Archive for the ‘Heads Up’ Category

A Protection Racket

If gun ownership makes you safer, why doesn’t the U.S. have such relatively high crime rites?

Makes you wonder if thinking gun ownership is just a protection racket doesn’t it?

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An Evolving Society

Most real scientists believe in the theory of evolution and, despite polls that show something different, I suspect that many people (especially if they aren’t Americans) would be more than willing to ascribe to an understanding more in line with a God guided process of “decent with modification” than a purely Creationist philosophy saying the world is only 6000 years old. (Even if the Chairman of the Texas Board of Education has different feelings about the issue.) The only difference between the “standard” theory of evolution and a theistic evolutionary argument is the extent to which God was involved, if at all, in tinkering with the tiny bits over time.

In recent weeks I have been giving a lot of thought to the implications of how evolution works and how evolution might work on human activities. This line of thinking was spurred by recent book review in the New York Times about A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clark, a historical economist at the University of California, Davis. I will preface my comments by saying I haven’t read the book yet and am basing my comment on the description provided in the Nicolas Wade article and the preview chapter available. But then again my line of thinking only marginally touches on the thesis given by Clark.

Nevertheless, I’d like to start with a discussion of Clark’s ideas. The premise is as simple as it will be controversial.

In looking at the economic data for England for the years between 1200 and 1800, Clark argues that the English population was caught at the edge of the Malthusian limit. This is the highest population a society can sustain. In any area, the human population would grow up to the point where agricultural techniques provided just enough food for most people to survive. Any minor increase in population would soon die due to lack of food. The only exceptions to this rule were formed by increased agricultural land use and the occasional marginal improvement in technology.

From the online version of the first chapter

The basic outline of world economic history is surprisingly simple. Indeed it can be summarized in one diagram: figure 1.1. Before 1800 income per person —the food, clothing, heat, light, and housing available per head—varied across societies and epochs. But there was no upward trend. A simple but powerful mechanism explained in this book, the Malthusian Trap, ensured that short-term gains in income through technological advances were inevitably lost through population growth.

Thus the average person in the world of 1800 was no better off than the average person of 100,000 BC. Indeed in 1800 the bulk of the world’s population was poorer than their remote ancestors. The lucky denizens of wealthy societies such as eighteenth-century England or the Netherlands managed a material lifestyle equivalent to that of the Stone Age. But the vast swath of humanity in East and South Asia, particularly in China and Japan, eked out a living under conditions probably significantly poorer than those of cavemen.
[…]
So, even according to the broadest measures of material life, average welfare, if anything, declined from the Stone Age to 1800. The poor of 1800, those who lived by their unskilled labor alone, would have been better off if transferred to a hunter-gatherer band.

The Industrial Revolution, a mere two hundred years ago, changed for ever the possibilities for material consumption. Incomes per person began to undergo sustained growth in a favored group of countries. The richest mod ern economies are now ten to twenty times wealthier than the 1800 average. Moreover the biggest beneficiary of the Industrial Revolution has so far been the unskilled. There have been benefits aplenty for the typically wealthy owners of land or capital, and for the educated. But industrialized economies saved their best gifts for the poorest.

Clark calculated that the average caloric input of the poor in pre-industrial England was a quarter less than what would have been consumed in a normal hunter-gatherer society (a point also made by Jarod Diamond in Germs, Guns and Steel). As a matter of fact, only the rich in the European societies would have been able to eat more than the 2300 calories consumed on average by hunter gatherers. I know from other reading that in the middle of the 18th century, not only the poor but even the rich regularly suffered in the late winter and early spring from symptoms of serious malnutrition. Rickets, caused by malnutrition, was still common into the early parts of the last century.

The only real exception to the continual marginal lifestyles led by the majority of people was caused by the mass deaths due to the black plague. These devastating catastrophes produced a temporary improvement in the lives of the survivors because the available aerible land was able to temporarily produce an excess until the Malthusian limit was again reached.

Suddenly, at the end of the 1800th century, a turning point was reached. Something dramatically changed in England and allowed mankind to finally escape the Malthusian Trap that had been holding it captive since the beginning of time. It was the key to this something Clark searched for.

Clark’s detective work led him into the archives looking at wills and other documents. By tracing who survived, he felt he had uncovered the reason for the Industrial Revolution. You see; as opposed to the Billy Joel song, it wasn’t the good dying young, it was the poor. There was a strong social current in English society but it ran downhill; it was the rich producing poor relatives, generation after generation, replacing the poor who had died from below. According to the New York Times review,

As the progeny of the rich pervaded all levels of society, Dr. Clark considered, the behaviors that made for wealth could have spread with them. He has documented that several aspects of what might now be called middle-class values changed significantly from the days of hunter gatherer societies to 1800. Work hours increased, literacy and numeracy rose, and the level of interpersonal violence dropped.

Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people’s preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

“Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,” Dr. Clark writes. Around 1790, a steady upward trend in production efficiency first emerges in the English economy.

It is unclear, exactly, why Dr. Clark feels that literacy, thrift and a willingness to do hard work as opposed to a strong sword arm and good luck made what he calls the “economic upper classes of the Middle Ages,” Especially in light of the fact that people like Charlemagne were illiterate, the cases of spendthrift kings, princes and Popes longer than the lists at any tournament and a willingness to do hard work simply ignores the amount of brutally hard work done by the poor in England.

But Clark’s merry romp through Social Darwinist philosophy unfortunately doesn’t appear to stop there. From his first chapter,

Why an Industrial Revolution in England? Why not China, India, or Japan?6 The answer hazarded here is that England’s advantages were not coal, not colonies, not the Protestant Reformation, not the Enlightenment, but the accidents of institutional stability and demography: in particular the extraordinary stability of England back to at least 1200, the slow growth of English population between 1300 and 1760, and the extraordinary fecundity of the rich and economically successful. The embedding of bourgeois values into the culture, and perhaps even the genetics, was for these reasons the most advanced in England.

Let me try to rephrase that idea. If you wanted to genetically “prepare” a society, whether through planning or luck, for the jump into the Industrial Revolution what you need are a group of people willing to starve the poorest of the poor to make room for the more industrious, “skillful” genetic racial representatives trickling down from above. And on the other side of the globe, the Japanese Tennos were apparently too infertile to produce a social change but fertile enough to produce a field ripe to adapt to the new ideas and methods coming from England a mere 100 years later. China took a century more to get on the right track. Um. Right.

Clark also ignores the agricultural civilizations in the Americas and in Bantu Africa; all arguably similarly captured in the Malthusian Trap; all arguably with similar cultural survival rates. The article simply comments that these cultures just aren’t “ready” for western advancement yet.

My response in a word: blech.

I can’t believe this drivel managed to make it into the pages of the New York Times. Perhaps it was published because the Times’ editors know full well that the eugenic ideas presented will generate a certain amount of controversy producing in turn both readership and advertising revenue.

Is Clark really trying to push for the idea of a genetically superior upper class? Hasn’t he even seen any of the Paris Hilton escapades? What about the Norwegain princess who believes in angels? Are these people mutants?! [Well… arguably, yes – but I won’t go there.]

I am however loath to completely eliminate the idea of evolution from the how societies improve. I however don’t think the solution can be found in the evolution of bodies but in the evolution of ideas.

Thus I’d like to spend some time looking at where a naïve understanding of evolutionary thinking might take us. I’d like to look at the idea of memes. But time is short. Thus todays discussion is –

To Be Continued…

Mr. Giggles Goes

Oh No!

Mr. Giggles has resigned. He just up and quit. This just up at the Washington Post,

Embattled Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has resigned from his post, according to an administration official, ending a controversial cabinet tenure that included clashes with Congress over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys and the nature of efforts to spy on U.S. citizens.

The official said Gonzales submitted a letter on Friday saying he had decided to step down, but the announcement was withheld until he met with President Bush at the president’s Crawford ranch. His resignation will be announced at a press conference scheduled at 10:30.

Gonzales’ decision was first reported by the New York Times on its Web site.

Gonzales’ resignation marks the loss of another Bush loyalist at a time when his support in public opinion polls has been lagging. Though Bush had voiced continued support for Gonzales, a longtime ally from Texas, the attorney general’s support in Congress had withered after a series of run-ins that prompted some lawmakers to allege he had committed perjury.

I wonder whether he’ll get a chair next to Ari on the back porch some day? Will Karl invite him over for family BBQs?

Goodbye Mr. Giggles. Your bizarre banter in front of televison cameras and congress will be missed.

Considering all the other things you have done in the last couple of years, warrentless wiretapping, politically motivated firings of U.S. attorneys, possible purgery, making White House leason aide hotties nervious while not talking about cases you were involved with – um… hell, let’s just cut to the chase – your excessive bend to fascism – will perhaps be less missed. At least by most of us. I’m sure George W. is cut to the quick.

The flavor of words

I have never experienced synesthesia, but I think I have a fairly reasonable understanding of what it would be like; hearing colors, feeling sounds, experiencing the taste of words are all something I can understand at a subconscious level.

But like so many things taste is cultural.

That’s why, to a man bathed in the baptismal waters of modern fundamentalist Christianity, someone like George W. Bush, the flavor of the word “crusade” is a word with positive connotations. He associates it not with a physical war but with a social movement.

And in a very real sense, Bush and the people who craft his speeches and form his verbal soundbites are right. In America, crusades are largely social and not physical. We find the overt Campus Crusade for Christ but also find it natural to describe crusades to help the homeless and crusades against poverty.

Crusades are about spreading Good News, harmony and help; not oppression or hate. Crusades are about aiding the needy, showing the blind the error of their ways; leading the lost back to the path leading to salvation. From the perspective of the average fundamentalist Christian, a crusade is not negative – it is basically about helping others.

Unfortunately, to non-English speakers not immersed in the American cultural discussion, the word crusade has a far different flavor. In Muslim countries the bitter aftertaste of the word “crusade” is steeped in the historical realisation that very word is related to religion. Just as crucifixion has become the English word for a form of execution most closely related to the death of a religious figure, crusades were originally used to carry that religion out into the world, specifically into and against the Muslim religion and cultures. The crusades were a century’s long attempt to replace local Middle Eastern cultures with a Christian dictatorship. Perhaps more ominous, it was an attempt doomed to failure.

Seen in that light, the presidential confusion generated by the controversy shortly after 9/11 when George W. Bush declared a crusade against terrorism – a crusade to free the world from the evil of unexpected horrors – was understandable.

Now, if one can imagine the same word having a positive, glowing, warm feeling for one person while at the same time having a discordant, spikey, uncomfortable feel to the other, than it is a small leap to understanding why the same effect can be reversed. Words like jihad and intifada with one cultural feeling in Arabic are interpreted in an entirely different light by others in the English speaking west.

Whereas Americans would have shaken their heads in wonderment had Bush claimed “We will carry the fight to them in a global jihad against terrorism,” his meaning would have been far more clear and precise to Asian and Middle Eastern Islamic listeners.

What most people don’t understand is that is next impossible for people in the one culture to use a word imported from one language and translate the word back into the original while keeping the new cultural baggage associated with them. The more similar meaning of what have become two completely unrelated concepts, the more likely mistranslations will occur. The flavors become lost and distorted – like putting a five course meal through a blender, the ingredients remain the same but the result is less than appetising.

To show how this works in a slightly less politically charged atmosphere, I turn to a something near and dear to the hearts of many red blooded Americans – beer – or at least the containers you drink it from. For English speakers, the classic German vessel used to drink that oh-so-Teutonic ambrosia is called a “stein.” Unfortunately, native German speakers have absolutely no understanding of that use of the word for “rock.” The origin for the misunderstanding is likely very simple. The proper German word is “Krug” (related to the word pitcher). This word can, in some cases, be extended to the word “Steinkrug” if the vessel in question is made not of glass or porcelain but of clay. Since Steinkrug was likely too long for foreign ears to pick-up and remember. The word got shortened and imported into English as stein and not krug. Again, it’s important to realise that the word stein does exist in the German language but it has little to do with late night binges and Saturday morning hangovers and far more to do with something one shouldn’t throw the first one of and glass houses.

The flavor of words caused a small flap in early August when the principal of a recently founded New York bi-lingual school was forced by political pressure to step down. Debbie Almontaser lost her job due to her understanding of a word in based not in the language she uses in America, but in the language it originally came from. The story is even worse. As best as I can understand from the New York Times ($elect) article, she was fired after a controversy was created after an interview with the New York Post from a question clearly designed to spark exactly this brouhaha. From the Washington Post coverage,

Principal Debbie Almontaser said her mission was to foster tolerance and understanding. But she resigned Aug. 10 after the New York Post quoted her talking about definitions of the word “intifada.”

Almontaser’s critics say she failed to immediately condemn the slogan “Intifada NYC” on a T-shirt displayed by a group with no connection to the school. She later condemned it.

“You don’t want to have a school that confirms people’s worst fears,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers.
[,,,]
At core in the debate is a linguistic disconnect. The word “intifada” crystallized in its current Arabic meaning during the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s and early ’90s. It is seen by many Arabs as a valid term for popular resistance to oppression, while for many English speakers it has come to conjure images of violent attacks on civilians.

The right-wing punditry attacked the woman for all the things they see as being wrong in America. She was running a bi-lingual school, Arabic-English; this is in and of itself suspect because as we all know you can’t learn Arabic without learning the motives and religion of the Muslim religion and creating a madrassa. (It’s not like having a bi-lingual charter school, Hebrew-English, being run in Hollywood Florida run by an Orthodox rabbi. That’s OK. Hebrew has nothing to do with religion.) The mote of an Arabic-English school is a beam in the eye of the right-wing radicals.

Almontaser was attacked because she was an educator, someone who wanted people to understand not the westernised meaning of intifada but the current meaning in Arabic. Why an intifada is about protest but that protest can take many forms. That kind of cultural understanding leads to the very bedrock of multiculturalism. If children in New York start to read Middle Eastern newspapers and realise that there are good and bad sources of information, Arabic pundits as acerbic as any Fox News anchor. If the children in New York would begin to realise that the “them” in the “us and them” are just as much the bad guys in Hamas as the bad guys in RNC, then billions of dollars in propaganda will have been wasted.

Finally, Almontaser was probably attacked for simply being who she is; a proud, intelligent, Muslim woman, willing to openly wear the symbolic sign of her religion – a head scarf. The very same group of people who barked long enough and loud enough to get this woman fired would go into a mouth-foaming rage at the thought of a school system judging someone for wearing a cross or a Star of David on a T-Shirt or as a lapel pin. Almontaser was attacked because she is a woman capable and willing to accept a difficult and complex job and not stay at home, out of sight taking care of the children; a cultural tick that seems to be shared equally between fundamentalist Christians and Muslims.

But then again it isn’t about equality, or fairness, or even about the word itself. It’s about perception.

Which brings me back to George W Bush.

I think he would be shocked and amazed if people were to accuse him of fighting a global jihad to impose American culture on the world in general and the Middle East specifically. He would be shocked if he really thought people felt his invasion of Iraq was about crushing a 1500 years of Middle Eastern culture to replace it with western – or perhaps better American – values. An invasion bent on killing all who oppose his plans; the utter destruction of all those who want to live under different values.

If only Bush could make his critics understand that is far from his purpose. People would finally understand and accept that he is merely leading a world wide crusade to bring American ideals to the oppressed people of the world and specifically those in the Arab countries. He wants to help in the deepest most substantial way he can find, bringing harmony, hope and Good News.

It is all too clear once you understand the flavor of words why one side doesn’t understand the other. The problem is bitterly apparent.

Parsing the President

I just though I’d give you some of my asides to yesterday’s Presidential speech. People will probably latch on to the Vietnam references, but to be honest the entire thing was a train wreck, start to finish.

Bush’s attempt to link Iraq with WWII, Korea and Vietnam fall short of everything related to reality. And he starts off by distorting reality once again. Remember. Bush is speaking in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, an organisation he would have a little difficultly getting in to.

I stand before you as a wartime President. I wish I didn’t have to say that, but an enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, declared war on the United States of America. And war is what we’re engaged in.

This is true, because he can’t stand in front of them and tell them he is proud to count himself among their ranks, the people who fought “in places from Normandy to Iwo Jima, to Pusan, to Khe Sahn, to Kuwait, to Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.“ At the same time, his war in Iraq wasn’t waged against the people who attacked America on September 11th. It wasn’t true then; his repeating it doesn’t make it any truer now.

For those of you who wear the uniform, nothing makes me more proud to say that I am your Commander-in-Chief. Thank you for volunteering in the service of the United States of America. (Applause.)

Of course he conveniently forgets that many of the people who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam were drafted and didn’t volunteer. He does realise that was the reason he joined the National Guard, right?

But here’s what we do agree on: We agree our veterans deserve the full support of the United States government. (Applause.) That’s why in this budget I submitted there’s $87 billion for the veterans; it’s the highest level of support ever for the veterans in American history. (Applause.) We agree that health care for our veterans is a top priority, and that’s why we’ve increased health care spending for our veterans by 83 percent since I was sworn in as your President. (Applause.) We agree that a troop coming out of Iraq or Afghanistan deserves the best health care not only as an active duty citizen, but as a military guy, but also as a veteran — and you’re going to get the best health care we can possibly provide. (Applause.) We agree our homeless vets ought to have shelter, and that’s what we’re providing.

Well. If Bush hadn’t have invaded Iraq, he probably wouldn’t need that huge budget. Where is that money coming from – subprime lending?

And wait a minute! Bush has increased health care spending by a total of 83% since he became president!? Sir, might I remind you, when you became president, the U.S. wasn’t at war? Wouldn’t being at war sort of demand that spending go up not just a little, but drastically? Is 83% even close to being enough to cover the huge expenses now being encountered?

Finally, Bush wants to help homeless vets. Let’s see. Why do they become homeless? Financial stress because the guard pays less than civilian jobs? No. Losing your hands in the war and then going broke because the military misplaced paperwork and wrongly issued payment? Nah! Post traumatic stress disorder? No, no, no. Subprime loans!? Yeah, that’s it! Not war related at all. Good out! (Of course Bush really only wants to supply shelter through faith-base organisations. One has to wonder if Iraq isn’t just a weird way to convert America?)

The enemy who attacked us despises freedom, and harbors resentment at the slights he believes America and Western nations have inflicted on his people. He fights to establish his rule over an entire region. And over time, he turns to a strategy of suicide attacks destined to create so much carnage that the American people will tire of the violence and give up the fight.

If this story sounds familiar, it is — except for one thing. The enemy I have just described is not al Qaeda, and the attack is not 9/11, and the empire is not the radical caliphate envisioned by Osama bin Laden. Instead, what I’ve described is the war machine of Imperial Japan in the 1940s, its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and its attempt to impose its empire throughout East Asia.

So “they” still despise us? Are the Japanese are still our enemies? (Bush used the present tense when he said “the enemy who attacked us despises freedom.” Oops.)

He still doesn’t get it though. Pearl Harbor had nothing to do with Iraq, it had to do with oil embargos and global militarisation in a completely different age. Viewed through contemporary Japanese eyes, it was arguably an unavoidable conflict. It also wasn’t designed to be a complete surprise, the Japanese just couldn’t type fast enough to get the Declaration of War to the State Department in time. (Of course the State Department already knew what was coming because it had already been intercepted, decrypted and distributed.)

When did Sadaam or Bin Laden send their declarations of war?

There are many differences between the wars we fought in the Far East and the war on terror we’re fighting today. But one important similarity is at their core they’re ideological struggles.

WWII was as much economic as ideological. Korea was a power struggle between China and the U.S. for supremacy in S.E. Asia. Vietnam was the paniced reaction of right wing American hawks looking for a place to fight communism.

Afghanistan, while it might have something to do with 9/11, is largely an international effort to attempt to bring a stable government into a region historically ruled by local tribes and warlords. Whether the American effort will be any more effective than the Soviet attempt or the 3 prior British tries remains to be seen. It has as much to do with ideology as the current boom in Afghan opium planting has to do with traditional agriculture.

Iraq was and is completely unrelated to the events in 2001 and to any ideological reasoning. Can Bush point to a single speech he gave in 2002 saying America had to invade Iraq for ideological reasons? A single speech. A single bullet point?. He knew that then, he knows that now. But he’d like to use rhetorical tricks to obfuscate the issue. Intermingling WWII; Korea, Vietnam and 9/11 and convincing everyone they are the same kind of conflict; a verbal bait and switch.

And does Bin Laden really despise American freedoms? No more than Bush does. (Then again both have different definitions of the word freedom.)

Bush really needs to spend more time reading Al Quada speeches instead of listening to his own propaganda. You see, even Bin Laden says things like “Security is an important pillar of human life. Free people do not relinquish their security. This is contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not strike Sweden, for example.“ Despises American freedom? *sigh*

The militarists of Japan and the communists in Korea and Vietnam were driven by a merciless vision for the proper ordering of humanity.

Not like the Christian Identity folks in America, right?

Like our enemies in the past, they kill Americans because we stand in their way of imposing this ideology across a vital region of the world. This enemy is dangerous; this enemy is determined; and this enemy will be defeated.

But aren’t we trying kill them to impose our ideology across a vital region of the world? Isn’t that the point?

At the outset of World War II there were only two democracies in the Far East – Australia and New Zealand.

Which is interesting seeing that much of Asia, including India, Cambodia and Vietnam, was under European colonial control in 1939. Korea had been a Japanese colony since 1876. And then there were the Philippines, an American colony/territory/protectorate. Don’t blame the lack of democracy on the wrong people Mr. Bush. It was the collapse of the colonial system in the 1950’s that brought democracy, not the Japanese surrender.

In the aftermath of Japan’s surrender, many thought it naive to help the Japanese transform themselves into a democracy. Then as now, the critics argued that some people were simply not fit for freedom.

These were the same people putting Japanese-Americans in prison camps without a trial, but I won’t go there.

Others critics said that Americans were imposing their ideals on the Japanese. For example, Japan’s Vice Prime Minister asserted that allowing Japanese women to vote would “retard the progress of Japanese politics.”

It’s interesting what General MacArthur wrote in his memoirs [This is the guy who wanted to use nukes in Korea, right?] He wrote, “There was much criticism of my support for the enfranchisement of women. Many Americans, as well as many other so-called experts, expressed the view that Japanese women were too steeped in the tradition of subservience to their husbands to act with any degree of political independence.”

Is he honestly trying to compare the suffrage of Japanese women to the spreading of American ideals? He does realise that women could vote in those Asian democracies, Australia (1902) and New Zealand (1893) long before America chose to take that step in 1920? American ideals, Mr. President?

His misrepresentation of the Shinto religion is foolish. He does realize that one of the main requirements for allowing the Japanese Emperor to stay in power was his renouncing his godhood? It would be a little like Islam taking over America and saying that Jesus fellow just isn’t all that important.

Shinto got changed not abandoned because it wasn’t compatible with democratic values. That’s why people said it wouldn’t work. The Americans didn’t abolish the imperial throne, they changed the religion. Perhaps that’s that what Bush has planned for Islam: banning Mohamed.

And the result of all these steps was that every Japanese citizen gained freedom of religion, and the Emperor remained on his throne and Japanese democracy grew stronger because it embraced a cherished part of Japanese culture.

No. The requirement that Japanese attend Shinto shrines as a patriotic duty was dropped. Freedom of religion was incorporated in Japan in the middle of the 19th century. Under the patriotic fever of the militant 1930’s, it became very unpopular to be anything but Shinto in Japan. Currently there are people in America who think that it is a patriotic duty to be a Christian – some of these people are Republicans. Do you think it is easy to be an open Muslim in America, President Bush?

You know, the experts sometimes get it wrong.

Like the clowns who told you that there were WMD’s in Iraq?

Instead, I think it’s important to look at what happened.

Yeah. So do I.

After the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel in 1950, President Harry Truman came to the defense of the South — and found himself attacked from all sides. From the left, I.F. Stone wrote a book suggesting that the South Koreans were the real aggressors and that we had entered the war on a false pretext. From the right, Republicans vacillated. Initially, the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate endorsed Harry Truman’s action, saying, “I welcome the indication of a more definite policy” — he went on to say, “I strongly hope that having adopted it, the President may maintain it intact,” then later said “it was a mistake originally to go into Korea because it meant a land war.”

Wasn’t the whole 38th parallel thing an American idea, drawn by the Dean Rusk (the guy who helped start Vietnam) and Charles Bonesteel just 4 days before Korea was completely liberated. An artificial border drawn simply because there wasn’t any way to get American troops any farther north before the Soviets occupied half of the former Japanese colony? And wasn’t the North Korean invasion more or less pre-emptive? (You know, like Iraq) Didn’t the American Congress drag their heels on arming South Korea because the then “democratic” president, Syngman Rhee, kept instigating a war with the North? Otherwise wouldn’t it have been better to arm South Korea to avoid a conflict altogether?

Finally, there’s Vietnam. This is a complex and painful subject for many Americans. The tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech. So I’m going to limit myself to one argument that has particular significance today. Then as now, people argued the real problem was America’s presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end.

You’ll limit yourself to one argument because that’s just about the only analogy you can find that works. The killing did end Mr. Bush. Of course to claim that people thought peace would immediately reign is a bit of a canard really. Could you give a quote there? You know as well as I do that the civil war could only end when America left, when America stopped propping up a dictatorship. (It certainly wasn’t a democracy.) Americans (and the rest of the world) wanted America out of Vietnam because America shouldn’t have been there in the first place, not because most thought the killing would immediately stop.

There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today’s struggle — those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that “the American people had risen against their government’s war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today.”

His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda’s chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to “the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents.”

His comments about Bin Laden and Zawahiri are telling. Both seem to understand history far better than Bush does. Bin Laden and Zawahiri understand why America pulled out of Vietnam. Bush, or his speech writers, apparently don’t.

It wasn’t the price for withdrawing from Vietnam that was high in international standing, it was the belated costs of going in in the first place.

Remember Mr. President. Bin Laden and Zawahiri can only invoke Vietnam/Iraq comparisons because you ordered the unnecessary invasion of Iraq. Let me repeat that last, you ordered the unnecessary, pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. There will likely be hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq when America leaves and that will be a tragedy. But those are on your conscience Mr. Bush; not that of the American people you duped into believing your hawkish propaganda.

If we were to abandon the Iraqi people, the terrorists would be emboldened, and use their victory to gain new recruits. As we saw on September the 11th, a terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world can bring death and destruction to the streets of our own cities. Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, this enemy will follow us home. And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America.

Let’s turn this around, shall we. Isn’t Iraq the number one recruiting tool for Iraq and wannabe terrorists right now? Did America increase the size of it’s armed forces after World War II and we were emboldened by the victory over Germany and Japan. Didn’t “victory” end the war and disarmament start almost immediately? Didn’t the same thing happen after the end of the Korean war. And did the domino theory actually pan out after Vietnam? Did Central Asia completely fall into communist hands? Did America start fighting on the streets of Peking or Moskow? Did Vietnamese students start infiltrating college campuses in America and changing the bell curve in their favor?

Why exactly would Iraqi’s want to follow the Americans home? Don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds or maybe thousands of committed terrorists who would be willing to come to America and create mayhem and chaos. But that is not the war being fought in Iraq. Al Qaeda is only a small portion of the fighting there; most Iraqis are fighting for control of Iraq.

Afghanistan, where the brain of Al Qaeda is located, is starting to fall back into Taliban and extremist hands specifically because our resources are stretched too far. You remember Afghanistan? That’s where Bin Laden is supposed to be.

Here’s what they said: “Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences.” I believe these men are right.

Shawcross and Rodman!? Excuse me? Let me give you a couple of more quotes from these two “experts.”

Peter Rodman

[The future of the United States] will be forced more and more to choose between its convictions on what is essential to spare the Middle East from weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein, on the one hand, and deference to the more assertive resistance of other major powers that either do not share the U.S. alarm or are driven by other motives.

…the key to multilateralism is not what one thinks of the United Nations but what one thinks of the United States. Those who believe the United States guilty of too many sins in the past—and these include some Americans—will be eager to see restraints on American unilateral action. Those who believe that global freedom and peace and the cause of human rights have more often than not been advanced if not sustained by the United States, acting out of some combination of its own self-interest and a general interest, will find multilateralism a potential source of paralysis. (1999)

William Shawcross

Tony Blair’s enemies have behaved in a shocking manner over the liberation of Iraq and its elusive weapons of mass destruction. Opponents of the war predicted all manner of disasters – millions of refugees, famine, thousands of deaths in battle, and revolution on “the Arab street” throughout the region. None of these horrors happened. Instead, it is obvious that the coalition has indeed freed Iraqis from a monster and created a new reality in the Middle East – one which just might offer the region hope. (2003)

Hmmm. I wonder if I would trust these guys to park my car? They sure don’t seem to be able to predict the future very well. Why should we listen to them now? Oh. They’re experts. (See above)

But then Bush manages his coup de grace.

The American military graveyards across Europe attest to the terrible human cost in the fight against Nazism. They also attest to the triumph of a continent that today is whole, free, and at peace. The advance of freedom in these lands should give us confidence that the hard work we are doing in the Middle East can have the same results we’ve seen in Asia and elsewhere — if we show the same perseverance and the same sense of purpose.

Bush should stop trying to conflate stateless terrorism with terrorist states. Nazi German created far more graveyards that can attest to the horrible human cost of a regime willing to invade other countries, to ignore human rights, to torture prisoners, to set up lawless prison camps out of the country. He shouldn’t talk about Nazi Germany while making tenuous links to the deaths following the American withdrawal from Vietnam .

There is one group of people who understand the stakes, understand as well as any expert, anybody in America — those are the men and women in uniform. Through nearly six years of war, they have performed magnificently. (Applause.) Day after day, hour after hour, they keep the pressure on the enemy that would do our citizens harm. They’ve overthrown two of the most brutal tyrannies of the world, and liberated more than 50 million citizens.

But the stakes those people see aren’t the stakes Bush is fighting for. They reenlist because they honor the uniform. They reenlist and keep fighting because there is a fight going on and you don’t desert comrades in arms. They keep trying to perform even though the substance, both human and material, is wearing out and breaking. But they don’t reenlist because the Bush policies are working.

Our troops have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January of this year.

I thought we didn’t “do” body counts anymore. I thought we gave that up because it was an ineffective measure of success in Vietnam. I guess he didn’t learn that lesson. Oh. Right. He wasn’t there.

Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job, and I support him. And it’s not up to politicians in Washington, D.C. to say whether he will remain in his position — that is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy, and not a dictatorship.

Wow. With the exception of the comment about Maliki being a good guy (How can he be? He’s a politician.), I actually agree with that statement. Levin’s brain-dead comments after returning from Iraq were the most irresponsible comments in the summer slump.

But a free Iraq will be a massive defeat for al Qaeda,

A free and peaceful Afghanistan first would have been even better.

Prevailing in this struggle is essential to our future as a nation. And the question now that comes before us is this: Will today’s generation of Americans resist the allure of retreat, and will we do in the Middle East what the veterans in this room did in Asia?

I quote a Salon article written by Jessica Kowal in November 2003

The United States volunteered to fight the Vietnam War, too, in the context of a global war against an evil enemy, communism. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon told Americans that a small country halfway around the world was essential to American security. U.S. leaders ignored that region’s long opposition to occupying forces. They lied to get troops into the war, and lied throughout the war. Defying reality, they insisted the U.S. was making “progress” as the situation deteriorated, and blamed critics for encouraging “the enemy.”

Hmmm.

Bush ends his speech on an interesting note.

The greatest weapon in the arsenal of democracy is the desire for liberty written into the human heart by our Creator. So long as we remain true to our ideals, we will defeat the extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will help those countries’ peoples stand up functioning democracies in the heart of the broader Middle East. And when that hard work is done and the critics of today recede from memory, the cause of freedom will be stronger, a vital region will be brighter, and the American people will be safer.

If your ideals don’t include Creators – then I guess there is no belief in liberty, correct? But wait. Al Qaeda wants a theocracy! That means a Creator – liberty! Hey. Mr. President. They’re on your side!

Seriously, no president in recent history has done more to erode the ideals of America with the suspension of Habeas Corpus, secret prisons, torture and the pre-emptive invasion Bush so sadly keeps trying to defend. Bush was the one to invade Iraq before the job in Afghanistan was finished.

To assume that America will be really safer as long as there is a reason to hate, as long as people can find an excuse to wage war and as long as there are presidents willing to provide extremists with a reason to hate America?

Mr President sir, you are more deluded than I thought.

Source: Agencies

While I read Al Jazeera every morning, I really don’t expect much in the way of new news. I get something far more important though: I find out how people in the Middle East might be interpreting US and international events.

I also see a lot of stories that would have passed under my radar.

Today, Al Jazeera posted a blurb about the two US marines cleared in the shooting deaths of 24 people in Haditha.

What actually struck me though, was neither the fact that this got a significant place on the premier Middle East news site nor the fact that neither McClatchy, the Chicago Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor nor even the International Herald Tribune chose to headline the piece.

The NYT does have both the AP and the Reuters articles up. Only the Washington Post gave it a small link on the front page but the story was fairly detailed. From the Reuters piece,

A U.S. Marine general dropped all charges on Thursday against two Marines in the shooting deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, scene of what Iraqi witnesses said was a massacre by American troops.

The dismissal of charges means neither Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt nor Capt. Randy Stone will face a court-martial in connection with the events at Haditha, which have brought international condemnation of U.S. troops.

Five Marines still face charges in the November 19, 2005, shooting of two dozen unarmed men, women and children in Haditha, which prosecutors say came in retaliation for the death of a beloved comrade, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, who was cut in half by a roadside bomb.

Sharratt, 22, had been charged with three counts of premeditated murder and Stone, 35, with dereliction of duty for failing to properly report the civilian deaths.

Defense attorneys conceded civilians were killed at Haditha but said they died during chaotic fighting with insurgents after the roadside blast.

What only becomes clear from the WP piece is that Sharratt was involved in a shooting that happened several hours later,

The finding by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, exonerates Justin L. Sharratt, 22, of Canonsburg, Pa. In a two-page document, Mattis not only cleared Sharratt of legal charges but also called him “innocent” in the general’s eyes. The dismissal came after an investigating officer found that Sharratt acted appropriately when he shot a group of armed men while searching a house in Haditha hours after other members of his unit killed numerous women and children in an alleged killing spree through two other houses. [my emphasis]

What I find far more interesting than the news of the soldiers, was the spin Al Jazeera put on story.

The fact that the attorney, who was new, inexperienced and probably more than a little gung ho, didn’t get court martialed for investigating is understandable if debatable. The fact that Sharratt didn’t get in trouble for a completely different shooting also makes sense. These two facts show why it was a non-story to western news agencies.

Ah. But Al Jazeera is different. They presented an edited version of the Reuters story missing the fourth paragraph talking about what the people were accused of and without any mention of a separate encounter (admittedly missing from the Reuters narrative). This gives the impression that both men took part in the civilian shootings.

Then again. Al Jazerra doesn’t even reference the source directly on the website. I have only seen them use the subscript “Source: Agencies” to identify where the information came from. Even if the story has been taken from a single article or “Agency”. It makes a nice trick to distance itself from the Western tainted news sources.

Again I think it is less important to understand the story and more important to understand how the story has been presented.

Spin is spin and every little bit creates more and more momentum towards building attitudes. If you don’t watch the spin, you don’t understand the motives.

Of course the same goes for the US sources. Which paragraphs got deleted in your newspaper?

He Said She Said

Chinese WhispersRebecca Watson, Skepchick and amazingly cool writer, has made to round three in NPR’s contest looking for a new radio talent. (hat tip: Phil Plait, congratulations and good luck Rebecca on the contest and a quick nudge to geeky web comic XKCD , the focus of Rebecca’s most recent interview.)

But a quote stuck in my mind after listening to her most recent entry. She is being interviewed by one of the local radio personalities. The first question is very appropriate.

David Bowery(?): Give me an example of something or someone you believe in.

Rebecca Watson: Wow. That’s an interesting question because I’m often accussed of not believing in anything. That’s just my thing. I’m always questioning.

I believe…I believe in science. I believe in logic and I believe in reality. I believe in – I believe in a certain point of view were you can look at the world for what it actually is as opposed to what you want it to be. And you can explore the world and see the beauty in it with that kind of perspective.

While I would love to agree with this, I am starting to doubt that people work that way. More and more books are being written about cognitive dissonance, two people seeing the same thing but interpreting the event or “reality” completely differently. As a matter of fact, that very idea is a central theme in Daniel Gilbert’s wonderful book Stumbling on Happiness.

I got yet another example of this while reading the right wing blog Capitan’s Quarters this morning.

Conservative blogs have been attacking a series of extremely negative reports in the New Republic, reportedly written by a soldier in Iraq. The issue got so far out of control that the previously anonymous blogger outted himself and his unit. The Army started investigating; conservative bloggers smelled blood.

This is how conservative blogger Ed Morrissey begins the entry describing the New York Times article.

Despite the oddly-worded non-denial denial from the New Republic yesterday, the Army did determine that allegations made in its magazine by Scott Beauchamp were false. The New York Times reports this morning that their investigation showed no substantiation for Beauchamp’s stories of petty mischief and ghoulish behavior on the part of his fellow soldiers.

An Army investigation into the Baghdad Diarist, a soldier in Iraq who wrote anonymous columns for The New Republic, has concluded that the sometimes shockingly cruel reports were false.

We are not going into the details of the investigation,” Maj. Steven F. Lamb, deputy public affairs officer in Baghdad, wrote in an e-mail message. “The allegations are false, his platoon and company were interviewed, and no one could substantiate the claims he made.” … [ellipsis in original post]

Yesterday, The New Republic posted another note on its Web site saying its editors had spoken to Major Lamb and asked whether Private Beauchamp had indeed signed a statement admitting to fabrications. “He told us, ‘I have no knowledge of that.’ He added, ‘If someone is speaking anonymously [to The Weekly Standard], they are on their own.’ When we pressed Lamb for details on the Army investigation, he told us, ‘We don’t go into the details of how we conduct our investigations.’

That the Army would deny the accusations doesn’t really surprise me much. The Army also gave a medal to Pat Tillman for bravery under enemy fire. They then denied any problem with the story, but piece by piece the truth emerged over the last months, morphing from enemy combatants, friendly fire to what might now be murder. (The last, a claim I doubt. But who can tell any more?)

Anyway. For Morrissey it is enough that the Army is denying everything and the NYT has backed him up. Right?

I don’t see that tone in the article. I give you the three paragraphs just after the ellipsis Morrissey so cleverly inserted for his readers.

The brief statement, however, left many questions unanswered. Just last week The New Republic published on its Web site the results of its own investigation, stating that five members of the same company as Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who had written the anonymous pieces, “all corroborated Beauchamp’s anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one soldier, heard about contemporaneously. (All of the soldiers we interviewed who had first-hand knowledge of the episodes requested anonymity.)”

Private Beauchamp had revealed his identity after The Weekly Standard online and conservative bloggers expressed doubts about their veracity. As the Baghdad Diarist, he wrote that one soldier had jokingly worn the remnant of a child’s skull on his head. In another issue, he said he and a soldier had mocked a terribly disfigured woman sitting near them in the mess tent. Franklin Foer, editor of The New Republic said that after Private Beauchamp revealed his identity, the Army severely curtailed his telephone and e-mail privileges.

Private Beauchamp is married to a reporter-researcher at the magazine, Elspeth Reeve. [my emphasis]

Thus it seems to be my understanding of the English language posed against Ed Morrissey’s description of what was said in the Grey Lady. It’s a case of he said she said.

My problem is I think he did read the story as confirmation of his (and Michelle Malkin’s) ideas.

The Washington Post also has a much longer article describing the whole teacup tempest. They end their coverage with the following quote,

Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at George Washington University, called the Army’s refusal to release its report “suspect,” adding: “There is a cloud over the New Republic, but there’s one hanging over the Army, as well. Each investigated this and cleared themselves, but they both have vested interests.”

As far as I can tell, the Army solved the problem by ordering the soldier to sit down and shut up. Whether he was describing reality wasn’t important. The conservative bloggers and the Weekly Standard chose to continue the attacks and say – see he’s not saying anything any more – thus Private Beauchamp was lying. It’s not like the Army might have busted him for violating OPSec regulations when he named his unit and then put him under extreme presure. The Army wouldn’t do that; would they?

That’s all in the eye’s of the beholder. Or if you don’t follow the links, he said, she said, they said, he said, they did…

Want to know what I say? Rebecca – there is no reality. *sigh*

Democrats In Congress: Republicans with Blue Ties

… or skirts. Whatever.

Slate’s legal lovely, Dahlia Lithwick, wrote a killer analysis of the implications of Democrats voting to expand Bush’s wiretapping powers and Congress’ favorite punching bunny, Mr Giggles,

This past Sunday, a heap of Democrats voted to rush through changes to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law that governs electronic surveillance of anyone in this country. The new law expands the authority of the attorney general to approve the monitoring of phone calls and e-mails to suspected overseas terrorists from unknowing American citizens. Make no mistake about it. The vote to update FISA rewarded the AG for years of missteps and misstatements by giving him expanded authority to enforce the president’s alarming constitutional vision. Sans oversight. Sans judicial approval.

There is virtually no way to reconcile Sen. Mark Pryor’s, D-Ark., claim that Gonzales has “lied to the Senate” and needs to go with his vote to expand the reach of our warrantless eavesdropping program. And how can one possibly square Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s, D-Calif., claim that the AG “just doesn’t tell the truth” with her vote to give him yet more unchecked authority? You either trust this AG with the power to listen in on your phone calls or you do not, and the mumbled justifications for these “yes” votes ( … but Gonzales shares his authority with National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell; … but the bill sunsets in six months) do nothing to lessen the impression that some Democrats mistrust Gonzales when it’s convenient, but not when it’s truly important.

The whole thing should be read in full. It shows just how big the problems are.

I’m getting the feeling that the only difference whether your vote goes Blue or Red in 2008 will be the speed at which the churches take over.

Considering the fact that evangelical churches are now starting to infiltrate the Democratic party and making more and more inroads into issues like the environment, prisons and homeless shelters (temporary? – riiiiight!), it is clear that there really is no chance that America will remain a secular nation. Oh! I forgot. It wasn’t one anyway.

Don’t get me wrong. Evangelicals need to understand the issues. I’m just afraid the movements will become biblical. They won’t understand and support the issues, they simply take them over. After all it worked for the Republican Party, didn’t it?

Don’t Run with that Pencil!

Have you ever heard or shouted that warning?

A German woman didn’t heed that advice as a child and as a result spent the next 55 years with about 8cm of pencil lodged in her brain.

According to Spiegel Online,

A woman who lived with an 8-centimeter (3.1-inch) pencil lodged in her brain for 55 years has had most of it removed in a complex operation. She is now looking forward to a life without headaches and nosebleeds and hopes to also regain her sense of smell.

“When I was four years old I fell down in Dessau with a pencil in my hand. The pencil bored its way through my skin — and disappeared in my head,” Margret Wegner, 59, told the mass circulation newspaper Bild. “It was incredibly painful.”

The pencil missed her optic nerve and a major artery by just millimeters. A doctor treated the wound, but no one dared to operate on her brain. She decided to have the life-threatening operation after 55 years, and it was successfully carried out by a surgeon in a Berlin hospital last week.

Most of the pencil — six centimeters of it — was removed but the 2-centimeter-long tip has grown in so tightly that it will remain lodged in her brain.

All I can say? Congragulations. And Blech – brain pencils.

Almost as bad as “Mr. Phineas Gage’s Famous Injury

Mr. Gage was employed as a railroad worker in Vermont and fell victim to a freak accident that involved a long metal rod called a tamping iron. This rod was used to pack sand over an explosive charge, which was used to excavate rock for the building of railroad lines. In this instance the charge exploded unexpectedly and propelled the 3-foot-long rod through Mr. Gage’s head. The 13-pound rod entered the left cheek and exited the midline of the skull anterior to the bregma, resulting in severe injury to his left and, in all probability,2 his right prefrontal cortex. The Gage case, one of the most famous and influential in neuropsychiatry, played a crucial role in the discovery of behavioral syndromes resulting from frontal lobe dysfunction. Readers interested in detailed accounts of the case and its historical context can find excellent reviews by MacMillan3 and Barker.4

By the way, “behavioral syndromes resulting from frontal lobe dysfunction” is just a nice way of saying lobotomy among loved ones and doctors.

Remember that next time you are running down the hallway with a pencil in your hand… or playing around with tamping irons. (Anvils on the other hand. Have a ball.)

‘Mericans Don’t Torture…

No. They murder.

From the AP Wire story that probably got dropped or buried in most American newspapers, (Fox News Version)

A Marine Corps squad leader was convicted Thursday of murdering an Iraqi man during a frustrated search for an insurgent.

Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, 23, also was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, making a false official statement and larceny. He was acquitted of kidnapping, assault and housebreaking.

Hutchins, of Plymouth, Mass., could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. He had been charged with premeditated murder but the military jury struck the premeditation element from the verdict. Sentencing deliberations for Hutchins were set to begin Friday morning.

Hutchins stood rigidly and stared straight ahead in the silent courtroom as the verdict was read. A few minutes later he answered a procedural question with a loud and clear, “Yes, sir.”

His wife, sitting in the public area behind Hutchins, sobbed silently with her head bowed.

A second soldier was also found guilty, not of murder but of larceny and housebreaking. From the same source,

Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, 24, of Manteca, faced up to life in prison. He was also found guilty of larceny and housebreaking, and cleared of making a false official statement.

Magincalda was not accused of firing any shots, but was charged with murder for participating in the plot.

A military psychiatrist testified Magincalda developed post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression as a result of combat.

“He was essentially a broken shell,” Dr. Jennifer Morse said. “This was a young man who was gone, who was clearly haunted by his memories.”

This is the legacy of the Bush administration.

I’m sure the administration will play this down as an isolated incident, a single squad that got out of control.

WHAM. Winning hearts and minds. That was the phrase used in Vietnam. These kinds of things also happened in Vietnam. Even today we know they were also isolated insidents; not indicative of the larger American/Vietnamese interaction but highly indicative of the moral of the American soldiers; the amount of frustration at not being able to win or even play the game.

WHAM. Winning hearts and minds. This was the number three story on Al Jazeera this morning. I doubt the same will be true in America. Somehow, I suspect the Arab world is listening. Is America listening? Whose hearts and minds got just a little more jaded today?

George W. Bush told a presidential scholar clearly and definitely that “Americans don’t torture.” I would argue that might be a debateable point.

But the fact is Mr. Bush; Americans do murder. Sleep well at night?

Please, Just No Film at 11:00

Oh No! Think of the shame if a hard core religious figure gets caught in a sex/drug scandal.

No. I don’t mean Ted Haggard; not even Colorado. Virginia gets the honors.

Fans of gospel music likely know the name Tommy Tester well. He’s a staple at WZAP 690 am in Bristol, Virginia, and has been for almost 25 years, but his recent arrest, has put his station in a tight spot.

Johnson City police arrested Tester Thursday night on charges of indecent exposure and public drunkenness. Police say the preacher was driving drunk when he stopped at a car wash and urinated with children present. Investigators say prior to his arrest, Tester, who was wearing a skirt at the time, made sexual advances to them.

Aren’t they even trying anymore?

(Hat Tip: Wonkette: with Mugshot – boy does he look sheepish)

Keeping Score on Gonzales

For those who have lost their scorecard on the General Giggles case, Laura Rozen, journalism Goddess and War and Piece blogger, has a quick run-down of exactly just what all those Congresspersons, Senators and Department of Justice weasels have been getting on about.

The administration is and has been engaging in a shell game in trying to wriggle out of accountability and Congressional oversight and now accusations of perjury on its warrantless domestic spying programs. Shortly after the activity was first revealed by the NY Times’ James Risen and Eric Lichtblau in late 2005, Alberto Gonzales immediately dubbed the domestic spying program “the Terrorist Surveillance Program.” As in, of course, what American could argue with surveilling the communications of the terrorists, wherever they may be? But when in deciding whether to reauthorize the Patriot Act, Congress asked him whether there had been any internal administration dispute over the activities, Gonzales said no, none. Congress was not asking specifically about the Terrorist Surveillance Program – that was Gonzales’ shell game to call it that and say in hindsight that that was his understanding of the narrow scope of their question. Congress was asking whether anyone in the administration had concerns about the White House bypassing the FISA court in authorizing warrantless domestic spying and indeed, as it turned out, there had been such grave concerns that a dozen of the top Justice Department and FBI officials had been prepared to resign over it. But Gonzales answered there had not been any concerns at all, everyone was so convinced of its legality.

She goes on to explain in clear terms just why Gonzales has either been listening to the little bats in his belfry or just outright lying. Her complete rundown is well worth the read, I don’t think anyone has put it better.

She also compares whole situation to the classic sketch by Abbot and Costello.

So here’s a short dramatization of Congress questioning Mr. Giggles. (Hint: Congress is played by Lou Costello, Bud Abbott plays the completely helpful and truthful Mr Gonzales.)

If Abortion Were Illegal…

what should happen to the women who have abortions?

That question was asked of a number of abortion protesters. They seemed stumped. From the Anna Quindlen column at Newsweek

Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It’s as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: “I’ve never really thought about it.” “I don’t have an answer for that.” “I don’t know.” “Just pray for them.”

You have to hand it to the questioner; he struggles manfully. “Usually when things are illegal there’s a penalty attached,” he explains patiently. But he can’t get a single person to be decisive about the crux of a matter they have been approaching with absolute certainty.

Here’s that “curious little mini-documentary”

Best exchange.

Q: And what should happen to those women who have illegal abortions?

A: [pause]
A: [shrug]
A: Well…
A: I don’t know what should really happen to them. I would hope that they would in time come to see what they’ve done and be sorry for it. But, I think we need to treat them with love.

Q: If abortion is made illegal, should women be sent to jail who have abortions?

A: [pause]
A: [shrug]
A: I’ve never really thought about it.

Q: How long have you been working in this movement?

A: A couple years.

Hmm. Does anyone else see a minor disconnect here?

Of course the video, produced by AtCenterNetwork.com, might have cut out all the really amazingly clever answers outlining the exact penalty structure, but if you watch the video, you notice this is not a major theme in rallies. Only one of protesters actually managed to come up with a minorly coherent answer.

According to Quindlen, George H. W. Bush was asked the question over 20 years ago and came up with the answer, “I still haven’t worked out the penalties”. Quindlen’s full column should be read in full and needs more links, blog time and – um – links. A little love thrown at AtCenterNetwork would be nice too. Help me out here folks.

Perhaps this is something the far right needs to work on. Just a hint guys. You can use the prairie dog video for practicing “the look” but you’ll have to get ghetto blasters for the scare music…

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHjFxJVeCQs]

(Hat Tip: Wonkette)

Why Do The Insurgents Need Iran?

OK. The Iran rhetoric as cooled off for a couple of days but like a case of herpes, I’m sure it will return.

The question is, why is the US government so sure that the Iraqi insurgents even need Iran to support them? The US is doing fine all by itself.

From a new GAO report,

Although the former MNSTC-I commander reported that about 185,000 AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 items of body armor, and 140,000 helmets were issued to Iraqi security forces as of September 2005,18 the MNSTC-I property books contain records for only about 75,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80,000 items of body armor, and 25,000 helmets.19 Thus, DOD [Department of Defense] and MNF-I [Multi-National Forces – Iraq] cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces as of September 22, 2005. [my emphasis]

And then there were all those billions in cash that went – um – missing.

But hey! What’s 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, etc. among friends!? Really.

As David Oliver, the former Director of Management and Budget of the CPA put it. “Billions of dollars of their money disappeared, yes I understand, I’m saying what difference does it make?”

I mean, as the French say. C’est la vie guerre.

(Hat Tip: Noah Schachtmann/Danger Room)

Cheney Doesn’t Like Juries…

And he’s not too hot about the Senate or the American people either.

According to Dan Eggen in the Washington Post yesterday, the VP pointed out that he disagreed with the jury’s verdict of Scooter. One has to wonder if Cheney feels the verdict was wrong because Scooter didn’t lie or because Scooter fell on his sword for Cheney.

Eggen continues with,

Cheney declined to explain his view but said he agreed with Bush’s actions: “I thought the president handled it right,” he said during an interview with CBS Radio. “I supported his decision.”

Which is an interesting internal contradiction. If the verdict was wrong, why shouldn’t the President have completely pardoned Scooter? Or was the decision OK because Scooter really didn’t have to pay the $200,000 dollar fine himself? Please Vice President Cheney. Inquiring voters want to know.

The interview then spun completely out of control with Cheney declaring his undying love for General Giggles or “Al” as “Dick” likes to call him. Less than two sentences later he again attacked Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Republican Senator Arlen Specter (Pa) for saying that Gonzales’s credibility was tarnished. I wonder if the anaesthetic from his heart surgery was still effecting his perception. He didn’t use his typical language for speaking about Leahy.

But hey, General Giggles still has credibility? Really? It’s not like they had any difficulty finding people to defend him on the Faux News. Right? What?! They did have a bit of a problem? What did Chris Wallace have to say this weekend?

By the way, we invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales. We had no takers.

I wonder why Dick didn’t move forward for that venue?

But perhaps the most telling comment in the whole article is how Cheney views the current Capitol Hill “spat.”

“I think the key is whether or not he has the confidence of the president, and he clearly does,”

Again. It doesn’t matter if the DOJ is a motivational morass; it doesn’t matter if no one actually believes a word General Giggles utters; it doesn’t even matter whether he does a good or even mediocre job. The only thing is that he have the confidence of the president (and follows vice presidental orders).

That’s cool. Since we have long known that the president is faith and not fact based, we now have confirmation from the vice president that Gonzales is scum, pandering to the wishes of the president and only a mere puppet in the hands of a stage manager like Cheney. Thank you Mr. Vice President.

CNN’s Reality Problems

Remember the terrorist „dry runs“ that gave CNN wet panties a couple of weeks ago?

Well, it turns out they were “just kidding.” And no. I’m not kidding.

Attytood points out that on Saturday morning, ratings highpoint of the week, T.J. Holmes apparently said,

Also, you should remember all that talk earlier this week about the terrorist dry runs at airports here in the U.S. Well, just kidding. It turns out it was all one big false alarm. We’ll explain…

As Wonkette points out the original story has been – um – left entirely alone because the joke wouldn’t even be funny if they changed it. Right?

After the Paula Zahn’s atheist drive by shooting attack panel, after the Lou Dobbs’ leprosy bullshit, after the attack piece on Sicko (if it was serious journalism, why did they need scare music after some of their “statistics”?) which had little or no real meat.

CNN has gotten in the habit of making mistakes followed up by non apology apologies. Just like Fox but with nicer people and better sets.

That’t two cable “news” shows that have moved into infotainment; MSNBC does a similar job, just in a different direction; the WSJ is being sold to Rupert Murdoch and GENERAL GIGGLES still hasn’t resigned.

Is there any reason not to believe that world isn’t coming to an end? Seriously?

Don’t Try This at Home

According to AP reporter Paul Davenport, police responded to an out of control exorcism in Phoenix. It didn’t go well.

Officers responding to a report of an exorcism on a young girl found her grandfather choking her and used stun guns to subdue the man, who later died, authorities said Sunday.
The 3-year-old girl and her mother, who was also in the room during the struggle between 49-year-old Ronald Marquez and officers, were hospitalized, police said. Their condition was unavailable.

The relative who called police said an exorcism had also been attempted Thursday.

“The purpose was to release demons from this very young child,” said Sgt. Joel Tranter.

Now there are a couple of things to think about here.

I’d start by asking what rituals were being used here? Obviously we need more information to be able to avoid this doctrine. I mean, it obviously can’t be a Catholic exorcism because the child was the granddaughter of the exorcist. So, we need much more information here.

But while we’re at this. Let’s take a look at some of the possible ramifications.

Has anyone considered the idea that the exorcism was a partial success? The child was saved and the demons hopped over to the grandfather, who, unable to defend himself, died?

His death obviously can’t be brought in connection with the stun guns. I mean those folks have been telling people for years just how safe stun guns are. Wouldn’t to see want all that PR money get wasted, just because one little exorcism went awry.

But more seriously, just like skeptics always say: <b>these kinds of beliefs</b> (not to mention non lethal weapons) <b>do cause harm</b>. Sometimes the harm is immediate and causes national headlines. Sometimes the harm is low level, causing economic turmoil and unhappiness in an individual family. But these things do cause harm – every day.

When we have a president in the White House who isn’t fact but faith based; when we have an Attorney General whose only connection with reality is the point where his butt meets the witness chair; when we have newspapers, radio and television stations increasingly hammering on the idea that there are always two sides to any story and there is no objective reality; is there any question that this will happen?

I don’t really know what’s worse. The fact that the grandfather died. Or the thought of that young girl growing up in that environment.

But I do know one thing. Don’t try exorcism at home (or anywhere else) !

Enabling a Third Term

Bush’s Third Term?I’ve been giving some thought as to just exactly how the White House plans to achieve a third term for Bush. Never mind that it might be illegal or that Bush’s poll numbers are abysmal. None of that has stopped them before, they’ll just change or distort the law and the facts. If you think I’m absolutely insane, I encourage you to think back to the stunt the White House pulled last summer.

Remember Rockey Vaccarella, the guy who drove from Louisiana to Washington with a “FEMA” trailer? The guy who just wanted to talk to Bush about what “a heck of a job” he was doing rebuilding the Gulf Coast? The guy who “just happened” to make enough of a media splash to be able to meet the president? You remember that this “normal guy” just managed to mention that Bush should get four more years. (And it’s not like he misspoke and took back the comment later. )

Ever since that happened, despite what Faux News and spokeshottie Dana Perino said at the time, I’ve been wondering how the administration is planning to achieve exactly that, a third term.

(By the way liberal media. Wouldn’t it make a great story to hunt that clown down this year?)

Sure. A third term would have been easier with a Republican controlled House and Senate and I suspect back in August 2006 the administration fully expected to achieve that. Then again, remember back when Ron Suskind profiled the White House, reality and faith? Remember the words of the “senior administration aide?”

The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

“We create our own reality. And … we’ll act again, creating other new realities” That phase has stayed in my head as well.

Now, perhaps I’m paranoid, perhaps I’ve been watching too many horror movies, but a couple of things have wondered across my radar in the past couple of weeks that I’d like to juxtapose.

The first is the rather unsettling Executive Order the Bush Administration quietly published on July 17th. The order entitled “Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq” The order that allows the government to seize the property of people who, as it says in part

Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,

(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or

(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people; [my emphasis]

This order, had it been issued as a Papal Bull say 500 years ago, reads to me like nothing more than an act of excommunication. A method of destroying and outlawing opponents without immediate recourse to the courts. Indeed, if one seizes all of someone’s assets, it get’s really difficult to hire lawyers to defend yourself.

It is clear this passed muster in Gonzales’ Department of Justice, but they aren’t the people mentioned as executors, it is the Secretary of the Treasury with the Sec State and the Secretary of Defense.

That might be why Senator Clinton got rather upset when she got mail from the Pentagon in response to requests about possible plans for the withdrawal of American troops. The response came from Under Secretary of Defense, Eric Edelman. It read in part

Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia.

The letter was dated July 16, 2007.

That is how Bush achieves a third term. He can claim the “Democrat party” is undermining the Iraqi government, seize their assets and declare a national emergency. There can be no election because none of the candidates have funds.

Fortunately, the real SecDef, Gates sent a follow-up letter this week to smooth ruffled feathers.

But you sometimes just have to wonder about the timing. Synchronicity? Fate? Planning? Prayer circles? The similiar language comming from the White House and the Under SecDef in the same week has to make you think of “created reality.” Doesn’t it?

How do you think they will manage the third term?

Who do you trust?

If you don’t trust the government, do you trust the insurance companies more?

From today’s LA Times,

State fines Kaiser again
The HMO’s second such penalty in a year targets its handling of patient complaints at nine hospitals.

Kaiser Permanente will be assessed a record fine today for its haphazard investigations of questionable care, physician performance and patient complaints at its California hospitals, according to state HMO regulators.

The California Department of Managed Health Care said it will levy a $3-million fine against Kaiser, the largest HMO in the state, with 29 medical centers and more than 6 million members. If Kaiser makes necessary improvements, agency director Cindy Ehnes said, she will forgive $1 million of that.

The penalty marks the second time in a year that Kaiser has been publicly rebuked and fined for glaring breakdowns in oversight.

The state’s latest inquiry grew out of its investigation into problems that forced the closure last year of Kaiser’s kidney transplant program in San Francisco. Hundreds of patients were endangered when Kaiser forced them to transfer to its own fledgling program from established transplant centers at outside hospitals.

Last August, the state fined Kaiser $2 million for the transplant debacle, and the HMO agreed to pay an additional $3 million to promote organ donation.

Do you send letters and expect them to arrive? Do social security checks get delivered every month – usually on the same day? Do you expect streets to be cleaned? Garbage to be picked up? Aren’t the mistakes the government makes so glaring because they are so rare? Government works every day.

But the effects are so common place, many choose to ignore them.

Mr Giggles Gets Nailed

I’m sorry. Let no one ask why I call him Mr Giggles! (about minute 3:10)

From an atheist. Senator Schumer. God bless you!

No Sleeping Says Prince Charming

“The monster”

Ah. Thank goodness!

After a couple of weeks where the Bush administration had things come out on a Wednesday or a Thursday, I was starting to think they had lost their touch. Maybe they found out I cared.

In an executive order issued Friday, Bush again reiterated the US stance on torture,

Bush’s order requires that CIA detainees “receive the basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.”

A senior intelligence official would not comment directly when asked if waterboarding would be allowed under the new order and under related _ but classified _ legal documents drafted by the Justice Department.

However, the official said, “It would be wrong to assume the program of the past transfers to the future.”

A second senior administration official acknowledged sleep is not among the basic necessities outlined in the order.

Remember. This executive order comes out about three weeks after Mr. Bush assured high Presidential Scholars that “America doesn’t torture people.” From the Boston Globe,

Before the scholars posed for a photo with Bush on Monday, she handed him the letter. He put it in his pocket and took it out after the photo shoot. Reading silently to himself, the president looked up quizzically at Oye and said, according to her, “We agree. America doesn’t torture people.”

The scholor who handed the letter to Bush, signed by approximately a third of the students honored, was the daughter of a former detainee; her mother is of Japanese decent, her family interned during the Second World War. One can understand why she cares. (Bush’s grandfather, Prescott, helped fund Hitler which might show why he cares.)

But hey: Let’s give Bush credit. – America doesn’t torture. Um – Right? Let’s see how America used to defined torture. This from an article also in the Washington Post, this time from March 2005

The State Department’s annual human rights report released yesterday criticized countries for a range of interrogation practices it labeled as torture, including sleep deprivation for detainees, confining prisoners in contorted positions, stripping and blindfolding them and threatening them with dogs — methods similar to those approved at times by the Bush administration for use on detainees in U.S. custody.

Look again at the reported language in the new executive order. None of those things are excluded. They just stopped being torture. Because torture is everything the Bush administration decides it won’t do.

According to the definitions in the 2004 State department report – sleep deprivation was still considered “torture”. Under the entry for Saudi Arabia,

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Criminal Procedure section of the Basic law prohibits torture and Shari’a (Islamic law) prohibits any judge from accepting a confession obtained under duress; however, authorities reportedly at times abused detainees, both citizens and foreigners. Ministry of Interior officials were responsible for most incidents of abuse of prisoners, including beatings, whippings, and sleep deprivation. In addition, there were allegations of beatings with sticks and suspension from bars by handcuffs. There were allegations that these practices were used to force confessions from prisoners.

I guess in the last three years, that paragraph wouldn’t be allowed any more.

Once again Prince Charming has decided to spin a fairy tale where sleep is optional and reality is whatever he choses to release to the public. Just don’t let him near Sleeping Beauty – she’ll be looking like a hag in no time.

But at least I can go back to sleeping well. Bush & Co. stayed true to form by releasing the executive order on a Friday afternoon. They aren’t slowing down any; They just have too much democracy to destroy, so little time for destroying

Voting in a Muslim Country.

Va Va Va Voom

All I can say is va, va, va, voom… and that from Al Jazeera. (Sorry, sexist I know, but every now an then I have to get a dig in.)

From the Reuters coverage (without a hottie for a draw)

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Millions of Turks flocked to vote on Sunday in a parliamentary election seen as crucial to the future direction of this large Muslim but secular democracy straddling Europe and the Middle East.

Opinion polls show the ruling pro-business, Islamist-rooted AK Party government winning a fresh five-year mandate but strong gains by nationalist and secularist opposition parties could slash its majority and result in slower reforms.

“Now the people will speak,” Sunday’s Milliyet daily said.

Newspapers splashed pictures across their front pages of empty beaches at Turkey’s coastal resorts after many people postponed or cut short holidays in order to go home to vote.

Note: The secularist opposition are doing better. That should make those who claim all muslims are evil think twice. No wait. They don’t think once so they will likely just ignore the results.

Just a Little Blue (Updated)

As part of my continuing documentation of the girl teen band – hate group. Prussian Blue, I found out they were the subject of a new documentary, Nazi Pop Twins.

Apparently, the British television network Channel 4 aired the documentary about Lamb and Lynx last night. I figured this out because once again my Prussian Blue posts got a national boost following by the amazing number of visitors from England (Hi guys!).

This one was even less flattering than the documentary by Louis Theroux, Louis and the Nazis.

You can read the original press release here and from there view clips of the show. They are worth the couple of minutes. Apparently Lamb and Lynx are starting to grow up and ask – um – unfortunate questions.

A critique of the show was posted the next day on the Telegraph web site,

My heart sank slightly during the opening minutes of Nazi Pop Twins (Channel 4), a documentary about the American “white pride” pop duo Prussian Blue. Was it to be another trip stateside to seek out a weirdo or two and add to the oxygen of publicity, to use Margaret Thatcher’s term, they probably didn’t deserve? At 14, twin sisters Lamb and Lynx Gaede have generated hundreds of column inches with Prussian Blue’s white nationalistic music. Since their singing voices are rubbish, it’s the neo-Nazi connection that’s got them noticed and the less said about that the better, unless it’s to grind it firmly into the ground. Thankfully, film-maker James Quinn didn’t disappoint on that score.

Behind every teenage performing phenomenon there’s a pushy parent and here it took the form of “white nationalist” April Gaede, the twins’ mother and manager, who described Prussian Blue T-shirts featuring an image of Hitler as “funny”, and actively promoted a telephone/pen-pal relationship between her daughters and a sick-minded white supremacist serving a 19-year term in a maximum security jail. She and the girls lived on a ranch in California with her equally vile father Bill, whose sweeping denunciations of black Americans and Mexicans were so revolting as to not be repeatable here. He branded his cattle with swastikas and wondered whether people in Britain wished that Germany had won the Second World War. It was not a surprise that he loved guns; to call him difficult to like would be an understatement. “This goddam Nazi shit has ruined my life,” said his wife Diane. “I don’t have a single friend because he’s so hateful.”

It’s a credit to Quinn that he managed to retain the family’s co-operation with filming for as long as he did. His mission was to show how April was using her malleable twin daughters as a mouthpiece for her own extremist views, and to an extent he succeeded. As Holocaust deniers they sounded uncertain about the story they’d been fed by their elders, and they admitted privately that the “politics” surrounding their music had been draining. Because “a lot of people think we’re a bunch of psychos”, they felt, understandably, like taking a break. April is taking no chances with her three-year-old daughter – named Dresden – whose ABC lessons start with A is for Aryan.

Even more interesting is the fact that April’s mother apparently goes on a major tear, hammering Bill Gaede for his White Supremacist ways. A clip can be seen on the Channel 4 page above. The quotes are amazing,

It’s all because of this God Damned Nazi shit. That It’s just fuckin’ ruined my life. I’m gonna let it all hang out boy. […] Even though we’ve lived here 30 years, I don’t have a single friend. You know why? I don’t have a single friend because he’s so hateful.

The girls themselves seem less “brainwashed” if questioned alone.

John Quinn: So what is the family’s image, what would you say the Prussian Blue’s image is?

Lamb or Lynx, I don’t know which is which): I think that most people think we’re a bunch of pschycos to tell you the truth.

JQ: Do you ever think of winding it down with the band?

L: [nods]

JQ: Really?

LoL: Yeah, we just kind of want to take a break for a little while. You know, I’ll aways be doing this for the rest of our lives; I’ll always play my guitar, I’ll aways write songs. I just.. We’re not going to be doing this our whole lives. We’re not gonna… We have other dreams and other goals than this.

If you are lucky enough to live in England, you can watch the whole thing online. (If you do, leave a comment and let me know what you think.)

While researching this, I also found out that Lamb and Lynx were the inspiration for an off, off Broadway musical last year. James Quinn, the producer of the documentary also spent time filming the production.White Noise. It was featured on Good Morning America and got a write up in Playbill

White Noise is billed as “A Cautionary Musical,” and is described by the authors this way: “Confirming the old adage that it’s better to be a star than wear one, an adorable pair of sisters, Blanche and Eva, lead the teen band White Noise, mixing irresistible harmonies with white power rhetoric and taking the nation by storm. Their message of racial purity resonates with young people across America and the rise of White Noise coincides with a rise in the white supremacist movement which threatens to engulf the country, as Blanche and Eva prove themselves to be masters of the most terrifying and unstoppable form of Fascism in today’s culture: Top Forty pop.”

I don’t think any of this will stop Prussian Blue from coming to Europe this summer and I am still trying to find out whether they have any venues planned for Germany, I will keep you up to date if I find anything out.

Please leave a comment if you saw the documentary. I’d really like to hear some opinions.

Update:

I found a blog completely decribing the show. It does seem like April, the mother, is losing her grip in the children. (No  wonder, she lost her grip on reality years ago.) But the writer of the blog entry makes another very telling point,

What scared me, ultimately, was not the radical anti-Prussian Blue response, which is positive, but the way it manifested itself, which is just as scary as the fascist claptrap these reluctant, confused girls are now regretting peddling on behalf of their damaged mother. A young, white man says “they ought to have their asses kicked; someone should kill them” without a trace of irony. The anti-hate campaigning that follows them across America is hardly surprising, but it’s none too cleverly handled. Directing violence at those who encourage hate in a tit-for-tat attempt at revenge is pretty bloody stupid. April Gaede clearly loves nothing more than being a martyr, claiming that every death threat and protest is a “gold medal” because she’s obviously “doing something right”. We need to fight hatred and intimidation with education and contempt, not with death threats and martyrdom.

What a depressing world. *sigh*

F**k Yourself Isn’t Just For The Senate Floor

Remember Dick Cheney’s perfect personality mirror but minor verbal misstep when he told Patrick Leahy to “go f**k yourself” on the floor of the U.S. Senate? It seems the White House is going to make it an official policy.

All the other news outlets are pointing out that yesterday the House Judiciary Committee ruled that excecutive privilege cannot be used to protect documents in the district attorney firings. Many feel this would be a first step towards filing contempt charges against current Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten for refusing to give congress the information it requested. (That would be in addition to former White House Council Harriet “no-show” Miers for those not keeping score.)

The Washington Post has headlined with the story (from an unnamed source) that the Department of Justice will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges base on executive privilege. Ever.

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals. Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, “whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.”

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.

This is the political version of taunting “bring it on” to a professional wrestler.

I suspect this will leave people like William Kristol jump for joy and constitutional and political scholars sputter. I have no doubt that Gonzales won’t mind. It means even less for him to do or have to deny.

As news outlets have been pointing out since the Senate chose to being pursuing Miers, there are two different paths which congress can follow. Since 1934, congress has usually used the civil contempt option requiring the Senate to defer to the Justice department for prosecution of the case. Criminal contempt proceedings, popular in the 1800’s have fallen out of style but remain solely in the legislative realm. The Senate’s Sergeant at Arms has long had the legal power to arrest people, like journalists or presidents, but hasn’t needed chosen to use that power much lately.

There are the logistical difficulties. Even though the office of the Sergeant at Arms is the largest in both size and budget, the Senate has neither the personal nor space to confine anyone. I suspect that is the loophole the White House is betting on. Further, whether the Democrats can muster enough support to actually arrest either Meirs or Bolten is doubtful. Does anyone know what the rules are there?

No matter whether you are on the side of the President,

David B. Rifkin, who worked in the Justice Department and White House counsel’s office under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, praised the position and said it is consistent with the idea of a “unitary executive.” In practical terms, he said, “U.S. attorneys are emanations of a president’s will.” And in constitutional terms, he said, “the president has decided, by virtue of invoking executive privilege, that is the correct policy for the entire executive branch.”

Or you side with more “traditional” legal scholars

But Stanley Brand, who was the Democratic House counsel during the Burford case, said the administration’s legal view “turns the constitutional enforcement process on its head. They are saying they will always place a claim of presidential privilege without any judicial determination above a congressional demand for evidence — without any basis in law.” Brand said the position is essentially telling Congress: “Because we control the enforcement process, we are going to thumb our nose at you.”

Rozell, the George Mason professor and authority on executive privilege, said the administration’s stance “is almost Nixonian in its scope and breadth of interpreting its power. Congress has no recourse at all, in the president’s view. . . . It’s allowing the executive to define the scope and limits of its own powers.”

his issue will now define the Bush presidency almost as much as the Iraq war. Setting up these kinds of sideshows also saps the political strength of the Democratic opposition. No matter how weak the attack, even the strongest elephant donkey can be overcome by billions of rat attacks.

This is will be an official “go fuck yourself” to the House and Senate. Will they put up with it?

Evolution is not just a theory!

Evolution is not just a theory.

Pass the word! Digg it! Memorize the arguments!

That is all.

(Hat tip: Phil Plait/Bad Astronomy)