Monday, February 28, 2005

I Just Got The Wind Knocked Out Of Me -- I'm Fine

A small dose of frickin' sanity:
ABC's broadcast last Veterans Day of the Oscar-winning war movie "Saving Private Ryan," which contains graphic violence and profanity, did not violate indecency guidelines, regulators ruled Monday.

The film contained "numerous expletives and other potentially offensive language generally as part of the soldiers' dialogue," the Federal Communications Commission said.

"In light of the overall context in which this material is presented, the commission determined it was not indecent or profane," the five-member FCC said in a unanimous decision in denying complaints over the movie.

"This film is a critically acclaimed artwork that tells a gritty story — one of bloody battles and supreme heroism," FCC chairman Michael Powell said in a statement. "The horror of war and the enormous personal sacrifice it draws on cannot be painted in airy pastels."

Some complaints also cited the movie's violence, but the FCC said its indecency and profanity guidelines were not applicable to violent programming.

A spokeswoman for ABC in New York declined comment.

What really gets me is that the busybody assholes who complain about this stuff have always had the exact same defense against it: turn the television off. If you belive something is going to (as George Carlin put it) infect your soul, curve your spine, and keep the country from winning the war, don't watch it and then complain about it -- just don't watch it.

And let the rest of us make the same choice.

Who Is To Say What Is A Sin In God's Eyes?

In the same vein as the previous post, please check out this heart-wrenching story posted by Tena at First Draft.

We really are in a war for the soul of America, aren't we?

Friday, February 25, 2005

You Are The Lucky Ones -- You Are Going To Serve God And Country. I Name You Handmaids

Sorry there's been no blogging for a week. Much work on music web site. And, frankly, too many outrages. After awhile, it becomes kinda numbing.

But this got right the hell under my skin:
[Kansas] Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican who has made fighting abortion a staple of his two years in the post, is demanding the complete medical files of scores of women and girls who had late-term abortions, saying on Thursday that he needs the information to prosecute criminal cases.

Mr. Kline emphasized statutory rape at a news conference here but also spoke obliquely of other crimes that court documents suggest could include doctors' providing illegal late-term abortions and health professionals' failing to heed a state law that requires the reporting of suspected child sexual abuse.


He declined to answer questions about his investigation.


Kansas is one of 31 states that have passed laws to ban or restrict the procedure. But Kansas does not ban it outright, allowing such abortions if women's health is endangered.

Mr. Kline's efforts to obtain records from abortion clinics follows his failed attempt last year to require the state's health workers to report any sexual activity of girls younger than 16, the age of legal consent in Kansas.

Health-care providers sued, and a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order.

Mr. Kline's new investigation could yield similar records. His effort became public this week when two clinics whose records are being subpoenaed filed a brief in State Supreme Court to block what they called a "secret inquisition" and "fishing expedition" that threatened the doctor-patient privilege and women's constitutional rights.

Noting that personal details like marital status, race, employment history and emergency contacts are in the records, lawyers for the clinics asked, "How can a woman's method of birth control or prior history of abortions or use of drugs and medications be relevant?"

The brief, which provided the first glimpse into a yearlong battle whose records have been sealed, said the laws cited as the basis for the subpoenas are one that restricts abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy and another that requires health professionals to report suspected child abuse.

When Mr. Kline was in the legislature, he helped write the 22-week limit.

Although Mr. Kline emphasized statutory rape in his news conference, many here on both sides of the abortion debate said they suspected that his real target was doctors who provide late-term abortions.


"These records are of the utmost sensitivity," the brief says. "The logical and natural progression of this action could well be a knock on the door of a woman who exercised her constitutional right to privacy by special agents of the attorney general who seek to inquire into her personal medical, sexual or legal history."

Mr. Kline, head of the national Republican attorneys general association, was in the Kansas House for eight years and is a staunch abortion opponent. He argued last year that Roe v. Wade should be overturned in an brief in the federal cases on abortions after the first trimester.

This goes hand-in-hand with the ailing Pope's pronouncement in his new book that same-sex marriage is part of an "ideology of evil".

There are two kinds of people in the world, okay? Those who don't think sex and sexuality are wrong wrong wrong, and those who do.

By coincidence, there are also two kinds of people in the world: Those who don't particularly want power over others, and those who do.

And, as a bonus point, there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who don't fear and hate women, and those who do.

Those points all coalesce in modern American evangelical conservatism. Which is, as some of you may remember, descended from Puritanism. (See here for links to historical documents, and here for a disturbingly modern take.) The basic idea is that God had dominion over all earthly matters. The practice is that things which distract you from God are bad.

And the upshot is that sex freaks these old church leaders out.

There are so many contradictions in their attitudes that it makes one's head swim -- e.g., how the Catholic Church can view homosexuality as so detestable, and yet work so hard for decades to protect priests who molested little boys. Even straight sex within the Church begins with one of those timeless contradictions: "be fruitful and multiply" versus the book of Leviticus. If you want to go back even further, you can consider the lost tale of Adam's first wife, Lilith, a warning against letting women get uppity.

There was a time when I truly had no idea why you would want to stop making new members of your species.

But there is something I'm truly curious about here. What is it with those who believe that God is going to torment the wicked in some afterlife, that many of them also believe that they should "help God out" by tormenting them in this life? God's divine judgment not good enough for you?

What we have is the Church dictating their version of the will of God. Let's try that again: We have a bunch of old, ostensibly celibate men, telling sexually aware people what they have to do with their own bodies.

Sounds pretty Republican, after all, doesn't it?

There is no good reason -- none whatsoever -- for Kansas' Attorney General to have access to people's sexual histories. He can look for porn on the Net just like the rest of us. No, what he wants is that control -- over women, over sex.

There is no good reason -- none whatsoever -- for the Pope to give one shit in the woods about gay people getting married. Same-sex marriage affects society in exactly the same way that male-female marriage does: not at all, unless they start making out in front of you, in which case tell 'em to get a room.

From the top: Women have absolute control over their own bodies in general and childbirth in particular. Couples of the same sex who want to get married aren't trying to destroy it, they're trying to buy into it. And those groups really are on the same side.

The questions that are never answered by any of the people who feel so threatened by sex, by gays, by abortions, by whatever, is: How, really, are you threatened? And, if you aren't threatened, what business is it of yours, anyway?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Just Because You Are A Character Doesn't Mean You HAVE Character

Defintely the First Asshat:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Karl Rove, President Bush's top political strategist, on Thursday pronounced conservatism the "dominant political creed in America" and coached fellow conservatives on how to support his boss.

"The next time one of your smarty-pants liberal friends says to you, `Well, he didn't have a mandate,' you tell him of this delicious fact: This president got a higher percentage of the vote than any Democratic candidate for president since 1964," Rove said.

In 2004, Bush was re-elected with about 51 percent of the vote. In 1976, Jimmy Carter received just over 50 percent and in the two times Bill Clinton was elected, he received under 50 percent of the vote; Independent Ross Perot was on the ballot both times.

In the first place, My Castrati (thanks to watertiger at Atrios for that one), without addressing your "delicious fact" or that your flavor of "conservatism" is increasingly radical, the final score of the election was still 51-49, no matter how you look at it. Which is within the statistical margin of error. Which isn't a mandate, it's a free throw.

In the second place, the turnout was just under 60% of eligible voters -- which means that your percentage is actually around 30% of eligible voters. Which means that, not only did 29% not want your guy, the other 40% were so disgusted with the situation that you couldn't get 'em to vote for your guy. (Yes, yes, neither could we. But still.)

In other words, back to day one: Mandate, my ass.

Hey, YOU Try Making Love In A Hostile Mutant Environment, See How YOU Like It

Because, in light of our screwed-up government and a population fighting for the right to be superstitious cretins, we need a good laugh now and then, here's some lovely stuff in the spirit of Landover Baptist and Betty Bowers.

For all your Girls Abstinence-Only educational needs... Iron Hymen.

And its Boys Abstinence-Only partner site... Sex Is For FAGS!

No way are these Work Safe.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"Objection, Your Honor! Strangling The Witness!" "I'm Going To Allow It"

Now this is just silly:
The Vice-President [sic] of the Tulsa World has threatened legal action against me for "reproduc[ing] (in whole or in part) articles and/or editorials" and for "inappropriately link[ing my] website to Tulsa World content." ("World" is the legal name, although here at BatesLine we call it the Whirled, in the spirit of Private Eye's renaming of the Guardian as the Grauniad.)
In other words, it's against the law to quote or link to them. AAAAIINNNNGK! Thank you for playing. That's what the Fair Use laws and the California ruling on hypertext linking are for.

Apparently, BatesLine has criticized the Tulsa World, and they got a bit twitchy. Fine. But spurious legal thrashing is a sad, sad way to argue. More to the point, it demonstrates yet another display of people who literally do not get how the Internet has changed things -- do not understand how information, and its availability and verification, have exploded over the past decade.

The entire point of the Internet is linking -- going from one page to another to another to another. That's all Google does, for cryin' out loud. It's not called the Isolated Collection Of Web Pages That Never Talk To Each Other; it's called the Internet, as in "interconnected network".

And... no linking to you, no one visits you. Lonely little web page.

Saying someone can't quote you or link to your web page is roughly the same as saying, "You kids don't talk about me; I'm gonna sit in the corner and feel superior to y- where did everybody go?"

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Our Doomsday Scheme Cost Us Just A Small Fraction Of What We Had Been Spending On Defense In A Single Year

Okay, so, let's review.

Back in 2003, Dubya said he'd add prescription drug coverage to Medicare. It'd cost $400 billion, which was a pretty tough sell. He got his thugs in Congress, especially Tom "The Bug Man" DeLay, to strong-arm it through (using tactics that would earn him one of several Congressional rebukes). After Dubya signed it, word got out that it wasn't $400 billion after all, it was $530 billion -- and the official who should've said that to Congress was threatened with the loss of his job.

Now we find out that prescription drug coverage will actually cost at least $724 billion. Unsurprisingly, Congress isn't happy.

Now then.

Dubya also said Social Security was in crisis. He said it was headed towards bankruptcy. He proposed a series of vague, very expensive measures, which would give a lot of money to Wall Street investment firms but which Bush himself later said wouldn't actually solve the crisis. (He also downgraded it from "crisis" to "problem", but that's neither here nor there. Yes it is.)

And, this morning,
the administration declines to say how much the measures that won't actually solve the crisis that isn't there will cost.

Can anyone explain to me why we should be trusting these people with anything, let alone our economic future? Because numerical estimates have never been their strong suit.

More on Bush's possible agenda next week.


I'll be away for a few days; have a great weekend, and please be safe.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Law Doesn't Make Mistakes

Just calling attention to a new horror -- literally, horror.

House Resolution 418, "The REAL I.D. Act of 2005", would let the Secretary of Homeland Security waive any and all laws, as he or she deems necessary, without review.

Sieg fuckin' heil.

You know the drill.

(Many thanks to valabor at The Daily Kos for this one, and to commenter jrm78 at Atrios for pointing it out to me.)

Monday, February 07, 2005

And So We Are All Connected In The Great Circle Of Life

Let's consider an average family's expenses.

A man, a woman -- oh, let's be 1950s idyllic and say she stays at home to raise the kids -- two school-age children. Pet optional but likely. Three-bedroom house somewhere in the near suburbs. Four-door sedan, a few years old and in good shape. He makes a decent but not spectacular income, and his benefits include basic health care for the family, a reimbursement account to cover dental and optical, and CTO (combined time-off, rolling your vacation and sick days into one number) of about four weeks per year.

His income pays for, let's say, their food, mortgage, clothing, home furnishings, home maintenance, home insurance, utilities (heat, water, electricity, gas, cable or satellite TV, telephone, internet access), car payment, car insurance, car maintenance (including fuel), school supplies, recreation, and dental and optical care (paid into the reimbursement account). Life insurance is optional, but a really good idea. And this leaves him, say, $1,100 to put into savings and investments every month. He actually saves $700, invests $300, and has a "petty cash" fund of $100. Good so far?

Now, although it sounds as if we're about to launch into an analysis of income versus outgo, that's not it at all. There's one aspect of his paycheck we haven't covered: taxes. Let's just ballpark it at thirty-five percent (including sales taxes).

And let's look at what taxes pay for.

Not the frivolous stuff. Not the "pork". Not the overpriced bloated gifts to corporate donors or locals or friends or family. The real stuff. As the smallest beginnings of an example:

Local, state, and sales taxes (along with targeted surcharges such as road tolls and gasoline or cigarette taxes) pay for police and fire protection, public schools, street maintenance, traffic signs, traffic lights, garbage pickup and disposal, public transportation, public parking, registration of motor vehicles, health inspectors to make sure restaurants conform to code, building inspectors to make sure structures (like homes and apartments and churches and stores and offices and underground gas tanks for gas stations) won't collapse or introduce toxic substances such as petroleum or asbestos into the environment, septic systems so the city doesn't flood when it rains, wild animal control, park maintenance, emergency utility payments so poor people don't freeze in winter or bake in summer....

Federal taxes pay for the military who defend our country, the OSHA inspectors who keep our workplaces safe, the EPA inspectors who try to make sure the water is drinkable and the air breathable, product standards so that things we buy work as advertised and aren't dangerous, FDA laboratories and inspectors to make sure our food is safe to eat, diplomats who negotiate with other countries for economic and political treaties, the border guards and customs agents who are supposed to (among other things) keep terrorists out, the air traffic controllers who guide our planes to the ground so everybody survives the flight, the Library of Congress to keep a hard-copy record of our freakin' civilization....

FICA contributions are withdrawn from the paycheck, to go into Social Security. That's so our hypothetical man and wife will continue to have some income after he's retired, which is good because they'll still have to pay all those monthly bills and buy food and clothing and all the other things in the third paragraph.

This is extraordinarily simplistic, and leaves out, oh, a billion or so things governments do. I'm not trying to make a comprehensive checklist, but to get you to think about the real point. That point is, the government does those things because we as individuals cannot, or cannot without prohibitive expense and a hell of a lot of work.

Nobody wants to pay "too much" taxes. But, as I mentioned in my previous post, taxes are your membership fee in society, and what you get for that fee is pretty fuckin' incredible. And those who want to destroy or severely limit government, especially in the area of "entitlement" programs, or slash the heck our of taxes because "it's your money", pretty much don't know what the hell they're about... or, and I admit this is somewhat blackly humorous, they think they do but really haven't thought through all the ramifications, and boy are they going to die horribly when there's no local fire department or their shoddily-made building collapses or they buy some beef with Mad Cow Disease or something.

That's why the Bush Administration's line about an "ownership society" is such bullshit. What he's trying to tell you is that you, yes, you, can have control over all your money! What he doesn't say is that, when things work as they should, government programs are cheaper, more efficient, and more successful than privately held companies. Why shouldn't they be? Government programs don't have the primary purpose of making money for the company. And if you try to pay for equivalent services with only your income to work with, you have not the smallest dollop of a shred of a shadow of a ghost of a prayer of a hint of a hope of a chance.

So, for all the Grover Norquist School motherfuckers out there: Even if you want to take us past robber baronies all the way back to goddamn feudalism, killing off your serf class is a bad, bad move. Killing it off in ways that will take you, as well, is just nuckin' futz.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

You're No Longer Part Of The System -- You're Above The System, Over It, Beyond It

We're from the government, and we're here to help you:
President Bush's budget will propose slashing grants to local law enforcement agencies and cutting spending for environmental protection, American Indian schools and home-heating aid for the poor, The Associated Press learned Saturday.

Bush molded the roughly $2.5 trillion spending plan for 2006 as a response to a string of record federal deficits, and is sends it to Congress on Monday.

The budget, the toughest he has written since entering the White House four years ago, seeks about half the increase for school districts in low-income communities he requested last year and a slight reduction for the National Park Service.


Bush has said his budget will assemble federal resources for war, domestic security and other priorities and cull inefficient or redundant programs. Administration officials have said he will hold overall nondefense spending — excepting domestic security — to less than next year's expected 2.3 percent increase in inflation, meaning the programs will lose purchasing power.

"I stand with the president that we need to eliminate wasteful spending and we need to look through all the programs," said House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa. "There's no question that's not the easiest thing to do in Washington."

The details obtained Saturday are the latest in a budget that will also seek savings from programs ranging from Amtrak and farmers' subsidies to Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor and disabled.

According to figures obtained by the AP, Bush would slice a $600 million grant program for local police agencies to $60 million next year. Grants to local firefighters, for which Congress provided $715 million this year, would fall to $500 million.

He would eliminate the $300 million the government gives to states for incarcerating illegal aliens who commit crimes. It's a proposal he has made in the past and one that Congress has ignored. Also gone would be assistance for police departments to improve technology and their ability to communicate with other agencies.

The Environmental Protection Agency's $8.1 billion would drop by $450 million, or about 6 percent, with most of the reductions coming in water programs and projects won by lawmakers for their home districts.

The Bureau of Indians Affairs would be sliced by $100 million to $2.2 billion. The reduction would come almost entirely from the agency's effort to build more schools.

The $2.2 billion program that provides low-income people — in large part the elderly — with home-heating aid would be cut to $2 billion. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the reduction would be "wrong-headed an inappropriate," especially with this season's jump in oil prices. White House budget office spokesman Chad Kolton said Bush has added hundreds of millions of dollars to the program since taking office and said his budget will provide "adequate resources to make sure we can assist low-income Americans."

(Emphasis added.)

Before I go off on a more general tirade, let's get something squared away right now. Asking Congress for $80 billion more, off the books, to fund an illegal and stupid war, while slashing police and fire protection, schools, health-care, low-income heating, and the EPA (not to mention one of the mass transit systems that might've lowered our dependency on foreign oil if it was ever given a chance), is the work of a fuckin' madman, okay? To be blunt, a pack of fuckin' madmen, because someone could've told Chimpy and the Gang somewhere along the way that this is insane. None of them ever do.

Now then.

For those who just don't get it: Government is a good thing. Taxes are a good thing.

See, government is really only We The People, doing collectively what we cannot do individually. And taxes are our membership fee in We The People, the relatively small amounts we all contribute adding up to enough money to Do The Job, whatever it may be.

This is anathema to such people as Grover Norquist, who wants to shrink the federal government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

I want to believe that such people are good of heart, that they merely don't understand what it is government does, that they have a starry-eyed trust in The Magical Free Market. But they are not good of heart. They know exactly what they're doing. And they are, in fact, profiteering slimeballs, who believe they are better than other people because they have money. And they want the obscene amounts they used to have before the government came in and started regulating them, competing with them, and, in some cases, outperforming them.

The government is there to protect individuals and communities from the very people who are trying to destroy government. And I don't think any of the ramifications of that are being discussed anywhere near loudly enough.

In my next post, Monday, let's start that discussion.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

You Cannot Live In Isolation From The Human Race, You Know

The LiveJournal Time Well Wasted has the transcript of a superb speech by Kansas State Rep. Paul Davis against an amendment banning same-sex marriage:
There are reasonable people on both sides of this issue. I do believe
those in this chamber who have brought this issue to the House floor
have good intentions. They want to do what they believe is right for
their state and their communities. But this vehicle is sorely
misguided and the result has prayed upon the worst of all human characteristics:
Hate. The hatred for homosexuals that I have seen displayed in the
many emails and letters that I have received is beyond belief, particularly
in this day and age. I hope this Legislature will see fit in the
future to promote policies that bring people together and help us all
understand and appreciate the differences among us, instead of
exacerbating the chasms of intolerance. We would be wise to heed
the words of the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spiniza, who said "the
object the government is not change men from rational beings into
beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in
security, and to employ their reason unshackled; neither showing
hatred, anger or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice.
In fact, the true aim of government is liberty".
Why not show Rep. Davis some love?

You Lost Your Money -- You Keep This Up, You'll Lose Something Else

Welcome to Bush World, where the unusual is commonplace:
U.S. business productivity rose at just a 0.8 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, an unexpectedly slim advance that was the smallest in nearly four years, according to a government report on Thursday that could fan inflation fears.


The slowdown in productivity caused unit labor costs, a key gauge of inflation or profit pressures, to jump. They rose at a 2.3 percent rate, the biggest increase since a matching gain in the second quarter of 2002 and a step-up from the third quarter's downwardly revised 1.6 percent pace.

Economists had expected productivity growth to slow only a touch to a 1.7 percent pace from the third quarter's 1.8 percent rate. They had forecast unit labor costs to rise at a 2 percent rate.

Holden has been chronicling this at First Draft (look for anything referring to the "Bush Boom"), but something has been bugging me about it for the longest time -- and, as per usual, it has to do with the acquiescence and even culpability of the corporate media.

If you go back over the past few years, much more often than not you will see news stories about the drop in productivity, or the sluggishness of the consumer price index, or the lame-ass job growth, or whatever. And you will almost always see some variation of the word "unexpected".

Guys? Mass-media reporting types? Talking heads? It's been going on for four years now. When something happens again and again, week after week, month after month, you should frickin' expect it.

Given the "policies" aiming -- I hesitate to say "driving" -- this economy, I'd say you can expect it for a long time to come.

There's Already Been One Radical In The White House - I Don't Believe It Could Survive Another

The most comprehensive analysis and debunking I've seen so far of Bush's State of the Union speech last night is at the Center for American Progress.

For my own part, I was struck by how Little League it all was -- and I mean that literally, as in, a child being applauded, frequently and overenthusiastically, by grown-ups for attempting basic things. Problem was, this wasn't applause for getting on base or making the throw to first, on time or not -- this was the president and CEO of our nation, expressing his views on the condition and direction of America.

He got applause for talking about due process and making sure people eat.

He got applause for his lies about Social Security and Pell Grants and health care and reducing the deficit.

He got applause for his announcement that gang violence was a growing problem, and that his wife Laura would be spearheading the efforts. Laura can't frickin' control Jenna and NotJenna -- what does anyone think she knows, or can do, about the 'hood?

He discussed the most basic things, in the most basic terms, often incorrectly or outright lying (such as the Clear Skies Initiative), and the Repubs shot out of their chairs time and again as if William Castle had rigged the entire Congress for a remake of The Tingler.

It should not be a fucking applause line to say you'll help the troops recover from the war. Especially when those at Walter Reed are paying for their meals.

I used to complain about being angry all the time at the President. I was angry at Reagan, because I disagreed with his policies and I thought he was intellectually lazy at best. I was really angry at Bush I, because he turned out to be worse than Reagan, without the communication skills and without Alzheimer's as an excuse. I was even angry at Clinton, because he let himself get sidetracked on a few big things.

I am no longer angry at our President. I am humiliated by our President. I am ashamed that this evil, stupid child is running our country right into the ground, and the news media just keep sucking.

One other thing. Many Republican members of Congress had purple ink on their fingers, fatuously expressing what they believe to be "solidarity" or somesuch with the people in Iraq (who had similar ink on their fingers after voting this past weekend). Correspondent Charles Pierce said it best in Altercation the other day:

You do not own their courage.

The people who stood in line Sunday did not stand in line to make Americans feel good about themselves.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify lies about Saddam and al-Qaeda, so you don't own their courage, Stephen Hayes. They did not stand in line to justify lies about weapons of mass destruction, or to justify the artful dodginess of Ahmad Chalabi, so you don't own their courage, Judith Miller. They did not stand in line to provide pretty pictures for vapid suits to fawn over, so you don't own their courage, Howard Fineman, and neither do you, Chris Matthews.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line in order to justify the dereliction of a kept press. They did not stand in line to make right the wrongs born out of laziness, cowardice, and the easy acceptance of casual lying. They did not stand in line for anyone's grand designs. They did not stand in line to play pawns in anyone's great game, so you don't own their courage, you guys in the PNAC gallery.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to provide American dilettantes with easy rhetorical weapons, so you don't own their courage, Glenn Reynolds, with your cornpone McCarran act out of the bowels of a great university that deserves a helluva lot better than your sorry hide. They did not stand in line to be the instruments of tawdry vilification and triumphal hooting from bloghound commandos. They did not stand in line to become useful cudgels for cheap American political thuggery, so you don't own their courage, Freeper Nation.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify a thousand mistakes that have led to more than a thousand American bodies. They did not stand in line for the purpose of being a national hypnotic for a nation not even their own. They did not stand in line for being the last casus belli standing. They did not stand in line on behalf of people's book deals, TV spots, honorarium checks, or tinpot celebrity. They did not stand in line to be anyone's talking points.

You do not own their courage.

We all should remember that.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I Have Always Depended On The Kindness Of Strangers

One of Atrios' regulars, smalfish, is in a hell of a bad way right now. Basically, some wanker lawyer is trying to buy his home out from under him, and he may be able to, because of an unpaid homeowners' association fee.

I'm trying to scare up more details, because the first smalfish found out about it was by being interviewed for the local TV news. There's a bit of a summation at First Draft. Meantime, if you can spare something, here's a PayPal link to donate to the cause.

'Cause, dammit, we look after our own.

You Keep Using That Word -- I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

In case you needed some external verification, the guys who wrote the torture memo are indeed psychopaths:
The Geneva Convention provisions make sense when war involves nation-states — if, say, hostilities broke out between India and Pakistan, or China and Taiwan. But to pretend that the Geneva Convention applies to Al Qaeda, a non-state actor that targets civilians and disregards other laws of war, denies the reality of dramatic changes in the international system.


To believe that the Geneva Convention should apply jot-and-tittle to such enemies reminds us of the first generals of the Civil War, who thought that the niceties that were ideals of Napoleonic warfare could be applied to battles fought by massive armies, armed with ever more advanced weapons and aided by civilian-run mass-production factories and industry. War changes, and the laws of war must change with them.


Unfortunately, multinational terrorist groups have joined nations on the stage of war. They operate without regard to borders and observe no distinction between combatants and civilians. Our weapons for controlling hostile states don't work well against decentralized networks of suicidal operatives, with no citizens or borders to defend.
I really can't believe we're having this discussion. This isn't about political points; this isn't about tactics and strategy. This is about our humanity.

We don't torture because it's not to our advantage (although it's not) -- we don't torture because it is wrong to torture.

And, in the midst of this, with most Senate Democrats finally showing some spine and confirming that they will vote against Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales, one Dem will not -- freshman Colorado Senator Ken Salazar. Why? Apparently, because they're both Hispanic. This will not be forgotten. Ken Salazar, the Pro-Torture Democrat.

Contact your Senators. Tell them to vote no on Alberto Gonzales.

"More Human Than Human" Is Our Motto

Okay, the corporate media officially need actual fact-checking departments:
A photograph posted on an Islamist Web site appears to be that of an action figure and not a U.S. soldier being held hostage.

Liam Cusack, the marketing coordinator for Dragon Models USA, said the figure pictured on the Web site is believed to be "Special Ops Cody," a military action figure the company manufactured in late 2003.

"It pretty much looks exactly like the same person," he said.

For damn near a day, our news sources were fooled by a mock G.I. Joe. It took them a day, and an outside source, to catch it.

Remember that the next time those same people tell you how much people love Dubya's policies, or say the war in Iraq is going well, or tell you how good the economy is.

Either they are lying out their suited asses... or they don't know shit.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

But There's Nothin' Dirty Goin' On

Sorry for the light (okay, nonexistent) blogging the past few days -- car trouble, working on a major update for my music web page to be posted later this week -- but I'm back, and this one's a doozy.

Nicholas Kristoff at the NY Times has a problem with the Asian sex slave trade? He ain't seen shit:
A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and brothel owners – who must pay tax and employee health insurance – were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.


Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.

The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse.

When the waitress looked into suing the job centre, she found out that it had not broken the law. Job centres that refuse to penalise people who turn down a job by cutting their benefits face legal action from the potential employer.

"There is now nothing in the law to stop women from being sent into the sex industry," said Merchthild Garweg, a lawyer from Hamburg who specialises in such cases. "The new regulations say that working in the sex industry is not immoral any more, and so jobs cannot be turned down without a risk to benefits."

Does anyone, anywhere, even bother performing the most cursory logic check on such things? Or has Dubya so infected the world with politicus stupidious that no one cares anymore? And why, oh, why did it have to be Germany? Land of stereotypical leggy Teutonic blonds with severe accents, smirks, haircuts, and leathers -- and some of the women are kinda hot too.

There are days when I fear there is a God, and He's setting up the End Times... and He got Fellini to direct.

(Thanks to LiveJournal user scs_11 for the source on this story.)

Update: Commenter mg4h points out that Snopes is on the case, and has apparently debunked it. While it's hypothetically possible, it hasn't happened, and somehow in the writing of a story the hypothetical got transmogrified into the "factual", or at least anecdotal.

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