Saturday, March 11


Bush's fire sale for public lands. How else are we going to finance rural education? We're broke and in debt up the wazzoo.

The American public is just beginning to learn how America is in hock to foreign investment. The Dubai ports deal was just the visible part of the iceberg. The Pentagon has outsourced traditional functions of our military to private corporations, we've outsourced the operations of our ports to foreign-owned companies, Bush has put hundreds of millions of dollars into the hands of private faith-based organizations to perform formerly government social services, he is still determined and plotting to privatize Social Security, with or without the consent of the governed. What's the sale of hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest in the light of all that?

When voters understand to what extent the Bush administration has advanced the privatization/globalization (read: sale) of American assets, jobs, public agencies, and functions of government, the Republicans will face an angry, bitter populace.

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Mikevotes over at Born at the Crest of the Empire has the lowdown on the regularly-scheduled post-polls-dive Rove-sponsored FBI terrorism alert. Mike points out the interesting fact that Bush's biggest approval losses among Republicans were among white males. And what's the biggest audience for the college basketball tournaments and the NCAA tournament? Males.

Here's where I think the administration screwed the pooch this time. March Madness freaks are going to any games they can despite the terrorism alert. They'll pack the arenas, but just as they enter they'll remember the FBI warning and be pissed that their day of excitement had to be marred by another reminder that Bush hasn't finished off the terrorist threat. They'll consider the alert a political ploy, the equivalent of the boy who cried "wolf!" and feel a momentary bite of contempt for the Bushies. So the alert will backfire -- nobody will take it very seriously, but they'll resent Bush for the minimal anxiety it causes all the same.

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Friday, March 10


Well, I knew Michael Medved can be a real wanker when he chooses, but I have often said that he is one of the most intelligent and articulate of the wingnut talk radio hosts.

Just now the issue was the lawsuit of a Michigan man asserting "a constitutional freedom to 'choose not to be a father' under the equal protection clause."

Mat DuBay says he told his girlfriend he didn't want to have a child, but she kept assuring him that she had a medical condition that would prevent pregnancy. She got pregnant, and now he wants the right to refuse child support payments.

Medved's take? Traditionally, to advance civilization, women (not men) were held responsible for saying the all-important "no" to sex. That's because women had to bear most of the burden of bearing any child that resulted. Presumably, men aren't supposed to be held accountable for their sex acts because nature needs hard-charging sexed-up guys to keep procreation going and thus the continuation of the species. So a guy isn't responsible for birth control, the gal is. And if she doesn't want to be forced to bear a child as a result, she should holler a decisive "no" when the guy suggests (or forces?) sex. If she fails at either (or if the birth control method fails), it's up to her to deal with the consequences. Unbelievable. I couldn't believe my ears.

Every day I hear something on the radio or TV that reminds me how determined wingnuts are to roll back the clock to some never-existed Pleasantville. When I was a teen, I heard at church, from my mother, from the Girl Scouts, from the Reader's Digest, from Seventeen, from EVERYWHERE that it was my responsibility as a girl to "just say no" to any boy who tried THAT. Boys could be excused, of course, for trying because it's their nature. (Nowhere in my world was there any voice to allow that just perhaps sex is a primal force in a woman's life, TOO.) If an unmarried girl got pregnant, she was branded a slut (even if no-one in polite society used that word). Yes, in my deep-South family and environment, the term "fallen woman" was still used. The boy (or man) was almost sneakily admired for the display of his virility. The pregnant girl was either compelled to marry the boy (if he was willing) and live a life of atonement forever, or go away to a home for unwed mothers or a distant relative's and have the baby, which would then be either given up for adoption. Or, if the mama chose to raise her child herself, she would almost certainly move to another state so as not to embarrass her family and to give herself a chance at a new start.

Now that was the situation in my world, which was relatively privileged, in its genteel, frayed Southern way. How a girl who had no leverage (a family who could cause trouble for) with the boy, no money to pay to move away, no money to raise the child by herself (she would probably would have been thrown out of her home if she was forced to remain in town), no support system, etc. could manage, I can't imagine.

In both those Americas, you can see the attraction of the coat hanger. Many women (not just girls) were desperate enough to choose that option with all its risks, and some died, but the wingnuts aren't willing to address that point. It's too icky. (The whole abortion issue is a reactionary response to the icky.) So if the wingers get their way and abortion is banned throughout the nation, what do they expect? Are they truly prepared for a deluge of dead women, for a sharp jump in the number of poor-single-mother-head-of-households? Can they not anticipate an increase in the births of impaired children since many of these mothers will be unable to afford prenatal care? And since profound birth defects will not be allowed as a justification for abortion, the numbers will be even higher.

I hate the idea of abortion. I'm the mother of five children, and I treasure every single one. I love babies, and pregnancy is the most incredible of adventures and delights for me. I taught LaMaze childbirth classes for more than a decade. But it has never occurred to me that my experience is universal. I don't suppose for a moment that I or anyone else could possibly have the ability or the right to judge the situation of another person. And I'm constantly, humbly aware that if I judge another, someone will be judging my own actions.

As a woman, I can still remember the long conversations I had with myself in college: what would I do if I got pregnant? It would be unthinkable to present myself unmarried and carrying to my conservative, religious, family. It would "kill" my mother. But I was in love, and confident that if anything happened, we'd get married. But WHAT IF? That's a question that many girls in my day debated within themselves; it kept some from having premarital sex, but certainly not all, and I'll bet not many American women have missed that internal deliberation at some time or another, even married ladies. Most women, I'd bet, would have to admit that they at least considered an abortion in their worst-case fantasy, even if they decided in their hearts that it wasn't an option for them. WHAT IF it wasn't an option at all, no matter what? Consider that, ladies.

But I digress!

Now I don't know of any passage in the Bible that supports the idea that men just HAVE to have sex, and women have to say no. It's a ridiculous concept. If these men all are compelled by nature to have sex (do they have no will in this scenario?) and the women are supposed to be so afraid of having a baby because they'll "bear most of the burden" that they'll all refuse the men's advances (unless they're married? Have you thought about that, Michael? Do wives have the right to refuse sex to their husbands if they're afraid of having a baby?) and since sex outside of wedlock is a sin, it would certainly seem as if Christianists would be hastening to marry off their sons at the first sign of concupiscence.

There's plenty of sex in the Bible. In one passage, God directs a propher to take a harlot as a wife to make a point. He tells one brother to go impregnate his brother's widow (that's sex out of wedlock). Two of his favorite kings, David and Solomon, had more than a thousand wives and concubines. David lusted so greatly for another man's wife that he sent the guy into the heat of war with a suicide mission and took his wife. Yet God really, really loved David, not because he was some pious puritan, but because David had an absolute faith in God. I don't mean some right-wing denial of reality; I mean David just plain believed God; he disobeyed him sometimes, but he didn't doubt him. If the wingers did, they'd follow his Word instead of rewriting it.

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Beliefnet editor-in-chief Steven Waldman has written an essay pointing out that, unlike most of their modern counterparts (think James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell), 18th century American evangelicals were firmly supportive of the separation of church and state. Every progressive should read and commit it to memory in order to refute the claims of the Sean Hannitys, Laura Ingrahams and Bill Bennetts.

Waldman writes about the Baptist traditions I was raised on. Read the words on John Leland's headstone. "Elder John Leland, 174-1841, who labored sixty-seven years to promote piety and to vindicate the civil and religious rights of men." I grieve for the loss of that spirit.

In state after state, when colonists and Americans met to debate the relationship between God and government, it was the proto-evangelica1s who pushed the more radical view that church and state should be kept far apart. Both secular liberals who sneer at the idea that evangelicals could ever be a positive influence in politics and Christian conservatives who want to knock down the “wall” should take note: It was the 18th-century evangelicals who provided the political shock troops for Jefferson and Madison in their efforts to keep government from strong involvement with religion. Modern evangelicals are certainly free to take a different course, but they should realize that in doing so they have dramatically departed from the tradition of their spiritual forefathers.
In other words, the Founding Fathers were divided on separation of church and state—but most of the evangelicals weren't. They overwhelmingly sided with Jefferson and Madison.
Today's Christian conservatives often note that Jefferson's famous line declaring that the first amendment had created “a wall separating church and state” was not in the Constitution but in a private letter. But in that letter, Jefferson was responding to one sent to him by a group of Baptists in Danbury, Conn. We usually read Jefferson's side of that exchange. It's worth re-reading what the Danbury Baptists had to say because it reminds us that for the 18th-century evangelicals, the separation of church and state was not only required by the practicalities of their minority status, but was also demanded by God. “Religions is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals,” the Baptists wrote, warning that government “dare not assume the prerogatives of Jehova and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.” Government had no business meddling in the affairs of the soul, where there is only one Ruler.

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I want to know more about this before I celebrate.

ABC News is reporting that the White House asked DP World to give up its management stake in U.S. ports to save Bush "from the politically difficult position of vetoing a key piece of legislation to protect America's ports."

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Considering the Environmental Protection Agency's new rule allowing pesticide companies to turn more Americans into "lab rats for industry pesticide tests," lying to New Yorkers by telling them that their air was safe after 9/11, and other questionable actions undertaken during the Bush reign, perhaps the agency should change its name to the Environmental Pollutants Advocacy. The latest outrage is the EPA's proposal to weaken the Toxics Release Inventory program.

Congress developed this critical program in 1986, in response to the catastrophic deaths of thousands of people after a spill of toxic chemicals at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. It has worked well since its inception, but the Environmental Protection Agency is now proposing three detrimental changes that could go into effect within the next year.

The first would relax the current annual reporting requirement and let companies make reports every other year instead; the second would allow polluters to release 10 times more toxic chemicals — up to 5,000 pounds annually — without disclosing the volume released or where the pollutants went; and the third would permit companies to conceal releases of up to 500 pounds annually of particularly dangerous toxic materials, like PCB's, lead and mercury, which can accumulate in people's bodies. All three changes effectively increase the amount of pollution that companies can emit without telling anyone.

The stated mission of the EPA is "to protect human health and the environment." Considering some of the agency's actions and proposals since Bush took office, I think it's fair to say that that mission has been distorted.

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As of last evening, we are now a two-Hybrid family.

I don't think that makes us, as my colleagues at work say, suckers (they're referring to analyses that conclude that the savings in gas prices don't equal the additional costs for the hybrid engine). It was never excusively about gas savings, since we bought the first one in 2003, before prices rose. For a couple of old hippies, it just seems like we're doing a LITTLE something for the environment.

Plus, they're neat little cars that run silently at stops and let you run on empty for a couple of days until you remember to get to a station. The downside is that all your kids want to borrow the Hybrid all the time when they take trips so they can save money on gas, which quickly runs up your mileage when you have five offspring.


Tom Friedman on Don Imus this morning lamented what he called "drift" in Iraq policy. According to Friedman, no one in the Bush administration is concentrating on Iraq. "Condi flies in for 24 hours, and then she's back to working on India or something else. Rumsfeld flies in for 24 hours and then he's back talking about transforming the Pentagon. The whole thing is left up to our admittedly able ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the military." He said this is the most important thing going on, and we need to do something like Clinton/Holbrook did in Dayton: get the parties in a room removed from the action (led by a tough guy like Holbrook) and don't let them out until we get an agreement for government from the Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis.

However, he noted, the Bushies are "allergic" to considering anything that Clinton ever did. "If Clinton did it, it must be wrong" is their attitude, he said.

Comparing the relative records of Clinton and Bush, that explains so much.

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Wednesday, March 8


Is anyone else being driven crazy by MSNBC's bad puns used as captions for its segments relating to the Dubai ports deal?

Here's the worst offender:



Is God getting P.O.'ed at Bush and Blair?

The archangel reported that the Almighty has become increasingly irritated with the vogue for politicians to claim that He is behind their policies - especially if these involve killing large numbers of humans. According to Gabriel, God spake these words: "That George W Bush once had the nerve to say: 'God told me to go end the tyranny in Iraq, and I did.' Well, let me tell you I did no such thing! If I'd wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein, I could have given him pneumonia. I didn't need the president of the United States to send in hundreds of heavy bombers and thousands of missiles to destroy Iraq - even though I appreciate that Halliburton needed to fill its order books."

I've often cringed when I've heard politicians claim an endorsement from God for their policies. I wasn't cringing because they were trying to make their policy stands conform to their religious beliefs but because they presumed to speak for God. I talk to God all the time, and I believe he talks to me. But the only people ever designated to speak on his behalf were the prophets, and as far as I know, there's been no such anointing of Bush or Blair. Or, for that matter, Pat Robertson, James Dobson or Jerry Falwell.

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We're all familiar with many examples of the harm the Bush administration has done to the nation and to our people by abdicating responsibility and avoiding accountability for its faulty, or absent, leadership. Their philosophy seems to be "government works best when it doesn't try governing."

This report from Human Rights First on the military's descent into the practice of torture, abuse, and even murder of detainees, is a fresh reminder of how low we can fall when our so-called leaders ignore, stonewall or deliberately cover up wrongdoing so we can play a hypocritical game of "believe what we say, not what you see us do."

Command's Responsibility: Detainee Deaths in U.S. Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is difficult to assess the systemic adequacy of punishment when so few have been punished, and when the deliberations of juries and commanders are largely unknown. Nonetheless, two patterns clearly emerge and are documented in Command’s Responsibility: (1) because of investigative and evidentiary failures, accountability for wrongdoing has been limited at best, and almost non-existent for command; and (2) commanders have played a key role in undermining chances for full accountability. In dozens of cases documented in the report, grossly inadequate reporting, investigation, and follow-through have left no one at all responsible for homicides and other unexplained deaths. Commanders have failed both to provide troops clear guidance, and to take crimes seriously by insisting on vigorous investigations. And command responsibility itself – the law that requires commanders to be held liable for the unlawful acts of their subordinates about which they knew or should have known – has been all but forgotten.

The failure to deal adequately with these cases has opened a serious accountability gap for the U.S. military and intelligence community, and has produced a credibility gap for the United States – between policies the leadership says it respects on paper, and behavior it actually allows in practice. As long as the accountability gap exists, there will be little incentive for military command to correct bad behavior, or for civilian leadership to adopt policies that follow the law. As long as that gap exists, the problem of torture and abuse will remain.

Command’s Responsibility examines how cases of deaths in custody have been handled. It is about how and why this “accountability gap” between U.S. policy and practice has come to exist. And it is about why ensuring that officials up and down the chain of command bear responsibility for detainee mistreatment should be a top priority for the United States.

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Tuesday, March 7


More from South Dakota.

Mikevotes gets an e-mail from a friend in South Dakota, who explains the implications of the new South Dakota anti-abortion law.

Just think about that for a minute. Under current South Dakota law, taking into account the total abortion ban signed today by the governor, it is completely realistic that a woman who has been raped will have to carry the baby to term, and then potentially come into repeated contact with her rapist in court hearings and, at the very least, child visitation.

And even if the whole thing is managed through social services somehow, imagine how it would feel when you're child comes home from his "visit" and tells you how great his dad is.

Just how sick are these South Dakota politicians?

I'll tell you how sick. These are louts who love to blame womankind because "Eve tempted man and got him thrown out of the Garden of Eden" and are prepared and eager to punish women forevermore.

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In case you missed Jon Stewart on the Oscars Sunday night: (I thought he was terrific -- more laid-back than a Billy Crystal or Chris Rock, but his jokes were FUNNY -- every single one of them)

One of the telecast's 22 cameras isolated Steven Spielberg as Stewart talked about the nominated Munich and the director's 1993 Schindler's List.

"I think I speak for all Jews when I say I can't wait to see what happens to us next," Stewart said, the deadpan quip triggering a huge laugh.

The political baiting was kept to a minimum during the monologue, save for a joke involving Bjork, the singer who famously wore a swan dress to the Oscars in 2001. Explaining her absence this year, Stewart said: "She was trying on her Oscar dress and Dick Cheney shot her."

Taking a look at the giant Oscar statuette as part of the set, he asked: "Do you think if we all got together and pulled this down, democracy would flourish in Hollywood?"

"And none of those issues were ever a problem again," [Stewart] deadpanned after a montage of issue-oriented movies like "Silkwood," "The Grapes of Wrath" and "In the Heat of the Night."

On comparing "Capote" and "Good Night, and Good Luck": "Both films are about determined journalists defying obstacles in a relentless pursuit of the truth. Needless to say, both are period pieces."

On best picture nominees: "They deal with racism, corruption, terrorism and censorship. It's why we go to the movies. To escape."

And his best joke of the night, because it was so true: "A lot of people say that this town is too liberal. Out of touch with mainstream America. An atheistic pleasure dome. A modern-day beachfront Sodom and Gomorrah. A moral black hole where innocence is obliterated in an orgy of sexual gratification and greed. (Pause) "I don't really have a joke here, I just thought you should know a lot of people are saying that."

Sunday, March 5


This was one surreal experiece. Tim Russert interviewed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace. Total unreality. Pace told Tim Russert that all would be OK in Iraq as long as the Iraqi army and police force are loyal to the central government (he didn't say when that might begin). Said the Iraqi people are "SO much better off" than they were under Saddam. Claimed there are 232,000 in the Iraqi army and police serving their country. Didn't mention that after more than three years, there's not a single Iraqi battalion (a few hundred troops) that can fight on its own.

Pace said the vast majority of those participating in insurgent-like activity are either fearful of the insurgents or do it because it's the only way they can economically support their families. He says the end of the insurgency is dependent upon Iraqis seeing that their government can provide the jobs and security, etc. that the people need. Pace said what is happening in Iraq is very, very positive relative to training Iraqis, who have performed very well in the latest violence. Pace (and everyone) should read this analysis in Foreign Affairs, "Seeing Baghdad, Thinking Saigon." It argues that the Bush strategy is exactly counter to what it should be.

Russert asked about William F. Buckley's remarks that the Iran venture is a failure. Pace suggested that if Buckley would just walk the streets of Baghdad, talk to the Iraqi people and government, he'd feel differently. Timmeh responded sardonically, "Do you really believe WF Buckley COULD walk the streets of Baghdad?" Pace smiled and said Buckley would "probably want an escort." He insisted that the Iraqi people, army and police are loyala to the government and are getting more so every day.

What we're seeing in the media, Pace said, is the same bomb going off every 15 minutes, and if they [the American citizenry] could see all the progress that is going on, they'd understand we're doing the right thing. "The American people can and should be very proud" of what we're doing.

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