Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Billmon on Katrina

As usual, he gets it like few others do.

Now that the worst has happened, many pundits, particularly on the left, are pointing to the budget cuts that have hamstrung the Army Corps of Engineers in its endless battle of New Orleans: "The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars."

That's all true -- and it's always worth reminding people of the lunatic fiscal priorities of the Cheney administration and its supporters in the congressional pork chop caucus. But the bigger story behind the drowning of New Orleans is what it reveals about the longer-term consequences of America's lunatic environmental priorities. For nearly 160 years, private industry and governments alike have been chopping and channeling the Mississippi and its tributaries -- turning rivers into drainage ditches, riverbanks into Maginot Line-style fortifications, and wetlands into factory farms. This has created the same self-defeating spiral that doomed New Orleans -- the rivers rise, the riverbanks sink, forcing the levees higher and higher, until some of them are now as tall as four-story buildings.

The real lesson of Katrina, though, is that the scenes we've been watching in New Orleans could be repeated in many other places in the decades ahead, if the worst-case scenarios generated by the global climate change models become realities.

It's easy, even for reasonable people, to disregard those scenarios. The worst case, after all, doesn't usually happen. But the flooding of New Orleans, like the destruction of Pompeii, is a graphic demonstration of the fact that sometimes the worst case (or something like it) does happen, especially when it is preceded by years of willful ignorance and blind self interest.

If the worst case for global climate change comes to pass, the environmental and economic losses will dwarf, many times over, the costs of Hurricane Katrina. They'll also reduce into insignificance the price tag on the Kyoto Treaty -- which itself may be too little, too late. If Shrub really thinks that doing something about climate change would "wreck the economy," he should spend some of his unused vacation time thinking about what just happened to New Orleans.

Horror and Blame [Updated]

Discussions throughout the blogosphere (and increasingly in the MSM) focus on these two things, and interspersed throughout are suggestions that we "shouldn't make this political - yet". While I understand the propriety and urgency of focusing our energies on rescuing survivors and stabilizing the affected areas, I strongly disagree with the plea to save our criticisms for a more palatable time.

Part of our basic coping mechanisms include creating a psychological distance from tragedy. For those of us not on the Gulf coast, this can be accomplished by a few hours away from the news (and closing our eyes at the gas pump). Trouble is, this distance is invariably accompanied by a selective amnesia. After all, who honestly wants to go to sleep tonight shuffling through images of distraught survivors, obliterated towns and floating corpses? However, in the reach for some degree of peace in the aftermath, we cannot forget that the damage to New Orleans could have been mitigated.

Funding for the Iraqi invasion did not fall from the sky. Money has been diverted from countless federal programs, including COE levee repair and flood control projects in and around New Orleans. The Louisiana press has been highly vocal throughout the last 18 months over their critically underfunded SELA efforts, but it was not until now that this shortfall has come to national attention.

[Update: DWCG has done the homework on researching these funding cuts, bless him. For background material, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Alternatively, for a good summary, and useful links out to more coverage, see Hunter's diary here.]

In the jingoistic zeal to greenlight the building of G.W.'s Islamic Republic, the Bush administration and its Congressional supporters have redirected billions from critical domestic programs across the board. I shudder to think what else is withering as we speak, and getting little to no attention outside of the tiny local papers that follow the funding blackouts.

I don't want people to forget in the coming weeks that some of the horrific damage from Katrina could have been prevented. I want the people that voted for Bush and his war to know that they are the unwitting accomplices in the destruction of one of the most magnificent cities on earth. I want them to take this to heart when it's the most uncomfortable, the most difficult and consequently, the most memorable.

We can blame and vilify Bush for the next hundred years, but he is not a squatter in the White House. 51% of the voting public sent him there. The twin disasters of Iraq and Katrina are their reckoning.

Sweet dreams.

Scary Business: Gulf Coast Oil

You know, with the way rumors fly across the internet, it's hard to know when to lend credibility and when to withhold it.

I'm in no position to vet any of this, but thought it worthy of attention anyway.

First, Stand Strong's diary at dKos describes the devastation to Gulf Coast oil rigs, with AFP reporting 20 rigs missing.

Following links out from this diary brings us to word from an "oil industry insider" that paints a very grim picture of what's going on (and not being reported - yet).

In short, the Gulf area hit by the storm is basically in about the same shape as Biloxi. The damage numbers you have gotten from the government and analysts are, in my opinion, much too low. We are looking at YEARS to return to the production levels we had prior to the storm. The eastern Gulf of Mexico is primarily oil production...

The "insider" points to this article, so I presume these are the "numbers" referred to are here. Some of the grisly highlights:

- Hurricane Katrina smashes "Energy Alley," a concentrated area of oil production in Gulf of Mexico that supplies about 35% of America's domestic oil.

- White House says oil will get cheaper, but makes hush-hush plans to increase the Strategic Petroleum Reserve by 42% to ONE BILLION barrels of crude. Why are they so eager to add to the SPR when oil prices are high?

- Saudis reveal they won't be able to meet oil demand – first time EVER they've admitted the awful truth.

Hyperbole aside, this article raises some pointed questions that I'd like to see answered. Not holding my breath, but if anyone can shed any light on this, I'd appreciate it.

Director of FDA's Office of Women's Health Resigns

From today's NYT:

"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," wrote Wood, who also was assistant commissioner for women's health. "The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health."

Scroll down memory lane...

Now I have not independently verified all of these, and am guilty of sloppy snarking, but... these are reactions collected in response to Clinton's actions concerning Bosnia. I just had to share them, they speak for themselves of course. Oi.

"You can support the troops but not the president."
       ---Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
      ---Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is."
       ---Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost.  And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
       ---Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy."
       ---Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."
---Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush

"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area."
       ---Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"
       ---Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

Katrina's Real Name

The Boston Globe calls a spade a spade:

The hurricane that struck Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.

When the year began with a 2-foot snowfall in Los Angeles, the cause was global warming.

When winds of 124 miles an hour shut down nuclear plants in Scandinavia and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland and Britain, the driver was global warming.

When a severe drought in the Midwest dropped water levels in the Missouri River to their lowest on record earlier this summer, the reason was global warming.

In July, when the worst drought on record triggered wildfires in Spain and Portugal and left water levels in France at their lowest in 30 years, the explanation was global warming.

When a lethal heat wave in Arizona killed more than 20 people in one week, the culprit was global warming.

And when the Indian city of Mumbai received 37 inches of rain in one day - killing 1,000 people and disrupting the lives of 20 million others - the villain was global warming.

As the atmosphere warms, it generates longer droughts, more intense downpours, more frequent heat waves, and more severe storms.

Although Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced off southern Florida, it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity by the high sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

The consequences are as heartbreaking as they are terrifying.

Unfortunately, few people in America know the real name of Hurricane Katrina because the coal and oil industries have spent millions of dollars to keep the public in doubt about the issue.

The reason is simple: To allow the climate to stabilize requires humanity to cut its use of coal and oil by 70 percent. That, of course, threatens the survival of one of the largest commercial enterprises in history.

Catch the whole thing. Perspective, people. Perspective.

'Nuff Said

Big Talk from Small Men

William Rivers Pitt "Here's the Funny Part"

Article Here
Summary: "George W. Bush coughed up his latest rationale for
continuing the Iraq war - I think this is the fourth or
fifth one of these to this point - by saying that
because so many American soldiers have been killed, we have
to keep sending American soldiers to get killed as a
means of honoring the American soldiers who have been
killed. William Rivers Pitt says this is big talk from
a guy who spends more time on vacation than a French

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Say your prayers tonight for this man and the thousands like him (even if you're an atheist.)

No matter how little you can spare, donate to Hurricane Relief. Scrap your weekend plans for this month and send your money to the Gulf coast. They need it more than you do.

And give blood. There are ALWAYS shortages. It'll be even worse now.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Too Many Topics, Too Little Sleep

I've not the energy to offer up synopses on the things I'm reading tonight, at least not the kind that would do them justice.

So, just trust me. There's stuff here you'll want to see:

  • The Rude Pundit on Iraq's Constitution
  • The Raw Story on FBI's Peace Activism = Terrorism
  • Abstinence strikes again (Reuters)
  • Update on Bunnatine Greenhouse (LA Times)
  • BushCo Assault on National Parks (LA Times via Yahoo)
  • Paul Weyrich (former Bush sycophant) devising a split from the GOP?

That should keep you busy for a little while. I'm going to bed. 'Night, all.

No Reply [Updated]

Since this entry was originally published, I've received two replies from one of the site administrators. The thread is below:

Thank you for your email, and sorry it took so long to get back to you - we were on vacation.

The paper you site is from Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading abortion provided -- and a biased partisan toward unrestricted abortions. What they fail to state is the obvious: abortions cannot be prevented in any state simply do to the fact that there is a "woman's health" exemption - and mental health (for any reason) is included. The laws they illustrate are merely minor "restrictions.

To which I replied:
I appreciate your reply, thank you.

However, I must say - the data in the chart compiled can be found anywhere. All one needs to do is look up the various restrictions currently on the books in each state. To quibble over the source, here, I think is little more than a red herring.

Further, I think that if your point below is to criticize a health exception, then those are the words most appropriate to use. The existing statement on your site is entirely misleading, and creates the impression that a healthy woman can walk in, healthy late-term fetus intact, and have it aborted. This is not the case. And if education is your sincere goal, then accuracy ought to be your watchword, not your argumentative foil.

Again, hyperbole is beneath you. It may appeal to the converted, but it will do little to impress the millions of moderate Americans who clearly abhor abortion but are decidedly "on the fence" about increasing restrictions.

Of course, your reply begs the question -- in the event a woman's health *is* threatened by her pregnancy, are you advocating that she should be completely denied the option to abort? Are you endorsing the view that a dead mother is preferable to a dead fetus?

I look forward to your response.

To which he replied:
We clarified the statement by adding the “mental health exception.” Per your question about the health of mother exception, scores of health experts (including Dr. Koop) have stated that there are not clear cases whereby a woman must choose between her own existence and her unborn child. This myth, however, is persistently delivered by pro-abortionists as a propaganda tool. The only clear exception to this is an ectopic pregnancy, whereby the baby has no chance for survival, and the mother has a good chance of dying if the fetus is not removed.

Thanks for taking the time to review our sections, and please stay in touch.

I give him credit where it's due for amending the page, but am disappointed that he accuses pro-choice advocates of propaganda while citing Dr. Koop (who is well known for his bias on the topic), and disregarding out of hand the highly relevant quality-of-life problems his absolutism ignores.

While I'm tempted reply and document the instances (outside of ectopic pregnancy) in which continued gestation can threaten the health of the mother, I realize I'm simply not dealing with a receptive audience. Further, to continue the debate would likely turn an otherwise civil exchange ugly, and I'm just not inclined.

Nevertheless, in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to let you all know how this finally turned out. Make of it what you will.

Original diary:

In researching for past & future entries, I paid a visit to They're a heavily Google-bombed pro-life site. Their "Abortion Statistics" page lists a comprehensive set of numbers compiled by the CDC and the Allan Guttmacher Institute, both of which are the primary trackers of abortion rates and demographics in the country.

All of the stats listed were cited to their original studies, save but one. It is this one stat that I wrote to their contributors about. That email is below:
I notice that all of you carefully cite the source studies for all of your published statistics, all save for this one: "Abortion is legal in the USA at any time throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy... FOR ANY REASON."

A cursory examination of state laws shows that this is simply not the case. Researching this claim's accuracy requires on the order of roughly 30 seconds, so anyone curious can easily discover that this is a serious misrepresentation of existing law. (Here's one of several comparison charts of state laws, for your reference:

That you have omitted any kind of citation for this "fact" makes it suspicious on the face, but in light of your staff claims that education is your primary goal, this overt attempt at hyperbole damages your overall credibility significantly.

Before you dismiss this message or its author as just another flame email from a rabid "pro-abortionist", let me assure you this is not the case. Regardless, my personal political motivations are irrelevant to the accuracy of the data you have published on your site.

Having said that, I don't have any objection to your agenda or any argument with your otherwise straightforward methods. That you contribute to the discussion over abortion is your right and personally, I welcome the input. However, in the interest of honest debate and legitimate discussion -- the kind that yields real progress in this arena, I respectfully request that you remove this particular sentence from the Statistics page.

Now, before anyone gets hysterical, what I said is true. I welcome anyone's contribution in this debate provided that their input is honest and forthright. I may not agree with any of this site's positions, but I have no argument with their stats page, since I can just as easily find all of the numbers listed as they can -- except that one humdinger.

The point of my disclosure here? To date, I've received only two replies, from people that politely disavowed any authoring responsibility for that page. Both women added that they hoped I'd hear back from the relevant people.

To date (nearly 3 weeks later), I have not received any other responses.

Go figure.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

UC Says "No Tickee, No Shirtee" to Creationist Curriculum

Something from the "Well, Duh!" column.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles federal court Thursday by the Assn. of Christian Schools International, which represents more than 800 religious schools in the state, and by the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, which has an enrollment of more than 1,000.

Under a policy implemented with little fanfare a year ago, UC admissions authorities have refused to certify high school science courses that use textbooks challenging Darwin's theory of evolution, the suit says.

The 10-campus UC system requires applicants to complete a variety of courses, including science, mathematics, history, literature and the arts. But in letters to Calvary Chapel, university officials said some of the school's Christian-oriented courses were too narrow to be acceptable.

And what, precisely, did these curriculum planners expect? That universities would pander to their interests out of political correctness? Zealots on local school boards may be able to water-down science material to suit their fundamentalist perspectives, but if they think colleges will sanction these efforts via the admission process, then they are far more delusional than I've given them credit for.

"It appears that the UC system is attempting to secularize Christian schools and prevent them from teaching from a world Christian view," said Patrick H. Tyler, a lawyer with Advocates for Faith and Freedom, which is assisting the plaintiffs.

No, Mr. Tyler. The UC system is not preventing you from teaching your students anything. They are however, saying that Science By Thumpervision is wholly inadequate as preparatory material for college applicants.

The suit also accuses the university system of employing a double standard by routinely approving courses that teach the viewpoints of other religions, such as Islam, Judaism and Buddhism.

In order to score any points here at all, the plaintiffs will have to demonstrate that somewhere in America, schools are supplanting evolutionary theory with Buddhist creation myths. Let's all hold our breath, shall we?

I can't applaud UC's stand on this enough. It is completely within their purview to demand that applicants meet certain base criteria, and if Christian schools cannot meet this criteria, well then that's just too bad. Perhaps they'd best re-think their approach to curriculum and recognize that beyond the cocoon of a Bible-based community, students will be held accountable for whatever education they lack.

Imagine that! Accountability in higher education?!? Preposterous, I say! Absolutely preposterous!

Friday, August 26, 2005

NARAL's New Ad

Well, it looks like NARAL has taken to heart the criticism on their Roberts ad and has fashioned a new one in its place.

I'm pleased that they've shown themselves to be listening. However, this replacement leaves me a little flat for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. I need to let it rattle around in my head for a little while. In the meantime, any media-savvy types are welcome to weigh in.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Do NOT Miss This: NARAL Conference Call

Liza recently participated in a post-Roberts-ad conference call with NARAL and has provided the details here and here. Her coverage of the call and analysis of the larger strategy issues are excellent. If you were frustrated even a little by the Roberts ad, you'll enjoy this diary.

The discussion here is the one I've been following most of the day, but it's recently been front-paged here, so I hope for some of the "heavy hitters" to weigh in as the night goes by.

Put the kids to bed, turn off the TV. There's a lot of detail here, but it needs to be part of everyone's arsenal if you intend to stay involved in the issue.

Controversial Study Results Announced: Fetal Pain

Anti-abortion activists have gained ground in recent years using arguments that fetal pain awareness develops as early as ~20 weeks. Regardless of one's position on the legal state of reproductive rights, this assertion gives one reason to pause. Contrary to what the radical right would have us believe, pro-choice advocates are not heartless monsters unconcerned with the perceptive abilities of fetuses. The question of pre-natal sentience may very well be the most divisive element of the abortion debate, even within pro-choice circles.

A recent study published by researchers at UC San Francisco, however, challenges this 20-week view.
A review of medical evidence has found that fetuses likely don't feel pain until the final months of pregnancy, a powerful challenge to abortion opponents who hope that discussions about fetal pain will make women think twice about ending pregnancies.

But the report, appearing in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, says that offering fetal pain relief during abortions in the fifth or sixth months of pregnancy is misguided and might result in unacceptable health risks to women.

A number of states have proposed legislation requiring pregnant women to be counseled on fetal pain awareness, with pro-choice advocates seeing this attempt as little more than naked coercion. The Associated Press writer adds that critics of the study "disputed the findings and claimed the report is biased".

Excellent News from CA: Lesbian Parental Rights

Once again, I'm going to point to Shanikka's diaries on the recent rulings regarding parental rights for lesbian couples. As is her norm, her synopsis and analysis are excellent.

Here's a teaser:

Yesterday, three extraordinary rulings were issued by the California Supreme Court, which seems to be finding its groove now that the strident voice of Janice Rogers Brown has been promoted to the level of her own dogma and moved to the DC Circuit, confirming, at least for now, that gay parents are parents even when they are no longer "married" parents.

To me, these decisions all have an unwritten subtext of common sense that perhaps someday the courts will be brave enough to write: Where children are concerned, it is irrelevant how they got here - what is relevant is that they are here, it is the job of that state to ensure a parent-child relationship with both its parents, and all the rights and responsibilities for each parent which that entails.

Have a look at the full versions here or here, and give a little thanks for sanity in the CaSC.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"Grooming Politicians for Christ"

This article is getting a lot of blog coverage today, but this is one of those issues that needs as much visibility as possible.

Stephanie Simon of the LA Times has written an updated chapter of "Holy Rollers on the Hill". Go ahead and eyeball the whole thing, but as far as I'm concerned, here are the money quotes:

Nearly every Monday for six months, as many as a dozen congressional aides — many of them aspiring politicians — have gathered over takeout dinners to mine the Bible for ancient wisdom on modern policy debates about tax rates, foreign aid, education, cloning and the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

They learn to view every vote as a religious duty, and to consider compromise a sin. That puts them at the vanguard of a bold effort by evangelical conservatives to mold a new generation of leaders who will answer not to voters, but to God.

It's one of half a dozen evangelical leadership programs making steady inroads into Washington.... Nearly every graduate works in government or with a conservative advocacy group.

As Kennedy put it: "If we leave it to man to decide what's good and evil, there will be chaos."

Now he plans to fight for history lessons on the Founding Fathers' faith, science lessons drawn from the Book of Genesis and public school prayer.

And of course,

...Most of the policy prescriptions he finds in the Bible dovetail neatly with the Republican agenda.

From the Statesmanship Institute's site:

As the programs of Student Statesmanship Institute have grown, its desired outcomes have remained unchanged:
  • To cultivate desire in young people to discover God's design, purpose, calling and destiny for their lives.

  • To help these young people develop a comprehensive Biblical worldview in order to apply God's eternal truths to every area of life.

  • To impart knowledge as relevant for our everyday world and not just confined to personal spiritual matters.

  • To inspire young people to be Godly leaders in their generation.

Just a little closing snark:
Kennedy's site, the Center for Christian Statesmanship, decorates its pages with quotes from John Ashcroft, and several pictures of throngs of enchanted white people.

Beyond The Pale: Pentagon Obscenity

You know, having been in the corporate world for a long time, with my hands in marketing for a large percentage of it, I appreciate that the U.S. government needs to sell the Iraq war any way they can. If you'll forgive the analogy, it's like any other product in this regard. "Consumer" confidence is low and people are simply NOT buying. Recruitment levels and polling data make the case that I won't bother to reiterate here.

Nonetheless, the Pentagon has gone way beyond the pale with their latest maneuver, and frankly, it turns my stomach. This administration's laundry list of selling techniques is already filthy enough. That this has been added to the branding efforts is fucking obscene.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Simply Astounding!: Stem Cells

From today's SFGate:

Scientists for the first time have turned ordinary skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells -- without having to use human eggs or make new human embryos in the process, as has previously been required, a Harvard research team announced Sunday.

Thanks to Michael for the lead.

New and Improved College Ranking?

U.S. News and World Report has been ranking national colleges since 1983, and their list is hugely influential on schools, their curriculum and their admissions.

The Washington Monthly has turned the USNWR model on its ear, and has arrived at some very different conclusions regarding which are the country's top schools and why.

If you're even remotely interested in the topic, check it out. Personally, I like WM's scoring criteria, and think that it places value where it belongs. Here's hoping that their College Guide gets the exposure it deserves.

(thanks to Shirah for the lead)

The Collective Blog Unconscience

While it's not precisely related to my "Liberal Elites" entry of late, this is a close cousin and worth a read to those ok with a little more heat than light.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Independent World Television

No corporate funding.
No government funding.
No advertising.

Serious news and full-spectrum debate -- on which democracy depends -- are disappearing from television. Across the globe, news media are concentrated in the hands of a few entertainment conglomerates whose interests determine news coverage. They promote superficial "infotainment" over tough investigation, context and holding authority accountable. Public broadcasters face shrinking budgets and growing political and commercial pressures.

We need a news and current affairs network that defends the public interest and the highest standards of journalism. Independent World Television will be such a network, a non-profit broadcast service financed by viewers across the globe -- independent of corporate or government funding and commercial advertising.

Now THIS looks promising. Pay them a visit and sign up!

Why is [joining the email list] so important to IWT right now?

1) Building an online movement is the key to building IWT. Email subscribers form the backbone of our online community. It's the communications lifeline that connects our international supporters.

2) A growing list is proof of widespread support. Contributions and email sign-ups provide some of our best proof to potential carriers, regulators, funders, and new supporters that there really is widespread international support for Independent World Television.

3) Timing. A few well-timed emails will allow IWT to co-ordinate efforts and supporters in our upcoming international public campaign -- providing a big worldwide "push" that helps propel the network on air!

So go ahead! It's easy. And we won't send you any junk. Just an occasional update when we have something genuinely important to tell you about.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Liberal Elites?

What IS it with conservatives and their pejorative use of "liberal elites"? I hear this term being bandied about in reference to coastal city-dwellers and academics, mostly. The claim is a textbook straw man argument, but let's play along for just a moment. "Liberal elites" are supposedly "openly contemptuous of traditional American virtues such as faith in God, patriotism, and self-reliance which they are intent on destroying."

(Incidentally -- I've scoured the web looking for a widely-agreed upon definition of precisely what constitutes a "liberal elite", and not surprisingly, have found none save for the above. Conservatives could just as easily use the term "polka-dotted bloisybonks" for all the evidence provided that they exist.)

These allegations are pure bullshit. The primary opposition liberals have to "traditional American virtues" is the insistence that the right wing define everyone's values, as a matter of law, no less. "Faith in God" is shared by liberals and conservatives alike, the difference being that conservatives want to define God for everyone, too. The only "patriotism" liberals tend to abhor is the rabid flag-waving kind that's more jingoistic than noble. "Self-reliance" is just as attractive to liberals as it is to conservatives, except that liberals believe how we treat the least of us is a measure of who we are as a nation (conservatives apparently prefer the "Fuck 'em if they're unemployed" approach). And unless liberals are willing to just roll over and let the "traditional values" crowd reconstruct culture and law in one fell swoop, they're apparently "intent on destroying" America. Um.... yeah, ok. Could this argument BE any more sophomoric? My imagination doesn't travel such a pedestrian path, so it's hard for me to say.

As to the supposed purveyors of "liberal elitism" (city folks and the Professor set), I have a few questions of conservatives:

Since when is being educated something to sneer at? Is it the big words that make you nervous? Are you suggesting that the Hamburger Helper approach to socio-political critique is somehow superior? Watch Fox, add Tradition and let simmer for 10 minutes? How is it that we value college educations, insist that all of our children get them, and then piss and moan when the college educated then question the status quo? Don't we send our kids to college precisely to develop critical thinking skills? Then why do conservatives then bitch and moan when those skills are put into practice?

Indoctrination and stubborn adherence to the "way it's always been" is the purview of organized religion, not academia. Academics challenge absolutes, question established norms, and broaden understanding in the process. That's their job. It should then come as no surprise that there's a dearth of conservatives in universities. Folks that venerate the status quo are typically disinterested in new perspectives, progressive change and discovery. This is what makes them conservatives by default, and conversely, the very thing that defines liberals. That universities are stuffed to the gills with liberal professors should surprise no one except dimmest among us.

And why is it that the political opinions of people living in densely populated, ethnically rich communities are somehow "less American" than those of the average mid-west rural resident? City folks have critically valuable contributions to the political process, for obvious reasons: they have to live with and thrive amongst diversity every day. They don't have the luxury of an insular existence in which every neighbor shares their every perspective. They don't get to rest on the laurels of a WASPy worldview, because a walk down any city block will put them face-to-face with a multitude of races and nationalities, each with its own value set and ethical framework. As a result, successful metro living demands tolerance and cooperation. Nevertheless, conservatives would have us believe that the Bible-belt worldview is somehow "better". Ok, well, let's take a snap shot of one of these communities:

Wide-Spot-In-The-Road, Oklahoma: Population 957. Ethic mix - 98% white, 2% latino. Religious mix - 80% Protestant, 10% Catholic, 10% vaguely Lutheran. Only one stop light on Main street. Dry county, replete with blue laws and Bingo night at the Elk's lodge every Saturday. Most of the town attends church on Sundays, and everyone goes on major holidays. Unemployment rates are about average, and the bulk of residents are farmers or factory workers. Crime rates are low, most folks don't even bother to lock their doors at night. Virtually all are members of traditional nuclear families, with relatives living close by. All in all, a very Rockwellian existence. It sounds kind of nice, actually, if you're into a quiet life. I have nothing against these people, nor do I think their views are any less valuable to our political landscape than their hustle & bustle city-dwelling cousins. Hell, I LIVE in one of these small towns (after having spent most of my life in Los Angeles) and understand their appeal.

But according to right-wing pundits, we're to believe that the value set born of these communities should form the exclusive underpinning of our laws, customs and policies? That it's reasonable to expect that this group is wholly qualified to address racial tensions? Gun control laws? Religious tolerance? Homosexual rights? Public school curriculum? Welfare policy? Reproductive rights?

This is an incredibly obtuse view. Our legal system did away with white-male-only juries because of their incapacity to act as peers to defendants. How is it that this same incapacity isn't recognized when glorifying the value set of one community over all others? Folks from the Bible-belt often literally cannot conceive of the issues faced by their metropolitan cousins, and making their perspective the benchmark is bound to result in de facto discriminatory policy. You simply cannot speak to what you do not know.

I'm going to give far more credence to the definition of "tolerance" as espoused by a New York City resident than I would of one made by a Cedar Rapids local. I'll defer to the concerns of a Stonewall riots veteran before I'll listen to the World According to Reverend Phelps when it comes to discrimination against homosexuals. And I'm going to be far more inclined to take the advice of a Detroit social worker regarding welfare reform long before I listen to the virtues of funding cuts exalted by a Salt Lake City dilettante.

Perspective, people, perspective. Recognizing the inadequacy of a homogeneous worldview does not constitute elitism,
moral relativism, or secular humanism. Instead, it acknowledges the impossibility of satisfying a population of 295 million people with pedantic morals, customs and laws. And if conservatives want to criticize liberals for taking a condescending view of people that fundamentally don't grasp this fact, then fine. Insisting that we can force the 21st century genie back into the bottle and legislate a return to 18th century culture is pure stupidity on the face of it, and advocates of such a notion deserve to be called the fools they are.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Shit Storm a' Brewing: Fetal Tissue & Burn Care

Oh my. The reaction to this will likely be hysterical. Never mind that something beneficial might be done with what would otherwise be destroyed. Never mind the obvious comparisons to organ donation. Invective invoking Nazi experimentation is sure to follow.

Sheehan + "Exploitation" = Bullshit

I've read dozens and dozens of rebuttals to the "Cindy Sheehan is exploiting the memory of her dead son" arguments in recent days, but I think this one cuts to the heart of it:

One of the oddest accusations to come out of the Sheehan phenomenon is that this mother is "exploiting" her son's death and her own grief. I've thought about this for a couple of days, and the illogic of this argument is not settling down. In fact, it's becoming more crazy-making the more I think about it.

The logic (if you can call it that) in this "exploitation" argument is thus: If a tragedy befalls an individual and the individual decides to devote every action of her being to ensuring no other human being suffers this same tragedy, she's ... exploiting? Huh?

By this analysis, Christopher Reeve was "exploiting" his injury by advocating for cures for spinal injuries. MADD members are "exploiting" the deaths of their children by pushing for stronger punishments and deterrents of drunk drivers. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is "exploiting" a sister's death by raising money for breast cancer research through its highly successful Race for the Cure series. And so on. You get the drift.

Conversely, it's always represented to me the height of maturity and courage to be able to take a private grief and turn it into something public, something bigger, something more heroic and true than a personal, massive sorrow. I know that I simply will not be able to survive the death of one of my children in any sort of shape that will allow me to become a spokesperson for a cause, no matter how righteous that cause is. As it is, I have trouble sustaining discipline and energy for something as straightforward as blogging a couple of times a week. If one of my kids goes, I assure you that I will crawl into a corner of the universe and emotionally die. You will not hear from me again; I know this well because for 16 years I've had a child living on the edge of this life-death deal with a congenital heart defect and numerous (mostly unsuccessful) surgical interventions. Sorry, I've looked into my soul and I cower in the dark of night. You won't find me as a poster woman for the American Heart Association any time soon. Just breathing will be considered a victory.

How many of us, if faced with the death of a child, would be able to muster the courage, grace and energy to make public appearances on behalf of other people's children? And how many of us could do so while being demonized relentlessly and our private lives examined in detail? Sheehan's words and acts are never going to bring her son back. She knows that. This is by no means a silly woman.

But my God, she's a heroic one. As surely every thinking parent on this planet knows, deep in their hearts.

Hertzberg Nails It: BushCo vs. Science

Author Hendrik Hertzberg sums up BushCo vs. Science with a scathing commentary in the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town":
From the beginning, the Bush White House has treated science as a nuisance and scientists as an interest group—one that, because it lies outside the governing conservative coalition, need not be indulged. That's why the White House-sometimes in the service of political Christianism or ideological fetishism, more often in obeisance to baser interests like the petroleum, pharmaceutical, and defense industries-has altered, suppressed, or overriden scientific findings on global warming; missile defense; H.I.V./AIDS; pollution from industrial farming and oil drilling; forest management and endangered species; environmental health, including lead and mercury poisoning in children and safety standards for drinking water; and non-abstinence methods of birth control and [STD] prevention. It has grossly misled the public on the number of stem-cell lines available for research. It has appointed unqualified ideologues to scientific advisory committees and has forced out scientists who persist in pointing out inconvenient facts.

Paul Begala on TPMCafe

This is getting a lot of front-page blog coverage today, but in case you missed it, Mr. Begala's come up with a must-read.

Here's a sample:
Such is the hatred of the far right at the dawn of the 21st Century. And my how the optical worm has turned. Today it is the left invoking faith, flag and family, while the right destroys crosses. Today it is the left that honors the war dead, raises up a Gold Star Mother and publicly prays for our troops, while the right viciously attacks a woman who gave her country everything. Today it is the left that patiently and peacefully respects the Office of the Presidency, while the right diminishes the office by claiming it's more important for the President to go bike-riding with a sports hero than comfort the mother of a war hero.

Officious Pedant on Gay Marriage

Our beloved Officious Pedant, in a reply to the "Gay Marriage Is Centrist" entry at The Mighty Middle, has laid out what I think is the world's best rebuttal to gay marriage opponents. It's been highlighted at TMM, and it clearly deserves front-paging here as well. Enjoy:

For those of you who oppose gay marriage, let me just say that's fine with me. Oppose it all you like, but do so honestly.

There are two elements of the opposition argument I pay no attention to whatsoever. Traditionalism and religion. Tradition is a crap reason because significant changes in tradition are endemic to human society. Blind obedience to tradition does not somehow enoble it. And significant changes, often good, can come of it. Example: the shift from the Roman calendar to the Gregorian (tradition didn't matter worth a damn when you needed to know what fucking day it was). And religion is the weakest of the bunch. I am not a believer, and I need more than your assertion that the invisible man in the sky said so. YOU are free to observe whatever you like, but you are not free to decide for *ME*.

The other arguments range from the less than valid to the truly ridiculous. Given the other long winded posts in this thread, I decided to go ahead and elucidate.

One of the big ones, and most devoid of logic or common sense, is that of the slippery slope. If you have to be told what prevents marrying your pet, you need to be kept in a secure facility where someone can teach you critical thinking with a cattle prod. The reason is that no pet, not even a talking parrot, can give consent to be wed. The same is true of children because they can't give consent either.

Polyandry and polygamy are also favorites of mine. The Bible, the Koran, and the Torah are rife with stories about kings and their *WIVES*. If every person is a consenting adult, what's the problem? That they'll have more fun than you? Why the need to say that one man can only love one woman, or vice versa. As far as I'm concerned, if a man or woman can convince multiple people of the same or opposite gender to share him or her, they deserve a fucking parade. And let's not forget that in order to have a group marriage, you must first have a group that can get along. That's a huge hurdle. But then, none of this is any of your fucking business, anyway.

My least favorite argument is the one that insists that marriage will be somehow watered down or made less valuable. I just don't see it. Are we making it illegal because some shallow asshole might decide to skip marriage because "faggots can do it too"? What crap. Anyone that uses gay marriage to insist that marriage is worthless is hiding some deep personal angst about marriage. Marriage has whatever value we assign it, from the star crossed lovers to the gold diggers, and any devaluation of your marriage is entirely on your shoulders.

And now we come to the argument that is a large part of this thread. Gay marriage is a civil right for the simple fact that they cannot do domething that is legal for everyone else. Period. Full stop. They are not asking to have marriage created specially for them. Marriage already exists, and anyone can do it. Unless you want to do it with someone of the same gender. That's discrimination. You are barring someone from something simply because they are different.

The comeback argument is that black people didn't choose to be black, they are black by genetic imperative. Absolutely true. The argument can be made that homosexuality is a choice. Also true (though I think that unlikely), and totally irrelevant. People choose to get tattoos, and drink alcohol, and join churches. Can we then bar them from societal, emotional, and economic benefits because of those choices? Can we ban the tattoo recient from marriage, too? What about the alcoholic? Hell, in various prisons around this country some of the worst prisoners have married someone *WHILE IN PRISON*. No one says "Boo!" to that, but the very idea that two (three, four, ten) men love each other and want to get married, and the bigots fall all over themselves to protect marriage.

Where's the amendment that requires you to be married for more than 55 hours? Where's the amendment that requires you to marry for more than monetary gain? Where is the amendment that requires you to procreate (the purpose of marriage, no few people have said)?

And for those of you so bothered by the wantonness of the gay community, I refer you to the, well, 60's(free love), the 70's(Looking for Mr Goodbar), and the 80's (wanna snort coke out of my bellybutton?) on the hetero side of the equation, and it is also irrelevant. Wanting to get laid 24/7 with someone different is *NOT ILLEGAL*. And it certainly doesn't prevent some hetero turbo slut from marrying the man of her dreams *WITH THE BLESSING OF THE FUCKING CHURCH*. Hell, the Catholic church provides the ability to declare the marriage as never having taken place, she can fuck like a rabbit for some indeterminate time, and then get married, for the first time, again.

Homosexuality disgusts you, and you have every right to feel that way, but please don't think that these flimsy little arguments of yours have even a passing acquaintance with reasoned argument. Do us the courtesy of simply admitting that your disgust is the crux of your argument, and admitting that your disgust is no reason at all to deny the same rights you enjoy to another.

Whether You Agree or Not [Updated]: Feinberg/Hagel on Iraq

I think Feingold's got balls to say this out loud. Here's hoping it's the beginning of a frank discussion throughout Congress and within the administration (then again, I'm not holding my breath).

Update: Chuck Hagel, Senator of the crimson state of Nebraska, is also expressing similar sentiments. As noted elsewhere, "the floodgates are open".

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

ID, Stem Cells, Biotech & The GOP

Oh, the irony. Let's connect the dots, shall we?

Of the 15 states most aggressively involved in the ID debate, 12 are Red, 3 are Blue.
All but one hosts one or more biotech firms.
All produce corn, most produce cotton and/or soybeans.
At present, the bleeding edge of the biotech industry is in agriculture and of course, pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceutical companies are one of the largest GOP contributors, with agribusiness not far behind.

So, the thumper crowd will find themselves at a cross roads sooner or later, as they continue to push for their watered-down version of science. Industries that are built on life sciences will require minumum base competence of their local labor pools, including a proficiency in the rudimentary mechanics of evolutionary theory. If they find that would-be employees are unable to meet this criteria, just how anxious do you think they'll be to remain in states that are covered in "disclaimer" stickers? How eager will these firms be to just roll over as fundamentalists rail against stem cell research?

Let's not underestimate what's to be lost if the radical right has their way.
Worldwide, biotech product sales have increased 20% in 2001 (prior to September 11), to $13 billion. An underlying framework for theoretical biology is developing concurrently in several fields. Growing alliances between biotech firms and pharmaceutical and fine-chemical companies are helping to propel the industry's growth. Increasing market sophistication regarding the valuation of biotech firms and products is promoting stabilization of the share prices of public companies. An explosive energy in today's biotech industry is driving agricultural, medical, computational, engineering, and industrial processes to significantly elevated levels of efficiency, efficacy, and environmental sustainability. Public bias against biotech products and services, especially agricultural biotech, continues to grow in Europe and elsewhere.

Here's a taste of what's "in the pipeline" for biotech:
Human therapeutics
Embryonic stem cell technology, combined with retroviral therapy, may soon allow replacement of aging or diseased organs and perhaps even slow or stop aging's molecular clock

Agricultural biotechnology
Crops will be substantially more nutritious. Edible vaccines will help eliminate disease. Genomic and genetic engineering will compress the breeding cycle 100-fold or 1,000-fold.

Industrial biotechnology
Within 50 years, biocatalytic manufacturing processes will permit total biological fabrication of consumer goods like clothing, plastics, and building materials. Biocatalytic approaches will support assembly of complex products like appliances and automobiles. Biotech will enable a far gentler, more sustainable manufacturing environment.

Biological computing
Integration of computer science and biotech will replace siliconbased chips with vastly faster, living computers. Bio-computing will enable wearable computers, nano-scale information processing, and distributed processing in everyday devices.

Materials science
Biologically based development will enable materials ranging from ultrastrong, lightweight fabrics incorporating spider silk to adhesives based on insect pads. Materials, textiles, and device components will provide environmental monitoring, e.g., of bacterial contaminants.

Environmental bioengineering
Biotech will enable sustainable manufacturing processes that minimize and/or repair environmental damage. Microbial cleansers will purify contaminated soil, industrial effluent, contaminated groundwater and air, and petrochemical spills.

This kind of promise is not lost on state governors, who have been actively courting biotech firms in California.
'These sorts of jobs will be high-skilled, high-wage jobs," said Premier Steve Bracks. He added, "We want to be part of the breakthrough in finding opportunities to cure diseases.' At least six U.S. governors have made reservations to compete handshake-to-handshake with foreign politicians. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, for one, made it clear that he was coming to entice California companies. His counterparts from Florida, Iowa and Missouri also are expected."

This wooing isn't limited to state officials, either.
"Foreign dignitaries come waving tax breaks, research partnerships and incubator space in front of anyone with a biology-based business plan. They offer slick handouts, door prizes and catered parties in futuristic trade show pavilions designed to set them apart in an increasingly crowded field."

"Roughly one-third of the 16,000 participants at the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual conference come from abroad. Foreign legions have swelled in the last five years as the rest of the world angles for the next big break in biotech. Among the largest foreign delegations: Australia, Canada, Belgium and France."

It's not just the pure promise of biotech that's appealing. Traditional manufacturing has been on the decline in the U.S for decades. We've all heard stories about once-thriving communities turned into little more than ghost towns when their resident factories close up shop and head overseas. An example from Michigan:
Michigan has lost an estimated 185,000 manufacturing jobs since 1999, so state business and political leaders are pressed to find new industries to fill that void. Biotechs are viewed by state leaders and industry experts as job creators of the future. The evolution of the state's biotech industry -- still considered by many analysts to be in its infancy -- could redefine the state's labor environment.

Biotech companies are viewed as attractive by economic developers because they typically escape cyclical moves in the national economy. Older workers are more valuable because of their intellectual experience, and the jobs are considered to be so-called gold collar positions because the average salary is $80,000 -- plus benefits. But the question is, do the state's business and political leaders have the money, patience and commitment needed to support biotech growth?

Donations to the GOP by the pharmaceutical industry are well known and goes without the need for elaborating. For those interested in a little background, see here, here, here, and here.

Now, for the perilous synchronicity.

States currently embroiled most aggressively in the ID "debate", their 2004 electoral result, and the biotech firms* they host:

Alabama (R)
BASF, DuPont

Arkansas (R)
DeKalb/Monsanto, Dow Chemical

Georgia (R)
Aventis, Dekalb/Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Novartis, Merck

Kansas (R)
Dekalb/Monsanto, Merck

Louisiana (R)
BASF, DeKalb/Monsanto, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Merck

Minnesota (D)
DeKalb/Monsanto, DuPont, Novartis, Merck

Mississippi (R)
BASF, DeKalb/Monsanto, DuPont

Missouri (D)
Aventis, BASF, DeKalb/Monsanto, Merck

Ohio (R)
BASF, DeKalb/Monsanto, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Merck

Oklahoma (R)
DeKalb/Monsanto, DuPont

Pennsylvania (D)
Aventis, BASF, DuPont, Merck

South Carolina (R)
BASF, DuPont

Texas (R)
Aventis, BASF, DeKalb/Monsanto, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Merck

Wisconsin (D)
BASF, DeKalb/Monsanto

(*There may very well be more. This brevity of this list is a function of my available research time.)

The tax revenues generated by each of these firms for their respective states were unavailable given my limitations of research. However, it's no great leap to imagine that they are far from insignificant. Nor are the jobs they bring to their local communities. As much as loathing the pharmaceutical industry is fashionable and justified, to dismiss its contribution to the welfare of the community at large is to take a myopic view. And while farm subsidies is a debate better left to another post, agriculture is what feeds us, and to dismiss its contribution is likewise foolhardy. Fact is, these states depend on these industries for jobs and revenues. And I'm willing to bet all the money in my pockets that the IDers (Creationists/Fundamentalists) have failed to consider the impact of their political wrangling on their own futures.

When faced with legislative battles, these firms and their lobbyists are likely to weigh the cost of fighting ID iniatives against moving facilities to significantly cheaper overseas destinations. If the locals are bound and determined to drive themselves out of job markets rich with potential, then all the better for the pharmaceutical companies. They can get equivalent labor for a fraction of the cost, what with the plentiful labor resources and qualified R&D staff in countries like India, for instance.

The more alarming disadvantage will be to agribusiness, which is not so easily outsourced. Pure conjecture this is, but I'm sure none of us are interested in paying $3 per tomato because competent talent has to be shipped in from other states/countries.

Yes, this is the pessimistic view, but I feel it is also a pragmatic one. The realities of the influence of the fundamentalist community are dire when we turn an eye toward science education. To wit: as noted in the "What's The Matter With Kansas, Indeed" comment thread:
I was talking to a former middle school teacher that had moved (fled) from Kansas. She was saying that the policy is merely a reflection of the current reality in the classroom. When she teaches the e-word, a full third of the class puts their heads down and covers their ears, on orders from their parents.

ID/Creationism and stem cell opponents need to pull their heads from their nether-regions and think their positions through to full conclusion. What they propose will hurt America as a self-sufficient nation, to say nothing of the compromise it will affect for her on a globally competitive scale. These people are flirting with the dark ages on multiple fronts, and it behooves every rational being to stop them dead in their tracks. The Founding Fathers were truly prescient when carving a division between state and religion, and it matters now more than ever that we preserve it.

Need a laugh?

Here you go.

Props to The Mighty Middle and AmbivaBlog

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Gay Rights & Black Faith

Pamindurham has a diary about the way the GOP is exploiting homophobia in the African American religious community. She's right - this is an issue virtually no one seems to be discussing, much less combatting. Have a look. This is something that needs far better visibility than it's getting.

Tony Snow(job) on Evolution

I've said this before, and you'll hear me say it a thousand times. If you're one of those people that thinks the Intelligent Design movement is essentially "harmless", because you're under the impression that all advocates are pushing is the "God of the Gaps" theory, then you're wrong. Flat out wrong.

I don't intend to assemble a discussion here on all the various reasons ID is fatally flawed, for there are far more proficient writers on the subject, and I won't sully their efforts with my own lame attempt at imitation. The Talk Origins Archive (as plugged here previously) is one of the best starting points for that analysis, and is hard to beat in terms of quality and quantity of topics covered.

My intent here is to point out how, yet again, politically-minded ID advocates are filthy fucking liars of the first order.

These fraudsters start from the slimiest of positions: They assume (in many cases, accurately) that you, John Q. Public, remember little to nothing about high school biology, and that you know even less about the specialty of evolutionary theory. They use your ignorance against you, by misrepresenting science in ways both subtle and grotesque. Groups like the Discovery Institute have spent years practicing their arguments and working up their snakeoil sideshows and know exactly what rhetorical buttons to push. And you, unless you've been paying attention to their political efforts or have any personal dealings with the life sciences, aren't likely to realize what they're doing. Wool, meet eyes.

It's bad enough that these advocates have been preaching loudly to the "values voters" choir and drumming up political support under the guise of "teach the controversy". What's increasingly disturbing is that the MSM is so willing to roll over and let them get away with it.

Case in point: Tony Snow, Townhall columnist and Faux Fox News talking head has decided to "weigh in" on the evolution vs. ID debate. Preening around with the requisite authoritative tone so common to these blowhards, he declares in a recent column:
"Today, evolutionary theorists find themselves at wits' end because the fossil record provides no evidence of any species ever turning into another."
Evolutionary theory, like ID, isn't verifiable or testable. It's pure hypothesis -- like ID -- although very popular in the scientific community."

Since Tony's a comfy member of the MSM, chances are Average Joe citizen will just run with those statements, because they fall from the mouth of an esteemed "Fair and Balanced" pundit, and accept both claims at face value. Trouble is, he couldn't be more wrong on both accounts. Hell, I know scientifically savvy 9th graders that could spot his bullshit a mile away.

Welcome to the occupation, ladies and gentlemen. Instead of presenting a rational defense of ID (as if there is one to begin with, of course) he jumps straight into the Lies & Propaganda pool with both feet. And he expects you to follow, no questions asked. After all, you're just some poor bum catching up on the news one night after work. What do you know?

These kinds of charlatans deserve no place in journalism, much less in network news. Long gone are the days in which reporters would, you know, FACT CHECK, what they vomit out before publication. In a long ago, rosy past, any editor worth his salt would have at least raised an eyebrow over crap like this, and demanded that Mr. Snow remove the overwhelmingly fetid passages from his column. Not anymore, though. See, if you run a publication like Townhall that is completely and totally up front about its bias, then apparently the burden of accuracy is passe and unnecessary. Trouble is, people quote from this rag like it's the fucking WSJ, and take their manure-filled heads to the voting booths at every election. After all, "responsible journalists" do their homework, right? They wouldn't publish LIES or anything, would they?

thanks to Media Matters for the catch.

And Now it Begins

You know, I frequent many places on the Web, and read opinions that span the entire political spectrum. I read the World Socialist Website (take your pyramid hat if you go), Daily Kos, and the Democratic Underground (who booted me from the forums so fast you wouldn't flipping believe it) about as often as I read the Right Wing News, the Free Republic (who also booted me like I was a virus), and National Review Online. I also like the Mighty Middle, and a couple of others. I even--gasp--read Newsmax, but that requires special protective gear that makes my balls sweat, so I don't do it very often.

But it's the right side of the sphere that is carefully priming their readership for the excuses that will be deployed when troops are withdrawn from Iraq. We hear that the goals set for Iraq were...unlikely to be reachable, and that we will likely end up with an Islamic Republic. Assuming they can get the Constitution written, having missed the US imposed deadline, and given their seeming unwillingness to let the premier Democracy in the world guide them on its writing. Hell, even the world's most gifted military genius, Donald Rumsfeld (this Rowan Scarborough taking sycophancy to its completely insane conclusion), continues to equivocate here, then here, and had to listen to the Iraqi Prime Minister ask us to leave.

What's to blame, you ask? Well, we are. You got it, dear readers, all of us who lack the moral courage to feed our troops into the grinder to "make their sacrifice mean something", and the press that puts a microphone in our faces and broadcasts our denigration of the troops (though I lack the mental acuity to make the leap that "Bring them Home"=denigration) into their frigging tents in Iraq. We, the opposition to the War in Iraq and the press, have fucked up this war for everybody.

In fact, our opposition has a causal relationship with casualties. If we would only shut up until the end of the war (The War on Terror, that is, not the war in Iraq. Please open your hymnals to "For the Duration of the Emergency", by the German Chancellor, circa 1933), no insurgent would take an American life having been emboldened by a defeatist press. Moreoever, the troops wouldn't LET themselves be killed by moping around the battlefield after reading the New York Times op-eds. To hear some tell it, we're mere moments away from greeting returning soldiers the same way we did those coming home from Vietnam.

(Side Note: No joke, soldiers do what they're told by the civilian leadership, so take your angst out on the leadership at the polls. Harassing or spitting on a soldier is so far beyond uncool, that doing it near me will get you an ass kicking fit to make your hair bleed.)

If we had only been more positive, the Sunni and Shiia would have cast aside their differences and sung Kumbaya around the pile of burning tires on the road to the Baghdad airport. Assuming they didn't get hit by mortar fire, or get detonated by an IED. Things in the Green Zone are a little chaotic at the moment. And when a Texas republican can see that, well, that's saying something. It's also likely that a few good vibes from us would have gotten the women of Iraq equality as well, so now we can add misogynist tendencies to our list of crimes against the war effort.

Positive energy and good will could be harnessed to deflect bullets from the soldiers in unprotected, far less armored, Humvees that are the working and patrolling vehicle in Iraq. They would forget that the wounded are being charged for food at Walter Reed. They'll forget the congressional attempts to cut their benefits and fuck over Guard and reserve units, their involuntary extensions and shorthandedness, and all of this while nearly nine BILLION dollars went missing while under American control.

Yep, if we would just be quiet, give up a little of our privacy, and not question so much, why, the whole country would be much better off. As far as we knew, anyway.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Crawford Smear

The Cunning Realist has an intelligently snarky post on the right-wing blog's coverage of the recent events in Crawford.

And in case you missed it, be sure to catch what really must be the most well-written evisceration of the smear campaign. Simply stellar. A serious must read.

All Smoke, No Fire: Justice Sunday II

From the looks of it, Justice Sunday II's fireworks were closer to sparklers than M80s.

As he promised in an earlier comment, Jackson Miller posted several entries from the Justice Sunday II Bonanza. It doesn't sound like there was anything new going on, but Jackson deserves a nod for being the lone liberal blogger in the contingent invited to attend. Good for you, man.'s coverage can be found here.

Transcript of the conference call held by the sane religious leaders of the Interfaith Alliance is available here.

PFAW's article on the original Bonanza I has been updated with details of The Sequel!

And the LCCR's response to the shenanigans can be found here.

I read somewhere that Falwell wasn't invited. Poor guy.

As If Wishing Would Make It So

I've not yet caught up with all of the post-mortem coverage of Justice Sunday II, but I did catch this little tidbit as reported by the WaPo:
Rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork warned that the high court has defined homosexuality as "a constitutional right . . . and once homosexuality is defined as a constitutional right, there is nothing the states can do about it, nothing the people can do about it."
Guess what, lunkhead. Homosexuality isn't going away, and you're right -- there ISN'T anything you can do about it. It doesn't matter what state or federal legislatures do or don't do. It doesn't matter whether Christians (or any other -ism adherents) condemn it or not. Homosexuals have been part of the human race since day fucking ONE.

What IS IT with these people?? It's as if they firmly believe that criminalizing homosexuality will somehow make it vanish into thin air.

As if adolescent gays and lesbians, at the dawn of their sexual awakening, will say to themselves, "Gee, what I want is illegal. I guess I just better IGNORE my feelings and pretend to be something I'm not."

As if Steve will turn to Bob, post-criminalization, and say, "Sorry, honey. Our love and commitment is now verboten, so I'm going to pack my stuff, go search for Donna Reed and set up housekeeping circa 1957."

As if legalizing gay marriage (or civil unions) will encourage married straight men to start divorcing in droves, speaking with lisps and marrying their poker buddies instead.

As if hordes of straight-laced, corn-fed soccer moms are going to abandon their husbands and children, move to militant bull-dyke communes, stop shaving and refuse to wear anything but studded leather ever again.

Of course, these fantasies may very well be at the heart of their paranoia, all snark aside. On the unfortunate occasions in which I've spoken to fundamentalists about the homosexual community, their intractable impression of these folks is formed exclusively by what they see in Pride parade footage. They literally can't conceive that Norman The Mild Mannered Accountant, Volvo-driving Suburban Resident is actually happily partnered with Bill The Respectable Golf-playing Dentist. They can't imagine that Beverly, The Successful M.D. has been with Laura, The Ambitious Advertising V.P for over two decades. No, these REAL people have no place in their paranoid fantasies. Instead, they're convinced that every gay person is exactly like Rue Paul or Richard Simmons (no offense meant to either).

As if the battle for GLBT rights isn't enough of an uphill battle already, but we've also got to deprogram these people & disabuse them of their ridiculous misconceptions on top of it. WTF?!?

The Blogometer

The National Journal Group has put together a nice roundup on what's happening in the 'sphere. Published "every weekday at noon", it looks like a good resource for what's being discussed and by whom, if you're interested in such temperature readings.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

"The Making of a Martyr": Bunnatine Greenhouse

Shanikka has assembled a brilliant explanation of yet another lamb headed to slaughter for questioning the propriety of the Iraq war -- this time, in regard to the KBR/Halliburton RIO contract. It'll piss you off for all the usual reasons, but Shanikka's presentation is thorough and persuasive. Don't miss this one.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tree Huggers and Rabbit Kissers Beware!

Beware, because the Department of Homeland Security has got your number! In terms of representing a threat to the public, environmental activists and animal rights groups rank highest domestically among scary "not to be missed" categories of would-be mutineers! Always interesting to get a glimpse into prioritization strategies. Lest we think safety measures correlate to degrees of potentiality or correspond to likelihood of incident. We would be foolish to think that, right? That resources would be wisely spent in our grateful names? Interesting information from Southern Poverty Law Center on what is clearly a skewed perspective:

Excerpt for your convenience:
"Terror From the Right"

By Andrew Blejwas, Anthony Griggs and Mark Potok

"Ten years after the Oklahoma City bombing left 168 people dead, the guardians of American national security seem to have decided that the domestic radical right does not pose a substantial threat to U.S. citizens.

A draft internal document from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that was obtained this spring by The Congressional Quarterly lists the only serious domestic terrorist threats as radical animal rights and environmental groups like the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front. But for all the property damage they have wreaked, eco-radicals have killed no one — something that most definitely cannot be said of the white supremacists and others who people the American radical right.

In the 10 years since the April 19, 1995, bombing in Oklahoma City, in fact, the radical right has produced some 60 terrorist plots. These have included plans to bomb or burn government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives, and biological and chemical weapons"

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Policy Note

I've found a couple of comments here this evening that offer little pertinent substance, but *do* contain a link to a totally off-topic website. This smells like spam, and as such, these posts will be (have been) summarily deleted.

If I inadertently confuse your comment with such drek, you have my apologies and my sincere urging that you put your creative and linguistic best into your future contributions as a strictly preventative measure.

The Management.

Jr. Blogs

Oh my.

:::giggling madly while picking out my seat in the outer circle of hell:::

Cindy Speaks

I trust most, if not all of you, have been watching what's happening with Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, TX. Some of you may have seen the desperate, vicious attempts to smear and discredit her by people like O'Reilly, Drudge and Malkin. Like most school-yard bullies, they don't understand the power of real conviction, the depth of real loss, and the frustration of valid and profound doubt about this administration. Cindy does.

She's made several blog entries in recent days, from GW's driveway, but I found this one particularly compelling.

Someone recently asked me in an email where our heros are.

One of them is in Texas.

Justice Sunday II

First, read Frederick Clarkson's entries here, here or here.

Then, take his advice (links added):

We can use our blogs in the same way we do when we are concerned about anything else.

People connected to religious communities -- check out those audio files I linked to in my diary above. Isn't that a terrific resource? That means there is audio for radio stations. (Hey Air America!)


Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The Interfaith Alliance

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

People for the American Way

These groups (and more) are active in publicly countering the messages of Justice Sunday. Lets amplify their efforts.

If we believe the federal judiciary is important, and this is one of the premier events in rallying support for a far-rightwing judiciary -- doesn't it make sense that we do all we can to counter all this? I have done a series of diaries here, and on my blog about this event. I am just one blogger. But there are lots of useful links in those diaries, and maybe even a good point or two. Please use 'em!

Keep an eye on the sites above for coverage of the event. If you own a blog, help spread the word. If you don't, send emails to your friends/family. If you need to print a page and mail it to Granny Mae in NowhereSpecial, IA, who just doesn't get what "all the fuss is about", then do so.

Remember: These folks will succeed in their attempts to theocratize America only if we remain silent.

What's the Matter With Kansas, Indeed

Well, kids, we shouldn't be surprised.

The Kansas Board of Education voted 6-4 Tuesday to include greater criticism of evolution in its school science standards, but it decided to send the standards to an outside academic for review before taking a final vote.

According to the National Center for Science Education:

The American Institute of Biological Sciences was quick to decry the board's decision. In a press release issued on August 9, AIBS stated that the board "is doing a disservice to the state's K-12 students by adopting a curriculum that redefines science such that intelligent design/creationism and other non-scientific concepts could be taught in science classes." AIBS's executive director Richard O'Grady explained, "The theory of evolution underpins all of modern biology," and AIBS's president Marvalee Wake added, "If our students are going to compete in the global economy and if we are going to attract the next generation into the sciences, we must teach science. ... We simply cannot begin to introduce non-scientific concepts into the science curriculum."

The standards will be reviewed by Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), a reputable Colorado-based educational research organization. According to the Capitol-Journal, "In addition to commenting on whether the standards cover what students need to know, McREL is also to consider such issues as if the standards give enough guidance for curriculum and assessment." The review process is expected to take at least a month; the board is therefore expected to consider the standards again in light of McREL's assessment at its October meeting. But the board is not obligated to pay any attention to the assessment, and the six-member conservative majority seems to be bent on ignoring informed scientific and educational opinion.

Keep track of the NCSE homepage for updates on the various battles across the country. I swear... these ID people are going to give me a stroke.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Progressive Blogosphere....Misunderstood

Markos has an entry that proves just how boneheaded politicians tend to be.

Something for everyone

Pursuant to a couple of statements made in another thread, I wanted to make a couple of points about language. All of thought, and much of emotion, is conveyed through the medium of speech. The blogosphere is a pale shadow of that because emotion is stripped from they typed word, and inflection is reduced to emoticons, italics, caps, or some encapsulation using *. You can still get your point across, but the power of that point (assuming you have one) is diluted by the medium.

That being the case, some of us like to emphasize with language. Foul language. Oh, yes. We like to curse, to berate, to taunt, to accuse, to cast aspersions. Many of us use this around the primary point, some of us use it simply as a method to halt the conversation. I have done, and been reprimanded, for both. Inevitably, some panty waist will wade into the conversation (or its degenerate brother, the argument) and start whining about how the point is dismissed when the foul language/name calling come into play. That refrain of "can't we all play nice" makes me want to gag. How much more obviously must that point be made?

I was just reading some articles in the Boston Review, and was struck by the articles evsicerating an opponent with the most meticulous care, all the while couching all that passion in ever-so-polite language. How is it that insinuating that your opponent "lacks the fundamental knowledge to support that stance" any different than "this guy is a moron and has no clue what he's spouting off about"? The insults are the same, you just strip out the passion, and assume that makes a difference. Any debate seeks to undermine the opponents position, and certain methods of doing that have been declared off limits. These are called fallacies.

Among these fallacies is the one that complains that an argument cannot proceed in the face of name calling. As if the point, "the Earth is round and orbits the sun", is rendered untrue or invalid when prefaced with, "Hey, dickhead". That's the worst kind of fallacy. and it is grasped at by folks who desperately want out of the argument. Ignore the opposing point, or piece of information, and cry fould over a slur. Now, this is not to indicate that I seek license to have some sort of cursing Tourettes attack in the course of every discussion. But every now and again, a good FUCK@! does wonders to focus your wits on the debate, and stir up both sides when it spirals downward in that bastard cousin of an argument (after all the points have been exhausted, and the retreading of the same points begins), the heated personal exchange.

Language is valid, no matter the form it is couched in. (Though I despise it with my whole heart, and flat refuse to have it spoken in my home, I even include the gibberish known as ebonics in that statement.) When you make an effort to sanitize that language, to ameliorate its impact by reducing something like "nigger" (a word that has come to symbolize bigotry and white guilt) to "the N word", or fiddle with "handicapped" until you end up with "handicapable", or any of the myriad other goofy PC terms that spring up for everything from blindness to obesity, you are saying that some things are unworthy of being expressed. Some types of speech, like hate speech, are unacceptable. Bullshit. Free speech means even the stuff that would gag a maggot, like an Aryan rally or Oliver North talking about patriotism.

If you have something to say, then say it. If someone gets offended, then just smile at them, wave, and call them a fucking idiot. Language is what we have to express how we feel and what we think, and any effort to curtail it is to try to put boundaries on those feelings and thoughts. It is the people that seek to do that who have given up on having a debate, or an exchange of ideas, without ever realizing it.