Tuesday, December 20, 2005

 

File under "Duh"

Subfile under "Obvious, Restating the", along with "East, Sun rises in"; "West, Sun sets in"; "Sun, Earth revolves around"; and Monsieur Jourdain, a character in Moliere's The Bourgeois Gentleman, who discovers that he has been speaking prose all his life and didn't even know it.
Judge rules against ‘intelligent design’
'Religious alternative' to evolution cannot be taught in public school classes


HARRISBURG, Pa. - In one of the biggest courtroom clashes between faith and evolution since the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, a federal judge barred a Pennsylvania public school district Tuesday from teaching “intelligent design” in biology class, saying the concept is creationism in disguise.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones delivered a stinging attack on the Dover Area School Board, saying its first-in-the-nation decision in October 2004 to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

The ruling was a major setback to the intelligent design movement, which is also waging battles in Georgia and Kansas. Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex that they must have been created by some kind of higher force.

Jones decried the “breathtaking inanity” of the Dover policy and accused several board members of lying to conceal their true motive, which he said was to promote religion.

A six-week trial over the issue yielded “overwhelming evidence” establishing that intelligent design “is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory,” said Jones, a Republican and a churchgoer appointed to the federal bench three years ago.

The school system said it will probably not appeal the ruling, because the members who backed intelligent design were ousted in November’s elections and replaced with a new slate opposed to the policy.
"Breathtaking inanity" - I like that. That's the new label for the "ID" crowd.

Monday, December 19, 2005

 

Time for a new Marbury vs Madison

We need someone to litigate Bush's claim that he can basically do anything he wants. We need someone to take this to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible.

Of course, I realize that with the Court packed with right-wingers, there is the danger that they will endorse Bush's power-grab. But since that grab effectively vitiates the Supreme Court (along with Congress) as equal branches of government, perhaps they will turn on their master and declare what the Republic has believed for 218 years - that in this country, the Constitution rules and everybody has to obey it - even Boy Kings.

Imagine the message an 8-0 ruling would send (we need to expedite this without waiting for Alito to be confirmed). Imagine the country's outrage if Bush vowed to disobey a unanimous Court ruling. Imagine the fury if he promised to follow it but then just went ahead as he always does and did whatever damn thing he wanted.

It's time the Court reasserted itself and its primacy as the balancer between Legislature and Executive. It's time Bush was reminded that he is merely an elected official. It's time for us to be America again.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

 

AIEEEEEEEEE!!!

I was just watching Washington-Dallas on God's Own Network (aka FOX), and what do I see? A scoreboard card that wished me - brace yourselves, you're not going to believe this - "Happy Holidays"!

No lie! Rupert Murdoch must be spinning in his grave.

Obviously those pesky secular Christmas-haters have hijacked FOX's graphics department and substituted their filthy "Happy Holidays" for the decent, moral, Christian, American "Merry Christmas" that FOX no doubt had originally created and quite properly and decently intended to be displayed. I'm sure as soon as George W. Bush hears about this, he will take immediate steps to correct this horrible outrage and send the perpetrators to be tortured in Egypt like they deserve.

But it's too late for me. The instant my eyes beheld that foul, false, flimsy message - I've gone blind! My vision is impaired! I cannot see! Oh the humanity! They've gone too far this time, those rotten evil secularizers and their hatred for the Little Baby Jesus and George W. Bush His Only Prophet and Ordained Imperial Most Christian Majesty on Earth. They have to be stopped before another innocent beholds their evil attempt at the kind of ecumenicism that you'd think would be de rigeur in a vastly multiethnic, multicultural, democratic society. And suffers my cruel fate.

It's too late for me. But it's not too late for you. If you're reading this, then you have escaped the secularizationizers' deceit and sorcery. Warn the nation! Warn the world! Warn FOX that its graphics department is in the hands of cosmopolitan, internationalist, secularisticators who will stop at nothing to destroy the the Little Baby Jesus and George W. Bush His Only Prophet and Ordained Imperial Most Christian Majesty on Earth.

Don't let this happen to you and your loved ones! I can't get back my sight, but you can salvage yours. Forewarned is forearmed. Destroy your TV set so you won't be exposed to any risk of the filthy, false, flimsy prophecy of moral relativism. (Then you can go out to Best Buy and charge that big-screen set you've always wanted. It's okay. God has seen into your heart and wants you to go ever deeper into debt to save our American Way of Life and Shopping.)

Guard your vision! Don't suffer my cruel fate! Don't let the evil secularators take away your God-given right to hear only "Merry Christmas" from the $8.64/hour help at Walmart! Don't let them force their moral relativism down your pure, innocent, decent, David Brooks-approved heartland values! It's your only hope! To arms! To arms! Man the gates! Flood the moat! Raise the drawbridge! Speak in tongues! Don't let the rootless cosmopolitan internationalist Bilderburgers complete their fell task! Save yourselves and our beloved God Bless America! Now is the time! This is the place! Climb every mountain! Ford every stream! Buy American! USA! USA! We're Number 1! We're Number 1! Oh beautiful for spacious skies! I enjoy being a girl! O come all ye faithful! God rest ye merry gentlemen! Good King Wenceslas! God bless us, each and every one! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Merry -

Wait.

I'm Jewish.



Never mind.





(Any resemblance between this gentle homily and a Fafblog! post is purely intentional on my part. How'd I do?)
 

Don't count on Bush being forced to answer for his crimes

Even among his many critics, there seems to be little sense that what Bush said yesterday supposedly in defense of his illegal wiretapping raises more questions than it answers.
In Address, Bush Says He Ordered Domestic Spying
:::snip:::
In his statement on Saturday, Mr. Bush did not address the main question directed at him by some members of Congress on Friday: why he felt it necessary to circumvent the system established under current law, which allows the president to seek emergency warrants, in secret, from the court that oversees intelligence operations. His critics said that under that law, the administration could have obtained the same information.
I guarantee you, Bush will never be forced to answer this question. Even Republicans in Congress who feel uneasy about his outrageous lawbreaking will nevertheless close ranks around the leader of their party (and his pet president).

On the other hand, if Bush ever is forced to respond on this issue – if his Republican subjects turn on their monarch and commit the ultimate lese majeste, it will be a sign of hope for our country. But don’t bet the Constitution on this ever happening.
The president said on Saturday that he acted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks because the United States had failed to detect communications that might have tipped them off to the plot. He said that two of the hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, "communicated while they were in the United States to other members of Al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late."
In response, I have 7 words: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” If stopping terrorists is so important that it merits Bush seizing absolute power, then why couldn’t he be bothered to read a brief goddamned memo?

Don’t expect anyone to press him for an answer on this either. Wouldn’t want to get him angry.
 

The "War on Christmas" crybabies go completely mental

Whine whine whine. (The "war on Christmas" crybabies, I mean, not the Jews.)
US Jews Feel Threatened by Religious Right
:::snip:::
Mathew (cq) Staver, general counsel of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, a group which backs conservative Christian causes in court and which has been particularly active in Christmas-related issues, says "there is absolutely no effort that I'm aware of to theocratize America or put down other faiths to expand Christianity."

He credits the increased activity surrounding Christmas issues this year to three years of building an organization over the matter.

"People have said enough is enough," he said, citing such incidents as naming Boston's Christmas tree a "holiday tree" and the publication of a sales catalog by a major retailer which featured Kwanza and Hanukkah gifts but made no mention of Christmas.
Wow. Compared to that horror, Auschwitz is nothing more than...Auschwitz.
President George W. Bush, who describes himself as a born-again Christian, also faced criticism recently for sending out cards wishing people a happy "holiday" season.

"This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture," William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights told the Washington Post.
Poor little Bush. Utterly helpless against the mighty Jews, who constitute an overwhelming and unstoppable 2% of the population.

Once again, Bush's supporters and enablers show themselves completely incapable of blaming him directly for anything - no matter what he does, if they like it, he gets the credit, and if they don't like it - they twist themselves into Moebius strips to blame someone else. No wonder he thinks he's infallible - his supporters keep telling him that he is. It's an intoxicating drug to Bush, and people like Donohue are the pushers.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

 

This is rich, even for Bush

Talk about biting the hand that fed you!
Bush attacks paper for jeopardizing national security

In acknowledging the message was true, President Bush took aim at the messenger Saturday, saying that The New York Times jeopardized national security by revealing that he authorized wiretaps on U.S. citizens after September 11. The president said he allowed the NSA "to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda." Publishing details of the program "damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk," Bush said.
Bush is angry at the New York Times - which, if it were still the courageous newspaper of the 1970s - when it published the Pentagon Papers despite Nixon's arguments that doing so would jeopardize national security - sound familiar? - would have published this story when it first got it over a year ago, possibly dooming Bush's re-election. Bush owes his second term to the Times's cowardice. Now that they finally got at least some of their guts back, is he in the least bit thankful for their unwarranted year-long forbearance? Of course not. Spoiled brats are never grateful, since they take their privilege for granted. They earned it, dammit.

Friday, December 16, 2005

 

Friday Blog Blogging: All I want for Chrismukwanzakah is to be able to write as well as TBogg

That's not too much to ask, is it?
More casualties of the cultural war.

Now we don't expect that Brokeback will come anywhere near Narnia bucks (particularly since there has been little interest by Burger King or McDonalds with regard to including Jack and Ennis action-figures with every kids meal) but it's still pretty early in the game.
I'll be expecting some TBogg juice in my Chanukah stocking, thank you very much Harry Hanukkah.
 

Let my people...not be like everyone else. Please

I know Heinrich Heine wrote, “The Jews are like those among whom they live – only more so.” But do we have to keep proving him right?
A Happy Hipster Hanukkah

"HELLOOOOOOOO Jews!" the M.C. shouted to the 1,000 or so people sipping drinks and jostling elbows in the hazy purple light of Crobar, the Chelsea club, on Sunday evening. Disco balls twinkled. Electric menorahs glowed. In the candlelighted V.I.P. area, people bit into chocolate Hanukkah gelt. From a stage on the dance floor Rachel Dratch of "Saturday Night Live" bemoaned being Jewish at Christmastime, and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the foul-mouthed puppet, belted out a joyous rendition of "Shalom Aleichem." It was not long before people were waving their arms above their heads and lobbing inflatable dreidels through the air like beach balls.

There was a name for this merriment: "A Jewcy Chanukah," a freewheeling celebration of the holiday produced by Jewcy, a group that brings together young Jews through celebrity-filled events. (Proceeds from Sunday night went to Natan, a philanthropic organization that supports projects that engage young Jews in their religion and heritage.) At the end of the evening, which included performances by the rocker Perry Farrell and the cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," Jon Steingart, a founder of Jewcy, peered down at the packed dance floor. "This," he said, "bodes very well."

"A Jewcy Chanukah" is but one of many kitschy celebrations that in the past few years have made comedy as much a part of Hanukkah as latkes and sour cream. The irreverent and sometimes R-rated Hanukkah productions, popping up during what many people have called a Jewish hipster moment, are largely a reaction to what many Jews say is an overwhelming amount of Christmas hoopla. Their humor-laden productions attract thousands of young Jews (some of whom have never gravitated toward their own culture before) and, perhaps inadvertently, raise the question of what it means to be Jewish.

:::snip:::

Over the last three years more and more young Jews have been flaunting their heritage, donning T-shirts that proclaim their Semitic roots, listening to the Hasidic reggae singer Matisyahu and climbing onto the celebrity-driven kabbalah bandwagon. And though many occupy the same Lower East Side walk-ups that their grandparents once did, they are not interested in quietly assimilating. They identify more with the cultural trappings of Judaism - the music, the cuisine, the humor - than with the teachings of the Torah.

"We ourselves are less observant Jews, but we are still very culturally Jewish," Mr. Steingart of Jewcy said. The comedian Rebecca Drysdale is of like mind. "My connection with being Jewish is not a religious one," she said. "It's cultural."

Mr. Neuman explained: "There's this emerging sense of new Jewish culture that is self-consciously postdenominational and largely devoid of religious context."
But would it be too much to ask that they also identify with the prophetic Jewish tradition, the one that equates “charity” with “justice” and demands “Justice, justice you shall pursue”? There’s nothing wrong with fun, but there’s a lot more to being Jewish than just going to a hot Chanukah party or pretending to know something about kabala. Hillel wrote, 2000 years ago, “If I am not for myself, who shall be for me. But if I am only for myself, then who am I?”

Our ancestors spent those 2000 years suffering and dying and persevering so that we could still be Jews today. I myself am only mildly religious, but I make up for my lack of that kind of fervor with a passionate devotion to social justice. To me, that’s as Jewish as davening 3 times a day, and certainly more so than thinking that it’s enough to eat latkes one week a year. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Well, actually, there is – I want to eat latkes 52 weeks a year.)

Don’t want to go to shul? Fine. But why not volunteer at American Jewish World Service or donate to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. You can feel Jewish and at the same time actually be Jewish. What’s not to like?
 

In other words, we never tortured and we'll never do it again

We're going to restore this country's image no matter what George W. Bush thinks!
President Backs McCain Measure on Inmate Abuse

Under intense bipartisan Congressional pressure, President Bush reversed course on Thursday and reluctantly backed Senator John McCain's call for a law banning cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners in American custody.

A day after the House overwhelmingly endorsed Mr. McCain's measure, the White House took a deal that the senator had been offering for weeks as way to end the legislative impasse, essentially giving intelligence operatives the same legal defense afforded military interrogators who are accused of violating the regulations.

For Mr. Bush, it was a stinging defeat, considering that his party controls both houses of Congress and both chambers had defied his threatened veto to support Mr. McCain's measure resoundingly. It was a particularly significant setback for Vice President Dick Cheney, who since July has led the administration's fight to defeat the amendment or at least exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from its provisions.

Mr. McCain's measure would establish the Army Field Manual as the uniform standard for the interrogation of prisoners and ban the kind of abusive treatment of prisoners that was revealed in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.

"We've sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists," Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, said as he sat next to Mr. Bush in the Oval Office. "What we are is a nation that upholds values and standards of behavior and treatment of all people no matter how evil or bad they are."

Mr. Bush sought to make the best of an awkward political situation by inviting Mr. McCain, his longtime political rival and the nation's most famous former prisoner of war, to the White House to thank him for a measure that the president had opposed for months as Congressional meddling.

On Thursday Mr. Bush said it was important legislation "to achieve a common objective: that is to make it clear to the world that this government does not torture."
So why did you oppose it so strongly for so long?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

 

Good source of information on the Cory Maye case

The Agitator
In case you haven't been following the case, Cory Maye is the Mississippi man on death row for shooting a police officer who was part of a group of cops who broke into his house at night mistakenly searching for a drug dealer living in the other half of the house. He was convicted of second degree murder.
The Maye Case So Far (Note to Bloggers: Here's the Latest, Most Accurate Summary Post)

As I mentioned before, I've been posting on the fly with this story, while trying to correct and clarify along the way. While blogland has been almost universally supportive of Maye, a few blogs and comments on blogs have noted that inaccuracies are being perpetuated. This is in part my fault, and in part due to the fact that the blogosphere sometimes functions like an enormous game of "telephone." As for the part that's my fault: My firsts posts on the Maye case were summaries, in which I collected information from media reports (which I've noted were sometimes contradictory) and from my conversations with Maye's first attorney, who hadn't been on the case in nearly two years. I don't regret putting up those posts, inaccuracies and all, because they're what put this case into public discussion. Only after those posts went up, and particularly after some PR help from Glenn Reynolds, for example, did folks in Mississippi start returning my calls.

But I don't want this to be a case of blogs running amok with foggy details. I think Maye ought to be exonerated on the facts. So before I go on with new information, I'd like to put up a post that aims to keep everyone on the same page.

Let's start with misconceptions, inaccuracies, and clarifications.

# The narcotics task force did have a warrant for Cory Maye's apartment. I first reported that police assumed the entire duplex to be one residence. That wasn't accurate. However, Cory Maye isn't listed anywhere on the warrants by name. Only his residence is listed, and Maye is refered to as "person(s) uknown."

# Maye was not convicted by an all white jury. Two black women sat on the jury that convicted him. The remainder of the jury was white.

# The question of whether or not this was a "no-knock" raid is tricky. The warrant itself didn't specifically allow for a no-knock entry. But courts have generally found that police can, at the scene, decide to conduct a no-knock in spite of the warrant if (a) they believe the suspect may destroy important evidence, and/or (b) if they believe announcing themselves would endanger their own safety. There's also the matter that this raid was conducted late at night. An announcement when the suspect is likely to be asleep, and unable to hear, isn't much different than not announcing at all. The police who conducted the raid insist they knocked and announced themselves. Maye maintains that they didn't. I've suggested that the bulk of the evidence in this case favors Maye's account of the raid.

Let's move on to the facts.

Facts Not in Dispute

# A local narcotics task force conducted a drug raid on the Prentiss, Mississippi duplex apartments of Jamie Smith and Cory Maye on December 26, 2001.

# Smith was arrested without incident. Significant quantities of marijuana were found in his home. Both Maye's current and former attorneys say Smith was never charged for drug possession or distribution. District Attorney McDonald says he doesn't remember Smith being charged or convicted. Maye was never charged with a drug crime. So the only criminal charge of any kind to come out of this raid was the murder charge against Maye.

# Police executed the warrant on Maye's home sometime after 11pm. They first attempted to enter through his front door, then went around to the back. Maye was in his bedroom with his 18-month old daughter when the door was forced open by a cop other than Officer Jones. Officer Ron Jones was the first one to enter Maye's apartment. Maye fired three times. One bullet struck Jones, and killed him.

# Jones was not a regular member of the narcotics task force. He was a K9 officer for the Prentiss police department.

# At the time of his death, Jones was the son of the Prentiss, Mississippi police chief. Chief Jones is now retired.

# Maye is black. Jones was white.

# Jones was armed when he entered Maye's apartment, but his gun was holstered.

# Maye fired three times in rapid succession. After the third shot, the remaining members of the task force shouted "police!" and entered the apartment. At this point, Maye dropped his gun, put up his hands, and surrendered.

# Maye had no criminal history, no history of violence, and no prior drug arrests -- not even misdemeanors.

# The search warrants and affidavits list Jamie Wilson by name, and refer to him as a "known drug dealer." There was also a warrant for a search of Maye's home, but it didn't list Maye by name. None of the affidavits or warrants mention Maye by name.

# The only direct evidence in favor of a search warrant against Maye seems to be a confidential informant's tip to the investigating officer that a "large amount" of marijuana was being stored in Maye's apartment 24 hours before the raid. The officer also says he saw considerable traffic coming to and from the duplex at unusual hours.

# Immediately after the raid, police first said they found no drugs in Maye's apartment. Days later, they say they found a small bag of "allegedly marijuana," and three pieces of a burnt cigar, also containing "allegedly marijuana."

# Officer Ron Jones, the one who was killed, was also the sole officer who conducted the investigation that led to the raids.

# Because of this, we'll never know the details of his investigation. Nor will we learn the identity of his confidential informant. Jones apparently kept no records of his investigation into Maye or Smith. According to DA Buddy McDonald, all record of the investigation "died with Officer Jones."

# Nevertheless, judging by the information included in the warrant affidavits, it appears Jones made no effort to identify Maye, to make a controlled drug buy from Maye to corroborate the informant's story, or to do a criminal background check on Maye. In fact, there's no evidence that Jones knew the identify of the person occupying Maye's apartment.

# The gun Maye used to shoot Jones was stolen, though by all indications, it wasn't stolen by Maye. Maye says he got the gun from a friend. Documents show that the gun was stolen in Natchez, 100 miles from Prentiss, at least a year prior to the raid on Maye's home. The trial judge deemed the fact that the gun was stolen to be prejudicial, and withheld it from the jury.

Facts in Dispute:

# Whether or not the narcotics task force sufficiently announced themselves and gave Maye time to peacefully answer the door before forcing entry.

# Where the drugs in Maye's apartment came from.

# Why the times listed on the evidence sheets for both Maye and Smith's apartments were repeatedly scribbled out. Why Maye's sheet lists no exact time the evidence was collected. Why the evidence in Smith's apartment was collected on the 26th, immediately after the raid, while the evidence in Maye's was apparently collected at 5:20am the next day (though again, that time was the last of three times entered, the first two being scribbled out to the point of being illegible).

# The legitimacy of the warrant for Maye's residence. It appears to have been issued solely on the word of a confidential informant, who says he spotted marijuana in the apartment. If the warrant was illegitimate, police should never have broken down Maye's door. If it was legitimate, they'd still have to have clearly announced themselves, and given Maye time to answer the door, for him to be guilty of capital murder.

# According to Maye's first attorney, two jurors told her after trial that Maye was convicted because (1) jurors resented Maye's attorney for suggesting in her closing argument that God would remember whether or not they'd shown Maye mercy when it came time for their judgment day, and (2) the didn't like Maye's upbringing -- they found him to be spoiled and disrespectful.

Maye's Dirty Laundry

Because I think Maye is innocent on the facts, I've hunted around for anything that could prove damaging to his cause. Here's what I've found:

# The stolen gun mentioned above.

# In addition to the 18-month old child Maye had with his girlfriend at the time of the raid, he has another child with another woman.

# Maye was unemployed at the time of the raid. While some might take this as evidence that Maye was dealing, keep in mind that Maye had only recently moved out of his parents home. He and his girlfriend had been renting the duplex apartment for less than two months, and according to his first attorney, had actually occupied it for only a few weeks at the time of the raid. In other words, I don't think Maye had been unemployed and out on his own long enough for those facts to be taken as support for the theory that Maye was supporting himself by dealing marijuana.
I'm wondering why the guy wasn't convicted of manslaughter - he obviously had no intention of committing murder. And a decent attorney might even have been able to successfully plead self-defense. But - Mississippi, dead white cop, black killer - you do the math.
 

Okay, this one wins

The coveted "Making Fun of Right Wing Morons" Award.
waronchristmas@johngibson.com

Dear Mr. Gibson,

I noticed when visiting the FoxNews Website, as I do every day, looking for inspirational words from Brian Kilmeade; that you have established a real, live, email address where good Americans can report, in your words, "Christmas outrages".

I work in a moderately sized midwestern city. I never thought I'd be writing you, but the other day a true outrage occurred. I was at "Romantix: The Erotic Video Store" looking to buy some festive Christmas Erotica, like Santa's Sluts and "I Saw Mommy Eating Santa Claus". As I paid my "browsing fee", I noticed above the till it wished shoppers, "HAPPY HOLIDAYS".

I asked the person behind the till, while still avoiding eye-contact, why they were not wishing their patrons a Merry Christmas?

"What", I asked him, "would Jesus do?"

His mouth opened slightly more, and I saw his non-patched eye open wider. It was clear that he was surprised. Yet he was non-responsive. Such was his shame that it took him several seconds to properly give me five-dollars in quarters.

I continued my perusing of the wares of the store with a noticeable harrumph. There were virtually no creches at all, except for one cardboard cut out of Jenna Jameson on her knees surrounded by three wise men standing around giving her their gifts but it wasn't gold, francesence or myrrh. Well, maybe myrrh. And the donkey seemed like it didn't want to be there.

The dildos were not even arranged with colorful green and red garland.

It was an outrage. Why are our nation's pornographers so cavalier about giving recognition to Christ while selling their material? Jesus is the reason for the season, the thrill of the holiday should arise in all manner of places, especially your pants.

I thought you would like to know so you can help end this outrage.

Merry Christmas,

Atta J. Turk
Reminds me of a joke: New sales clerk in a porn store. Customer enters, asks the price of the dildos. The clerk replies, "The small pink ones are $10 and the big pink ones are $15." Customer asks, "How much for that big plaid one up there?" The clerk thinks for a second and says, "Oh, $25." The customer pays and leaves. The store owner comes back and asks, "What did you sell while I was out?" The clerk answers, "Four dildos and a Thermos."

Friday, December 09, 2005

 

US can't get a break

Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic. That's who the US Men's National Soccer Team has to face in the 2006 World Cup next summer in Germany. A tough draw, perhaps the toughest of the 8 groups. We play the Czechs June 12 in Gelsenkirchen, Italy on June 17 at Kaiserslautern, and Ghana on June 22 in Nuremberg. Only the top 2 in each group advance to the second round. In 2002 in South Korea, the United States had its best ever performance in a World Cup, beating Mexico (yes!) in the second round and just barely losing to Germany in the quarter-finals (after outplaying them).

Anything less this next time will be considered not only a disappointment but a major setback. Hell, it will be a major setback. It's hard to get ESPN, et al., interested in soccer. When the US does well, especially at the quadrennial World Cup, some of the usual suspects among the soccerphobes may at least take some brief notice. When we crash out, as we did in 1998, they can go back to their accustomed soccer-bashing, and no amount of attempting to explain about "Groups of Death" will make any difference.

That said, the US has made itself one of the stronger nations in world soccer; perhaps not strong enough to win, but if we can't at least finish second in this group, we will deserve whatever lumps we take.

I have a lot of faith in Bruce Arena's ability to identify guys who can really play at international level and get them to play hard and together. It will be interesting to see what friendlies he lines up next year to prepare his team. Usually you try to find teams similar to those you will play who did not qualify for the finals. I don't know who is similar to our three opponents, but US Soccer is doubtless even now discussing the problem.

Anyway, now we know who we have to play. It's time to start getting ready! Ole ole ole!
 

Friday Blog Blogging: Give Till It Helps

From Altercation:
Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it’s Stupid to learn from the mistakes of others. But first, in response to Kimberley Morgan’s request, I have set up a PayPal account if anyone wants to contribute to Major Bateman’s effort to supply Iraqi schools with basic materials. The address is IraqSchools@hotmail.com – be sure to send a message or an e-mail to give me a heads-up so I’m sure the funds were sent, where the soldiers can write you, etc. This isn’t to discourage anyone from buying and sending stuff themselves – as I wrote, you’ll enjoy the process – but if time is tight or all the places around you are pricey, here’s an alternative.
This is about as good a cause as I can think of right now. Please give. Let's try to salvage something decent out of the total mess we've made in Iraq.

Monday, December 05, 2005

 

Only half the problem

And I wish the experts, pundits and press would start mentioning the other half.
What Would J.F.K. Have Done?

By THEODORE C. SORENSEN and ARTHUR SCHLESINGER Jr.


The responsibility for devising an exit plan rests primarily not with the war's opponents, but with the president who hastily launched a pre-emptive invasion without enough troops to secure Iraq's borders and arsenals, without enough armor to protect our forces, without enough allied support and without adequate plans for either a secure occupation or a timely exit.
The other half of the problem is that, not only did Bush launch "a pre-emptive invasion without enough troops to secure Iraq's borders and arsenals, without enough armor to protect our forces, without enough allied support and without adequate plans for either a secure occupation or a timely exit", he did it despite being warned in advance that he was launching his invasion without enough troops, armor, or plans.

How many times do we have to point this out? It's not like all the (countless and horrifying) problems in Iraq are or should be considered a surprise. Every single one was predicted by prominent critics, who were dismissed almost out of hand. Some, like Gen. Shinseki, had their careers destroyed by the Boy King Putz in the White House for daring to publicly gainsay His Omniscientness.

Anyway, just because Bush was caught with his pants down is no reason for everyone else to pretend they were, too - in fact, it's even more reason to castigate Bush - after all, he's not just everyone else - he's The Man, with the ultimate responsibility. He can't be permitted to get away with pretending he didn't know that he didn't have enough troops and those troops didn't have enough armor. Didn't care, yes; didn't know, not possible.

Oh, and he also lied about the WMD, in order to get us into his disastrous, unnecessary war in the first place. But we can hardly expect the press - which served as Bush's pre-war cheerleaders - to have the honesty, decency and guts to admit that they facilitated this disastrous war based on a lie they helped spread.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

 

"10 Things I Wish Conservatives Would Learn from the Rest of Us"

Not that conservatives are actually capable of learning anything…

Pay particular attention to items 2 & 3, class.
Conservatives could learn a thing or 10

Hey, guys, are you reading? Here are lessons from liberals.

By Chris Satullo


Last week, I gratefully listed 10 lessons I've learned over the years from conservatives.

This week, as promised, I'll try to return the favor with "10 Things I Wish Conservatives Would Learn from the Rest of Us."

1. There are more of us than there are of you. Conservatives often conclude from their electoral successes - which hinge on ruthless tactical flair - that they form a dominant majority in America. They do not. Conservatives constitute, at best, a third of the electorate. If you combine the number of voters in the 2004 National Election Study who identified themselves as liberal or moderate, the "rest of us" amounts to 66 percent.

2. All taxation is not theft. Vehement dislike of taxes has been part of the national DNA from 1776 on. But talk-show rants about taxation as thievery are about as logical as expecting McDonald's to give you a free Big Mac, or your car dealer to ship you a free Accord. Taxes are the fee we pay for the many goods and services government provides - from picking up our garbage to protecting us from terrorist attack. It's always fair to question whether you're getting the quality that your taxes should buy. But it's crazy to expect the price of government never to grow.

3. And it's not really your money, by the way. That childish mantra of the tax cutter reminds me of a toddler who is lifted to the basketball hoop by his father, drops the ball through, and exults, "I made a dunk!" Take out your wallet; look at that dollar bill. Whose name is on it? Not yours; the nation's. What value would that slip of paper have without the vast, stable network of rules and procedures upheld by government? Not much. In America (unlike, say, Russia or Iraq), this network is so reliable that some seem to forget it's there. But it is vital, and taxes are the tithe we pay to maintain it.

4. When it comes to government, the magic adjective isn't "small"; it's "effective." A famous line attributed to conservative power broker Grover Norquist describes his movement's goal as "to shrink the size of federal government to the point where we can drown it in the bathtub." As charming as that metaphor is, conservative politicians don't trumpet it when running for election. They just chant about "waste, fraud and abuse." Once they win, and pursue the bathtub project, the middle class yelps, "Wait a minute! Don't cut my programs. Just cut that waste and abuse." If "small" government means being as criminally inept as FEMA was during Katrina, then the bulk of Americans want no part of small government.

5. We want our air and water clean. Businesses will always whine about regulation. By all means streamline clunky rules. But taking care of your own wastes is basic corporate hygiene, a core cost of doing business. Businesses always yearn to "externalize" costs, i.e. pawn them off on the rest of us. This yen need not be indulged. Hey, I'd love to dump the debris from my home-improvement project in your backyard rather than pay to haul it away, but you'd never let me get away with that, right?

6. Campaign cash is the root of too much evil. George Will can intone all he wants about how the First Amendment guarantees the free-speech rights of filthy-rich individuals and corporations. But it's clear to the rest of us that the corrupt way we pay for elections corrodes democracy and citizenship. That can't be what James Madison had in mind.

7. We're living in 2005, not 1787. Here are a few of the contemporary issues for the courts that the Framers could not possibly have imagined: al-Qaeda, the Internet, genetic screening, high-tech surveillance, Howard Stern. The Constitution is a precious guide, but as a North Star to navigate by, not a MapQuest spitting out precise directions.

8. Some of the rest of us read the Bible, too. Millions of Americans who revere Scripture draw very different political guidance from it than evangelical conservatives do. It smacks of the sin of presumption to assert that anyone who disagrees with you on a political issue must be godless, sinful and a dupe of the devil.

9. Charities can't do it all. Just ask any of the quiet heroes who work on the front lines of need. The challenges they face are far beyond their capacity. Charities need government to be a generous, competent and reliable partner.

10. If you're born on third, you did not hit a triple. Liberals too often ignore the degree to which the bad choices people make compound their problems. But conservatives are too eager to ignore the role that luck plays in success, and to equate wealth with virtue. By luck, I don't mean winning the lottery. I mean being born in the Radnor school district instead of in Chester Upland, or having a parent who went to Penn, rather than one who went to Graterford.

Based on the Gospels I read, the last thing Christians should do is to lock in the luck of the fortunate and leave the unlucky to their own devices.
I’d also point out that, except for fortunate sons such as George W. Bush, most rich people would not rich but for their education. Harvard Law School graduates, Wharton graduates, Yale Medical School graduates – what do they all have in common? “Graduates”. People who went to Princeton, Stanford, Duke, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Michigan, UT Austin, the University of Chicago – they didn’t build those schools, did they? No, they benefited from previous generations’ generosity. There’s no way they can that back. All they can do is pay it forward. No matter how brilliant they are, no matter how hard they worked, they owe at least part of their success to someone. For them to pretend, to attempt to delude us (and themselves) that they achieved it all on their own is not only mistaken, it is offensive. It is sinful, a lie, an immoral self-deification. All of us are dependent on others, and conservatives should recognize this. As we were helped when we needed it, we are morally obligated to offer unquestioning, ungrudging generosity to others who need help.

To which conservatives can only bleat, “No, mine! Mine mine mine! All mine!”

Friday, December 02, 2005

 

The return of Friday Blog Blogging!

Yes, after months of estivation (and whatever you call sleeping through autumn), Friday Blog Blogging is back! (I know how much all of you missed it. Sorry.)

From TAPPED:
PROGRESSIVES AND WAL-MART: PART 1. A couple weeks back, The Center for American Progress hosted a forum on Wal-Mart's impact on the American economy. Standard stuff, except this one brought together opposing viewpoints on Wal-Mart from within the progressive family. Jason Furman's paper (PDF) arguing that Wal-Mart represents a progressive success story has attracted the most attention, with The New York Times' John Tierney and The Washington Post's Sebastian Mallaby both devoting columns to it. Their pieces, sadly, were depressingly standard-issue affairs, hackish attempts to pummel liberals with Furman's conclusions, not grapple with the debate. Much more interesting was my colleague Matt's meditation on how Furman's flashes of brilliance synced with his points of myopia (notably his bizarre decision to never once mention unions).

This is an important discussion for progressives to have. In the rush to weaken Sam Walton's behemoth, liberals have emptied the armory, indiscriminately deploying whatever arguments seemed likely to wound and damaging many of their long-term goals. That's poor strategy. So over the next few days, drawing on Furman's paper, Arindrajit Dube's opposing study, and the event's transcript (all of which can be found here), I'm going to try and tease this out a bit better. I hope some of my colleagues will join in, and I invite you folks in blog land to do the same. And the place to start, I think, is with Furman's strongest criticism of the liberal argument:

I’d like to at the very least try to convince you to drop the corporate welfare attack and rather than attacking Wal- Mart employees for benefiting from these programs, celebrate it and push to expand it.

Wal-Mart claims to care about the welfare of its employees. Any corporation is going to put 98 percent of its effort into maximizing its profits and share prices. If Wal-Mart cares about its employees, rather than law being against progressive issues, it would lobby for them and it would work to expand these types of programs. If there were corporate welfare, it would help Wal-Mart’s profits and they would have an interest in lobbying for more Medicaid, EITC, food stamps. I don’t think it will help their shareholders at all, but it will help their workers a lot and that’s something that it claims to care about.

This is largely a function of having unions in the driver's seat. By nature, labor organizers are concerned with squeezing the most generous possible offer out of employers, sometimes at the expense of better societal outcomes. I don't know anyone who doesn't believe labor's historical focus on generous employer-based health care to be a massive strategic failure, and yet they continue on the same path now. The cursory support the labor movement generally offers to efforts to nationalize health is dwarfed by the energy they expend retaining or expanding (and thus entrenching) the current system's offerings. Given their mandate to care for current union members, that's to be expected, but it's short-sighted and shouldn't be replicated across the left.

Much smarter would be an effort to force Wal-Mart into becoming a political ally. Given the choice between providing expansive health care benefits themselves and pushing the government to do the same, Wal-Mart will take the latter route. If you doubt me, ask yourself how much discomfort they've shown with their workforce's utilization of Medicaid. The strategy, then, should not be ending that alliance so all Wal-Mart employees have to pay for the corporation's paltry health benefits, but forcing Wal-Mart to become an ally in the fight to radically expand the federal options open to employees. Variants of this approach have been employed by Andy Stern's SEIU in other industries, often to great success:

SEIU has used its new money not just to enlarge existing campaigns, but to experiment with new strategies. In the nursing home world, for example, SEIU has explored a truce with the owners it fought so bitterly in the 1990s. SEIU recognized that nursing homes were getting squeezed by a lack of government funding for long-term care, so it proposed a deal: The union would use the political muscle of its members and community allies to try and win more state money for nursing homes; if it succeeded, the owners would increase members’ pay and let non-union workers join the union without a fight. Since 2001, SEIU has reached agreements with nursing homes in ten states and has organized twenty-five thousand new nursing home members. In California alone, SEIU has helped win $1.2 billion in new nursing home funding over the last five years.

Similarly, employers are largely (though not solely) scared of unions because of what they'll do to health costs. If health costs were no longer a factor in employee compensation, unions, though still reviled, wouldn't appear so deadly to employers' bottom lines. So criticizing Wal-Mart for its poor health offerings and willingness to send employees to Medicaid's offerings is insane. Rather, that's a trend labor and the left should seek to accelerate until Wal-Mart offers no health benefits, every employee has access to high-quality, comprehensive government care, and unionization no longer means businesses will have to pay for chemotherapy. As part of this strategy, labor may need to soften Wal-Mart up, and part of that effort may include demagoguing their reliance on Medicaid. Fine. But liberals in sympathy with labor's larger cause must not absorb arguments counterproductive to overarching progressive goals. And Furman is doing them a great service by pointing that out.

--Ezra Klein
May I say, it's not the unions' fault that they aren't taking a long-term view. Workers and unions have been totally abandoned in America, not just by the left, but certainly the left hasn't helped. When everyone's leaving you for dead, when there appears to be no possibility of actual growth, fighting a rear-guard action may seem like the only remaining option.

Progressives have not fought hard enough for universal health care, either, so it's hardly the unions' fault that they are concentrating on protecting what they have rather than reach all by themselves for pie in the sky.

Still, there's no question that it is long past time to end our reliance on employer-paid health insurance (even if they do get a tax break for it) and create nationwide, single-payer, universal health insurance. This could even be a way to peel sensible businesses away from a Republican administration that is increasingly divorced from reality. There'd still be other issues separating progressives from the business agenda - regulations, environmental pollution, offshoring jobs, etc. - but it could be a start. Certainly worth trying. But we can't expect the unions to take the hit on their own. This is where the Democratic Party has to start being a political party again.

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