour while simultaneously insisting on huge tax breaks and multimillion dollar salaries and bonuses for the executive echelon?

No, their wrath is aimed at the illegals from Mexico, Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua, who toil in the fields for a pittance, and often end up unpaid and turned in to the authorities to be deported.

Apples are coming in, along with other fall crops, over the next month or so. Get ready for food prices to shoot up to the point where you're spending your entire income on housing, health care, transportation, and food. In short order. Here's a little-covered story from the International Herald Tribune to help you along your way.
"We have three billion apples to pick this fall and every single one of them has to be picked by hand," Gregg said. "It's a very labor-intensive industry, and there is no local labor supply that we can draw from, as much as we try. No one locally really wants to pick apples for six weeks in the fall."
No, no one wants to sweat for eight or ten hours a day doing hard physical labour in a nonunion job with no guarantees, no minimum wage, no breaks, and no opportunity for advancement.

A guest worker program will not solve this labour shortage. While the California Republican Party hires "consultants" who are in this country illegally, for jobs in the six figures, we don't want to allow workers in to pick our crops and guarantee them a little decency so we can load our tables with nature's bounty.

Disgusting.

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Politics - Priorities, Priorities


It's nice to know some people have theirs straight. What's more important? Impeaching the war criminals who are daily killing hundreds of people, and profiting from their deaths? Or legislating fashion for the sake of the innocent children?

Atlanta has the answer. Raw Story informs us that:
"A proposal to change the city code in terms of indecency [for wearing low-slung pants] will go before the public safety legal administrative committee on Tuesday for discussion," he said.
Gentlefolk, a question, if you please: where are these semi-naked children getting the funds to indulge their sartorial whimsy? Seems you ought to be arresting their parents.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Motto for this blog?

"You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty."
-- Jessica Mitford

What do you say, PolCat, could this be our motto?

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Health - This Week's Roundup


Auntie Beeb reports that a new pathway to control blood pressure has been discovered:
UK scientists say they have discovered a new way to regulate blood pressure, offering hopes of new drugs to combat strokes and heart attacks.

One in four adults has high blood pressure and although powerful drugs are already available, few manage to achieve target blood pressure levels.
The best possible argument for international universal health-care: With international travel a reality, in fact, a necessity as globalization of trade and industry becomes the norm, we're exposing ourselves to many more illnesses, and we're spreading them faster.
With about 2.1 billion airline passengers flying each year, there is a high risk of another major epidemic such as Aids, Sars or Ebola fever.

[...]

Since the 1970s, 39 new diseases have developed, and in the last five years alone, the WHO has identified more than 1,100 epidemics including cholera, polio and bird flu.
Disease does not discriminate by class, although crowded conditions and inadequate drinking water and sanitation increase risk. Nevertheless, SARS and AIDS are not going to research your income, education, or skillset before they kill you very dead. And, in fact, since only those with disposable income travel regularly, the spread of a deadly epidemic is likely to target them first, along with health care professionals and first responders.

Scientists can now induce an out-of-body experience in a test subject. I'm pleased to see this last vestige of my superstitious beliefs collapse and crawl feebly away. So there IS a scientific explanation!

Science Daily reports that Four Agents Decoction, a traditional Chinese herbal remedy used since Song Dynasty days, is effective in reducing menstrual pain.

And acupressure is effective in relieving lower back pain. Acupressure has also apparently shown to be effective in keeping people awake during boring lectures or meetings.

As I may have previously mentioned to all my pinky-white pals - TAKE MORE FUCKING VITAMIN D, goddammit. Here's why.

And on that happy, if shrill, note, I leave you till the morrow.

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Friday is Memorial Maxx Day


And fortunately, we have on hand here a picture of Maxx inflicting stern, yet gentle, discipline upon an Alien Carrot. Picture obtained with permission from 4LG at Plush Life, where many beautiful pictures of Maxx abound, and these days La Princesse Madeleine rules the roost with the able assistance of one Ripley Chainsaw Kitteh. Teh cutes!

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Politics - Rat Jam


Boy, when the rats start leaving the sinking ship, they just run right over each other in the race for the gangway, don't they? Pete Hoekstra is not, sadly, announcing his "retirement," unlike the five Republican members of the House who made me so happy today. However, according to the Detroit Free Press, he does have some hard words for Commander Awol von Bunnypants.

Meanwhile, Senator John Warner (R-noVA), who suggested this week that some troops leave Iraq in time to return home for Xmas, is being pressured by the WH to "clarify that he has not broken politically with President Bush," reports AP. The best part of the story comes at the end:
According to an administration official, Warner's staff agreed that the story was being portrayed incorrectly as Warner splitting with the president.

"They said they'd take steps to deal with it," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the private conversations.

However, in the AP interview, Warner said he personally had not been asked to revise his comments and he took no issue with how his views were reported. When asked whether he had indeed split with Bush on Iraq, he declined to say and noted his remarks speak for themselves.

"You have to surmise that on your own," he said.
In the words of the immortal Tom Lehrer, "Who's Next?" Any bets?

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Some Friday night tidbits, or how about that!

So I'm listening to Mike Malloy tonight on Nova M Radio and found out about a bunch of juicy little tidbits. How is this for staters?

1. Apparently Mother Theresa had a real crisis of faith and became an agnositc if not an outright atheist! Time has a report on it here.
Who would have thunk it!

2. Two Republican strategists were found murdered in Orlando, FL and their murderer committed suicide:

Apparently the two murdered men were partners, oh horrors! They were gay lovers! And the other Republican murdered them for it and then killed himself. Aren't Republican values wonderful!

3. And then you heard the report that Bush is now going to outsource intelligence gathering to private companies instead of have the NSA and CIA do it. Even Drudge has a page on it:

So let's see. The companies that get the contracts to gather intelligence also make the weapons used in the war started by their intel and then they get the contracts to rebuild the stuff that gets blown up. Sounds like the perfect business plan as long as you aren't at the business end. Talk about pure evil, I have I mentioned how much I hate these people? I don't know but I am sure Mike Mallow has! And I hate them too!

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Politics - I Could Have Danced All Night

when I heard that revolting hypocritical toad and ineffectual sleazebucket Denny Hastert, former Squealer of the House, had announced his retirement.

Dennis Hastert dressed up as a taxicab

Denny must love me, because he followed up his announcement with the news that he is stepping down in November 2007 - a year early - leaving Illinois' Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich to name his replacement.

Actually, I'm beginning to think the whole fucking Republican party is in love with me. No sooner does fat Denny ooze out of the House on his trail of slime, than Ray "aptly named" LaHood (Rat-Ill) announces his retirement, Deborah Pryce R-OH, GO AWAY) announces she's stepping down, and Charles Pickering, (R-MissU2) announces he's stepping down. Now Rick Renzi of Arizona is stepping down. Hopefully, this is catching. We need a few good grassroots progressives elected. We need more corrupt senators to lose their positions so that the Republicans can no longer maintain the logjam in Congress. We need the worst of these monsters out now so that we can start on the arduous task of fixing all the things they fucked up with their insatiable greed.

But first, we need to celebrate. Where's the champagne?

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Iraq - The Real Situation


From Fixer, over at Alternate Brain, rapidly turning into my favourite reading material for analysis of the unlawful occupation of Iraq, comes a link to a post at Sumo Merriment, which should be required reading for us all. You know come September 11th, Petraeus and Crocko'Shit will read whatever the WH typists put together for them and try to stuff that Bushit into our heads. The only antidote is to read first-person accounts of what is really going on in Iraq. With approximately 6 U.S. military personnel and up to 100 Iraqis being killed every day, it sure does not sound like progress to me.

But see for yourself.

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Politics, Entertainment, Jon Stewart


Well, the Idiot Prince must have an even bigger crew of idiots writing his speeches - or maybe one of them just sabotaged him. His most recent spew included a comparison between Iraq and Vietnam. A most unfortunate comparison, in light of his draft-dodging success. Naturally, Jon Stewart was forced to comment.

Raw Story is beginning to carry daily Jon Stewart clips. Yet another reason for daily visits!

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Politics - Not Very Entertaining This Time


Talentless hack and hasbeen aging rocker Ted Nugent managed to get himself a little publicity this week.

In obscenity-laced tirade, Ted Nugent jokes of killing Obama, calls Clinton a 'bitch'

Suggesting that California's senators and congressional representatives could "suck on this," he waved weapons around in lieu of his microdick. Regrettably, the right to free speech is enshrined in the constitution and must be respected no matter what one thinks of the speaker. And, to clarify, he didn't actually incite the murder of Barack Obama. Methinks Te(r)d has a lawyer who knows the difference between actionable and protected speech.

Details at Raw Story.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Consumer Alert - Another Recall


This time it's Sponge Bob spiral-bound notebooks, spinning tops from Schylling Associates, and pails. Details here. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to become consumer products test cases!

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Politics and Snark

The Bush Triplets In Shapeless, Tasteless GarbageBags

Jeebus, what is it with these wimmen and their desperate desire to look like dog leftovers?

In a conversation with Friend yesterday, after hearing that yet another 14 troops had been killed in a copter crash in Iraq, I exploded with: "Send the Bush twins to Iraq! I can just see them with their little AK-47s."

Whereupon Friend replied, "Give 'em blanks."

I'll drink to that.

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Politics - Entertainment

Spotted on the freeway commute to work this morning, a bumpersticker destined for greater popularity:

Somebody Less Stupid For President

Works for me. I don't care for the rampant egomania in Giulani's beady eyes, nor the look of sheer meatheaded dumbkopfitude on Romney's countenance.

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Politics - Immigration and The Law

of Unintended Consequences, that is.

Image from Vinod's blog

From Raw Story comes a report that the "tough" new U.S. policies on immigration are creating a "reverse brain-drain." I don't know how valid this is.
The study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that more than one million potential immigrants, including scientists, engineers, doctors and researchers, are competing for 120,000 permanent US resident visas each year.

[...]

The study by researchers at Duke, New York and Harvard universities is the third in a series of studies focusing on immigrants' contributions to the US economy.

[...]

The report said a majority of immigrant company founders, including many in the tech sector, came to the United States as students. Many ended up staying in the United States after graduation, with a number founding new companies.

It said 31 percent of the startups in tech centers had an immigrant key founder, including 52.4 percent in California's Silicon Valley.

The researchers said Indian immigrants founded more companies than those from the next four countries -- Britain, China, Taiwan and Japan -- combined.

They also concluded that foreign nationals living in the United States were inventors or co-inventors in 25.6 percent of international patent applications filed from the United States in 2006.
But I'm thinkin' Hahvahd wouldn't lightly lend its name to something totally without substance.

Seems like those scary brown peepul are good for something other than scaring the rightwing loony fundies of America. Or picking lettuce and tomatoes for cheap.

The whole immigration debate is becoming so racist and vituperative. Why can't we just deport the Rush "PilonidalCyst" Limpdicks and Michelle "Cheerleader" Malkins, and accept the scientists, researchers, and yeah, the fucking lettuce-pickers too? You really wanna pay five bucks for a head of lettuce? The chicken-processing, meat-processing, and child-minding industries are built on the backs of immigrant labour. Severely underpaid and exploited immigrant labour, at that.

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Human Rights - Racism Rolls Over, Snores


Yesterday, in my post "Racism Isn't Dead, It's Just Sleeping," I linked to an article posted at Raw Story about skinheads/Neo-Nazis in Germany attacking people of Indian descent, and the subsequent response by the Jewish community (thanks, guys, you pointed out how we all are at risk from these swine!). Today, Angela Merkel offers her tepid response:
Although she declined to explicitly blame the incident on the far right, Merkel told a cabinet meeting that last weekend's violence, and the fact no one had intervened to stop it, was "extraordinarily deplorable and shameful".

[...]

Merkel called for a quick and thorough investigation to determine whether members of right-wing extremist groups were behind the attack.

She added that the government this week would examine its programmes to fight the far right, indicating that the international community held Germany to a high standard because of its Nazi past.

"Such cases hurt Germany's image in the world," Steg said, citing Merkel's remarks to the cabinet.
Well, gee, Angela. We shouldn't beat the crap out of innocent people who happen to be different from us because it will "hurt [our] image"? That's a good lesson to be teachin' your younguns. What next, "do it if you must but only where no one will see you and don't get caught"?

Let's hope the generally wussy Indian government makes this an issue. For all of Indira Gandhi's faults (and they were legion), at least she understood that, in dealing with other and somewhat recalcitrant governments, sometimes a swift kick in the nuts was what worked best.

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Politics - Faux News And The Drums of War

Yay, Bernie Sanders! Yay Robert Greenwald!


Finally, someone has the guts and the brains to take on Teh Mighty Wurlitzer - the Republican Party media machine that guarantees only certain voices and viewpoints are heard, the Fairly Unbalanced shrill conservatives who mindlessly echo this misadministration's talking points until ordinary citizens come to believe those voices in their heads are their own. From AP:
MONTPELIER, Vt. - Condemning the Fox News Channel as a warmonger that's agitating for a U.S. attack on Iran, documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald and independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders announced an "online viral video campaign" Wednesday calling on television news organizations "not to follow Fox down the road to war again."

Greenwald, the director behind "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" and "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," has compiled a new three-minute video that mashes clips from Fox's coverage of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath with recent coverage of possible U.S. military action against Iran.

The video and an accompanying "open letter" to ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN — viewable at http://www.FoxAttacks.com — urge news organizations to ask tough questions about administration policy on Iran and say citizens should pressure them to do so.
I don't suppose I need to add that the journalistic establishment, as represented by one Bob Steele, the Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at the Poynter Institute school for journalists, is sniffily dismissive of the whole thing. So, so new media, y'know.

Personally, I'd rather hearken to the likes of Christiane Ahmanpour, who is quoted in the story and the clip, pointing out that the misadministration and its thugs at Faux News have worked to intimidate the press as much as they can. One of the reasons we no longer have a free press, in Teh Greatest Democracy In Teh World.

Quote from Sanders:
"We have got to put pressure on the mass media not to play the same craven role they played in Iraq, when they effectually collapsed and became a megaphone for Bush's policies," Sanders said. "What Robert is saying here is that the leader of that effort is Fox News, which in many ways is simply a propaganda machine for the Republican Party and the Bush administration."
He's only saying what those of us with a fucking grain of sense have known forever. Yay, Bernie! Long live the Free State of Vermont.

Vermonters, you now have official permission to look down your noses at the idiots in Connecticut and Maine, who elected feebs like Joe "BlowdaPrez" Lieberwhore and that Susan "KneepadsForBush" Collins.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Entertainment - The Daily Show

Rob Riggle takes it to Iraq.

Asif Mandvi, rapidly turning into my favorite person on that show (after Jon and Stephen, of course), sensibly refuses to go.

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Entertainment, Politics

It's all the same schtick. Wasn't it Frank Zappa who said that in the U.S., politics *is* entertainment? Sump'n like that.

Anyway, if you've been waiting to hear Jon Stewart skewer that fat, pasty maggot, Karl Rove, rush on over to Raw Story NOW. I laffed SO hard. "sodomize a bald eagle?" "memory herpes?" Oh, geez, he's good.



Oopsie. The link was bad but I fixed it. Thanks, McBlogget, for catching that.

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Iraq - Further Carnage In The Illegal Occupation


From AFP via Raw Story comes the report that fourteen U.S. troops died as a result of a helicopter crash in northern Iraq.
"Initial indications are the aircraft experienced a mechanical malfunction. There were no indications of hostile fire," the task force said, as the number of US troops to have died since the 2003 invasion climbed to 3,719.

Shortly afterwards, a suicide bomber struck in Task Force Lightning's area of reponsibility, ploughing his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the town of Baiji, killing 15 civilians and five policemen.

Doctor Saad Jasim from the Baiji General Hospital said 80 more people were wounded, including four children and five women, in the latest in a string of extremely deadly truck bombings in the north of the country.
Note: We are no longer referring to anything concerning Iraq as "war." It is not war. It is an illegal occupation of a sovereign nation. The war is long since over. And the mission has not been accomplished.

Years ago, at the start of the Iraq misadventure, I predicted that Commander Awol von Bunnypants would end up killing more Americans than Osama bin Laden. I'm deeply saddened, but not the least bit surprised, to see that I was right. And America wanted to drink a beer with this schmuck.

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Human Rights - Racism Isn't Dead


It's just sleeping. German Jews have come to the defense of Indians who were recently targeted in a racist attack in Germany, reports AFP via Raw Story.

The general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan Kramer, said:
"Officials make the same statements every time (there is an attack on foreigners) but there is never a noticeable change in the strategy to fight xenophobia," Kramer told the online news service Netzeitung.

"We must relaunch the debate about no-go areas."

During a summer festival Saturday night, a group of about 50 Germans, some shouting neo-Nazi slogans, chased eight Indians through the streets of the town of Muegeln and broke down the door of a pizzeria where they had sought refuge.

Three of the Indians, residents of Muegeln or other towns in the region, were so brutally beaten they needed hospital treatment while the others escaped with minor cuts and bruises. Witnesses said bystanders refused to intervene.
This story needs international coverage. We must all stand together, or, as someone more famous said, hang together, or we will surely all hang separately. It's time to put a stop to such thuggery.
Kramer said it was "a bitter truth" that foreigners should be warned against living in some areas of the depressed former communist east, where he saw an escalating problem with racist attacks.

"Yesterday it was people of colour, today it is foreigners and tomorrow it will be gays and lesbians or perhaps Jews," he said.
The Indian government has contacted the German government and is pursuing the matter:
The Indian foreign ministry said Tuesday it was seeking further information from Berlin on the attack.

"We have taken up the matter with the German government and have requested that they take action to address this issue and prevent future incidents of the kind," it said in a statement in New Delhi.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

War - The Disappearing 'Mainstay'


It really makes me glad to read this news from NBC, via Raw Story. Glad, and at the same time a little sad. African-American parents are doing their best to stymie military recruiters, says the article, and here comes the sad part:
NBC News on Sunday examined the "disappearing military mainstay" of African-American recruits, who in recent years had provided about 1/4 of military enlistments.

Once seen by young black people as "a sure way to climb the ladder," the military is increasingly being shunned because of the Iraq War. "Nearly 3 in 4 blacks oppose the war," NBC stated, and the percentage of active-duty black soldiers in the Army "has plunged by a third since 2001."
For an ethnic group that totals approximately 10 to 15 percent of the total population to provide 25 percent of the military is sad.

That said, I don't think the reason behind the disproportionate number of black and brown soldiers in the front lines is racism so much as classism. If you're poor or working class, the military does represent a good way out of the grinding futility of your life. You might even be able to go to college and get a real job someday. At the very least, you could get decent medical care, and training and a skillset that could give you greater options in the real world.

Still, I'd like to see peace run rampant in the world, and training programs like the Peace Corps and the Conservation Corps offer young people a way out of the deadly grind.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cannon fodder!

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Politics - Department Of Oblivious Obviousness


Some of us have been saying - hey, okay, a lot of us, especially those of us that don't make CEO salaries, or have mortgages, or pay too goddamned much for health care - that ever since Presidunce Shrub took over, our incomes have remained stagnant or shrunk appallingly, and it seems we work harder for less, with more stress and less enjoyment.

And, lo and behold! Today, the benighted gits at the NYT finally come to the same realization:
Americans earned a smaller average income in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year that they had to make ends meet with less money than at the peak of the last economic expansion, new government data shows.
It's nice to have statistics confirm what was merely practical observation and experience before, I suppose. All I know is, before Commander Bunnypants took power, we ran this household quite well - almost luxuriously - on one-third of what it takes to run it now, and at times our lifestyle feels quite meagre by comparison. We scrimp. We pinch pennies. And still, we're so much better off than many of our friends and compatriots, some of whom got laid off in previous great corporate bloodlettings and are still looking for work five years later.

I used to say that every time Idiot Boy opened his mouth, the stock market took another dive. Woe betide us all, I didn't know it would turn out to be so true.

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Health - Consumer Alert


Raw Story links to a report in the Financial Times that clothes imported from China are contaminated with up to 900 times as much formaldehyde as is deemed safe by a New Zealand consumer watchdog agency.
[...] Manufacturers sometimes apply formaldehyde to clothes to prevent mildew. It can cause skin rashes, irritation to the eyes and throat and allergic reactions.

The Warehouse, a New Zealand retailer, issued a recall at the weekend for children’s pyjamas made in China after two children were burned when their flannelette nightclothes caught fire.

The New Zealand investigation is the first time that the safety of Chinese clothes has been called into question
The Chinese government is alleging that the contamination scares are being driven by protectionism.

I didn't think they'd respond to U.S. attempts to force them to adhere to food safety standards, because food exports are such a small part of their total trade volume. However, this new scare might hit home.
Economists say the safety scandals have so far had limited impact on exports, in part as toys accounted for less than 1 per cent of overall exports last year, while foodstuffs made up 1.4 per cent.

Textiles and clothing made up more than 13 per cent of exports in the first half of the year.

“The textile sector is a much more important part of China’s exports so this will be more of a cause for concern for the authorities,” said Mark Williams, an economist at Capital Economics in London. “However, these cases are still a drop in the ocean in terms of China’s overall trade.”
Formaldehyde is routinely applied to building materials and furnishings, according to a training module designed by Rutgers in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other organizations. That module describes some of the results of formaldehyde exposure:
Low doses cause watery eyes or burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat. Larger doses can cause nausea, breathing difficulties, headaches, and fatigue. High doses can cause asthma attacks. Some people are highly sensitive to formaldehyde and react to concentrations that would not bother other people.

Formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, but to date there is limited evidence it has caused increased incidence of cancer in humans. Nevertheless, it is classified as a "probable human carcinogen" by the EPA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Good grief! Truly, nothing is safe.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

War - Iraq, Look Carefully


I had a point to make but was too tired to do it in last night's post. And before I start, I want to say I miss Steve Gilliard terribly now, because he would have done this in far fewer words, with greater incisiveness and less wambling. Observe the map above. al-Anbar province, to the west of Baghdad, has been the site of many difficult battles. al-Anbar borders on Jordan, which would not welcome our troops, assuming they could successfully traverse this hostile territory in an attempt to withdraw from the charnel house that is now Baghdad.

Diyala province, to the east of Baghdad, capital Baquba, is "a source of problems" according to General Betrayus. It borders Iran, which also would not accept a retreat of the U.S. military, should our troops withdraw in that direction. Assuming they survived the active insurgency in that province, they would face a much larger army in Iran.

Salahuddin province, immediately north of Baghdad, is the site of the deadliest insurgent activity of late - a record sure to be broken, and soon. Assuming U.S. troops tried to withdraw north, they would have to traverse this province, which is largely Turkomen, and several other hostile provinces to reach Turkey - which is highly unlikely to offer sanctuary.

Can they withdraw southwards? Babil province, immediately south of Baghdad, is apparently currently under the control of an Iraqi brigade. However, note that the gunmen who staged a daring raid and kidnapped several American military personnel, apparently fled into Babil province when pursued, according to the International Herald Tribune.
Mr. Khazaali said the identities of the gunmen were unknown. Other Iraqi officials said the clues pointed to Sunni groups based in Elbu Alwan, a Sunni stronghold about 25 miles north of Karbala in Babil Province. Four of the vehicles were found there early Sunday morning, the police said.
Further southwest, Karbala province appears to be relatively peaceful, though unable to defend itself from violence spilling over from the nearby al-Anbar province. Further south, Qadisiya province is reeling from attacks by Shia factions. In Dhi Qar province, the Italian military has formally handed off responsibility for security to the Iraqi army as of September last year. Sometime around then, responsibility for security in Muthanna province, south of Dhi Qar, was handed off to the Iraqi army. This August, the governor of the province was killed.

To the west, Najaf province is relatively peaceful and controlled by Iraqi security forces. If the troops can cross safely, they can get to Saudi Arabia and withdraw from there. However, Najaf was also the site, in January of this year, of some mysterious warlike activity that indicates the potential for powerful resistance. I don't entirely trust this particular story, but have to leave for work soon. I'll research it further tonight.

Then it's down through Basra province and into Kuwait and home free, right? Not quite, apparently. You see, the British are urging an immediate withdrawal from Basrah. And with good reason, apparently.
Two generals told The Independent on Sunday last week that the military advice given to the Prime Minister was, "We've done what we can in the south [of Iraq]". Commanders want to hand over Basra Palace – where 500 British troops are subjected to up to 60 rocket and mortar strikes a day, and resupply convoys have been described as "nightly suicide missions" – by the end of August. The withdrawal of 500 soldiers has already been announced by the Government. The Army is drawing up plans to "reposture" the 5,000 that will be left at Basra airport, and aims to bring the bulk of them home in the next few months.

[...]

Further ahead, the US is concerned over the security of its vital supply line from Kuwait, with some American commanders saying that if the British withdraw, American troops will have to be sent south to replace them. As the hub of Iraq's oil industry, Basra is also a tempting prize for the Shia militias battling each other for control.

There are fears that the bloody power struggle in Basra will escalate sharply if and when British troops depart, but commanders point out that up to 90 per cent of the violence is directed against their forces. They are understood to believe it was never the role of occupation troops to intervene in a "turf war" among factions from the same community, all of which have links to the government coalition in Baghdad.
Baghdad is a city at the confluence of two large rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Such a city would be hard to evacuate in a war, because withdrawal would have to take place via bridges over water. All the insurgents have to do is cut enough of the bridges to trap our military like rats.

According to Al-Jazeera, these bridges have been destroyed:
  • old Diyala bridge
  • new Diyala bridge
  • Sarafiya bridge
Hang on to your hats, boys and girls, the fit's about to hit the shan.

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