Sunday, July 31, 2005

Michael Scheuer?

I presume I'm just late to the party on this fellow, but based on what I've just read from Michael Smerconish's Why Do They Hate Us?, I confess to feeling just a little bit validated regarding my take on the "Muslim mindset", if you will. Evidently Michael Scheuer, in his book Imperial Hubris, lays out what he believes to be the impetus for Muslim rage against the West.

Here's what I want to know:

If Bush has given any thought at all to these factors, why doesn't he discuss it?

Why isn't it part of the policy dialog?

And if he hasn't, why the hell not?

Anyone a bit more savvy with geopolitics is invited to clue me in.

No Billboards For You!

David Schraub at The Moderate Voice has a good piece on a Georgia company's decision to reject gay rights awareness billboards. It's worth a read in its entirety (be sure to check his links out, too), but here's a highlight with what I feel is the salient point:

What this shows is how the existence of overwhelming "private" discriminatory viewpoints can reify discrimination as a whole, even in public spaces. That is, racism (and heterosexism) act as market distortions which make the "rational" choice adherence to the racist (heterosexist) norm. It cuts the heart out of positions which assume that the "free market" will solve the problem. When the rational choice is to adhere to (or at least ally with) homophobia, then the free market acts as a barrier to, not a facilitator of, positive change.

There's a lot of talk among conservatives about the corrective nature of the "free market", but this case shows how it is a long way from the panacea it's oft reported to be.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Patriotism, Circa 2005

While I was, generally speaking, a relatively happy kid, I hated recess and I hated P.E. They both represented a cut-throat world of popularity contests wherein we'd either bask in wild admiration or suffer the agony of humiliation. Being bespectacled and slightly doughy meant that I was more prone to the latter than the former. Beyond the plain-vanilla resentments that this engendered in me and every kid like me, the real frustration came in the group-think loyalty that the popular kids were rewarded with. Dissention in the ranks was not tolerated at all. If King Bobby Cool liked red t-shirts, you'd better not show up to school in a blue one. If Bobby Cool was pissed off at Johnny Slick, then we ALL had to be pissed at Johnny. Anyone caught daring to refrain from outward hostility toward dear John found himself sitting alone at lunch or being made into the day's impromptu dodge ball target.

Naturally the dynamic didn't change as we navigated from the smaller tortures of the playground to the larger battles of middle and high school. The props just evolved. Social success and failure was all but dictated by the choice between Toughskins or Jordache. Bobby and the Bobbyettes were a political faction unto themselves, with a hierarchy of leadership rarely challenged. Pecking orders were clear: Bobby got his first pick of cheerleaders, and his lieutenants could choose from the remainders with relative impunity. But if Johnny Slick presumed to eyeball Bobby's babe during chemistry class? Oh the horror! The resulting scandal swept through the halls at light speed, and by lunch, the Bobbycrats and the Slickians would be at war. How the battles played out would vary, of course, but methods were universal: Intimidate and smear any and all demonstrating allegiance to the day's target, and eviscerate any presuming to question the purpose behind the battle to begin with. If you were anything like me, you stood on the sidelines, observing these Clique Wars, and desperately watching the calendar. "I can't wait to get out of school and into the real world." The fantasy being, naturally, that people outgrew this kind of behavior.

Of course, it's patently obvious that we haven't, and that we don't. We've replaced our battles over acceptable fashion with battles over acceptable ideologies. Which, one would expect, is the natural way of things as we get older and we become concerned with the complexities of the world. Trouble is, our basic responses haven't evolved at all. Where we once ostracized the inter-clique rebels for questioning Johnny Cool's superiority, now we ostracize the rank & file members that dare to challenge the status quo. Allegiance to the ruling party, once Johnny Cool, now George Bush, is expected and enforced with a fervor. His detractors are called "traitors", his critics called "un-American". All for daring to exercise the rights guaranteed to us by our venerated Founding Fathers: the right to question one's own government. The hypocrisy of neo-conservatives in condemning criticisms of Bush while "bringing Democracy to the Middle East" is stark and undeniable. Except that Johnny Cool's gang learned the power of denial as group-think years ago, and they've become masters of the art.

Patriotism has been redefined by the GOP power brokers to mean rabid flag-waving and pious acceptance of any and all mutterings of our Boy King. From supporting the Iraqi invasion to calling "nuk-ya-ler" an "acceptable pronunciation", our measure of patriotism is now inversely related to our willingness to question Bush and his policies. The patriotism of our past -- critical assessment of policy, advocacy of the underrepresented, fighting the tyranny of the majority -- is now labeled as "liberal" and dismissed as political heresy. This is sandbox logic at its very worst. The playground mentality of bullies from our childhood, dressed up in three-piece suits and cloaked in the legitimacy of public office.

As if adopting these juvenile tactics isn't absurd enough, they've thrown in just enough fire & brimstone to intimidate the hold-outs that insist on a degree of philosophical freedom. Posturing by neo-conservatives aims to convince us that this is what America was always meant to be, shamelessly enlisting the aid of revisionist historians to explain that the Constitutional framers meant for this to be a Christian Nation. Therefore, proselytizing is a national imperative, for we are the Greatest Nation on Earth, empowered by The One True God. The rest of us heretics might not literally burned at the stake, here in 2005; instead, we're just smeared in the press. The priests of the Inquisition have been replaced by DeLay, Dobson and Rove, their foot solidiers replaced by O'Reilly, Limbaugh and Coulter. Their roles, however, are barely distinguishable from their predecessors, and the zeal with which they undertake their Mission From God…er Bush, is the same.

So where is our 21st century Voltaire? Is he roaming the halls of the blogosphere raging, as Maryscott O'Connor puts it, against the lying of the right? Or does he wander about the Hill in the guise of a progressive junior senator from Illinois? Maybe he's a crusty governor from Montana, reluctant to get embroiled in the shit of presidential politics. I don't know. Where ever he is, though, I wish he'd hurry the fuck up. 2008 is closer than we think.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Great quote...

For those of us endlessly frustrated with both parties:

One interesting view of the political process from a fiercely anti-Bush independent, a cranky retired scientist who once worked for the Defense Department:

"The Democrats make me ashamed to be an American.
The Republicans make me ashamed to be a human being."

Thanks to Kos.

As if I Needed Another Reason: Santorum on Birth Control

You know, I have yet to hear Santorum say anything redeeming. Consequently, my expectations of him are fairly low. Still, he manages to fall short of them.

Evidently birth control is harmful to women and harmful to America.

What a dolt.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Just saw a story on NBC's Nightly News about a great idea for cell phone users.

In the event that any of us, heaven forbid, are wheeled into an emergency room unconscious, ER personnel may not have any idea who to contact on your behalf.

Given how many of us carry cell phones, the idea is this:
Create an address book entry under the name of ICE (for In Case of Emergency) and progam in the number of your emergency contact person. This should be someone that can speak to your medical circumstances past & present, if possible.

It's something that we can do for ourselves that'll take only a few seconds, but could prove crucial during an unthinkable event.

What did you call me?

Ain't it a fine how do you do when some uber twit decides you're a traitor? Or, at best, unpatriotic? I come all over ashamed that any of these neanderthals might think me less patriotic than they when I mention my opposition to the war in Iraq. I mean, my sense of who I am, and my commitment to my country, is entirely dependent on their impression of me. Isn't it? So what do I do? How do I possibly respond to this reasoned assessment of my character, my values, and my standing as a loyal son of the Red, White, and Blue?

I don't. Fuck them. I don't have to defend my stance from the perspective of some myopic nationalism. I have my opinion, I have access to a medium that allows me to air it, and I have the determination to do so. Their opinion of my opinion, and the resulting classification, are things to which I am supremely indifferent. I make no defense, because I don't need one. A remark, I'm sure, that has Joseph McCarthy spinning in his grave. But, fuck him, too, and all his freaky little minions seeking to rehabilitate him from the grave. As if we didn't have enough paranoid power grabbers, who embodied what was wrong with the concept of the ends justifying the means, running around already.

I am an American. That's all anyone needs to know. I, along with all the other opinionated fruitcakes wandering the highways and byways, both cyber and real, of America were granted the right to say whatever the hell comes to mind whenever we like. Another of those pesky First Amendment caveats, don't you know. It doesn't require me to be accurate, fair, politically correct, informed, unbiased, or particularly astute. In point of fact, it doesn't require me to make a single drop of sense whatsoever. A right I wholeheartedly endorse, even for the fruitcakes that make me want to scream. And it for damned sure doesn't require that, in the time of war or any other time, I agree with a single solitary thing about my government.

It doesn't require that I open what I say with "I'm a loyal American", or "I served my country, but...", or "I am a member of the loyal opposition, and I think.." No, no, dear readers, there is not one single requirement that my speech be anything at all, except free. If that bothers you, or presents a problem for you in any way, maybe you should pack your shit and get the hell out.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Officious Pedant

Has been invited to contribute to these not-so-hallowed halls. He will entertain and shock in equal amounts, and while his style is stripped of niceties and political correctness, I predict you'll find a great deal of value in his contributions. Well, I do, anyway, so there.

A Pharmacist's Proposal

This comment, left by UndercoverRxer, was too good to be missed by those not inclined to read through the thread.

This commentary is from a legend in the field, a leader of the movement to move pharmacy from counting and pouring to helping patients achieve good treatment outcomes.

Solving ProblemsThrough Reasonable Processes

A middle ground exists between the positions of pharmaceutical ethics and religious morality. Conscientious objectors are not absolved of all professional responsibility by their moral beliefs. Suppose, by analogy, that a pharmacist is asked to refill a prescription for a Schedule II narcotic analgesic, which he cannot legally do. Although he may refuse to provide the medicine, he should do whatever he can to learn the patient's circumstances and to minimize the patient's suffering that results from his refusal. The situation should be no different for an ethical pharmacist when the law he is obeying is religious rather than legislated. Specifically, these options are open to pharmacists who object to the dispensing of emergency contraceptives:

1. Pharmacists absolutely opposed to contraception or abortion, or those who know exactly in what circumstances they would object, should accept two additional ethical obligations: avoid surprising a patient with a refusal to provide medication and ameliorate the consequences if it happens. Arrangements should include discussions with management and planning for referral (inside or outside the pharmacy). If an entire practice is opposed to dispensing certain medications, a notice to that effect should be posted in their place of practice. The intention to refuse should be communicated to local physicians. To wait silently and then pounce on an unsuspecting and often vulnerable patient appears to be avoidable and therefore unconscionable.

2. Pharmacists whose objection may be subject to fact, science, and ethical reason should accept responsibility for making sure of the facts,science, and ethics in each case, and consult with colleagues before acting. Again, they should accept responsibility for minimizing the insult, inconvenience, or injury caused by their refusal and should offer alternative means for the patient to obtain the medication. The immediate solution for a woman whose request for emergency contraception is refused should be to call Planned Parenthood at 1-800-230-PLAN. For a list of other providers, a patient should call the Emergency Contraception Hotline at 1-888-NOT-2-LATE or visit its Web site at

3. Pharmacy regulators should create procedures for review of conscientious refusals, and these should be similar to other kinds of professional regulation. Reviews can be initiated by the same kind of event as are other professional conduct reviews, such as a complaint from a patient or colleague. Conscientious objectors should assume that they may be asked to account for their actions and to describe how they balanced their consciences against the possibility that a patient might be injured by their conscientious refusal to provide medicine. Regulations should permit conscientious refusals but require that they be reasonable. Patients or family members should have a legal right to request a hearing (usually after the fact) that reviews the needs of the patient, professional responsibility, and professional accountability. Capricious and unreasonable refusals (in the fact or the manner of the refusal) should be treated as violations of professional ethics.

Some people may object that this proposal represents unreasonable or heavy-handed intrusion of state power into a pharmacists' private conscience. Pharmacists have chosen, however, to accept fiduciary duties and responsibilities that require a more exacting standard of conduct and review than would be appropriate for a private citizen. Framing the issue as opposing rights tends to subordinate or ignore the element of professional duty. That theory also seems to minimize the other duties owed by a conscientious refuser. This is unsafe for patients and could result in avoidable patient injury and coercive laws forbidding pharmacists such discretion.

The profession of pharmacy should ameliorate the unfair power struggle between a pharmacist who controls the drug product and a patient who needs it, usually within a short time, and who may be physically and psychologically vulnerable. In the political arena, by the way, the power balance could be the opposite. Then, as a recent New York Times editorial suggested, most people may favor access to prescriptions even at the expense of a pharmacist's right of conscientious objection.

Something Wicked This Way Comes


On July 25, a U.S. House of Representatives committee held a hearing on whether pharmacies should be allowed to refuse to fill women’s prescriptions. Anti-choice Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told a witness, who had been denied birth control and emergency contraception by her pharmacist, that she had no “right” to her prescriptions - she only believed she did. Anti-choice Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) told a witness whose prescription had also been rejected by a hostile pharmacist, that her “minor inconvenience” – that is, risking an unintended pregnancy – was nothing compared to the “conscience” of a pharmacist.

Thanks to MonteLukast

The Legislation of Morality

An open letter to religious fundamentalists.

Dear Bible Toting Fanatic,

While I appreciate the zeal with which you seek to protect my immortal soul, I would be much happier if you would do me the courtesy of letting me worry about it. I may, at some point, opt to sell it to Satan, assuming he has the money to option it. What with the money he's already laid out for televangelists, no few corporate executives, and the President, he may not be able to meet my asking price. No matter, that would still, in spite of your protestations to the contrary, be my fucking business, not yours.

You see, I am an adult human, and more than capable of reading whatever I like (knowing that Of Mice and Men isn't a manual for cursing and murder), watching whatever I like (having the intestinal fortitude to view a breast, regardless of age, without any long term trauma or impulse to commit rape), and listening to whatever I like (all the while knowing that I have only to flick my wrist a fraction of an inch to change the station). I do not request, nor require, that you absolve me of those weighty responsibilities by insuring that I am never faced with anything remotely resembling a choice.

Because choice, in my opinion, is central to the gifts bestowed on us by whatever version of the Creator most appeals to you. It is a key component to the concept of free will. And any excercise of that free will is directly in line with the Divine Will you claim to believe. Rest assured, if the choices I make are so contrary to that Divine Will, then I am absolutely confident that the Creator of the Universe will be sure to discuss that with me, at some length I'm sure.

Perhaps you could take a break from thinking up ways to make me bow to your will, and incorporating that into the laws of the land and the Constitution, and put that time to better use being the example your book demands of you. If that doesn't seem to be getting the job done, perhaps you could take a moment to think about what it is about your example that makes it so ineffective that it needs to be bolstered by legislation. In the end, your morality effectively stops at your door. The only person you can reasonably expect to control is yourself, with the remote possibility that you can extend that to your family and make it stick.

As it stands, I do not abdicate to you the authority to make moral decisions for me, my family, my community or my nation. I do not grant you the right to dictate anything to me, or for me. The only right I grant you (and everyone else) is the right to decide for yourself what is acceptable, for you, and to act accordingly. Don't like gay marriage? Don't marry someone of the same sex. Don't like abortion? Don't have one. Don't like drugs or alcohol? Don't imbibe. Appalled by pornography, or what passes for art, or the slop on TV? Don't fucking expose yourself to it. This is not a difficult concept, really. If it seems so, maybe you could by the companion volume for your Bible, commonly referred to as the US Constitution. You should pay particular attention to the First Amendment.


Devoted Pagan

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Centrist Blogs & The Big Red Button

One of the blogs I visit regularly is The Mighty Middle. In a recent series of posts (one, two, and three), Michael Reynolds wonders aloud whether the threat of nuking of Mecca would prove an effective (and final) deterrent to terrorism.

I love a great many things about Michael's style and substance, but I can't agree with him on this particularly "ghastly" subject. However, his arguments are far from flippant, and the resulting discussion is captivating.

The debate has spilled on to a number of centrist blogs, and while Michael's arguments are compelling and well-articulated, he's the black sheep amongst his peers. Check it out:

Alan at the Yellow Line starts it off with his reaction to Rep. Tancredo's recent comments and then responds to Michael.
Amba at
Ambivablog highlights.
Independent Sources gives a nod.
Joe Gandlemann points the way from The Moderate Voice.
as does Jonathan at The American Centrist.

The bulk of the argument appears to be happening at The Mighty Middle and at Yellow Line's original Tancredo post for those interested in the bloodletting.

Amba's at Ambivablog points out following comments by Richard Lawrence Cohen:

"Speak softly and carry a big stick." I don't recall that during the Cold War the US and the USSR, at times of crisis such as October, 1962, made a practice of publicly threatening to annihilate each other. In fact government officials tried to downplay the possibility in public. Yet everyone knew it could be done and might be done. That was the deterrent -- not noisy threats. In contrast, the Bush administration and its suporters have made a practice of speaking loudly and using a small stick (e.g. boasting of "shock and awe" but not providing enough troops, enough armor), or the wrong stick (e.g. attacking a country that wasn't a credible threat, based on concocted evidence). The threat to nuke Mecca belongs to this pattern. It sounds desperate and shrill, an emotional acting-out rather than a reasoned policy. Therefore it is actually not a powerful threat, and is likely to arouse an equally desperate and shrill response.

Besides, everyone already knows we can nuke the entire Arab world if it comes to that.

Having said this, I also want to say that I understand and share the frustrations of the people who are supporting the threat. I especially share their frustration at their liberal opponents. Throughout this crisis, beginning 9/11, the left-wing position has seemed to amount to doing nothing, to replying to terror with gentle compassion and tolerance. This allows the left to take the moral high ground in debates. It's a very attractive stance, undoubtedly gratifying to those who take it. But it is completely, absolutely useless. It would be suicidal for an entire society to take that position. Until the left states a pragmatic, effective way of defeating terrorism, the center will be drawn to the right."

Despite my distaste for the closing characterization of the "left wing" and their supposed response to terrorism, I'm with Amba. This is probably one of the more astute comments made throughout the evening.

Birth Control, Abortion and Fundamentalists, Oh My!

7/27 - Update: I came across this today, at Prochoice Action
On July 25, a U.S. House of Representatives committee held a hearing on whether pharmacies should be allowed to refuse to fill women’s prescriptions. Anti-choice Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told a witness, who had been denied birth control and emergency contraception by her pharmacist, that she had no “right” to her prescriptions - she only believed she did. Anti-choice Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) told a witness whose prescription had also been rejected by a hostile pharmacist, that her “minor inconvenience” – that is, risking an unintended pregnancy – was nothing compared to the “conscience” of a pharmacist.

(This is the first in a series of entries about my impressions of the radical right and their positions on reproductive rights. I don't claim to offer any new and stunning insight on the issues at hand, but feel compelled to comment on them in my usual cranky fashion.)

On Birth Control:

When the radical right's opposition to Roe v Wade hinges on the presumption that life begins at conception, their efforts are unlikely to stop at simply overturning Roe. The ultimate goal, by logical extension, will be a ban of all hormonal birth control.

The argument is that hormonal birth control hinders the uterus lining from adequate development. In the event an egg is released and fertilized, it will be unable to implant properly. This "interruption" would qualify as a thwarting of conception, and fall, therefore, well within the parameters fundamentalists say envelops and justifies their opposition to Roe v Wade.

(Note: There is debate over whether or not the prevention of implantation is actually caused by hormonal birth control. Manufacturers claim is does, while scientists assert there's no evidence to support the claim, and that in reality, hormonal birth control suppresses ovulation. While it's a germane point to a discussion of drug efficacy, it isn't particularly relevant to those opposing its use, and therefore, is not terribly relevant to this, a principally political discussion).

While I wouldn't ordinarily ascribe a great deal of logical or philosophical consistency to the radical right, there are plenty in their numbers sharp enough to follow the path to which their position leads. After all, being as fond as they are of "moral absolutes", they can't reasonably argue that defeating conception in one instance is "an abomination", but is acceptable in another. Consequently, opposing abortion, while ratifying hormonal birth control, in the end, is the same kind of "moral relativism" the left is regularly derided for.

In support of this prediction, I invite you to look at the recent controversy regarding "conscious clauses" and the refusal of pharmacists to dispense birth control prescriptions. This is an issue that the radical right can easily rally behind, on the grounds that pharmacists shouldn't have to "surrender their beliefs" in the course of their employment. Yet the tactic is grotesquely short-sighted, and demonstrates how little the fire & brimstone crowd understands about hormonal birth control and why it's used.

"What's more, oral contraceptives aren't only used to prevent pregnancy. The Pill may cut the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 80 percent and is used by women at high genetic risk for this hard-to-detect and usually fatal cancer. "There are easily more than 20 noncontraceptive uses for the Pill in common practice," says Giovannina Anthony, MD, an attending physician of obstetrics and gynecology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "This drug saves women from surgery for gynecological conditions like endometriosis, fibroids, and severe bleeding and pain."

These noncontraceptive uses are nothing to scoff at. Anyone suggesting otherwise is, well, a moron.
"'The pill' does far more than prevent pregnancy. For years physicians have prescribed birth control pills to regulate heavy or irregular menstrual periods, to treat ovarian cysts, to decrease menstrual cramps or PMS, to increase appetite in underweight women and to reduce acne. We also know there are many other benefits to taking the pill. These include decreasing the risk of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancer decreasing the risk of osteoporosis."

Evidently, these uses are trivial to the radical right and like-minded pharmacists, and I expect they'll claim that the percentage of women engaging in noncontraceptive use is below statistically significant levels. However, given that some 12 million women are reported to be on the pill, I would take any such claim with a grain of salt. Should any of you find hard data on this, please share in your comments.

I suspect that one of the reasons we hear very little outcry from the general public regarding pharmacist refusals is little more than political correctness gone astray. We’re so indoctrinated now to avoid calling someone out on nonsense when it’s shrouded in religious beliefs that we look the other way in cases like these.

However, some simple logical questions must be asked of those defending the “rights” of these refusing pharmacists.
  • If a person’s religious beliefs prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities of their chosen profession, should they not, instead, reconsider their vocational choice? We don’t see too many Buddhist pest exterminators, Hindu butchers, or Quakers in the military, do we? In the rare event there are, wouldn’t we consider them a bit ridiculous for standing unyieldingly on religious principle and refusing to perform their basic duties? After all, they knew perfectly well what their vocations would demand, but chose to deprioritize religious principles in favor of professional obligation anyway.
  • If I were a pacifist, it would make little sense for me to work at a gun shop. Furthermore, I’d have a very difficult time justifying my refusal to sell guns to the shop owner, wouldn’t I? My insistence that I can still sell flak jackets and canteens would do little to prove how useful I could be with “anything but guns”. Undoubtedly, his first question would be “Why the hell did you apply for a job HERE?!?”, and the shop owner’s befuddlement would certainly be justified.
  • Should a pharmacist’s religious convictions be so strong, why wouldn’t they surface during the exhaustive training required for state certification? And if they do, what does he say to himself, “I’ll deal with that later”? At best, this is a childish evasion of inevitability and one that speaks to a fairly myopic view of his future career.
By the time he is in the employ of a pharmacy, it is simply too late. At least in principle, he has entered into a contract with his employer to serve the local community, and in so agreeing, surrenders his right to arbitarily discriminate against individuals and their medical needs for purely personal reasons. Not only is it beyond his capacity as an employee to pick and choose which clients he will service and which he will refuse, but it is completely outside his professional capacity to presume to diagnose appropriateness in a glance, and refuse to fill a woman’s prescription because he believes he knows better than her or her physician. Companies like Wal-Mart that allow “conscience clauses” in their hiring agreements, I believe, are doing little more than serving their best PR interests. To parlay such a stance into “support for their employees’ religious views” is, at best, overstating the significance.

The arrogance of pharmacists that refuse to honor birth control prescriptions is a breach of professional etiquette and ethics, and simply a repugnant thing to do as a human being supposedly in the business of caring for others.

It is, however, what the radical right would love to see increasing number of health providers do, and as such, they will continue to support “conscience clauses” with glee. I won't be the least bit surprised when they use the refusals of pharmacists as leverage to pressure doctors and nurses to refrain from prescribing altogether. When health care providers yield to this pressure (at the risk of losing business), the radical right will add the capitulation to their legislative arsenal and make their demands of Congress:
“See? Even health professionals recognize that hormonal birth control is WRONG. If the experts are joining the chorus of your constituents, then you must submit to the will of the people, and acknowledge that birth control is an affront to our morals and principles! We therefore, seek a ban of its dispensation in toto. The reversal of Roe v Wade has opened the door for legal protection of all pre-born life, and it therefore cannot be undermined by allowing further prescription of hormonal birth control.”

I’d really like to be wrong about this, and know that I’ll be met with accusations of “liberal hysterics”. So be it. But when Frist and DeLay can insist that the Terri Shiavo matter become a federal case, when Rick Santorum can claim that working mothers are greedy, and when the radical right can garner support for stopping just short of criminalizing homosexuality, can you really blame me for my skepticism?

(cross posted, for those interested in any resulting parallel discussion)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Random Kvetching

Tonight my brain is saturated with Rovegate, Mr. Roberts Goes to Washington, What the Hell is Wrong with the Democrats, and Modern Myths: Elves, Unicorns and Compassionate Conservatives. I need a break. New posts are pending some rather time-consuming research, so you'll humor me while I procrastinate just a bit longer. In the meantime, in a fit of resplendent self-indulgence, I'm starting this new column, which will be the home for all the nonsense that irritates, exasperates and annoys (though clearly, "redundancy" should top the list, no?) I'll update as the need arises (which, damnit, it does nearly every day), so check back often if this sort of thing gives you some kind of vicarious thrill. Otherwise, move along, and go read something meaningful (my tiny collection of links should keep you busy for days).

  • Today, I actually heard (well, read) someone say that "nuk-ya-ler" is a "permissible pronunciation" now. Can you believe it? As if Bush's habitual slaughter of the word is now enough to cloak it in legitimacy. What's next? "Birfday"? "Pasketti"? "Bidness"? Good grief!! And we wonder why we have a literacy problem in this country…
  • Goddamn tourists. I live in one of those small towns easily accessible by, and catering to, summer vacationers. Now, the value of their impact on the local economy is not beyond me, and I do appreciate their business. And, having spent nearly all of my life in Los Angeles, I know how hard it is to down-shift at the end of the week and r..e..l..a..x. However, this does not entitle them to come galloping into my sleepy little hamlet and tailgate, cut-off, rush around and generally frustrate the locals. So, if YOU happen to be one of those city dwellers that escapes on the weekends, PLEASE. Chill the fuck out. You're annoying the natives. Be nice or we'll price-gouge yer asses.
  • Is that crank-up-the-volume for commercial spots REALLY an effective tactic? I mean, seriously. If I'm watching Banal Show #342 one evening, at a comfortable "5" on my TV volume, am I to believe that ROI is significantly enhanced when commercials come blaring in at "10"???
  • Why, in the name of everything holy, do we give a rat's ass about Jessica Simpson? Or Linsday Lohan? Or Nicole Richie? I am SO up to here with being force-fed these teenagers as if they represent some kind of Ideal American Woman. Want to impress me? Bring back Maude. I loved her. How about Tyne Daly a la "Judging Amy"? Another stellar creature. Katherine Hepburn. Anne Bancroft (and a dozen more). Goddesses of the silver/TV screen. These are REAL women. But no. Instead we get vacant little babes with tits by Dow, hips by Buchenwald, and as much to contribute to American culture as Amish butt plugs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Selling Science and Snatching Stats

Was there a time when scientists and researchers had an ethical obligation to seek facts, weigh them in the context of a known body of knowledge (that they've committed themselves to the study of) and work toward objective conclusions? Conclusions that, depending on their altruistic leanings, were often intended by their contributors to be of benefit to society, to enrich its fabric? I cringe when I hear politicians and glorified lobbyists evoke the credibility of the "scientific community" to promote their brand of ideology in a can. We no longer know who comprises this amorphous collective of experts. We no longer know to what standards, academically or ethically- these folks subscribe. This comes down to the simple problem that there is no longer an "Authority". When accountability leaves the building, authority runs out the back door.
When we hear someone cite studies and snatch stats, we have no idea where they are coming from, and chances are now they are coming from individuals who are being funded to say exactly-supposedly in conclusion- what they have been funded to say before their "objective" inquiry's toddlerhood. Want somebody in a white coat to claim the moon is a triangle, someone out there will do so. Its information for sale. Policy no longer responds to the needs of the governed, we no longer respond to information. We twist information to work for us. We lie to make a policy sound beneficial.
That's the way of "science" now. "Science" is being hijacked to support everything from reproductive health myths to debunking global warming. Any time some fool wants to justify support for the unthinkable, or the unnecessary, they can point to "science" and these propaganda spinning think tanks get to task. Essentially, this is "Science for hire". Research whores that are willing to hide their names behind an "entity" or "institute". There is no "Authority" because nobody is held accountable for what they do or say. Research with fries and a soda. Authority is gone, we cannot trust anyone with our interests anymore. That is the real troubling issue at hand. When "knowledge" is suspect-from labs to academia, from regulators to inspectors, from the media to the local supermarket.... how does the average American make time to learn truth while their tax money pays the salaries of those that should? (I can tell you a story about a meeting with an energy rep on ANWR where he did not know an elk from a caribou, and claimed the warmth from the pipelines helped the animals breed. Do you know what you pay him per year?)
Now even things that are basic to Americans like food and medical care fall into this discussion. Did the FDA independently and objectively determine that parents do not need to know about possible side effects from added hormones in almost all milk (BGH) or does Monsanto determine what is best for my child? Does the EPA determine what is best for my family, or do the power and utility companies, the chemical plants, the shameless polluters? Does your doctor behave as an "authority" you can trust when he/she receives incentives to prescribe questionable drugs, or limit your care for kickbacks received to "keep down costs"? Vioxx, anyone?
My friends, it was only a matter of time before the neo-cons stopped hating scientists for debunking their stories and decided instead to wine and dine them into bed. Our government has been using the ruse of science for years to support bad policy and misguided environmental stewardship. OF COURSE they will now find scienstists to say that abortion causes cancer, lesbians get osteoporosis, atheists are more likely to have a third cousin with a webbed toe.
I'm waiting for a study that reading books, going to college, or writing BLOGS causes nymphomania......

Monday, July 18, 2005

Unf*ingbelievable: Abortion & Breast Cancer

I'm working on a post regarding reproductive rights, fundamentalists and politics, which I'll post shortly. In the meantime, however, I wanted to bring to your collective attention some of the most insidious crap I've ever seen from these blowhards.

It's one thing to be devout to the point of political cluelessness, it's another thing altogether to incite your followers with sickening, contemptible bullshit.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

General disclaimer

Regarding the content to follow in coming days/weeks/months --

You'll hear me rail at length about the "radical right", "fundamentalist Christians", and "evangelicals". Anyone wishing to debate the parsing of these terms is welcome to do so, but I freely admit I use them all interchangeably. This may be a wide brush, but I can live with that for the time being.

Despite my strong language, the point of this blog is not necessarily anti-Christian. I use the language I do rather than weild the broader strokes of "GOP" or "Republican", because that degree of generalizing would be unfair. I regularly hear from a number of intelligent, rational Republicans, and out of respect for them and their opinions, I'd rather not lump them all together with the fucknuts I hold responsible for many of our political ills.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, July 15, 2005


For what reason, I'm not sure, I posted my "On Persecution" rant over at Daily Kos. In the unlikely event that'll even get read (there are 200+ new diaries per day), I thought it would be interesting to see what, if any, feedback the more seasoned bloggers have to offer.
So far, the response has been generally positive....


Has been invited to add her rather rousing contributions to this fledgling blog, after impressing me soundly in private email correspondence. Hers will be another frank and deliberate voice that I trust you'll enjoy as much as I do.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

There's this rock, see...

Deanne Stillman's got an interesting piece over on Alternet discussing the cozy, but underreported, relationship between Born-Agains & Israel.

A certain love affair has been playing out on the international stage. Because love affairs do not get covered unless celebrities are involved, this one has gone mostly unnoticed.

It involves two nations: Israel and the diehard community of born-again Christians, the two redheaded stepchildren of bodies politic. Generally, they get covered in the mainstream press when they're in trouble (an attack on Israel) or causing it (the right-to-life movement). Unbeknownst to many outside the evangelical population and the Israeli tourist industry, Israelis and born-again Christians-not all, but those who believe in the literal Second Coming of Christ-have been tangoing across the flaming desert sands since shortly after the inception of the Jewish state in 1948.
Worth a read for those interested in deconstructing Bush & his End-Times Gang.

Marriage vs Civil Union

While I appreciate the compromise intended by advocates of civil unions, there seems to be some misconception about just what civil unions provide, and more importantly, their suitability as a substitute for marriage.

Here's a few links to get you up to speed:

  • Your Family, Friends and Neighbors has a nice starter summary.
  • GLAD details the major differences in this pdf.
  • And Scott Bidstrup presents a good essay debunking the opposition.

My trouble with civil unions, aside from the significant legal differences, is their inherent "separate but equal" nature. The legitimacy of this concept was challenged in the 50s and 60s, and finally laid to rest (or so I thought) with the Brown vs. Board of Eduction ruling in 1954.

Now, however, in an a presumably honorable attempt to satisfy both advocates and opponents of gay marriage, "separate but equal" is being offered up again. I don't doubt the sincerity of the would-be peacemakers in this debate, but I do have to question their familiarity with history.

Yes, I realize that for some, "a little" might be better than "none" given the current political climate, and that taking an absolutist position against other absolutists is apt to be an exercise in futility.

Nevertheless, compromise on issues like this do little more than sanction the attempts of fundamentalists to relegate the GLBT community to second-class citizenry. And this, in the end, is simply intolerable in a nation that supposedly reveres equality and diversity.

Editor's note: By the way -- I'm just getting started on this topic. I'll try and label posts plainly so you know what to expect, and can pass them up if this isn't one of your personal pet peeves. But don't think for a minute that this is all I have to say on the subject.

Bush's "Honesty"

Michael Reynolds has posted a must-read on Bush's waning credibility. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I know, I know... Like the world needs another blog...

So why throw my hat in the ring?

Good question.

There are certainly enough political pundits in the 'sphere as it is. Compared to the better ones, I'm way out of my depth and don't pretend otherwise. However, this does not preclude me from opening my trap and weighing in on this & that, so..... here I am.

I won't promise to be wittier-than-thou, or even terribly entertaining. This is, mostly, a narcissistic exercise, and I'll thank you for humoring me.

I will promise to have at least a small inkling of what I'm talking about, and to be as annoyingly frank as I've long been to friends and family. Seeing as how I've yet to be disowned by any of them, chances are good I won't totally alienate you either.

What exactly are my hot-buttons, you ask?

*The hijacking of the GOP by the religious right
*Creationism/"Intelligent Design"
*"Liberal" as pejorative
*GLBT civil rights

There. So now you know what I'm apt to yammer on about on any given day.

I'm decidedly left of center, but have no love of the Democratic party -- not for a failing of their ideals, but for their ineptitude of execution. I don't necessarily loathe Republicans either, lest you assume to the contrary. Instead, I'm torn between wondering where the hell all of the "moderates" are, and feeling as if the left has been bending over and compromising on too many things for far too long.

In the end, I'm an "independent", though it feels more akin to homelessness than liberation.

Existential political angst? What the hell. A rose by any other name….

Welcome. Enjoy. Or not.

Updated: I'm aghast that I left Reproductive Rights off my list above. See what happens when you post too close to bedtime?

On Christian "Persecution"

I can't resist commenting on the notion that Christians are the victims of wholly unprovoked bashing/criticism/prejudice. Every time I hear the claim, I'm amazed at the incredulity expressed. The "bashing" going on, here in 2005, is simple backlash.

While conservative Christians regularly complain about activism and "social engineering" attempts on the part of "liberals", the claim is hypocrisy at its finest. It's not as if members of the radical right have been quietly and piously going about their lives and ways of worship for the last couple of decades. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The Holly Roller Top 10

  1. I recall, with vivid clarity, hearing the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, The Traditional Values Coaltion, et al, condemn all but their own members on a regular basis. Or the multiple episodes of Pentecostal histrionics and assorted televangelists screaming across the airwaves that all non-believers are destined for damnation. There was nothing welcoming or comforting about this "ministering". It was insulting, patronizing, and completely demoralizing. Interesting how several of these televangelists were later caught engaging in decidedly non-Christian pursuits (the lewd, lascivious and licentious).
  2. I remember suits & complaints brought by conservative Christian groups (and a generous splash of Tipper Gore) against musicians -- from John Denver to Judas Priest -- for the lyrical content of their recordings. I've watched conservative Christian groups repeatedly try to ban books like "Of Mice and Men", To Kill a Mockingbird", "Fahrenheit 451", "The Martian Chronicles", "Brave New World", "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Catcher in the Rye" (though the complete list is seemingly endless). All the while steadfastly clinging to their right to first Amendment protections.
  3. I've listened to these groups and their followers lobby, sometimes successfully, for the inclusion of creationism in science classes, despite the near universal opposition of educators and scientists. I find it particularly amusing that the folks insisting that global warming theories are "junk science" are very often the same people that have no trouble at all with the junk science of creationism
  4. I've watched these same organizations vehemently demand "abstinence only" education (at the expense of all other forms of safe-sex ed), while the rates of teen STD infection continues to rise. Some of the especially laughable have gone so far as to insist that condoms are virtually useless for controlling the spread of HIV, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
  5. I've listened to these leaders accuse artists, musicians, health-care providers, liberals, environmentalists, social activists, movie producers/writers, even Disney, of being evil, of being irretrievably corrupt, of being "Tools of Satan", no less.All for the sin of a tolerant world view.
  6. I've watched Christian organizations fly into an absolute panic and organize protest over films like "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "Dogma" because they simply can't bear the commercial display of alternative views. The histrionics over the "Harry Potter" series of books is an amusing low point in their activist history.
  7. I've watched these organizations oust hard working, dedicated teachers from schools for being gay/lesbian or professing Wiccan/Neo-Pagan beliefs, despite the total absence of effect these persuasions have on their teaching or their students.
  8. I've been personally confronted in my youth, as a private individual and as an employee, by Christians claiming that my interest in metaphysical studies and eastern philosophies is an "affront to God", that I'm "worshipping the devil", that I'm "going to hell" and that I'm "bringing evil into the community".Why? For the egregious sins of wearing an occasional goddess pendant and working in metaphysical bookstores.
  9. I've seen self-professed Christians harass health care workers, bomb clinics and murder doctors.I've seen these people descend upon funerals of gays and lesbians, carrying signs that say "Got Hates Fags" and similar contemptible statements. 'Cause "God said homosexuality is an abomination", of course. Never mind the shellfish/mixed fiber/pig skin/Sabbath stuff, though.That’s antiquated, after all.
  10. And I've heard Pat Robertson, for instance, assert very plainly, that he and his Evangelical ilk want control over the U.S. government. Not a "role", not a "significant presence", not a "voice", but control over. On the whole, the most vociferous fundamentalists are a particularly scary group, seeking to create Bible-based local and federal policy on the grounds that they are mandated by God to do so. All the while sneering at the theocratic governments of the Middle East.
These examples are few, sadly, among hundreds. Some days I'm tempted to compile the "ultimate" list, but don't out of the fear of not being able to keep the despair off of my face and crushing my son's innocent optimism about life in the process.

These Thumpers assure me it's not a crusade. They assure me that they're actually quite tolerant of other beliefs, religions or perspectives. They assure me that they have no intention of shaping this country into a theocracy, provided we just quit bitching and let them legislate this bit of Scripture or that Commandment. After all, it's not as if their behavior has done anything but support these assurances, right? It's all about the acts, don't you know.

As to the typical rebuttals --
Naturally, not all Christians are like this. Of course, not all liberals are like Michael Moore either, but that doesn't stop them from being painted with the same brush, now does it? And certainly, there are plenty of Christians that have objections to the things above. Sadly, though, we don't hear from them very much. Instead, the majority of them appear to remain silent. And silence, no matter the reason, is tacit endorsement. Dress it up however you like, but that's how it looks from the outside.

That leaves us non-Christians to conclude what, other than that these views and actions are condoned by most Christians? That those in opposition are the exception, not the rule? Are Christians honestly surprised that they are, therefore, viewed by some as politically suspect? That they'd be able to engage in these behaviors with impunity? Please. You can't behave like a zealot and then feign shock when you're treated like a fanatic.

So, when Christians lament at being "persecuted", I'm honestly flabbergasted. I have to assume that they are a.) revisionist historians, b.) tragically naive or c.) firmly entrenched in denial, since there are ample recent (to say nothing of historical) occasions in which Christian organizations and individuals have been the persecutors.

I don't expect them to reverse their positions or stop doing any of the above.

I do wish, however, that they'd quit the rather juvenile whining about the reactions that follow.

You play, you pay. Either deal with it, or shut the fuck up.

(For similar sentiment, check out Frameshop's brilliant post on the topic.)