Sunday, April 17, 2005

Admin Note - Site Location Moved

Just a reminder, All Spin Zone has moved to its new cyberlocation - http://allspinzone.com/blog. We will discontinue crossposting to the Blogger site (where you're at right now) as of Sunday, 4/17/05.

Please update your bookmarks. And, if your blog / website has ASZ linked and blogrolled, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, for Technorati's sake, change your link to the new site.

We thank you!!

Iraq Quagmire Continues

There's still a war going on in Iraq. I know, I know, that's sooooo 2004. It's still a quagmire, though. You just don't hear too much about it much on this side of the Atlantic ocean because journo's have gotten the hint - if you ain't an embed, you could be dead.

So, here's a few top stories from today:

A mass hostage taking was reported yesterday in the town of Madain. The situation is apparently very fluid and confusing, particularly when the only available information is coming out of the Green Zone in Baghdad. The Associated Press stenographer in Baghdad stated that "Sunni militants were holding dozens of Shiite Muslims hostage and threatening to kill them..."; Al Jazeera says "a senior Shia official in Baghdad said up to 150 hostages were being held, including women and children..."; AFP is reporting "Sunni militants had seized up to 80 hostages and threatened to kill them unless all Shiites left". And apparently, a rescue operation has now been undertaken - which is apparently equally as confusing - is it Iraq police or U.S. forces that are conducting the mission? Pick your news source; take your chances.

In other news (again, pick your news source), 3 U.S. soldiers were killed overnight in a drive by mortaring of Camp Ramadi, with up to a dozen more being injured. An Iraqi "commando force" officer and a police director were assassinated in separate incidents, and two of the police director's family members were also killed in the hit.

What else has been happening? Oh, there was a riot in the prison at Camp Bucca after a detainee was apparently murdered. Several detainees escaped in the subsequent confusion; most were apparently recaptured. Seven Iraqis, including three policemen, were killed in an explosion at a restaurant in the town of Baquba, north of Baghdad...

Yep. Just another weekend in paradise. Oh, and those elections that took place back in January? There still isn't a functional government in Iraq, nearly three months after the elections.

Let's tie all of this up with a quick observation. A common thread running through nearly every report coming out of Iraq these days is that Iraqi "forces" (whatever they are) are responding to events. For example, in the sketchy reports on the three U.S. soldiers being killed in Ramadi:

...Seven servicemen were also wounded in the attack, three of them seriously, the military said in a statement. The attackers were believed to have fled into a nearby mosque. But when Iraqi security forces searched it, they found no insurgents.

Again, this is not an exception - nearly all of the news articles linked in this post have the same flavor when describing military responses to the event. What this is telling me is two things: U.S. casualties are down because soldiers are venturing less and less beyond the operational wall of fortified compounds, and relying on Iraqi first responders to chase the bad guys after a firefight. Second, the focus of press releases from the Green Zone are subtly changing to support the U.S. exit strategy - a major reduction of U.S. forces if U.S. casualties decrease and Iraqi security forces take over.

This slog is a loooooong way from over. For an Iraqi insider's view, check out Riverbend's most recent posting, if you haven't already.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Heat Grows on DeLay

And the chorus grows...

WASHINGTON - One of Congress' most conservative members on Friday became the second House Republican to urge Majority Leader Tom DeLay to step aside because of the ethics scrutiny he's facing...

When the conservative newspaper in my own neck of the woods calls for The Bugman to wave bye-bye, when (for goodness sakes) hyper-conservative Senator Rick Santorum (ethically-challenged in his own right) says he should go, when a 100% rated neocon congressman opines that it's time for door to hit DeLay's ass on the way out...

I'd call that a trend.

It will be interesting to see how Bugman's continuing problems play on the Sunday talk shows tomorrow.

Bill Frist's Hustle

Definition: Hustle

Synonyms: action, ante, bet, challenge, chunk, fifty-fifty, fighting chance, flier, gamble, handle, hazard, hedge, hunch, long shot, odds on, outside chance, parlay, play, pledge, plunge, pot, risk, snowball chance, stake, toss-up, venture

Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist is playing with fire. Let's stipulate one thing right up front - this guy isn't stupid. Maybe deluded or deranged, but not stupid.

Why on God's green earth would Bill Frist, one of the most powerful men in America, align himself with a Reich wing fundamentalist telethon that's the broadcast equivalent of American Taliban Wankfest 2005? I just don't get it. The guy is supposed to be, above and beyond everything else, a politician. And I don't think anyone could argue that he's not going to be making a lot of new friends with his participation in the "Justice Sunday" gig. That he would align himself with someone as far on the fringe as Tony Perkins speaks volumes more than I or anyone could possibly write.

Chuck Currie, a progressive Christian blogger, takes on the entire concept of Frist's sellout (or buy-in, as the case may be) better than almost all of the outraged words I've read in the Left Blogzome this evening. I encourage you to click through to Currie's article, and offer your support. Here's a teaser:

...This purely political event disguised as a religious event is the most obscene use of religion in a political context since the Republicans declared last fall that Democrats planned to ban the Bible...

...Don’t be fooled into thinking Bill Frist or his right-wing allies represent Christianity. What they truly represent are political hacks willing to misuse Christian tradition for their own political agenda...

I'm very pleased to see mainstream Christians like Currie speaking up. We can only hope that in the coming few days, Dr. Bill Frist will have a Tom DeLay moment - and decide that discretion is the better part of political valor. We call on him to disavow this divisive (and unnecessary) use of a religious "event" to further the reich wing agenda. That Frist (or any Republican) would use the currently hypercharged political environment for their own ill-gotten gains is beyond the pale.

But not entirely unexpected.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Gambling Retirement Money

News item: Wall St. Suffers Worst Day in Two Years

I'm sure many readers remember their tears as they opened their 401K statements in the months after the "bubble burst" back in the late 1990's. What had seemed like a free ride to an excellent retirement was suddenly exposed for the risk that it was - a crapshoot.

Any investment is a gamble. And one of the cardinal rules of gambling is: the odds are always in favor of the house, no matter what the game. A working knowledge of any game of chance can reduce the odds (and the risk), but never so much as to remove the house advantage.

In the past few days, a lot of Wall Street gamblers have seen their portfolios shrink substantially. The markets have been treading water for months, but this week may indeed signal a significant turn to a bad bear market. I know, I know...investment advice always tells you to invest your money for the long haul, but still...

How long is "long haul"? How many out there still haven't seen their 401K's recover from the drubbing they took 5, 6, or 7 years ago? Is that long enough? Driving home tonight, I heard a very interesting analogy between 401K's and Bush's privatization Ponzi scheme - in the '90s, people were willing to risk dumping their own cash into 401K's for two reasons:

1. The return was excellent at the time AND
2. They knew that if worse came to worse, there was always the Social Security safety net.

When all is said and done, risk perception will sink George Bush's grandiose plans for his legacy (privatizing Social Security). History isn't on his side.

A Few Items Concerning Gays and Lesbians

In Texas you can be fired for being a Lesbian
Merry Stephens is finding out, even after coaching the town Girl's Basketball teams to record results. Hey, look, though, they've got to pay her two years of salary. Steve Gilliard also pipes in on this one. I give him credit, but I didn't get the story from there. Today I had some time to read all of the last couple days of the New York Times! Ah, sweet luxury. . .

Speaking of sports and gays
Sports Illustrated came out with a poll timed for the broadcast of Ring of Fire, the documentary about the boxer Emile Griffith set to be broadcast on April 20th on USA. The full poll shows what you think it would, that more and more people are becoming accepting of gays and lesbians, but also that most people think advertisers are unwise to hire gay and lesbian athletes as spokespeople. Ho hum. The real gem here is the long story about Emile Griffith, a man who climbed to the top and subsequently fell, evidently all the time tortured by his sexual identity.

The Ohio Constitutional Marriage Bill is Producing Unintentional Problems
Of course, any time you make a law it will cause unintentional problems, which is why the constitutions of all states make DAMN sure it is tough to amend that document. Ohio is seeing the results of what happens when you make a law based on fear. The Amendment, you see, eliminates protections for all people cohabitating, not just gays and lesbians. As such, spousal abuse charges are being thrown out of court, at least in situations where the folks are no longer "spouses" under any Ohio legal definition. Stupid legislators make stupid laws, and scared ones make even stupider laws.

Queer Eye spawns some new networks, according to CBS
Will they get along happily, asks CBS? Dang it, I hope not. They should fight and scratch for market share just like all enterprises, and that will make them stronger. What's that tone in the CBS article implying these folks should play nicey-nice? Q Television and HereTV are the pay channels, with MTV running out its own Logo on basic cable channels. Yes, I think the premise of Adored: Diary of a Male Porn Star on HereTV is pretty out there. Sure to get some viewers, I bet.

Can't you just hear those Radical Right Wing Chrisitan Clerics gnashing their teeth?

Webs of Deception

Finally, the Dems have realized the power of the web and have taken to a full-frontal assault on Tom Delay and his many "ethically challenged" if not down-right criminal political activities.
DEMS WISEN TO WEB
Dems ready fresh approach to bring color to ethics charges dogging GOP leader

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a website that aims to bring new attention to ethics charges hounding House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), RAW STORY has learned.

The site, named "House of Scandal," echoes a similar site launched by the Washington watchdog Citizens for Ethics earlier today. But the decision for the Democratic Party to back such a sharp online slap at the Republican leader marks a new strategy by the party to add interactivity to a series of scandals dogging the House Republican leader that have often been too complex for the average voter.

In a bold move, the Democratic campaign committee has also replaced their own website with the DeLay-themed extravaganza.

Perhaps most significantly, the site attempts to tie the entire membership of the House Republican caucus to their embattled leader. Residents of any district will be able to pull up a listing for their congressmember (if he or she is a Republican) and see statements and contributions related to DeLay.
...

CREW also launched a Delay-related website called www. JackInTheHouse.org, it's a site dedicated to the many dealings and associations of Delay pal Jack Abramoff.

Rawstory has put together a "ties that bind map" - it's a BIG map.

Oh yeah, speaking of deception, you remember that "Blue Ribbon Commission" on voting reform, the one Jimmy Carter is on? It seems there's a bit of deception with that as well. (gasp)

Questions surface regarding legitimacy of Baker-Carter election reform commission
Serious questions of conservative partisanship have surfaced surrounding an electoral reform commission co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and erstwhile Secretary of State James Baker, RAW STORY has learned.
Election reform? Republicans and Democrats embark on election reform with help from voting companies, front groups, pundits and a few genuine election reform groups peppered in.

The Carter Center denies any involvement with the Baker-Cater Commission on Federal Election Reform even though they are on much of its literature. Carter stepped down from the center in March.

Perhaps most significant, however, is the partisan makeup of those on the Commission's panels. In a situation reminiscent of GOPUSA and Gannongate, a recent election reform group has seemingly sprouted from nowhere and in short order landed a seat at the table.

See this BradBlog post as well for previous information on the panel.

Pulled from this post at the BradBlog:
The silent scream of numbers
As they slowly hack democracy to death, we’re as alone — we citizens — as we’ve ever been, protected only by the dust-covered clich├ęs of the nation’s founding: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

It’s time to blow off the dust and start paying the price.

The media are not on our side. The politicians are not on our side. It’s just us, connecting the dots, fitting the fragments together, crunching the numbers, wanting to know why there were so many irregularities in the last election and why these glitches and dirty tricks and wacko numbers had not just an anti-Kerry but a racist tinge. This is not about partisan politics. It’s more like: “Oh no, this can’t be true.”

You're going to want to finish reading the rest.

Radical Lawmaker Bill Frist; Activist Judge Antonin Scalia

The adverbial phrases in front of both of those names fit, right?

Ted Rall is a mind reader. He must be, because he and I are on a very close karmatic wavelength. Either that, or he's stealing my intellectual property.

Nah, that would never happen on the web.

Anyway, earlier this week, Rall published a column that dissects the demonization and marginalization of people / places / things by the use of modifiers and adverbs in news stories. Without paying direct homage to Frank Luntz, he at least acknowledges the impact that the paid spinners have on news writers turing a journalistic phrase. See if this rings a bell:

... Labeling bias works to marginalize political outsiders while powerful elites receive their full honorifics. Howard Dean was antiwar firebrand Howard Dean but George W. Bush was never referred to as pro-war crusader George W. Bush. The press calls the founder of the Moral Majority "the Reverend Jerry Falwell," not "radical cleric Jerry Falwell." Even the word "cleric" implies foreignness to a xenophobic public; American religious leaders are the more familiar "ministers" rather than clerics. Instead of telling readers and viewers what to think with cheesy labels, why not let public figures' quotes and actions speak for themselves? Besides, well-known players like al-Sadr and Falwell don't require an introduction.

Loaded labels are commonly used to influence the public's feelings about groups of people as well as individuals. Under Ronald Reagan the Afghan mujahedeen, who received CIA funding and weapons that they used to fight Soviet occupation forces, were called "freedom fighters." Iraqis who take up arms against U.S. occupation troops, on the other hand, are called "insurgents," a word that implies rebellion for its own sake. This was the same term used by the New York Times and other mainstream media to refer to anti-U.S. fighters in Vietnam during the 1960s. Only later, when the Vietnam War became unpopular, did American newspapers begin calling the former "insurgents" members of an infinitely more patriotic-sounding "resistance...

While Rall is a wee bit behind the curve with this column, he hits the bullseye.

(Thanks to one of our Zonebots, Eric, for the pointer to Rall's article.)

It is Time for Progressives to Show Their Faith

It appears the Republicans are going to get explicit in their campaign for the "nuclear option," with Bill Frist joining Radical Right Ring Christian Clerics in a blatant political event on April 24th. (I'll ignore for the moment that the meme set to come out of this event, that "Democrats are anti-faith," is so blatantly political that it SHOULD threaten the tax-exempt status of the religious groups involved. But, hey, why the FUCK didn't the New York Times report anything on that issue?)
As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.

Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Organizers say they hope to reach more than a million people by distributing the telecast to churches around the country, over the Internet and over Christian television and radio networks and stations
.

Seems clear to me. A whole conference arranged for by Radical Right Wing Christian Clerics with the sole purpose of labelling Democrats as "anti-Christian" and Bill Frist is headlining the conference scheduled to be broadcast to radical right-wing churches throughout the nation. That violates the non-profit status of those churches, but make no mistake, absolutely nothing will be done to enforce the tax laws. This is Bush's Administration, after all.

Two things. Progressives of faith need to speak up. They need to say specifically that faith belongs in the heart, and also in caring for others. They need to decry the kind of demonization the Radical Right Wing Christian Clerics view as moral. Demonization = moral? How twisted can they get?

Second, we need to support Republicans like John McCain, who has said he will not be voting for the Nuclear option.

On Thursday, one wavering Republican, Senator John McCain of Arizona, told a television interviewer, Chris Matthews, that he would vote against the change.

"By the way, when Bill Clinton was president, we, effectively, in the Judiciary Committee blocked a number of his nominees," Mr. McCain said
.

Bush on Payolagate : No Regrets

George Bush held court with editors from around the country at a conference in Washington yesterday. Editor and Publisher captured the essence of Bush's time on stage, but one thread that seemed to weave through the entire affair - he has no regrets about anything.

In answering a question about the administration's reliance on paid shills to push administration agendas:

In response to questions from editors at the annual American Society of Newspaper Editors conference, the president also declined to comment on subpoenas for reporters in the Plame case and said that government payments to commentators, such as the 'pundit payola' Armstrong Williams received, are acceptable as long as they are disclosed.

In other words, the only problem he sees with the ongoing pay-for-propaganda scandal is that the reporters and pundits involved got caught.

(Where have we heard the "got caught" theme before?)

Beyond the payolagate issues, Bush also addressed the issue of administration propaganda disguised as "soft news" pieces, which are then peddled by government agencies to local news outlets as broadcast filler. Again, no regrets. Only that they got caught. And he shifted responsibility from the agencies that produce the propaganda to the news outlets that run the clips without identifying them as government produced. His choice of words were interesting, especially on a day that the Senate passed legislation forbidding the use of such propaganda tactics.

Not one time - not once - did he acknowledge that the concept of "open government" requires a high threshold of transparency in order to be held accountable "by the consent of the governed". In fact, he went out of his way to make sure the editors knew that his administration does, in fact, despise the media and any kind of investigative light thrown into the dark corners of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Regrets? He's had a few. But mostly that he got caught.

And yesterday afternoon, the department heads from Ministry of Truth applauded politely, on cue.

Wide to the Right

The President threw out the first pitch yesterday in the debut of the new Washington Nationals. The tradition started with another Republican Yale graduate, William Howard Taft. But it should be remembered that Mr. Taft made a very fine jurist as Chief Justice after his tenure as President, while Mr. Bush will be explaining to his grandchildren that, no, he was not doing the "hustle" in this picture. Or is he auditioning to be the new partner in Seigfried and Roy?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Take a Test Drive - Open Chat

The new chatroom is open for business - and we think you'll like it. Simply go over to ASZ's new home, and click on "progressive chat" on the top menu bar. There is no need to register in the chatroom, but the software will remember you if you do, and registering "reserves" your name for future chats.

Come on over and give it a whirl!

Indentured Servitude Act of 2005

Well, no surprises here - the Bankruptcy Bill passed this afternoon, and will be on a fast track for approval by Maximum Leader.

Here's what's most distressing: a whole lot of Democrats sold out to the banking and credit card industries, and voted for this legislative abomination that's been roundly criticized on the left and right. That's the only way this bill could have passed by a 302 - 126 vote.

I'll post a link to the roll call vote as soon as it's available.

Republicrats - Two Sides of the Same Coin.®

Cassi Niemann: Maryland Gay Rights Poster Gal!

There's an article in the Washington Post yesterday that covers two votes that happened in Maryland concerning gay and lesbian Marylanders, one to give rights of visitation and medical decision-making to partners, and the other expanding a hate-crimes law. Featured is Maryland Delegate Doyle L. Niemann, (D-Prince George's). He said he voted in favor for his daughter Cassi.

Cassi is only 25, and she doesn't seem all that politically plugged in, but this whole thing got her on the cover of the Washington Post. She's a lesbian, as you might imagine, and awfully proud of her Dad. You can see it all in her words on her blog.

I bow down humbly to Doyle Niemann.

Tax Day Eve - How Your Tax Dollars Work

Under normal circumstances, the Heritage Foundation website is one of the last places in the cyberworld I'd send you for information on anything. But I will give the Heritage wonks this - they are true conservatives (at least in a fiscal sense), rather than the neofaux con's that populate the 495 Beltway these days.

As tomorrow's dreaded tax day approaches, an article on how George Bush's administration is spending your money finds that:

Washington will spend $22,039 per household in 2005 -- the highest inflation-adjusted total since World War II, and $4,000 more than in 2001. The federal government will collect $18,248 per household in taxes. The remaining $3,791 represents the budget deficit per household, which, along with all prior government debt, will be dumped in the laps of our children...

The five highest cost line items (excluding Social Security) out of each household's contributions are:

  • Defense: $4,451
  • Low-income programs: $3,559
  • Interest on the federal debt: $1,582
  • Federal employee retirement benefits: $838
  • Education: $627

Zero in on number 3 - the interest on the federal debt.

That's the "birth tax". Or as future financial historians may characterize it, the "Bush tax". Your children and grandchildren thank you.


WalMart and Rick Santorum: Perfect Match

Well, it would be perfect if they sold puppies. . .

Read all about it at Attytood. Will Bunch has it all spelled out, including the folks in Santorum's district who are protesting the coming WalMart store while he's riding on their jet.

Eric Rudolph - Fundamentalist Jihadist or Plain Old Nutjob?

Following his plea deals in Birmingham and Atlanta yesterday, Eric Rudolph released a "manifesto" through his attorneys. It's excerpted several places on the web, but it might be worth your while to read the entire statement for insight into Rudolph's thought process. Here's a few snippets you won't find on CNN or Fox:

...Absent any corroborative fact or witness to explain why I was in Birmingham that day, a city I have never visited before, and a good reason for fleeing to the woods for five years, I was fighting an uphill battle. Add to these two paramount facts Washington's junk science about explosive residues, a media obsessed with the specter of right wing extremist violence, we had an extremely difficult case to win. But Washington had a problem and this is why they entered into this deal.

The problem that they had was that a significant minority of the population, especially here in Northern Alabama, regarded what happened there at the abortion facility on that day of Jan. 29, 1998, as morally justified...

...At various times in history men and women of good conscience have had to decide when the lawfully constituted authorities have overstepped their moral bounds and forfeited their right to rule...

...There is no more fundamental duty for a moral citizen than to protect the innocent from assault. This in inherit in the values of all higher civilizations. You have the right, the responsibility and the duty to come to the defense of the innocent when the innocent are under assault. Would you protect your children from the clutches of a murderer? Would you protect your neighbors' children when they were under assault? If you answered yes to both of these, then you must support the use of force as justified in attempting to prevent the murder that is abortion...

...There are those who would say to me that the system in Washington works. They say that pro-life forces are making progress, that eventually Roe v. Wade will be overturned, that the culture of life will ultimately win over the majority of Americans and that the horror of abortion will be outlawed. Yet, in the meantime thousands die everyday...

Along with abortion, another assault upon the integrity of American society is the concerted effort to legitimize the practice of homosexuality...This effort is commonly known as the homosexual agenda. Whether it is gay marriage, homosexual adoption, hate crimes laws including gays, or the attempt to introduce a homosexual normalizing curriculum into our schools, all of these efforts should be ruthlessly opposed. The existence of our culture depends upon it...

There was a time in the not too distant past when most reasonable people would have pooh-poo'd Eric Rudolph an ideological loon (at least in polite company) on par with Theodore Kaczynski. But then, even the UniBomber had his admirers. In reading Rudolph's manifesto, though, it's pretty clear that his statements fit more or less hand-in-glove with recent loony statements coming from "respectable" fringe lunatics.

Om-day T-Lay, anyone?

And there will come a time in the not too distant future when Rudolph's actions will be openly lionized by the Fox News-approved morons camped out on the periphery of the radical right. When Eric Rudolph entered his plea deal, he did so with no expectation that he'd spend the rest of his life behind bars. He knows that someone will eventually spring the lock for him, and he'll walk free again one day.

There are a lot of people out there who, if not overtly agreeing with Rudolph's actions, at least sympathize with the "moral forces" that drove him. Some of those people are running the country.

Scalia Scorned

Sometimes browsing at Atrios, then digging a little further, makes a nice morning exercise. Duncan notes that Antonin Scalia got an earful at NYU's Vanderbilt Hall Tuesday night:
April 14, 2005 -- WHEN U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (above) spoke Tuesday night at NYU's Vanderbilt Hall, "The room was packed with some 300 students and there were many protesters outside because of Scalia's vitriolic dissent last year in the case that overturned the Texas law against gay sex," our source reports. "One gay student asked whether government had any business enacting and enforcing laws against consensual sodomy. Following Scalia's answer, the student asked a follow-up: 'Do you sodomize your wife?' The audience was shocked, especially since Mrs. Scalia [Maureen] was in attendance. The justice replied that the question was unworthy of an answer."

I suppose, given the definition of sodomy as encompassing oral and anal sex, that he's probably tried it. (I wonder if he had an unfortunate incident with teeth or something. . .) But that's not as important as noting there are lots of groups speaking up wherever the man goes. The Washington Square News Editorial blasts NYU for inviting him, but the Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has honored Mr. Scalia. Figures he'd be honored in the South, huh? As reported in the Hattiesburg American, Mr. Scalia is being given the Muzzle Award.
The Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression included the seizure when it handed out its 2005 Jefferson Muzzle awards given for perceived squelching of free expression.

Each year, the awards mark the April 13 birthday of Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president and First Amendment advocate.

The Marshals Service was recognized for seizing the tape recorders of former Hattiesburg American reporter Antoinette Konz and Associated Press reporter Denise Grones during a Scalia speech at Presbyterian Christian High School on April 7, 2004.

Neither reporter had been told before the speech they could not use tape recorders. The marshal said she was following Scalia's orders.

"The Justice has stated that it is his First Amendment right not to speak on radio or television when it is not his wish to do so. Yet, the personal preferences of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice do not give the U.S. Marshals Service the legal authority to seize and destroy the private property of a reporter," the Jefferson Center noted in a prepared statement.

It is high time Mr. Scalia got an award he will be proud to place on his mantlepiece. Just imagine Mr. and Mrs. Scalia nuzzling on the couch and contemplating a sexually illicit act, at least according to the Justice. Mrs. Scalia whispers in his ear, but Antonin is too caught up admiring his Muzzle Award to take the hint. She then gazes up at him, swears under her breath, and stalks into the kitchen.

Ah, how beautiful.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Glimpse at the Near Future

Zonebots came through when we needed them. Our recent fundraiser made it possible to do some things that we only dreamed about.

And guess what? We're just about ready to make you really happy campers...at least those of you who are using Safari, and have had problems with the new layout on the Blogger-based ASZ.

Change is coming.

In the next 24 - 48 hours, ASZ is moving it's operation entirely off of Blogger. We think you'll like what you see. You can preview the new ASZ blog by clicking here. There's a lot more to come - and this is just a preview of what we're planning to implement over the next few weeks.

If you run a blog, and you have ASZ blogrolled, PLEASE update our link ... we're currently crossposting all blog entries to both Blogger and our own new home, but that will end in the next few days. We'll keep crossposting for a few more days, but will be disabling comments on the Blogger-based ASZ by Friday evening. So, come on over to the upgraded ASZ and comment away...

We really hope you enjoy our new home base. I know I'm pretty damn psyched about it. Let us know what you think.

Welcome to our new little shanty on the fringes of the Left Blogzome!

Crazy George is DEALING, DEALING, DEALING - With Terrorists

(My apologies in advance for riffing on the old Crazy Eddie commercials...it's an East Coast thing, I think...)

I'm sure that Osama bin-Missing is very happy to hear about the government's deal with bomber and domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph. Earlier, I wrote that I felt the government was more or less forced to deal with him - because they really didn't want the crackpot fundamentalist nature of his beliefs or religious associations coming to light.

His actions today seem to confirm my suspicions:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - With a hint of pride in his voice and a wink at prosecutors, Eric Rudolph pleaded guilty Wednesday to setting off a deadly blast at an abortion clinic, the first plea for a string of bombings that will send him to prison for life...

... Rudolph, dressed in a red jail uniform, winked toward prosecutors as he entered court and spoke tersely to answer a series of questions from the judge, saying the government could "just barely" prove its case if it went to trial.

... Under the plea deal, Fulton County prosecutors agreed not to pursue future state charges in Georgia against Rudolph at the request of federal authorities, said Erik Friedly, a spokesman for District Attorney Paul Howard...

Why? Why would the federal government cut a deal with Rudolph for information on the alleged whereabouts of "250 pounds of dynamite". Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.

I refer you to my earlier posting on this topic...

Rush Limbaugh Violates FCC Guidelines

From Atrios comes the transcript of Rush Limbaugh violating FCC decency rules yesterday:

LIMBAUGH: When does he start up this stupid little network? August? Yip yip yip yahoo. You know what Gore said about this? It's going to be liberal. It's going to reflect the point of view of young people.

What the hell is that, Al? What the hell is the point of view of young people? Blow jobs, that's what they're doing out there. They're out there getting oral sex all day long, that's what they're talking about. That's the point of view they can't wait that your boss,

Al made sure that's become the number one sport in high school today. So, I guess you're going to have a BJ network out there, Al, is that what you're going to do? You're going to call your network the oral sex channel out there, start competing with MTV?

No, it's not going to have any of this stuff out there, folks, it's going to be talking about liberalism, no, no, no, that's not what we're about. Classic cannot even admit who he is.


Email here to complain: fccinfo@fcc.gov. Or go here: FCC.

Anti-Fundamentalist Jihad??

How's this for a response, Richard?

Thanks here go to Pax Romano, another Philly Blog. (We've got GREAT Blogs in Philly, don't we?)

It seems a movement is afoot, the Unitarian Jihad, as given to us by Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle. They're quite democratic, almost too much so, but I like some of their suggestions (edicts seem to be anathema to them). There's some wisdom there:
We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.

You can even go and get your Unitarian Jihad name! Mine is "Brother Pepper Spray of Moderation."

The Face of the Holy War

For anyone that gets a chuckle out of my references to the ongoing "holy war", "fatwas", "crusades", and "fundamentalist jihads", I invite you to read this Rolling Stone article (thanks to Liz @ Blondesense for the pointer):

But despite their unprecedented power, fundamentalists still see themselves as a persecuted minority, waging a holy war against the godless forces of secularism. To rouse themselves, they kick off the festivities with "Soldiers of the Cross, Arise," the bloodthirstiest tune in all of Christendom: "Seize your armor, gird it on/Now the battle will be won/Soon, your enemies all slain/Crowns of glory you shall gain."

Meet the Dominionists -- biblical literalists who believe God has called them to take over the U.S. government. As the far-right wing of the evangelical movement, Dominionists are pressing an agenda that makes Newt Gingrich's Contract With America look like the Communist Manifesto. They want to rewrite schoolbooks to reflect a Christian version of American history, pack the nation's courts with judges who follow Old Testament law, post the Ten Commandments in every courthouse and make it a felony for gay men to have sex and women to have abortions. In Florida, when the courts ordered Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed, it was the Dominionists who organized round-the-clock protests and issued a fiery call for Gov. Jeb Bush to defy the law and take Schiavo into state custody. Their ultimate goal is to plant the seeds of a "faith-based" government that will endure far longer than Bush's presidency -- all the way until Jesus comes back...

This fringe movement of fundamentalist lunatics has been legitimized by the corporate press, and this mainstreaming of ecumenical fanaticism really bothers me. Fortunately, their "in your face" approach is starting to bother others besides myself.

In her posting on Blondesense, Liz wonders why "mainstream religion leaders [haven't] called these knuckleheads out"? It's really pretty simple. They are - witness Forrest Church's denunciations from a few weeks back - unfortunately, the more moderate religious leaders don't want to get caught up in the controversies.

What's it going to take to wake up the country to the theocrats?

Taking Hate Against Gays Nationwide

I caught this headline today: Group makes noise over Day of Silence. It doesn't nearly capture what is really going on, though. "Day of Silence" is an event designed to combat gay-bashing in schools. Students go silent to bring an emphasis to the issue. As such they are combatting violence and hate in the most nonviolent way possible. Jesus loves nonviolence, and he loves all his children, but it seems that some religious folks neither love nonviolence nor all Jesus' children.

The Alliance Defense Fund, one of those Radical Right Wing Christian Cleric organizations, has started "Day of Truth," where students wear T-Shirts saying “The Truth Cannot be Silenced” and handing out tracts spelling out that being gay means engaging in "detrimental behavior."

The ADF has certainly designed their counter-event to slide under the rules. Note that there's no "God" on those T-Shirts, so it will be tough for any school to ban them. But it is nevertheless clear that ADF youhts are following a far more confrontational model, and that they are singling out one group, rather than singling out destructive actions, as the Day of Silence kids do.

So what's going to happen when one of these young Christian brownshirts gets too much into someone's face with one of those tracts and causes a scene? Well, the "Day of Truth" is tomorrow, and there's sure to be fireworks somewhere. I'm convinced that the American Mullahs WANT violence.

Oh, on the subject of gays in sports, there's an interesting survey commissioned by Sports Illustrated. Yeah, a little bonus link from the SpinDentist.

Consolidating the Coup - Intimidation of the Judiciary

This is friggin' rich.

Congressman Tom DeLay issues a fatwa against the judiciary. Senator John Cornyn joins DeLay's Hallelujah Chorus. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)'s chief of staff doesn't want to merely impeach judges - he wants to impale them! American Taliban Wankfest 2005, aka a conference entitled Confronting the Judicial War on Faith takes place last week, with a whole host of scary characters looking for judicial scalps.

Is it any wonder, with the fundamentalist jihad that's been called for on judges, that two SCOTUS judges, Kennedy and Thomas, felt the need to go before a house appropriations committee begging for money to increase security for judges?

...The request follows the murder in February of a federal judge's family in Chicago, courtroom shooting deaths in Atlanta in March and death threats against judges involved in the Terri Schiavo feeding tube case.

The Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal judiciary's policy-making board, asked Congress for $12 million to install home security systems for federal judges. But it has not been decided whether that request will cover the nine justices of the Supreme Court, which has a separate budget...

Even as the judges were requesting more funding for judicial security, one of the congressmen on the appropriations committee, Todd Tiahrt, (R-Ks) had the balls to ask:

At one point during the hearing, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., asked Kennedy to explain the court's 5-4 ruling last month overturning the juvenile death penalty partly because of international sentiment against it. Kennedy wrote the opinion; Thomas dissented.

"Lately we've had rulings that seem to go beyond the rule of law,'' Tiahrt said...

The rhetoric aimed at the judicial branch of the government in the past week has been both intentionally inflammatory and threatening. I asked last Saturday where the Attorney General of the U.S. stood on these acts of sedition - and I still haven't heard anyone in the corporate media asking the same question.

I thought the coup was complete in 2000.

I was wrong.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

For the Bliss-Impaired Among Us

I say "us" because my baby sister and I discovered (while talking on the phone) this morning that there is indeed a name for what ails us. We are bliss-impaired. Let me give a short diagnostic summary ... a profile of how the ailment manifests among non-kool-aid drinkers. Think DSM-IVxxxx. If you find yourself among us "us"-es, welcome. Welcome, welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.

Some Diagnostic Criteria:

1. Wakes up on Sunday mornings in a medium-depression, realizing he/she has less than 24 hours before returning to the cubicle, the retail floor, the office, the truck route, etc.

2. Has ever-increasing intolerance for what is called "news", combined with a morbid fascination for it. Both the intolerance and the fascination may lead to illness of mind and body, including but not limited to binge-drinking, snarkiness with all other human beings, and irritable bowel syndrome.

3. Watches The Daily Show for "news", and plans evenings around the watching. Sometimes person eats dinner during the broadcast.

4. May or may not have sleep disturbances. May or may not have bouts of narcolepsy.

5. Has not enough hands to count the many friends and relatives that have recently begun to screen their phone calls from you.

6. Ideation fluctuates between giving up and hunkering down in a darkened bedroom with mindless TV and junk food, OR giving up and strapping a vest loaded with C-4 to your body and checking out air fare to DC.

The criteria for the Bliss-impaired ailment is limited at this time in order to make room for any additions from the left blogosphere's bliss-impaired members. No one needs to feel excluded, unless they've been tempted by the evil kool-aid.

Rich rich, poor fat.

From Issues Magazine Downward mobility


Downward is Failure

Downward mobility and the Other

See your primary care provider if you have any further questions about this potentially life-threatening ailment.

A Night in Paradise

I've been up to my hips in coding the new ASZ site this week, so haven't had much of a chance to pay attention to either the political or real world around me. It's times like this that I appreciate the small getaways in life like the Tuesday night meetings of the Philly chapter of Drinking Liberally.

The "regulars" don't spend the entire evening talking about politics. That would be boring. There was great conversation wrapped around the currently running Philadelphia Film Festival, SpinDentist's recent cruise, local bands, summer plans, sports, and the other mundane things of life that bind us all together in one fashion or another. Yeah, there was one local political hopeful in attendance tonight (a Common Pleas Court judge candidate), but that didn't impact the conversation too much.

A weekly Rotary Club meeting this ain't.

Where else but a meeting of progressive folks are you going to find discussions running from avant garde films (and which ones are good for "first dates") to Bugman DeLay to the pros and cons of various American expatriat communities in other countries (which ones are "weed friendly" and which aren't)? There's nothing forced, nothing strange, no singles bar mating kabuki rituals, and a lot of smiling and laughing across fairly broad age, gender, and economic demographics. In other words, stuff that's in really short supply these days.

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?

All those night when you've got no lights,
The check is in the mail;
And your little angel
Hung the cat up by it's tail;
And your third fiance didn't show;

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead;
The morning's looking bright;
And your shrink ran off to Europe,
And didn't even write;
And your husband wants to be a girl;

Be glad there's one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came...

Thanks to Will (the sparkplug behind this thing), Doc, Emily, Wendy, Heinrich, Duncan, Liz, Barbara, Jim, Jeremy, the other Will, Brendan and everyone else who makes my Tuesday evenings much more enjoyable.

It's a lot cheaper than therapy. ;-)

See No Evil

Pope TV and the New World Media
By MIKE WHITNEY

The 24 hour a day "Pope-a-thon" shows the dramatic shift in the way that news is covered. If a story is inoffensive to the political establishment or if it serves their greater interests (like Schiavo) then it becomes an immediate mega-story that swallows up most of the front page and consumes the majority of TV time. In this way, the national dialogue is controlled by PR firms working closely with Washington to decide what information is suitable for public consumption. It's perception management pure and simple but, so far, it looks like a winning strategy. As many have already noticed, the Iraqi bloodbath has been knocked out of the headlines and consigned to page 14 next to the women's lingerie adverts. In its place, American's are provided with diversionary Uber-stories of vegetative housewives and dead Popes. There's no chance that the 4 Marines who died in insurgent attacks last Tuesday will appear on page one anymore, nor will the 300,000 disgruntled Iraqis who paraded through Baghdad yesterday calling for an end to the Occupation while burning Bush in effigy. These are the unfortunate victims of the new media regime; a system that dismisses inconvenient facts for the fairy-tales that support the status quo. The new game-plan is to sweep Iraq from the collective consciousness and slow the steady erosion of public support for the war.

The changes in news coverage can be traced to a poll that ran 3 months ago in Washington Post poll which showed in stark terms how unpopular Bush's war in Iraq has become in just 2 short years. 56% of the people polled said the war "wasn't worth it" and a whopping 70% concluded that the loss of 1500 American servicemen "was an unacceptable cost".

The results of that poll sent tremors through the political establishment, and their trepidation is reflected in way that the news is now presented. Ball-players on steroids, Schiavo and a dead Pope are just the first of what will certainly be many similar entertaining distractions. Next week we will undoubtedly discover that Schiavo was carrying Jacko's love-child.

For the most part, Iraq has been buried by the media; a tacit admission that even supporters are now experiencing both doubt about the wisdom of the war and overall fatigue from the constant flow of bad news from the front. The casualties, the chaos, the lack of reconstruction, and the demoralizing stories of torture are slowly grinding down even the most ardent Bush fan. Beyond the legal and moral questions, the war is starting to look like it was simply a stupid idea conjured up by fanatics. This perception is not likely to change.

Once public support evaporates, that's it. There's no second chance.
...

Go finish reading Whitney's take on the Streetwalking Media.

Andrea Dworkin

This is off-the-cuff. I've not read Andrea Dworkin's work in many, many years.

I've been thinking of her death for a couple days now. Andrea Dworkin's work has always given me pause, as much of a student of feminism as I am. I believe Alice Jardine said something like, "after all, the aim of feminism is partly to change men," or somesuch, but Dworkin is having none of that. Her every work seems to be about getting rid of the need for men.

But was she wrong in her crusade against rape? No, she just went too far for me in defining marriage as legalized rape. Was she wrong in her crusade against pornography? Not when she railed against violent pornography, and I even consider her crusade against airbrushed soft-core to be on the money. Playboy and the like work to make all men desire that which they cannot possibly get in any woman, bodily perfection, thus trapping men in a boy-like quest for fantasy. But surely Dworking went too far in equating viewing porn with rape, or in crusading against mere nudity.

Dworkin perhaps reached her peak in her work with Catharine MacKinnon, "Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women's Equality," where they helped the city of St. Paul, MN write an anti-porn law that allowed for lawsuits against purveyors, creating a causal relationship between porn and rape similar to a bartender supplying too many drinks to a customer and thereby being liable for potential drunk driving incidents. The law never passed constitutional muster, but pornography and the place of nudity took center stage in feminist discussions throughout the 80's and 90's as a result of their work.

Perhaps Dworkin should be remembered as the center of what most Americans don't recognize, that feminism is not a monolithic ideology, but one that covers a wide spectrum and in which there are many arguments.

As I sit here, Dworkin's Intercourse sits on the shelf. I think it is time for a rereading.

Gangstas In Duh-bya's House

Don't have a lot of time for posting today, but there are a couple of pieces that I thought you'd enjoy reading.

The Big Fix - By Chris Floyd
Let's face the facts. The game is over and we - the "reality-based community," the believers in genuine democracy and law, the heirs of Jefferson and Madison, Emerson and Thoreau, the toilers and dreamers, all those who seek to rise above the beast within and shape the brutal chaos of existence into something higher, richer and imbued with meaning - have lost. The better world we thought had been won out of the blood and horror of history - a realm of enlightenment that often found its best embodiment in the ideals and aspirations of the American Republic - is gone. It's been swallowed by darkness, by ravening greed, by bestial spirits and by willful primitives who now possess overwhelming instruments of power and dominion.

A gang of such spirits seized control of the U.S. government by illicit means in 2000 and maintained that control through rampant electoral corruption in 2004. The re-election of President George W. Bush last November was a deliberately shambolic process that saw massive lockouts of opposition voters; unverifiable returns compiled by easily hackable machines operated by avowed corporate partisans of the ruling party; and vast discrepancies between exit polls and final results - gaps much larger than those that led elections in Ukraine and Georgia to be condemned as manipulated frauds. Indeed, a panel of statisticians said last week that the odds of such a discrepancy occurring naturally were 959,000 to 1, the Akron Beacon-Journal reported.

Mr. Floyd lays out the whole ball of rotting wax so you'll want to finish reading his piece. Information Clearinghouse has the same piece, with the benefit of supporting articles listed and linked below the article.

Max Blumenthal goes undercover at Wanker Fest 2005.
In Contempt of Courts

Michael Schwartz must have thought I was just another attendee of the "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference. I approached the chief of staff of Oklahoma's GOP Senator Tom Coburn outside the conference in downtown Washington last Thursday afternoon after he spoke there. Before I could introduce myself, he turned to me and another observer with a crooked smile and exclaimed, "I'm a radical! I'm a real extremist. I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them!"

And then we have Mr. James "StickyPants" Dobson equating judges with the KKK on the radio, Media Matters has the info and audio.

DOBSON: I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrong to civil rights and to morality. And now we have black-robed men, and that's what you're talking about.

First thought, Dobson is a vile, dog-beating, narrow-minded, @*$&^%...
My second thought is that Dobson may be alienating half of the KKKristian KKKoalition that is backing this effort to turn back time to 160 BC - and that's not a bad thing.

It is Not Licentiousness Versus Virtue

But sometimes politics is easy to view in that way. Especially in this time when the Republicans try to whip up the anger of the Radical Right Wing Christian Clerics and their followers.

One thing that is important to remember is that Americans as a whole are simply leading their lives, enjoying sometimes art and leisure activities that are frowned upon by the Radical Right Wing Christian Clerics, but nevertheless leading moral lives infused with the intellectual curiosities of full humans. This notion of America divided by differing views on licentiousness and virtue is a false notion, especially as concerns Republicans and how they use citizens on the issue.

I am impelled today by Eugene Robinson's "Art Vs. the Church Lady" in today's Washington Post. In touting the National Gallery's Toulouse-Lautrec and Monmartre exhibit, Robinson gives his column a little spice by noting that the exhibit is selling out within eyesight of folks like Tom DeLay and the Radical Right Wing Christian Clerics -- they even had a conference in close proximity of the exhibit this weekend. (I need to plug Philadelphia's glorifying of licentiousness -- the outre Salvador Dali is the focus of a huge and extremely popular exhibit here in the town of bluenoses.)

Should we be surprised that these folks are not railing at the government about its support of Lautrec and Monmartre, an exhibit that reveals prostitutes and drinking and carousing in all its glory? No, the Radical Right Wing Christian Clerics are all about politics, not about real values. And the politicains who use these Radical Right Wing Christian Clerics, like DeLay, Frist and Santorum, are themselves only about political calculus and duping voters. How else could we explain Rick Santorum coming out in FAVOR of drinking?

Perhaps that is stretching the point, but Santorum last Friday, in an announcement on his own web site, came out in favor of lowering tax on alcohol, specifically beer. Temperence be damned, Santorum is out looking for votes, and I guess he figures he can appeal to drinkers in the state. Yes, this is pandering and trying to move to the middle for a Rick Santorum who is SCARED.

My suggestion? Go out and enjoy art, no matter the morals it supposedly represents. Drink a beer after. Indeed, I'll be quaffing a few this week at Drinking Liberally. Remember, it is at Ten Stone, 21st and South. Bottoms up!

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Bankruptcy Bill and Small Business

In his State of the Union address earlier this year, George Bush called small businesses "the path of advancement, especially for women and minorities". Indeed, various GOP leaders have characterized small businesses as the "backbone of the economy", and go out of their way to praise the entrepreneur class.

The National Federation of Independent Business, a leading small business advocacy group in Washington, sums up the Bush administration's feelings about small businesses thusly:

In his State of the Union address Wednesday night, President Bush spoke of small business as the very essence of the U.S. economy, crediting it as a rich source of entrepreneurship and job creation. To allow small businesses to continue to flourish, Bush urged Congress to take action on issues most important to small business, such as frivolous lawsuits, the rising cost of health care, and burdensome taxes and government regulations...

So what is it about the Bush administration where the words never seem to add up with their actions? As James Flanigan writes in the LA Times yesterday, the bankruptcy bill:

...But what most people don't realize is that it will hammer entrepreneurs and discourage small business formation, undermining a major pillar of an ownership society...

...Under current law it is possible for an entrepreneur to take a chance and fail, then have the debts discharged and move on to a fresh start with new financing. But under this bill, an entrepreneur who fails would have those debts hanging over him or her for years, limiting opportunities to raise new capital. And wages could be garnished at any job the entrepreneur might take.

The message of this legislation is "don't start your own business," says Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-North Hollywood), a member of the congressional committee that worked on the bill.

Sole proprietorships will suffer the biggest impact under this bill. As the article points out, even small incorporated business owners can take a big personal hit - and it only takes a single lawsuit or predatory lender to tip the scales for most of these types of business, which are typically not "cash rich". Flannigan's article continues:

Last year, 1.6 million individuals declared bankruptcy, 1.1 million of them in Chapter 7, which allows discharge of debts and a fresh start...the problem for small companies is that 20% — or 320,000 — of those individual bankruptcies are actually small, unincorporated companies, financed by credit cards, home equity loans and borrowings from friends. The reality of small business, as White points out, is that an unincorporated company's debts are personal liabilities of the firm's owner...

So, the question to ask your congresscritter today: why does the GOP support a bill that very clearly hurts a vital segment of the economy?

Rorschach Inkblot Test

I'm betting nobody can guess. But I'm giving you a fair chance.

No, it is not a tsunami as seen from the Hubble telescope. No, it is not a cyst in Dick Cheney's colon. No, it is not a ketchup stain on Teresa Heinz's dress. No, it is not even the inside of a rigged voting machine, nor is it a gory scene of yet another journalist/civilian/child shot in Iraq.

Come on, can't you get it? Isn't that enough on the hints?

OK, by 7:00 I promise to reveal the answer.

Speculation is Far Too Premature: BREAKING NEWS

From the Washington Post:

A man threatening to blow up a suspicious package on the west front of the U.S. Capitol was taken into custody shortly before 1:45 p.m. today, U.S. Capitol Police spokesman Officer Michael Lauer said.

The unidentified man, who was dressed in black, took his position shortly before 12:55 p.m., police said. He stood with his hands clasped behind his back -- a suitcase on the ground on each side of him -- near the foot of the Capitol's West Terrace Steps, facing the National Mall.

So, is the guy a Tom DeLay acolyte, a man with a grudge against activist judges, or merely a run-of-the-mill whack job?

Your guess is as good as mine. So MAKE A GUESS!

Rick Santorum, Holier than Thou

Well, not really.

He may have jetted off to the Pope's funeral, and met with the Holy Father FIVE times, but his cancellation of a Social Security Meeting in late March in order to grandstand outside the hospice where Terri Schiavo was dying was not so holy. You see, Mr. Santorum may have cancelled what he considers the nations business, of reforming Social Secuirty, but he had a whole bunch of political business he did not cancel down there in Florida -- meetings to raise money for his reelection.

This is an interesting story. Sure, folks have mentioned that Santorum seemed "publicity-hungry" to stop by and visit Terri Schiavo's parents, even a columnist with the far-right Tribune Review, Eric Heyl mentions and critiques Santorum. It took John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News, in a column and not in a news item, to dig up that Santorum was busy that weekend in Tampa with fundraisers in addition to the photo-op wth the Schindlers. Only in political calculus is a Social Security Town Hall meeting somehow disrespectful to Terri Schiavo and her family, but fundraising events are not. I'm very grateful to Mr. Baer to revealing how very profitable Mr. Santorum's fundraisng in honor of Terri Schiavo was:
Santorum told MSNBC-TV, according to the March 30 "Hardball" transcript, he was in Florida because, "I had other plans to - and other meetings." (Schiavo died March 31.) What he didn't say was the plans and "meetings" were fund-raisers for his '06 re-election effort.

There was a luncheon in Orlando and a dinner in Miami on March 29 with Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, a luncheon in Tampa March 30 hosted by Outback Steakhouse, which is headquartered there, and a dinner that night in Palm Beach hosted by execs from Revlon.

The trip was made on a Wal-Mart jet paid for by Santorum's campaign fund.

Total take, according to Santorum finance director Rob Bickhart, was about $250,000 (en route to an April 15 FEC filing expected to show the senator with close to $3 million already).

And I must say, John Baer beats me on the snark-o-meter:
So my hat's off.

Down and back on a corporate jet, grab a quarter-mill, get some national attention. This, my friends, is poetry in motion.

What's that you say? Seems a tad crass to cash in on a heartbroken family and get your mug on TV because you happen to be in the neighborhood lining your pockets?

If you cancel one event "out of respect," why not others?

Doesn't the culture of life outweigh the culture of cash?

Hats off to Attytood for bringing this to my attention, and a big thanks to John Baer for revealing how very deep Mr. Santorum's respect to Terri Schiavo really is.

Oh, oh! Did you know Rick Santorum visited with the Pope FIVE times during his tenure as a Senator, and that the Pope even blessed his children? Well, that's the main content of Santorum's press release on going to the Pope's funeral. Yup, Santorum even tries to "holier-than-thou" Pope John Paul's memory.

I wonder if Santorum went to Rome on a WalMart jet, or attended any fundraisers while there. Surely he wouldn't miss such blessed opportunities. . .

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Growth

Over the past week, nearly everyone who's a denizen of ASZ has figured out that we're in the midst of a transition. Besides the fact that Blogger's been completely fucking hosed over the past couple of months, it clearly doesn't meet the needs of the ASZ community going forward (even if Google could figure out how to make Blogger work).

Thanks to the generous contributions during our fundraiser, we're able to move into a new platform and host that will (at a minimum) make me a lot happier as ringmaster of this circus we call ASZ.

I've pretty much settled on Nucleus as ASZ's content management tool. We're also securing our own domain. I really feel that everyone will be happy (as much as blog folks can be, anyway) with what we have lined up in the near future.

You ain't seen nothin' yet. ;-)

Sunday Funnies


(If you can't quite read it, click on the strip for a larger view. Pearls Before Swine is my favorite Sunday strip. Maybe it's an acquired taste, but it never fails to make me laugh.)

Right Wing Internet Whack Jobs

In Pennsylvania the political landscape is dominated on the right by two web sites, www.grassrootspa.com, a site which promotes drudge-like spin on stories relevant to Pennsylvania politics, and www.politicspa.com, a site that incites, a la the freepers. There's a bit of a rivalry between the two, as evidenced by the glee with which grassrootspa.com reports a story about the message boards on politicspa being SHUT DOWN! Why? Here's what it says on their web site:
Editor's Note: PoliticsPA has eliminated access to our message boards. As part of an ongoing investigation, we are precluded from writing more than that the state police are investigating a terroristic threat made to Mayor Doherty. In accordance with our standing policy, PoliticsPA did not divulge the identity of the posting source; that will be the decision of the source's internet service provider, America Online

Yeah, one of those kindly conservative souls frequenting Republican sites is actually threatening the life of a Democratic office-holder.

I must now confess that I knew nothing about Blogs until I was introduced to them on the old Philadelphia Eagles Message Board by a guy who called himself "clintonisascumbag." I guess the nickname shows you all you need to know. He lives up in the Scranton area, and from his past posts I wouldn't put it past him to announce death threats. I'll be contacting one of my friends to see if hes the guy State Police are going after. Regardless, this kind of inciting is endemic on those two Republican grass roots web sites. It's good someone has at least called them on it, but also good to see a little back-biting between the sites. Good news for us, as this this news spells trouble for Republican Party unity in the Keystone state for 2006. Perhaps this does, too -- Pat Toomey is not ruling out a run against Santorum in the Republican primary.

My goodness, but it surely looks like there's some real unity problems for the Republicans, both national and local.

Santorum Remaking Himself, at DeLay's Expense?

Hardly. Rick Santorum did not opine that Mr. DeLay is ethically challenged, as all the evidence points to, but he provided himself with cover today on today's ABC's "This Week."
The No. 3 Republican in the Senate said Sunday that embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay needs to answer questions about his ethics and "let the people then judge for themselves."

Sen. Rick Santorum's comments seem to reflect the nervousness among congressional Republicans about the fallout from the increased scrutiny into DeLay's way of doing business.

DeLay, R-Texas, has been dogged in recent months by reports of possible ethics violations. There have been questions about his overseas travel, campaign payments to family members and his connections to lobbyists who are under investigation.

"I think he has to come forward and lay out what he did and why he did it and let the people then judge for themselves," said Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

"But from everything I've heard, again, from the comments and responding to those, is everything he's done was according to the law," Santorum told ABC's "This Week."

"Now you may not like some of the things he's done," Santorum said. "That's for the people of his district to decide, whether they want to approve that kind of behavior or not."

Look closely. Santorum is not hanging Mr. DeLay out to dry, but he artfully put distance between himself and Mr. DeLay. And it seems that some of the reason for that distance are the comments by DeLay concerning our judiciary. Everyone here remembers Delay noting that:
"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior," DeLay said, raising the prospect of impeaching members of a separate and independent branch of government. Later, he complained of "an arrogant and out of control judiciary that thumbs its nose at Congress and the president."

Well, on Friday both Bush and Frist affirmed their support of an independent judiciary, something Santorum didn't touch upon, but these statements by arguably three of the top five Republicans in the land, all distancing themselves from DeLay, indicate first that DeLay may have rough going, and soon, but also that Rick Santorum may be in for the fight of his Senate life in 2006.

Note, however, that none of these comments by Frist, Cheney, Santorum and Bush are making their fundamentalist base happy. In Washington where many of the Conservative Right Wing Clerics are meeting this weekend, the Republican leadership is taking some very big hits. And that just might be a good thing. I'm particularly pleased with the Religion Journal's John Lofton's lashing out at virtually any Republican politician and think tank, including the Heritage Foundation.

I love the smell of Republican meltdown on a Sunday morning.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

I'm on the road today, and it looks like it's going to be a beauty on the eastern seabord of the U.S. So, light posting ahead (at least from moi).

What's on your mind? Who's pissed in your Wheaties recently?

Holla!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sedition and the Fundamentalist Jihad

The following story is getting a lot of traction in the Left Blogzome - as well it should. I still haven't had the opportunity to watch American Taliban Wankfest 2005 (you can see at least Thursday's session on cspan.org), but the Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote a story on the conference that deserves your attention.

These folks want a Christian Theocracy in the U.S., with the judiciary meting out biblically inspired justice, and they want it now. If you need any further convincing as to how truly, no shit scary these people are, concentrate on this single story coming out of Wankfest:

...Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, “upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law.”

Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his “bottom line” for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. “He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: ‘no man, no problem,’ ” Vieira said.

The full Stalin quote, for those who don’t recognize it, is “Death solves all problems: no man, no problem.” Presumably, Vieira had in mind something less extreme than Stalin did and was not actually advocating violence. But then, these are scary times for the judiciary. An anti-judge furor may help confirm President Bush’s judicial nominees, but it also has the potential to turn ugly...

Aided and abetted by the incendiary fatwa's issued by Mullahs DeLay and Cornyn (neither of whom has any use for the fundie movement other than using them as a political shield) , a small group of hysterical individuals are shouting FIRE in a crowded theatre.

I said in the lead-in paragraph that these people are scary. Let me amend that statement. They are stark raving, batshit psychotic, and someone with a bully pulpit needs to call them on it immediately, as early as the Sunday morning talk shows tomorrow. I can type all the worthless words in the world that few will read and even fewer heed. But where's Howard Dean to back me up? Where's Ted Kennedy? Where's Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or even Antonin Scalia? Being SCOTUS judges never previously stopped either one of them from making public statements about things that bothered them.

Christ almighty, people. Read your history. They're invoking Joe Stalin, but it's more clear every single day that the grandfather of this movement is Adolf Hitler. These people have entered the realm of seditious acts. WHERE IS THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES??

se·di·tion (sĭ-dĭsh'ən) pronunciation
n.
1. Conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state.
2. Insurrection; rebellion.

They are, for all intents and purposes, advocating the overthrow of the constitutionally organized government of the United States of America, by violence if necessary. And they're doing it in the plain light of day, on CSPAN, with reporters in the room. That's how damn emboldened they've become.

How can we deal with this immediately in the Left Blogzome? First off, get the information out to every nook and cranny left-leaning blog out there. Don't assume that everyone has read this story. If you run a blog, PLASTER THIS STORY ON YOUR FRONT PAGE RIGHT NOW. I don't care if you link to this post, or the WaPo story, or Americablog, or Atrios or where ever. But do whatever you can to spread this story to the far reaches of the Left Blogzome this evening and tomorrow.

Any other suggestions? This can't wait until Monday. I'm even going to move the fundraising blog-a-thon post down below this one.

Update, 4/25/05 - Welcome, Buzzflash readers! Follow our continuous coverage of Sedition: Fundamentalist Jihad at the New and Slightly Improved All Spin Zone!

ASZ Fundraising, Day 5 - Thank You!

When I started this fundraising driver earlier this week, I really didn't know what to expect. God knows we're not the biggest dog on the Left Blogzome porch; shoot, we're not even at chihuahua status yet. But one thing I've been pleasantly surprised about is the great feedback and suggestions that I've received, and I'm eternally grateful that I didn't apparently scare off too many readers by holding out the tin cup.

This is the last day of the current ASZ fundraising drive. The minimum goal of the blog-a-thon hasn't been reached, but I'm hopeful that on this final appeal to your wallet, you'll be moved to get us closer. If you click on the ASZ Tip Box icon on the right (or click on this link), you'll see how much has been raised to date. If you can sweeten the pot a bit, it'll be a whole lot easier to justify to my own sweetie whatever extra dollars I have to throw in to the upgrades.

I want to thank everyone that's tossed a few bucks into the cup. Anyone that's donated "non-anonymously" should have received a personal thank you note from me already, but for those of you who wished to remain cloaked, please accept my generic heartfelt "thanks!" that I'm offering in this post.

If you haven't hit the tip box yet, again, you can help ASZ live long and prosper. Click the Amazon.com icon in the right menu, or click on this link.

Lastly, my personal thanks to SpinDentist, Kate, Forrest and sukabi for continuing to help me out with this endeavor. We've got a long way to go. There's some evil in this country that we need to continue to expose; there's causes we need to support; there's candidates we need to push. You guys are the best, and I appreciate every bit of your contribution in making ASZ a place I want to hang my own hat. I appreciate it more than you'll ever know.

18.4 Billion Dollar Reconstruction Fund - Hmmm, What To Do - Let's Invest Most Of It On Wallstreet!

Yay! Private accounts are soooo gonna work for the "Let's Fcuk up Social Security" crowd. Why they're starting to prove just how lucrative those investments can be.

$14 Billion of Iraq Reconstruction Fund Invested on Wall Street
...
A recently unearthed portion of a Defense Department memo sheds some light on the issue, suggesting that more than $14 billion earmarked for reconstruction was actually invested on Wall Street. The memo's author and date are unknown. This portion of the apparently classified document -- marked "page 3" -- was mistakenly sent to Mid-America Seed Savers, a nonprofit organization in Lawrence, Kansas whose members had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the Army's alleged distribution of genetically engineered wheat seed to farmers in Iraq. The memo fragment is reproduced here in full:
    [page heading] Reconstruction fund enhancement - p. 3

    [...] that among these, the scenario with greatest potential was investment in a medium-risk portfolio of U.S.-based securities. To accomplish this without incurring excessive and unwarranted scrutiny, the Secretary issued a classified order creating the Office of Special Brokerage Services (OSBS), to which management of the reconstruction funds was assigned. The OSBS, quietly through third parties, purchased approximately $5 billion in stock in February, 2004. Another $9.2 billion was invested the following month. As of December 31, 2004, the fund had shown a net growth of approximately -1.7%.

    The negative growth observed to date should not be cause for gloom. This is a long-term investment of behalf of the Iraqi people. According to OSBS projections, the fund's assets will achieve a value of $38.9 billion by a decade from now, assuming vigorous growth in the US economy.

    It is important to compare that figure with the almost-certain undesirable outcome of spending the money directly on infrastructure enhancement. The past two years' experience shows that new public works run a significant risk of damage or even instantaneous 100% depreciation due to hostile and friendly combat activities. And, as the CJCS [Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers] has noted, insurgencies typically last 7 to 12 years. If invested on the ground in Iraq today, the reconstruction funds might well be worth precisely zero to the Iraqi people a decade from now.

    Prudent investment, on the other hand, can help Iraq rebuild while becoming an ownership society. The OSBS has assigned portions of the fund's assets to individual citizens, based on voting rolls from the January election. Although he or she is not yet aware of it, each and every Iraqi voter now owns a Personal Reconstruction Account (PRA) that will continue to grow in value, safely, until violence in Iraq subsides and normal economic activity can resume. At that point, Iraqi citizens will be able to draw on their PRAs as needed, putting that money to work in their economy and stimulating private-sector solutions to the problem of reconstruction.

    PRAs will provide Iraqis with what they desire most: freedom of choice. Under this plan, money will go directly into the pockets of the Iraqi people, for whose benefit Congress intended it. Furthermore, the use of voting records to allocate PRAs will ensure that impetus for rebuilding the country will come from those who have demonstrated a commitment to the democratic process -- not from Muslim extremists or Baathist dead-enders.

    The question of whether to inform American or Iraqi citizens of OSBS activities and plans is a difficult one. Taking into consideration current political realities, it is probably best not [. . . end of page]



The pentagon's offered no comment on this matter.

Ah, you must...

You want a side order of bread with your circuses?

Read Der Spiegel's take on the marriage of Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, lest you think popular angst between Germany and the British monarchy is a thing of a previous age. The Prince and the Pretender

Goddess love Der Spiegel. Mr. Keys reads it daily. It's a long story, but suffice it to say that he's had fevered dreams of annexing California to Germany for a number of years now. This of course has a lot to do with German engineering, and his 1987 BMW K-bike, but it's more than that. I must have picked up some phermones on the keyboard in the wee hours. Der Spiegel called my name.

Of course those lampooners responsible for the photo statment (left, above) would have been immediately arrested and put in shackles here in the US, but we can talk about freedom to dissent and lampoon another day, eh?

Have a good Saturday, Dear Hearts. I picked up an extra day's work today, so I'll check back with you later. Be well.

Domestic Terrorism - GOP Stamp of Approval

Randall Terry and his crew of mouth breathers dodged a bullet. Olympic bomber and all around anti-abortion domestic terrorist, Eric Rudolph, was allowed to cop a plea yesterday. He admitted guilt to a variety of bombings and deaths in exchange for a life sentence. He will not be going to trial.

More than a few semi-legit fundie fringe organizations (and their backers, front men, and congressional shills) were sweating a Rudolph trial. Me, I was looking forward to it. I wanted Rudolph's association and/or support by some of these groups to be exposed and read into the public record, because some of these same groups have co-opted certain leaders in congress. A bit of digging will show a great deal of support for Rudolph by the same type of organizations that gathered for American Taliban Wankfest 2005 this past week. Wouldn't want one of those "activist judges" sentencing Rudolph to death, right?

There's little doubt that because of the nature of his crimes, Rudolph's deal had to be approved at the highest level of the Justice Department. That means Attorney General "Abu Al" Gonzales was involved, and it wouldn't take a grand conspiracy theory to imagine that his office received some friendly pressure to offer a plea bargain. If you think about it, the deal with a domestic terrorist is kind of odd, especially during the same week that Abu Al testified so strongly in favor of keeping the Patriot Act intact.

At the end of the day, the GOP has a whole lot of reasons why they wouldn't want Eric Rudolph to go on trial, for (strangely enough) many of the same reasons they would rather not have Saddam Hussein ever see the light of a courtroom.

Too many cockroaches would be exposed.