Sunday, July 31, 2005

Liberal Bloggers Getting Distracted by Details: The Rove Affair

In the squabbling over minutiae that's been going on over the Rove/Plame thing, I think the overall truth of the matter, and the overall narrative that should be advanced, is getting lost.

I agree more with Somerby's take on things, though he shouldn't use his "tangy tone" against liberals. It's alright to be partisan, as long as you're as honest as you can be. From what I've seen of the bloggers he's chastising, they try to be as honest as they can, unlike those he usually goes after, who are not trying very hard. He's right, though, in that it matters if we damage our own credibility and make issues murkier by getting bogged down in minutiae that is murky to begin with. But Somerby has recently been missing the bigger picture in his effort to keep liberals perfectly accurate.
  1. The Administration chose to use weak evidence as a reason for war.
  2. The Administration tried to shift blame for using weak evidence as a reason for war.
  3. The Administration considers its own interests above the interests of the country.

Here's the storyline, which is more important than Wilson, Novak, or Rove.

The Bush Administration wanted to go to war with Iraq. Their stated reason at the time was that Saddam Hussein had or was developing (or was working on developing, or was thinking about working on developing, or was planning to start thinking about working on developing) WMDs which he would use himself or give to terrorists to use on the United States. That was the thrust of the 2003 SOTU, and that's why Congress needed to declare war.

The Administration had been working for many months to collect the evidence of the truth of their position. They had evidence which supported their contention and evidence which contradicted their contention. But it was all murky, and people didn't really understand the evidence, and had different sources to choose to believe, depending on their biases (I had lots of arguments with my mom in the run up in which I quoted the other sources who contradicted the Administration line, which she rejected).

Then Wilson, in a self-important article, writes blatantly that those 16 words were not true, that he had told the Administration that information was not true, and that they must have ignored it. Really, he said Iraq hadn't bought uranium, but even so, the evidence was not good enough either to say that Iraq had sought uranium, or to say they hadn't. And the Administration didn't specifically and purposely ignore Wilson's report, it was just information they would ignore, anyway. The CIA had told them more than once not to use the information, but they kept trying, and finally succeeded in the 2003 SOTU.

So the Administration attempted to distance themselves from blame for using that information. They forgot that they shouldn't use it; it was Tenet's fault for not properly vetting the speech; they never knew about Wilson's trip, 'cause they never sent him or got his report.

If the Administration doesn't even know who Wilson is, they can't have deliberately ignored Joe Wilson's advice. That's the story that was being pushed by sources. Stay away from the Wilson's story, we don't even know who he is. The Vice President didn't send him. Tenet didn't send him. Somebody else sent him.

That gets to the murky, complicated issue of Plame.

Novak pushed the Administration's line. As he wrote, "The story, actually, is whether the administration deliberately ignored Wilson's advice." The thrust of his July 14, 2003 story was that Wilson's report was routine, low-level, inconclusive, and forgotten.

Novak identifies his first source as someone who is "no partisan gunslinger." (It's kind of hard to imagine anyone in the Bush Administration who could be described that way, but whatever) Novak asks a reasonable question: Why Wilson? That implies other good questions: What does he know about WMD and Niger, anyway? And what is Wilson's connection to the CIA?

The source tells Novak that Wilson was sent to Niger because Wilson's wife, an agency operative in WMD, suggested him. And that explains it. That's why Wilson was sent. Because his wife was an agency operative in WMD and suggested him.

I would have thought a more reasonable answer would have been because Wilson “has good relations with both the PM [Prime Minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” Or even, "Wilson's name was suggested by a CIA operative who is familiar with his qualifications."

Whether or not the source knew of any other qualifications Wilson might have had, the only reason Novak got was that Wilson's wife, who had the connection to the CIA, had suggested him. Novak alludes in passing to Wilson's familiarity with Africa and Niger, so he must have had some inkling that Wilson may have had qualifications other than being the husband of Valerie Plame.

Novak's source may not have been a "partisan gunslinger," I don't know. But at the very least, that source got the info from someone who was. After all, why identify Wilson's wife unless it furthers the purpose of downplaying the importance of Wilson's report? And Novak, being the partisan gunslinger he is, didn't ask.

At the very very least, this Administration was careless about national security information, because it looks like information that shouldn't have been made public was.

That's what it boils down to. Plame's identity was leaked for a purpose which we may not fully understand, but it doesn't pass the smell test, and people get that.

There is an argument I learned for writing up legal briefs. "Even if the facts are as the opposition says, they still lose based on the law..." We can accept apologist arguments as true, and they still lose on the issue.

  1. Even if Wilson is a fudger, the Administration chose to use weak evidence.
  2. Even if Novak is consistent and true, the Administration tried to shift blame for using weak evidence.
  3. Even if Rove didn't know he was breaking the law and even if Plame's identity didn't actually compromise national security, the Administration considers its own interests before the interests of the country.

I think the public can understand the larger narrative, which is not murky at all.

[all emphasis added unless otherwise noted]

Fun Letters to Tancredo

In the Sunday Denver Post.

Pot/Kettle
...Rep. Tom Tancredo suggested that the United States bomb holy Muslim sites in response to a terrorist attack on the United States. Despite calls from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Arab-American Institute, and heads of several U.S.-friendly countries, Tancredo has refused to apologize.

On a completely different yet related note, Tancredo had this to say about a Chinese official who made threatening remarks about the United States: "For a senior government official to exhibit such tremendous stupidity by making such a brazen threat is hardly characteristic of a modern nation ... ."


Tancredo Thinks Like a Terrorist
The theory is: If someone hurts you, strike hard, and strike indiscriminately. At first glance, it's really not a bad idea.
--
...Just in the Middle East, we have overthrown a democratically elected government in Iran, and put Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party in power in Iraq. We gave Hussein chemical weapons, which he used to terrorize his own people. In short, we've struck these people pretty hard. Don't they have the right to strike back - and strike indiscriminately?

Congratulations, Tom! I think you've just morally justified Sept. 11.

------------------------------------------------------

Tom Tancredo and his followers offer the following solution to terrorism: Moderate Muslims, "crack down on the extremists in \ midst" or face the possibility of us committing heinous war crimes against you. Notice the proposition is not phrased: "Moderate Muslims, what can we do to help you minimize the influence of extremists in your midst?" This proposition might actually have the possibility of opening dialogue and avenues of cooperation.
--
...The fact that these suggestions, which would enjoy overwhelming support in the Arab world, are not even comprehensible to Tancredo, his supporters or the Bush administration show what a low priority ending terrorism has for them.


Tancredo Stupid Remarks
I did not find Congressman Tom Tancredo's remarks "offensive," as seems to be the thrust of his defense to his recent critics. I find them stupid, reckless and irresponsible.


------------------------------------------------------

As an American Muslim, while I am obviously disturbed by Rep. Tom Tancredo's comments, I have to admit I am hardly surprised. Our political leaders have hardly been the best role models of rational words or behavior. In light of all this, what's another congressman making stupid remarks?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Day of Disturbing Revelations

I've been taking online tests today. In addition to the previous entry that had me looking for a metal brush on a long skinny handle (so I can scrub my brain), I discovered the following at Project Implicit through tolerance.org:

  1. I have a strong automatic preference for young over old;
  2. I have a strong automatic preference for European Americans over African Americans;
  3. I have a slight automatic preference for straight over gay;
  4. I have a moderate automatic preference for George W. Bush over Abraham Lincoln!!!!

Somewhere, deep down inside where I'm afraid to look, I really really really really hate Abraham Lincoln. I was hoping I might be John Wilkes Boothe in a past life, but blogthings tells me I was a greasy Polish philosopher who died in childbirth.


I just hope I don't lose my place on the Progressive Women's Blog Ring (powered by RingSurf) over this.

WTFricketyFrackinF?!?!?

Your Daddy Is Bill o'Reilly


What You Call Him: Daddy-o
Why You Love Him: He takes you to church

Daily Howler to Liberals: Don't Be Overwrought; They Get Letters to Daily Howler: That Goes For You, Too

For the most part I agree with Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler about liberals reading their own biases into information about the Rove/Wilson issue. We cannot say that Rove knowingly broke the law (though he did break his nondisclosure agreement); Wilson's assertions are not totally accurate. Neither of these facts are central to the Big Picture, so we shouldn't get bogged down by them.

I don't defend people who purposely engage in intellectual dishonesty or flat-out lies to advance their case. I applaud Somerby for taking liberals to task for jumping to conclusions based on their own preconceptions and biases, and for admitting his own. His documentation of the War Against Gore (go to Howler page and search "Gore") showed the kind of Group Wisdom that has him rightly outraged. And I hope that I will be challenged on my assumptions and assertions.

But I take issue with his comparison of the War on Gore and the fiery liberal talk about Rove and defense of Wilson.

Liberals' Group Wisdom informs the way they interpret information when they don't know the truth. The media's Group Wisdom caused them to purposely lie lie lie about Gore even when they knew the truth.

The media's Group Wisdom was based on their dislike of Gore and his association with Clinton, and they had to twist the facts into pretzels to make him look bad. Liberals' Group Wisdom is based partially on a dislike of Bush, but they don't have to manipulate facts beyond recognition to come to their conclusions. As The Daily Howler has pointed out many times, what is written about the Rove/Wilson matter may be interpreted in different ways depending on one's bias.

Liberals don't interpret in a vacuum. Rove and the Administration have a track record which gives liberals reasons for coming to their interpretations and conclusions. Rove plays hardball politics, leaks to reporters, smears opponents. The Bush Administration ignored intelligence which contradicted their desired conclusions in their push for war. The Administration has leaked classified information for political purposes. It's much more reasonable for liberals to jump to conclusions than for the press to have made up lies about Gore.

But, again, it's good to challenge liberals on their assumptions and assertions, to keep them honest. We don't need to be overwrought about the particulars and hurt our own credibility. We don't need to twist the facts into pretzels to make Rove look bad and Wilson look good; we don't need to get bogged down in questionable minutiae to prove the larger point.

Despite having no indictments, meaningful Congressional investigations, or an impending impeachment, the public is seeing the big picture which informs liberal bias. This Administration cannot be trusted on vital life and death issues.

The Single Finger Theory

Did President Bush answer the gaggle with his middle finger?


Look at the width of the wrist; the hand is turned to the side. The index finger makes a straight horizontal line behind the thumb.



Notice the turned hand, the straight horizontal line of the index finger.





In this verified picture of the presidential bird, notice the uneven line created by the surrounding digits and the apex of the tucked in thumb on the side.


Conclusion: Though his disdain for the press is documented (besides what is shown in the bottom photograph) the proferred digit was a thumb. The President did not flip off the press.

No Charges in Denver Three Case

Given that
...the event staffer who confronted them was dressed like a Secret Service agent, wearing a suit, radio earpiece and lapel pin that identifies people with security clearance. The Secret Service has said the man was not an agent.

Bauer and Weise say they were pulled aside at the gate and were told by another event staffer to wait for the Secret Service. They said the man who showed up threatened them with arrest if they misbehaved.

I would think that the Secret Service would want this prosecuted. Don't they think it will be more difficult and dangerous if their first orders are met with skepticism and demands for identification?

Friday, July 29, 2005

Incentive for Illegal Immigrants

There is an op-ed by Marcela Sanchez (which I can't find online yet) in the RMN about Senate bills for dealing with illegal immigration. It shows how, ironically, in an effort to reduce the number of crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S. has managed to increase the number of illegal residents.

She talks of a new bill sponsored by Sens. Cornyn (R-TX) and Kyl (R-AZ) which would require illegals to submit themselves for a fine, deportation, and the opportunity, once in their home country, to apply for a guest worker permit.

Sounds a lot like Tancredo's idea. It also has no incentive for compliance.

Another bill, by Sens. McCain (R-AZ) and Kennedy (D-MA) would allow workers who submit to documentation the ability to, after six years, obtain legal residence and begin the process of becoming citizens. That's incentive.

Colorado Democratic Party Competitive

The Colorado Democratic Party needs funds, especially since a three-judge panel rejected the Republicans' suit to redraw Colorado's 7 Congressional seats to heavily favor themselves.

Democrats are competitive in the new 7th District. Every little bit helps.

Also, check out DemNotes, the CDP blog.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

REAL GUEST Act 2005

Tancredo has introduced this bill (H.R. 3333) to control immigrant workers. The Air Force and Army could be used for border patrol.

There are other questionable provisions, and I can't fully appreciate the consequences, because I don't really understand. The act requires employers to pay greater than the median national wage or the prevailing wage for the occupation. In the case of migrant farm workers, what does that mean? Same paycheck, minus hefty Social Security deductions?

I'll be interested in reading critiques and following the debate. I think something needs to be done to legitimize those workers who sneak into the US to do lots of honest hard work so we Americans can have cheaper produce. And we need to have a better control, for our own safety, on who is entering the country. But there should be some benefit to the workers, not just to the employers.

I don't see any benefit to workers in this bill.

Spouses and children could not follow workers into the US. They would have to agree their children born in the US would not be automatic citizens, unless one parent is a citizen or lawful permanent resident. The workers could not adjust to lawful permanent residence, they would have to give up their jobs and apply for citizenship in their country of origin. Amnesty for illegals living in the US since 1972 would be revoked.

Why shouldn't legal workers who put in years of work be able to earn citizenship that way?

Worst of all, emergency rooms, in order to receive federal compensation, would be required to supply authorities with all non-clinical information on illegal aliens.

I don't see the incentive, except in the increased punitive measure taken against employers who break the law.

The Worm Has Turned

Ever since I've known her (8 years), my mother-in-law would not discuss politics with me or my husband, no matter how much he would try to goad or tease her.

I know she really liked the first President Bush and Barbara. I know she's a Republican. Other than that, she would only discuss issues which she knew I'd be fairly certain to agree on. She prefers a happy family.

Imagine my surprise when she said, on our recent visit, "Should we sit at the table and discuss politics?"

So I, my husband, my mother-in-law, and her father, sat at the table and discussed how much we really dislike the corrupt eldest son of one of her favorite presidents and his rotten Administration.

She gave him the benefit of the doubt and kept her mouth shut for five years, but the Iraq fiasco, from beginning to present, has degraded him to such a degree that she will sit at a table with her liberal children and trash the Pres.

And her father, too, who is a WWII vet, Marines 3rd Division, the first on the beaches at Iwo Jima, Wake Island, Midway, Guadalcanal, and Bougainville. Of course, if he were to ever go public with his opinion with some group, the wingers wouldn't let a little thing like his overt patriotism and sacrifice (he never got back home for a visit from before Pearl Harbor, 1941, until September, 1945) stop them from trashing him and questioning the quality of his service. After all, he made it through all those conflicts and all that time (end of 1942 to VJ day) without getting wounded, except psychologically. I call that extreme luck; wingers call that not trying very hard.

Anti-winger rant digression aside (and my in-laws are obviously not wingers), if that isn't a strong grassroots sign that the worm has turned for this corrupt Administration, I don't know what would be.

Yes I do...if my own winger parents, immersed for years in rightwing propaganda, were to turn. I'll have to try harder.

David Gouge, in a letter to the editor July 28, says John Kerry is a hypocrite for asking for all of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' papers when John Kerry wouldn't release all of his in the 2004 Presidential campaign.

Says Mr. Gouge:

Apparently an arrogant Kerry believes a presidential candidate has every rightto stonewall the public's right to know when it comes to the minor issue ofselecting the next commander in chief, but a Supreme Court nominee deserves farmore scrutiny.


Yes, Mr. Gouge, because Presidents are elected by the general populace for 4 year terms. Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the President and 51 Senators for a lifetime.

Sincerely,

Julie O.

Tancredo's Stupid Statements Letter

Dear Rep. Tancredo,

I know I'm supposed to be polite in letters to my representatives, and I've written a couple of polite emails that have gone unanswered. But don't you think you and your representatives might want to use more measured language, as well?

I take exception to a couple of statements that you've made recently, and can think of no other criticism for them than offensive, ill-considered, and just plain stupid.

First, you suggest that, in response to a nuclear attack on one of our cities by fundamentalist Muslims, we could nuke a Muslim holy site. That makes as much sense as if the Enlish had bombed the Vatican in response to IRA bombings in London. The seat of Catholicism has no more to do with the radical acts of terrorists who happen to claim to be Catholic than the seat of Islam has to do with the radical acts of terrorists who happen to claim to be Muslim.

Your second unwise comment was made by your spokesman, Will Adams, who said you have no concerns for the criticisms of Ward Churchill types. I assure you, I am no Ward Churchill type, and resent greatly the implication that I am to be so blithely dismissed.

I am not asking for an apology. You are a straight talker, and your opinions are important things to know about you when considering keeping you in office. I wouldn't want you to hide your true self for political expediency. But don't try to back out of stupid statements by apologizing for offending people. Either stand by what you said or admit that it was a stupid thing to say and a stupid thing to think.


Sincerely,

Julie O.

Monday, July 25, 2005

On Mini Vacation Again

I'm off to the in-laws so Great Grandpa can visit the older boy and meet the younger one. I'll be back blogging Wednesday night or Thursday or something.

The Clenis Reverse Judo Flip

The credit for these Anti-Winger Talking Points is convoluted, so stay with me. I got it from Big Brass Blog's Pam of Pam's House Blend, who got them from Daily Kos commenter, IndyScott. Pam added pictures. Example:


* If James Carville and other members of a Clinton White House outed an undercover CIA officer during a time of war, what would you be saying about them?

* If a male prostitute posing as a White House "reporter" for a left-wing media organization was throwing softball questions to Bill Clinton, what would you be saying about him?


I especially appreciate them because political arguments with my mother usually come around to the "well, Clinton did something bad," even though I never voted for Clinton and rarely think of him (I miss him now, though).

Of course, when she does bring up some Clinton scandal that I didn't know about -- which is most -- I go look it up and find out it's not quite the way she described it. The most current was about his reason for making Kaiparowits Plateau in South Central Utah a national monument.

The theorists wonder


Did Clinton promise to block the mining of the coal in return for huge contribution from the Lippo Corporation in Indonesia? With the closure of the Utah competition, coal fueled power plants under construction or planned, in China, Japan and Mexico, which were potential customers for the Andalux Corporation, which holds leases on the now unavailable Kaiparowits coal in Utah, will have to purchase their non-polluting coal from the multi-billion dollar Lippo group, or use polluting coal sources.


Only Clinton knows, but do the fuller facts support the theory? There had been plans in the works since the 60s to mine in Kaiparowits


In the 1960s, a consortium of Arizona and southern California utility companies set plans into motion to build four open pit coal mines and a coal-burning power plant on the Kaiparowits.

...In the end, public, tribal, and environmental opposition, as well as economic obstacles, led to the collapse of the project in 1976.

...However, in 1991, the Dutch-owned company Andalex Resources, Inc. ... proposed an underground mine, to be known as the Smoky Hollow Mine, which would produce 2-2.5 million tons of coal a year for 30 years and would cost $60-80 million dollars to build. Although this proposal was greatly scaled down from the 1960s version, environmentalists opposed any mining in this area.


Opposition by US groups, such as Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) as well as economic obstacles ended the original plan.


The fundamental problem of Kaiparowits coal is the cost of getting it to market. With abundant and more accessible coal available elsewhere in the state and the nation, Kaiparowits coal may never be economic to mine. "...development of the Kaiparowits Plateau coal will face significant economic and environmental problems," explains the BLM in its 1986 Utah wilderness DEIS. "These problems include poor accessibility, lack of abundant water, high costs of underground mining, and competition from nearby areas where coal is more readily available and of better quality...."


Andalex faced opposition and economic obstacles, despite their smaller, underground mining plan.

Kaiparowits not so profitable for Andalex, either. A May, 1997 BLM report states


that Kaiparowits coal on the average is not the super-compliance, low-sulphur coal commonly claimed, but rather "significantly" higher in sulphur content, and lower in BTU quality, than coal found elsewhere in Utah.

The report also found the Kaiparowits would continue to be uneconomical to mine in the foreseeable future.

An even earlier study by the Grand Canyon Trust in 1995 showed less profitability for transportation costs.


A company trying to open a coal mine on southern Utah’s Kaiparowits Plateau had better take a second look at its numbers, concludes a recent study by the Grand Canyon Trust. The report says the high cost of trucking coal over 225 miles of roads to rail transfer sites will cost an extra $5 per ton compared to other Utah mines.


Even if Andalex had mined there, they would have been no competition for Indonesian coal. An Associated Press article from 1996 reproduced in nationalguild.com:


``The reason that the monument was created is because it's an extraordinary place, filled with bird and plant life and natural wonders that needed to be protected,'' said [White House] spokeswoman Mary Ellen Glynn. ``It had nothing to do with Indonesian coal interests.''

[Director of the state's geological survey Lee] Allison agreed that Clinton's decision has no effect on Indonesian coal producers. ``Utah coal does not pose a threat to Indonesia,'' he said. ``If they want to compete with Utah coal they can blow Utah out of the water.''

The cleaner-burning coal is also found in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming as well as Colombia and South Africa. Utah and Indonesia coal is among the world's cleanest, though.

Indonesia's coal production has nearly tripled to 41 million tons in the past five years and is one of the lowest-cost producers in the world, Allison said.


Does this set of facts fit the theory? Was Lippo Corporation worried about threats to its markets from a relatively small amount of inferior Utah coal? Would Andalex have ever mined there, despite the reported gloomy economic reports by the BLM and Grand Canyon Trust? I tend to think the facts do not support the theory.

At the very least, once again things aren't as black and white as the wingers would have us believe.

The Crazy Tom Tancredo Planet

I was sad that I was on vacation when Rep. Tom Tancredo, my very own Congressman whose hard-line ideas about illegal immigration prompted someone to create one of my favorite quotes, "What crazy Tom Tancredo planet is he living on?" threatened to nuke Mecca. (I swear I read that quote in the newspaper, but I can't find it now).

He's thinking of running for President, you know, and it may be time for our first openly kleptomaniac president.

"This doesn't look like my wife's packing!" [Rep. Tancredo] exclaimed.

Inside, he found a bag of dirty laundry and other stuff belonging to some poor guy who was making a connecting flight for Hawaii. The congressman had grabbed the wrong bag when their puddle-jumper landed in Moline, Ill.


It could be a fun campaign, full of laughs, colorful shirts, and lots of pilfered junk.

But I'm happy someone else, who obviously cares a lot more than I do, is on the ball. Manolo Gonzalez-Estay and Leroy Lemos have created a website, StopTancredo.com, and are organizing a rally for today on the Capital steps in Denver.

Dear Mr. Gonzalez-Estay,

I read about the anti-Tancredo rally and your new website in the Rocky Mountain News this morning. Rep. Tom Tancredo is my Congressman, lucky me, and I wish I could be there today to support the rally. I've written him a few emails and he's replied to approximately none.

But I just wanted you to know that I wrote about the rally and your site on my blog, which gets all of 4 hits per day. And I'll be keeping track of your site for other opportunities to participate. He needs to be monitored especially because of his potential '08 Presidential run.

Thank you,

Julie O.
www.talktomecongress.blogspot.com


If my boys were both in school all day, I'd probably go.

Homeland Security Funding in Rural Areas

There is a problem in how Homeland Security funds are dispersed across the country. It would seem a no-brainer that New York should receive more per capita than Wyoming.

But beside that inequity of dispersement among states, in Colorado there is also an apparent inequity of dispersement among populated areas.

The Rocky Mountain News reports that the sparsely populated San Luis Valley gets $122/person, while Colorado Springs (you know, home of the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base and its U.S. Northern Command responsible for protecting our borders, and NORAD responsible for protecting our skies and the Stargate, gets $11.98/person. Not to mention Focus on the Family, of course. Gotta protect them, yup.

To be fair, I doubt foreign terrorists would manage to do much damage in Colorado Springs. Anyone who looks different is closely monitored by the local populace as they peer out the windows of the churches which are on every other corner.

And they're using the money wisely, really. They've spent it on an emergency radio system which links every agency in six counties, and would be used for all emergencies. That kind of coordination is exactly what is needed, and Gov. Owens wants a statewide radio system.

And it actually makes some sense that rural emergency people would want more Homeland Security dollars, to protect against domestic terrorists who look like the people who live in Colorado Springs.

"Most of the places they build the bombs to bring to the big cities happens out in the rural areas," [John Dombaugh, regional coordinator in the southeast region] said.

"Timothy McVeigh didn't start his (plot) in Denver. The Unabomber didn't start his in New York City," said Jo Ann Stone, emergency manager for the region centered on Montrose and Gunnison.

I wonder, though, how an emergency radio system will stop the McVeighs and Unabombers from building their bombs and transporting them to the big cities.

It also makes sense that if a heavily populated area, like Denver or Colorado Springs were to get hit, there would be a mass exodus into the rural areas, which would need to be prepared for such emergencies. Then there's the power generating plants which supply power to most of the state.

So, yes, the unequal distribution of money, when more closely examined, seems to make sense. But, come one. Colorado Springs and Denver aren't going to be likely targets, are they? It's way more likely that New York, Washington DC, or any number of port cities around the country would be targets or points of entry for materials.

Sure it's important to have a statewide or nationwide radio system for coordinating in the event of emergencies, but it's scandalous that millions of container ships are entering our country completely unmonitored, making it more likely that we will have an emergency which needs rapid response.

In my liberal "throw more money at it" opinion, we should throw more money at it. If there's one thing that should be overfunded, it's Homeland Security.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

It Was Lincoln, in the Constitution, With the 14th Amendment

This DailyKos post by Armando, On Constitutional Interpretation: Originalism v. A Living Constitution, is timely, since I recently had a discussion with my Originalist brother over this subject. He's probably more "strict" than Scalia when it comes to the Constitution and the usurpation by the Federal Government of powers which belong to the states. I'm sure he would agree with Scalia that the only way to create a more expansive and inclusive Constitution would be to amend it, not to reinterpret already established principles, such as in the cited case of the 14th Amendment upon which Scalia opines:

In 1920, they looked at the Equal Protection Clause and said, "What does it mean?" Well, it clearly doesn't mean that you can't discriminate in the franchise -- not only on the basis of sex, but on the basis of property ownership, on the basis of literacy. None of that is unconstitutional. And therefore, since it wasn't unconstitutional, and we wanted it to be, we did things the good old fashioned way and adopted an amendment.

Scalia doesn't mention significant portions of the second section of the 14th Amendment:
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Since the Constitution only mentions male inhabitants 21 years of age having a right to vote, and that a penalty was imposed for not allowing 21-year-old males to vote, the Constitution must mean that only 21-year-old males had a right to vote. Women and 18-year-olds could be excluded from the franchise with impunity. Of course another Amendment was needed to amend the 14th Amendment, to reverse the gender discrimination that had been introduced!

In fact, after the 14th Amendment was adopted, a woman did sue for the right to vote under its provision that all persons born or naturalized were citizens and not to be denied the privileges and immunities of citizenship. The Supreme Court of 1874 rejected her argument on the basis that voting was not a privilege of citizenship.

And this last point leads us to a fundamental question: Who gets to make the definitions?

Obviously, We the People create our definitions. So it's the mechanism which is in question and that's really a struggle between States' Rights and Federalism.

It's clear from reading the Federalist Papers that the Constitution was meant to limit the Federal Government, and specifically enumerate its powers while doing very little to curb the power of the states. The Bill of Rights did list certain rights, while also claiming, in Article IX:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


What those other rights are, it did not say, but those rights were to be determined by "the people" in their home states. If a state allowed women the right to vote, the Federal Government would presumably honor that right. If a state wanted the right to own slaves, the Federal Government honored that right. The Declaration of Independence spoke loftily of certain inalienable human rights, and listed a few. But had the Constitution attempted to identify and codify such rights, it would not have been ratified. For the Founders, the states were the superior force.

It's somewhat ironic, then, given the Originalist and States' Rights position of today's Republicans, that the first Republican president undermined these positions.

As John Denvir writes in the introduction to his book, Democracy's Constitution:
The 1787 Constitution's silence on many of the issues Americans now find so important reflects its acceptance of two key, related ideological beliefs. First, slavery was an accepted practice. Second, citizens owed their primary allegiance to their state government. One was first a Virginian or a New Yorker and only secondarily a citizen of the United States. These assumptions were linked because the slave-holding states believed that only through the acceptance of state autonomy would their investment in human capital be safe.

But those twin assumptions were not to endure. The Civil War was fought over them, and the amendments passed after the North's victory in that most bloody of American wars dramatically altered the structure of American government. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments might fairly be called the Second American Constitution.

...Studying Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address yields a better idea of how these amendments reshaped the structure of American government. In the address Lincoln sketches the vision of America that the Civil War amendments later attempted to institutionalize. The key contribution of the Gettysburg Address comes from the clarion call of its opening sentence: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that 'all men are created equal.'"

This sentence incorporates three important principles. First, "four score and seven" is a direct reference to 1776, and thus to the Declaration, not the Constitution, as the founding document of the American union. Garry Wills points out that "Lincoln distinguished between the Declaration as a statement of a permanent ideal and the Constitution as an early and provisional embodiment of that ideal, to be tested against it, kept in motion toward it." Second, a new "nation" is being birthed, not a confederacy of autonomous states. National sovereignty takes precedence over state autonomy. Third, this nation is dedicated to the revolutionary proposition that "all men are created equal."

The Civil War was fought over these last two propositions. The seceding states denied both; they believed that the primary locus of political sovereignty was found in the individual states, not the national union. They also believed that all men were not created equal; some were born slaves and therefore could be owned by other men. This intellectual dispute ended for all practical purposes with Lee's surrender at Appommattox and was memorialized in the addition to the Bill of Rights of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. The people who drafted those amendments believed they were necessary because the Civil War had shown the southern states unwilling to protect the fundamental rights of free men, black or
white.

The most important of the three post-Civil War amendments...is the Fourteenth. It attempted to secure these rights in two separate but related ways. First, section 1 imposes three separate prohibitions on the states to ensure that they do not frustrate the republican vision for post-Civil War America. Then, section 5 of the amendment reserves to Congress the ultimate responsibility to see that the amendment's program is implemented. The first section allows courts to protect citizens against hostile state action, whereas section 5 authorizes Congress to take positive action to implement the amendment's vision.

The first prohibition in section 1 forbids any law that "shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." The second forbids any state from depriving "any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law"; the third prohibits any state to "deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." While the goal of these prohibitions is the common one of protecting the rights of free men of any color, each plays a specific role. The privileges or immunities clause is substantive; as a member of the American polity, one has certain "perks." The due process clause is grounded in procedure; it requires fair procedures before government acts against the individual. Finally, the equal protection clause focuses on discrimination; it prohibits unjustified differences in treatment.


Having found the original framework lacking, failing to live up to the ideals of the Founders, Lincoln lead the way for a fundamental shift in the power structure of the United States. Having now defined all persons born or naturalized in the US as citizens of the United States, and prohibited states from abridging the rights of US citizens, power transferred to the Legislature and Supreme Court to decide what privileges and immunities, due process, and equal protection means for all citizens in all states.

For instance, the original Constitution gives states the power to determine who votes, whereas the Voting Rights Act of 1965 codifies voting as a privilege of adult citizens which is equally binding on all states, the exception being for those who commit treason or other crimes as prescribed by law.

Thus the Legislature and the Supreme Court determine our inalienable rights in accordance with the Constitution, which necessarily requires interpretation, since those rights are not spelled out.

It is also the proper place of the courts to, when the law is lacking in specificity, seek guidance from other sources, such as written statements of intention for legal principles, ideas of equity and justice, and non-binding legal precedent (which, for the Supreme Court, is all precedent -- they are not bound by previous Supreme Court decisions).

So I agree with Scalia and my brother: the way to make the Constitution more expansive and inclusive is to amend it...and that happened in 1868.

[edited to add link]

Bomb Sniffing Bears

While on vacation I hardly watched TV. No internet access at all. One place didn't even have air-conditioning.

But I did see CNN briefly about the latest London bombing attempt. My husband -- who is wont to exaggerate and make stuff up because it sounds better -- told me a witness heard some pops, then saw someone running away cursing in an Arabic language. It's serious stuff, but that's pretty funny. It's nice to know the English cell is down to the dregs, which might prompt the hearty Bulldogs to taunt, "A Better Breed of Bombers, Please" -- that is, if they were as insensitive and moronic as a certain President I know.

Ken Livingston, Mayor of London, said there's not much they can do to beef up security. They could use bomb-sniffing dogs, I suppose, and I saw video of NY cops doing random searches in the subway. But then, inspired while touring the majestic Rocky Mountains, I thought of something that might be a more effective deterrent -- bomb-sniffing bears.

After all, if you get caught by a bomb-sniffing dog, you get arrested. But if you get caught by a bomb-sniffing bear, you get mauled. You're a jihadist with a bomb standing in line to get on a busy commuter train. You hear a commotion, and turn just in time to see the bear from The Edge standing over you. The last thing you see is its gaping maw -- fangs dripping saliva, the faint whiff of salmon -- as it descends on your face. Crunch. Even if such a death counts as martydom, what virgin would want to sit on that thing?

Wolverines and badgers could be compact alternatives for buses, sitting with a handler right next to the door to sniff every bus rider, immediately attacking at the first illicit scent.

Bombers would be down to blowing themselves up on the street. Bomb-sniffing vultures, with their excellent sense of smell, could circle overhead a strolling bomber, marking him with a dropping. Then patrolling attack birds could swoop down, peck out his eyes and scratch his face and hands. The attack would repel nearby civilians, while it would attract the local pack of wolves, or bears, or lions, or even baboons, which would come in for the kill.

Ain't nature grand?

Monday, July 18, 2005

On Vacation

With two small boys. In a car. Until Saturday, July 23.

Wheee!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Yeah, There's No VRWC

That's Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (if my Mom is reading)

News Hounds reveals the workings of a smear machine.

Prima Facie Case: Fire Rove, Revoke Security Clearance

We have to wait for Patrick Fitzgerald to finish his investigation into whether Karl Rove committed a crime, but we don't have to wait for proof of a crime to call for Rove's security clearance to be revoked and for him to be fired.

  1. Rove confirmed Plame identity to Novak.
  2. Rove leaked Plame identity to Cooper.
  3. Bush claimed he would fire leakers.
  4. Leak of classified information a violation of Nondisclosure Agreement.
  5. EXECUTIVE ORDER 12958 requires sanctions.

Rove confirmed Plame identity to Novak

1. July 8, 2003
Bob Novak had learned from a source that Valerie Plame, wife of Joe Wilson, was a CIA operative and had sent Wilson to Niger. Novak received confirmation of this story from Karl Rove on July 8, at which time Rove learned Plame's name:

Mr. Novak wrote that when he called a second official for confirmation, the source said, "Oh, you know about it."

That second source was Mr. Rove, the person briefed on the matter said. Mr. Rove's account to investigators about what he told Mr. Novak was similar in its message although the White House adviser's recollection of the exact words was slightly different. Asked by investigators how he knew enough to leave Mr. Novak with the impression that his information was accurate, Mr. Rove said he had heard parts of the story from other journalists but had not heard Ms. Wilson's name.


Rove leaked Plame identity to Cooper

2. July 11, 2003
During a phone call with journalist Matt Cooper of Time Magazine, Rove tells Cooper that Joe Wilson's wife works for the agency on WMD issues:

...Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove had been interviewed by Cooper for the article.


Bush claimed he would fire leakers

3. White House quotes about leaker:

President Bush on Sept. 30, 2003, talking with reporters after meeting with business people at University of Chicago.

A....Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of.

Q. Have you talked to Karl and do you have confidence in him …
A. Listen, I know of nobody - I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing.


President Bush on June 10, 2004, at news conference after G-8 Summit in Sea Island, Ga.


Q. Given recent developments in the C.I.A. leak case, particularly Vice President Cheney's discussions with the investigators, do you still stand by what you said several months ago, suggestion that it might difficult to identify anybody who leaked the agent's name? And ...
A. That's up …
Q. And do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done
so?
And …
A. Yes.
Q. And finally …
A. And that's up to the U.S. attorney - to find the facts.


Leak of classified information a violation of Nondisclosure Agreement
(via Atrios to the Agonist, Henry Waxman's Fact sheet on Nondisclosure Agreement:)


Mr. Rove, through his attorney, has raised the implication that there is a distinction between releasing classified information to someone not authorized to receive it and confirming classified information from someone not authorized to have it. In fact, there is no such distinction under the nondisclosure agreement Mr. Rove signed.

Before … confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of the SF312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified. If it has not, … confirmation of its accuracy is also an unauthorized disclosure.3 ... before disseminating the information elsewhere … the signer of the SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified.5
Executive Order 12958 Requires Sanctions

UNDER EXECUTIVE ORDER 12958 ... the White House has an affirmative obligation to investigate and take remedial action separate and apart from any ongoing criminal investigation. The executive order specifically provides that when a breach occurs, each agency must "take appropriate and prompt corrective action."8 This includes a determination of whether individual employees improperly disseminated or obtained access to classified information. The executive order further provides that sanctions for violations are not optional. The executive order expressly provides: "Officers and employees of the United States Government … shall be subject to appropriate sanctions if they knowingly, willfully, or negligently … disclose to unauthorized persons information properly classified."9


From the CINA (Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement):


3. I have been advised that the unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of classified information by me could cause damage or irreparable injury to the United States or could be used to advantage by a foreign nation. I hereby agree that I will never divulge classified information to anyone unless: (a) I have officially verified that the recipient hasbeen properly authorized by the United States Government to receive it; or (b) I have been given prior written notice of authorization from the United States Government Department or Agency (hereinafter Department or Agency) responsible for the classification of the information or last granting me a security clearance that such disclosure is permitted. I understand that if I am uncertain about the classification status of information, I am required to confirm from an authorized official that the information is unclassified before I may disclose it, except to a person as provided in (a) or (b), above.


4. I have been advised that any breach of this Agreement may result in the termination of any security clearances I hold; removal from any position of special confidence and trust requiring such clearances; or the termination of my employment or other relationships with the Departments or Agencies that granted my security clearance or clearances.

Mehlman Not a Convincing Robot

My five year old was thoroughly unimpressed by the revelation that Ken Mehlman is a robot.

As I was watching Meet the Press this morning, I said to him, as he sat on the couch playing with something, "Hey, did you know that guy [Ken Mehlman] is a robot?"

"Why?" he asked.

"Garbage in, garbage out," I said.

"Oh," he said, and went back to playing.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Does Your Elected Official Support Treason?

Michael in New York at AMERICAblog wants to know, and so do I. Send me a copy of your letter, and your elected official's response, or lack thereof, and I will keep track.

Send correspondence to julie_o29@hotmail.com.

Checks and Balances

Today's Republicans are the poster children for why we need them.

Judith Miller Protecting Source, or Her Own Butt?

Sidney Blumenthal in Salon makes a good point:

Is Miller protecting her sources, or does the prosecutor seek to question her as a disseminator of information?


(via Atrios)

When Coastal Elitists Eat Their Own

Today in a column (no link), educated elitist Victor Davis Hanson castigates Hollywood celebrities for being uneducated political pundits.

...Plato warned not to confuse innate artistic skill with either education or intelligence.

The philosopher worried that the emotional bond we can forge with good actors might also allow these manipulative mimics too much influence in matters in which they were often ignorant.


Apparently celebrities, who often don't even have high school diplomas, take up causes and sanctimoniously say stupid stuff, and have influence over the masses.

...[T]heir celebrity is used only as a gimmick to give credence to silly rants that if voiced by anyone else would never reach the light of day.


Of course, the educated would never use their celebrity to give credence to silly rants.

Hanson highlighted a few uneducated celebrities saying stupid things:

These days [Robert] Redford lectures reporters to go after George W. Bush, undeterred by the fact that the real journalist Dan Rather ended his career by just such an obsessed effort.

...Right before the Iraqi war, Barbra Streisand assured us that Saddam Hussein was the dictator of Iran.

Jon Stewart discussed this issue with Bernard "Bias" Goldberg on last night's Daily Show. Bernie's written a new book called 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is #37) (everyone on the cover is liberal or an entertainer, and Jon pointed out there are about 3 conservatives in the book) in which he mainly blames popular culture -- and apparently the liberalism which spawned it -- for screwing up America.

My favorite Bernie quote (paraphrased, but close):

There was a time when a drunk in a bar wouldn't say the "f" word.


It was probably a drunken sailor who invented the "f" word, and there was probably never a time (unless it was in a magical place in a 1950s small town called Mayberry) when a drunk wouldn't say it in a bar. But, whatever, Bernie "Ooh, My Ears Are Burning" Goldberg.

Jon pointed out that, as silly and liberal as celebrities might be, they are powerless compared to pundits, reporters, and politicians in Washington, so shouldn't we be focusing on those who wield real power? Lyrics to songs have more influence on our lives than legislation and pundit talking points, says Bernie. Again, whatever.

I don't think it's particularly fair to expect celebrities to accept intrusions into their private lives (see Ben and Jen shop for groceries, watch Britney laying in the sun for 20 minutes) and not also be able to speak their minds about public issues, unless it's to raise awareness of breast cancer or something politically correct and unoffensive. Are they all that influential, anyway? They influence ridicule by pundits, at least.

On the other hand, I try to not pay attention to either celebrities' private lives or their political opinions. I find it too distracting to the performances they give. I really enjoyed Batman Begins, but I'm sitting there searching Katie Holmes' eyes for signs of insanity. Tom Cruise put me totally off seeing War of the Worlds. I just want to enjoy Mel Gibson's excellent movies, not think about his misogyny and religious fervor. Even Goonies is tainted by the "six degrees of separation" to Streisand (Josh Brolin, son of James Brolin, husband to Babs).

Says Hanson, unwittingly making a better case:

In this regard, we could learn again from the Greeks. They thought the playwrights Sophocles and Euripides were brilliant but not the mere mimics who performed their plays.


It's not the actors and their opinions that have an influence on conventional wisdom, but the movies and roles. Rambo, Die Hard, and Commando have an effect on the American psyche, whereas Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger do not. Michael Douglas could talk all he wants against corporate greed, but Gordon Gekko speaks louder. We are all afraid of the evil, murdering Mob, but who doesn't have affection for The Godfather and its "family values?"

Bernard Goldberg would have a better case in this regard if he didn't focus so much on individuals and a pop culture that mainly takes its cues from the general populace. People like violent movies, Hollywood makes violent movies. People like sex, Hollywood gives them sex. People don't like movies which are complex and nuanced, so Hollywood gives them easily identified villains and heroes.

Victor Davis Hanson and Bernard Goldberg would give us eaily identified heroes and villains, too, while those who have real power to shape our opinions -- namely, pundits, columnists, and authors like Victor Davis Hanson and Bernard Goldberg-- go unexamined.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rep. Tancredo, Urge Bush to Fire Karl Rove

Dear Rep. Tancredo,

June 10, 2004, President Bush affirmed that he would fire anyone in his Administration who leaked the identity of a CIA agent. Now we have discovered that Karl Rove, through his attorney, admitted he did just that, yet the Administration is silent on the subject, and Mr. Rove is still working in the White House.

At issue is not whether or not a crime was committed. Karl Rove, out of his own mouth and through surrogates such as White House Spokesman Scott McClellan, repeatedly stated that he was not involved in leaking Valerie Plame's identity, nor in talking to reporters about her, and the President committed himself to firing those who would leak secret identities.

I call upon you to hold the Administration accountable for its words and its actions. The President should stand by his word and fire Karl Rove.

Sincerely,
Julie O.


(I also like this letter via Atrios, but I don't think it would get me a response.)

Jesus: Sinner


I just had a good laugh, which pretty much cured the day-long headache I'd been having.

In a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond, their daughter asked the "Why are we here?" question, which caused a major meltdown, 'cause it's such a hard question. I asked my raised-Catholic husband, "They're Catholic, don't the Catholics have a ready-made answer for why we're here?"

After a moment of thought, he said, seriously, "We're here to suffer for the sins of Jesus."
It brings new meaning to all the symbolism of Christianity. As Tom Lehrer once sang, "When correctly viewed, everything is lewd."

Betty Bowers swag

[Update] It should be pointed out that my husband doesn't really think the Catholic church believes we're here to suffer for the sins of Jesus. He just doesn't pay very good attention to what comes out of his mouth sometimes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Kudos for the McClellan/Rove Sidebar

Alongside an article by Cox News Service's Ken Herman about the new White House policy of not talking about Rove or promises to fire people in the Administration who leaked Plame's name, the Rocky Mountain News (no link)published a sidebar called White House Denials. It included two exchanges during the WH gaggle.

Sept. 29, 2003

Reporter: You said this morning, quote, "The President knows that Karl Rove wasn't involved." How does he know that?
McClellan: Well, I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place...I've said that it's not true...And I have spoken with Karl Rove.
Reporter: When you talked to Mr. Rove, did you discuss, "Did you ever have this information?"
McClellan: I've made it very clear, he was not involved, that there's no truth to the suggestion that he was.


Oct. 10, 2003

Reporter: Earlier this week, you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams (National Security Council), nor I. Lewis Libby (Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff) disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak.
McClellan: I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands.

Thanks for the memories, RMN.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Because Liberals are Objectively Anti-Troop

Via Atrios.

Kenneth Tomlinson, who wants to make PBS yet another conservative mouthpiece or destroy it, paid his bud Fred Mann some taxpayer money to find the biases on certain PBS shows.

Mr. Mann, as Max Blumenthal at The Nation described him, "a conservative activist with no credentials as an expert on journalism, broadcasting or media issues, who was obscure even within right-wing circles," produced the Mann Report. It is a bizarre document which, using some unknown criteria, labels guests according to perceived biases.

One labelled guest was Henry Rollins, former singer of Black Flag and Rollins Band who has also appeared in roles on film and television. Said Rollins, "people who have problems with the war should support the troops."

Does this make him a conservative? Jane Hamsher of firedoglake emailed him to find out, and he responded. Click firedoglake link to find out what Mr. Rollins thinks, if you can believe him.

Since Gomez-Garcia killed officer Young in a cowardly attack here in Denver, the bigots have been coming out of the woodwork, demonizing illegal immigrants as criminals and a drain on society. The truth is the vast majority of them take a great personal risk to be hardworking laborers under gruelling and sometimes dangerous conditions who benefit Americans, for example, by letting us have cheap produce.

So it's nice to see a story which puts a human face on migrant workers.

[Sister Molly Munoz is] also critical of employers who exploit immigrant workers, like those who don't pay overtime or who provide run-down housing for their employees.

"The growers don't like me," she said. "Ranchers don't like me. I tell them the water's no good in these migrant camps. People shower with dirty water. You can't cook with it. I even brought a plumber out who said if you dig 2 feet more, the water would be fine. They still haven't fixed it. My goal is to make people aware of what's going on."

Government Endorsement of Religion

That's what we secularists oppose.

Jean Torkelson (so far she is very disappointing) in a Rocky Mountain News column writes:

Curiously, at a time when courts and social activists are trying to curb the public expression of faith, faith is finding a new public.


Now, I know there are extremists who don't even want crosses up on churches, but let's not be stupid. Courts and social activists aren't trying to curb the public expression of faith, they are trying to curb the government expression of faith and the government's elevation of one faith above all others.

Has there ever, in the history of the world, been an overwhelmingly dominant group who has suffered so much persecution? Maybe white males. I don't know.

But it gets better. The article goes on to provide yet another proof that Christians aren't even close to being persecuted:

Trade show spokeswoman Nancy Guthrie, a longtime publicist, says secular media outlets weren't interested when she tried to promote Christian books two decades ago.

"If Jesus was in it, they weren't interested. Today, faith is part of the cultural conversation - it's become OK to talk about God."

Secular media outlets are cashing in on the God craze. If judges and activists are trying to "curb the public expression of faith," then why are they only going after displays in courthouses and parks, but not from book stores or television? It's because the public is not expressing faith in the courthouses and parks, the government is.

When it comes to real public expression of faith, it is, as Ms. Guthrie said, "OK."

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I've been doing a lot of walking recently. Thursday night was Dora the Explorer's Pirate Adventure, and a train ride to get there. Saturday was Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Today was a family get-together at a local pub. So I haven't got much to write.

Except this...while I was flipping through channels, I noticed that in the aftermath of the London bombings the regular cable newschannels were obsessing on coverage. Then I came across C-SPAN's airing of BBC news. BBC was covering...the G-8.

Does anyone wonder why we Americans are so ill-informed and tend towards irrational panic?

Sigh.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Media: Scientology Not Controversial, Because We Won't Tell You of the Controversies

Here's what AP religious writer Richard N. Ostling (no link) has to say about Scientology:

Aided by recruits such as Cruise, evangelism proceeds, and church President Heber Jentzsch says the church is becoming less controversial as people learn about it and hostilitites subside.


Are people learning more about Scientology? More people are certainly aware that Scientology exists after Tom Cruise's recent publicity. Whether or not his crazy antics are doing the cause (or his career) any good is debatable. They know Scientology frowns on psychiatry and drugs, preferring to solve problems with proper diet and exercise. Many successful celebrities are Scientologists, and are obviously not psycho brainwashed cultist zombies (except maybe for Cruise), so how bad can Scientology be?

Especially after reading Mr. Ostling's description of this uncontroversial new religion:

Scientology was created by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. In Dianetics (1950), Hubbard said the "thetan" (soul) suffers from negative "engrams" implanted in this life and innumerable past lives -- the church avoids the word "reincarnation."


Then I discovered a previous column written by Jean Torkelson on July 4th called "Scientology looking to better lives" in which she describes a lighthearted, New Age, better-living-through-positive thinking, humanitarian Scientology:

Volunteer ministers, as they're called, give E-meter stress tests, sell books and tapes, and answer questions about Scientology, the system developed 51 years ago by science fiction writer and renaissance man [emphasis added] L. Ron Hubbard.

Local spokeswoman Patty Allread said it's part of an ongoing campaign to "address man as a spiritual being and giving people tools in their real lives to improve their conditions."


...Only after browsing awhile did Scientology's role become clear. Then Klasen groaned good naturedly and said, "Oh no, what did I get us into?"

Scientologists hope folks will say, "a better life." In 1993, Scientology won a 39-year fight to be recognized as a tax-exempt church and now cultivates a missionary spirit. Disasters such as tsunamis and forest fires? Scientologists soon follow in the relief efforts.

...Today's Scientology? "It's practical, dealing with how do you address life," she said. Formulas for dealing with life traumas involve communication - "the solvent of any situation."

The helpful, everyman approach seems to work. Steven Smith, a passerby who stopped for the E-meter test, chuckled, "I think they're kind of looked at like a cult, but they haven't asked me for my new car or anything."

Mischievously, Smith held up a few Scientology books, adding, "I bought a couple of these."



Why would anyone think there is any controversy surrounding Scientology?

Perhaps people might think it controversial that the alien Xenu, in a power play, murdered and captured millions of alien souls in Earth's volcanoes, and brainwashed the souls into believing in God and the Devil.

It might be considered controversial that the real problem isn't "engrams," but those murderd aliens infesting our bodies.

Perhaps Mr. Smith might find it cultish and controversial if he were to learn that Scientology will require him to fill his new car with books costing tens of thousands of dollars if he ever hopes to become "clear."

The closest Torkelson comes to challenging Scientology spokeswoman Patty Allread was to ask:

...if the heightened social activism was intended to counteract longstanding images of Scientology as an esoteric cult society that attracts lawsuits and investigations, not to mention Hollywood stars such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise.


Pshaw!

"We don't need to change our image; we're doing what we do," she said, but later added, "We are successfully debunking a false rumor about ourselves."


Gee, how might they be accomplishing that? I'm looking at you, Richard N. Ostler and Jean Torkelson!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Explosions

Blasts on tube and a bus kill 33, wound 1000. My sister-in-law is in London at a summer study abroad program. I feel sick.

[UPDATE] She's alright. She is staying north of one of the stations which were hit, and her program provides a bus to and from classes. The drivers are often late, though, and this morning she was just about to take the tube, but he finally showed up.

I'm still sick about this.

Second Salazar Flag Burning Letter

It's basically the same as the first. I won't reprint it, but it means he's not open to dialogue, he just has a staff member parrot his talking point.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Judith Miller Belongs in Jail

I haven't understood why some were defending Miller and Cooper from the threat of jail time for not revealing their sources. It seemed clear to me that anonymous sources should not be protected when they are using journalists to commit a crime which does not serve the greater good. The outing of Valerie Plame was obviously retaliation against a whistleblower.

Will Bunch, of Philadelphia Daily News' Attytood, joins the ranks of those who agree with me ('cause I'm so awesome), but he explains it so much better:

But the Times' Judy Miller has not been afflicting the comfortable. She has been protecting them, advancing their objectives, and helping them to mislead a now very afflicted American public. In fact, thinking again about Watergate and Deep Throat is a good way to understand why Judy Miller should not be protected today. Because in Watergate, a reporter acting like Miller would not be meeting the FBI's Mark Felt in an underground parking garage. She would be obsessively on the phone with H.R. Haldeman or John Dean, listening to malicious gossip about Carl Bernstein or their plans to make Judge Sirica look bad.


(Via Atrios)

"Some People Say Anonymous Sources Suck"

Atrios is rightfully highlighting the stupid media practice of granting anonymity to sources that push the Administration agenda.

One other insidious media practice to reject every time it is used: "Some people say..." It is the same tactic as granting anonymity to "high ranking government officials" who say things they wouldn't be punished for. It gives a political operative the ability to push an agenda without seeming overtly partisan, and that the agenda being pushed is "conventional wisdom."

No discussion should ever be able to advance beyond "some people say..."

Now, I never took part in forensics debates in high school. But I knew there were certain tactics for winning debates. One tactic was to challenge a source. Of course, a clever debater would just make up an official-sounding source, and, since the source material wouldn't be available, it couldn't be checked. That happens all the time in our mainstream media. People make assertions of fact, and the media does a terrible job of checking the facts and letting the public know.

But when a reporter, pundit or politician says "some people say..." the immediate response should always be, "who said that?" Ignore the issue broached until the person is identified.

Oh, Who Will Protect Us From Activist Judges?

I agree with this New York Times Editorial that when people use the term "activist" to describe a judge, they're really saying that judge made a decision with which they disagree. Say the authors:


In order to move beyond this labeling game, we've identified one reasonably objective and quantifiable measure of a judge's activism...How often has each justice voted to strike down a law passed by Congress?

They use this criterion:


because Congress, as an elected legislative body representing the entire nation, makes decisions that can be presumed to possess a high degree of democratic legitimacy. In an 1867 decision, the Supreme Court itself described striking down Congressional legislation as an act 'of great delicacy, and only to be performed where the repugnancy is clear."

The editorial goes on to list the most activist judges on the Supreme Court when measured against this criterion:


  • Thomas 65.63 %
  • Kennedy 64.06 %
  • Scalia 56.25 %
  • Rehnquist 46.88 %
  • O’Connor 46.77 %
  • Souter 42.19 %
  • Stevens 39.34 %
  • Ginsburg 39.06 %
  • Breyer 28.13 %

Apparently the so-called liberals on the court are the least activist.

However, I disagree with the assertion that Democrats generally use the term "activist" to complain about the judiciary. It's a buzzword of the Right -- activist=liberal -- and is really a complaint about issues identified as liberal.

For a good gauge of the thinking on the Right, I go to my parents who are thoroughly and solely immersed in rightwing information dispersement. They do not like liberal activist judges, and of course cite the busing decision of the Supreme Court as such an activist activity. But when it came to the Terri Schiavo decisions, they were supporting the judges who would interfere in or reject long-established state law. It was the issue, not the activism.

If it doesn't matter what political ideology the justices adhere to or who appointed them -- most of the judges who ruled in favor of Michael Schiavo were conservative or appointed by Republicans -- then what the right wants isn't "Strict Constructionist" judges who won't be activist. They want activist judges who will be activist about advancing the rightwing agenda.

And I, a self-described liberal, don't want to protect us against activist judges. I think it is the court's role to be activist and overturn the will of the legislature and interpret the laws. Of course, I think liberal issues promote more equality, freedom, and protection from exploitation, so I support liberal activism. And of course, the rightwing thinks the same of itself.

But even if there is an ideological litmus test, there is still no guarantee that any particular judge will push any particular agenda. However, questions of ideology in the nominating process are warranted, and both sides should stop pretending that they're not.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Dear Rep. Tancredo,

I urge you to sign Rep. Conyers letter to the President, in which the President is asked to hold Karl Rove accountable for his role in discussing the identity of a covert CIA agent's name to a reporter, and later lying about his activity to the President.

The content of the letter is as follows:

Dear Mr. President:

We write in order to urge that you require your Deputy White House Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, to either come forward immediately to explain his role in the Valerie Plame matter or to resign from your Administration.

Notwithstanding whether Mr. Rove intentionally violated the law in leaking information concerning former CIA operative Valerie Plame, we believe it is not tenable to maintain Mr. Rove as one of your most important advisors unless he is willing to explain his central role in using the power and authority of your Administration to disseminate information regarding Ms. Plame and to undermine her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

We now know that e-mails recently turned over by Time, Inc. between writer Matthew Cooper and Time editors reveal that one of Mr. Cooper’s principal sources in the Plame matter was Mr. Rove. This has been confirmed by Newsweek and two lawyers representing witnesses involved in the investigation. Mr. Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, also has confirmed that Mr. Rove was interviewed by Mr. Cooper in connection with a possible article about Ms. Plame three or four days before Robert Novak wrote a column outing Ms. Plame as a CIA operative.

We also know that Mr. Rove told Chris Matthews that Ambassador Wilson’s wife and her undercover status were “fair game.” A White House source also appears to have previously acknowledged that Mr. Rove contacted Mr. Matthews and other journalists, indicating that “it was reasonable to discuss who sent Wilson to Niger.”

The above facts appear to be directly inconsistent with previous statements by you and representatives of your Administration concerning leaking in general and the Plame case in particular. For example, on September 30, 2003, you stated “there’s just too many leaks [in Washington]. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is.” You also stated “I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true and get on about the business.” On October 10, 2003, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked if Mr. Rove or two other aides in your Administration had ever discussed the Plame matter with any reporter, and he stated he had spoken to Mr. Rove and the others and “they assured me that they were not involved in this.”

Regardless of whether these actions violate the law – including specific laws against the disclosure of classified information as well as broader laws against obstruction of justice, the negligent distribution of defense information, and obligating reporting of press leaks to proper authorities – they seem to reveal a course of conduct designed to threaten and intimidate those who provide information critical of your Administration, such as Ambassador Wilson.

We hope you agree with us that such behavior should never be tolerated by any Administration. While it is acceptable for a private citizen to use every legal tool at his or her disposal to protect himself against legal liability, high-ranking members of your Administration who are involved in any effort to smear a private citizen or to disseminate information regarding a CIA operative should be expected to meet a far higher standard of ethical behavior and forthrightness. This is why we believe it is so important that Mr. Rove publicly and fully explain his role in this matter.


Sincerely,
Julie O.

(via AMERICAblog)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Obama's Rhetoric Cure for What Ails Us

People pay attention to Senator Obama. He's young, appealing, the first black Senator, inspirational, erudite.

I pay attention to him because, when he has people's attention, he says things like this:

In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it -- Social Darwinism; every man or woman for him or herself. It's a tempting idea, because it doesn't require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford -- tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job -- life isn't fair. It let's us say to the child who was born into poverty -- pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life's lottery, that we're the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won't be the chump who Donald Trump says: "You're fired!"

But there is a problem. It won't work. It ignores our history. It ignores the fact that it's been government research and investment that made the railways possible and the internet possible. It's been the creation of a massive middle class, through decent wages and benefits and public schools that allowed us all to prosper. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative. It depended on a belief in the free market; but it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we're all in it together and everybody's got a shot at opportunity. That's what's produced our unrivaled political stability.

The Mahablog has done a whole series on this theme of the difference between conservative and liberal ideas of government. Conservatives think individuals prosper despite government, while liberals think individuals prosper because of government:

Thus, government can be a means for good. And, by means of the government established and institutionalized by the Constitution, we, the people, can work together to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. And, not coincidentally, form a more perfect Union.

Compare/contrast with the axiom of contemporary conservatism: Government can’t solve the problem; it is the problem.
Government is meant to be the tool we use to solve our problems. If we could get past that argument, then we could start having discussions about the best ways we can use the government to solve our problems.

And we need more national figures like Sen. Obama to make this case.

Kudos to Sen. Obama as well for actually calling on young people to take action instead of calling on them to think the right thoughts or say the right words.

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