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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Like a Virgin

Virginity pledges. You know, like the ones urged by organizations like True Love Waits -- as TBogg says, convincing teens they are choosing abstinence rather than abstinence choosing them -- do they actually work?

It probably comes as no surprise to most thinking people -- but no, they don't. This according to a study begun in 1995 that tracked 20,000 young people:
Although young people who sign a virginity pledge delay the initiation of sexual activity, marry at younger ages and have fewer sexual partners, they are also less likely to use condoms and more likely to experiment with oral and anal sex, said the researchers from Yale and Columbia universities.

"The sad story is that kids who are trying to preserve their technical virginity are, in some cases, engaging in much riskier behavior," said lead author Peter S. Bearman, a professor at Columbia's Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. "From a public health point of view, an abstinence movement that encourages no vaginal sex may inadvertently encourage other forms at sex that are at higher risk of STDs...."

In terms of high-risk behavior, the raw numbers were small, but the gap was statistically significant, Bearman said. Just 2 percent of youth who never took a pledge said they had had anal or oral sex but not intercourse, compared with 13 percent of "consistent pledgers...."
To be perfectly fair, the study does show some indication that kids who took the pledge were less likely to give birth out of wedlock than those who didn't. Would it make it any better if my knocked up 16 year-old wanted to get married on top of it? No, Alex, I'd have to say it wouldn't.

Conservatives seem to plod along under the illusion that liberals want kids to be having sex and doing drugs at 12, and that sex education is little more than a recruitment video to the dark side. Now, I don't have kids. But if I did, you can bet I sure wouldn't want them to be sexually active 12 year olds. The argument doesn't break down along morality lines, as conservatives would like to suggest -- it breaks down, once again, along respect for the role of education.

The same people who don't want teachers speaking their minds, who want students trained like talking parrots rather than free thinkers, who don't want their children exposed to science that might explode their brains out of the narrow confines of a biblical creationist narrative, also don't have any concept of or respect for education as a means of empowerment and a weapon against exploitation.

How much faith for your creed can you really have if you constantly need to buttress it with mandated ignorance?

The WaPo article notes that spokespeople for True Love Waits were unavailable for comment.

No shit.

(Via Ignatz)


Friday, March 18, 2005

What Two Reps voted in favor of Extraordinary Rendition?

When Ed Markay and Earl Blumenauer's amendment calling for and end to the funding of torture of detainees and extraordinary rendition came up for a vote on Wednesday, it passed the House 420 to 2.

So who the hell were the 2 who voted in favor of the use of government funds for torture?

The first, Robin Hayes of North Carolina, is a member of the Armed Services Committee. Although a Republican, he comes from a heavily Democratic district, and went on record as calling the Abu Ghraib scandal "disgusting." He also voted against tearing down the Abu Ghraib prison, lest vital evidence be destroyed along with it. Notably, he is one of the top recipients of Tom DeLay's contributions.

Mark Souder is a bit more of a thoroughbred wingnut -- he is the valiant spearheader of the effort to put Ronald Reagan's face on the dime, a drug warrior buffoon who wants the FDA to declare cannabis unsuitable as medicine, and a devout fundie who believes that Iraqi-syle democracy may not make much of a change there because it is not fueled by the Judeo-Christian ethic necessary for success:
The United States was at its founding, and still is, not only a religious nation but largely a Christian nation. Through Judeo-Christian beliefs that anchor our legal, our economic, our military, and our political system, the balance of powers and constraints upon the state -- and thus upon the majority -- assume the sinful nature of man and one that is not perfectable.
And as as an evangelical House member, he sure is a dutiful gay-hater. According to the LA Weekly in 2002:
[W]hen [HHS Secretary Tommy] Thompson was criticized by vociferous protests against Bush’s AIDS betrayals during the secretary’s speech at the international AIDS conference in Barcelona earlier this year, influential Indiana Representative Mark Souder — an evangelical Christian who says all gay sex is “immoral,” and who chairs the House’s oversight subcommittee on HHS — sparked a witch-hunt against a dozen respected AIDS service organizations (including San Francisco’s Stop AIDS Project) because some of their members participated in the demonstration. Now being conducted by Allen, the HHS witch-hunting audit is designed to intimidate all of the 3,500 local AIDS service groups, which are dependent on federal funding for their existence, into staying silent on Bush’s disastrous AIDS policies.
Why would either of these Reps go out on a limb and support funding for torture? That's pretty much like saying "hand me the electrodes and fire 'er up" at this point. Perhaps to provide some scant cover for the Preznit, who in a press conference the very same day defended the need for extraordinary rendition? Would love to hear anyone's thoughts.

Update 3:12 pm: Souder is evidently also renowned for saying that people in Appalachian Kentucky and Tennessee had sex with pre-teen children on a regular basis. It's nice to see the GOP speaking so highly about its Red State base.


Terry Schiavo and the Morality Police

Dornan's battle of the neurotransmitters continues

Uber blowhard and former House member Bob Dornan was on MSNBC this morning railing about the Terry Schiavo case, and saying that "the Islamic world" has denounced the removal of her feeding tube today, along with spouting a lot of off-topic nonsense about Oregon doctors murdering fetuses I really didn't follow but sounded like a strong indicator that he needed to have his meds adjusted.

There is a peculiar respect being paid these days to exactly what the Islamic world thinks is "right," most notably yesterday when Law Professor Eugene Volokh cheered the long, drawn-out public torture and execution of a convicted child molester in Iran that included the participation of the victim's family. When exactly did the Islamic go from "axis of evil" to arbiter of moral probity?

Now Dennis Hastert, Tom Delay and Bill Frist have joined the fray, and have said they will call Terry herself as a witness before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee at its March 28 hearing. While we're on the topic of moral gasbags, I liked the reference of The Green Knight who points us to a definition in John Ralston Saul's book, The Doubter's Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense:
MORAL CRUSADE: Public activity undertaken by middle-aged men who are cheating on their wives or diddling little boys. Moral crusades are particuarly popular among those seeking power for their own personal pleasure, politicians who can't think of anything useful to do with their mandates and religious professionals suffering from a personal inability to communicate with their god. In military terms, a diversionary tactic.
And before anyone accuses me of partisanship, I think that the otherwise superb Henry Waxman's participation in the Congressional hearings yesterday regarding steroid use in Major League Baseball also falls under the category of useless political grandstanding.


Tom Hayden, Rendition, and the Sadism of the GOP

When the House voted yesterday to approve $82 billion more for the War in Iraq, two Democratic Reps -- Earl Blumenauer (OR) and Ed Markey (MA) -- authored an amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds both for the torture of detainees in American custody, and for shipping them to countries that do allow torture (rendition). The good news? The motion passed overwhelmingly, 420 to 2. The bad new? Two crazy bastards actually voted to fund torture -- Republican Reps. Robin Hayes of North Carolina and Mark Souder of Indiana. If either of these men happen to be your Reps -- well, I'd tell you to write them, but if it was me I'd probably move first.

Our military experience-free Preznit also reaffirmed the need for rendition in a press conference on Wednesday, and CIA Chief Porter Goss warbled in support of it yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who sits on the committee and is also the chairman of the Senate intelligence panel: "I have to tell you I am losing a little patience with what appears to me to be an almost pathological obsession with calling into question the actions of men and women who are on the front lines of the war on terror.")

The psychopathic attachment of the mouth breathers to this sadism continues.

All of this comes on the eve of the second anniversary of the War in Iraq on Saturday. I recently came across the blog of Tom Hayden, veteran of the Civil Rights movement, SDS, the 1968 Democratic Convention, the Chicago Seven and other landmark events that the rest of us just watched on TV. He argues that there is no more important issue for the left to be pressing at the moment than the fact that our tax dollars are being used to finance torture:
So where are we? Wars are inherently unpredictable, but here are some observations:

1. The insurgency will continue, undermining the capacity of the Iraqi security forces that liberals and conservatives say are crucial to the US exit strategy.

2. The US has no exit strategy, because the US never has, and never will, plan to exit. Its strategy is to secure a permanent military outpost in the Middle East, dominate the politics of oil, and join with the Israelis in pressuring Syria, Iran and other countries.

3. However, the US can be forced to exit, to retreat from its neo-conservative dream, if the war in Iraq becomes a quagmire and no longer cost-effective in terms of money, troops, the US global image, and domestic opposition.

4. The Iraqi elections were fixed, and our media fell for it.

5. Nevertheless, the Iraqi elections were real, and many (most?) Iraqis who voted are in favor of the near-term withdrawal of US troops (69 percent of Shiites, 80 percent of Sunnis, according to January polling). The Iraqi electoral process will continue throughout the year, with many ups and downs.

6. The fact of the Iraqi elections should shift the focus of the broad anti-war movement, instead of the present attitudes of either denial or rosy optimism. The anti-war movement should consider calling for peace negotiations among all Iraqi parties, including the resistance, with a concrete promise of the US withdrawing its troops and ending the occupation as an incentive.

7. The fact that so many Democrats are opportunistic and retrograde is an opportunity for the anti-war movement to reach out to the Democratic rank-and-file and build pressure on the Democratic establishment, which is essential for maintaining public criticism of the Bush policies and for eventually ending funding for the war. When people say that political pressure is a waste of time, remind them of how pleased they were when Barbara Boxer and others challenged the nomination of Condoleeza Rice – due in part to the anti-war movement’s impact on public opinion.

7. Calls for defending the “heroic Iraqi resistance” are diversionary from the goals of ending the war and occupation. Calls for “out now” need to be reframed (not eliminated), because they do not address the confusion of the fence-sitting moderates who think the war is a mistake. The arguments for withdrawal and ending the privatization/occupation need to be argued in every possible forum, starting with hundreds of thousands of Move.on members.

8. Anti-war movements, on their largest scale, are short-term opportunities for Americans to learn something about the real nature of our country. Anti-war movements are a real opportunity for activists to build a long-term movement with a democratic, anti-Empire politics. So the anti-war movement really needs to ground itself in coalitions with working class military families, the working poor of the inner cities, labor households, draft-age youth, environmentalists concerned about renewable resources, etc. The anti-war movement completes domestic movements by putting everything about America in a global perspective.

9. The anti-war movement must awaken moral feelings, including shame and guilt, among millions of Americans if we are to succeed in ending the conflict and building a progressive movement. There is no more important moral issue to raise, therefore, than our tax dollars going for torture at Abu Ghraeb, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, the “extraordinary renditions”, etc.It is vital to American stability – on all levels - that our people are led to believe that the torturers are a few “bad apples”. The truth, which we must fight to being out, is that America’s global policies apparently cannot be carried out unless there are hidden torture chambers and totalitarian compartments in our national security institutions. It was true of the “Phoenix program” in South Vietnam, the “Operation Condor” in Latin America, and it is true today. For activists looking for an unconventional way to pressure Congress, one possibility would be to build Abu Ghraeb-style cages in front of their offices while leafleting for “no taxes for torture”.

10. Remember that 40 million Americans favor withdrawal and over twice that number think the war is unwarranted. This is no time for isolation, but a time for steady expansion.

Perhaps one has to be Irish, or another victim of the colonial experience, to understand that US policy in Iraq is a continuation of British policy in Iraq, policies of dominance that arise from the arrogance of empire, and depend on both military might and programmed amnesia for success. We are fighting against the military occupation of Iraq but also the Empire’s occupation of our minds.
(emphasis mine, paragraph numbering his)

You can read the rest of his post here.

I don't think Hayden has ever received full credit for being the profound thinker and eloquent writer that he deserves -- his book Reunion is one of the most provocative and influential books I have read, and I recommend it highly to anyone. I think the experience he speaks from offers us both wisdom and hope as we gird ourselves for the long battle to put an end to this war and the ahistorical political insanity that continues to inflict suffering on so many.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Pundits Putting it On the Line

Democratic Veteran has a Conservative Pundit Hall of Fame up, saluting all the Conservative Pundits who have enlisted and are in Iraq or Afghanistan now as members of the US Forces.

It If you can think of any, and I'm just CERTAIN they are out there, please let him know.

On the other hand, the ranks of the "101st Fighting Keyboardists," as Atrios likes to call them, are swelling.

Just a reminder -- this Saturday is the 2nd anniversary of the war in Iraq, and there will be many demonstrations taking place around the country. You can find out if there's one in your area by checking at United for Peace & Justice.

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


US Gives Big Texas Howdy to World

In what has to be one of the year's grandest acts of political irony, BushCo. has appointed Karen Hughes to be in charge of its international image clean-up campaign. Yes, the woman who helped craft the Administration's take-your-country-and-shove-it foreign relations policy is now responsible for turning the tide of virulent anti-American sentiment it has done so much to foster in recent years.

Leave it to BushCo. to dig up their very own version of Lizzie Grubman for this sensitive post. Sometimes you get the PR flack you deserve.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Breaking: Pigs Fly

Via Mustang Bobby, we learn that WaPo's Howard Kurtz finally admits that Fox news isn't, er, "fair and balanced."
In covering the Iraq war last year, 73 percent of the stories on Fox News included the opinions of the anchors and journalists reporting them, a new study says.

By contrast, 29 percent of the war reports on MSNBC and 2 percent of those on CNN included the journalists' own views. These findings -- the figures were similar for coverage of other stories -- "seem to challenge" Fox's slogan of "we report, you decide," says the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
On another day I might be tempted to file it under "no shit, Sherlock" and let it go at that. But I guess I'm not finished bitching about Faux News this week. I haven't read the 617 page report, but nobody with a lick of sense really needs to spend that much time determining that Fox delivers anything but "news" -- all it really takes is 5 odious minutes with, say, Shep Smith.

And how do all Fox broadcast personalities know to stay "on message"?
[A] Detroit News story last week called it "consciously biased" -- without attribution -- and quoted onetime Fox producer Dan Cooper as saying: "In the morning, everyone is told what today's key issues are and how those issues are viewed by Fox News. The entire staff understands how the organization feels about them."
The sad thing is that people really think that what Faux is presenting is news. People like several in my (extended) family, who will look at you with a straight face and tell you Faux is the most unbiased of all the networks. And they are, not surprisingly, people who just haven't had the type of education that fosters critical thinking and media awareness.

Which is just where David Horowitz and NCLB want everyone to be.

If you haven't seen the superb Robert Greenwald documentary Outfoxed, which exposes the media's "race to the bottom" lead by Faux News, I can't recommend it highly enough. If you are a teacher and want to use Outfoxed for a class, Robert will send you a copy for free if you drop him a note through his website here.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Darlene Hooley, Who Do You Work For?

Right now one of the most repugnant pieces of legislation yet crafted by the 109th Congress has already passed the Senate, and is now before the House. It has to do with the ability of an individual to declare bankruptcy, and it's a Republican love note to the credit card industry, bought and paid for by MBNA, the largest single contributor to the Republican party. It attempts to rewrite bankruptcy laws to reduce the protections afforded to consumers against predatory lending practices, and to increase the ability of corporations to collect from those consumers who are already suffering extreme financial hardship. In effect, it turns the federal government into an enforcer for loan-shark practices.

In the Senate, Democrats put forward several amendments to protect the most vulnerable amongst us from this bill. Republicans were successful in voting en mass to defeat all these amendments, including:

. An amendment to protect employees and retirees from corporate practices that deprive them of their earnings and retirement savings when a business files for bankruptcy - REJECTED.

. An amendment to limit the amount of interest that can be charged on any extension of credit to 30 percent - REJECTED.

. An amendment to preserve existing bankruptcy protections for individuals experiencing economic distress as caregivers to ill or disabled family members - REJECTED.

. An amendment to exempt debtors whose financial problems were caused by serious medical problems from means testing - REJECTED.

. An amendment to provide protection for medical debt homeowners - REJECTED.

. An amendment to require enhanced disclosure to consumers regarding the consequences of making only minimum required payments in the repayment of credit card debt, and for other purposes - REJECTED

. An amendment to provide a homestead floor for the elderly - REJECTED.

So who does stand to benefit from the new bill? Well, anyone who is rich enough to put their assets in a "protected trust," rendering them untouchable by bankruptcy laws. Democrats tried to close that loophole with an amendment, but once again the Republicans voted in a block and it was -- you guessed it -- REJECTED.

The bill now goes to the House. Several members of the New Democratic Coalition, including Oregonians David Wu and my Congresswoman, Darlene Hooley, have written a letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert, urging him to bring to bring the bill to the House floor as soon as possible. So I ask my question again, Congresswoman Hooley -- who do you work for?

Because on the surface of it, there is nothing in this bill that benefits her constituents. It is written by and for the benefit of credit card companies who want the right to charge exorbitant rates of interest, then take away the homes of old people when they get sick and can't pay. And Rep. Hooley is one of the co-sponsors of the bill. Does her obligation to her campaign contributors outweigh those she has to the people who voted for her? Because I'm one of those people.

Right now the bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Financial Services. Before it reaches the floor, I believe Rep. Hooley owes it to her constituents to come back to Oregon and explain her support of this bill in a public forum. Since her voting record is frequently progressive and admirable, I believe she should take this opportunity to let everyone who voted for her know exactly how we stand to gain by this piece of legislation.

You can contact Rep. Hooley via email, or at her office:

Washington, D.C.

2430 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-5711 phone
(202) 225-5699 fax

Salem, Oregon 
315 Mission Street SE #101
Salem, Oregon 97302
(503) 588-9100 phone
(503) 588-5517 fax

West Linn, Oregon
21570 Willamette Drive
West Linn, Oregon 97068
(503) 557-1324 phone
(503) 557-1981 fax

Toll Free  1(888) 446-6539

And for anyone who needs a brush-up on the most effective way to contact your representatives, you can find my earlier post on the subject here.


Monday, March 14, 2005

Top 10 Reasons Why the GOP Will Never Nominate Condi for President

1. She's a woman. As Maureen Dowd so eloquently states today in her column today, men don't like it when women tell them what to do. She's acceptable in her place as GWB's handmaiden, unquestioningly repeating his talking points on her march around the world. Finger on the bomb? I don't think so.

2. Right now, Hillary is the front runner for the Dems. If Hillary does run, one of the strongest things the GOP could have going for any candidate is the fact that they are NOT a woman, for all the reasons listed in (1) above. No matter how enlightened many Democrats may claim to be, deep down the idea of a woman president -- particularly Hillary -- is going to bug a lot of them. The GOP can't pull those votes if they run one, too.

3. Women and minorities do well in the GOP in large part because they reaffirm the basic prejudices of the base. If you hate and fear African Americans, you will be comforted by the presence of one in the GOP because they tell you that fear is justified and righteous by their very presence within an organization that seeks to limit their power and opportunities. You welcome their efforts toward that end, and they relieve you of the nagging worry that you just might be a racist. You do not value them because you really think they have anything to offer in and of themselves. I'm not saying African Americans within the GOP have nothing else to offer, but I don't think the base really cares about that. To hand over the ultimate reigns of power to an African American who is ALSO a woman not only goes against the grain of the Dixiecrat base the GOP has worked so hard to cultivate, it would also offend the affluent whites who would see this as Just Too Much.

4. She can't play golf at Augusta.

5. If she's running for President and not merely jousting with Barbara Boxer on CSPAN during a confirmation hearing, people will actually listen when Boxer outlines the litany of lies she told that led the US into the Iraq war.

6. They fear she might get lonely in the white house without her husband.

7. If the Middle East explodes and I don't mean in democracy, they've got to have somebody to scapegoat. Four years is a long time.

8. As FallenMonk notes, the Peter Principle could kick in. TBogg didn't call her the "Pia Zadora of the State Department" for nothing.

9. The paranoid wingers still aren't satisfied with her lack of answers about her relationship with Chinese spy Hua Di while working at Stanford. Add that to the allegations that she warned Willie Brown not to fly on 9/11 and it's a friggin' tin foil hat festival.

10. Lloyd Axelworthy. Okay, that might not be a reason. But it should be.

Update 1:00 pm: According to Bob Adams, whom I trust implicitly about these things, Condi actually can play golf at Augusta, she just can't be a member. So I guess I need a 10th reason. Kos says she should be banned for ignoring an intelligence report titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S" in the month leading up to 9-11.

Update 11:00 pm: We have a winner! Matt over at 1115 tells us that Condi describes herself as “mildly pro-choice” and “kind of libertarian” on abortion. That really is the kicker, isn't it?


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Why the Republicans Fear Hillary

Our own resident centrist reader, John Pearley Huffman, made mention the other day in the comments that he felt the Republicans deeply feared a Hillary Clinton run for the presidency in 2008. Eleanor Clift evidently felty the cosmic waves created by John's forray into the zeitgeist and yesterday published an article on the topic in Newsweek. So I asked John to elaborate on his thesis:
Here's the deal: Hillary is so far ahead of every other prospective Democratic Presidential candidate that she can afford to move to the right. Anyone else challenging her for the nomination has to run to the left in order to attract the attention of the party activists that dominate the early caucuses. Once they run left, it's easy for the Repulicans to stigmatize them as, naturally, leftists. And once they've been so tarred, they're essentially doomed in the general election.

Hillary is a ludicrously bright woman who has been nothing less than brilliant as a politician and as a Senator. She's hanging out with Republicans like John McCain in order innoculate herself against charges she's a leftist in the general election. While every other Democrat is preparing to run against other Democrats in the primaries, she's already running against the Republicans.

George W. Bush was able to run to the left of his hardcore Republican base during the 2000 election  -- and won because "compassionate conservative" sounded like "moderate" to the general electorate. Hillary Clinton will run to the right of her hardcore base as a (I'm making this term up) "Tough Progressive" and, if she's lucky, that will sound like "moderate" to the general electorate. In other words, Hillary Clinton is preparing to run for President using Karl Rove's proven playbook. And that's damned smart.

There are a lot of smart Republicans out there who can do the math: A Democrat perceived as a centrist will have a much easier time holding onto such states as Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania (Hillary's co-sponsoring a bill with Rick Santorum for God's sake!), and Florida.

And a Democrat who has already transcended most of the mud than can be flung at her as Hillary has, is going to be tough to smear. There isn't a charge anyone can throw at Hillary that won't sound like old news to the electorate. And there are no Swift Boat Veterans for Truth out there who can challenge her way-too-well known biography.

Hillary can win and the Republicans know it. And they also know that their pool of candidates doesn't look very strong at all. Bill Frist? He's a truly decent guy in his personal life, but a bland ideologue and lousy speechifier. John McCain? I'd vote for him in a heartbeat, but too many Republicans already hate him -- he may not be nominatable. Jed Bush? We're not a damned monarchy -- he may have to wait until '12 or '16 just to appear decent. Mitt Romney? Too liberal for Republicans to stomach.

The reason you hear any talk of Condoleezza Rice running for President is that she's nearly as strong as Hillary. The simmering "draft Condi" movement only exists because all the other alternatives are so unpleasant for the Republicans. And also because nominating both a woman and a black would presumably blunt the novelty of Hillary's gender and make inroads into the African-American voting bloc.

My take on Hillary is that she's not just cloaking herself in a veil of moderation for a strong run at the Presidency, but that she really has moderated over the years. She knows the limitations of Presidential power, she's been building great working relationships with Republicans in the Senate because she knows the coalitions are the only way to get things done. She's learned that its better to accept incremental progress on her agenda then being confrontational and achieving nothing. And she's grown to appreciate the sincerity and integrity of the people who oppose her on the issues. And she'll never mention the "vast right-wing conspiracy" ever again.

I don't think people are quite prepared for what we may have in three years: Two women battling for the White Hours and one of them an African-American. I'm a fan of both of them. And they may well be the two best-qualified, most intelligent Presidential candidates to face off against one another since... um... Dewey and Truman in '48? Lincoln and Douglas? Adams and Jefferson?
Personally? I like Hillary and hope she is electable. But I wouldn't bet the farm that the GOP, the party of white men, will put an African American woman on the head of he ticket. They may give her a VP nod, but I don't see them shooting a cruise missile through the glass ceiling like that. I'm not a Condi fan, and I think Hillary would take her to the woodshed, but bully for the GOP if they do it.

So what do you think of Hillary 2008? Let's hear it.