Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How to improve your traffic
One word: "penis."

On Monday, PZ Myers, the well-known biology blogger of Pharygula, posted little piece on penis bones and the lack thereof in humans. In the comment thread, I mentioned that I had one and that I had published a picture of it. In fact, I published it in response to another post of his on penis evolution. Funny how often that topic pops up--so to speak. Over the last two days, my traffic has doubled and all of the increase is due to people coming over to check out my penis.
The enemies list
Bill O'Reilly's enemies list is out and, boy, is it a big disappointment. This is the entire enemies list webpage.
The following media operations have regularly helped distribute defamation and false information supplied by far left websites:
  • New York Daily News
  • The St. Petersburg Times

These are the worst offenders. In the months to come, we expect to add more names to this list. We recommend that you do not patronize these operations and that advertisers do the same. They are dishonest and not worth your time and money.entire enemies list webpage.

That's it. It's not a list of websites who hate Christmas and America; it's just a list of "media operations" who sometimes quote "far left websites." The list is a crappy three items long. And worst of all, I'm not on it.

This is really lame, Bill.
In the spirit
I'm sure Bill O'Reilly will approve of this mall.
METAIRIE, Louisiana (AP) -- It's no ordinary holiday season in the Gulf Coast this year, so Frank Evans built an unconventional holiday display at a suburban New Orleans shopping mall to match.

He thought the tiny blue-tarped roofs, little toppled fences and miniature piles of hurricane debris in the display he builds annually for the mall struck just the right humorous tone.

The mall disagreed and told Evans, a landscape architect from nearby Gretna, to dismantle it.

"Although most people did enjoy the decorations, a few customers found the display to be in poor taste," said a statement issued Tuesday night by Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie.

What could he have been thinking? The season of the birth of Jesus is not the time when people want to made aware of the suffering of others; it's a time to think about the stuff they want for themselves.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Of the straw feminist, work, and the press
Amanda Marcotte makes a point that I think can't be made often enough. Whenever right-wing writers want to bash "modern" women, or when the mainstream press wants to pander to the right, they bring up the straw feminist character: the woman who chooses sexual liberation and an exciting, fulfilling career over marriage, home, and childbearing. In her middle age, alone with her meaningless empty life, she comes to regret these decisions. But it's too late. Middle-aged and successful women have more chance of being hit by a solid gold meteor than they do of finding a satisfactory husband. The punishment for their selfishness is that they have to go take care of their aged parents.

As Amanda points out:
[This narrative] takes advantage of a never-fun situation--finding a way to care for elderly parents--to browbeat "career women" for being selfish. And, as usual, it's highly classist--most people, men and women, don't have careers to abandon for any reason. We just have jobs. The notion that working for a paycheck is a choice is alien to most women and really has been since working for paychecks was a practice that came into existence. These taunting articles aimed at upper middle class and upper class women are not only intended as part of a larger backlash against feminism, they also function to imply that feminism is a cute affectation of upper class white women. And I suppose to upper class white women, it can be an affectation that's readily abandoned like an old pair of shoes for this year's fashion. To the rest of us, feminism is a necessity, a movement that gives definition to the struggles of average women's lives from why we have more stumbling blocks to getting that survival paycheck than men to why we often find ourself pulling the second, unpaid at-home shift when men don't.

And it's not just classist toward women; these women who have a "choice" of an exciting, fulfilling career, or not, are supposedly choosing to live like men. That is, these writers seem to believe that most men have exciting, fulfilling careers of choice instead of soul-crushing jobs of necessity.

Media watching bloggers often point out how culturally detached the Washington media is from the rest of the country. This is not just a problem of political writers in the capitol. Most writers for the top ranked media, whether they are in Washington, New York, Atlanta, or Los Angeles, belong to a single tiny class. They have arrived in the professional upper-middle class. Most people they work with and socialize with are in careers that they have chosen. Their jobs are interesting and rewarding. Whatever their background, they have either forgotten or never knew what life is like for people outside their clique.

This cluelessness was on display last summer when New York Times columnist John Tierney and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley both proposed raising the retirement age. Of course, they were both reading from the same GOP talking points, but their justifications for it were revealing.
Neither one admitted to the possibility that work might be an unpleasant burden for some people. Many of us put a great deal of faith in the idea of a social contract that states, if we work hard and eat our vegetables someday we will be rewarded with the gift of full ownership of our time. We are mortgaging the most healthy and productive years of our lives to someone else for the promise of a few years of our own. Any attempt to move the payoff day further away from today and closer to our deaths is a complete and brutal betrayal of our good faith.

Tierney is well paid to express his opinions in one of the most prestigious and widely distributed venues in the country. Grassley is well paid to be one of the couple hundred people who have the most power and influence in deciding the direction of our country. Their jobs are interesting and they are influential and respected for doing them. Both have options and choices if they grow bored of this work and want to try something else. Whatever else they try, it will be well paid and come with generous benefits.

This is the social milieu of most of our professional punditry. This is the sensitivity that most of our opinion leaders have toward people in other classes. They aren't so much hostile to us, as unaware that we exist. When such are the only voices that we hear in our public debates, is it any wonder that blogging has taken off so phenomenally? It's not just a selfish desire to hear the sound of our own voices; we're starved to hear voices sympathetic to our own.

Most presidential approval polls include a question on whether we think the president shares or understands our concerns. Whenever the straw feminist character shows up, we can be sure the press doesn't understand the lives and concerns of working women or of anyone working outside the same class of the professional press.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The value of a bad example
This damn near leaves me speechless.
Former FEMA Director Michael Brown, heavily criticized for his agency's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm to help clients avoid the sort of errors that cost him his job.

What's his motto going to be: "Brownie does a heck of a job."
One of the wrong sort of people
A lot us of approach the confirmation wars with a sense of dread. Our feeling is that if we beat one nominee back, Bush will just appoint someone worse. If anyone has any doubt that Samuel Alito is worse than Miers or even Roberts, I give you this:
[I]n 1985 Princeton graduate and conservative Republican Alito sought to impress his colleagues in the Reagan Administration, where he was applying to become deputy assistant attorney general, by touting his membership in an organization called Concerned Alumni of Princeton.

Launched in 1972, the year Alito graduated, CAP had an innocuous-sounding name that disguised a less benign agenda, which included preventing women and minorities from entering an institution that had long been a bastion of white male privilege. In a 1973 article in Prospect, a magazine CAP published, Shelby Cullom Davis, one of its founders, harked back to the days when a gathering of Princeton alumni consisted of "a body of men, relatively homogeneous in interests and backgrounds." Lamented Cullom Davis: "I cannot envisage a similar happening in the future with an undergraduate student population of approximately 40% women and minorities..."

I'm sure the members, meetings, and tactics of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton were better mannered, and more genteel than the Concerned Citizen's Councils or the Klan, but their goals were the same--to preserve an archaic race and sex based social structure. In a way--by also admitting to their goal of preventing class mobility--they were worse.

But maybe this was just a passing expression of social insecurity, the sort of thing that many people do in a moment of panic when faced by rapid cultural change. In those days, many people expected total social chaos if the barriers they knew in their youth were allowed to be breeched. Many people have come to be embarrassed by things they said and did then. Is that the case with the Concerned Alumni? Nope.
By the time Alito was readying his 1985 job application with the Reagan Administration, the admission of women and minorities was well established at Nassau Hall, but this did not stop CAP from lamenting the consequences. "People nowadays just don't seem to know their place," fretted a 1983 Prospect essay titled "In Defense of Elitism." "Everywhere one turns blacks and hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and hispanic, the physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports, and homosexuals are demanding that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children." By this point the editor of Prospect was Dinesh D'Souza, who brought to its pages a new level of coarseness aimed at those who did not know their place. "Here at Princeton homosexuals are on the rampage," complained a 1984 news item in Prospect--this after a gay student group had dared to protest being denied permission to hold a dance at a campus club

And even if the Concerned Alumni had come to regret their racist/sexist/classist past, Alito thought his participation was something to be highlighted in his resume. I'm sure this makes him a perfect representative for the modern conservative movement.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Talk to Action
Mick Arran of the Early Warning Frog (formerly Omnium) tells us about a new group blog devoted to watching the religious far right. It's called Talk to Action and it's a group written blog with diaries, like DailyKos or MyDD. Their statement of purpose elaborates on their approach.
Talk to Action is a platform for reporting on, learning about, and analyzing and discussing the religious right -- and what to do about it.

We are pro-religious equality and pro-separation of church and state. We are prochoice, and we support gay and lesbian civil rights -- including marriage equality. Therefore, debates about the validity of abortion and gay rights are off topic. We understand that some people who share our general concern about the politics of the Christian Right may not agree on all of these matters. That's fine. Anyone who agrees with the general mission of this site is welcome to participate -- but bearing this in mind. It is our intention to take the conversation forward, and not let it be held back by debating what, in our view are or should be, settled matters of human, civil and constitutional rights. Similarly, religious debates are off topic, especially debates between theism and atheism. Finally, we are nonpartisan. While political discussions are welcome, -- even central to the purpose of this site -- we do not wish the site itself to be a platform that is necessarily for or opposed to any particular party.

Their aim is to have discussions that are deep and substantial rather than news-cycle driven. This is something I've been looking for.

In his post, Mick hints at the fatigue of trying to say something useful about all of the topics that are important to us. At times, we've both been tempted to transform our blogs into single-issue sites. But how could I pick just one? Church and state issues are close to the top of my list of hot-button issues, but I couldn't bring myself to write about just that while the rest of the Bill of Rights is also in danger. I couldn't bring myself to write about just our imperiled rights when there are important issues of war and peace and cultural politics being decided. I can't stick to just politics when there are important and powerful people in all walks of live in need of mocking. Finally, I need to take a break from serious things from time to time to write about history, science, cockroaches, life as a gadget-challenged geezer, and my lawn. Some times I feel streched so thin that I can't write about anything.

Talk to Action looks like a good pressure valve for that kind of frustration. Maybe if I write one monograph on church and state issues each week or so I can get out it of my system and write about something else. The blogosphere seems to reinvent itself every year or so. The explosion of carnivals over the last year was a very positive development in my view. I'm less enthused about semi-commercial super-sites like The Huffington Post and Pajama Media (or whatever their name is today). Narrow topic community sites could be a good development.

In any case, I've signed up for Talk to Action. I hope to see you over there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Who will rid me of these meddlesome reporters?
Remember the stink last winter when CNN vice president Eason Jordan suggested at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that American troops were targeting journalists in Iraq? Eason tried to explain that he didn't think we were actually trying to kill reporters as such, only that we weren't being particularly discriminating about who got in the crosshairs with the result that too many journalists and other non-combatants were getting killed. But it was too late. A firestorm erupted in the press and on the blogs. Two weeks later, Eason was forced to resign.

At one point in the controversy, Ann Coulter lived up to her reputation as a verbal pyromaniac by saying, "Would that it were so!... That the American military were targeting journalists." She might have been closer to getting her wish than she knew.
PRESIDENT Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals.

But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.

A source said: "There's no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." Al-Jazeera is accused by the US of fuelling the Iraqi insurgency.

The attack would have led to a massacre of innocents on the territory of a key ally, enraged the Middle East and almost certainly have sparked bloody retaliation.


Bush disclosed his plan to target al-Jazeera, a civilian station with a huge Mid-East following, at a White House face-to-face with Mr Blair on April 16 last year.

At the time, the US was launching an all-out assault on insurgents in the Iraqi town of Fallujah.

Al-Jazeera infuriated Washington and London by reporting from behind rebel lines and broadcasting pictures of dead soldiers, private contractors and Iraqi victims.

Sending out troops to kill reporters who give you bad press. I'm sure most politicians daydream about this sort of thing, but very few are clueless enough to say it out loud or actually make plans. The only politicians who go through with this sort of thing are tinhorn dictators from the worst sort of banana republics.

Bombing our ally, Qatar, would have been an act of war. Assassinating civilians for bad press would have been murder, pure and simple. Is congress going to look into this? This congress?! Let me rephrase that. Will Tom DeLay and Bill Frist look into this?

And if he had really done it? What effect would that have had on other critics? I'm sure it would have intimidated many into silence, or, at least, into thinking twice before criticising the Bush administration. There is a word that we all know that describes an act of violence intended to intimidate a whole group of people. That word is "terrorism."

I'm sure that Bush's people will either deny that this happened or say he was just joking. Henry II said he was only kidding when he sent four knights to assassinate Beckett. History still hasn't forgiven him. Most politicians know that there are some things that they can't joke about. Ann Coulter gets to say outrageous things because she is a court jester. Eason Jordan was not allowed to say outrageous because he was supposedly a serious executive. Jordan lost his job for his impolitic speech. Bush is also supposedly a serious executive, but will he face any consequences?

Along with his gulag of secret prisons, I can think of few things that so well illustrate how low Bush has dragged our country.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Fifty thousand
At 9:39 last night (west coast time) some anonymous person clicked through to archy and became my 50,000th visitor since installing the counter (archy had maybe 300 visitors before that. Now, I know that Kos gets almost that many visitors in an hour, but I'm still pretty impressed. Whoever you were, thanks for dropping by, I hope you liked what you saw and I hope you come back. Oh, and i do somethimes write about something other than what a boob I think Bill O'reilly is. Sometimes I talk about my lawn, somethimes I talk about great cockroaches in literature, and sometimes I mock powerful and influential people who aren't Bill O'Reilly.

Thanks, too, to the people who made up the 49,999 visits. When we get the next 50,000, there will be cake.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thinking inside the box
The Strong Museum in Rochester, New York is home to the National Toy Hall of Fame. The collection has more than 70,000 items, but the hall of fame listing is a minute fraction of the total. To date, 34 toys have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. The NTHF website explains why they think toys deserve their own hall of fame:
Toys are among the most important human artifacts. They are learning tools. By guiding play, they foster imagination, creativity, and critical thinking. They socialize us and teach fairness. They reveal what we believed and valued, encouraged and endorsed, dismissed and feared. They remind us of who we were, who we are, and who we hope to become. They help us imagine what’s next.

The criterion for inclusion in the Hall of Fame are:
  1. Icon-status: The toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered.
  2. Longevity: The toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations.
  3. Discovery: The toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play.
  4. Innovation: The toy profoundly changed play or toy design. A toy may be inducted on the basis of this criterion without necessarily having met all of the first three.

The past winners have included some generic toys like alphabet blocks, jacks, jigsaw puzzles, jump ropes, and teddy bears. Others are famous brand-name toys like Barbie, Etch A Sketch, LEGOs, Slinky, and Tinkertoys. Like any similar honor, people lobby for certain toys and question the inclusion of others.

This year, they decided decided to honor a plaything that every small child and parent, uncle, or aunt of small children will understand: the big cardboard box.
I think every adult has had that disillusioning experience of picking what they think is a wonderful toy for a child, and then finding the kid playing with the box," said Christopher Bensch, chief curator of the Strong Museum. "It's that empty box full of possibilities that the kids can sense and the adults don't always see."

Low-tech and unpretentious it may be, but the cardboard box has fostered learning and creativity for multiple generations - a key qualifier for inclusion in the museum's seven-year-old hall of fame. And its appeal as a plaything or recreational backdrop is universal.

All over the world, "packaging is something that's accessible to kids, whether that's cans or tins or wooden crates," Bensch said, and the cardboard box "makes a point that you don't have to spend a lot, have a certain income level or charge it on your credit card to have your kids have a great play experience."

Personally, I always liked the big boxes movers use. A dish pack was big enough for two of us to hide from our sisters and rugged enough to stand up to a ride down the stairs.
Cheap shot
Am I the only one who thinks Cheney looks like the bad guy in an old "Scooby Doo" episode? Can't you picture him snarling out of the side of his mouth as the mask is pulled off, "I would have got away with it, too, if weren't for those kids and their darn blog!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Republicans hate firemen
Wow. It looks like I've been too hard on Bill O'Reilly. I thought that when he said it would be just hunky-dory if al Qaida came to San Francisco and blew up a monument to firemen that he was just being a mean old loudmouth. But now it appears that those weren't his fireman-hating thoughts. He was just repeating Republican talking points.
Congressional budget negotiators have decided to take back $125 million in Sept. 11 aid from New York, which had fought to keep the money to treat sick and injured ground zero workers, lawmakers said Tuesday.

New York officials had sought for months to hold onto the funding, originally meant to cover increased worker compensation costs stemming from the 2001 terror attacks.

But a massive labor and health spending bill moving fitfully through House-Senate negotiations would take back that funding, lawmakers said.


Top New York fire officials recently lobbied Congress to keep the funding. Fire and police officials say they worry that many people will develop long-term lung and mental health problems from their time working on the burning pile of toxic debris at ground zero and they want to use the money to help them.

Meanwhile, Bill Frist has an op-ed piece in the Washington Times explaining why the rich need more tax cuts. According to the tinkle-on theory of economics, tax cuts for the least needy among us grow the economy in a way that cures cancer. If we get rid of taxes on capital gains and dividends, the firemen won't need worker compensation for their lung, skin, and imune system ailments. Or something like that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bill O'Reilly is a coward
That's not really news, but he confirmed it again this week.

Last night, O'Reilly claimed that his invitation to al Qaida to blow up the Coit Tower was nothing more than a "satirical riff", a "monologue" if you will. He called anyone who criticised his muderous joke "guttersnipes" with "far-left Internet smear sites." He said that the Mayor of San Francisco was afraid to appear on his show and called the voters "loopy" for not voting the way he wanted the to. He the brought on his guests, Todd Chretien, the author of the proposition that so offended O'Reilly, and Jeff Katz, a right-wing San Francisco talk-show host, whose sole purpose seemed to be to provide O'Reilly with a two-to-one advantage in the following conversation.
CHRETIEN: I'll tell you what, Bill. If you feel that strongly about defending it, and we challenge you to come to San Francisco and let's have a 60-minute debate moderated by a neutral person. And you can debate that we should keep our troops in Iraq and we should keep the military.

O'REILLY: Not about Iraq.

CHRETIEN: And we'll debate --

O'REILLY: Not about Iraq.

CHRETIEN: --getting the troops home now --


CHRETIEN: --and getting the military recruiters out of the school.

O'REILLY: Mr. Chretien, Mr. Chretien.

CHRETIEN: So if you're up for that --

O'REILLY: No, no, look.

CHRETIEN: -- we're happy to have you. We won't back down. Will you?

O'REILLY: All right, why would I debate someone like you who keeps deflecting the issue into Iraq? This wasn't about Iraq.

CHRETIEN: Where do you think they go once they get recruited, Bill?

O'REILLY: It was about denying the military access to your schools. That's what it was about.

CHRETIEN: That's right.

O'REILLY: You deflected into Iraq. I'm not going to debate somebody like you who won't even stay on point.


CHRETIEN: Come on, Bill, don't back down. Come to San Francisco and debate us.

O'REILLY: Mr. Chretien, look, if I thought you were going to debate the war on terror in an honest way, I'd kick your butt up and down the street.

CHRETIEN: OK, bring it on, as the president said.

O'REILLY: But all you want to do is put on a dog and pony show with your little left-wing moon friends.

So, the manly Bill could kick Chretien's butt up and down the street if he wasn't washing his hair that night. Dad was right; the loudest bullies are the biggest cowards.
This is disturbing
John Aravosis at AmericaBlog has located these two complementary stories. First, from the newspaper, The Washington Times:
President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, administration sources say. The president's reclusiveness in the face of relentless public scrutiny of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and White House leaks regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame has become so extreme that Mr. Bush has also reduced contact with his father, former President George H.W. Bush...

Second, from the conservative gossip columnist Matt Drudge:
The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.

John sums the two of them up nicely, "Not just worst president ever. But quickly becoming scariest president ever."
I write letters
Dear Bill,

Thanks for the offer of free publicity. I'm one of those "guttersnipes" with a "far-left Internet smear site" who regularly says bad things about you and about Mr. Bush's war. I've been working hard to get Christmas outlawed. Nothing would make me prouder than to make your enemies list. Mine is a small blog with light traffic. Like most blogs, it's pathetic cry for attention into the dark anonymous void of the impersonal modern world. But if you, a nationally-known figure, would denounce me by name on your website, I'd have it made. I'd be the envy of all of my far-left friends.

Happy Holidays to you and yours,

John J. McKay / archy

P.S. - It would be really cool if you alphabetized you enemies list by website name.

P.P.S. - Don't put Kos, Atrios, Move On, or Media Matters on your enemies list. They're hogging too much of the attention, as is.

P.P.P.S. - Did I mention that I hate Christmas?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bill O'Reilly is an alcoholic
I don't care if he never touches a spirited beverage. I don't care if nothing stronger than falafel ever crosses his lips. Bill O'Reilly is an alcoholic. I've known a lot of alcoholics in my day. Some were honest alcoholics. Some were in denial. I've also known many honest drunks who were not alcoholics.

This is my blog, so I get to define the terms. In my use, an alcoholic is someone who expresses a certain pathology of irresponsibility. To me, an alcoholic is an irresponsible person who is incapable of accepting responsibility for the consequences of their clearly irresponsible actions. In their own minds and words, they are eternally innocent. Bad things happen to them, but those bad things are never the result of their own actions. They just happen, or, worse, people are always doing bad things to them for no reason.

This is our innocent child Bill O'Reilly.

Last Wednesday, O'Reilly said that if he had his way San Francisco would be a free fire zone for terrorists because they voted to keep military recruiters out of the high schools. His exact words:
Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead."

And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

Some San Franciscans took offense to that, the humorless bastards. The 210-foot Coit Tower, which O'reilly singles out as worthy of destruction, was built in 1934 in the shape of a fire hose nozzle as an homage to firemen. Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle staff writer, quoted a number of the upset locals:
One of the ticked off was San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, who Friday called for O'Reilly to be fired.

"For an anchor on a major station, Fox News, to be saying those kinds of things, it's just not OK," Daly said Friday. "It was just over the top."

Agreeing with Daly was San Francisco firefighters union president John Hanley, and not just because the hose-shaped tower is a tribute to firefighters.

"Who is this guy, O'Reilly?" said Hanley, who identified himself as both a third-generation San Franciscan and military veteran. "I've got guys fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm a veteran myself. What's he talking about?"

Okay. O'Reilly said something stupid and offended some people. a normal (non-alcoholic) person would have said "oops, that's not what I meant." A politician would have said, "I'm sorry you misunderstood what I was trying to say." O'Reilly said neither of those things. Despite having two days to reconsider his words, and having one of his Fox News co-workers put his reputation on the line by saying he was sure that's not what O'Reilly meant, O'Reilly stood by his words"
HOST: First question, do you stand by what you said?

O'REILLY: Of course I do. I mean, it's ridiculous....

Rather than respond to the message, he attacked the messenger.
...there are a lot of good people in the city of San Francisco, but you've been hijacked by the radical left. Your press is radical left. The San Francisco Chronicle is a radical newspaper...

You've got big problems in the city - and I love the city, it's a great city, but if you're going to work against the United States of America in the war on terror - the city of San Francisco chooses to do that - then you have no right to have federal funding. Believe me, if I were President Bush, I'd be standing in the middle of Union Square telling you that.


HOST: We're talking with Bill O'Reilly. "Reaction came swiftly from City Hall," it says in the Chronicle. "Board of Supervisors member Aaron Peskin, whose district includes Coit Tower, suggested that O'Reilly should get his head examined. 'It sounds like he's on the same medication Rush Limbaugh is addicted to, and he should go see a therapist,' Peskin said."

O'REILLY: Yeah, another cheap shot by that guy. He's a classy guy, isn't he? Taking a cheap shot against somebody. You know, this is the hallmark of the left: Cheap shot everybody. Come out with the most insane things you can. Convince your Kool-Aid drinking crowd to follow you.

Do I even need to point this out? His response to a cheap shot (and it was a cheap shot) is to call the speaker insane and bring up the "Kool-Aid drinking" analogy. "Kool-Aid drinking" refers to the cult leader Jim Jones who, in 1978 took over 1000 San Franciscans down to Guyana and led 914 of them including 276 children into a mass suicide by feeding them cyanide laced Kool-Aid. "Kool-Aid drinking" is a particularly ugly accusation to bring up in San Francisco.

In case we're still misunderstanding him, he makes it clear.
HOST: First question, do you stand by what you said?

O'REILLY: Of course I do. I mean, it's ridiculous. We're in World War III and San Francisco votes against military recruiting in schools. It's insane.


I mean, look, everybody knows what's going on there. What I said isn't controversial. What I said needed to be said. I'm sitting here and I'm looking at a city that has absolutely no clue of what the world is. None. You know, if you had been hit on 9/11 instead of New York, believe me, you would not have voted against military recruiting. Yet the left-wing, selfish, Land of Oz philosophy that the media and the city politicians have embraced out there is an absolute intellectual disgrace.

For this the city deserves to die, even the people who agreed with him. I suppose they need to flee and not look back, lest they be turned into pillars of salt.

But wait, Bill O'Reilly is still an innocent victim of other people's hostility.
Tonight "The O'Reilly Factor" is on ...

Bill O'Reilly takes on the orchestrated campaign organized by left wing critics who have whipped up controversy about his satirical riff on the city of San Francisco.

It was all a joke!!!
Some far left internet smear sites have launched a campaign to get me fired over my point of view. I believe they do this on a daily basis. This time the theme is O'Reilly is encouraging terrorist attacks. Unbelievably stupid. Not unusual with these guttersnipes.

So, this self-pitying, self-glorifying nincompoop with an alcoholic's persecution complex thinks that the only cause of his problems is the attack of internet guttersnipes. What does he plan to do about this, other than whine?
I'm glad the smear sites made a big deal out of it. Now we can all know who was with the anti-military internet crowd. We'll post the names of all who support the smear merchants on So check with us.

He's giving us free publicity!!! This is the chance of a lifetime. I urge all of my fellow America-hating and feminazi lefitist blogging companions to submit your blog to big Bill's exciting list of persecutors (I'm sure he'll give you a special high listing if you hate Christmas like I do).

Hmmm. It appears we have to join his Premium Site to write directly to him, but I'm sure his Fox News address will promptly get us listed among the worst of the left on his site.
Gibson explains it
Friday, while in San Francisco to push his new book on the liberal conspiracy against Christmas, Fox News anchor John Gibson found himself defending recent murderous comments by Bill O'Reilly and Pat Robertson. I'm sure you all recall earlier last week when O'Reilly and Robertson wished death and destruction on towns who didn't vote the way they wanted. O'Reilly said that if he was President, he would tell al Qaida that they were free to blow as much of San Francisco as they wanted. This was brought on by San Franciscans voting to keep military recruiters out of the public schools. Robertson said that God would turn his back on Dover, PA because they had voted out a pro-Intelligent Design school board. According to Robertson, the Doverites should expect natural disasters and no heavenly mercy because they "voted God out of [their] city." Gibson said he was sure his friends meant their comments in the nicest possible way.

Of O'Reilly, Gibson said:
I can’t imagine Bill meant that. He goes to San Francisco all the time. He does shows from there. He has a good time there. I know he loves the city. I’m sure that’s not what he meant.

By then, O'Reilly had had two days to correct any misunderstanding that might have occurred over his words. He took that opportunity to stand by them. On the same day that Gibson was defending O'Reilly and in the same city where Gibson appeared, O'Reilly was on the radio saying:
HOST: First question, do you stand by what you said?

O’REILLY: Of course I do.


What I said isn’t controversial. What I said needed to be said. I’m sitting here and I’m looking at a city that has absolutely no clue of what the world is.


I don’t think they like the country. I don’t think these people like the country.

Gibson's defense of Robertson was not as firm, but had the advantage of being more correct.
Well, but the point is, Pat says a lot of things. And that’s Pat Robertson.

And then, like the pro he is, Gibson managed to turn the talk to the topic of his conspiracy book.
You talk to him about why he said a certain thing. I think that what a lot of this comes from, especially this declaring ordinary signs of the Christmas season to be religious symbols, and, therefore, have to be out of the public view, is animosity towards Christians because of political considerations. Because Christians are making arguments against abortion, or for intelligent design, or against gay marriage, and people are angry at them about those political positions, and they tend to transfer that over to the practice of the religion.

It seems Pat Robertson says vile things because Christmas-hating liberals have driven him over the edge (buy my book to find out more!). Or something like that. If you can make any more sense out of Gibson's defense, be sure to let me know.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Wal-Mart is part of the secular conspiracy
Who knew?
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Thursday said it no longer employs a worker who wrote to a shopper that Christmas is a mix of world religions, but that the company does support the generic greeting, "Happy Holidays," as being more inclusive amid year-end celebrations by numerous faiths.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights criticized the world's largest retailer and called for a boycott over Wal-Mart's approach to Christmas.

"We want a) an apology for insulting Christians by effectively banning Christmas and b) a withdrawal of its insane statement regarding the origins of Christmas and c) a revision on its website," Catholic League President Bill Donohue said on the group's Web site.

There are plenty of good reasons to boycott Wal-Mart. This is not one of them.

Bill Donohue is not a mainstream Catholic spokesman. He is a bigoted loon. He is a regular guest on Scarborough Country, where he rants about gays and Hollywood as the source of all evil in America. Here are some of his greatest hits from Scarborough Country:

  • April 11, 2005 - On the appearance of new deadlier strain of AIDS, he said, "The gay community has yet to apologize to straight people for all the damage that they have done -- for contaminating the blood supply in New York City and around the country. And I find it amazing that, when people are acting so morally delinquent, that they're asking for more rights at the same time."
  • January 6, 2005 - After placing the book of Job in the New Testamennt (it's not), he said of the Indonesian tsunami, "I think we have to look at this in a positive sense. In one strange sense, then, what's happening to these poor Asian people is their gift to the world. It makes us think about our mortality and about salvation and about redemption. That's what we should be thinking about."
  • December 8, 2004 - "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, okay? And I'm not afraid to say it. ... Hollywood likes anal sex."
  • December 14, 2004 - "This same guy [Dean Hamer] came up with this idea of the gay gene. I remember when that conversation was going on. Gays were all of a sudden worrying if people would start aborting kids when they found out the DNA suggested the kid might be gay or God forbid, we'd run out of little gay kids, so all of a sudden, they became pro-life."
  • On the October 21, 2004 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, ...Donohue falsely claimed: "The pope [John Paul II] has never declared this [Iraq] war to be an unjust war." Yet, prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a Vatican envoy "carried the pope's message to the White House that a U.S.-led war against Iraq without United Nations' approval would be 'unjust and illegal,'"

This guy is a perfect ally for Gibson, Hannity, and O'Reilly in their struggle to save Christmas.
Science we can use
While the Intelligent Design crowd keep muttering that if they can't figure it out, it must have been God, and trying to make political points, real scientists are in the lab doing useful research to improve our lives. Research like this study at MIT.
Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities. We theorize that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

The study has not been without its critics.
[A] recent MIT study calls into question the effectiveness of Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanies. However, there are serious flaws in this study, not the least of which is a complete mischaracterization of the process of psychotronic mind control. I theorize that the study is, in fact, NWO propaganda designed to spread FUD against deflector beanie technology, and aluminum shielding in general, in order to disembeanie paranoids, leaving them open to mind control.

First and foremost, Rahimi et al. only considered simple radio frequencies. As I explained in detail in chapter 4 ("Psychotronic and AFDB Theory") of my book, only psychotronic energy can affect the brain in any coherent manner. Simple EM fields have only trivial effects -- such as causing indistinct sensations of a supernatural presence -- over short distances. Only by converting electromagnetic energy into psychotronic energy using a psychotron-based device can the forces of mind control access from afar the neural network of a brain to both implant and extract thought complexes.

This is how real science is done. Science is a series of small steps brought forth through a dialog. Science is not a body of unchanging information contained in a sacred volume. Science is a process by which we advance. In real science, discovering the right questions is as important as discovering the answers. I, for one, am glad that our top scientists are working on important questions like, "how can we prevent Them from beaming dangerous thoughts and old television theme songs into our minds?"
Go away, Pat
Televangelist and hurricane wrangler, Pat Robertson, is not pleased with the results of Tuesday's schoolboard election in Dover, PA.
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday that disaster may strike there because they "voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.

All eight Dover, Pa., school board members up for re-election were defeated Tuesday after trying to introduce "intelligent design"... as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."


"God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever," Robertson said. "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."

This is not the first time Robertson has predicted that the wrath of God will be visited on anyone who disagrees with Pat. It probably won't be the last. It would be easy to dismiss Robertson as a silly and deluded extremist, except for the fact that millions listen to him and send him vast amounts of money. A maniac with money and followers should not be ignored.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Diety and Grand Architect of the Universe had a few words for Mr. Robertson.
God denied having any links to conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson yesterday after He received reports that Mr. Robertson told residents of Dover, P.A., that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them of His wrath. Sources close to the Higher Being say that He is "tired" of Mr. Robertson and wants him to stop using His name.
Damn! We've been exposed!
It looks like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity's "Christmas under Siege" series last year was a ratings success for Fox News. This year they are not only reviving it, but another Fox personality has joined them in their struggle to stop the forces of evil from forcing our children to say "Happy Holidays."

John Gibson, a popular anchor for the Fox News Channel, has been digging up evidence about the liberal activists, lawyers, politicians, educators, and media people who are leading the war on Christmas. And he reveals that the situation is worse than you can imagine.


Millions of Americans are starting to fight back against the secularist forces and against local officials who would rather surrender than be seen as politically incorrect. Gibson shows readers how they can help save Christmas from being twisted beyond recognition, with even the slightest reference to Jesus completely disappearing.

We can tell by the cover, that Gibson's book is all about putting the baby Jesus back in the holiday. This year's Fox News logo for the "Christmas Controversy" segment features a Christmas tree superimposed on a waving American Flag. Fox News understands the true religious significance of Christmas and isn't about to give in to any secular nonsense either
Of course, O'Reilly isn't turning the stage over to the new kid just yet. He's already done two full segments on the conspiracy, and we're only up to Veterans' Day. In his most recent segment, which aired Wednesday, O'Reilly suggested that all true Christmas lovers should boycott Kohl's, Kmart, and Sears. He then allowed Philip Nulman, a customer service consultant, explain the side of the retailers.
O'REILLY: [W]e're living in a time where some retail outlets will not say "Merry Christmas." Insane?

NULMAN: No, no, I don't think it's insane. I think that it's good business practice, actually. And many organizations are trying desperately to be inclusionary. They feel that the use of "Merry Christmas" in their packaging, their bags, their messages, their environment is just the opposite. It's exclusionary to the 15 or 20 percent of the customer base that is not Christian.

O'REILLY: And you agree with that?

NULMAN: I do, from a marketing standpoint.

O'REILLY: See, I think you're, I think you're crazy. And here's why. I think the backlash against stores that don't say "Merry Christmas" is enormous because now people are aware of the issue. There's going to be -- it's like the third or fourth year that we've reported it. I know everybody's hypersensitive about are they going to say "Merry Christmas"? Are they going to say "Happy Holidays"? What are they going to say? Are there decorations that say "Merry Christmas"? They're hypersensitive. And when you walk into a secular environment, most Christians are looking around, and they're really aware of it. Now, the other thing is, I don't believe most people who aren't Christian are offended by the words "Merry Christmas." I think those people are nuts. I think you're crazy if you're offended by the words "Merry Christmas."

NULMAN: Well --

O'REILLY: So you're basically only knocking out your nutty customers. And why do you want them anyway?

Real American retailers don't mind getting rid of the 15 or 20 percent of their customer base that Bill O'Reilly doesn't approve of.

In his first segment on the evil plot, O'Reilly, the eternal voice of reason that he is, warned Gibson not to go overboard with his conspiracy mongering.
I think you made a mistake by saying it's [the war on Christmas] a liberal plot, and I'll tell you why. I believe -- and I could be wrong -- that most liberals are as angry about this as conservatives. It's the far left. It's the loony left, the Kool-Aid secular progressive ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] America-haters. That's who's doing this.

He left out the Jews, Freemasons, and Bavarian Illuminati. I guess our evil conspiracy hasn't been completely unmasked yet.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Frist is part of the problem
Senator Bill Frist wants to be the president of the United States. Most of his attempts to throw his self in front of a camera this year have backfired, making him look either like a fickle nincompoop or a sock-puppet of the religious right (that's not to say he isn't really both. See previous post). I was convinced long ago that he isn't qualified to be the President or a Senator. Based on his psychic diagnoses via video-tape, he's not qualified to be a doctor either. But just in case any of you had any doubts about his fitness, this should remove them once and for all.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he is more concerned about the leak of information regarding secret CIA detention centers than activity in the prisons themselves.


"My concern is with leaks of information that jeopardize your safety and security -- period," Frist said. "That is a legitimate concern."


Frist was asked if that meant he was not concerned about investigating what goes on in detention centers.

"I am not concerned about what goes on and I'm not going to comment about the nature of that," Frist replied.

Frist does not care whether a branch of the United States government acts in secret to violate American laws, international treaties (which hold the force of law), and all standards of human decency. He doesn't care if a branch of the United States government betrays all of the values that make America, America. All he cares about is whether anyone finds out about it. All he cares about is the potential embarrassment to an administration that he supports.

In a letter that Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees earlier this week, he asked "What is the actual and potential damage done to the national security of the United States and our partners in the global war on terror?" That is a valid and important question. The damage is probably very great and not easy to overcome. But Frist and Hastert miss the real significance of the issue. He should not only ask "how bad is the damage," but "what exactly is the source of the damage."

I have no doubt that our troops and country have been put at danger by this revelation. But the nature of the danger is not the same as giving away details of military plans, troop movements, or defensive structures to a battlefield enemy. The danger is that we will create new enemies by acting immorally. The danger is that we will alienate our allies by expounding one set of values and acting on the exact opposite.

The War on terror is as much, if not more, of a propaganda contest than a physical conflict. Every time we betray our values, we lose another battle. One of our stated values has been to honestly confront out failings and try to fix them. Frist's refusal to do that loses us another battle. Frist is acting like the sort of misguided parent who would rather help their child get away with a crime than make them behave responsibly and face up to the consequences of their actions. Frist would rather get away with crimes than correct errors.

Frist is attacking the messenger, in the most literal sense of that tired old metaphor. In doing so, he is acting in a way that is un-American and that makes him unfit to hold any public office. I haven't even scratched the surface of how much this disgusts me.
Grammar geek moment
I ran across this sentence quoted by TPM from the Nelson Report:
[T]he Republican Leadership continues to trip all over itself, contradicting each other, insulting each other, and generally looking like incompetent fools.

I was about to deliver my usual cheap shot over a phrase like this--they look like incompetent fools because they are incompetent fools--when I began to ponder the phrase "incompetent fools." What does that mean in English?

"Incompetent" is being used here as an adjectival intensifier for the noun "fools." That is, they are exceptionally foolish. This is how most of us would understand the phrase. But, since "incompetent" and "fools" are both derogatory terms, this construction is a double negative of sorts. In a normal double negative, the two terms are approximately equal and one negative reverses the direction of the other making the whole meaning a positive. "Not never" means "sometimes." But, in this case, the terms aren't really equal leaving the ultimate meaning ambiguous. An "incompetent fool" should be someone lacking the basic skillset to be a fool. Does that mean they aren't foolish, or does it mean they can't even rise to the level of foolishness? Should I be allowed to write before I've had my morning coffee?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Trotsky who?
Remember the opening scene of 1984? Winston Smith is at work changing old newspapers so that history will match the current policies of the regime. That was sure over the top. I mean, nothing like that could happen in real life. No government could be so convinced of their own invulnerability or of the public's gullibility and short memory as to think that they could get away with that. Could they?
There is a brewing controversy about what exactly was said at the White House press conference on October 31. Everyone agrees NBC’s Dick Gregory said this:

"Q Whether there’s a question of legality, we know for a fact that there was involvement. We know that Karl Rove, based on what he and his lawyer have said, did have a conversation about somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations."

Congressional Quarterly and FNS both transcribed Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s answer as “That’s accurate.” The White House transcript lists McClellan’s answer as “I don’t think that’s accurate.”


If you listened to the clip, it’s clear McClellan says “that’s accurate.” Nevertheless, the White House is trying to get CQ and FNS to change their transcripts. They’ve refused.

Under Stalin, Soviet publishers were famous for airbrushing away disgraced and executed party members. During the Reagan presidency, it was a common event for each press conference to be followed by a second press conference that began with the words "what the president meant to say was..." The Reagan post press conference press conferences were necessary because Reagan was likely to say almost any damn thing when he appeared without a script. Stalin was a sinster control freak who couldn't be content dominating the present; he had to extend his control into the past. So, which one best describes the Bush White House?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

No shame, no irony, too much hypocrisy
Upon finding out that our government is engaged in a violation of American law, a violation of international law, and a violation of human decency, our congressional leaders have leapt into action, demanding we find the whistleblower and punish them.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Tuesday called for a congressional investigation into who told Washington Post reporter Dana Priest about previously undisclosed CIA interrogation centers.

On Nov. 2, Priest's report on the so-called "black sites" -- which she describes as a "covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago" to interrogate some of the most important al Qaeda captives -- drew worldwide interest and focused attention on the Bush administration's anti-terror strategy.

"If accurate, such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences, and will imperil our efforts to protect the American people and our homeland from terrorist attacks," Frist and Hastert said in a letter to Senate and House intelligence committee chairmen.

They are, of course, correct. If it is true that the United States is so blatantly violating principles that we have championed for the past half century or more, it will have "long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences." We will lose the last bits of moral credibility not already demolished by this administration.
According to the AP, Frist and Hastert said the joint probe by the House and Senate intelligence committees should determine who leaked the information and under what authority.

"What is the actual and potential damage done to the national security of the United States and our partners in the global war on terror?" the draft letter obtained by AP asked. "We will consider other changes to this mandate based on your recommendations."

The letter went on to say that the leaking of classified information by employees of the U.S. government appears to have increased in recent years, "establishing a dangerous trend that, if not addressed swiftly and firmly, likely will worsen."

While the irony is almost laughable, the facts are so ugly I can't laugh. There are three issues here.

The first issue is the cynical propaganda game that Frist and Hastert are playing. John Averosis points out the top layer of their hypocrisy.
It's a sad day when the Republican Senate leader and the Republican House leader don't care that our country is now acting as criminal, as brutal, and as immoral as the Soviet Union and other petty dictatorships we fought so long to overcome. They only care that someone found out.

It's deeper than that. They are drawing a direct parallel between this crime and the Plame leak and muddying the seriousness of both issues by taking the direct opposite issue than they did with Plame.

With Plame, the official Republican talking points have been that the leak may not even have been a crime and, if it was a crime it wasn't a serious one. The real crime, they said, was the supposed nepotism by which Joseph Wilson got an unpaid trip to Niamey, Niger, one of the poorest capitols in the world, located on the edge of the Sahara Desert, and not the nice edge, either. Now they are saying that the very real crimes of torture and secret prisons are not important, but exposing them is a crime, or, at least, should be.

This line of argument has been a standard tool of Republicans and conservatives since Watergate. When caught committing a crime, they announce that it's only a crime when Democrats do it; it's okay if you're a Republican (IOKIYAR). If they have to admit to a crime, they say it's no worse than some crime a Democrat committed. Nixon tried to use the CIA to stop a criminal investigation into numerous burglaries by his re-election committee, but JFK had sex with Marilyn Monroe. Bush lied to start a war in which thousands have been killed, but Clinton lied about an affair. It's all the same. This callous relativism has done far more to create an atmosphere of voter apathy and cynicism than all of the deconstructionist college professors or PC speech codes on the planet.

The second issue is the damage that is being done to the good name of America by a tiny group of extremists. The best way to begin to repair the damage would be to have an open and public house-cleaning. Investigate the crimes, boot the guilty from power, try them in public, and jail them in a dark, damp place till they forget their own names. This will never happen. We will have a hidden investigation with inconclusive results. If anyone is punished, they will be low-level scapegoats. The really guilty will finish their terms and resign to take up high-paid corporate board positions.

The last, though, at the moment, the most important issue, is the secret gulag itself. It's wrong, it's illegal, and it must be stopped. A crime has been committed and is ongoing. First we must stop the crime. Congress and the administration show no intention of doing that.

As I've said before, the sad fact is that we are not going to fix the damage inflicted by this administration by a simple change of parties. Some of the damage they have done--the shredding of international law, the dismantling of the regulatory apparatus, and the smearing of our reputation--is permanent. It will take a generation to repair these things and their is no guarantee that we can succeed.

The US has spent the past five years as a lawless bully. No matter how well the administration behaves, the world cannot trust that the next election won't return the bully. They would be foolish to do so. I expect the US to be come increasingly irrelevant in the next century. The other countries, including many who were formerly some of our closest friends will look for ways to work around and without the US. We will still trade, because our economy is too big and useful to ignore. But our day as a moral and diplomatic leader is over. They can't trust us.

None of that matters to Frist and Hastert. They just want to make a few short sighted political points. If they can get a good indignant-sounding sound-bite on the Sunday talking head shows and an advantage in the next election, that's all they care about. If they contribute to the long-term moral disgrace and decline of the United States, that doesn't matter.

Update: Maybe Frist and Hastert jumped too soon. Trent Lott is saying he thinks it was a Republican Senator who leaked. If Frist and Hastert also think that, then they must be trying to threaten McCain and the Republicans who have been breaking party discipline lately. It's still a cheap political ploy that obscures the real seriousness of the issue. It's just a different cheap political ploy than I originally assumed.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Civilization marches on
These are the progressive values on display that make America a beacon of hope for the entire world.
The mayor of Las Vegas has suggested that people who deface freeways with graffiti should have their thumbs cut off on television.

"In the old days in France, they had beheadings of people who commit heinous crimes," Mayor Oscar Goodman said Wednesday on the TV show "Nevada Newsmakers."

Goodman said the city has a beautiful highway landscaping project and "these punks come along and deface it."

"I'm saying maybe you put them on TV and cut off a thumb," the mayor said. "That may be the right thing to do."

Goodman also suggested whippings should be brought back for children who get into trouble.

Another panelist on the show, state university system regent Howard Rosenberg, said cutting off the thumbs of taggers won't solve the problem and Goodman should "use his head for something other than a hat rack."

Obviously, Mayor Goodman is hoping for an appointment in the Bush administration, perhaps in the Justice Department, Homeland Security, or Education. Then again, maybe he's positioning himself to be the next James Dobson. Weirdly enough, before becoming a mayor, Goodman was a criminal defense lawyer.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

It's that special time of year
You know the one. There's snow in the mountains, the stores are changing their holiday displays, and Bill O'Reilly is whining about the liberal plot to kill Christmas. Yesterday on The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, the baby Jesus’ only friend managed to work his pet complaint into an editorial on Samuel Alito' nomination to the Supreme Court.
By the way, if Alito is confirmed, that will be a good thing for conservatives. That's the bottom line. Because Alito will take a more traditional view than a Breyer or a Ginsburg. OK? He'll look at things, and he'll say, "You know, the Founding Fathers didn't want partial-birth abortion. The Founding Fathers didn't want all mention of Christmas stricken from the public arena." That's what Alito will do. He's a traditionalist. He's going to rule that way.

As Media Matters points out, we don't know what the founding fathers would have thought of the current annual Christmas showdown in the public square. In the early days of the puritan New England colonies, celebrating Christmas was a crime. Jefferson is on record opposing federal recognition of religious holidays (Thanksgiving was the holiday in question). In any case, Christmas was a fairly minor holiday in the founding father's time. The celebration didn't begin to evolve into it's current form until the middle of the nineteenth century. By then, all of the founding fathers were long gone. Once again, O'Reilly's grasp of history is shown to be embarrassingly weak.

Perhaps more alarming than his version of history, is that this statement suggests he plans to spend another winter pushing his silly idea that there is a liberal conspiracy to have "all mention of Christmas stricken from the public arena." Last year we had to listen to O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Pat Buchanan, and the lesser Limbaugh, David, drag out every out-of-context anecdote and urban legend they could to try and prove how oppressed Christians are.

This nonsense has become a right-wing holiday ritual over the last few years. And it is nonsense. A proper separation of church and state does not require "all mention of Christmas stricken from the public arena." If it did, O'Reilly and his friends wouldn't be allowed to whine about it. The separation of church and state does not require the abolition of religion or pushing religion out of the public square. It does, however, prevent the government from favoring one religion over another or from favoring religion in general over non-religion. This means the government shouldn't pay for religious celebrations, endorse them in any way, or lend our property for them.

O'Reilly's eyes bug and his ears turn interesting colors every time he hears about a department store requiring its employees say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." This has nothing to do with separation of church and state. Department stores belong to corporations and corporations are not the state. Yet. If department stores want to neutralize the holidays, it is for business reasons and not for constitutional reasons.

Several businesses here in Seattle, including the largest car towing company, have worked the ichthys symbol (the Christian fish) into their corporate logos and business signage. I don't like having their religion shoved in my face every time I go out, but it's their right to do so and there is nothing I can do about it. If I choose to boycott them, that's my right and there is nothing they can do about it. That's what happens when people choose to link business and religion (or politics or school spirit or taste in music). If my neighborhood mall chooses not to explicitly support any religion, that's their right. I might choose to support them for that and O'Reilly might choose to boycott them for that and that is our right.*

You see how this works? There are many religions in America. Our government, which represents us all the people and not just the majority, can't take sides. A perfect separation of church and state is not possible. Our government is made up of people and most people are still religious. Some people's religious practices will leak into public space and have the potential of annoying others. Just because it's not possible to be perfect doesn’t mean our government should stop trying to be neutral and endorse right-wing Christianity. All our government can do is try to be an honest broker. We, in turn, should be a little less thin skinned and not go to pieces whenever we hear someone say "Season's Greetings." Are you listening, Bill?

* Now, if someone had a Flying Spaghetti Monster ichthys on their sign, I’d be there.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Can we call it a Gulag now?
Right-wing pundits usually blow steam out their ears and indignantly demand an apology whenever anyone compares our extralegal treatment of foreign prisoners to a gulag or to any of the less savory regimes of the last century. For example, last June Sen. Dick Durbin read a description of some of the practices at Guantanamo Bay:
"[D]etainees 'chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water,' or deprived of a bathroom, or kept in extreme heat or cold. One was found 'almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out.'... [H]e said that if you did not know these descriptions came from an FBI agent, you 'would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime ... that had no concern for human beings.'"

His point was that this kind of behavior is un-American, a blot on our good name, and a betrayal of everything we claim to stand for. The right-wing noise machine ignored his real point and loudly cried that Durbin was calling our brave troops Nazis. The White House called Durbin's remarks "reprehensible" and congressional Democrats cravenly abandoned Durbin leading him to eventually issue the apology the right demanded.

Durbin's remarks didn't happen in vacuum. The right-wing noise machine was already in a full froth over a similar comment issued by Amnesty International a few days earlier. In issuing its annual state-of-the-world report, Amnesty's general secretary, Irene Khan, referred to the network of off-shore prisons (some of them secret) as "the Gulag of our time." For a moment, it appeared that we might finally have a national debate on torture, the erosion of rights, and secret judicial processes introduced by the administration in the name of fighting terror. Sen. Joe Biden seemed to be headed in that direction when he said of Guantanamo and torture that "[t]his has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world, and it is unnecessary to be in that position." With Durbin's humiliation, the moment passed. Besides, it was almost the Fourth of July and congress had important anti flag-burning amendments to debate.

Why bring this up today? The Washington Post has an important front page story today on the system of secret interrogation centers/prisons that the CIA has established around the world since 9/11.
The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

The important point to notice is that this system is not the same is the military network of prisons that includes Abu Graib and the main facilities at Guantanamo Bay. This is a separate system that the administration has tried to keep secret. While congress gets to foot the bills for this system, they are allowed almost no information about it. It is this CIA network that Cheney has in mind when he pushes for a CIA exemption to American anti-torture laws.
The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA's unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA's covert actions.

The existence and locations of the facilities -- referred to as "black sites" in classified White House, CIA, Justice Department and congressional documents -- are known to only a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.

The CIA and the White House, citing national security concerns and the value of the program, have dissuaded Congress from demanding that the agency answer questions in open testimony about the conditions under which captives are held. Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long.

While the Defense Department has produced volumes of public reports and testimony about its detention practices and rules after the abuse scandals at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at Guantanamo Bay, the CIA has not even acknowledged the existence of its black sites. To do so, say officials familiar with the program, could open the U.S. government to legal challenges, particularly in foreign courts, and increase the risk of political condemnation at home and abroad.

According to Google news, at least 500 news outlets have picked up this story since it came out in the Washington Post yesterday. It has been picked up by al Jazeera, the Arab Times of Saudi Arabia, the Daily News of Pakistan, and the Middle East Times of Egypt. As Sen. Biden pointed out last June, the best recruiting tool the terrorists have is the misbehavior of our own president and his administration.

We have two entire systems of extra-legal prison systems scattered around the globe. We hold people without due process, without charge, and often in secret. We both commit torture and arrange for others to do our torturing for us through extraordinary rendition. We hold people in secret without access to lawyers and with out notifying their families or governments. We use old Soviet prisons to do it. Is it still out of line to call this mess a Gulag?
The best and the brightest
The Washington Post has a very important article on the system of secret offshore prisons that the CIA runs. I'll have more to say about the article later today, but this passage stood out as the closest thing to a light moment in a very grim story.
The CTC's [Counterterrorist Center] chief of operations argued for creating hit teams of case officers and CIA paramilitaries that would covertly infiltrate countries in the Middle East, Africa and even Europe to assassinate people on the list, one by one.


Some officers worried that the CIA would not be very adept at assassination.

"We'd probably shoot ourselves," another former senior CIA official said.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Science news: Of mice and moons
And now for some nice news.

First, mice sing, and not just in the movies.
Male mice serenade females with ultrasonic love songs, a U.S. study had found.

Birds, insects and frogs commonly sing during courtship but until now, the only mammals known to croon have been people, bats and cetaceans such as whales and dolphins.

Scientists realized decades ago that male mice emit squeaks too high-pitched for humans to hear when they encounter female mice or their urine. However, the cries could have been random.

When a team from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., analysed the vocalizations, they found that male mice were actually repeatedly producing a series of differently-pitched "chirp-like" syllables – similar to bird songs.


Each of the mice sang a unique tune, said the scientists, who published details of their study on Nov. 1 in the scientific journal Public Library of Science Biology.

Four octaves above the range of our hearing, the world is filled with the hopeful love songs of mice. Meanwhile, forty astronomical units away and slightly to the left, Pluto has two more moons than we knew.
The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted two possible new moons around Pluto, the ninth planet in the Solar System.
If confirmed, it would bring Pluto's tally of satellites to three; Charon, the only known moon of Pluto, was discovered by astronomers in 1978.

Confirmation of two new moons would shed light on the evolution of the Kuiper Belt, the vast region containing icy objects beyond Neptune's orbit.

All the candidate moons seem to orbit Pluto in an anti-clockwise direction.

The candidate moons, given the provisional names S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2, are between 45 and 160km (30 and 100 miles). By comparison, Charon's diameter is about 1,200 km.

Observations suggest they orbit Pluto at at least twice the distance Charon does. P2 stays about 49,000km from the planet, P1 lies even further away at 65,000km.

The headline writer at the New York Times has suggested mickey and Minnie as names for Pluto's newly noticed companions. That would fit in nicely with the singing mice announcement coming in the same week, but I suspect the International Astronomical Union will go with something more classical, say Persephone and Cerberus.

There is no political or social significance in either story. They are just cool.
A party all Americans can be proud of
The Republican Party has long presented itself as the party of strong principles unwaveringly held. The past week has demostrated that this is indeed true. In case anyone is confused, let's review some of those Republican principles.
  • No nominee should be denied an honest up-or-down vote, unless it is the Republican Party doing the denying.
  • Religious beliefs of a nominee are not a proper area for questioning, unless it the radical right questioning someone for not being enough of a radical.
  • Perjury isn't a real crime, unless Bill Clinton does it.

I'm sure William Bennett will want to chime in on the importance of values and shame in our ruling party.