Sunday, February 29, 2004

It's all about sex

The fine folks at Concerned Women for America have given me the quote for the day:
“Concerned Women for America is grateful to President Bush for speaking out in favor of the integrity of marriage. But we regret that we cannot support the defective remedy he has chosen.”
Well, damn all, as some of us say when our jaws drop.

Michael Schwartz, vice president for government relations for CWA made the announcement, which maybe should be another concern for CWA - why do they have a man as their veep for government relations?

However, we assume he shares their womanly concerns, as he continues -
“But if that amendment authorizes state legislatures to confer the entire legal substance of marriage (without the name of marriage) upon persons who are not married, then it takes away with one hand what it gives with the other.”
Shorter version - if an unmarried couple gets all the legal goodies, it's not fair.

Well - of course not. The people who get all those legal goodies should be in a legally authorized, licensed, committed relationship.

Somehow, I doubt all the legal goodies - like health care insurance, Social Security survivor benefits, etc. - are the root of CWA's problem with same-sex marriages.

Senator Rick Santorum warns -
""[T]he consequence is very clear. Marriage loses its significance. People will stop getting married. Homosexuals will not get married; heterosexuals will stop getting married. And that to me is the real threat to the American family and to the culture generally."
Actually, health care insurance strikes me as a pretty good reason to get married, and a rather powerful incentive to stay together.

In fact, using the Santorum Marriage Theory, I suppose we could say universal health insurance is a bigger threat to marriage than same-sex marriages.

As long as human beings long for companionship, love, intimacy, and sharing their lives with another, there will be a longing for the commitment of marriage. I think we can dump Santorum's Marriage Theory into the trash bin, along with some of his other looney ideas.

Jan LaRue, the lady whose view of San Francisco was ruined when she envisioned it as “Baghdad by the Bay”, continues -
"What makes anybody think that activist courts or renegade mayors will respect a state's choice to not provide marriage benefits to civil unions?” said Jan LaRue, CWA's chief counsel. “Any state law, including a state constitutional amendment, can be trumped by a federal equal protection ruling by an activist judge.”
If Jan ever visited the real Baghdad, she might find out pretty quickly what it's like to be denied equal rights because of her sex.

And if she traveled around Iraq, she'd find that her rights in one place might be far different from her rights in another. She might just find herself longing for an activist federal judge to lay down the law to the state judges.

So let's cut to the chase. Those who howl the loudest about same-sex marriages are generally those who claim to "hate the sin, but love the sinner".

It's about sex.

Would same-sex marriages be okay if the couples swore off any sexual intimacy?

If a man and woman get married, and resolve to have a celibate relationship - are they still married? Are they entitled to the legal goodies?

If a heterosexual couple, after 50+ years of marriage and/or numerous health problems is unable to have sex, are they still married?

Whose business is it, anyway?

Would the anti-gay marriage crowd have us all believe that marriage is a Romper Room full of wild sex and wonderful legal benefits?

Those of us who have been there know better, and welcome those who want to share the good times and bad, the sickness and health, the riches and the poverty, until death do they part.
Mo comes up for air

I’m certainly glad Maureen Dowd is in one of her sane periods, as evidenced by her column in today’s NY Times.

Point number one – Mo points out that despite all the misleading, misinterpreted, and just plain false intelligence that allowed the Bush administration to get us into the Iraq pickle – not a soul has been fired, held accountable, or otherwise accepted responsibility.

Republicans have grown fond of quoting Harry Truman, but the Bush administration is certainly reluctant to adopt his "The Buck Stops Here" motto.
It is a triumph of chutzpah for Mr. Bush to thwart the investigation into 9/11 at the same time he seeks re-election by promoting his handling of 9/11 and scaring us with the specter of more terrorism. He's even using 9/11 memorials as the backdrop for his convention in New York.
But then she hits on Point Number Two - one of my pet peeves. How do you fight a “War on Terrorism”?

Bob Kerrey, former senator and member of the 9/11 commision says -
"To declare war on terrorism, it seems to me to have the target wrong," he said. "It would be like after the 7th of December, 1941, declaring war on Japanese planes. We declared war on Japan. We didn't declare war on their tactic. . . . Terrorism is a tactic."

A Bush 41 official agreed: "You can't fight terrorism conventionally like a war. Any 16-year-old kid can strap on dynamite and take down any building. It must be fought clandestinely, dealing with the underlying causes and taking security measures in our own country."
So, here we are, in a conventional war against unconventional tactics, using weak intelligence to deal with it , doing virtually nothing to deal with the underlying cause, stone-walling attempts to find out what went wrong, and making half-hearted, half-funded efforts to increase security in our own country.

There’s not a pin’s worth of difference between John Kerry & John Edwards on homeland security – strengthen and fully fund first responders, beef up credible intelligence methods, tighten border security, etc. Common-sense stuff, which should strike anyone in a sincere "War on Terror" as more important than giving tax breaks to the already-wealthy.

If we’re serious about tracking down terrorists on foreign soil, we’ll need a much more sensible foreign policy which gains us the full cooperation of our allies; intelligence sharing and their willingness to arrest and prosecute terrorists.

Any war against a shadowy "tactic" calls for restructuring or re-tooling the military. Tanks, battalions, “Star Wars” weapons, and smart bombs aren’t going to cut it.

Smaller, highly trained forces that can move fast, think on their feet, carry their own supplies, and collect and act on intelligence will be crucial.

After 9/11, someone had the idea of brain-picking Hollywood screenwriters for potential terrorist attack scenarios. It probably wasn’t a bad idea, especially if the Powers That Be are ready to fully fund, train, and deploy an “A-Team”-type force.

Finding out what went so catastrophically wrong pre-9/11 is the first step. For stalling and hem-hawing the 9/11 commission, one of those terrorist teachers needs to take the Bush administration over their knee and give them a few well-placed whacks.


Saturday, February 28, 2004

Golly gee whiz...I NEVER expected this! (/sarcasm)

U.S. oil execs rush to renew ties with Libya
...sources said they expect the Bush administration to lift the ban on energy investments later in 2004, Middle East Newsline reported.

"While the ban on travel by U.S. persons is being lifted today," a U.S. Treasury Department statement said on Thursday, "the prohibitions on transportation-related activities, such as flights to Libya by U.S. air carriers, will remain in place at this time."

The administration has already allowed U.S. oil firms to negotiate lease renewals of holdings in Libya, many of which were scheduled to expire in 2005. Washington has also granted permission for companies to conduct technical inspections of properties in Libya.
I just knew you'd be as surprised as I was.
Bush Ejects Two From Bioethics Council

The George Bush system of selective ethics, hard at work again.

Yer Out -

Elizabeth Blackburn, a renowned biologist at the University of California at San Francisco. Blackburn said she believed she was let go because her political views do not match those of the president and of Leon Kass, the council's director, with whom she has often been at odds at council meetings.

William May, an emeritus professor of ethics at Southern Methodist University, is a highly respected scholar whose views on embryo research and other topics had also run counter to those of conservative council members.

Yer IN

Benjamin Carson, the high-profile director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. Carson is also a motivational speaker who often invokes religion and the Bible and has lamented that "we live in a nation where we can't talk about God in public."

Diana Schaub, chairman of the department of political science at Loyola College in Maryland. In a 2002 public forum discussing the council's cloning report, she talked about research in which embryos are destroyed as "the evil of the willful destruction of innocent human life."

Peter Lawler, a professor of government at Berry College in Georgia. Lawler has written in the conservative Weekly Standard that if the United States does not soon "become clear as a nation that abortion is wrong," then women will eventually be compelled to abort genetically defective babies.

(Update - American Footprint has more)

If you want my advice Rummy - and of course, you don't...


U.S., Pakistani officials deny report of bin Laden capture
The state radio report, quoting an unidentified source, said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's visit to the region this week was in connection with bin Laden's arrest.
I'm pretty sure he wasn't there to share a plastic-turkey moment with the troops. This report is based on two sources, and one has told the Associated Press they were "misquoted".

The misquoted source is Shamim Shahed -
... identified as editor of the English-language Pakistani newspaper The Nation. (state radio director Asheq Hossein) said Shahed told him Friday night that bin Laden was arrested "a long time ago."

But Shahed, who is The Nation's Peshawar bureau chief and not its editor, denied telling Iranian radio that bin Laden had been captured.

"I never said this," Shahed said in a telephone interview with AP's Islamabad bureau. "But I have for the last year been saying that he is not far away. He is within their (the Americans') reach, and they can declare him arrested any time.
The other source is only identified as "a man with close links to intelligence services and Afghan tribal leaders."

"Developing", I guess. If Osama is apprehended at any time before the election, an "October Surprise" will always be suspected.

To avoid excessive hand-wringing, flying accusations, and any hint of political motives, here's my advice....

If and when Osama is captured, stick him in a spider hole in deepest darkest Afghanistan, under tighter secrecy than Cheney's "undisclosed location". Don't allow the slightest leak.

Announce the capture (or death).....AFTER the election.

(Cross-posted on ETalkingHead)
Brightening my Saturday

It's generally goes against my grain to quote someone else's post in entirety, but sometimes they're just too good to pass up.

And if you're anything like me, sometimes you're just too impatient to obey the "CLICK HERE to read the whole thing!" instructions.

So, without further ado, from Bad Attitudes, via Melanie -
"Behind Enemy Lines
I spent last night at a fundraiser for a Republican legislator. It was very interesting to hear most of the attendees bitching about Bush. Most of the griping centered around his mishandling of the economy and fiscal matters, with a not-insignificant portion devoted to sniping at the marriage amendment.

But what was really surprising was the table talk at the private dinner after the fundraiser. With two exceptions, everyone at the table declared they would vote for anybody but Bush. One of the exceptions was an absolute die-hard Bush supporter, who declared he would vote for Bush no matter what. The other exception was the legislator, who said he wasn’t sure he could vote for Bush.

Turns out he and many of his fellow Republicans are plenty angry at the president, and deeply troubled at the direction the country is going in.

Although I can’t divulge any of the details about where this took place, I can tell you that all of the politicians and power-brokers involved are in a must-win state for Bush. If the people who should constitute his base are upset enough that they are considering voting against their own man, what does this tell us about Bush’s electoral chances?"
To further plagiarize, and quoting the immortal K.C. and the Sunshine Band - "That's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it".


Friday, February 27, 2004

The wonders of Saudi Arabia
A Collective Sigh travel guide

From the UK Guardian comes the exciting news that fascinating, beguiling, exotic Saudi Arabia is Taking Major Steps to join the international tourism industry.
Tourism accounts for about 9% of Saudi Arabia's GDP, but the tourists are mainly Saudis themselves. The plan to market the kingdom to foreigners is intended to create 1.5 million-2.3 million jobs by 2020.
Considering their exploding population, the plethora of pampered princelings, dependence on foreign laborers,and dwindling oil reserves, the Saudis have seen the wisdom of looking beyond liquid gold for their, um, gold

Imagine walking the streets of Riyadh, birthplace of Osama bin Laden, or exploring Jeddah where he received his primary, secondary, and university education! Look for bargains in old bazaars and sparkling new shopping malls. Experience the thrill of an encounter with the morality police, and enjoy stimulating cafe conversation with those who shaped Osama's world views!
They prowl the streets and shopping malls, hunting down women who don't shroud themselves and Muslim men who ignore the call to prayer. Saudi Arabia's pervasive and powerful morality police have been a pillar of the ultra-conservative Kingdom since its foundation.
After a rewarding day of walking in Osama's footsteps, there is still plenty to entice the traveler -
Besides deserts and oases, Saudi Arabia has mountain ranges, several national parks and 2.7 million hectares (6.7 million acres) of forest. The Red Sea coast is one of the best places in the world for scuba diving, and bungee jumping is also said to be popular.
A word of caution, however -
In December, a Briton and an American were arrested after taking diving lessons in the Red Sea, apparently suspected of planning to attack shipping.
Packing tips from the official Saudi tourism website -
Visitors to Saudi Arabia are advised to dress conservatively in public. It is not appropriate to wear short trousers or skirts. Visitors are advised to wear modest clothing that is lightweight and covers the arms and legs.

Women are advised to wear an Abaya (a full-length black outer garment made of soft material that covers the body) when in public areas. It is advisable for female visitors to always have a light scarf with them as there are places where they will be required to cover their head and face.
Dressed appropriately for an exciting day of scuba diving and bungee jumping! Oops - where's that head scarf, missy?

All this, and much, much more!

Alas, not everyone will be eligible to sample the joys of Saudi Arabia and enrich the Saudi economy -
The supreme commission for tourism's website lists those who will not be allowed in: Jews; people with Israeli stamps in their passport; "those who don't abide by the Saudi traditions concerning appearance and behaviour", and "those under the influence of alcohol"
This could be construed to include just about everyone in the world, but nevertheless we applaud Saudi determination to almost/perhaps/halfway take the plunge into the global economy and modern civilization.
Bush Shifts U.S. Stance On Use of Land Mines

A "smarter" way to kill and maim thousands every year?
President Bush will bar the U.S. military from using certain types of land mines after 2010 but will allow forces to continue to employ more sophisticated mines that the administration argues pose little threat to civilians, officials said yesterday.

The new policy, due to be announced today, represents a departure from the previous U.S. goal of banning all land mines designed to kill troops. That plan, established by President Bill Clinton, set a target of 2006 for giving up antipersonnel mines, depending on the success of Pentagon efforts to develop alternatives.

Bush, however, has decided to impose no limits on the use of "smart" land mines, which have timing devices to automatically defuse the explosives within hours or days, officials said.

His ban will apply only to "dumb" mines -- those without self-destruct features. But it will cover devices not only aimed at people but also meant to destroy vehicles. In that way, Bush's policy will extend to a category of mines not included in Clinton's plan, which was limited to antipersonnel devices.

Bush will also propose a 50 percent jump in spending, up to $70 million in fiscal 2005, for a State Department program that provides mine-removal assistance in more than 40 countries, officials said. The program also funds mine-awareness programs abroad and offers some aid to survivors of mine explosions.
I applaud the last paragraph, but continuing to pollute the earth with even more, albeit "smarter" land mines seems self-defeating.
Surf's up!

Ride to the wild surf . . . a board rider is towed out to catch the Manly giants

For the record, our predicted 3-6" of snow has turned into white-out conditions with thunder-snow. I just waded out onto the deck with a yardstick - it's semi-sheltered, but still has twelve inches of snow, and is predicted to keep going into the morning. Child's play, to you northern ice-jockeys, but obscene for the Sunny South.

Searching for something a little warmer, we turn to the Sidney Morning Herald -
As coastal beaches were pounded by five-metre waves yesterday, jet skis towed surfers onto waves, Hawaiian-style, at Manly. But about 20 board riders retreated into the harbour to ride waves a fraction of the size at Nielsen Park, Vaucluse - although they were still a solid metre or more, and so strong that they ripped out the shark net.
Five meters, hmmmm - a bit over sixteen feet. Okay, I had to find a metric converter; I'm an American and we real Americans don't do metric.

Considering our wintry weather, the beach sounds good. I'm not so sure about those shark nets, though.

Winter hell update Friday, Feb. 27, 8:53 a.m. - Eighteen inches and still flurrying, with a nice bit of sleet mixed in. Those who didn't immediately drive their vehicles into a ditch abandoned them in the middle of the road. Rumor is that Bible Belt beer and liquor sales reached a record high. Three weeks until spring.


Thursday, February 26, 2004

Quick hits

It's snowing heavily, with about six inches predicted - which of course means the end of the world as we know it here in North Carolina.

I knew it was time for another snow....the crocuses are ready to bloom, and the daffodil foilage is about two inches out of the ground.

I am grateful to be home, snug & warm, as I was able to go to work early and almost finish before the white junk started falling. Now I only have to worry about Mr. Andante, whose work place seldom gives him the opportunity to leave early.


I see our not-so-distant neighbor Haiti is about to explode; rebels marching on the capital, Bush warning Haitians refugees to stay away from the United States, terrified foreigners fleeing, and so forth.

Before you get steamed about it, let me assure you we don't get any oil from Haiti, and Haitians are mostly just a bunch of dirt-poor black folks. Move along; nothing to see here.


Clear Channel is shocked - SHOCKED to find that Howard Stern runs afoul of the new indecency standards.

Sort of like the NFL was shocked by an MTV-produced Super Bowl show with suggestive dancing and lyrics.

When I heard they'd fired Bubba the Love Sponge, I thought they meant Spongebob Square Pants. So I guess I'm no authority on shock-schlock-crap radio.

Did I hear that Clear Channel is going to require their broadcasters to attend some sort of decency classes? Anybody want to volunteer to teach that one?


In response to Bush's endorsement of the anti-gay marriage amendment, Rosie O'Donnell plans to travel to San Francisco to marry her long-time companion, Kelli Carpenter. Good for them. Don't get mad, get married!

When conservative acquaintances express their dislike for Rosie's show (translations: "ewww, she's an evil lesbian"), I always remind them that she bucked the trend with that talk show, vowing to be NICE, rather than going along with the sleaze merchants. And she kept that promise.


I see Alan Greenspan is warning that cuts in Social Security and Medicare may be necessary - especially considering George Bush's deficit and tax cuts.

Greenspan knows a lot more about the economy than I - he also has a better retirement plan and health insurance.

Here's my suggestion......let's do something about the Bush deficit and repeal most (if not all) the Bush tax cuts. Then they can tamper with my retirement.

I guess it's a good thing Wal Mart and McDonald's are an integral part of my plan, but the way things are going, you'll need a doctorate to get a job there.

And truth be told, I'd be willing to trade some reasonable adjustments if it meant veterans would get what they've been promised.


With the Oscar show soon upon us, I've turned my thoughts to next year's competition. Will "The Passion of the Christ" be nominated? From what I've heard & read, there are some noteworthy aspects of the production. Will it get a "Best Picture" or "Best Director" nomination? It will be interesting to see what will happen, whether it does or doesn't. Talk about your culture war.....


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan

Remember Lieutenant-General William Boykin?
Boykin has appeared in uniform in churches around the country over the past two years proclaiming, among other things, that the enemy in the "war on terrorism" is "a guy named Satan" and that the god worshipped by Muslims is "an idol".

While several powerful lawmakers, including leading Republicans, demanded that Boykin immediately step down, or at least be reassigned to a less sensitive post, the Pentagon said only that it would investigate if he violated any laws or regulations, but that no further action was being considered.
Further action considered and taken.
Bring me the head of Osama bin Laden

The war in eastern Afghanistan and the tribal areas in Pakistan is barely on, but the Pentagon's spinning machine is in high gear. Who will prevail: al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman "The Surgeon" al-Zawahiri, or Commando 121?

The Pentagon's creative directors ruled that Commando 121, or Task Force 121, of General William Boykin - a self-described Islamophobe and a known Christian fanatic - was responsible for the capture of Saddam Hussein, when in fact the former dictator was arrested by Kurdish peshmerga (paramilitary) forces acting on a tip by one of his cousins and then sold to the Americans, according to Asia Times Online sources in the Sunni triangle.

This week, without a blip in many a strategic radar screen, Commando 121 transferred from Iraq to Pakistan. On October 25 of last year, Asia Times Online reported that Boykin had been appointed in charge of the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

European intelligence sources tell Asia Times Online to expect the same scenario "Saddam" for the eventuality of the capture of bin Laden and Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Omar. Bin Laden will be "smoked out", probably on a tip by an Afghan tribal leader willing to make a cool US$25 million. And all credit will go to the secretive Commando 121, which is known to comprise navy Seals and commandos from the army's Delta Force.
The cast is assembled, the props are in place, the curtain is ready to go up.
And what if bin Laden decides not to follow the script? According to sources close to the Pakistani newspaper Khabrain, bin Laden has made his seven bodyguards take an oath to kill him in the event that he is in any danger of being arrested. He will try to blow himself up. Western diplomatic sources, on the other hand, prefer to insist that if bin Laden is arrested according to the current Pentagon plan, the whole operation will be kept secret - to be disclosed only a few weeks or days before the American presidential election in November.
If it plays out as "Western diplomatic sources" suggest........how dare - how DARE they so abuse the 3,000 murdered souls of 9/11?
Bush Science 101

(swiped from Pharyngula)
Should Broward County (FL) be allowed to issue marriage licenses for gay weddings?

Vote here

(Thanks to Greg for the tip & link)
Previewed in the imagination

I have a little habit of reading the book before seeing a film adaptation, which works nicely sometimes ("Lord of the Rings"), often scares me from seeing the movie ("The Amityville Horror"), and sometimes infuriates me beyond words.

The worst offense was 1945's "And Then There Were None". What genius came up with the idea of changing the ending of an Agatha Christie mystery? Heresy!

When a story is particularly violent, I tend to avoid the movie altogether. I'm not a fan of slow-mo gore or slasher movies. Just my opinion, but I don't think they're healthy, for any age.

Besides, the pictures in my mind are much more vivid and nightmarish than anything a director can come up with.

Which is the main reason I won't be lining up to see "The Passion of the Christ". I've read the book.

As Alas A Blog reminds all Christians -
"Why is the symbol of Jesus and Christianity so often the cross, a reminder of the bloody and disgusting and less important event, instead of the empty tomb, a reminder of the real reason why Jesus' coming mattered at all?"
I would further suggest that following the teachings of the man, pre-crucifixion, is more important than agonizing over his agonies.

We could all use a little more of that "love thy neighbor as thyself", couldn't we?


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Sullivan, once more, with e-mail
"I organized my life around four institutions: my family, the Presbyterian Church, the Boy Scouts and the Republican Party. They summed up what seemed to me a sensible view of life and the world, embodying loyalty, unconditional love, a quiet, thoughtful exercise of faith, a commitment to ethical behavior, and a limited government that did the things it needed for the public good but otherwise left people alone to be all they could become and savor the victory of having done so.

Then I came out, and one by one those four institutions turned their backs on me.

My parents were embarrassed by me and stopped nearly all communication, though they said they loved me and in some way considered me part of the family.

Then my church got a new minister who had hardly arrived before he started preaching on the marriage issue and rooting out gay staff members. Commissioned a Stephen Minister, I was told I would never be assigned anyone to walk with in their troubles. But of course the church loves me and in some way considers me part of the family still.

Then the Boy Scouts went to court and said that even though I am an Eagle Scout, people like me are not good role models for the program and cannot be leaders. But of course they consider me a Scout still and are happy to ask me for my money.

And now the head of the party I've stuck with through thick and thin for 36 years says the prospect of my being able to marry is so threatening to society they have to ban it in the constitution. But the president says God loves me and I got an email from him today telling me about his campaign kickoff speech. So I guess in their compassionate conservative way the administration still thinks of me as sort of a Republican.

I don't. You can only feel the love of people and institutions who fend you off with a barge pole for so long. Today I changed my registration from Republican to independent."
I hope Republicans realize what they've lost.
"I guess I was really naive"

Normally I wouldn't link to or even acknowledge the existence of Andrew Sullivan, but he's had a rude awakening today when Fearless Leader opted to back the Federal Marriage Amendment.
"I wonder if the Bush administration even thought about how mean-spirited this was going to appear. And how nakedly political. Some journalists are reporting that White House sources are telling them that they do not expect this to pass but they need to fire up their base. They'd go this far for purely political reasons? I guess I really was naive."
Yes, you were.

He's getting lots of e-mails and posting them.

Etch this one in stone

We all DO realize Bush is only saying he backs a constitutional ban on gay marriage, don't we?

Like this "greatest hit" from the 2003 State of the Union -
"Tonight I'm proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles."
And who can ever forget this one -
"And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa."
I've said it before, and I'll say it again - when Bush says he's "in favor" of something, either nothing at all will come of it, it will be underfunded or unconstitutional, or you'd better watch your wallet.

The Right will bitch, the Left will bitch, and Bush will have persuaded himself he is a "leader with vision".

And while we're all in bitching-mode, he'll sneak in something below the radar.

Nevertheless Pete at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog has the ultimate, last-word, final, nail-in-the-coffin assessment -
"Until my administration captures Osama bin-Laden, gets our military out of Iraq, and creates actual job growth, I'll be forced to freak out our indolent, Cheetoh-scarfing public by tossing around non-threats like 'steroid use in sports' and 'gay marriage.' Y'all have a good night."
And may God bless us, everyone.
Telling it like it is

(photo shamelessly swiped from Norbizness)

At first I was appalled to hear Secretary of Education Rod Paige had referred to the National Education Association as "terrorists"

But after some reflection and medication, I realized - "Omigod, the man is RIGHT!"

I remember my third grade teacher, Miss Johnson, back in days of yesteryear, who took great delight in paddling students for any and all infractions.

Throw a spitball? Giggling in class? Miss an arithmetic problem? Over her knee you went. She used her hand only, but the woman had the hardest, boniest hands the good Lord ever put on a woman. When applied with force to a scrawny kid's bottom, they could leave welts.

Mrs. Rogers, my fifth grade teacher - psychologists would have a field day examining her. She was a square dance enthusiast, and her idea of physical activity on rainy days when she couldn't set us loose on the playground was square dancing.

Let me remind you that this was fifth grade, typically about eleven years old. First command - "boys, choose your partners". Back in those days, eleven-year-old boys would rather choose a diseased skunk for a partner than a girl.

I always ended up with Stuart, because I was the last partner chosen and Stuey was too shy to choose a partner to begin with. Stuart hadn't learned yet to appreciate the value of hygiene, had a chronic runny nose, and was a good foot shorter than I.

Then there was Coach Williamson - seventh grade biology. To him fell the unpleasant duty of explaining human reproduction to a class of snickering preteens. He didn't appreciate our snickers, nor did he appreciate gum-chewing in class.

He drew a little circle on the blackboard - about my eye level - and made me stand there with my nose stuck in the circle for a full five minutes. This only increased my snickering level, and the whole class merrily joined in. We all ended up in detention.

So, take a good look at Secretary Paige. He's about the same age as Miss Johnson, Mrs. Rogers, and Coach Williamson*. He grew up with them, was educated along with them, he probably administered corporal punishments like them, and he knows whereof he speaks. His expression perfectly demonstrates the frustrations of an educator sucked into the vortex of terrorism.

When the stink arose from the "terrorist" statement, the Bush administration issued the usual disclaimer -
An administration official said the secretary was "clearly joking" but he should not have used the "terrorist" label in taking issue with the NEA - which is not only the largest teachers union but also a major player in Democratic Party politics.
Joking, my butt. He's one of them.

*Names changed to protect the guilty

Monday, February 23, 2004

Your tax dollars at work

Officials: U.S. still paying millions to group that provided false Iraqi intelligence
The Pentagon has set aside between $3 million and $4 million this year for the Information Collection Program of the Iraqi National Congress, or INC, led by Ahmed Chalabi, said two senior U.S. officials and a U.S. defense official.
That would be Ahmed Chalabi, the same con artist who recently told the London Daily Telegraph -
"We are heroes in error," Chalabi was quoted as saying recently in Baghdad. "As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if he wants."
That would be the Bush administration, the one that swindled our country into a war of choice.

Never mind what Junior wants. We want.

We want the names of the fools who egged you on for more and more false information and used our tax dollars to pay for crap.

And by the way, we want our money back.

No...no!! I really don't want to think about this....

British doctors revive maggot treatment

I can hear it now......my conservative acquaintances will be saying - "Socialized medicine is so evil - they use maggots instead of antibiotics".
"People didn't like the thought of creepy-crawlies on their skin," said Tony Fowler, customer services manager at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, Wales.
No shock, Sherlock.
"But now there is a renewed interest because of the problems caused by the over-use of antibiotics, and the NHS has seen the cost-effectiveness of maggots."

Research at the Princess of Wales Hospital confirmed that placing sterile maggots on wounds could make them heal faster than conventional medicine.

The creatures devour dead, infected tissue and kill off bacteria that could block the healing process without damaging surrounding tissue, since they cannot ingest healthy flesh.
Chalk that up as one more reason to keep your flesh healthy.
Previously, patients could obtain sterile maggots only from certain hospitals and research centers.
Now, there's an idea for bringing in more American jobs....maggot farms!


Bumper sticker time

Toys, dumb blogging and blog-whoring

Now that Haloscan - the fine folks that provide the "comments" capability - has come out with "trackback", it looks like all the smart bloggers are jumping on board.

Me - I'm a dumb blogger. It took me forever just to get "comments" enabled, and I'm still basking in the glow of that accomplishment.

I do have an "aggregator", courtesy of my internet guru Steve Bates, which notifies me when various blogs are updated. I use Bloglines - if I can install it, anyone can.

What I don't have is "Atom"; a syndication or RSS feed that would let others know when I update.

Blogger's "support" article on "Atom" is Greek to me. If someone can explain it in words of two syllables or less...in common, everyday Redneck-ese....let me know.

In the meantime, I've pretty much figured out that "trackback" isn't that different from blog-whoring....and I'm pretty good at that. If you want to leave a comment here, linking back to your own site - feel free.

Here at Collective Sigh, the old-fashioned ways of whoring still work fine. Blog-whoring, that is.

Update -After much sturm und drang, huffing & puffing, and invaluable advice from Steve, I now have the infamous trackback.

Feel free to "ping" me, though I'm still a little leery of that term. It sounds like something that might get me in trouble with John Ashcroft or Jerry Falwell or both.
Going down with the neo-con ship?

I'm no NAFTA expert, but a quick glance around my part of the country is pretty damning. Factories are closing right and left, thousands are out of work. Businesses that depended on those workers to buy their groceries, clothing, appliances - you name it - are shutting the doors, too.

I do understand a little about "protectionism", as preached by Pat Buchanan, but don't see that as an answer.

There's got to be a fine balance somewhere; a trade policy that protects workers from the greed of corporations, yet encourages fair trading policy with the rest of the world.

I may not agree with Buchanan on much of anything, but I can't argue with this -
Seeing the devastation of NAFTA and its progeny, sensing rising opportunity in the industrial Midwest, Democrats are jumping ship on free trade. Bush, if he does not temper his enthusiasm for these one-sided trade deals, may just go down with it. If he does, one prays he will at least ensure the neoconservatives have first been locked securely in the cargo hold.
And therefore my first and last word on Ralph Nader - his influence on the Democratic race will be negligible; move on, nothing to see here.

But I wish Buchanan would run. I wouldn't vote for him, but a lot of the folks Bush is taking for granted would.

UpdateThe Beast has a great take on He Who Shall Be Ignored.


Sunday, February 22, 2004

Stupid human tricks

Too bad you have to be dead to qualify for a Darwin Award.....this fellow really deserves at least an honorable mention -

New York Driver Nabbed While Watching Porn Movie
ALBANY, N.Y. (Reuters) - Andre Gainey found out the hard way that in the state of New York it's illegal to drive while watching porn.

Police said the 35-year old man from Clifton Park, New York, was watching a adult movie called "Chocolate Foam" on Tuesday night while driving his Mercedes Benz in the town of Schenectady when he was spotted by an officer at a stop light.

Police spokesman Pete Frizoni said detectives pulled Gainey over when they saw the movie playing on screens embedded in the car's headrests. When they confronted him, they saw another screen in the passenger-side visor was facing Gainey, allowing him to watch the movie while driving.
But that wasn't the end of Andre's trouble -
Gainey was charged with a public display of offensive material, driving with a suspended license and driving while watching a television. He compounded his legal woes by giving a false name when he was fingerprinted, prompting police to add a charge of forgery.
.....and I bet he ended that cell phone conversation right before he was pulled over.

Untouchable campaign issues

The Bush/Cheney campaign has already said they will run on Bush's proposals, not his accomplishments..

RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie reiterated the theme to CNN -
"We're going to run on the president's strong and principled leadership and his positive agenda for a second term."
(Perhaps he's planning to undo the damage of his first term?)

So, check off "running on the record".

Military service? Bush might want to avoid talking about military service, especially if John Kerry is the Dem candidate. I can't see George Bush putting on any more flight suits or bragging about his honorable discharge.

Check off "military service".

Patriotism, the War on Terra? Ongoing investigations into 9/11, the outing of a CIA asset, and the still-missing WMD's...."patriotism" might not be the best path to follow.

Check off "patriotism".

The Moonie Times puts out a tentative feeler for another possibility - Marijuana taints presidential bids.

Both Kerry and Edwards have openly admitted to smoking marijuana in their younger days. Kerry first made the admission in 1990; Edwards during last November's "Rock the Vote" debate. Shame, shame!

But does Bush really want to go there? -
Mr. Bush never has directly answered questions about whether he used marijuana or other drugs.

When asked in August 1999, he replied: "I made some mistakes years ago, but I learned from my mistakes."
Check off "drug use" or anything to do with wild, irresponsible youth.

So, what's left? Gay marriages, some fringe social issues, and an obscenely stuffed treasure chest? The people most concerned with those social issues are starting to wake up and realize that jumping into bed with the Republicans hasn't gotten them anywhere.

Gary Bauer is speaking out -
"I'm not blaming the president, but religious conservatives have been doing politics for 25 years and, on every front, are worse off on things they care about," said Gary Bauer, president of American Values. "The gay rights movement is more powerful, the culture is more decadent, the life of not one baby has been saved, porn is in the living room, and you can't watch the Super Bowl without your hand on the off switch."
The religious right might be beginning to realize they've been had, used, pushed aside, and taken for granted.

The Washington Times again -Evangelicals frustrated by Bush -
"It's not just economic conservatives upset by runaway federal spending that he's having trouble with. I think his biggest problem will be social conservatives who are not motivated to work for the ticket and to ensure their fellow Christians get to the polling booth," said Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute.


With more than eight months remaining until Election Day, American Family Association founder Don Wildmon said the president "has already upset the economic conservatives, and I know the problem he is having with evangelicals. ... There is a major problem there."
Can Bush/Cheney04 get their money's worth from that overflowing campaign chest? Can non-stop advertising and photo-ops convince the evangelicals and economic conservatives a second term will satisfy both their agendas?

The grumbling from both the evangelical and economic conservative camps may mean a good half of that money will need to be spent on damage control, defending their "territory", and wooing back the voters they thought could be taken for granted.

Baghdad By The Bay

Checking in on the Concerned Women for America for all my womanly concerns, I note that five of their six "News Flash" items are concerning gay marriage;particularly those taking place in "Baghdad By the Bay".

Jan LaRue titles her lament "I Left My Heart in San Francisco but I’m Taking It Back - Homosexual Marriage Performed in Baghdad by the Bay". I suspect they'll be glad to give it back.
If you’ve ever driven south on Highway 101 into San Francisco, you never forget it. As you round the last curve, the view takes your breath away. The awesome Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay on your left, the blue Pacific on your right and the city with all of its white buildings come into view. And you hear Tony and start singing.
Yep - she's been there. Beautiful city, spectacular scenery. I always loved the weird way the fog rolls in....socked-in, can't-see-the-hand-in-front-of-your-face, and clear blue skies around the next curve.

But Jan can't get past the News Of The Day - the gay marriages.
But then the depravity that’s tolerated and, in many instances, sanctioned by government officials brings to mind “whited sepulchers full of dead men’s bones.” The idyllic scene is shattered by the reality of a city with a corrupt heart.
I would have thought "Sodom" or "Gomorrah" would have been more Jan's style, but she curiously chose "Baghdad" instead.

I suspect Jan and the Concerned Women of America are on the wrong side of history on this one. And it's too bad it messes up their perception of the world around them.

Let's just hope they don't see this one - Brother, sister fight law to get married.

That should add Australia to The Axis of Evil.


Saturday, February 21, 2004

I shall now say something nice to George Bush

Not about Bush, to Bush.

I'm sorry your dog had to be put to sleep. Been there, done that; it hurts.
Fine weather brings out the fruitcakes

Thanks to a tip from the Beast, I see the Klan and Nazis chose to make North Carolina their rallying ground again.
We don't want gay rights for queers," Schoep, wearing a uniform with swastikas, said. "Send them all back, and send them all back to Africa."
I'm not sure why he thinks all gays should go back to Africa, but then I'm not privy to the mind-droppings of Neanderthal humanoids.

Reports I've seen gave their total strength as thirty-five out of an expected fifty. Presumably, fifteen had better things to do, or were too ashamed to show up, or maybe even had a change of heart. The others should follow their example.

I've got news for this "tough" bunch - THIS bunch could beat the crap out of you, with my blessing.

Another senile moment

I like to seek out new blogs and commentary; new to me, at least. A good place to start is The TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem. Begin with the "Insignificant Microbes" and work your way upward.

There are certainly some that aren't worth the pixel space (after all, you're HERE, aren't you!?), but you can find some goodies, too.

Which is how I came to Live From the Nuke-Free Zone. I sometimes add a link to the weblog and then forget to recommend it to others. And, sho' 'nuff - oops, I did it again....another senile moment.

Live From the Nuke-Free Zone is a group blog I've been enjoying recently. Katster, Zibblsnrt, Warrior Tang, Fourth Man, and Jrenken (if I've forgotten someone, let me know) all provide a well-written combination of thoughtful, wacky, discerning, and whimsical.

Stop by for a visit, leave a comment, and enjoy.

(fixed name error, 2/22/2004, 7:51 a.m.)
Fine-tuning the art of mass distraction

From the Washington Post -
Campaign officials said in interviews that they plan substantial positive advertising about the president, focused on his proposals rather than accomplishments, when they begin spending tens of millions of dollars on the airwaves next month. But they made it clear that many of the ads will accuse the Democratic front-runner of "hypocrisy," in McKinnon's word, in part by reaching back into his early career.
I suppose that would be because his proposals sound peachy-keen, while his "accomplishments" suck.
We see Salon is sponsoring a Caribbean cruise
Salon will set sail with our inaugural cruise to the Caribbean -- gathering Salon editors, readers and special guest speakers for a thoughtful, independent-minded, Salon-style political forum.


You'll want to join us September 4th through the 10th for a good old fashioned salon with some of the strongest voices in progressive politics
The one cruise I've been on was spent mostly at the blackjack table, listening intently to special speaker Mr. Dealer.

Still, the Salon cruise sounds like a winner to me, blackjack or no. But alas - it's not free, so they'll have to do without my company. Perhaps they could invite someone else to make up for my absence.

I think Ann Coulter would be a good choice; special guest speaker Ann Richards could show her the true meaning of a tough broad.

Or maybe Bob Novak. I'm sure he would enjoy exchanging views with special guest speaker Joe Wilson

How about Matt Drudge? This would be an ideal opportunity to really get to know special guest speaker Sidney Blumenthal.

Now, that cruise would be worth a second mortgage on the house.


Friday, February 20, 2004

To debate or not to debate

I've been on the e-mail list for most of the Democratic candidates for what seems like years, and on the Edwards senate list certainly for several years. After all, he's my U.S. Senator - and it's been great to have a good one for a change.

He's got a petition urging Kerry to participate in a one-on-one debate. For what it's worth, here's the link if you'd like to sign it.

I'm still undecided at this point; one day, I'm convinced Kerry and his military record is the only way to STOMP Bush, and the next day I thnk Edwards has the best chance of bringing around the "swing" voters and others who just aren't paying attention.

Edwards seems to be putting a lot of stock in this one-on-one debate, as well he should. He didn't become an extremely successful trial lawyer for nothing.

Friday Doggie Bloggie

Andante's vicious Chihuahua herd.

From left to right - Bandit, Nicky, and Cujo

aka "The Three Stooges"

All bark, some bite, no sense whatsoever.


Thursday, February 19, 2004

Action alert!

Hurry on over to beastofsound, and give him your congratulations!
You always knew the Muppets were a librul, elitist plot

U.S. Counting on U.N. for Help in Iraq
As it weighs a major change in how to transfer political power to Iraqis, the Bush administration is relying ever more heavily on the United Nations to help clear the remaining high hurdles ahead.

It is an ironic turn of events for an administration that worked hard to keep the United Nations role in the background in the reconstruction of Iraq after the toppling of President Saddam Hussein. Now the United States is counting on the U.N.'s influence to help reach a solution to the ever-more complex political stalemate.
That headline should probably read - "Bush Screws Up Again, Depends on Others to Bail Him Out".

Through his entire life, Bush has been handed businesses, money, prestige, plum positions and Gawd-knows-what-else solely based on his family name, powerful connections, and money.

He's screwed up every one of his opportunities, and depended on his family name, powerful connections, and money to clean up his mess.

Why should Iraq be any different?

At long last, welcome home

Along with my morning coffee, I always have a healthy helping of Salon. Well worth the subscription, folks. Today's lead article has given me a lot of food for thought.

I was a semi-flower child who protested against the Vietnam war. I don't regret it, and still feel that it was a horrendous waste of precious human lives.

But I never - NEVER - reviled those who fought in the war. When I ran into a returned vet, they never had much to say about their experiences, and I didn't ask.

I hope none of them took my lack of curiosity as a lack of respect.....if so, wherever you are, I most humbly ask your forgiveness. You did your duty, as you saw it - whether you agreed that it should be a duty or not.

And so the lead story in Salon this morning struck a chord; Kerry vs. the chicken hawks speaks to me not so much about John Kerry, but about the silent Vietnam vets.
It was an unscripted scene, nothing like the polished photo ops the Bush team, plundering the resources of the government, liked to put together. Near the end of the Iowa caucus campaign, former Green Beret Jim Rassmann stood on a Des Moines stage and quietly described how John Kerry had saved his life in Vietnam. By the time he was finished, something remarkable had happened: a presidential challenger had, as the world watched, grown larger than the incumbent president.

But something even more important happened as well: In that moment, Vietnam veterans, with characteristic modesty, claimed their long-overdue seat at the head table of American politics. And that brought an unexpected threat to the Bush team's reelection plans, which relied on beating up liberals who didn't know how to fight back. Standing beside Kerry at campaign stops, working the phones, or simply filling the front rows, the veterans, powerless but for the witness they bore, took aim to blow those plans away.

Their presence made the election itself larger. The contest became more than a choice between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. It became a referendum on whether Vietnam still matters to us, and perhaps on whether it ever did. And thus it became our best, and perhaps last, chance to use the Vietnam War to make ourselves a better nation, rather than allow it to make us a worse one.
Welcome home, boys - and more than welcome to the political table.

A cornered rat ain't purty

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, (University of Colorado football coach Gary) Barnett called Hnida a "distraction" for the football team and a player who was not fit for Division I football.

"It's a guy's sport, and they felt like Katie was forced on them," Barnett said. "It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was awful."

"You know what guys do, they respect your ability. I mean you can be 90 years old, but if you can go out and play, they respect you.

"Well, Katie was a girl. Not only was she a girl, she was terrible. And there's no other way to say it. She couldn't kick the ball through the uprights."
"I sincerely regret that yesterday, a portion of my remarks were either misinterpreted or taken, aired out of context," he said. "And I apologize for answering that question in a manner where I must have come across as insensitive.

"What I wanted to communicate, was that regardless of Katie Hnida's abilities, I wanted Katie on our football team, I wanted to give her a chance to be a part of our program. I want to reaffirm my feelings, remarks that I made yesterday: I am very sensitive to Katie's allegations, I want to do whatever I can to help Katie."
It's always "I was misinterpreted" or "aired out of context", isn't it?

How about - "I was a jerk, and I'm sorry". Brief, to the point, and factual.

Just another brain fart from the Religious Wrong

Thanks to Rivka, blogging respectfully over at Respectful of Otters we can now turn our attention to puzzling over one of life's little ironies.

The moral arbiters, shocked - SHOCKED - by the Janet Jackson Super Boob incident and thorougly disgusted with the librul, elitist Hollywood crowd who force Tender, Impressionable Youth to watch filthy, gratuitous gory violence on the wide screen and in video games....

....will be dragging their tender, impressionable youth to an R-rated, intensely violent movie.

Sunday's sermon - "Sex Disgusting; Biblical Violence Good For You".

From USA Today -
There is plenty in the two-hour film to make children and adults alike squirm:

• Roman guards employ a "cat-o'-nine-tails" that rips the flesh from Jesus' back.

• As Jesus is being crucified, a supervisor scolds one man for not nailing his hands properly. He yanks Jesus' other hand, pulling the arm out of the socket.

• To see whether Jesus is dead, a Roman soldier pierces his side with a lance. Blood showers down on the soldier.
Forty-five minutes of it.
"The violence is necessary to understand the sacrifice Jesus made," says First Family pastor Jerry Johnston. His Baptist church has rented out a half-dozen theaters in Kansas City, Kan., and has reserved auditoriums the night of Feb. 27 for children 11 and older.

Johnston concedes they'll be disturbed by the violence. "I hope they're disturbed enough to make their peace with Jesus."
Some peace.

Just what the world needs - another generation of the violence-disturbed and inured Taliban wing of Christianity.

Poor Mel Gibson. He should have stuck to strutting around in a kilt.


Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Sorry - I just can't help myself

Cash Family Won't Let Song Be Used for Ad
Advertising writers in Florida were planning to pitch hemorrhoid-relief products with a commercial featuring the Johnny Cash classic "Ring of Fire," but Cash's family said there's no way they will let it happen.
That probably should read "Cash Family Never Had Hemorrhoids"

Okay, I'll shut down the computer and go to my room now.
We owe it all to Dean

I suppose, as A Conscientious Blogger, I should say something about Howard Dean's decision to end his presidential campaign.

In August 2002, I was still smarting from the Great Election Theft of 2000. I still am. But I was also angry over the way George Bush was mismanaging the country's business, and depressed by the way the Democrats in Congress were rolling over and playing dead.

Surfing the 'net on August 28, 2002, I found an interesting article in the Guardian - "An alternative to Bush is demanding to be heard".
Al Gore jockeys for position. Amazingly, he is the frontrunner, despite the fiasco of a campaign he ran in 2000 that let Bush in. He is hardly ever heard from, sidling away from confrontation and weighing up whether the polls will let him run. A handful of senatorial possibles - John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards - circle around, daring to say almost nothing, propelled, it seems, by terror of the Bush hard right more than the fury these incumbents deserve from any Democrat.

To find a fiercer rigour, one needs to travel north. Vermont is a small state, and its governor, Howard Dean, not yet a national figure. But he is the one declared candidate for the presidency, and is now embarked on the long haul to 2004, with a package of positions that define him as a realist but, more important, a style with the declaratory conviction that separates him from all those guarded poll-watchers. He sounds like a Clinton third wayer without the torment. Could this be the voice that, if heard often enough, will at least remind Americans that Bush's incoherent nationalism and vested interest economics are not the only message they need put up with?
I visited his website - still in it's infancy - read his positions, and liked what I read. I talked to my family and progressive-minded friends about Howard Dean.

"Who?" was the usual response.

Well, they've heard of him now. Maybe he didn't "click" with them personally, but he succeeded in making them pay attention.

We can rail against "electability" all we want, but it's just a plain, ornery fact of human nature. Some people just aren't attracted to other people.

But Howard Dean, despite any shortcomings he had on the "electability" scale, has pumped life into the Democratic party, brought new voters into the system, and put some backbone and spit into the Dems.

There's something Clinton-esque about it. Bill Clinton dared to stand up and declare his candidacy when Bush-the-Smarter had a sure lock on re-election. Howard Dean also looked America - and the other candidates - straight in the eye and said "We can win this".

When the Democrats take back the White House in November - and hell, make a grand run on the Congress, too - we can thank Howard Dean for inspiring the feisty determination that it will take to beat the Republican leviathan.

Thanks, Governor, from the bottom of my heart.

Attack of the Scientists!

Did someone say scientists were wimps?

Via Chris C. Mooney

No less than sixty - count 'em - sixty superstars of the scientific community, including twenty Nobel Laureates, have issued a statement entitled "Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making."
The document charges the Bush administration with a wholesale betrayal of science of a sort that, the signatories say, greatly exceeds any abuses that occurred under previous administrations.
Hot dog! I'm no scientist - the scientific community breathes a sigh of relief - but I know bullsh*t when I see it. And I've seen more than enough of it from the Bush administration.

Good luck getting to the on-line report...the server is clogged, CLOGGED I tell you, with the sudden increase in traffic.

In the meantime, according to Chris, here are some goodies from the report -
"Although scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, this input should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences." And that's where our president has fundamentally fallen short: "The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle."

"In making the invalid claim that Iraq had sought to acquire aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment centrifuges, the administration disregarded the contrary assessment by experts at the Livermore, Los Alamos, and Oak Ridge National Laboratories."
Heck, I'm not copy/pasting the whole thing. Go read it yourself - it just might make your day.

Update The NY Times piles on - Scientists Accuse White House of Distorting Facts
My favorite charity is me

Which is the way it has to be when you're living paycheck-to-paycheck.

But my second favorite - and one that gets $10 from me every time I have it left over - is 34 Million Friends of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

What better way to thumb your nose at the Bush administration and help people the world over?
July 22, 2002 - Bowing to pressure from extreme anti-family planning organizations and ignoring its own expert panel, the Bush Administration announced today that the United States would withdraw all support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
The United States was a long-time supporter of UNFPA, which provides voluntary family planning services (including contraceptives), life-saving pre- and post- natal care, and HIV/AIDS prevention services around the world, especially in Third World countries where the need for family planning and health care is heartbreakingly critical.

When the Bush administration announced the withdrawal of $34 million in pledged support, two women were outraged and determined to do something about it.

Enter Lois Abraham of New Mexico, and Jane Roberts of California. Independently, they had the same idea....ask 34 million friends to give just one dollar each to make up the shortfall caused by Bush's broken promise.

As of February 8, 2004, 34 Million Friends of UNFPA has raised $1,859,627.10. International support is growing, with many countries of meager means pledging funds.

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Somalia, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste and Uzbekistan have all pledged their support - their means may be meager, but their international spirit is strong.

The e-mail "update" I received today bears a bit of good news -
In late January, Congress approved $34 million for UNFPA programs. Now, the Bush Administration must decide whether to release the 2004 funding. Unfortunately, most experts anticipate that the Administration will once again withhold these funds based on disproved allegations made by anti-family planning special interests. An announcement by the Administration is expected in the coming months.

To overcome the Administration’s block on UNFPA funding, efforts continue in Congress to bring the U.S. back into the international mainstream. Representative Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y, has crafted legislation that would allow U.S. funding to UNFPA for the exclusive purpose of preventing, treating and repairing obstetric fistula—a debilitating but easily preventable consequence of childbirth complications that affects young women in the developing world.
Keep in mind that George Bush has raised nearly a quarter billion dollars to get re-elected, but won't authorize $34 million to help alleviate global over-population and women's health problems.

If you'd like to thumb your nose at Bush, visit 34 Million Friends of UNFPA. Check out the list of contributors (I'm on it!), a state-by-state map of the number of contributors (Texas is #3, heh-heh), and read some of their success stories. And while you're at it, send them a dollar.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The fractured administration....

From Business Week -

"I am George Bush. You tried to kill my father. Prepare to die."
Sound familiar? It's based on a famous line from The Princess Bride, a gently fractured fairy tale of a movie from 1987, and I'd argue that it gets to the heart of why many Americans think George W. Bush went to war in Iraq. The Princess Bride features an accomplished swordsman named Inigo Montoya, played by Mandy Patinkin. Montoya's life mission is to track down the evildoer of a lord who killed his dad. He practices over and over the exact words he'll say when he finally confronts the villain: "I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

All is revealed!

(Courtesy of Retrogrouch via American Footprint) -

The Bush/Cheney04 campaign strategy

More messin' with the vets

Okay, I agree with restructuring to save money and increase efficiency. But at the moment, we are racking up injured troops by the boatload in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At this point, it seems a little premature to be talking about closing or drastically downsizing VA hospitals.

From CBS -
A commission that reviewed a Bush administration proposal to overhaul Veterans Affairs health care facilities wants the government to close hospitals in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Mississippi and scale back most operations at a Texas facility.

The panel rejected the VA's proposal to close hospitals in Canandaigua, N.Y., Lexington, Ky. and Livermore, Calif., according to a copy of the commission's report obtained by The Associated Press.

The 16-member panel agreed that a new hospital should be opened in Orlando, Fla., but disagreed with opening a new hospital in Las Vegas. Instead, the commission recommended the VA continue partnering with Nellis Air Force Base for care.
Snark of the day.....

While googling around for further info, I came across the Veterans For Peace website, with a handy link that might be of interest to the White House....

Need a DD214?

Health care - overhead and out of control

Ever been in a hospital billing office?

"Office" is quite an understatement. At our local hospital, it's located in a separate building, with probably a hundred offices.

Each office is marked with the name of the insurance provider, and the first letter of the last names covered, such as "Medicare A-B", "Medicare C-D", "Blue Cross/Blue Shield E-F" and so on.

It's a four-story building; I can't even begin to estimate how many people are employed to file claims with all the different health insurance companies.

As Paul Krugman, writing in the NY Times says -
A recent study found that private insurance companies spend 11.7 cents of every health care dollar on administrative costs, mainly advertising and underwriting, compared with 3.6 cents for Medicare and 1.3 cents for Canada's government-run system.
When you pay your health insurance premium.....assuming you have health insurance....part of that money goes to pay the salaries of the clerical workers, the building that houses the insurance company and it's upkeep, the advertising that tells us how wonderful and caring they are, and inflated executive salaries.

Just for starters, Michael McCallister - president and CEO of Humana, Inc., makes $1.65 million a year. John Rowe, chairman and CEO of Aetna pulls down a cool $6.68 million.

The health care industry is sitting on a gold mine, and they know it. Anyone who proposes changes in the way Americans pay for health care risks the wrath of their powerful lobby. Presidential candidates who advocate a single-payer system are brushed off as "fringe".

John Kerry's plan, which would allow all Americans to buy into the Federal Employees Health Care Benefits program (FEHBP), is an improvement on the haphazard, Russian-roulette system we have now. It's not enough, but perhaps would get a foot in the door toward making health care a right, not a privilege, for all Americans.

(cross posted at etalkinghead


Monday, February 16, 2004

George Bush, the last bastion in the fight against TV porn

Our local news station - FAUX affiliate, unfortunately - just reported that Franklin Graham is supporting Dubya (no surprise there) and encouraging other religious broadcasters to do so, too.

Because, according to Franklin (Billy-the-Lesser), if Bush doesn't win, we'll be bombarded with porn on TV.

Can't find a link to this on the web; but, ummm....it wouldn't be worth looking at anyway.

If you aren't convinced yet to vote Anybody But Bush, that oughtta do it.
Five reasons I should be terrified of gay marriages


Therapeutic cloning and stem cell research, continued

For those who are interested in learning more about these related subjects, here are some pertinent links - pro and con....

Religious Tolerance.org - Therapeutic Cloning, Ethics, public opinion, Ethics, public opinion
A good place to start for definitions and various opinion.

Diabetes Daily News, Human Embryos Created Through Cloning
Contains a little more information on the South Korean process, and statement by Bush's President's Council on Bioethics.

NPR, Morning Edition with Joe Palca,Britain Pushes Forward with Stem-Cell Work
Science-In-Society award winning three-part series, contrasting research in the United States and Britain.

Newsmax, Dec. 21, 2000 - Britain OKs 'Therapeutic' Human Embryo Cloning

From Australia "The World Today" - Britain approves embryo cloning for research
Matt, get a life

My man Matt Drudge has posted another one of his hot flashes -


I guess that's close enough to Kerry for a Drudge-smear.

And a bit further down, in un-capitalized letters, there's a link to the statement by the lady in question.
"For the last several days I have seen Internet and tabloid rumors relating to me and Senator John Kerry. Because these stories were false, I assumed the media would ignore them. It seems that efforts to peddle these lies continue, so I feel compelled to address them. I have never had a relationship with Senator Kerry, and the rumors in the press are completely false. Whoever is spreading these rumors and allegations does not know me, but should know the pain they have caused me and my family. I am in Kenya with my fiance visiting his family, and we ask that the press respect our privacy and leave all of us alone."

A statement by Terry and Donna Polier, the parents of Alexandra Polier:

"We have spoken to our daughter and the allegations that have been made regarding her are completely false and unsubstantiated. We love and support her 100 percent and these unfounded rumors are hurtful to our entire family. We appreciate the way Senator Kerry has handled the situation, and intend on voting for him for president of the United States."
(emphasis mine, and intended solely to make fun of Drudge)

Directly below the link to the above statement, is Matt's last gasp at notoriety -
FLASHBACK: Dad: "I think he's a sleazeball".
Do you get the feeling Dad was probably talking about Matt Drudge?

Matt, as a favor to you, here's the next headline for you, conveniently pre-written -


Put one of those flashing lights next to it, just to be sure the wingnuts read it.


Sunday, February 15, 2004

.....and with that turpentine, I'd like a side order of sewage

(From the Chicago Tribune)

When it rains, EPA would let waste pour; Plan could boost dumping into lake
The Bush administration wants to make it easier for cities to release partially treated sewage during heavy rains and snowmelts, a policy shift that could boost levels of disease-causing pathogens in Lake Michigan and other waterways.

Sewage spills into the lake already are a source of E. coli and other bacterial "bugs" that frequently lead to beach closings during the summer. Chicago banned swimming at Lake Michigan beaches 130 times last year; there were 178 beach closings in Lake County.

Stay tuned to American Footprint for all the crappy details.

The punchline?
Plant operators and business interests have continued to lobby for the practice, which they call "sewage blending."

Yummm, gimme some of that turpentine-flavored water, please!

(or...."What a difference a couple million bucks makes")

(From the Washington Post)

I've never tried it, but I've heard absinthe tastes somewhat like turpentine.

And in the near future, absinthe may be tastier than the water from your kitchen faucet.

Just ask the folks in Santa Monica, Calif., where complaints of a turpentine taste in their drinking water has resulted in the oil industry being ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars after the gasoline additive MTBE contaminated their fair city's water supply.
"We're the poster child for MTBE, and it could take decades to clean this up," said Joseph Lawrence, the assistant city attorney.
Back in January 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency made a regulatory recommendation to the last elected President of the United States, President Bill Clinton -
It said: "The use of MTBE as an additive in gasoline presents an unreasonable risk to the environment."
Seems the MTBE's have a nasty habit of seeping into the ground water, which is worse than any beneficial effect the additive produced in cleaner air.
The EPA document went on to say that "low levels of MTBE can render drinking water supplies unpotable due to its offensive taste and odor," and the additive should be phased out over four years.

"Unlike other components of gasoline, MTBE dissolves and spreads readily in the ground water ... resists biodegradation and is more difficult and costly to remove."
Enter three big Republican campaign contributors; Texas-based Lyondell Chemical and Valero Energy, and the Huntsman companies of Salt Lake City.
The three contributed $338,000 to George W. Bush's presidential campaign, the Republican Party and Republican congressional candidates in 1999 and 2000, twice what they gave Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Since then, the three producers have given just over $1 million to Republicans.
Now you know the rest of the story.

The Bush administration obligingly let the proposed MTBE regulations fade quietly away, down into the memory hole.

The story of nasty-tasting, undrinkable water (coming soon to a water supply near you) isn't without it's moment of humor -
Huntsman spokesman Don Olsen, echoing comments by other MTBE producers, said, "We were not a huge campaign contributor and this has absolutely nothing to do with campaign donations. It has to do with good public policy."
A sense of humor and generous with their millions - for George W. Bush, it's a marriage made in heaven.

(Via Atrios)

Not willing to sit idly by as Michael Powell and the FCC grab all the glory, the Department of Education has denied federal grant money to those who provide close-captioning for immoral, filthy, disgusting television programming.

Such as What's New, Scooby-Doo?".

Thank God the DoE is on the job, protecting the hard of hearing and deaf from the vast television wasteland and offensive programming.

From the Palm Beach Post -
"The department made its decisions based on the recommendations of a five-member panel. Who the five members are, only the government seems to know, and it isn't saying. But the shows they censored suggest a perspective that is Talibanesque."
Actually, I think we can make some pretty good guesses as to the panel's identity.

For banning Scooby-Doo, we probably can thank Senator Rick Santorum. Too much potential for man-on-dog action.

Bewitched - piece of cake; Ann Coulter. Good & beautiful witches make witches like Ann snort fire and brimstone.

I Dream of Jeannie - George W. Bush, who doesn't want comparisons to the way he's gone through life with a wink and an every-wish-is-my-command mindset.

Law & Order - Attorney General John Ashcroft. Episodes occasionally portray the feds as heavies. The Law & Order folks are lucky to still be alive and at liberty.

JAG - Honorably discharged Lt. George W. Bush.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Powderpuff Girls, and Power Rangers - Donald Rumsfeld. How dare those terrorist animators give away the latest neocon plans for new weapons and world dominion?

Judge Wapner's Animal Court - see above, Senator Rick Santorm.

The Loretta Young Show - this one had me stumped until a filmography revealed she once starred in a movie called "He Stayed For Breakfast". Obviously a case for national morals czar William Bennett.

Sanford and Son - Charles Pickering, determined to protect the deaf and hard-of-hearing from the spectacle of uppity negroes. Or perhaps the last request of Sen. Strom Thurmond.

For a list of all the "approved" and "disapproved" programs, click here, and amuse yourself.

The management of Collective Sigh suggests stations provide a little crawl across the screen when airing "disapproved" programs -

Lack of closed-captioning ordered by the Bush administration


Saturday, February 14, 2004

Reason #11,593 to eject Bush and the Republicans

Theraputic cloning and stem cell research

She worked for over thirty years as bookkeeper at a small company. When she came home, it was to another full-time job – a farmer’s wife and the mother of several children. In all her “spare time”, she was active in her church and community, donating her time and talents to many volunteer organizations.

Retirement was just a few years away. Thanks to a frugal, simple lifestyle and a lifetime of hard work, she and her husband would be able to enjoy their “golden years in financial security. She looked forward to retiring from her bookkeeping job and spending more time with her grandchildren, volunteer work, and a little travel.

That was then – this is now. A few years before her retirement date, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

These days, she is never left alone. She depends on someone else to dress her, feed her, take her to the bathroom, and give her a bath. Her mind is still active, but her depression is profound.

Along with the ravages of Parkinson’s, she is now in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Her “golden years” have become a living hell.

Otherwise, her health is fine. She will probably live - and continue deteriorating - for many years to come.

The good news is that there IS a successful treatment. Dr. Paul Myers (associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota-Morris) and brilliantly blogging at Pharyngula, spells it out -
”One treatment that has been successful is that new dopaminergic cells can be injected into the brain; the only problem is finding a good source of such cells. With this technique, doctors could take a few cells from you, reset them to an embryonic state, stimulate them to grow into a dish full of nothing but dopaminergic cells, and inject your own tissue into your brain to correct the problem.”
There’s good news for sufferers of juvenile-onset diabetes, too. A similar procedure would restore function to the pancreas.

The bad news – these treatments hit the brickwall of “Bush Science” and the brouhaha over cloning and stem cells.

Speaking with the Guardian, Superman (the real one, Christopher Reeve) said -
'If embryonic stem-cell research had been allowed to flourish in this country,' he says, 'from its beginnings at the University of Wisconsin in 1998, I believe we'd be seeing treatments and cures by now. Including mine.' But he's working away: at state level, California recently passed a bill allowing research. 'So I have been working to introduce the same legislation in New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin, with the aim of creating a grass-roots movement. And when federal legislators see the humanitarian and economic benefits, I don't think they will vote to ban it.'
In the meantime, those with debilitating diseases and injuries are doomed to what amounts to warehouse treatment.

As Reeve says -
”...they end up 'in state-run nursing homes that are little more than a human parking garage, with no physical therapy, surrounded by pensioners. They deteriorate quite quickly.'”
My friend is fortunate enough to be in her own home, with her husband as her caregiver, but the toll on him is devastating.

I can't sum it up better than Dr. Myers -
"It's yet another instance of this administration allowing the ideology of the most backwards-looking, uninformed special interest group dictate science policy, crippling one of the most advanced and productive research establishments on earth. Chalk up another boneheaded science policy decision to those morons in the Bush administration."
Chalk it up as another reason to vote Bush and the Republicans out of office in November.


Friday, February 13, 2004

The threat of gay marriages

I'm concerned about a lot of things, I'm a woman, and I'm an American. So, I thought I should check out the website of the Concerned Women of America.

After all, who better to tell me why gay marriages and/or civil unions are a threat to my marriage and family?

The CWA has a helpful page entitled "The Real Costs of 'Gay Marriage' and Civil Unions". Let's take a look at the looming threat -
1) Further weakens the family, by creating a counterfeit variety of marriage.
When I think of a "counterfeit" marriage, it's usually a man and woman living together without the benefit of a marriage license. Which often results in a breakup or desertion, leaving the woman and any children of the union in a definitely weakened version of a family and on the public dole.
2. Entices children to experiment with homosexuality.
Going out on a limb here, but every gay person I know is the product of a loving, married heterosexual couple. I'm sure there are exceptions, but apparently the sexual orientation of the parents isn't a determining factor.

There are no statistics at all given to back up this CWA assumption, only the warning that experimenting with homosexuality can result in increased incidence of sexually-transmitted diseases and domestic violence.

I appreciate CWA's concern for my child's health, but sexually-transmitted diseases and domestic violence are hardly the sole province of homosexual relationships.
3. Puts more children at risk as adoption agencies decline to favor married homes and place more children in motherless or fatherless households
If I read this correctly, CWA says that adoption agencies will place children in motherless or fatherless homes rather than in married homes.

Truly concerned women of America should be concerned that adoption agencies will continue to place children in loving, nurturing homes, regardless of the number or sexual orientations of the parents.
4. Encourages more people to remain trapped in homosexuality rather than seek to re-channel their desires toward normal, healthy sexuality.
This, of course, is the true source of CWA's "concern" - the belief that homosexualtiy is not normal or healthy.

Even if God Himself descended from the heavens to declare homosexuality normal and healthy, there would still be people who refuse to believe it.

It's tempting to just shrug and move on, but it's worth noting that attitudes do change. It takes time - sometimes generations - and true changes don't generally occur overnight.

As ThatColoredFellow says - "My father was born in the early 1900s' in the South. He was not sure if he would see equal rights for Blacks, in his lifetime. But, they came, step by step and certainly not all at once."
5. Pits the law and government against the beliefs of millions of Massachusetts citizens who believe homosexuality is wrong.
See number four, above.

There are millions of people in the world who believe a woman's unveiled face is wrong, and still millions of people in the world who believe people of color are inferior and undeserving of equal rights.

Where law meets belief, the law must tread a fine line - respecting the rights of all citizens. Fierce belief has no such restriction.

In the meantime, I'm not in the least bit afraid that allowing gay marriages and/or civil unions poses any threat to my own marriage and family. Those who see the threat should perhaps examine their own feelings of insecurity, and strengthen their own relationships.


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