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Sunday, January 30, 2005

This is great fun! 

General asshats
Circle I Limbo

Rednecks and, in general, Albertans
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind

Mop & Pail columnist Margaret Wente
Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow

Conservatives
Circle IV Rolling Weights

Catholic bishops
Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled

River Styx

Stephen Harper
Circle VI Buried for Eternity

River Phlegyas

Anti-abortionists and Creationists
Circle VII Burning Sands

James Dobson
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement

Who else but George Bush
Circle IX Frozen in Ice

Design your own hell


Go to the link to design your own hell. Thanks to WTF Is It Now? for the link.

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

SpongeBob and Friends 



See the story at United Church of Christ News Release: SpongeBob welcomed by UCC
What a great photo of happy people. And thanks so much to Sharkbabe for the link.

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Hate crimes  

Orcinus has the best post I have ever read about hate crime laws and why they are important. Its a deeper perspective which gives context to the recent uproar in Vancouver about whether a prosecutor should have called the beating death of a gay may a hate crime. I know the circumstances of this particular case were not as sympathetic as perhaps the prosecutor would have liked -- a gay man was beaten to death by a gang, yes, but he was naked in the park at the time. That said, however, the crime would certainly have qualified as a hate crime uncer Orcinus' description. Here is part of the piece:
"Actually preventing crimes, as always, is hard and often complex work; there are no panaceas when it comes to hate crimes. But a good place to start is understanding the mindset of the people motivated to commit them.
Typically, we're talking about a young male age 16-20 who has both a strong sense of racial identity and a persecution complex, perhaps even an antisocial personality disorder. He is most likely a broadly accepted member of his community (only about 8 percent of all bias crimes are committed by members of so-called hate groups) with some likelihood of previous police contact.
Most are so-called "reactive" offenders: that is, they react against what they perceive as an "invasion" of their community by "outsiders," often spontaneously. What's remarkable about the crimes is their real viciousness, particularly in the case of gay-bashing, in which an overkill of violence is the norm.
But many if not most hate-crime offenders refuse, even after incarceration, to admit that what they did was morally wrong. This is because they believe they are acting on the unspoken wishes of their previously homogeneous community, and thus taking action on a moral plane all their own.
This is why it's important for communities to stand up and be counted when hate crimes occur in their midst. Making public their utter condemnation of such acts sends an important message to the would-be perpetrators: the community does not condone violence to expel outsiders. Using the stiff arm of the law to back that message up is essential, especially when the need is so clear.
Conversely, pretending that a swastika on a synagogue is just another case of vandalism, or treating (especially in law enforcement terms) a "fag bashing" as just another bar fight, sends quite another message, one that in the mind of a hate-crime perpetrator equates with approval. A slap on the wrist is too often seen as a pat on the back; equanimity as forbearance."

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Friday, January 28, 2005

Its Gonzo but I like it 

This -- Dick Cheney, Dressing Down -- is just good old Gonzo Journalism -- using a politician's irrelevant personal attributes to create a story out of nothing, and not even giving the guy a chance to rebut.
Like when the New York Times ran a story about Kerry's campaign staff making him sandwiches -- or when the Globe ran a story that in some mystical way blamed Paul Martin for the press bus running late during the Normandy memorial in France last June.
And on principle, I object to this stuff.
But since it is virtually the first time anyone in the Bush administration has been subject to this kind of coverage, and since Cheney is such an insufferable warmongering stuffed shirt blowhard know-it-all -- well, I must admit I did laugh as I read it.

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Well, I'll have to watch 

Apparently Bill O'Reilly thinks he is under attack by the CBC. the fifth estate's recent show "Sticks and Stones" was about the "uncivil" war of words in the US media. And O'Reilly thinks its all about him. I didn't see the show, but fifth estate is on again this weekend -- now I HAVE to watch it.

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Bloody Sunday in Iraq 

Iraq Insurgents Kill 12 As Election Nears
As opposed as I am toward the Iraq War, it must be pointed out that the insurgents are on the wrong side of history here.
Now, I am no historian, but when I studied the history of Germany after WWI, one of its many problems was the general perception that democracy had been "imposed" on them by the allies. Misunderstanding the potential value of democracy, they elected Hitler, who rapidly dismantled it.
Now, it appears the insurgents in Iraq perceive the vote on Sunday as an American imposition on their society, or at least are trying to undermine its likely results by tarring it with the American brush. Originally targeting only those Iraqis who actually worked for the Americans, like translators, the insurgents now target anyone and everyone who shows even the slightest support for the elections themselves. It will be a Bloody Sunday in Iraq, and the question will be, I think, whether the candidates survive to form an assembly.
Juan Cole doesn't appear to be particularly optomistic, but he describes one possibility: "There are, of course, lots of elections in the Arab world. Some are more rigged than others. But there are almost no elections where the sitting prime minister and his party would be allowed to be turned out unexpectedly by an unpredictable and uncontrolled electorate. If Iraqi interim Prime Minister Allawi's list does poorly and his political star falls as a result of a popular vote, something democratic will have happened in Iraq, for all the serious problems with the elections."
What are the chances of a clear-cut result? There are more than 100 different "parties" running, and I don't know how any Iraqi citizen could decide which to vote for. And given how chaotic the voting will be, not to mention the difficulties of gathering and counting and certifying the ballots both inside and outside Iraq, it will apparently be a week or two before the results are declared.
The results may be fragmented, but they will be honest, at least. I am proud that Canada is stepping forward to provide international endorsement of the Iraqi election by organizing the International Mission for Iraqi Elections to work on the three Iraq votes planned for this year, including Sunday's vote. Supporting democracy is always the right thing to do.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

And here's your s**t sandwich, soldier! That will be $6.75 

Of all the cheap stunts that a government could pull, this -- Salon.com News | Insult to injury -- takes the cake ($2.00)
As the article says, "Paying for food at an Army hospital after fighting in a war doesn't seem right" -- I agree. I thought the American government was promoting a Mom-and-apple-pie ($3.50) feel-good policy about supporting the troops/ So what kind of hot-dog ($4.00) bureaucrat would have thought up such a thing? Trace it back to Rum($5.50)sfeld and the neocon gang - after all, they have to save their phoney-baloney ($1.50) jobs here, gentlemen!

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The pink triangle side of the street 

Government to introduce same-sex bill next week
Well, I've been blogging in support of gay rights and gay marriage since I began this blog last March. Now we're reading news stories about how some Conservatives and some Catholic bishops are saying the nation needs more time -- specifically, their arguments are two: first, that civil unions are good enough for now and second, that the government should use the notwithstanding clause for just five years, by which time either more people would support gay marriage (from its present 60 percent in favour, to maybe 70 or 80 percent?) or else we would have elected a Conservative government and so signified that a significant majority are now opposed to it; either way, the argument seems to go, the decision wouldn't be as difficult or divisive as it is today.
What is wrong with these arguments? Well, on civil unions, seven provincial supreme courts have already ruled that these are not good enough, and does anyone think the Canadian Supreme Court would overturn these decisions? Not.
Second, charter rights are not a popularity contest. We elect governments to lead, not to follow. Look at what is happening now in the United States. Eleven states voted against gay marriage in November. Now, they didn't vote to hate gay people, or to discriminate against them, or to ignore their civil rights -- but that is exactly what is starting to happen. The wording of the state referenda was broad enough to deny gay couples any civil union rights, and states like Michigan are now moving to change their state employee benefits to reflect this -- if they did not change their benefits, somebody could and would sue them to do it, I would think. And I noted with dismay that even the recent fight over Spongebob was refuted, not by a ringing or even muted expression of solidarity with gay people, but rather by the assertion that the disputed video didn't actually support gay people at all.
The whole thing just underscored how gay people are being increasingly targeted all over the States in response to the message of the gay marriage vote. This message is that it is OK to discriminate now against gay people in every way, and that even innocuous attempts to promote tolerance can be branded as part of some insidious "gay agenda" - like No Name Calling Week in schools.
Like it or not, gay marriage has become symbolic -- the whole issue of civil rights for gay people has become wrapped up in this issue. Thus, anyone who opposes gay marriage has moved to the pink triangle side of the street along with James Dobson (now known as SpongeDob Stickeypants) and the Matthew Shepard revisionists.
The basic issue is neither difficult, nor divisive -- do gay people deserve the same civil rights as straight people? Yes? Then support for the gay marriage legislation is how that belief must be expressed. Its defeat would signlal nothing less than a return to pink triangles thinking.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A vote for Gonzales is a vote for torture 

In the Stars & Stripes Letters column today: "As retired professional military leaders of the U.S. armed forces, we are deeply concerned about the nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales to be attorney general . . . The United States' commitment to the Geneva Conventions - the laws of war - flows not only from field experience, but also from the moral principles on which this country was founded, and by which we all continue to be guided." letter from 12 retired generals opposing the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.
Well, its about time. The vote is sometime this week.
Daily Kos has been leading the bloggers' campaign against Gonzales and today has a petition for everyone to sign. Among the 300+ replies to this post, I found reference to the Stars and Stripes letter.
The attitude toward Gonzales among many Democratic Senators seems to have been, unfortunately, that his approval is a foregone conclusion so there's no particular point in "losing" political capital by being "obstructive".
These people need a reality check -- in the eyes of the world, a vote for Gonzales is a vote for torture. Period.
Not only should the Democrats vote against him, the Republicans should too. Anyone who votes in favour of Gonzales should be ashamed of themselves.
The world is watching.
UPDATE: Liberal Oasis says the Senate Dems DO seem to be organizing now against Gonzales.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

LookingGlass Wars 

MSNBC - Secret unit expands Rumsfeld's domain
First, this is EXACTLY what Seymour Hersh SAID was going on in the Pentagon a week ago -- vigorously denied by the Pentagon at the time.
Second, considering how things have gone in Iraq, where Rumsfeld's bombastic neocon overreach have combined with Pentagon miscalculations to create an unwinnable war situation for the US, I have serious doubts about how competent or effective this new bunch of spies will actually be.
Third, as I was reading this I started thinking about John LeCarre's The LookingGlass War . In The LookingGlass War, an army intelligence unit ambitiously but incompetently tries to ferret out some East German secrets, and the British Secret Service, while obstensibly helping them, actually sabatoges the mission. It was one of LeCarre's themes in many of his novels that intelligence agencies advance their own political fortunes more by viciously undermining their so-called allies than by merely defeating their enemy - which, by remaining undefeated, also provides a continuing justification for budgets and personnel.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Want to be inspired? 

See this post at Daily Kos :: one from the heart and read the comments. This actually IS a ray of sunshine.

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Well, isn't this just a ray of #ucking sunshine! 

So first I read this story -- Iraqi insurgency growing larger, more effective
Then this one (on Buzzflash) - What Could Go Wrong in 2005
And then, just as I was about to sink into a slough of despond, this one - Do You Suffer News Fatigue? Sick of dour headlines? Too much Bush and war and death and homophobia and Bush? You are not alone.


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Friday, January 21, 2005

SpongeBob supports gay rights, too 

Conservatives Pick Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge Well, the vicious Christian Right has a new target - cartoons! Newly self-crowned king of the wingnuts, James Dobson, told a dinner of republican congressmen that he thinks the new "We are Family" video is "pro-homosexual".
So, SpongeBob SquarePants supports gay rights? Well, good for him!
Actually, I don't know why Dobson would think this, unless he is mentally ill, drunk with power, or just plain drunk. And say it to a fancy republican inaugural dinner, too, though I was unable to find out what organization sponsored his remarks.
We watched the whole video on Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight. Its just a cheery little riff with Barney, the Muppets, Winnie the Pooh and SpongeBob dancing and singing about how wonderful families are. Thinking that this video promotes some kind of insidious agenda is crazy, unless you think that anything that promotes tolerance and joy is some kind of plot. Maybe in Dobson's America, it is.
The video is produced by the We Are Family Foundation, which also dares to have on its website the Tolerance Declaration from the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
"Tolerance is a personal decision that comes from a belief that every person is a treasure. I believe that America's diversity is its strength. I also recognize that ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry can turn that diversity into a source of prejudice and discrimination. To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own."
Well, can't have THAT in today's America, can we?
After showing the video, Keith quoted Mark Barondess, the foundation's lawyer, as saying that Dobson and the rest who are criticizing this video 'need medication.' Well, said Obermann, we agree.
I wonder if the republicans applauded Dobson at the dinner -- the NYT article doesn't say. But the next day, Dobson's assistant repeated the charge "We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids. It is a classic bait and switch." Switching to WHAT he didn't say. But they seem to think they have to draw the line at tolerance, because its so dangerous for America.
Countdown is now the only US news show we can stand to watch, because Keith Olbermann is the only "progressive" newsperson on American TV now - he covered the Ohio vote recount and hearings when no other network was covering them; his "bloggerman" blog is the only newsperson's blog that really is one (most of the rest just shill for their upcoming shows); and generally he demonstrates little patience with the stupider aspects of the republicans or the Christian Right.
The week before last, he bashed an Ann Coulter doll to pieces on the set. It was great!
And by the way, there is also a WeAreFamily organization that supports gay and lesbian youth in Charleston, SC. Check them out.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

The worst photo I have ever seen 

A four-year old Iraqi girl whose parents were just shot by American soldiers.
Here is the story.

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And here's another one 

to add to my list below.New trial in sex assault case In this one, three men sexually assaulted a 12 year old and two of them got off with the defense that they were drunk and they thought she was 14.
Does that sound ridiculous? Not if you're from Saskatchewan, and you know that the men were white and the girl was Aboriginal.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

On 9/11. a gay man saved the White House 

I wonder how many Americans remember, or ever knew, that one of the heros of Flight 93, the airplane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field rather than into the White House or the Capital Building as the hijackers planned, was a rugby-playing lawyer/PR executive named Mark Bingham, who also happened to be proudly and openly gay.
There are two reasons I am remembering this now. First, rehashing the election is now going on in the progressive blogs, one point being that Kerry lost the spin cycle after the third debate because so many Americans were shocked when Kerry noted that Mary Cheney is gay -- many Americans, it appeared, considered this a "smear" because they hadn't known about her before. I think democrats looking for a short and pithy way to frame their issues for Americans should remind people about Bingham's heroism
And second, here in Canada, the Toronto Archbishop and Calgary Bishop are both trying to pressure Paul Martin to use the notwithstanding clause to deny marriage rights to gay couples.
These were rights that Bingham supported - he wanted to marry his own partner. Its a tragedy and a waste that he gave his life to save the White House, while the people in the White House whose lives he saved still continue to reject his basic humanity and his courage.
Here is the story of that flight, and what Bingham did. Here is the tribute site in his memory -
Mark Bingham, a tribute to a Wonderful Man, a Great Friend, a Loving Brother, and an American Hero

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34 and counting 

A few weeks ago, I complained that there were just too many Bush administration outrages for anybody to keep track of, one succeeding another until there were so many piling up in blogosphere archives that I couldn't keep track of what was happening with them all. So now Salon has published The scandal sheet - a handy reference guide.
Of course, it only lists the scandals which are actually against the law, charges which have been heard by a court or are under investigation by a grand jury or a prosecutor or a congressional committee -- so it leaves out things I also consider scandalous, like altering reports on climate change science and trashing international treaties and smearing people like Richard Clarke and Paul ONeill, not to mention Guantanamo Bay and torture and preemptive war and the divine right of kings doctrine -- but its a start.

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Good for you, Paul 

PM runs into same-sex debate in India "This is a question of civil marriage, not religious marriage," Mr. Martin told reporters . . . "No church, no temple, no synagogue will be forced to provide a marriage in any other way than with those [values] which are accepted by its own beliefs." . . . Mr. Martin told reporters he is proud of the way Canada supports the rights of minorities. "I believe that one of the reasons that Canada has been so successful at bringing together people from all around the world is in fact we do understand religious freedom, we do understand the necessity for minorities to be protected so in fact they can pursue their own faith and they can pursue their own way."
Exactly.
The same-sex marriage debate is heating up in Canada, too, with more overblown rhetoric and implausible scenarios -- like this one "Dr. Buckingham pointed out that courts in the past have declared that public schools must provide a welcoming environment for all children. That may well become more and more difficult to do, she said, with acceptance of homosexuality in the name of tolerance leading to intolerance of those who morally oppose it." Ahhh, you mean those poor students, whose teachers already prevent them from calling their fellow students squaws or bucks or kikes or wogs or chinks, won't be allowed to call anybody a faggot either? Well, it just isn't FAIR, is it?

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Live by the sword -  

and die by the sword.
Bush Upsets Some Supporters
And Bush said the same thing again last night on an NBC interview I watched.
Well, he got all those church-going ladies out to vote for him, so together they could smite same-sex marriage, and now he tells them that he isn't going to bother with the amendment because Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act is good enough.
What? Something done by Clinton-the-devil-incarnate-antichrist-wannabe is sufficient?
Gee, if this keeps up, people who voted republican might start to think that maybe they made a mistake.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Milgaard Inquiry underway 

The Globe and Mail: Judge at Milgaard inquiry counsels patience
Here is the Official Website for the inquiry, which will be meeting from now until the end of April. I may not blog too much about it, because its difficult to develop conclusions from the day-to-day testimony. But I'll be following it.
And here's the list of other recent Saskatoon justice inquiries and cases:
the Stonechild Inquiry
the Lawrence Wegner inquest
the Darrell Night case
the Commission on First Nations and Metis Peoples and Justice Reform
the Klassen/Kvello case
and the Martensville case
Its a lengthy and sorry record, isn't it.

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Laugh! 

My Blahg gets "Ahead of the Curve".

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The war has been cancelled? 

Well, that's a relief -- DoD News: Statement from Pentagon Spokesman Lawrence DiRita on Latest Seymour Hersh Article
So Seymour Hersh's article is all wrong. The US won't be invading Iran after all ...
No, wait . . . no one actually said THAT.
Thanks to All Spin's Kate for the link.
UPDATE: Ah-ha! Just as I suspected!

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Zephyrgate -- revenge of the dissed? 

So I looked for the very beginning of it all, and found it here, on John Palfrey's blog, dated Monday: "Z on who was paying whom for what. A propos of credibility on the web: everyone knew that the Dean campaign had bloggers on their payroll. But these bloggers? And does it matter how much they were paid, relative to staffers? I am intrigued by the issue of how much can be cured through transparency and disclosure, as Kos and others have argued. " This was the very first reference anywhere on the web to Zephyr Teachout's column. Then Ed Cone found the link, which was noted on Instapundit, which attracted the attention of the Wall Street Journal, which wrote the story, which lead to everything else.
I thought Palfrey's tone in the original piece was a little negative, a little dismissive, a little contemptuous of Kos and of MyDD's Jerome. So I googled some more.
Now, John Palfery is the head of Harvard's Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, which is sponsoring next week's Conference on Blogging, Journalism and Credibility , in which interest Teachout wrote the piece. This conference has already provoked some negative comments in the progressive blogosphere for its virtually total lack of progressive bloggers invited. Note that Teachout, who has been blogging for a week, is invited. As is Ed Cone (which is why, I suppose, he found the link). So is Powerline. NOT invited are Kos, Atrios, Josh Marshall, Steve Gillman, Liberal Oasis, Pandagon, Hullabaloo, Kevin Drum, Daily Howler, Oliver Willis, MyDD . . .
So, googling John Palfrey, I found some previous controversy here, too -- the October 2003 BloggerCon, also sponsored by Berkman, was roundly trashed by progressive bloggers including Pandagon, Atrios and Kos as both expensive and irrelevant to blogging. Palfrey had to back down a bit on the price. (By the way, if you click the trashing link, you will note that The Register promised more articles on BloggerCon. Apparently they never published them, though they have continued to say some pretty negative things about organizer Dave Winer.)
So does the earlier dissing of BloggerCon account for the "gotcha" tone in Palfrey's blog about the bloggers on the Dean payroll?

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Words of wisdom 

MSNBC - Social Security, solvency and political spin:
Guess who said this: "'For too long, too many people dependent on Social Security have been cruelly frightened by individuals seeking political gain through demagoguery and outright falsehood, and this must stop. The future of Social Security is much too important to be used as a political football."
Thanks to Josh Marshall for the link.

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Neocons descending? 

Boy, is this ever good news -- Neoconservatives at Sea - by Jim Lobe Shorter version: just when the neocons thought they had won, they find out they're losing all around.
And Antiwar.com, where I got the Lobe story, has a new section up entitled "military madness" with stories like this one, about the "gay bomb" idea. It really is pathetic, isn't it.

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Zephyr, we hardly knew ye 

Gilliard gets it, too -- he addresses the deeper agenda of the Zephyr storySteve Gilliard's News Blog : See what you did in an Open Letter to Zephyr: "Do you think that because you shit on two honest people that people will now listen to your little hobby horse about ethics? Are you fucking kidding me? Your ethics suck. You would buy coverage for a candidate. So exactly why should I listen to you? Here's the deal: just shut the fuck up. Your carelessness has caused an amazing amount of harm for a non-issue."
UPDATE: So, the plot sickens -- appears that Zephyr Teachout was lying when she said the Dean campaign was trying to bribe Kos and Jerome for favourable coverage -- either lying deliberately to cause Dean trouble in the DNC chair race, or lying inadvertently because she assumed that she knew the "real story" behind their hiring when she actually didn't. Zephyr, buh-bye.

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Trying to bribe bloggers -- THAT'S the story 

Digby gets it.
Forget ethics paradigms and Zephyr and Kos and MyDD. The media, for all the trashing we give them, have actually focused on the meaningful news story here: that Dean's presidential campaign tried to bribe left-wing bloggers to support him.
Zephyr, who started all the brouhaha, now writes "We were paying him [Jerome Armstrong of MyDD] in part because WE hoped that he, and Kos, would blog positive things about Dean, but that was never explicit or implicit in the contract. This has to do with OUR motives, not some contract, and no compromise on their part." And she's now preaching about how bloggers need to have ethics! Well, duh!
It doesn't matter now how clumsy and unsuccessful the bribery attempt was -- Armstrong actually shut his blog down while he worked for Dean, while Kos noted it prominently on his site and on every Dean-related post he wrote. So it didn't work.
I suspect, actually, that the bribery idea never occured to Dean himself -- sounds to me like it was Trippi, now turned pseudo-journalist on MSNBC, and the fair Zephyr who thought this one up all by themselves. What did Trippi say the other day, something about that he couldn't support Dean for DNC chair because Rosenberg would do a better job of pulling the party together? Yeah, Dean just made too many poor decisions, didn't he, like hiring Trippi and Zephyr to work for him in the first place.
Poor Rosenberg, I'll bet he thought it was a real feather in his cap when Trippi endorsed him four days ago. Little did he know. It will be interesting to see whether this story, in the end, turns against Dean or against Trippi, but I know who I think should get the blame for it.
And personally, I hope Dean wins the DNC chair, and cleans house with a mighty broom. He knows who his friends are now, and his enemies, too.

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Maybe it really does all come down to manners 

Giving Good Behavior a Sporting Chance Every now and then, Miss Manners get a little..., well,... political, in a polite sort of way.
It's just an impression, but Miss Manners has the idea that there is more rude behavior associated with professional basketball than with, say, national spelling bees.
Could it be the difference in maturity of the participants? The society's adulation of physical triumphs and suspicion that there is something weird about mental success? The cumulative influence of an educational system that deemphasizes disparity in intellectual achievement on the grounds that it is discouraging to others, while maintaining rigorous standards for being allowed to play school games?
Or is it that Miss Manners has not seen enough of either activity to be aware of how softhearted athletic stars really are and how viciously competitive the spellers?
Fortunately for her, it is not necessary to dig into a morass of social issues to discover why people so often behave badly in competitions. They do so because it is only natural, and they have not been required to be unnaturally polite. On the contrary, the belief lingers, in spite of massive evidence to the contrary, that it is good to get rid of ugly feelings by expressing them.
Perhaps; but there is still a difference between sneezing into one's handkerchief and sneezing into other people's faces.
The sad part is that it was once the world of sports that did a good job of teaching civilized competition. The very name of good sportsmanship was used in other contexts to define propriety under adversarial circumstances. A situation in which the sides have no real quarrel but are merely testing their more-or-less evenly matched skills in repeated contests is ideal for teaching the kind of restraint that is required to settle serious differences. The restraint involved is key in conducting conflicts -- military, legal and political, among others -- that do reflect deep differences.
It is then that most people have to be reminded that no matter how bitter the contest, the boundaries of civilized behavior must be respected. This is crucial not only to preserving our humanity but also to preserving the possibility of resolving the conflicts and returning to peaceful coexistence. Nothing can be settled otherwise, unless one side is able to prevail by utterly destroying the other.
That is seldom possible, much less desirable, even in outright warfare. Yet that is the spirit in which even games are now conducted. Etiquette rules are tossed aside on the grounds that they interfere with expressing the pure enmity that is felt -- which is exactly what these etiquette rules are designed to do. Far from paving over the source of the conflict, etiquette enables the opposing sides to deal with those sources instead of their scorn for one another.
Miss Manners has never shared the naivete of believing that it is the task of athletes to live their lives as roles models of character and propriety. All she would hope is that they conduct their own business of playing sports in such a way as to again provide their fans, as well as people in other adversarial situations, with the example of good sportsmanship.


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Humble pie 

Yahoo! News - Bush Admits Misgivings About Famed Phrases
Well, finally -- its not the end, or the beginning of the end, but it may be the end of the beginning.
"I don't know if you'd call it a regret, but it certainly is a lesson that a president must be mindful of, that the words that you sometimes say. ... I speak plainly sometimes, but you've got to be mindful of the consequences of the words. So put that down. I don't know if you'd call that a confession, a regret, something."
This story exposes Bush as a teenager -- one of the characteristics of "teenager thinking" is their idea that they nothing they say or do has any real effect. Thus, they can grump and scowl and scream insults at their mothers, then be sincerely amazed about "why was Mom so mad at me?" Thus they can get drunk and drive, and then be sincerely incredulous that the police think the car accident was their fault.
And so now we have Bush, a grown man and the president of the United States, announcing solemnly that presidents have to be careful about what they say. Well, I guess it only took five years for him to learn that -- he'll grow up someday, don't worry!
It may be just an act, though, because Bush is usually very careful about what he says, so that he can mislead people without technically lying.
UPDATE: This Iraqi resistance video is dated Dec. 10 and refers to the "bring it on" remark in particular. I wonder whether this had any connection to Bush's semi-apology?

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Cattle cull? 

Added to my update on the BSE story - CTV.ca | Mad cow owner points to suspect cattle feed- comes the discussion further down the story about Ralph Klein's call for a cattle cull -- ie, slaughtering of all cattle over six or seven years of age.
Such a cull would be difficult and expensive and painful. But Ralph is likely right that a cull may be the only solution -- the thousands of animals we now have over six are, I would think, virtually worthless now anyway and their continued existence jeopardizes the perception of safety so important to the industry. How to undertake the cull is also a terrible problem - from the radio discussion I heard today, our processing plants just don't have the capacity to process such a large number of animals quickly, so burning the carcasses may be the only option.
So to satisfy that greater beast, The Market, we slaughter thousands of healthy animals whose only crime was to be born too early, or too late, and we waste their meat while millions starve around the world.
That cracking sound you hear is the hearts of hundreds of cattle ranchers, breaking, as they contemplate the prospect.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

What the Salvadoran Option really means 

Thanks to the link at True North, I found that Billmon just couldn't stand it anymore. Hearing the news about the Pentagon's latest death squad fantasy wet dream, the "Salvadoran option", he gathered and posted without comment a brilliant series of descriptions showing just what the "Salvadoran option" means.

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Hell and damnation! 

Oh, damnit! I was afraid of something like this: Mad cow disease resurfaces despite feed restrictions
On CBC tonight, it was reported that cattle breeders may not have been discarding their old feed when the feed rules were changed in 1997.
And for this, I blame the anti-government politicians, usually right-wingers like Social Credit and Conservatives (disclosure - I worked for the SoCreds in BC, so I know them!) who have made partisan hay over the years by ranting about how useless government is and how bloated and stupid the government bureaucracy is.
Not that governments themselves don't reinforce this type of thinking when they embroil us all in bloated and stupid programs like the gun registry.
But as a result, there are bunches of people today who don't take any government rules seriously and who think government regulations are all just meaningless BS. And farmers are among the worst offenders (more disclosure - my dad was a farmer who didn't think this way, but most of his neighbours did).
So when the government tells folks like these that their cattle feed is dangerous and should be thrown away, they tend to think --oh what do they know anyway, its just more of those useless civil servants talking, my cattle are all fine and besides I can't afford to just throw all that feed, expecially when I got the last batch from the feed company at such a good price!
I just hope the US politicians won't seize on this to make their own political hay, to keep the border closed. But what are the chances?
UPDATE: Well, the rancher says it was fresh feed for this lot of cattle - so the story gets mysteriouser. Maybe the feed company? Or maybe some environmental cause?

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"Is it safe?" 

When I saw the announcement on TV today about Michael Chertoff's nomination for Homeland Security czar - Nominee Criticized Over Post-9/11 Policies - the pictures of Chertoff rang a bell.
That white hair, those hollowed cheeks, those burning eyes - who oh who did that remind me of?
And then it hit me -- its Lawrence Olivier's evil Dr. Christian Szell from Marathon Man. Here's an Olivier photo -- not from Marathon Man, but it shows the resemblence.
And the big question is the same for both Szell and Chertoff -- Is it safe?

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

People's choices are Michael Moore and Ellen Degeneres 

The 31st Annual People's Choice Awards gave Michael Moore the nod for best film for Fahrenheit 9/11.
And Ellen Degeneres won two awards, for daytime talk show host and funniest female star, while Will and Grace won for best sitcom
So much for the pro-Bush, anti-gay "mandate".
Won't it be interesting to see what happens at the Oscars? Nominations announced Jan. 25.

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Williams blinks first 

Maple Leaf flies again over Newfoundland
Williams is quoted as saying "Not everyone may have agreed with our decision, but we were able to focus the attention of the country on our issue." Yeah, sure. The issue everyone is now paying attention to is why Newfoundland and Labrador elected a loud-mouthed schnook as premier.

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Monday, January 10, 2005

Kill them all except six, for pallbearers 

Remember John Le Carre's January 2003 op ed piece The United States of America has gone mad? Remember Margaret Atwood's April 2003 Letter to America ? Atwood wrote "If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They'll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They'll think you've abandoned the rule of law. They'll think you've fouled your own nest. "
Now read Newsweel's latest scoop -- the Pentagon and the CIA want to set up death squads in Iraq and going into Syria too, and the only argument appears to be over which agency will get to do the dirty work -- like two little boys fighting over a new toy, they both want it first.

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Secrets and lies 

Another great post on Guantanamo torture at Digby's Hullabaloo
So today I'm reading a second-hand bookstore book - John R Maxim's 1989 book The Bannerman Solution-- and I come across this paragraph, describing how the hero cop is figuring out who the bad guys are:
"So the former FBI guy is now probably CIA and has some new secret job . . . almost everything is secret with those assholes. Even the time of day is on a need-to-know basis. The real reason everything's a secret is that hardly anything they plan ever works the way they meant it to and hardly anything they ever find out ever matters a good goddamn in the long run and if they didn't keep it all secret everyody else would know that too."

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

Added to Bartletts 

To "Now, watch this drive" can be added "Get some devastation in the back".

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Friday, January 07, 2005

Torture update 

Balkinization's Marty Lederman, who worked in the Office of Legal Council office from 1994-2002, provides a series of posts on all of the torture laws and prohibitions and to whom these do or do not apply, in the Bush administration's previous and recent opinions. I found this from the link at Tapped via Liberal Oasis.

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Senate "approved torture" -- NOT! 

So I kept hearing on the talk shows last night that Reagan and the Senate endorsed torture in the 1980s -- well, NOT!
Its just another damned Republican Talking Point, ginned up to confuse the masses and confound the talk show hosts, who were caught flatfooted by these bald statements.
Here is the August 2002 memo which defined "torture" and "not-torture". Torture, according to the memo, means "that the victim must experience intense pain or suffering of the kind that is equivalent to the pain that would be assoiated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function will likely result. . . [mental suffering] must cause long-term mental harm."
So things like sticking burning cigarettes in someone's ear, or chaining someont to a stool for hours, or incarcerating someone in a hot room, or pretending to execute someone, or threatening to send them to jail in Egypt, and so forth, fall into the category of "not-torture".
The memo also notes that, in 1984, Congress criminalized torture to fulfill US obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. At that time, torture was defined only as severe pain or suffering intentionally inflicted.
So here we are: by parsing the definition of "torture" so narrowly, and by noting that "torture" was what Congress criminalized in 1984, the Talking Point can be stated that Congress, in effect, approved all the other actions which the memo defines as "not-torture". Neat reasoning, huh? How clever! Oh, those lawyers sure can write good!
The Talking Point demonstrates exactly the same kind of contorted, convoluted, ammoral, slippery thinking that is demonstrated in the memo itself.
And there also seems to be another Talking Point that the Senate in the 80s approved Reagan's decision to torture terrorists. Well, again, this doesn't appear to be the case. There were two additional Geneva Convention Protocols adopted by an intergovernmental conference in 1977, designed to deal with terrorism and its targeting of civilians. Reagan decided in 1987 that he would not ask Senate to ratify Protocol I (Victims of International Armed Conflicts) -- Reagan said Protocol I gave too much protection to terrorist groups -- and Senate apparently decided not to ratify Protocol II (Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts) until Protocol I was revised, which it hasn't been.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The medium is the message 

The Smirking Chimp writes about the Guantanamo message to America:
"The prison facility at Guantanamo Bay is the brightest star in the Bush firmament. It towers over the political landscape like a monument to human cruelty . . . What is it that we fail to grasp about Guantanamo? Are we so blinded by the assuring narrative of democracy and personal freedom that we don't recognize the symbols of tyranny when we see them? The reality of Guantanamo is quite stark; a dull-gray world of cinder-block and wire situated beyond the reach of any law or regulation. Is their some doubt about what this really means? . . . Guantanamo is a deliberate effort to overturn every legal protection that safeguards the individual from the arbitrary actions of the state. Simply put, it is the end of the law . . . The Gulag at Guantanamo casts a pall over American political life. It illustrates a seismic shift in our fundamental values as Americans and a wholesale betrayal of our commitment to human rights. Concentration camps are anathema to democracy and Guantanamo is asphyxiating the promise of American justice. Institutions that once were counted on to protect the individual have been casually discarded by the perpetrators of the most despicable crimes against humanity. The Bush administration has assumed the role of Grand Inquisitor; dispensing 'cruel and inhuman' punishment without remorse or hesitation. They've elevated injustice to a level of state policy. "
I never understood Marshall McLuhan's statement "the medium is the message" until I considered Guantanamo -- it was built as just another prison, sure, but one consciously designed to subvert constitutional due process and prisoner of war conventions. In just three years, it has distorted American thinking to the point that the US now has a nominee Attorney General who supports presidential rule by divine right and who endorses torture - and the lock-step Senate Republicans, and probably a few Democrats also, will likely vote for him.
Maybe with the Patriot Act vote they had some excuse in 911 panic. And maybe with the Iraq War vote they had been sandbagged by mushroom cloud scenarios.
But with Gonzales, they will know exactly what they're voting for -- government of the gulag, by the gulag and for the gulag.

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Monday, January 03, 2005

Its about time 

The Globe and Mail: Canada to send DART to Asia on Thursday
Thanks, Paul - you finally did the right thing .
UPDATE: Also a good idea is that the government will accept for the 2004 tax year charitable donation receipts for Asian relief issued up to Jan 11. Great move that will encourage donations.

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Its about defending the constitution, folks 

Well, a Google search for today's "Guantanamo" headlines reveals that the news about the US Guantanamo plan is being covered in the US and around the world -- with considerable differences in tone.
The foreign coverage speaks to the heart of the story - that the US government plans to jail people for life without evidence or trial. The Sydney Morning Herald headline is "Senators dennounce plan to jail suspects for life without trial" and various other Australian newspapers echo this approach. UK Guardian ("US plans permanent Guantanamo jails") and Telegraph ("Guantanamo suspects face a life in captivity"), the Gulf Daily News in Bahrain ("US may hold suspects for life"), the Pakistan Daily Times ("Washington mulls life-term detention for terror suspects") and other headlines in the Indian Express, Xinhau China, Al-Jazeera, the Mathaba Net in Africa, the Mail & Guardian in South Africa.
In the few American newspapers that have run the stories, the headlines are usually either innocuous - like the Lexington Herald Leader ("US planning detainees' future") the Knoxvill News Sentinal ("US reviews imprisonment plans") - or themselves condemn people without trial, like the New York Post's "Feds Eye Life for Terrorists".
There are two slightly longer takes: the Chicago Tribune today publishes a story headlined "Legal tide turning on detainee issue" saying that US lawyers are now getting on board the detainee issue, though its main focus is still on the Gonzales AG confirmation hearings rather than on the detainees themselves. And Salon today publishes "Indefinite and secretive" which explains helpfully that "The new prisons are intended for captives the Pentagon and the CIA suspect of terrorist links but do not wish to set free or put on trial for lack of hard evidence." I guess even Salon thinks there is such a thing as "soft" evidence, which is sufficient to justify life imprisonment on its own, unexamined merits.
So I looked around the progressive blogosphere for outrage and found only a few postings: this diary at Kos and this at All Spin Zone, and the Washington Post stories posted on Buzzflash. That's it. Digby is covering the torture issue very well, but I haven't seen any imprisonment posts there. I have likely missed checking some others, but I couldn't find anything posted on this either at Liberal Oasis, Seeing the Forest, My DD, Blogging of the President or Eschaton. (I know some other blogs, like Frogsdong, Oliver Willis, Pandagon are on hiatus or away for the holidays so I didn't expect to see anything there.)
Now, I know democrats don't want to be seen as "soft on terrorism" and the progressive blogospere generally follows the party approach, but come on, folks -- this isn't terrorism, its your own damn constitution that needs defending -- the United States should not imprison people for life without evidence or trial. You're better than this - or at least, you used to be.
UPDATE: My Blahg is on it, and so is Stageleft.

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Gutless toadies 

Lugar Condemns Plan To Jail Detainees for Life
What this story should have said:
"A leading Republican senator yesterday strongly condemned as "a terrible idea" a reported U.S. plan to keep some suspected terrorists imprisoned for a lifetime even if the government lacks evidence to charge them . . . Influential senators denounced the idea as completely unconstitutional and condemned the White House and the Pentagon for suggesting a scheme which would "deliberaterly circumvent the Supreme Court rulings for due process for every detainee,"Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday. Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, also cited earlier U.S. Supreme Court decisions, as well as the Geneva Conventions which are intended to prevent indefinite imprisonment without trial. "There absolutely must be due process. No person, whether American or foreign, should ever be detained without evidence," Levin said, also on Fox."
Oh, I wish they had shouted to the rooftops, using language which condemned this evil plan in the strongest possible terms. Instead, these gutless Senate toadies called it just "a bad idea" and asked only for "some modicum, some semblance" of due process.
Has no one in Washington noticed, by the way, that the Pentagon seems to be blithely IGNORING the Supreme Court requirement that a procedure be established to provide due process hearings for every detainee? What kind of government allows its military to disregard court decisions it disagrees with? What kind of president swears to uphold the US Constitution and then ignores it?

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I love brave dog stories 

Here's one, about a dog saving a child during the tsumani - MSNBC - A not-so-shaggy dog story, complete with happy ending
And I read another one, which I can't find now, about a child who clung to a swimming dog and was saved because the dog knew the direction to swim to safety.

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Just another day in paradise 

I can hardly believe that this "story" is being reported in such an off-hand matter -- Long-Term Plan Sought For Terror Suspects. As if the life imprisonment of people who cannot be convicted of a crime BECAUSE THERE IS NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE FOR CONVICTION is just another routine matter, just a problem of finding some secret place for them where no decent judge or criminal defense attorney will be able to find them. And most chilling, at the end, is the casual talk of so-called "rendition" - sending them to dictatorships where they will be tortured.
Of course, now the US itself apparently falls into that category.
Note, too, the almost-complete lack of names in this article, indicating that the sources for this story are too embarassed to step forward -- so I guess there is still some sense of shame in the US government. Not much, but a little.

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Saturday, January 01, 2005

More VRWC stuff 

Here's some more Vast Right Wing Conspiracy stuff, following up on my earlier posts here and here.
Dave Johnson, from Seeing the Forest, wrote this article in 2003, which notes how a few rich people have funded multiple right-wing organizations and so created the impression of a groundswell of conservative thinking: Who's Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors?

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