Friday, May 6


Today's must-read.

Thursday, May 5


I am so incensed by ABC's decision to air advertising by Focus on the Family after turning down commercials from the United Church of Christ:

In December and March, the three major networks denied a purchasing request by the Cleveland-based UCC. NBC and CBS rejected the UCC’s 30-second ads as “too controversial.” ABC, however, sidestepped the fray by maintaining that it has a blanket policy against all religious advertising.

The fact is, the UCC's message was an inclusive one, reaching out to all segments of humanity, including the dread HOMOSEXUAL community, with the word of God's, and the UCC's, love and acceptance. Focus on the Family is clearly a religious group, but its viewpoint is, and always has been, regressive -- its founder and leader, James Dobson, would clearly like to take the United States back to a pre-Enlightenment era where wives don't work, children (even infants) feel the pinch and the paddle more than the kiss and the cuddle, and men rule not only their own domains but everyone else's. In their worldview, homosexuals are subhuman, the source of all that is wrong with our culture, and the principles of judicial review and separation of church and state are an affront to the Almighty.

The UCC should resubmit their commercials to ABC in light of the latest events and if their advertising is again rejected, they should sue the pants off of the network.

Find out how to contact your local ABC affiliate by clicking on this map. The mailing address and telephone number for ABC Network is:

ABC, Inc.
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4551
Phone number: (818) 460-7477

Wednesday, May 4


Bush says, "FDR would be PROUD???

Bush's personal account plan would do little to close Social Security's funding gap, estimated at $4 trillion over 75 years. To address this problem, Bush last week endorsed the idea of maintaining currently promised benefits for low-wage workers but reducing payouts to future middle-income and higher-paid retirees. His proposal would also guarantee that all retirees received enough benefits to keep them above the federal poverty line for the elderly, now about $9,000. [emphasis mine]
Asked after Bush's event about the president's call to curtail benefits for future middle-income and higher-paid retirees, Lott said: "I'm not overjoyed about that, because I think it does begin to move it more toward a welfare system, as opposed to its original intention. But I don't think we should be wed to romantic ideas if they don't get the job done."

Trent Lott is correct. This is all about turning Social Security, at present an insurance program, into a welfare plan, which will make it much easier, down the road, to just cut it out altogether.

And since when can an elderly person survive on $9,000 per year? Let's see, that's approximately $750 per month. My 84-year-old mother's house is completely paid for, but she still has property taxes of about $300 per month. She has to buy food and pay for heat and water, that's about another $400 per month. Oops, I guess under Bush's plan the costs of dental care, recreation, telephone, TV, Christmas gifts, nursing home insurance, clothing, etc. wouldn't be affordable. Guess she'll have to sell the house she's lived in for more than 50 years and move to some group home for the elderly and eat cat food.

Yeah, FDR would be proud.


I dreamed I saw my family
What each one had become --
My son, his bones bleached in Iraq,
My mother eating crumbs,

My husband struggling to find work,
My daughter’s choice denied;
A theocratic Congress
Stole her own right to decide.

No health insurance we could pay,
My sickly grandchild passed away.
Tuition steep, my other son
Dropped out of school, his dreams undone.

I cried aloud and timely woke
The nightmare wasn’t mine
‘Twas many, many families
That suffered such decline,

A common end to what we see
Now happening in our nation
As BushCo tries to turn us
Into masters and plantation.

And those of us who see the truth
Are struggling with frustration;
He’s got us on a straightaway
To one big conflagration.


A ban on suggestive cheerleader costumes and dance moves:

The bill filed by state Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston, would ban “sexually suggestive” performances by school dance teams, drill teams and cheerleaders at athletic events or competitions. A squad that performs an inappropriate routine could be banned from performing for the rest of the school year, and the district or campus could be fined.
It was unclear late last week how much support Edwards' bill would garner in the Texas House. In the past, he has introduced bills that generated headlines but not much support from his legislative colleagues.

In 1989, he proposed allowing the state to amputate the fingers of drug dealers. And in 1991, he introduced a bill calling for a statewide vote on allowing corporal punishment of inmates in state prisons, saying that such disciplinary measures as flogging would help rehabilitate prisoners.

And he's a DEMOCRAT. How embarrassing.

Tuesday, May 3


Rolling Stone unveils another radical Bush plan that's escaping the notice of the media and the citizenry:

If you've got something to hide in Washington, the best place to bury it is in the federal budget. The spending plan that President Bush submitted to Congress this year contains 2,000 pages that outline funding to safeguard the environment, protect workers from injury and death, crack down on securities fraud and ensure the safety of prescription drugs. But almost unnoticed in the budget, tucked away in a single paragraph, is a provision that could make every one of those protections a thing of the past.

The proposal, spelled out in three short sentences, would give the president the power to appoint an eight-member panel called the "Sunset Commission," which would systematically review federal programs every ten years and decide whether they should be eliminated. Any programs that are not "producing results," in the eyes of the commission, would "automatically terminate unless the Congress took action to continue them."
With a simple vote of five commissioners -- many of them likely to be lobbyists and executives from major corporations currently subject to federal oversight -- the president could terminate any program or agency he dislikes. No more Environmental Protection Agency. No more Food and Drug Administration. No more Securities and Exchange Commission.
Either way, opponents consider the commission a serious threat. "The end result," says Waxman, "would be a field day for corporate lobbyists."

Consider how much of Bush's agenda is being accomplished under the radar screen. Have you seen anything more about this in the mainstream media?

There's so much going on, how on earth can we fight it all? Well, as long as our media remains obsessed with runaway brides and death watches (though not in Iraq or Darfur), and our legislators are too busy cutting taxes for the wealthy, rewriting the bankruptcy laws and attacking our independent judiciary, we can't.

What's it cost to live in the south of France?


Here's a fun test, courtesy of Easter Lemming:

I am:
"You're a complete liberal, utterly without a trace of Republicanism.  Your strength is as the strength of ten because your heart is pure.  (You hope.)"

Are You A Republican?


"You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run."

As E.J. Dionne says it's time for Democrats to leave the table:

That the president is fixing the Social Security reform game should be obvious. The most basic corruption of the process is the way the Republican congressional leadership has transformed the bargaining that once took place between the House and the Senate.

In the old days, when each house produced different versions of the same bill, a "conference" committee typically including members of both parties from both houses would thrash out the details and reach a compromise. Now the Republicans will concede whatever is necessary to get a bill out of the Senate, even as the lockstep-Republican House produces a right-wing version of the same proposal. In conferences, Republicans routinely freeze out all but the most pliable Democrats. The supposed "compromise" that emerges is not a compromise at all. Democrats who go along become enablers of a game being played with a stacked deck.
Walking away from a rigged game is hard for some people, especially when those running it and the respected opinion-makers who support them insist that this time the game will truly be on the level. But, especially when the danger involves gambling away the future of Social Security, the truly responsible thing is to leave the table.

UPDATE: Inspired by EJ, here's another whimsy (with apologies to Kenny Rogers:


On a warm spring’s evenin’ on a train bound for disaster
I watched the wheels go faster as it headed for the wreck,
And the train was filled with pigeons who kept sitting at a table
Where the dealers made decisions with a marked and sucker deck.

And the Democrats are pigeons, and Republicans the dealers
Who look out for the big-wheelers as they soak the middle class.
And the Dems just keep on sittin’ and their eyes are disbelievin’
As they watch the Bushies thievin’, and they take another pass.

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run.
You never trust no Bushie, or a Frist or Hastert neither
Should have learned that they’re deceivers who’ll see us all undone.

When the dealers come a-calling with their promises of fairness
Better keep up your awareness and doubt their every word
Be it foreign or domestic, their agenda is majestic
And it’s clear that its denouement will be a world of hurt.

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run.
You never trust no Bushie, or a Frist or Hastert either
Should have learned that they’re deceivers who’ll see us all undone.


Though typically I enjoy Bill Maher, last night The Sage and I watched his standup routine and were appalled by at least one of his riffs. Speaking about Dick Cheney's status as captain of his high school football team Bill shouted that he HATED his high school football captain, that he HATED high school, and followed it by saying he was really sorry there weren't school shootings in his day, he'd have had a very long list of people he would have liked to blow away.

This kind of talk is not only insensitive, it's irresponsible, it's reprehensible. Since the broadcast was taped sometime between the political conventions and the 2004 presidential election I'm surprised I haven't heard it declaimed before.

He had a few other pretty ugly things to say as well, the prisoners at Guantanamo being the target of one of his roll-em-up-and-snuff-them rants. Bill's been hanging around his good buddy Ann Coulter too long -- last night he sounded as ready as she to gun down a few hundred people just based on their religion and/or nation of origin, or merely whether or not he agrees with or likes them. Rough stuff.


Just in case you missed the secret July 23, 2002 memo of Tony Blair reporting that George W. Bush had decided to invade Iraq, but he hadn't yet made up his mind WHY...

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.
The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult.

Gee, Saddam wasn't threatening his neighbors (or the U.S.) and had limited WMD capability. But Bush and Blair "desired" regime change, so they'd cook up some good reason to sell it. Sounds good to 51% of the American population. Wonder if they'd buy New Coke from the chimpster.

UPDATE: has context, and more.


For grins or grimaces: I just got a research report from the Corporate Executive Board, of which I'm a member, entitled "Communications' Response to Blogs: Capitalizing on an Emerging Medium."

It was inevitable. Create an alternative media and Corporate America will look for a way to co-opt it.

Some excerpts:

According to dictionary publisher Merriam Webster, online readers looked up the word 'blog' more than any other term in 2004...A new blog emerges every 2.2 seconds, totaling 38,000 new blogs per day...Readers and bloggers add 5.8 blog posts per second...45% of North America's largest 1,000 corporations are currently blogging or considering a corporate blog.
Council findings indicate that leading companies utilize the following strategies to leverage the increasing influence and potential of blogs: Monitor and influence blogs in the media sphere: Given blogs' transformation of the media landscape, leading companies monitor and interact with bloggers to influence coverage and rapidly respond to potential threats...

In other words, Corporate America will be monitoring your blog and contributing comments that play to their attention to the identity of commmenters and the reliability of the information you receive from them. This shouldn't be as much of a threat to progressive blogs, since we tend to check everything, as to the wingnuts...but they'll be much more prone to disseminate the corporate slant on news. We'll have to be vigilant.


I was just discussing with a friend the parallels between pre-WWII Nazi Germany and what is happening in the U.S. today, then came back and discovered this article on the same subject.

The author lays out the following correlations:

(1) Exceptionality. "Nazi ideology grew out of Germans’ belief that their country was uniquely privileged because it was uniquely valuable. This made them an exception to rules and norms. The average “Proud to Be an American” bumper-sticker-buyer believes the same thing. (I’m still waiting for some churchgoing patriot to notice that being born American is a gift of grace and to begin marketing “Humble to be an American” decals.) A belief in your country’s exceptionality takes you way out beyond the warm self-appreciation of patriotism; in naming your heritage “exceptional,” you cut your ties to the family of nations and set yourself above the rules. Our belief in our own exceptionality erodes the walls that hold back human greed, fear of otherness, and violence. Exceptionality makes the unthinkable possible, even reasonable."

(2) Science, lifestyle and the arts. "In physics as in lifestyle and the arts, Germany and the United States both saw a great questioning of old values, limits, and presuppositions of all kinds—followed by an iron backswing of the pendulum rushing to shut down all the openness, answer all the questions, replace uncertainty with certainty, and relativism with absolutes. Does our anxiety in the face of uncertainty and relativity drive us to cook up fake certainties, like which language is better, who is going to Hell, who must live, and who should die? Did Germany, and will the United States, overcompensate for being uncertain like Napoleon did for being short? "

(3) Victimization. "Another family resemblance between Germany of the ‘20’s and ‘30’s and the Righteous Right of today is the feeling that somebody done us wrong. For Germany, the sense of being aggrieved was related to the famously vindictive Treaty of Versailles that settled the overt hostilities of World War I but left Germans with smoldering bitterness against what they saw as injustice and injury. The core resentment that energizes the swing toward right-wing “Christian” totalitarianism is the confusing, painful panic at seeing The Way and The Truth become one of many ways and many truths. As one pulpiteer expressed it, “having our culture become a subculture” is felt as a wound, an assault. On September 11th, the cultural assault on our inner landscape then manifested as a physical attack on our outer landscape, echoing the unsolved burning of the Reichstag building in 1933. Then, as now, terrorism coupled with an effective propaganda machine helped those in power to bring the country together while separating it from its civil rights. Once we feel ourselves to be under attack, are there any limits to what we will permit in the name of “self-defense?” "

"The backlash against openness and uncertainty, together with perceived national victimization, led Germany to begin to pick off voices of dissent in its own house. Some of these were political. Some were religious. German Christian churches were systematically nazified. The governing boards of seminaries were taken over seat by seat. Seminary faculties were pruned of opposition, guaranteeing that the pulpits of Germany would spout preaching that supported the Nazi agenda. The prophetic voice of the church was silenced. The systematic right-wing takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, board by board, professor by professor, pulpit by pulpit, is so eerily similar that it could be an echo of the same shout."

(4) Homosexuals -- Today's Jews. "Once the “evil” was identified, people projected onto the Jews every disowned trait they hated in themselves. Enormous energy was mobilized to oppress, exile, and destroy the theoretically contagious corruption of Jewishness. The righteousness of the cause was “proved” by the visceral disgust the oppressors felt towards the oppressed. Hatred kept the dominant group bonded, energized, focused, and easy to manipulate. Today, similar rhetoric is mobilizing hatred for another tiny minority, homosexuals, who are similarly represented as undermining the entire fabric of American life and values. In the same way, appeals to disgust as a moral arbiter “prove” the validity of the argument. Incidents of violence against gays remind us of the spotty street violence against Jews that came before the systematic, state-sponsored violence of the Holocaust."
Do we recognize the road we’re on, wrestle the steering wheel away from the mad bus-driver, and stop the bus before we get to the last stop, the town of Ultimate Consequences, Pop. 11 Million?

I remember well from my reading (a result of a horrified fascination with the Third Reich) the cynical and arrogant attitude of pre-Hitler German leaders that they could "use" Hitler and his minions and then discard them at will when they'd accomplished their purpose. If Bush/Cheney and their cohorts are suffering from the same delusions that they can ride to a permanent Republican majority on the coattails of an extreme, right-wing theocratic revolution and then break away, they'd better brush up on THEIR history.

Monday, May 2


Did John Bolton spy on New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson?


So despite campaigning on a promise to return power to the states, the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans are hastening to do just the opposite:

But critics see a powerful assertion of federal authority in those areas and others by a government controlled by one party. While conservatives have traditionally supported states' rights and the decentralization of government, the Bush administration and congressional leadership are moving jurisdiction over laws and regulations back into the federal sphere, according to government scholars and state attorneys general.

The result, attorneys general say, is that some Americans will have less consumer protection and less safe environments -- and states won't be able to do anything about it. ''It's a whole pattern of accumulating power in Washington [through] federal agencies that is more extensive than any administration in the history of this country," said California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, a Democrat who has been fighting the Bush administration over California laws involving energy, banking, access to abortion, and air quality.

Conservatives and libertarians should think long and hard about supporting these moves. It is, after all, a conservative article of faith that big government is a curse. Dubya's policies can be seen in no other light than that of a massive federal government devoted to the interests of big business, and that breaks faith with the "small government" adherents who have voted for him in two presidential elections. You've been had, people.


Ron Brownstein gives a wider audience to community organizer Mark Winston Griffith's essay Consumer Versus Community:

The central flaw in Bush's ownership society, Griffith believes, is that its key elements actively encourage such tunnel vision. Vouchers that allow parents to send their children to private school, for instance, provide a lifeline for some, but invite them to flee a shared investment in public schools.

Reducing guaranteed benefits under Social Security, and urging workers to make up the difference with individual investment accounts, erodes the program's role as a shared safety net for all Americans. Health savings accounts that encourage younger and healthier workers to abandon group health insurance plans work the same way.

Griffith's entire essay can be found here. It's a compelling, thought-provoking piece. More excerpts:

Yet it is misguided to fetishize homeownership, assign it mystical virtues or measure an individual's value to society based on what he or she owns.  If the goal of President Bush's Ownership Society is to create stakeholders who are responsible, contributing members of society, we need national leadership that can discern consumerism from citizenship.
When the conversation turns to the ownership society, community, political and religious leaders should talk about the responsibility that homeowners have to their neighbors and how they can use their social capital and local standing to rebuild the communities around them. Maybe then, homeownership can be used to inspire a higher moral purpose than "Get Yours."