Saturday, April 30, 2005

I had a post yesterday about various Tom DeLay associates and their involvement in the Marianas Islands, but I didn't give you many details about DeLay's effort to keep the sweat in Marianas sweatshops. For those details, go to this post at Local Tint. A couple of excerpts:

...workers agree to repay recruitment fees from $2,000 to $7,000, trapping them in a state of indentured servitude. They often must sign "shadow contracts" waiving basic human rights, including the freedom to join unions, attend religious services, quit or marry.


"You represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America," DeLay said at the time to his audience, which included Saipan officials and factory owners.


Who recently said this about the federal government?

it has been an instrument of moral evil for most of its history.

Answer: Dr. Paul Schenck, Pastoral Associate at Priests for Life, writing to CWhite of the blog Eclectic Floridian. (See this post.)

Here's a fuller version of the quote, from an April 1 e-mail on subjects including Terri Schiavo:

Recall that it was our Federal government that sustained slavery for nearly 75 years, segregation and Jim Crow for another 100. It at least tolerated, if not promoted an insitutional anti-semitism for more than 150 years. It condoned anti-catholicism for over 150 years. My point: it has been an instrument of moral evil for most of its history. That it now wrestles over the treatment of the disabled and infirm is no wonder at all.

Gosh, it seems to me that a liberal who said something like this would be condemned as a dirty filthy commie America-hater. But Frank Pavone, Dr. Schenck's boss, gave the invocation at a rally for religious conservatives organized by the GOP before the 2004 convention, and did the same at a subsequent "Christian Inaugural Eve Gala" that was also addressed by Karl Rove.

So I guess Dr. Schenck gets a free pass.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Not that any of them really need it, but I've added these blogs to the blogroll: Norwegianity, Will Bunch's Philadelphia Daily News blog Attytood, The Guardian's Newsblog, and Feministing. Use them wisely. (I imagine many of you do already.)

Lobbying firms that employed Jack Abramoff, Tom's DeLay pal, were paid $7.2 million over a period of years by the Marianas Islands, a U.S. territory in the Pacific where clothing companies find cheap labor. The islands were trying to keep the U.S. government from toughening labor laws.

But paying for Abramoff's lobbying services apparently wasn't enough -- so in 1996 the Marianas also gave $1.2 million to David Lapin, a rabbi whose brother introduced Abramoff to DeLay. Lapin, The New York Times tells us, "has long promoted conservative causes in Washington." Apparently that kept him so busy that he was never able to hold up his end of the deal:

The government of a United States territory in the Pacific said Thursday that it had been unable to determine what work was performed for a $1.2 million contract awarded to a close associate of a Washington lobbyist at the center of a growing corruption scandal here....

Pam Brown, the attorney general for the Marianas, said Thursday that the government had been unable to determine what work David Lapin had done.

"We haven't been able to figure out what the deliverables were," Ms. Brown said. "He was tasked with providing some sort of ethical parameters for government work...."

Wow. Y'know, I don't want to just snicker at these people, but sometimes they almost make it too easy.


More delightful stuff from the same story:

In 1999, Mr. DeLay's former chief of staff, Edwin Buckham, and his former spokesman, Michael Scanlon, both of whom later worked with Mr. Abramoff in his lobbying firm, visited the islands to persuade two local lawmakers to change their votes for speaker of the islands' House of Representatives. The DeLay associates wanted the two legislators to support the candidate of the garment industry, Ben Fitial, who was close to Mr. Abramoff, and promised that federal contracts to the islands would follow if they did.

DeLay just loves micromanaging the makeup of legislatures, doesn't he?

Oh, and more fun:

Mr. Buckham later represented Enron in its bid to build an energy plant in the Northern Marianas, and when Enron lost to a Japanese concern, Mr. DeLay worked to get the bidding reopened.

I feel sleazy just reading this stuff.
Almost missed this in the stories about Ahmed Chalabi becoming interim oil minister in Iraq:

With his nephew also installed as finance minister, Chalabi and his family appear to have a firm grip on the country's purse strings.

The nephew's name is Ali Abdel-Amir Allawi. And that appointment isn't temporary.

More at Needlenose.
For years, Republicans -- and George W. Bush in particular -- have told middle-class and poor Americans that tax cuts for the rich (on capital gains, on inherited wealth) are in their best interest. Republicans have said that it doesn't matter who benefits and who doesn't -- a tax cut is a tax cut, and all tax cuts are good for ordinary Americans.

Last night, Bush told us we should accept Social Security benefit cuts for the middle class and the rich.

How is it possible to reconcile that with the standard GOP economic line? If, by definition, every tax cut for Peter is good for Paul, why should Paul be pleased that Peter's benefits are being cut?

(I'm ignoring the fact that Bush is really asking the middle class to accept a big benefit cut on itself, because it's obvious that Bush hopes what you took away from the press conference was "The rich lose the most" -- a strange message from the leader of a party that shrieks "Class warfare!" every time a Democrat says of a tax cut, "The rich benefit the most.")
Hey, where's Tom DeLay? Where's Randall Terry?

(4/28/05 - HOUSTON) — At five months old, a local baby girl is already caught in the middle of a life or death debate. The little girl has leukemia and a rare type of flesh-eating disease, and her family is fighting to keep their baby alive.

Little Knya Dismuke Howard is only five months old. She is still fighting for her life at Memorial Hermann Hospital....

Knya's father Charles Howard ... says Knya's doctors don't want to continue treatment....

Memorial Hermann Hospital officials released a statement that reads in part, "In certain unfortunate cases where the death of a patient is unavoidable and medical experts believe that continued treatment will only increase pain and suffering, the physician may ask for a meeting of the Committee for Review of Medically Inappropriate/Futile Treatment. That committee is meeting today to examine the case of little Knya." ...

And in San Antonio:

...Southeast Baptist Hospital notified the family of Spiro Nikolouzos last week that doctors plan to turn of his ventilator and stop feeding him intravenously May 3. The notification followed the hospital ethics committee's determination that continued care would be futile.

"Can you believe a hospital's trying to do this again?" Nikolouzos' wife, Jannette, said. "It's very aggravating -- I never thought this would happen again."

Jannette Nikolouzos said she and an adult son will travel to San Antonio to investigate their options...

A lof of you will recall the latter case -- Nikolouzos's family wants to keep him alive, but the Texas Futile Care Law -- signed by then-governor George W. Bush and supported by National Right to Life (which helped write it) -- permits hospitals to overrule families in cases like this. Nikolouzos's family was fighting in court successfully to keep him alive during the Schiavo battles, but now it seems that was a temporary victory.

It's quite possible I'd agree with the judgment of the hospital if I were the relative entrusted with making medical decisions in either of these cases -- but I'd want to make the decision, and I want thse relatives to do so, too. (Unlike Terri Schiavo's parents, these are the relatives who actually have the legal right to make decisions.) And I thought the people who railed against the decisions in the Schiavo case believed all life should be preserved by any means necessary, so where's their outrage?

(Links via Democratic Underground, Rising Hegemon, and Mark A.R. Kleiman.)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

From Todd Purdum's press conference postmortem in The New York Times:

With his presidency at best becalmed - and at worst beset - just 99 days into his second term, President Bush seized the prime-time power of an East Room news conference for only the fourth time in his tenure in an effort to show that he could still do what he has always done in the face of storms around him: make his own weather....

"I'm not surprised that some are balking at doing hard work," Mr. Bush said in answer to the first question about whether he was frustrated at the slow progress of his agenda. "But I have a duty as the president to define problems facing our nation and to call upon people to act."

So Mr. Bush did what he likes to do best: He took his case directly to the people....

Er, those two bits in bold -- how can they both be true?

A Swiss-based businessman accused by the US Treasury of providing financial help to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda carried a Saudi diplomatic passport, according to copies of documents contained in a book published today in Paris.

The documents include a letter from the US Treasury to the Swiss authorities, which says that al-Qaeda and its leader received financial assistance from the businessman, Ali bin Mussalim, "as of late September 2001". They also include a copy of Mr bin Mussalim's diplomatic passport.

The disclosures, contained in Al-Qaeda Will Conquer (Al-Qa'ida Vaincra), by the author Guillaume Dasquie, will be uncomfortable reading for the Saudi government, which has disputed any suggestions of official complicity in the attacks of September 11 2001.

The January 2002 letter from George Wolfe, then the US Treasury's deputy general counsel, says Mr bin Mussalim "has been providing indirect investment services for al-Qaeda, investing funds for bin Laden, and making cash deliveries on request to the al-Qaeda organisation".

The letter links him to the now defunct Bank Al-Taqwa and its founder, Youssef Nada....

--Financial Times

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball were following the story of bin Mussalim, Nada, and Bank Al-Taqwa last year, though the bit about the Saudi diplomatic passport is new. Isikoff and Hosenball said that a particular account at Bank Al-Taqwa

was originally set up for Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, a one-time member of Al Qaeda's governing Shura Council who was captured in Germany after the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa and has been awaiting trial while in prison in the United States ever since.... After Salim's arrest, other Al Qaeda figures continued to access the account, [a] legal source said....

In addition, the [Treasury Department] letter notes that one of Al-Taqwa's board members, Ahmed Huber, had confirmed that he had met with members of bin Laden's organization in Beirut and had defended the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.... The letter also states that another Al-Taqwa board member, Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, has supported an Islamic center in Milan that the U.S. government believes may be Al Qaeda’s "most important base in Europe" and which was linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, among other terror plots.

This Isikoff/Hosenball story appeared on May 12, 2004. The Financial Times notes that

Mr bin Mussalim was found dead in his residence in Lausanne last June, a month after reports of the US Treasury letter first emerged.

Here's another curious detail in the FT story:

Other documents cited in the book include a flight manifest of the so-called bin Laden flight, in which members of the bin Laden family were flown out of the US in the days after the September 11 attacks.

The manifest shows 29 people aboard the flight that flew to Le Bourget airport from Boston on September 20, after originating in Los Angeles and then flying to Orlando and Washington Dulles airport. This contradicts the number cited in the report of the 9/11 Commission published last year, which said there were 26 people aboard.

The manifest shows the aircraft flew on from Le Bourget to Geneva and Jeddah.

Geneva. That's in Switzerland, you know.
Ahmad Chalabi will be acting oil minister, the parliamentary speaker said.

--"Iraq Parliament Approves Cabinet, Government Formed," Reuters, 4/28/05

[Scott] Ritter had one other memorable encounter with Chalabi. Six months after [their January 1998] London meeting, Ritter was feeling dispirited. U.N. investigators had discovered trace evidence of VX nerve gas on warheads in Iraq; he was concerned that Saddam was still hiding something. Chalabi invited him to the town house in Georgetown, and they discussed the VX discovery. Chalabi then talked to Ritter about doing intelligence work for the I.N.C....

According to Ritter, Chalabi went on to describe a clear vision of Iraq's future -- with himself in charge. Ritter said, "He told me that, if I played ball, when he became President he'd control all of the oil concessions, and he'd make sure I was well taken care of. I guess it was supposed to be a sweetener." Chalabi’s office denied Ritter's account, calling him a "liar." Ritter left without agreeing to work for Chalabi.

--Jane Mayer, "The Manipulator," The New Yorker, 6/7/04

(Reuters link via Atrios.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The right-wing blogs are worked up about a bit on Air America that included what Drudge calls "an apparent gunshot warning to the president."

The announcer: "A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp: [audio sound of 4 gunshots being fired.] Just try it, you little bastard. [audio of gun being cocked]."

The audio production at the center of the controversy aired during opening minutes of The Randi Rhodes Show.

Kind of a dumb thing to put on the air. But the question is: What should happen to Randi Rhodes as a result?

How about what happened to this guy during the Clinton years?

Ray Appleton, a host on KMJ in California's San Joaquin Valley, ... promoted a bumper sticker reading, "Lee Harvey Oswald: Where are you now that we really need you?" (L.A. Times, 4/28/95)

And what happened to him? Apparently nothing -- he's not in jail and he's still on KMJ.

(And I do believe G. Gordon "Go for a Head Shot" Liddy is still walking around free after urging the murder of ATF agents, as is radio commentator turned senator Jesse "Mr. Clinton Better Watch Out If He Comes Down Here" Helms.)

In mid-April, Viacom revealed that it was reimbursing two top executives, co-Presidents Leslie Moonves and Thomas Freston, for sleeping in their own homes while in New York and Los Angeles on business.

...Moonves, who lives in Los Angeles, owns a home in New York. When he stays at that home while traveling on business, he's reimbursed -- to the tune of $105,000 in 2004. Likewise, Freston -- who lives in New York and owns a home in Los Angeles -- was reimbursed $43,100 for staying at his L.A. domicile last year. Both executives earned about $20 million apiece in 2004.

--BusinessWeek via Yahoo News

Remember, these are the people Republicans want to reward with even more tax cuts.

(Link via DU.)
So who else has held the prince's hand?

A member of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz's delegation was denied entry into the United States after authorities found he was on a government "watch" list, a US official said.

The US Department of Homeland Security, in a routine check of the delegation passenger manifest, found that one traveller was on a government list meant to screen out possible terrorists, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"This information was shared with our interagency partners, including the State Department," the official said. "My understanding is that the State Department denied that person a visa and so they did not enter the country." ...

--AFP/Yahoo News
In case you were worried that you might someday run out of things to despise Tom DeLay for, David Corn points out another: DeLay is now apparently making NASA a personal fiefdom and profit center.

Corn's article on the subject is in the current Nation; it's behind the subscription-only wall, but he reproduces it on his blog.

Scroll past the item about Ann Coulter (or read it -- it's quite amusing) and learn that in the notorious 2003 Texas redistricting DeLay's district was tweaked so that the Johnson Space Center in Houston would be grafted on; after that -- coincidentally? -- NASA became the only program in Bush's budget to receive an increase, apart from those involving defense and homeland security. Even some Republicans thought that didn't seem right:

The GOP-run House appropriations subcommittee on veterans and housing--which oversaw NASA's funding--trimmed NASA's budget by $1.1 billion, partly to make room for funding for veterans' healthcare.


Bush then threatened to veto the $92 billion appropriations bill that included NASA's money. More important, DeLay hit the warpath.

... He kept the subcommittee's bill bottled up. (During this spending battle, aerospace firms like Northrop Grumman and Boeing funded a reception honoring DeLay at the GOP convention.) The appropriations bill covering NASA eventually was incorporated into an omnibus spending measure. And in December DeLay threatened to block that legislation unless NASA received the full funding proposed by Bush. According to Democrats on the appropriations committee, to accommodate DeLay the committee had to apply a nearly 1 percent cut to other programs. This meant slashing $456 million in education, $225 million in veterans' healthcare and $61 million in scientific research. DeLay didn't mind. He held firm and got his way....

Is DeLay just bringing home the bacon? John Pike of doesn't think so:

"This is not just about DeLay bringing money to his district," Pike says. "It's national. If you want a contract with NASA, who are you going to go to? And we all know how you get DeLay's attention. DeLay must realize this. Over time, the amount of discretionary budget authority available to him could add up to billions."

President Bush can forget about getting any mercy from Washington wags at Saturday's White House Correspondents Dinner - not after the setup he gave every comic and Democrat by strolling hand in hand on Monday with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Jay Leno, who has emceed the dinner in the past, jumped on the tender scene at Bush's Texas ranch by offering "Tonight" viewers a spoof on those Las Vegas tourism commercials showing how Sin City reawakens a couple's romance. The punchline: "What happens in Crawford stays in Crawford."...

New Yorker writer Andy Borowitz said, "After the picture came out, President Bush reiterated his opposition to gay marriage - unless one of the partners has several billion barrels of petroleum."...

And my favorite from the caption contest at The Hotline:

"You had me at 'increased output.'"
Well, here's your political landscape: Senate majority leader (and possible future GOP presidential candidate) Bill Frist is rejecting a compromise with Democrats on votes for judicial nominees (he must have gotten an earful from religious conservatives for even talking to Harry Reid), and now, in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush (also a possible future GOP presidential candidate) has signed an NRA-endorsed bill that gives residents of his state carte blanche to shoot anyone they feel threatens their lives, in private or in public.

Gee, aren't we always being told that it's the Democrats who are too much in thrall to their interest groups?

I'd be worked up about this gun bill, but I actually don't think it's going to lead to more shootings. It's clear that most gun-owning Americans already feel they have the right to shoot anyone at any time when they feel threatened, regardless of the law -- think of Rodney Peairs in Baton Rouge:

Yoshi Hattori was headed to a Halloween party in Central on Oct. 17, 1992, when he and a friend knocked on the wrong door. After Hattori didn't obey commands to "freeze," Rodney Peairs shot him in the chest. Lewis Unglesby, Peairs' attorney, has said his client was protecting his home and family from what he thought was a threat. A jury later acquitted Peairs of manslaughter, but the Hattoris won a civil lawsuit against him.

For that matter, think of Bernhard Goetz, who turned a subway car into a shooting gallery when he felt threatened by four black youths, in the gun-control city and state of New York.

(Incidentally, a generation after the Goetz shooting put him on the cover of Time magazine -- "Rising Fear of Violent Crime ... Public Anger at the Justice System," the cover read in part -- we learn that New York City, with its still-strict gun laws, is on track to have its lowest murder rate in forty years. Hey, John Lott, what was that again about "more guns, less crime"?)

Meanwhile, Wayne LaPierre wants you to know that he thinks the entire country is now the NRA's bitch:

Mr. LaPierre of the N.R.A. said his group would introduce the [Florida] bill in every state, and he predicted it would win broad national support.

"We will start with red and move to blue," he said of the states. "In terms of passing it, it is downhill rather than uphill because of all the public support."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

If you enjoyed yesterday's intimate get-together between the president and Crown Prince Abdullah, I think you'll like this.

(Link via Attytood.)

And surely somebody's going to set the video footage to music. ("I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles? Or at least "Hold My Hand" by the Rutles?)
In a sane world, this would be the end of any discussion of this woman's appointment to the federal bench:

Just days after a bitterly divided Senate committee voted along party lines to approve her nomination as a federal appellate court judge, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown told an audience Sunday that people of faith were embroiled in a "war" against secular humanists who threatened to divorce America from its religious roots, according to a newspaper account of the speech....

Her comments to a gathering of Roman Catholic legal professionals in Darien, Conn., came on the same day as "Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith," a program produced by evangelical leaders and simulcast on the Internet and in homes and churches around the country....

"There seems to have been no time since the Civil War that this country was so bitterly divided. It's not a shooting war, but it is a war," she said, according to a report published Monday in the Stamford Advocate.

"These are perilous times for people of faith," she said, "not in the sense that we are going to lose our lives, but in the sense that it will cost you something if you are a person of faith who stands up for what you believe in and say those things out loud."...

--L.A. Times (story also available here)

War isn't spirited disagreement. War is war. You destroy your enemy in war. You don't work toward justice.

And this nominee believes she and her allies are at war with a large percentage of the American public.

How can she be fair on the federal bench? How is it possible, when she regards many of the people who would come before her as the Enemy?


The original Stamford Advocate story is here, by the way. It doesn't have much more on Brown's remarks, but it does have this about the event at which she spoke:

[Father William] Lori, bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, said by organizing the gathering he hopes those in the legal profession will rededicate themselves to their responsibilities....

He brought up the legality of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, the death penalty and assisted suicide.

"In so many instances, we are trying to solve our problems by death rather than life," Lori said. "I think we have to solve our problems by fostering and promoting life."

I'm sure Judge Brown has all the right positions on all the issues Bishop Lori mentions -- except one. The San Francisco Chronicle notes that, as a California Supreme Court justice, she "routinely affirms death sentences," and adds

Two years ago, she wrote that 'murderers do not deserve a fate better than that inflicted on their victims."

That would seem to make her part of the "culture of death." But she's a Republican, and it's just the death penalty, so it's OK.
Bush Adds DeLay to Social Security Tour

Good grief. They're putting this nasty, partisan pariah on the tour? They really are living in the bunker now. It's as if they've given up on everyone to their left -- meaning every voter in the center and right-center, not just liberals. It's as if they think they can rally the faithful and, brandishing God's mighty sword, just roll over the majority of the country. They're delusional.

From the Baltimore Sun (if the link doesn't work, try this):

...Conservative and Christian groups are mounting a widespread effort - using e-mails and Web sites with often-fiery rhetoric - against four bills they charge promote the gay agenda.

"Pray that God's will be done and that all the churches rise up against these bills," says an e-mail distributed to members of the Christian Coalition of Maryland....

The legislation would add gays to the categories of people protected under the state's hate-crime laws, allow unmarried couples to make property transfers without paying state or local taxes and require schools to report bullying incidents....

[ and Take Back Maryland], along with other organizations, such as the Christian Coalition of Maryland, Defend Maryland Marriage and the Family Protection Lobby, also are supporting Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr.'s petition efforts to repeal a bill to give unmarried couples medical decision-making rights, among other benefits....

Yeah, this is what Jesus would do.

I think the opposition to the bullying bill is my personal favorite. It reminds me of this charming anecdote from the recent Rolling Stone article on a conference of "Dominionists" (right-wing Christians who think right-wing Christians need to take over the U.S. government):

[Gary] Cass [executive director of Reclaiming America] also presents another small-town activist, Kevin McCoy, with a Salt and Light Award for leading a successful campaign to shut down an anti-bullying program in West Virginia schools. McCoy, a soft-spoken, prematurely gray postal worker, fought to end the program because it taught tolerance for gay people -- and thus, in his view, constituted a "thinly disguised effort to promote the homosexual agenda." "What America needs," Cass tells the faithful, "is more Kevin McCoys."


The pro-bullyists in Maryland say pretty much the same thing, the Sun reports:

Kerns and other opponents of the bill say they fear it would be used to discuss homosexuality in the classroom.

On the Web site, the gay-rights agenda is described as working to "program future youth to be led as lambs into the dangerous and denigrating homosexual lifestyle."

Delegate Richard S. Madaleno Jr., who supports the bill, has a response for that:

"I guess the whole idea is a 14-year-old should be beaten senseless in order to be a straight person," said Madaleno.

Yup, I think that's about right.
Rush Limbaugh is Baghdad Bob!

...There is no question the Democrats are imploding. It is the mainstream media that makes it look like they're winning -- and it doesn't help that the Republicans have been recalcitrant so far to stand up for themselves, but regardless what the Republicans do, the Democrats are still imploding.

...Don't sit there and tell me that we are losing. I'm not saying that we're winning per se; the trend is obviously in the right direction because our opponents are in a meltdown....

He's talking about Tom DeLay and John Bolton and the Terri Schiavo case and the nuclear option. He says everything's trending in the direction for right-wingers and the only reason everyone doesn't realize that is relentlessly deception from the stinky old liberal media -- which, he also says, fewer and fewer people pay attention to anymore.

Read the whole rather desperate-sounding rant here.

(Let me add that I think he may be right when he predicts Tom DeLay's survival. And I do think the Dems could do a much better job of translating anger at Republican policies into anger at Republicans themselves -- and into support for Democrats.)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Was I offline for a while there? I think I'm back.

Marla Ruzicka was killed by a car bomb while doing humanitarian work in Iraq. In death she was praised for her work and her courage.

Don't think for a minute that that's going to prevent right-wingers from trashing her.

Today, David Howowitz's Front Page Magazine runs "Meet the Real Marla Ruzicka" by Debbie Schlussel. (That title is toned down; on Schlussel's own Web site it's "Treasonatrix Barbie: Meet the Real Marla Ruzicka.") A sample:

With her cascading blonde hair and youthful looks, Ruzicka didn’t look like your average greasy-haired, pot-smoking, hackey-sack-playing, crunchy radical. And the media swooned over her, the newly-anointed Vanity Fair pin-up in Birkenstocks.
But looks are deceiving. Marla Ruzicka was no mere peace activist.
She formed the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), the goal of which was anything but CIVIC during the War on Terror or ever. Ruzicka’s aim was to force the U.S. government to get an "accurate" count of "innocent civilian' deaths by U.S. troops and blackmail America into paying monetary settlements for each death.
But many of those dead included assorted terrorists,
jihadists, and other collaborators and uprisers against Americans. Ruzicka had the gall to insist that these Afghani and Iraqi dead, terrorists or not, get recognition and sympathy equal to victims of the 9/11 attacks.
More outrageous, Ruzicka got taxpayer money to fund her aiding-and-abetting pursuits. Where was Marla Ruzicka on 9/11? Hint: Not asking al-Qaeda for money to count and compensate U.S. victims of terror.

Ah, so that's her real crime: Not locating Osama bin Laden all by herself.

The Guardian had a rather different take on Ruzicka's work:

In a typical entry from her journal, published on AlterNet on November 6 2003, she reported: "On October 24, former teacher Mohammad Kadhum Mansoor, 59, and his wife, Hamdia Radhi Kadhum, 45, were travelling with their three daughters - Beraa, 21, Fatima, 8, and Ayat, 5 - when they were tragically run over by an American tank.

"A grenade was thrown at the tank, causing it to lose control and veer on to the highway, over the family's small Volkswagen. Mohammad and Hamdia were killed instantly, orphaning the three girls in the back seat. The girls survived, but with broken and fractured bodies. We are not sure of Ayat's fate; her backbone is broken.

"CIVIC staff member Faiz Al Salaam monitors the girls' condition each day. Nobody in the military or the US army has visited them, nor has anyone offered to help this very poor family."

And Ruzicka thought this was a bad thing. The nerve!

Schlussel overlooks a rather significant point: We don't want people like this to suffer. Iraqi and Afghan civilians are the good guys. People on the left say this -- and so does everyone in the administration (President Bush says these are the people we fought the wars for). The left may root for Afghan women to cast off their burqas, but so does Laura Bush; everyone can agree that it took courage in January for Iraqis to vote.

Unlike Debbie Schlussel, the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress thinks these civilians matter. It gave CIVIC money for civilian victims. As The Washington Post reported in 2004,

... Ruzicka helped focus attention on the problem of collateral victims, and what resulted was a precedent-setting approach that moves beyond the cash payments the military favors. The $10 million is used to rebuild homes and schools, provide medical assistance and make loans.

Filthy pinko.
REVEREND POTTYMOUTH links to a story on the GOP and the Christian right in Ohio from which we learn about this unholy alliance:

...Pastor Rod Parsley hosted two national celebrities of the Christian right for a Central Ohio rally. Professional liberal baiter Ann Coulter -- who's on the cover of this week's Time magazine -- and perennial candidate Alan Keyes came to Parsley's World Harvest Church to help with a flashy launch of the pastor's new book, Silent No More.

Excuse me? Coulter is now a "national celebrity of the Christian right"? I know she's always loved to denounce abortion (in the most graphic, shock-the-bourgeois language possible), but since when is she a woman of God?

Morally, it's far from an exact fit. This is from the Web site of Parsley's Center for Moral Clarity:

Teaching children that their bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit from a young age is key to personal responsibility. Waiting for sex until marriage is a commitment to purity – to being holy vessels God can work through. Children should be taught that they should be holy and consecrated – set apart for a divine purpose – at an early age.

This is Coulter, as portrayed in Time:

"When I first met her," says a fellow conservative, "she was walking around with a black miniskirt and a mink stole, making out with Bob Guccione Jr. in the stairwell." (Coulter dated publisher Guccione, son of the porn mogul, for six months. She says the stairwell story "could be" true, although "I make out in public less often now that I'm publicly recognizable."...)

Here's a Parsley tip for troubled souls:

Have an alcohol problem?

Here's Coulter:

As for living on chardonnay and cigarettes, Coulter says that's "definitely true."


Next, in the chapter entitled "Homosexuality: The Unhappy Gay Agenda," Parsley defines for us "the profile of the new 'political correctness' ... [and] of 'cultural diversity,' 'tolerance,' and 'inclusiveness.'" According to the pastor, those of us in favor of equality will stop at nothing in order to "abolish marriage altogether," instruct all children in homosexual behavior, force "older people' to accept homosexuality, and "expunge a number of passages from [the] Scriptures and rewrite others."  The gay agenda is absurd regardless, Parsley reasons, because "gays [are] turning away from the homosexual life and culture in record numbers."


Coulter ... hardly ever misses the drag queens' Halloween parade in Greenwich Village.

I'm joking about this, but until now there's been a bit of a wall of separation between the secular attack dogs of the right and the preachers, and I wonder if it's about to break down. It's interesting that Rev. Parsley doesn't seem to think any of Coulter's sewer attacks on ideological opponents are un-Christian -- he's not even pretending to worship the Jesus of "turn the other cheek" or forgiveness or love, is he? As for Coulter, I wonder if this could be a wickedly brilliant career move: If she throws in her lot with the preachers, she can attack her opponents by saying they "hate people of faith." If she does that -- and, somewhere along the line, starts writing about religion, and about her "spiritual journey" -- how long do you think it'll be before she's back in the newsweeklies, being profiled under the title "Taking Ann Coulter Seriously"? And Parsley's making it clear that she won't even have to stop accusing her enemies of treason or psychosis or disloyalty by dint of being of Middle Eastern descent -- God thinks that's OK.

If folks like Coulter and, say, Limbaugh increasingly lend their star power to the Christian conservatives, that could make Bible-thumping seem suburban and mainstream. To me that's a scary thought.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


From The Boston Globe:

The Archdiocese of Boston has ordered a priest to stop praying outside of Senate President Robert E. Travaglini's home, where he and several followers had been protesting the senator's position on embryonic stem cell research, church officials and the priest said yesterday.

The Rev. Thomas DiLorenzo and several parishioners from his parish, Holy Rosary Parish in Winthrop, spent several days over recent weeks singing hymns in front of Travaglini's East Boston home, brandishing rosary beads, and carrying signs with slogans such as, "Stop Playing God," and "This is all about money."

DiLorenzo said in an interview yesterday that he was told to stay away from Travaglini's duplex after he sent a letter to the senator that mentioned one of the senator's children as well as his position on embryonic stem cell research.

DiLorenzo said that, while he did not consider the letter threatening, church officials told him the senator's wife took it seriously enough that she delivered it to the East Boston police station...

[DiLorenzo] said his letter to Travaglini made the reasons for his opposition clear.

"I said, 'I have no hate for you,'" DiLorenzo recalled yesterday. "'I pray for you and your family every day. Secondly, you are either ignorant of the issue of embryonic stem cell research, or you are evil.'"...

This is what they think of us, folks.


UPDATE; Do you suppose Father DiLorenzo did this just to plug his radio show?
[Ratzinger/Benedict] has been a leading voice in the church for enforcing traditional doctrine on homosexuality, extramarital sex and artificial birth control, writing a letter to American bishops in 1988, for example, criticizing their acceptance of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS, saying the American view supported "the classical principle of tolerance of the lesser evil."

-New York Times, 4/20/05

Pope Benedict XVI faced claims last night he had 'obstructed justice' after it emerged he issued an order ensuring the church's investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret.

The order was made in a confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, which was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001.

It asserted the church's right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger....

It orders that 'preliminary investigations' into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger's office, which has the option of referring them back to private tribunals in which the 'functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests'.

'Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,' Ratzinger's letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication....

--Observer today

It's weird enough to try to grasp the Catholic Church's logic on the use of condoms (that it's a grave sin), but once you grasp it, it's appalling to hear the church's chief doctrine cop say that this "lesser evil" is intolerable even in the face of an appalling pandemic.

And then you see the same doctrine cop saying that pedophilia charges against priests shouldn't go to the secular authorities and shouldn't be made public, and recommending punishment for anyone who violates this omerta. This is "tolerance of the lesser evil" -- better to let these priests get away with brutalizing children than to risk harming the church -- and Ratzinger says it's OK.

Ratzinger demanded tolerance of what was, in the church's view, "the lesser evil" in the case of priestly pedophilia, while condemning "tolerance of the lesser evil" in the case of condoms. The appalling response to the child rape is comnpounded by the hypocrisy.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

This is nice:

Wild horses rounded up on federal land in the West and sold to a private owner have been slaughtered for the first time since a new law went into effect, a government official said Thursday.

"This is something we regret and are very disappointed this has happened," said Celia Boddington, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Washington.

"We make every possible effort when the horses are sold to make sure the animals are placed in good homes for long-term care...."

--Yahoo/L.A. Times

"We make every possible effort" -- so how could this happen? Maybe there's a hint here:

Nancy Perry, the Humane Society's vice president for government affairs ... said a man who identified himself as a minister in Oklahoma told the BLM he intended to use the horses in a program for troubled youth and bought them April 15. The man has not been identified.

Actually, that appears not to be true. A news alert from the Society for Animal Protective Legislation gives a name to the buyer, and explains why someone would do this:

A recent amendment to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act has already resulted in the tragic end to the lives of six of America's wild horses in Illinois after they were purchased from the Bureau of Land Management for $50 each by Dustin Herbert a former "rodeo clown" from Oklahoma.

...Over 65,000 American horses were slaughtered last year in the United States to satisfy the demand for horsemeat in France, Italy, Belgium and Japan.

So what happened here? An ex-rodeo clown said, "Yessir, I'm a man of God, and I'm going to put these fine animals to good use helping to raise up good Christian youth" -- and the government just took him at his word and let him sell the horses for meat? Seems like as good an explanation as any.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Via Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged, I learn that South Carolina is now on the verge of making cockfighting a felony ... but domestic violence, even after multiple offenses, is still a misdemeanor. I want to tell you a little bit about the self-righteous idiot at the center of all this, but first here's the story. (Skip down to the asterisks if you already know what's going on.)

The State House took up two pieces of legislation this week aimed at protecting two different groups. Up for debate was cracking down on gamecock fighting and protecting victims of domestic violence.

A bill protecting cocks passed through the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. John Graham Altman (R-Dist. 119-Charleston) was in favor of the gamecock bill, "I was all for that. Cockfighting reminds me of the Roman circus, coliseum."

A bill advocates say would protect victims against batterers was tabled, killing it for the year. Rep. Altman is on the committee that looked at the domestic violence bill, "I think this bill is probably drafted out of an abundance of ignorance." ...

Both cockfighting and domestic violence are currently misdemeanor crimes, punishable by 30 days in jail. If the bill passes, cockfighting will become a felony, punishable by five years in jail. Domestic violence crimes will remain a misdemeanor.

Now, for Altman, it wasn't enough to stop this bill. He had to insult one its supporters:

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Dist. 66-Orangeburg) says of the two bills, "What we have said by the actions of the Judiciary Committee is we aren't going to create a felony if you beat your wife, partner. But now, if you've got some cockfighting going on, whoa! Wait a minute."

Rep. Altman responds to the comparison, "People who compare the two are not very smart and if you don't understand the difference, Ms. Gormley, between trying to ban the savage practice of watching chickens trying to kill each other and protecting people rights in CDV statutes, I'll never be able to explain it to you in a 100 years ma'am."

as well as a TV reporter who dared to question him:

News 10 reporter Kara Gormley asked Altman, "That's fine if you feel you will never be able to explain it to me, but my question to you is: does that show that we are valuing a gamecock's life over a woman's life?"

Altman again, "You're really not very bright and I realize you are not accustomed to this, but I'm accustomed to reporters having a better sense of depth of things and you're asking this question to me would indicate you can't understand the answer. To ask the question is to demonstrate an enormous amount of ignorance. I'm not trying to be rude or hostile, I'm telling you."

Gormley, "It's rude when you tell someone they are not very bright."

Altman, "You're not very bright and you'll just have to live with that."...

And sources have confirmed that he's the guy who made this truly vile comment at a Judiciary Committee Meeting:

The bill was titled "Protect Our Women in Every Relationship" or the POWER act....

The discussion on the tape is as follows:

"Can you tell me why the subcommittee in its great wisdom entitles this 'Protect Our Women in Any Relationship act'?"

"You would have to ask Ms. Cobb Hunter, Mr. Leach. They're the ones who drafted the bill and they're the ones who named it that. It was not the subcommittee."

"But the subcommittee thought that was a good enough idea to keep it as 'Protect Women' and not 'Protect Both Women and Men'."

"We didn't retitle the bill if that's your question."

"Any reason?"


"Call it 'POPER,' Protect Our People."

(Sources confirm Rep. Altman's comment.) "Pop Her Again."



"Pop Her Again" isn't John Graham Altman III's first controversial remark. Here are a few others:

In January 1997, state lawmakers battled over what to do with the Confederate flag. At a meeting of the House Judiciary committee, Altman took aim at flag opponents, telling them,"Quit looking at the symbols. Get out and get a job. Quit shooting each other. Quit having illegitimate babies. Let's move on from here."

It's just one of many times Altman's comments have enraged his critics. Later he wrote to state Education Superintendent Dr. Barbara Nielsen, who supported removing the flag from the State House dome. "The kindest help I can offer you on any level is to try to get you quickly qualified for the Federal Witness Protection program," Altman wrote.

In 1994, he angered some by proposing that the Charleston County school board designate a "White History Month." (Source.)

On hearing that the Citadel Board had voted a resolution to remove the Confederate flag:  "I never thought we'd find the Citadel Board of Visitors and the NAACP holding hands and whispering sweet nothings."...

The SC Representative, Charleston-R, is working to defeat Hate Crimes legislation in the SC House. He accused its proponents of "spreading drivel," and said, "This bill will make white heterosexuals second-class citizens." 

Altman believes the issue of civil unions is just a smokescreen, saying that gay people just want to get married "because they want to bugger each other. Can two heterosexual men get married? No, because you've got to follow up with conduct, which is having sex." (Source.)

And here are a few highlights from Altman's career:

* He had a charming response when a court rebuffed abortion opponents:

After a federal judge ruled the state's "Choose Life" license plate was unconstitutional because there was no forum to provide the opposing political viewpoint, a Republican lawmaker devised his own compromise - a "Choose Death" tag.

"My bill is simply a reaction to the abortionists," said State Rep. John Graham Altman, R-Charleston. "They're pro-choice. Well, they've got a choice - whether to buy [the tag] or not."

* He tried to cut the budget of South Carolina Educational Television (ETV) when it dared to air a documentary on gay people in the South. Then again, he tried to get the entire board of ETV fired when he learned that it planned to air a film depicted some rural schools as rundown.

* Earlier this month, he made a bizarre proposal that his county secede from South Carolina for tax purposes, as a protest against assessment increases.

* Needless to say, he vehemently opposes gay marriage and supports "traditional marriage" -- even though he's been married three times. (Scroll down.)

This is old-school down-home conservatism, but it's also the modern GOP.

(Some links from Crack the Bell, which has more coverage and comments on Altman.)

From John "Hindrocket" Hinderaker at Power Line ("Blog of the year!" --Time):


I don't know, but we haven't hit bottom yet. A reader called me to point out this sickening display on Cafe Press.

American political history is often not pretty. But I don't think we have ever experienced anything remotely approaching the current descent of liberals into hate. Not only hate, but weird hate. And it will continue until voters definitively reject the Democratic Party.

UPDATE: Another reader points out this one. There is no depth to which the American left will not sink.

I read something like that and I think, "Wow, this must really be something. This must be awful. It must be like the head-sawing videos from Iraq. It must be like machete mutilation in Sierra Leone. It might make me physically ill."

So I click to see the "sickening display," knowing I may suffer trauma from which I won't soon recover.

This is what Hindrocket finds unspeakable:

Arrrrrrrgh!!!! My eyes! My eyes!

Steeling myself, I click on the one pointed out by "Another reader." Argh! There it is! The dog again!

(Yes, there are other products at that link, some of which use words stronger than "hump" in reference to Bush ... words like -- I hope you're strong enough to take this -- "Fucktard.")

I should point out for the record that the folks at Power Line regularly gush over Ann Coulter. Here's Hinderaker's partner Scott Johnson ("The Big Trunk") gleefully linking a Coulter column rejected by USA Today that reads, in part:

Here at the Spawn of Satan convention in Boston, conservatives are deploying a series of covert signals to identify one another, much like gay men do....

My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie-chick pie wagons they call "women" at the Democratic National Convention.

Yeah, no hate there.

A tip for Hinderaker: You want "weird hate"? I have two words for you.

Mia T.

Folks, if you don't know what I'm talking about, I can't prepare you. Just click the link.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Weird story from Newsday -- grab the tinfoil hat:

Neil Bush, Ratzinger co-founders

President's younger brother served with then-cardinal on board of relatively unknown ecumenical foundation

Neil Bush, the president's controversial younger brother, six years ago joined the cardinal who this week became Pope Benedict XVI as a founding board member of a little known Swiss ecumenical foundation.

The charter members of the board were all well-known international religious figures, except for Bush and his close friend and business partner, Jamal Daniel, whose family has extensive holdings in the United States and Switzerland, public records show.

The Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1999 to promote ecumenical understanding and publish original religious texts, said a foundation official.

Besides then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, founding board members included Rene-Samuel Sirat, the former chief rabbi of France; Jordan's Prince Hassan, a Muslim dedicated to religious dialogue; the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, another prominent Muslim; Olivier Fatio, director of the Institute of the History of the Reformation; and foundation president Metropolitan Damaskinos, a Greek Orthodox leader....

Let's see ... his brother's about to run for President (and, God willing, get control of the world's oil supply), so Neil and his pal hook up with ... these guys? Who were doing what exactly?

The foundation, based at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Geneva, is listed by Dun & Bradstreet business credit reports as a management trust for purposes other than education, religion, charity or research. But Vachicouras said the designation must be a mistake of translation to English because the foundation is a private nonprofit established under Swiss law. He said the foundation is being "relaunched" on its mission to publish the original text of the Bible's Old Testament in Hebrew, its New Testament in Greek and the Quran in Arabic.

Oh. Of course.

Doesn't it seem as if this should be a front for something? But you can't quite figure out how?

In recent years, Jamal Daniel has shown up on the advisory board of New Bridge Strategies, which Joe Allbaugh (campaign manager for Bush-Cheney 2000) set up to make money from the rebuilding of Iraq. We know Daniel has an eye for the main chance.

But what's with Ratzinger and these other guys?

Well, here's Sadruddin Aga Khan's obituary. Sounds like a well-meaning guy -- could have lived a life of dissipation, but worked instead with the UN (and was considered for the post of secretary-general), as well as on environmental issues. Though this is interesting:

In the wake of the first Gulf War he negotiated with Saddam Hussein to try to ensure the presence of a UN guard force and the implementation of humanitarian initiatives in Iraq to assist the Kurds and Shia Muslims. He also encouraged Saddam to accept the conditions of the UN’s Oil-for-Food programme. Later, concerned for the welfare of the Iraqi people, he advised that the sanctions should be suspended.


Prince Hassan seems like a thoughtful gentleman (find out more at his rather elaborate Web site). For what it's worth, a guy at thinks Hassan's nephew, Prince Abdullah of Jordan, might be the Antichrist.

Hey, I'm trying here.

My guess? There's no big conspiracy. There's -- maybe -- a small one: Neil figured his bro' would be President and so he and his pal Jamal tried to find some way to rub elbows with guys who might be, at most, one or two removes from lots and lots of oil -- but they wanted to find a way to do this that was, y'know, high-minded.

Ratzinger? I think he was genuinely interested in whatever this organization was doing.

But it would be amusing to learn that the truth was more sinister.

(Link via Attytood.)
The big story in Blogistan right now is that Rick Santorum is backing away from his advocacy of the "nuclear option" and is urging his fellow GOP senators to consider some stall tactics -- all because of the results of an internal Republican poll:

Details of the polling numbers remain under wraps, but Santorum and other Senate sources concede that, while a majority of Americans oppose the filibuster, the figures show that most also accept the Democratic message that Republicans are trying to destroy the tradition of debate in the Senate.

...Confirming public disquiet over the "nuclear" or "constitutional" option, Santorum said, "Our polling shows that."

Santorum knows a lot about polling and "disquiet" -- he's up for reelection next year, and a Quinnipiac poll shows him trailing Democrat Bob Casey Jr. by 14 points. He's one of the most visible supporters of both the Bush Social Security scheme and the Terri Schiavo intervention, both of which are hugely unpopular.

Oh, and Pennsylvania papers have been noting some interesting things about him. His trip to Florida, where he raised funds and did Schiavo photo ops? He got around the state on Wal-Mart's corporate jet -- not long after receiving some serious money from Wal-Mart. And what do you know -- he recently proposed a Wal-Mart-friendly amendment to the minimum wage law, he supports tort reform provisions that would transfer lawsuits like the huge class action suit Wal-Mart is now facing to federal courts, and he's included, in a bill on charities he sponsors, a provision on foundation gifts from corporations that would greatly benefit Sam Walton's heirs. Coincidence? I think not.

Also in the Pa. papers is news that the Outback Steakhouse chain is another backer of Santorum's -- and a Santorum amendment to the minimum wage bill would prevent states from creating higher minimum wages for restaurant workers than the nationally mandated restaurant minimum. (What would Jesus do? Yeah, I think he'd mandate the lowest possible minimum wage for waitstaff, don't you?)

A few months ago, this guy was mentally measuring the drapes in the White House. Now he could be unemployed in less than two years. Nice.

(Last link via Democratic Underground.)
You know, David Brooks had me going there for a second. He almost had me thinking, "For once the little twerp is right":

Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe v. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it....

Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists....

Hmmm, I thought. Maybe that's right -- maybe Roe is the reason our political life is so nasty and partisan.

Then I remembered:

The civil rights era. Vietnam. The bombing of Cambodia. Attacks on anti-war activists by "hard hats." Bumper stickers about "Hanoi Jane." The dirty tricks of the '72 Nixon campaign. The rhetoric of Spiro Agnew. The rhetoric of Attorney General John Mitchell. The plot to blow up the Brookings Institution, and all the other plots.

The Equal Rights Amendment, and Phyllis Schlafly's dark warnings about unisex toilets. Busing in Boston. Proposition 13. The battle over the Panama Canal treaty. The 1980 Reagan campaign. The 1980 campaign that targeted enough Democratic senators to turn the Senate Republican. The mining of harbors in Nicaragua. The rape of nuns in El Salvador. James Watt. Ed Meese. Jeane Kirkpatrick. Ollie North. Ads with the chant "Liberal, liberal, liberal."

"Read my lips -- no new taxes." The rumor that Kitty Dukakis once burned an American flag. Bush the Elder touring flag factories during the '88 campaign, while attacking the ACLU. The Willie Horton ad. The rise of Rush Limbaugh. The Morton Downey Jr. Show. The comedy of Andrew "Dice" Clay. The books of William Bennett. The Bell Curve. The Real Anita Hill. "My dog, Millie, knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos."

The attack on "Hillarycare." The attack on gays in the military. Travelgate. Filegate. Whitewater. Fellow members of Congress taunting Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky on the floor of the House as she cast the deciding vote in favor of Clinton's budget. Lani Guinier as "quota queen." The targeting of Jim Wright. The Contract with America. The government shutdown. The Arkansas Project. The "Clinton Body Count." Linda Tripp. Lucianne Goldberg. The Mena airport rumors. The mulatto child rumors. Gary Aldrich. Ann Coulter. Barbara Olson.

I'm not even up to Clinton's impeachment, much less the present century -- Rush Limbaugh comparing Tom Daschle to Satan, Max Cleland being linked to Osama bin Laden, John McCain being accused of emotional instability and disloyalty to his country and fathering a mulatto bastard who's actually an adopted child from Bangladesh. And on and on and on.

No, David, Roe v. Wade isn't why our politics is coarsened and polarized. Our politics is coarsened and polarized because conservatives want vengeance -- for the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Great Society, civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, consumerism, and every other liberal change of the twentieth century. And they're not too thrilled about more recent developments, either -- overturning Roe isn't going to make them mellow out about gay marriage or embryonic stem-cell research or self-administered emergency contraception or laws that permit the removal of feeding tubes for patients in permanent vegetative states.

Maybe you just focus on abortion because it's the rare issue on which liberals and Democrats fight back.
I haven't had a chance to read Matt Taibbi's review of the new Thomas Friedman book, but it's the cover story in New York Press, and the cover art (by David "Get Your War On" Rees) is just hilarious.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Am I allowed to utter a heresy here? Will you bear with me if I do that?

I've read the cover story on Ann Coulter in Time.

I don't think it's that bad.

What I mean is that I expected worse. I read a lot of the criticism before I read the article, and I expected puffery on the level of the 2002 George Gurley interview in which Coulter fantasized about Tim McVeigh blowing up the New York Times building.

That's not what this is. It's a more flattering portrait than she deserves -- the author, John Cloud, tries to be evenhanded, something she'd never do -- but it doesn't make her look very good. And I'm not talking about the cover photo.

I imagine a person reading the story who doesn't know the first thing about her. First impression: She's half drunk and chain-chewing Nicorette. Next: You learn she's compared all liberals to an alleged wife-murderer. Soon she's graphically describing a partial-birth abortion while people around her in a restaurant are trying to eat, after which she insists that her interviewer note for the record that she's getting sloshed.

You think this makes her look good?

This sounds like an episode of Behind the Music -- the part that comes shortly before the multiple stints in rehab.

Then there are the bon mots. See, you and I, we're used to them. If you're a lefty political maven, you've heard all of Coulter's greatest hits -- you can probably recite a few from memory. But to the apolitical reader I'm imagining, this is brand new, and unless the person is far to the right, I think it must seem rather repulsive.

Coulter wrote that Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is "a little weenie who can't read because he has 'dyslexia.'"...

Coulter's speech was part right-wing stand-up routine -- she called Senator Edward Kennedy "the human dirigible" -- and part bloodcurdling agitprop. "Liberals like to scream and howl about McCarthyism," she concluded. "I say, let's give them some. They've had intellectual terror on the campus for years ... It's time for a new McCarthyism."

COULTER: God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.' ...

" ...Imagine the great slogans the airlines could use: "'Now Frisking All Arabs Twice!' ... "'You Are Now Free to Move About the Cabin Not So Fast, Mohammed!'"

There's even more in a sidebar.

She insults a disabled Vietnam veteran. She insults Pamela Harriman, who's barely cold in her grave. She implies that her Muslim boyfriend is a potential terrorist. She calls a historian who regards her work as sloppy a "chickenshit."

She wakes up at one in the afternoon. She sometimes wears a surgical mask when she flies. She's been engaged three times but has never married. She says that she lives on chardonnay and cigarettes, and that she makes out with men in public, but not that often (that's now -- she's in her forties).

I think she comes off as Middle America's stereotype of a well-heeled, flaky coast-dweller who's hopelessly screwed up -- Anna Nicole Smith with a higher IQ and a faster metabolism. I think John and Jane Doe are reading this and thinking they're glad they don't watch cable news talk, glad they don't read her column and books, and certainly glad she doesn't live next door.
Clear Channel's at it again. Yesterday's New York Times had the story:

The image planned for the anti-Wal-Mart billboard was unusual - a fire-breathing Godzilla standing next to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge - and the language was strong: "The Wal-Monster will destroy Staten Island businesses and devastate our quality of life."

But New Yorkers may never see the billboard, which was supposed to go up on the island, because Clear Channel, the giant radio network that also runs an outdoor advertising company, has rejected it, saying its image and language are too inflammatory....

Paul J. Meyer, the chief executive of Clear Channel Outdoor, said that because billboards are a type of advertising that people cannot avoid, his company felt an obligation to restrict a message that might offend.

Really? Gee, that's something that didn't seem to worry Clear Channel last year when it agreed to let the Christian Coalition post a billboard promoting the conversion of homosexuals to heterosexuality -- in New Paltz, New York, where the mayor had performed gay marriages.

Clear Channel's rationale for rejecting the Wal-Mart billboard is just preposterous:

"Are we perhaps oversensitive on this?" he asked. "Maybe. When it comes to images of violence in New York City after 9/11, we feel we have to be very careful."


(Sorry I'm not posting the ad -- it was in the print paper, but it's not in the online story, and I can't find it anywhere else, either.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005



U.S. housing starts posted their steepest drop in more than 14 years in March, suggesting some cooling in the long-hot housing market....

Housing starts plunged 17.6 percent in March, their biggest drop since January 1991, to a 1.837 million unit rate from an upwardly revised 2.229 million unit pace in February, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday.

Wall Street economists had looked for housing starts to slip a far smaller 4.8 percent in March....

David Seiders, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, said the plunge in starts most likely represented just a pause after a couple strong months....


Here in New York City, the housing market seems like the dot-com sector in the '90s. (A cartoon caption in last week's New Yorker pretty much sums it up: "We sold our two-bedroom in the Village at a great price and bought the Virgin Islands.") The boom can't last forever, and I don't know what the hell happens when the bubble bursts.
I learned from today's New York Times that the divorce rate in this country is actually dropping slightly. I also learned the reason why:

Researchers say that the small drop in the overall divorce rate is caused by a steep decline in the rate among college graduates. As a result, a "divorce divide" has opened up between those with and without college degrees, said Dr. Steven P. Martin, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland.

"Families with highly educated mothers and families with less educated mothers are clearly moving in opposite directions," Dr. Martin wrote in a paper that has not yet been published but has been presented and widely discussed at scientific meetings.

... since 1980, ... [w]omen without undergraduate degrees have remained at about the same rate, their risk of divorce or separation within the first 10 years of marriage hovering at around 35 percent. But for college graduates, the divorce rate in the first 10 years of marriage has plummeted to just over 16 percent of those married between 1990 and 1994 from 27 percent of those married between 1975 and 1979....

Can this be? Is it possible? Are those who've been indoctrinated by the tenured radicals of our colleges and universities emerging from those four years of commie-pinko amoral sex-saturated brainwashing with traditional family values?

I'm shocked. Shocked!
John Paul's Dick Cheney was just elected Pope.

So the church will remain right-wing. Gee -- imagine my amazement.

I didn't realize until I read this that one of the speakers who'll be accusing filibuster supporters of being anti-Christian at the upcoming "Justice Sunday" rally will be Charles "Burn That Cross" Pickering.
I've been meaning to write something about the big article on "Constitution in Exile" judges that ran this past Sunday in The New York Times Magazine. You should certainly read it -- these people want to overturn the New Deal, and maybe not stop there, and the Bush administration might well succeed in putting a number of them on the federal courts, including the Supreme Court. We learn a few tidbits about some of the Bush nominees who are currently being held off by the Democrats -- a century ago the Supreme Court first dealt with minimum-wage and maximum-hours laws, finding them unconstitutional, and we're told that Bush nominee Janice Rogers Brown thinks those rulings were just swell (a good point to remember next Sunday, when preachers and Bill Frist are telling us that Democrats hate Bush's appointees because they're so Christian).

But what we never get from the article -- we never got this from the recent lengthy New Yorker profile of Antonin Scalia, either -- is a sense of the intellectual debate between right-wing legal radicals and everyone else. Professor Cass Sunstein is trotted out in each article, to criticize Scalia's "originalism" or the C-in-E movement, but the best he can do is enumerate the rulings we wouldn't have had if the modern radicals had been on the courts. A court full of Scalian "originalists" wouldn't have produced the Brown v. Board of Education decision! Constitution in Exile judges would probably find Social Security unconstitutional!

That's important, but it's not good enough. The authors of these articles (Jeffrey Rosen in the Times, Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker) seem wary of the radicals, but keep reading and you can see they're a bit overwhelmed by the radicals' seeming intellectual rigor. As a result, they never provide a rebuttal of the radicals' theories -- only of what those theories could lead to.

Aren't there competing theories of constitutional law that have equal intellectual heft? Isn't there someone who can rigorously defend the way modern courts interpret the Constitution based on our history? Couldn't Talbot and Rosen find a better rebuttal that Cass Sunstein saying, "If these guys were in charge, things would really suck"?

What makes this even odder is that Rosen says Scalia and the C-in-E crowd don't see eye to eye -- though Rosen never really makes clear why. As a layman, I don't understand this -- aren't the C-in-E folks and Scalia saying the same thing about the pure words of the Constitution? If Talbott and Rosen can't tell us how liberal and moderate scholars really think about the Constitution, couldn't one of them at least tell us how Scalia's arguments challenge the arguments of the C-in-E crowd?

But there's your somewhat-liberal media: resting on the laurels of the New Deal and the civil-rights era and unable to recognize that we have to prove we have better ideas than these right-wing bastards. Meanwhile, Scalia may be Chief Justice soon (though I'm still betting on Thomas), and Bush has three C-in-E sympathizers ready to join the federal bench if Frist exercises the nuclear option.


Adam Cohen knows what needs to be done. He has an "Editorial Observer" column in today's Times that challenges Scalia -- as a hypocrite and a fraud. The piece is titled "Psst ... Justice Scalia ... You Know, You're an Activist Judge, Too." Some excerpts:

The idea that liberal judges are advocates and partisans while judges like Justice Scalia are not is being touted everywhere these days, and it is pure myth. Justice Scalia has been more than willing to ignore the Constitution's plain language....

The 11th Amendment says federal courts cannot hear lawsuits against a state brought by "Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." But it's been interpreted to block suits by a state's own citizens - something it clearly does not say. How to get around the Constitution's express words? In a 1991 decision, Justice Scalia wrote that "despite the narrowness of its terms," the 11th Amendment has been understood by the court "to stand not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition of our constitutional structure which it confirms." If another judge used that rationale to find rights in the Constitution - in this case, rights for states - Justice Scalia's reaction would be withering....

Justice Scalia likes to boast that he follows his strict-constructionist philosophy wherever it leads, even if it leads to results he disagrees with. But it is uncanny how often it leads him just where he already wanted to go. In his view, the 14th Amendment prohibits Michigan from using affirmative action in college admissions, but lets Texas make gay sex a crime. (The Supreme Court has held just the opposite.) He is dismissive when inmates invoke the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to challenge prison conditions. But he is supportive when wealthy people try to expand the "takings clause" to block the government from regulating their property....

The classic example of conservative inconsistency remains Bush v. Gore. Not only did the court's conservative bloc trample on the Florida state courts and stop the vote counting - it declared its ruling would not be a precedent for future cases. How does Justice Scalia explain that decision? In a recent New Yorker profile, he is quoted as saying, with startling candor, that "the only issue was whether we should put an end to it, after three weeks of looking like a fool in the eyes of the world." That, of course, isn't a constitutional argument - it is an unapologetic defense of judicial activism....

That's good -- that's very good. Scalia wants you to believe that his logic is always unassailable, and I think he convinced Margaret Talbot. It's good to see that he didn't convince Adam Cohen. More, please.

Monday, April 18, 2005

You wrote that check because you wanted to save lives. Little did you know that writing it made you part of ...


Cybercast News Service reports:

Pro-Life Senators Slammed for Alliance With 'Race for the Cure'

The pro-life record of Wyoming's two Republican U.S. senators is being questioned following their strong support for the Susan G. Komen Foundation's "Race for the Cure" in their home state.

Senators Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi routinely vote on the side of pro-life causes, but their alliance with the Komen Foundation's Wyoming affiliate exists despite the fact that Komen hands part of the money it raises over to local chapters of the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood Federation of America....

A search of the Komen Foundation site shows that the Wyoming affiliate made 40 grants from 2000 to 2004, including funding for breast cancer screening and education to Planned Parenthood of Wyoming in 2000 and 2002, as well as Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in 2003.

Descriptions of those Planned Parenthood grants:


This project will provide breast health services and self-examination education to women at the center and early detection education to women throughout the state. The center will provide free breast screenings, mammograms, and other follow-up services to 125 women. Education in self-exams will be provided to 500 women. A state-wide broadcast campaign will reach thousands of women with information about the importance of early detection and available services.


This project will provide breast health services and breast self-examination education to women at the Casper Health Care Center and will provide early detection education to women throughout the state of Wyoming. Casper Health Care Center will provide free breast screenings, mammograms, and other follow-up services to 150 women. Education in self-examination will be provided to approximately 300 women. Additionally, a statewide media campaign will reach hundreds of women with information about the importance of early detection and available services.


The Casper Health Care Center, operated by Planned Parenthood of Wyoming (PPW), is committed to high quality and accessible health care for all women. To decrease barriers to early detection of breast cancer, PPW will conduct a marketing campaign to reach underserved women throughout Wyoming. PPW aims to reach those women who live in areas where health professionals are lacking and breast cancer mortality rates are higher. PPW's Breast Cancer Screening and Education Project will provide breast self-examination and breast cancer education to women at the Casper Health Care Center. The Casper Health Care Center will provide free breast screenings, assistance with mammograms and other follow-up services to 150 women. Education in self-examination will be provided to more than 200 women.

Appalling! Jesus wept!

The CNS story continues:

...Jim Sedlak, executive director of STOPP International, told Cybercast News Service he thought Thomas and Ezri [sic] should convey a simple message to the Komen Foundation: "You ought to stop giving to Planned Parenthood, and we're not going to give you any more money or support your cause until you cut this link."...

"Aborting a child before there's a complete pregnancy, one of at least 32 weeks, can cause a woman to develop breast cancer," Sedlak stated.

While stating that officials like Enzi and Thomas understand Planned Parenthood's connection with abortion, Sedlak said "they don't really understand its connection with cancer. Either that, or they're denying it."...

Yes, perhaps they are denying it -- and, if so, maybe it's because one study after another concludes that there's no connection between abortion and cancer.

Another "expert" goes even further:

Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, said she also hoped Thomas and Enzi would be guided in their dealings with the Komen Foundation by the relationship between abortion and cancer.

"Medical experts recognize that increased childbearing, starting before 24 years of age, and increased breastfeeding offer women the best means of protecting themselves against breast cancer," Malec said.

"Komen has an obligation to distance itself from the producers of carcinogens instead of forming business relationships with them," she stated. "Komen is obligated to finger Planned Parenthood for contributing to the nation's out-of-control breast cancer rates by depriving women of their best chance to prevent the disease by having children....

Follow that? It doesn't matter how many mammograms are done under Planned Parenthood's aegis. Planned Parenthood would be worthy of your money only if it stopped supporting abortion rights and urged women to have babies young.

(In case you've ever tried to figure out what right-to-lifers would do all day if they ever succeeded in getting all abortions in this country banned, well, there's your answer: Some of them, at least, would be demanding that government and social service agencies pressure women to breed -- early and often.)
CNN reports on a bill recently introduced in Congress that would require pharmacies to fill prescriptions. (The bill "would allow a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription only if the prescription can be passed to and filled by a co-worker at the same pharmacy.")

Karen Brauer of Pharmacists for Life is not happy. She thinks "conscience" clauses are helping to save American from descending into moral rot:

Yet some want additional legislation to protect pharmacists who believe certain birth control drugs are forms of abortion, Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, told the Reuters news agency. The group provides legal advice and support to pharmacists.

Brauer told Reuters she believes doctors will eventually begin ordering women to abort disabled children, or refuse to treat them after birth.

"They'll force women to kill their children ... It will be like China. It's the next logical step," she told Reuters.

Got that? If the victim of a sexual assault is actually able to fill a prescription for a morning-after pill so she won't have to give birth to her rapist's baby, that's inevitably going to lead to mass state-ordered child murder. "It's the next logical step."

This is the new American political mainstream.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


No, I don't agree with him about the wacky theory that legalization of abortion was the leading cause of the big drop in crime a generation later, but I do give the house libertarian at The New York Times credit for rejecting more widely accepted varieties of mysticism regarding the crime drop:

The Miracle That Wasn't

It is an inspirational urban lesson from the 1990's: take back the streets from squeegee men and drug dealers, and violent crime will plummet. But on Thursday evening, the tipping-point theory was looking pretty wobbly itself.

The occasion was a debate in Manhattan before an audience thrilled to be present for a historic occasion: the first showdown between two social-science wonks with books that were ranked second and third on (outsold only by "Harry Potter"). It pitted Malcolm Gladwell, author of "Blink" and "The Tipping Point," against Steven D. Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago with the new second-place book, "Freakonomics."

Professor Levitt considers the New York crime story to be an urban legend. Yes, he acknowledges, there are tipping points when people suddenly start acting differently, but why did crime drop in so many other cities that weren't using New York's policing techniques? His new book, written with Stephen J. Dubner, concludes that one big reason was simply the longer prison sentences that kept criminals off the streets of New York and other cities.

The prison terms don't explain why crime fell sooner and more sharply in New York than elsewhere, but Professor Levitt accounts for that, too. One reason he cites is that the crack epidemic eased earlier in New York than in other cities. Another, more important, reason is that New York added lots of cops in the early 90's....

Then Tierney gets to Levitt's #1 reason -- abortion, which was legalized in New York a few years before Roe v. Wade. But never mind that.

The reason this Tierney column matters is that Rudy Giuliani is going to try to work his way back into politics (possibly in a bid for the White House) on the basis of two legends: the post-9/11 "America's Mayor" legend and the legend that he singlehandedly cleaned up Dodge, and did so with an idea, namely arresting the repulsive. This is powerful stuff -- a man of Good versus an evil enemy. It's tremendously appealing to a lot of voters.

I wouldn't have predicted that this legend would be rejected by the new conservative op-ed kid in Rudy's hometown, and I'm pleasantly shocked.

Tierney does give Giuliani some credit for the drop in crime, however:

I still think the police made some difference, and not merely because there were more of them on the streets. The new computerized crime-tracking strategies put new pressure on them.

One veteran cop told me that traditionally only a quarter of the officers had done their jobs, and that the heroic achievement of Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had been to get that figure up to 50 percent.

But what he's talking about here is prosaic. According to the legend, Giuliani wielded a moral Excalibur as squeegee men were driven from the streets and broken windows were fixed. The notion that that's why crime fell in New York City is a fairytale worthy of William Bennett's Book of Virtues. It's a crock, and I'm pleased that Tierney's a skeptic.