Saturday, December 31, 2005
Now President Bush has said repeatedly that Iraqi police and security forces are getting ready to fight the insurgency, and as they come online then American forces will leave. Unfortunately, the shiite Badr militia, backed by Iran, and who last year briefly fought with British troops, have apparently joined the police and the military in large numbers, indicating that they are following the "Capone Strategy."
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Iranian-backed militia the Badr Organization has taken over many of the Iraqi Interior Ministry's intelligence activities and infiltrated its elite commando units, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
That's enabled the Shiite Muslim militia to use Interior Ministry vehicles and equipment -- much of it bought with American money -- to carry out revenge attacks against the minority Sunni Muslims, who persecuted the Shiites under Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, current and former Ministry of Interior employees told Knight Ridder.
The officials, some of whom agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity for fear of violent reprisals, said the Interior Ministry had become what amounted to an Iranian fifth column inside the U.S.-backed Iraqi government, running death squads and operating a network of secret prisons.
The militia's secret activities threaten to derail U.S.-backed efforts to persuade Sunnis to abandon the violent insurgency and join Shiites and Kurds in Iraq's fledgling political process. And by supporting Badr and other Shiite groups, Iran -- a member of President Bush's "axis of evil" that sponsors international terrorism, is thought to be seeking nuclear weapons and calls for the destruction of Israel -- has used the American-led invasion to gain influence in Iraq.
So this week, it seems that the Pentagon has in effect developed the Elliot Ness strategy:the Pentagon has assigned thousands of American troops to oversee Iraqi police units.
Thousands of American troops will be assigned to Iraqi police units to monitor their work and rein in those who abuse prisoners, according to US military officials in Baghdad.
The decision was made following a series of scandals involving Iraqi interior ministry forces including the discovery, last month, of dozens of emaciated and tortured inmates during a raid on a secret prison with almost 170 prisoners. American officials, who fear the influence of militias in the police force, have since found evidence of maltreatment in two other Baghdad prisons and another in Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq.
So, we are now assigning American troops to oversee the police and security forces who are supposed to be taking over for us. And here is a real question for President Bush: A lot of people on the left asked what the plan was to prevent the enemy from infiltrating the police and never had that answered (although to be honest we were mostly thinking of Sunni and former Baathist insurgents). The Coalition asked for all militias to disband and turn in their weapons. But now the Badr militia have new (and probably better ones) that we have generously paid for, and by now, short of disbanding the entire Iraqi police force and military and starting from scratch, they are so well infiltrated that we simply won't be able to get rid of them. The fact that the Bush administration never considered that they might pull this trick on us when they agreed to disband makes the Bush administration the 'CHUMP' of the year, for 2005 (as they were in 2003 when Iranian double agent Ahmed Chalabi gave us nightmare scenarios about Saddam being able to set up and launch massive chemical attacks against Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in 45 minutes to egg the them into getting rid of Saddam, something the Iranians wanted badly but could not accomplish in a decade of war, and in 2004 when the Iranians organized a fundamentalist pro-Iranian Islamic religious party that would sweep to victory in elections whenever we held them).
And President Bush calls developments in Iraq a sign of 'progress?' I guess-- but only if you are sitting in Tehran.
Cross posted at The Divided States of Bu$hmerika.
Good evening my fellow Americans.
Tonight I want to discuss a matter of grave impotence. In recent weeks many of you have expressed concerns about my recent decision to invade the privacy of the American people. Many of you have expressed outrage and concern over the possibility that this administration might abuse the information that we obtain, or that we might engage in surveillance for purposes other than national security, or that we might reveal potentially embarrassing information to the public at large.
My fellow Americans, I under stand your concerns. When I took the Oath of Office I swore to protect and uphold Constitutional provisions which might in any and every way concentrate more and more power in the office of the Presidency, this presidency in particular. But that doesn't mean that I won't abuse the power that I have grabbed since my appointment to this position. I take your right to privacy very seriously. I am a very private and secretive individual myself. I thoroughly believe that the American people have no right to know neither what nor why I do anything. And, by the same token, I want my subjects to understand that I will do everything within my ever increasing powers to guarantee that neither the press, nor the American people will ever discover just how corrupt this administration has become.
This, my fellow Americans, is an emergency situation, and I fully intend to milk it for what it's worth. My political career is on the line and I need to do something to terrorize or at least intimidate my critics until they exercise their constitutional right to remain silent. To that end I will do anything and everything, both legal and otherwise, to guarantee my political survival, even when it comes before minor inconveniences such as integrity, honesty, and decency--qualities which should be limited to the ruled but strictly ignored by the rulers.
As your Demander and Thief I promise to protect you from the rights that have burdened us from the inception of the American Republican. As your Demander and Thief, I promise that no embarrassing or humiliating piece of information will go unpublished. No stone will remain unturned as we seek to destroy anyone who speaks out against us.
Take for example this email from a Mrs. Catherine Killigrew. In the following correspondence, dated August 27 of last year, Mrs. Killegrew writes the following letter to her son, Jonathan who is currently a resident of Madison, Wisconsin and a student at the University of Wisconsin there. Mrs Killigrew writes the following.
"Dear Jonathan. How are you doing? I am feeling better since I went to see the doctor. He says that the burning sensation that I feel when I urinate is from an infection. He gave me some antibiotics and he suspects that both, the painful urination and bladder control problem will cure itself in a few days. So how are you doing? Are your hemorrhoids doing any better? I know they can be itchy and painful, but I really think they wouldn't be such a problem if you would only change underwear more often. I think the shit stains might be a huge part of the problem. Oh well. Your brother Bobby has been wetting the bed again, and your good for nothing brother-in-law got drunker than a skunk at the Killigrew family reunion. This time he called your cousin Amanda a slut, and puked in the Hawaiian punch. He was drunk and more or less ruined the whole affair. So, dear, I have to get going. Remember to eat your oat meal, it will make you more regular, and try to stay out of trouble. Your loving Mumsie. PS. I have joined the Green Party and am having a blast. Again, your loving Mumsie."
For those of you who are interested, Mrs. Smith resides at 348 Liberty Drive in Dullsville, Alabama. Her social security number is 666-66-6666 and her phone number is 555-899-7734. She was born on February 7, 1959, and she wears a size D Cup bra, and her ex husband left her for his 24- year- old secretary on July 4th of last year. Note my fellow Americans, that Mrs. Killigrew specifically says that she is a registered member of the Green Party. This, in my infallible opinion, is utterly unacceptable. When did I give Mrs. Killigrew to disagree with me about anything? When did I give her permission to join the Green Party? People like Mrs. Killigrew simply do not get it. They do not and will not understand that it is part of my job to dominate and control them in the name of security.
In the future you will undoubtedly learn that we have been using personal or perhaps even embarrassing information to ridicule and destroy anyone who disagrees with me. Again, I want the American people to know that any and all embarrassing information will be shared with the general public. Except for the nudie pictures that we intercept which are being posted on the west wall of the Lincoln bedroom for my personal enjoyment.
This is a long and difficult battle. The war on terrorism has given us an opportunity to abolish the American Constitution, but we have yet to affect our takeover of the United States. Much remains to be done. More lies must be told. More laws must be broken. More people must be detained, and yes, tortured, before the American people accept me as their new and latest Savior. But I am confident that if we work together, we can destroy any and all opposition in the name of security. I believe in my heart of hearts that we can destroy the rest of the opposition in the same way that we co-opted and destroyed the Republican Party from within.
I want you to know that as your leader, I will not rest until my word is law.
Good night, Sieg Heil, and may I and I alone, bless America.
Your President Select
Thursday, December 29, 2005
The following post was intended as a comment but it seemed to take on a life of its own. For that reason we are posting it as a separate article, although it was originally intended as a response to earlier comments from the right.
POWER CORRUPTS BUSH ABSOLUTELY
Brian and Kyle
"Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end....liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition. "
Historian Lord Acton.
We should be so proud. We have a President who should either be impeached for an abuse of power, or who should be removed from office by reason of diminished mental capacity, (i.e. megalomania). The idea that this president wants to protect us is laughable at best and delusional at the very worst.
The fact of the matter is that Bush has already confessed to having broken a federal law, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. True, FISA does allow for the surveillance of American citizens --when they are communicating outside the United States to potentially dangerous groups or individuals, but before that can happen you actually have to acquire a so called FISA warrant; you actually have to prove some kind of probable cause before you can do monitor an American citizen. And (surprise, surprise) Bush did not do this. He just went ahead, acting on yet another faith-based, internal impulse, and used the situation to satisfy his insatiable craving for personal power.
Let's not forget that we really don't know who's being monitored here. For all we know, Bush and his lackeys could be listening to American citizens for domestic, political reasons which have nothing to do with national security. That seems plausible when you consider the fact criticism of any kind represents a threat to national security in the Demander and Thief's irrational thought process. We are, after all, dealing with a President who cannot and will not admit that he ever made a mistake, and who views political criticism as a form of treasonous behavior. And when you're dealing with someone whose thought process (or lack thereof) is that rigid and that paranoid, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that he's monitoring whoever he thinks may represent a
political threat, not just a security threat.
That may sound trivial to some, but we need a little perspective here. Previous wars (conventional wars), have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But according to the Demander and Thief, this war is different. This war may well go on for a century. No one seriously believed that the Civil War, the World Wars, or Korea, or Vietnam would go on for a hundred years. In the case of World War II, the end result might have been in question until Hitler's failed invasion of Russia, but there was no doubt that it would eventually end. The so called war on terror, however, could go on indefiitely, and during that time we could be raising generation after generation, after generation of children who will be raised to believe that the government has a right to invade our privacy, that the Constitution is a meaningless piece of paper. That's an awfully big risk to take with our civil liberties. The conservatives will probably raise the frightening possibility of another terrorist attack, but there is another way to look at that. Terrorists, by the very nature of their violent acts, seek to change the behavior of the nation they are terrorizing. Well, friends and neighbors, if we act out of fear (or a craving for personal power), if we trample personal liberties and reconfigure our Constitutional rights then we have played right into the terrorists' hands--we have changed our behavior and given them a psychological victory; and yet the Bush Administration claims that it both, wants to protect us and protect our civil liberties, when it has little interest in doing either.
If Bush had been serious about protecting us, he would have gone to the Congress and asked for an extension of the FISA provisions. In the days following 911--before we learned that our dysfunctional mediocrity was a congenital liar-- he had the sympathy and the adoration of just about everyone on the face of the planet. At that point in time, Bush could have easily easily asked for an amendment of the FISA provisions. But yet again, Bush didn't bother to play by the rules. Instead of following clear and legal guidelines which would have given him most of what he sought, he again acted as if her were an American dictator. We're sure that some right wingers will claim that a public debate with the Legislative branch would have tipped off potential terrorists, but let's get real. The terrorists aren't as stupid as some people on the right think they are. One of the most interesting characteristics about this administration is that key members don't know how to keep their mouths shut. They're so interested in protecting the president's political popularity that they won't do anything (at least in public) that would threaten his reputation. To that end we saw a number of trial balloons after 911 which were designed to test and poll the attitudes of the American people.* We heard outlandish ideas about collecting files of information on every single Americans (a project that would have been headed by convicted liar, John Poindexter); planting phony news articles in American and foreign papers; the United States Senate passed the Patriot Act by a margine if 99 to 1 without bothering to read what it actually said. If anyone thinks that a potential terrorist wasn't taking steps to cover his or her deeds in the light of all that, then we really have to question the intelligence of the right wingers who were doubting the intelligence of the terrorists.
In other words, it wouldn't have mattered one way or the other if the American people had been informed through a public debate or not, simply because the terrorists would have automatically assumed that they were being monitored in the first place.
So, why didn't Bush bother to get a FISA warrant?
The answer is obvious.
A so-called FISA warrant requires that the person seeking the warrant actually show some kind of probable cause. There actually has to be a good reason to suspect that the person you want to monitor poses a serious a threat. For the past week we've been hearing the conservative mantra about how the President has more information at his disposal than the Legislative body. Well, if he had that much information at his disposal, then why didn't he take it to the FISA court, show probable cause, and get warrants for wire taps?
The fact that failed to do so only shows that he didn't have enough information to prove probable cause. Once again, the Demander and Thief acted on impulse with little to no concern about what may be going on in the real world.
You just have to wonder: What kind of a nightmare world does Bush envision? We've already talked about how surveillance like this, how a repression of privacy rights and other civil liberties causes a self censorship on the part of the American people. Do we really want to find ourselves in a position where we watch what we say with friends and relatives? Do we really want to create a climate of fear and distrust in the name of security which will only stifle political debate and leave the American people frightened to oppose governmental policy? That's what happened in the Soviet Union, where the Soviet people, terrified by the idea of secret surveillance and governmental retaliation, essentially censored their behavior in both the private and public arenas. Why, if you didn't know better, you'd think that Bush and his Neocon advisers had been fighting the Cold War for so long, that they have become the enemy that they once hated the most.)
Sadly, we have a president who doesn't care about anyone nor anything except himself. He hasn't grown nor matured a bit since he was 30 years old and he took his little Brother Marvin on a drunken joy ride, cruising around the neighborhood knocking down mailboxes with baseball bats. Only now the Demander and Thief isn't knocking down mailboxes. Now he's knocking down Constitutional provisions which have kept us safe and secure for more than 200 years. Violations by past presidents were bad enough, but this president craves power in the same way that a heroin addict craves a regular fix; and he he needs more and more of his drug of choice just to achieve the same repressive effect.)
Considering his inability to learn from mistakes; his aversion to playing by the rules; his proclivity for violating laws and constitutional provisions as he sees fit, all coupled with his increasingly erratic behavior, it might just be time to initate those impeachment procedings that the far right had been clamoring for in the late 90s. Failing that, we might ask that he submit himself to a rigorous psychiatric exam to determine whether or not he is a full blown megalomaniac.
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
by Brian and Kyle
As a continuation of Eli's previous post about NSI wire tapping,
and as a prologue to our own, we offer the following article from the the online version of the Boston Globe.
That aside, we would ask the following question. How can you tell when a Republican is in trouble? Easy. They start to complain about William Jefferson Clinton. We're sorry, but using past abuses to justify current abuses on an even larger and more ominous scale is not an acceptable excuse nor an an appropriate debating tactic.
This may come as a shock and revelation to the far right, but the President of the United States is not a king; he does not have the right to break laws left, right, and center based on whatever whim or internal impulse he may be feeling at a particular moment in time. We are not living in Jolly Olde England where monarchs claim the divine rights of kings, although the second Bush is our George III.*
Contrary to popular belief, the President is the Commander and Chief of the United States Military, not of the entire United States; and while there may be certain individuals out there who are comfortable with the idea of a military dictatorship, the fact of the matter is that the President is not entitled to select which laws he will or will not obey. Nor does he have the right to trample on the Constitution which he swore to uphold and defend.
The manner in which Bush handled this situation is little more than another reflection of his emotional and intellectual immaturity. Had he wanted, he could have ordered the wire/email taps, and then gone to the very friendly FISA* court and obtained permission ex post facto. But he didn't do that. Instead, he behaved as if the power of all three branches of government were concentrated in his very covetous hands. Instead of handling the manner in a legal and orderly manner, Bush decided that the only way to proceed was in a contrarian manner that concentrated still more power in the office of the presidency.**
For some time now a few of us around here have wondered if this president hadn't substituted his addiction to drugs and alcohol with an addiction to religion and personal power. And with each passing month, with each new scandal, he reveals the same addictive personality traits that he had while he was an active alcoholic.
Ironically, Bush undoubtedly knew that he had broken the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). When the scandal broke, the Demander and Thief initially lied , claiming that wiretaps had not taken place. Then, when the evidence proved otherwise, he lied again, this time through the sin of omission, by concealing how extensive the surveillance had actually been.
So why is this a problem? Why should be worrying when a president claims that he is invading our personal privacy to "protect us?"
On Monday, December 26, a CNN viewer suggested that the worst we had to worry about was the government obtaining our aunt's favorite cookie recipe. This is nothing more than a bizarre variation on the idea that we don't have anything to worry about unless we're doing something wrong, a favorite claim of totalitarian regimes on both the left and the right. But the fact of the matter is that illegal surveillance really does present a threat to freedom of speech in general. This is not about our Aunt Minnie's chocolate chip cookies. This is about the federal government creating an atmosphere in which the American people will self-censor legitimate speech-- a climate in which the citizenry will self-repress political expression out of a fear that the government will take retaliatory action.
It isn't as if this hasn't happened before. During the 1960s the Powers That Be obtained personal information on Martin Luther King and then fed the information to the press and to King's wife. During the same period the CIA infiltrated peace groups and committed acts of violence in a clandestine effort to marginalize the groups they had infiltrated; President Richard Nixon (a paranoiac if ever there was one) never forgot a political enemy and had no problem when it came to seeking revenge, ad nauseam.
The upshot here is that in addition to creating a climate in which freedom of speech and political expression are stifled. Surveillance such as the type Bush finds acceptable, invariably leads to violations of personal liberties, underhanded tactics, and (s)hit lists which are based more on political beliefs and affiliations than national security. We don't know about you, but it seems to us that J Edgar Hoover, LBJ, Richard Nixon, Alberto Gonzalez, and George W. Bush are not proper role models when it comes to the proper use of intelligence.
Let's not forget that around the same time the surveillance scandal broke we had also learned about FBI investigations of environmental groups, vegans, a Catholic peace organization in Iowa, and a group of Quakers in Colorado. (Yup, that's what we're really worried about--all those pistol-packing Quakers who might decide start an armed rebellion against the Federal government! Gawd!)
In other words, the FBI is now investigating and infiltrating domestic groups and individuals which speak out against business interests and Bush Administration policies. The message could not be more clear. Do not speak your mind; do not try to educate the public in any way shape or form or you will find yourself on the receiving end of federal surveillance.
To this, I'm sure that the Bush Regime would repeat the point that that we don't have anything to worry about if we aren't doing anything wrong, but that ignores past abuses of power which suggest that the Powers That Be have a very broad and often paranoid outlook on the situation, which all too often leads to the investigation of innocent groups and individuals--a condition which doesn't seem to bother the Bush Regime in the least. ***
*You just have to wonder: If Bush and his Neocon advisors had been alive in 1776, on which side they would have fought on during the American Revolution? From their love for secrecy, to their craving for presidential power, to their contempt for legislative bodies and courts, this administration seems to be more in tune with the Monarchy of King George III than it is with the American Patriots who fought for Independence.
And that's a frightening revelation. During the late 18th Century, the American Colonists were willing to speak out against tyranny and fight for their independence, knowing ful well that their actions might eventually lead them to the gallows or the firing squad. Would that the current generation of "conservatives" were as concerned about personal liberty. In sacrificing privacy they have in effect taken the heroic cry of "Give me liberty or give me death" and bastardized it into a cowardly whimper of "take my liberty to save my sorry ass." On other words, they are perfectly willing to give up freedom for security. On a certain level this is understandable (no one after all wants to die). but in another way it reveals how far this country has devolved since the Revolution and the framing of the Constitution. In a remark often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the patriots and framers of the late 18th Century warned us about "those who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security," and how they deserved "neither liberty nor security."
Indeed, the FISA Court is so friendly that it seldom, if ever, denies a request, which leaves you wondering why the Administration wou;don't have gone through the proper channels if it weren't more interested in acquiring power than protecting the American people.
Today it seems as if a lot of Americans haven't been paying too much attention to warnings from the 18th Century.
***To complicate the matter even further, Bush regime apologists often suggest the Civil and Cold Wars as excuses for the suspension of civil liberties, but these were finite wars. In each case there was a clear winner and a clear loser, and distinct point in time at which historians could say "this is when this particular war ended." By the Bush Regime's own admission, we do not know when this war will end. There will be no formal capitulation, no specific date at which we can say "this is when the War on Terror came to an end." It could go on for twenty, fifty, or even a hundred years. The idea of raising entire generations of children who accept an Imperial Presidency and a limitation of Constitutional rights is not a comforting thought.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
But, knowing the Bush administration like I do, I'm not really all that surprised at a story out today which indicates that the spy program was much broader than he let on originally, in fact so broad that it involved systematic snooping of general calls from the United States to foreign countries (not even necessarily from or to people who there is any reason to suspect might have ties to terrorists). In addition, domestic phone traffic was also being monitored en masse.
NEW YORK - The volume of information gathered from telephone and Internet communications by the National Security Agency without court-approved warrants was much larger than the White House has acknowledged, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Citing current and former government officials, the Times said the information was collected by tapping directly into some of the U.S. telecommunication system’s main arteries. The officials said the NSA won the cooperation of telecommunications companies to obtain access to both domestic and international communications without first gaining warrants....
Some officials described the program as a large data mining operation, the Times said, and described it as much larger than the White House has acknowledged.
Several officials said senior government officials went to the nation’s big telecommunications companies to get access to switches that act as gateways between U.S. and international communications.
Many calls going from one foreign country to another are routed through U.S. switches and a communications expert who once worked at the NSA said in recent years government officials have been encouraging the telecommunications industry to bring more international traffic through U.S.-based switches.
Now there is one reason in particular that I thought Bush was lying last week when he suggested that this had happened in a few cases only. That reason is because if the number of cases was limited to just a few, then getting a warrant for them would not have been a problem, and there would be absolutely no reason to skirt the law when it would be simple to comply with the law. But since it now appears that there was a very large volume of information that they combed through, and that it wasn't even known who would be making phone calls to whom, that there is a reason they decided to skirt the warrant law-- the law makes it impossible to carry out this kind of operation.
Now, they do say it was to glean information on 'terror' suspects. The problem of course, is that we have already seen how this administration has been involved in spying and other operations against peaceful demonstrators under 'anti-terror' operations, how the 'no-fly' list designed to stop 'terrorists' has been applied punitively against people who simply reside on the left end of the political spectrum (like Senator Kennedy), how surveillance equipment put in place after 9/11 to track small planes that were of concern as potential terror threats was instead used to track a plane full of Texas Democratic legislators during the DeLay redistrictring fight in Texas, and how Education Secretary Rod Paige a couple of years ago categorized the National Education Association (NEA) as a 'terrorist' organization. In other words, these are people who would be willing to call Mother Teresa a terrorist if it advanced their domestic agenda.
I have no problem with giving the government the tools it needs to fight real 'terrorists,' but there have to be strict definitions of who they are and limits placed on this ability, because the abuses that this government have already committed are enough to yank their 'carte Blanche' to define 'terrorists' as they see fit.
Hey guys. We really hate to bother you, but we're having a huge--and we do men a HUGE-- problem with our Christmas tree this year.
Since we brought him home on the day after Thanksgiving, and continuing throughout the month of December, we have suspected that he might be dislodging himself from his plastic Christmas Tree stand and going for protracted evening excursions in the countryside. We became suspicious when we found a trail of pine needles, shreaded garland, and chips of colored glass leading from our living room, to the front door, and down the front drive, but we dismissed this unusual occurance as yet another Yuletide prank from our feisty Siamese cat.
But when we opened our local paper and began to read about a series of unusual car accidents in which the survivors claimed that they had been forced to swerve off the road to avoid a "maniacal Christmas tree" that had "lept into the lane of oncoming traffic" we began to have some serious concerns about what our tree might be doing.
We tried to warn the local authorities about this, but they only looked at us like we were a couple of nuts. Our local police truly believe that these are random accidents caused by dangerous winter weather conditions; slippery ice-covered roads,; reckless, drunk driving, or carless road etiquette.
But my partner CJ and I know better.
This really isn't funny. In the past two days our killer Christmas tree has caused at least four fatalties by jumping into the paths of unsuspecting motorists. We have no idea as to how far our tree can travel, so please, PLEASE be on the laert while traveling during this Holiday Season.
For those of ou who are interested, our tree is approximately 6 1/2 feet tall. It is decorated in multicolored minilights, gold garland, and an assortment of antique, glass ornaments. It answers to the name of Hector. We have posted a recent photo in the upper right hand corner of this post for your convenience.
Please be careful. This tree is armed and dangerous. If you see him, do not try to apprehend him on your own. Instead, contact your nearest emergency lawn care providers and instruct him to spray Hector with a lethal dose of weed killer; or,f you are an environmentalist, please call your local village or city hall and request the immediate use of a wood chipper.
Your assistance in this matter would be highly appreciated and might well save many lives.
And while you're at it, please be so kind as to....
HAVE A VERY SAFE AND A VERY HAPPY HOLIDAY.
Daniel Andrew Gallagher
Friday, December 23, 2005
A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS
A VERY HAPPY HANUKKAH
A VERY HAPPY WINTER SOLSTICE
A VERY HAPPY SATURNALIA
I know, I know, but it is named after the Roman God Saturn--besides--I've always liked these images of the planet Saturn.
A very Happy Kwanza
And this for nonbelievers
I hope we didn't miss anybody.
Have a good one no matter what it is
Kyle and Brandon and the Crew at
THE COALITION FOR A REPUBLICAN-FREE AMERICA
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Recently, I had to lay off more than 15,000 workers from my shop...er, company. Unfortunately, doing this four days before Christmas will have grave repercussions for both my company and our consumer society as we know it. But, my line of work essentially operates as a non-profit organization, with the only payment coming in the form warm dairy products and stale baked goods--usually involving sticky chocolate morsels. As much as I enjoy the holiday leftovers, it puts my company in the interesting position of not having a profit margin, hence the massive layoffs. Of course, despite my doing everything I can to stop this, the little wife won't quit with her incessant nagging to "get off my fat ass" and "get a real job, for a change." What does she expect, with my paycheck as a plate of cholesterol-laden goodies? Not to mention, she's not exactly the spring chicken she once was, either. But no matter. Katie, what do I do? How do I turn around the business in time for Christmas?
So, from what I'm reading here, you layed off your entire workforce four days before Christmas, the only form of payment you accept for your services is expired food products and your wife can't stand the sloth-like hack you've become? Oh, where ever could you have gone wrong? Let me suggest this (and you're not going to like it): take your wife's advice and get a real job. How about helping out some of those overtaxed and clearly underpaid workers of yours? Do you even offer any kind of health insurance? I would assume not, since it's become so hard to bribe doctors with mushy chocolate-chip cookies these days. I suppose it's a good thing you've layed them all off, since it sounds to me like you would have had a strike any day now. Do these poor elves--I mean workers--even get bathroom breaks? Have you not thought about what your friendly labor board might think of these kinds of working conditions? What about the local union? Are you making sure the workers get two breaks and a lunch per 8-hour day? Let me guess: because it's so close to Christmas, they're all working their fingers to the bone in overtime. Or, at least, they were before you layed them off. Maybe they're secretly relieved, in a way, that they'll be able to stop praying for death because they just can't put one more jack in a box for little Susie's crappy Christmas present from a guy clearly out of touch with reality.
So, to really save your company, you might consider doing a little personal PR: ditch the corny suit, lose a 100 pounds and consider investing in a really slick ride. Because honestly--I can't say reindeer on a high-fiber diet are the hottest thing on the block.
Oh, and one more thing: lose the "my company" and "my workers" talk. You're not fooling anyone, Santa.
Dr. Katie McQuery is a licensed psychiatrist with degrees from Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia and Maui Community College. She has practiced psychiatry for over twenty years and published forty-seven books on the topic of professional advice-giving. Her newest book, Professional Advice-Giving for Dummies, will be out later next month.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Cuts in Medicaid will require higher co-payments and lower benefits to poor people on the program. Now, I realize that everyone in America, even if they have insurance, are now seeing higher co-payments and lower benefits. And in that context, it is worth noting that the 'managed care' plans we have now ARE the Republican answer to the Democratic proposal for Universal Heathcare in 1994. However, the failure of the GOP model should not mean that we will now penalize the poorest of Americans, in one of the few programs where people CAN avoid having to worry about changing their doctor or being turned away for healthcare due to lack of coverage.
Higher benefit cuts in the area of 'asset protection' for middle class people who want nursing home care than were in either the original House bill or the original Senate bill. 'Asset protection' allows people to have something left they can pass on to their families even if they need long term health care.
For example, one provision of the House bill that appears to have been retained in the conference report would penalize many non-affluent individuals who make modest gifts to relatives or contributions to charity, and then experience an unexpected decline in their health several years later that causes them to need long-term care. So, if for example, your parents gave you some money last year, or made a donation to Hurricane Katrina relief or tsunami relief, and then in a few years they get sick and need nursing home care, they will be asked to give that same money to the nursing home, or what is spent on their care will decline commensurately. This makes clear that the people who are always going on about how bad inheritance taxes are (they prefer to use the term, 'death tax') want to make sure that if you are middle class and have a lingering disease, no you won't have anything to pass on-- the nursing home will get it all (and it makes it clear that the position of the Bush administration opposing the Oregon voluntary euthanasia law is actually quite sinister-- it almost seems as though it is their INTENT to make sure that every penny that can be stolen from the middle class and redistributed to corporate interests is taken-- even if it means forcing terminal patients to suffer for years until every penny they have ever earned is snatched away by health care providers.)
The conference agreement includes Medicaid reductions in this area of $2.4 billion over five years and $6.4 billion over ten years (higher than the $2.2 billion over five years and $5.8 billion over ten years in the House-passed bill). The Senate’s more targeted and carefully designed provisions in this area would have produced savings of $335 million over five years and $890 million over ten years.
There were some winners in the budget bill, however:
The conference report’s health care provisions also move toward the House bill in another respect: they cater to powerful special interests — in particular, the pharmaceutical and managed care industries — at the expense of low-income beneficiaries...
The conference report also protects Medicare managed care plans. It drops a Senate provision that would have eliminated a wasteful $10 billion slush fund to encourage participation in Medicare by regional Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs). The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) — the official, independent advisory body to Congress on Medicare payment policy — recommended this summer, in a nearly unanimous vote, that this fund be eliminated because it is unnecessary and unwarranted and provides an unfair competitive advantage to PPOs over traditional Medicare fee-for-service and other managed care plans such as Medicare HMOs. Nevertheless, the conference agreement leaves this fund fully intact.
This is the provision by which PPO's are paid to be willing to accept other government money that comes via Medicare. A payment to be willing to get paid. But this remains intact.
Partially gutting another provision to curb overpayments to managed care plans: There is near-universal agreement among analysts that the current Medicare payment structure provides excessive payments to managed care plans, and the Administration announced earlier this year that it would act administratively to eliminate a feature of the payment formula that is responsible for a significant volume of excessive payments... it appears that the conference agreement is written so the part of the Medicare payment formula that would be reformed would revert to its current, problematic status after five years, and after that time, managed care plans would again receive the overpayments this provision is supposed to curb.
Outright overpayment to some healthcare providers, and they can't even permanently eliminate that. I wonder if there is also a line in there somewhere for continuing to fund fraud.
Other cuts included in the bill include cuts in child support enforcement (obviously lobbying for the votes of deadbeat parents), welfare-to-work programs (I guess because they have been so successful, they no longer have enough 'welfare queens' to beat up on so they need to create a new generation of them to support right-wing rhetoric), child care funding, SSI disability payments, and foster care funding.
Maybe that is why the House leadership was forced to change the rules and release, let members study and vote on this monster in four and a half hours, between 1:12 a.m. and 5:43 a.m. this morning.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
How about when it keeps happening.
We have seen over the past five years, an ongoing stream of scandals, all related to manipulation of the news by planting or creating it. First, there was the revelation that a 'local news' segment on an anti-drug program by a reporter named Mike Morris that aired just before the Super Bowl was just the most visible example of literally hundreds of fake, prepackaged 'local news' segments that had been put together by the White House public relations department and distributed to local stations coast to coast.
Then, we had the Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher scandals-- in which conservative commentators had been paid with taxpayer funds to promote specific White House policies on their shows or in columns.
After that, there was the local newspaper scandal, in which hundreds of identical letters were mass mailed (with local addresses) to editorial boards of newspapers all over the country. That scam was picked up on by an editor in Tacoma when they made a rare mistake and sent him two copies of the same letter, under different names.
Then, we had Gannon/Guckert-gate, in which an amateur conservative commentator who no one had heard of before and whose online 'news service' was only created the day before, was given a much sought after White House press pass ahead of reporters who had literally been in line for years, and used it to ask softball questions (he would be called on every press conference) that were mostly designed to smear Democrats and make the President look good. His running a gay prostitution ring out of the White House came extra, at no charge.
Last week, we had the revelation that this has now gone international, with the revelation that the White House has been paying Iraqi news papers to run stories written by the Pentagon.
So today, we see yet another example, courtesy of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is swiftly becoming radioactive in Washington. Turns out that Abramoff paid conservative commentator Doug Bandow to write articles friendly to Abramoff's clients and supporters.
WASHINGTON - A conservative commentator paid by ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing newspaper columns that aligned with Abramoff’s interests has had his column suspended, the Copley News Service said Friday.
“We are suspending Doug Bandow’s column immediately,” Copley editor and vice president Glenda Winders said in a statement. “It has never been our policy to distribute work paid for by third parties whose role is not disclosed by the columnist.”
Bandow also has resigned from the libertarian Cato Institute, where he held a senior fellowship, a think tank spokesman said.
The hazard of this kind of thing should be obvious. But just in case any conservatives are too dense to figure it out, here it is in English:
Journalists are supposed to be independent professionals. Having and writing about an opinion or viewpoint is fine, and there are conservative and liberal commentators who do that. And being paid for your work is fine, so long as it is by someone who you have disclosed your agreement with and it is spelled out in your contract (these journalists all do have an employer, after all).
But when you take a payment from someone who you either may need to write about, or who you would not have otherwise written about, or to to otherwise compromise the professional job you do, then it is compromising your professional integrity. It would be no different than if, for example, a hiring director accepted a payment to put someone's resume at the top of the pile, or if an emergency room doctor accepted a payment to see someone who came in the door with a less than urgent problem ahead of people who had been waiting longer in the waiting room. It is like paying a police officer to not give you a ticket.
True, the other resumes will get looked at, and sooner or later the other people in the emergency room will be seen, and no one will be the wiser for the fixed ticket but if the cop has a quota then someone else will get the ticket, but by taking the payment, the professional in question benefits one person in particular to the detriment of everyone else.
And, if in the first example, the person gets hired because their resume is at the top, then there is someone else who does not (and as we all know, press coverage is a finite resource, so if you get one minute on the news or are the beneficiary of a weekly column, then someone else is not).
To compromise the professionalism of a reporter solely for the purpose of getting your propaganda published or on the air as 'news' is disgusting. And beyond that, there is a word which describes what it is:
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
By Dr. Katie McQuery, PhD
A few nights ago my partner and I were driving home from a Gay-Straight Alliance Meeting when we saw a wounded possum in the road. Over my objections, my partner insisted on wrapping it in a blanket and taking it home. After a two-day death struggle the poor possum finally and mercifully passed away. Do you have any recipes for delayed road kill?
Grazed and Confused
Judging from the information gleaned in your letter, I can tell you live in rural Alabama. In a shack. With fourteen brothers and sisters. In one room. And only outdoor plumbing. Can’t you see that you have no way to care for a wounded possum within the confines of your circumstances? Clearly, you have no way to afford proper medical care. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you only have one or two teeth, so dental is obviously out of the question. What about vaccines? The poor thing probably has rabies and a condition like that simply won’t go away, much as you might want it to. Do you have a nice space for the animal to sleep? How about food and water? Do you know what possums eat? Can you even read the packaging the food comes in? How about a leash, for when Possy-Wossy has to use the potty? Do you have enough room amongst the seven junked-up, frame-only vehicles sitting at various points in your yard to give Possy ample play space? These are things you must consider when adopting a roadkill candidate. What’s that? You hadn’t thought about all those? I didn’t think so, either. You couldn’t even keep poor Possy alive two days, for heaven’s sake! How do you expect to raise a helpless little possum from the side of the road?
My advice? Get a plant.
Dr. Katie McQuery, PhD
Dr. Katie McQuery is a licensed psychiatrist with degrees from Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia and Maui Community College. She has practiced psychiatry for over twenty years and published forty-seven books on the topic of professional advice-giving. Her newest book, Professional Advice-Giving for Dummies, will be out later next month.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.
A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period....
“It means that they’re actually collecting information about who’s at those protests, the descriptions of vehicles at those protests,” says [military analyst Bill ]Arkin. “On the domestic level, this is unprecedented,” he says. “I think it's the beginning of enormous problems and enormous mischief for the military.”...
The military’s penchant for collecting domestic intelligence is disturbing — but familiar — to Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer.
“Some people never learn,” he says. During the Vietnam War, Pyle blew the whistle on the Defense Department for monitoring and infiltrating anti-war and civil rights protests when he published an article in the Washington Monthly in January 1970.
The public was outraged and a lengthy congressional investigation followed that revealed that the military had conducted investigations on at least 100,000 American citizens. Pyle got more than 100 military agents to testify that they had been ordered to spy on U.S. citizens — many of them anti-war protestors and civil rights advocates. In the wake of the investigations, Pyle helped Congress write a law placing new limits on military spying inside the U.S. ...
“The documents tell me that military intelligence is back conducting investigations and maintaining records on civilian political activity. The military made promises that it would not do this again,” he says....
One of the CIFA-funded database projects being developed by Northrop Grumman and dubbed “Person Search,” is designed “to provide comprehensive information about people of interest.” It will include the ability to search government as well as commercial databases. Another project, “The Insider Threat Initiative,” intends to “develop systems able to detect, mitigate and investigate insider threats,” as well as the ability to “identify and document normal and abnormal activities and ‘behaviors,’” according to the Computer Sciences Corp. contract. A separate CIFA contract with a small Virginia-based defense contractor seeks to develop methods “to track and monitor activities of suspect individuals.”
“The military has the right to protect its installations, and to protect its recruiting services,” says Pyle. “It does not have the right to maintain extensive files on lawful protests of their recruiting activities, or of their base activities,” he argues....
Bert Tussing, director of Homeland Defense and Security Issues at the U.S. Army War College and a former Marine, says “there is very little that could justify the collection of domestic intelligence by the Unites States military. If we start going down this slippery slope it would be too easy to go back to a place we never want to see again,” he says.
Some of the targets of the U.S. military’s recent collection efforts say they have already gone too far.
“It's absolute paranoia — at the highest levels of our government,” says Hersh of The Truth Project.
“I mean, we're based here at the Quaker Meeting House,” says Truth Project member Marie Zwicker, “and several of us are Quakers.”
The Defense Department refused to comment on how it obtained information on the Lake Worth meeting or why it considers a dozen or so anti-war activists a “threat.”
Now there is a reason why there was public outrage (even from conservatives) back when this happened during the Vietnam era. It is because the military is tasked with defending our country from enemies, not from Americans who don't agree. Further, the Posse Comitatus Act makes it illegal for the military to conduct operations against Americans in America. Just that simple. Further, if someone really is a threat, don't we have the FBI, which has the legal right to monitor that person?
The concern here is that we may be headed back to the bad old days when peaceful protest was seen as grounds for military surveillance (and what would that lead to? You don't collect intelligence unless you at least consider that there is a possibility that you will use it.
This is the first post that we have published under the new heading As noted in a previous post, we decided that this was the best way to give equal credit to coauthors on those occasions when we contribute a group effort. The title is repeated and the authors are listed below the title.
Brandon Alexander Geraghty-MacKenzie
How the Radical Christian Right is Bastardizing Christmas and Christianity
Brandon Alexander Geraghty-MacKenzie
"I am not going to let aggressive totalitarian and anti-Christian forces in this country diminish, denigrate, the holiday and the celebration. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that.."
Bill O'Reilly trying to sound like a Christian.
It seems as if the Radical Christian Right has stepped up its attack on America and mainstream Christianity by extending the Cultural War to include the words Happy Holidays; and while they may not realize it, they haven't exactly done a lot to equate their battle cry of "Merry Christmas" with anything especially Merry or Christian either.
On the surface, the whole thing seems rather bizarre. Christ, after all, never politicized his religious teachings; and the last we knew, bringing horror into the world of concerned Americans who oppose a Christian Republic or a Fundamentalist theocracy isn't exactly a Christian standard. So you just have to wonder: Why would the same professional misanthropes who so fervently complain about political correctness, want to demote the words "Merry Christmas" to the mere equivalent of right wing political war chant? Why would they want use Christmas, of all things, as an excuse to infuriate the American people at what they claim is the holiest time of the year?
First and foremost, we need to remember that this isn't the first time that the Pseudo Christian Right has used Christmas as a weapon against its opponents.
During the 1920s Henry Ford warned us about a Jewish conspiracy to remove Christmas from the public square. According to Ford and his ilk, there was a Jewish plot to eliminate Christmas caroling and Christmas pageants. Ironically, the current crusade against the term "Happy Holidays" also has a certain racist/antisemitic ring to it as well. The only other religious Holidays during the month of December are Hanukkah and Kwanzaa--a Jewish holiday and an African-inspired holiday. So you have to ask yourself, " what are the cultural warriors complaining about this time?" Are they really offended because they can't hear the words "Merry Christmas" on demand or are they just offended by Blacks and Jews? If it's the first scenario, we would suggest that they need to develop a few grown up characteristics such as patience and perspective; if it's the second scenario they clearly need to get a grip on their racist/antisemitic tendencies Granted, one might argue that conservative Jews and Christian Fundamentalists have forged a political alliance of convenience, based on Israel's right to exist and the Fundamentalists' literal interpretation of Revelations, but let's not deceive ourselves. This does not mean thay the Radical Christian Right has become more tolerant and accepting of the Jewish people. Rather, the Fundamentalist take on the Jews and the Nation of Israel is that Jesus, the beloved "Prince of Peace" will come back at the end of times to punish the Jews to eternal damnation because they refused to accept him as the Messiah.
Real love and compassion there.
The supposedly "Pro Christmas" crusade was renewed during the 1950s, when the John Birch Society decided there was a United Nations plot to replace Christmas decorations with symbols of one world government. In 1959 this fanatical little group (think KKK in street clothing) published a revealing pamphlet, "There Goes Christmas," claiming, "...one of the techniques now being applied by the Reds to weaken the pillar of religion in our country is the drive to take Christ out of Christmas -- to denude the event of its religious meaning." This time the targets were American department stores, which they assumed were a part of a clandestine Soviet/United Nations plot. And the last we knew, the John Birch Society had a decidedly anti-Semitic streak to it as well....
The current crusade only combines the worst of both, religious fanaticism and outright paranoia. That much became obvious when Fox Propaganda Minister, John Gibson, author of The War On Christmas, appeared on the November 17 edition of the Janet Parshall Show, suggesting: "Minorities ought to have the same sense of tolerance about the majority religion -- Christianity -- that they've been granted about their religions over the years." Which on the surface, actually sounds reasonable. But Gibson then went on to offer the following remarks. " I would think if somebody is going to be -- have to answer for following the wrong religion, they're not going to have to answer to me. We know who they're going to have to answer to....And that's fine. Let 'em. But in the meantime, as long as they're civil and behave, we tolerate the presence of other religions around us without causing trouble, and I think most Americans are fine with that tradition." Hardly the image of the devout, Christmas-mas loving Saint that the folks at Fox and Penguin Books have been promoting, is it?
Can you believe this guy? Only moments after he stated that the religious minority (a code word for Jews?) should be more tolerant of the Christian majority, Gibson then revealed himself as a judgemental, Christian supremest who was only saying what God would say if God only knew what was going on down here. (A special hint to our readers. When you die, go to Heaven, and see Mister Gibson there, you should worry about where you went.)
Needless to say we really aren't surprised by this.
Since the early 1980s the Radical Christian Right has grown increasingly militant, and paranoid. This, after all, is the same crowd that has been warning us about a "Satanic, New Age Conspiracy" which is allegedly poised to take over the entire world; the latest assault on "Happy Holidays," being the most recent in a long line of paranoid conspiracy theories. Granted, the right to both hate and fear your fellow Americans is protected by the American Constitution,, but the Radical Christian Right hasn't only turned these "time honored practices" into art forms; they have also created a delusional, world wide conspiracy that is so involved and so far-fetched that you need a flow chart just to keep track of the various groups, individuals, and practices involved.
3. aerobics at the YMCA
4. Alcoholics Anonymous
5. American Civil Liberties union
6. Amway Corporation
7. Atari Computer Corporation
9. Blue Cross/Blue Shield
10. Buffalo New York Public Schools
11. Campbell's Soup Company
12. Catholic Church/Catholic Communion
13. Cocoon (the movie)
14. Cousins: Norman
15. creative visualization
16. ending world hunger
17. environmental movement
18. Free Masonry
19. gay rights
21. Gorbachev: Mikhail
22. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
23. guided imagery for success and prosperity
24. happy holidays
25. health food
26. holistic health practices
27. The Hunger Project
28. Huxley: Aldous
30. the information revolution
31. Jehovah's Witness
32. Jewish Cabala/Judaism in general
33. Life Magazine
34. Lions International
35. Lockheed Corporation
36. Minneapolis City government
37. Mobil Oil Corporation
38. Monsanto Corporation
39. Mormon Church
40. Mother Theresa
41. The Muppets
43. Nader: Ralph
44. National Aeronautic Space Administration
45. National Organization for Women
46. Native American religious ceremonies
47. NBC Television
48. Newsweek Magazine
49. New York City government
50. Planned Parenthood
52. Polaroid Corporation
53. Pope John XXIII
54. positive thinking
55. Prince Phillip of England
56. Princeton University
57. Proctor and Gamble
58. Readers Digest
59. rock and roll
60. Rockefeller Foundation
62. Save the Whales
64. Social Security Administration
65. stress management
66. transcendental meditation
67. Tutu: Desmond
69. United Nations
70. United States Navy
71. University of Michigan
72. University of Texas
73. vegetarian diets
74. Welesa: Lech
76. world peace efforts
77. Yale University
78. Yeltsin: Boris
Those are just a few of the many people, places and things that this crowd considers "New Age," "evil," or "Satanic."
And just who are the spin masters behind this unadulterated lunacy? You guessed it: Dave Hunt, Texe Marrs, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, Ted Haggard, the late Randall N. Baer, Rebecca Brown, Eric Buehrer, Constance Cumbey, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Douglas Groothuis, Joseph Kennedy, Mel (deceased) and Norma Gabler, ad nauseum.
To quote Marrs: "The New Age appears to be the instrument that Satan will use to catapult his Antichrist to power...When Christians refuse to be initiated into this Satanic religious system, they will be dealt with very harshly....The New Age is working hard today to set up an environment against Christians...so the public mood will be ready when the Antichrist begins his brutal anti-Christian programs." (1987).
And to make the situation still more interesting, even the Christmas-mocking Gibson himself has couched his arguments in brazenly conspiratorial terms:
"It's like the secret bombing of Cambodia--it was a secret from everybody except the people getting bombed. Same deal here. People trying to keep Christmas in schools and parks and libraries and city halls know about the war on Christmas. The people waging this war are trying to keep it secret, but it's too late. They have been outed."
Nope. No paranoia there.
Worse yet, the Christmas warriors aren't always dependable when it comes to the facts. Consider, if you will, religion in public schools. Our public schools are more religious now than they were at just about any time in our nation's history. Students pray, study the Bible, and hold rallies around flag poles; they distribute literature and discuss religion with their fellow classmates. Or to be be succinct, student-generated(religious activities are perfectly legal and constitutional. But that isn't the main objective. The idee fixe of the Radical Christian Right is top down religion; using the power and authority of school personnel and public tax dollars to impose a particular (read literal) interpretation of a particular faith on people of different religions and denominations. Translated into modern English, they want to turn America's public school system into a hotbed of Ultra- Fundamentalist extremism.
Spokespersons for the Radical Christian Right admit as much.
In 1990, Robert Simonds, founder of Citizens for Excellence in Education, made no effort to conceal his agenda. " I hope I will see, " Simonds noted, "the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have public schools. The churches will have taken over again, and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be."
In a similar vein, Jerry Falwell, founder of the former Moral Majority went to far as to say: "America was founded by Godly men who had in mind establishing a republic not only Christian in nature, but a republic designed to propagate the Gospel worldwide."
The upshot here is that the Christmas warriors couldn't care less about Christmas.
They are not trying to promote Christmas and they certainly are not trying to promote Christianity. Instead of promoting the true spirit of Christmas they are merely exploiting the day in their ongoing attempt to establish a repressive interpretation of the biblical text. Instead of promoting the true spirit of Christmas they are wishing the horrors of hell fire and brimstone on anyone and everyone who dares to disagree with them.
To call their hateful, paranoid behavior Christian, is a little like calling Adolf Hitler a good samaritan.
Monday, December 12, 2005
In 1935, Charles Darrow was awarded the patent for the board game, 'Monopoly,' which he later sold to Parker Brothers. In those old games, the houses and hotels were made of wood, but much has stayed the same as when Darrow was making the sets by hand. That includes this Community Chest card.
Now today, you will hear some right wing 'Christians' claim that there is suddenly a 'war on Christmas.' They claim that secular America is out to get rid of Christmas, all in the name of political correctness.
Well, as we see from the card above, the idea of separating the holiday aspect from the religious aspect (Christ) was alive and well decades ago. So it is certainly nothing new.
Besides, wasn't it until a year or two ago that the same people were bemoaning the 'commercialization' of Christmas? They were worried about how the 'true meaning of Christmas' was being swallowed up in a giant rush to the malls. But let a mall store greet you with 'Happy Holidays,' now they will rush to a microphone and tell you that the store in question is part of some giant conspiracy to do away with Christmas.
Maybe this will placate them in their new obsession: How about a mall that features a nativity display, sponsored by Visa (It's everywhere you want to be). Joseph will be dressed in a very nice suit by Ralph Lauren (shoes by Bruno Magli). Mary will be dressed in a very sharp outfit from Pendleton (plus sizes available), with solid wood platform shoes by Steve Madden, exclusively available at Nine West. The three kings will be modeling Patagonia sportswear, with Nike tennis shoes. The infant will be modeling swaddling clothes from Baby Gap. Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh will be on loan from Bank of America. Animals will be wearing collars that read, ILoveAlpacas.com.
Get commercialism out of Christmas. Put Christmas into commercialism. But only the way we tell you to. No wonder these people are never happy. They get their way, and they aren't satisfied with the results. And I bet some of them will grumble about it all the way to the Department store and buy something that hearkens back to the 'good old days' when nobody thought twice about saying, 'Christmas.' Something that brings back pleasant memories from when they were kids. Maybe even a game of Monopoly.
Friday, December 09, 2005
We now have, as was predicted by global warming models years ago, more and bigger hurricanes. The excuse the conservatives gave that we were entering a 'natural cycle' gave up the ghost with this years hurricane season, which set and shattered records for, among other things, most named storms, most hurricanes, most hurricanes striking land and most large (cat 4 or higher) hurricanes. Also, the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in a hurricane-- and three of the top six (five of the six of which have been recorded since 1980). Records that were kept since the 1850's. So, clearly what happened this year was something unnatural. And that was on the heels of the disastrous 2004 hurricane season. Of course, we see that the global warming model is backed up by measurably higher water surface temperatures across the globe. And ocean levels are rising-- everywhere. Climate change has also fallen into other patterns predicted up to 20 years ago by global warming researchers. For example, here in the southwestern United States, we are getting hotter and drier, which was predicted by models even as far back as the 1970's.
We also know that Republicans are generally against creating big government spending programs on anything (especially when it comes to basic research).
That is what makes this story all too ironic, to the point of being funny.
And while it's still a bit of a long shot, Uncle Sam could be called in to sponsor research to find ways to blast dangerous storms out of the sky or put rain clouds over parched land.
"This is a fascinating subject to me, and the idea that we can actually impact weather is exciting, and I guess, frightening in some ways," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said during a November hearing on a bill that could start up a federal weather modification research program.
In a bill introduced this year by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, a new board of scientists would be able to dole out federal research money for weather modification, which she said is important, especially considering this year's record-breaking hurricane season. Highlighted by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the 26-named storm season continued past its official end date of Nov. 30 this year. Tropical Depression Epsilon, formerly a hurricane, was still chugging along the north Atlantic on Thursday evening.
Stop and consider. Republicans have painted themselves into a corner. Global warming is obviously happening, everywhere from Mt. Kilimanjaro, with its crater bare for the first time in 11,000 years, to your local news reports (for example, here in Arizona, our four worst fire seasons have been 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005, as drought and heat ravaged forests succumb first to bark beetle infestation which finishes killing the trees, and then to fires-- and when some of the fire ravaged regions begin to grow back, it is with desert vegetation, not more trees). They can't reverse themselves in their steadfast denial that it is happening-- this would be the mother of all flip flops, nor can they ignore the ruinous effects that these weather cycles are having on the economy back home, so now Republicans like Hutchison propose at least making some token payments to show that they are doing something.
Weather modification is a pipe dream at best, featuring in some quarters proposals to blast apart hurricanes with huge bombs and ideas that have proved fruitless and futile in the past and tinkering with something we know very little about at worst, but it seems to be the Republican solution to the problem of global climate change.
Think about it. Blow up hurricanes. Move the clouds. Doesn't this sound like something it would take Republicans to come up with?
Thursday, December 08, 2005
When I logged in this morning I discovered that we had a new member named Eli who had submitted the following comment on another post. From time to time the members on this blog will select a comment which we then offer as a post in its own right.. This is one of those comments. Eli's remarks are a stunning condemnation of the Bush War in Iraq, In addition, they also turn the GOP arguments back on themselves in a way that I had not imagined possible.
Eli, we have not been properly introduced. Suffice it to say for now that I am Brandon's half brother and a co-founder of the new and improved Coalition for a Republican-Free America. I hope you don't mind the fact that I used your material, but rest assured that your effort is highly appreciated.
Kyle Alexander James Kilpatrick
REMEMBERING PEARL HARBOR
Submitted by Eli Blake
A very interesting letter today in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune from a retired career Naval Officer:
Remembering Pearl Harbor seems doubly -- or even triply -- important today. With that memory comes also the voice (rebroadcast almost every year) of President Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring to Congress and the nation, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked ..."
My 31 years of service as an officer in the U.S. Navy were richly satisfying -- in large measure because of the men and women with whom I served. But even more, my satisfaction came from an appreciation for living in and serving a nation dedicated to the principles of freedom and opportunity and justice for all, and of nobody being above the law.
But now, we are living in a country whose administration both declares and acts upon the belief that preemptive strikes are wise foreign policy, are a legitimate use of our military. Was the attack on Pearl Harbor anything other than a preemptive strike?
I ask President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- are we now to view Pearl Harbor as the product of a sound foreign policy by a nation with a strong military? Or would we instead be wise to remember that December 7, 1941, is still a date which will live in infamy?
ALAN YOUEL, RICHFIELD
In other words, if we use the Bush policy on pre-emptive war as a standard, then the Pearl Harbor attack was justified (since there is no question that the U.S. military in 1941 was a far greater threat to Japan than Saddam Hussein was to us in 2003.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
We don't know if we're the first blog to offer a bona fide advice column, but whether we're the first or not, we'd like to think that we're a little different from your typical, run of the mill Dear Abby look alike.
Katie will field questions on a wide range of topics. No issue is too obscure; no subject is too controversial; no reader so bizarre that we can't.....Okay, I won't go quite that far, but for the most part, Katie will be more than happy to answer our readers' inquiries.
If you're interested, why not drop her a line at:
I'm sure she'd be delighted to hear from you.
We're not sure as to when he'll be back in action. He's weak, and he tuckers out rather quickly, but we're confident that a little loving attention at home will make the world of difference. Open heart surgery isn't a picnic at the age of 77, and the ensuing staph infection wasn't an enjoyable experience either; but he seems to be doing as well as can be expected (a horrible term if ever there was one) and he genuinely enjoys the changes that we've made in the house prior to his return home.
For those of you who asked, we decided that it was time to give my uncle a downstairs suite of rooms where all of his favorite things will be within easy walking distance. This had been a touchy point in the past because he didn't want to admit that the trip to his upstairs retreat was taking a toll. Sooooooo, we took the liberty of recreating his abode in two of our downstairs rooms while he was recovering at the hospital and nursing home.
This was not an easy task. This man has more books, LPs, and CDs than you could possibly imagine. We--or rather, my husband--quite literally had to build a floor to ceiling set of bookshelves in what used to be our parlor. But the shelves look nice, they fit in nicely with the Victorian decor, they serve a useful function, and it's exactly what my uncle needs right now.
Sooooo on behalf of the Steffes and MacKenzie families we thank all of you for your best wishes and concerns.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
First, I am proud to announce that my fiancee, Kelli has rejoined the group after a lengthy hiatus. To be honest, I've missed her around here, so it will be nice to have the future Mrs. MacKenzie on hand to keep me in line.
Second, we are adding a new screen for group efforts. From time to time our team members work in groups, producing lengthy posts which almost invariably end up going under one member's name while the coauthors are left out in the cold. We try to give credit where credit is due, but after consulting with some of my associates here, we decided that it would be a good idea to post group efforts under the heading of GROUP EFFORTS and then list the indvidual authors in a subheading as a part of the actual post.
Third, we are quite literally in the process of creating an advice column. This may come as a surprise to some of you, perhaps even to some of my team mates, so I should probably explain what we're doing around here. During the last few weeks Advocate 1 and another member have been discussing the possibility of a COALITION ADVICE COLUMN, the actual title of which will be decided at a future date. Initially, I didn't take the idea seriously, but the more Advocate talked about it the more I liked it. I can't say for certain just when the feature will be up and running, or the exact form it will take, because we're still trying to work out a few of the details, but from what Advocate 1 has told me, and from what I know about our potential Advisor, I think it will be a very informative, and at times, amusing addition to our effort here.
Again, we thank our readers for their continued patience and loyal patronage.
Brandon Alexander Geraghty-MacKenzie