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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Unbelievable. Really.

NRA spelling bee

Mustang Bobby over at Bark Bark Woof Woof lets us know that the NRA has come up with a permanent solution to the whole Columbine/Red Lake problem: teachers should carry guns. No, I'm not kidding. Bobby notes:
The idea of giving a teacher a loaded weapon in a classroom boggles the mind, and not just from the safety issue of having a lethal weapon in proximity to kids or the question of the liability or training. I have been a teacher. The pressures in class to maintain discipline, keep to the lesson plan, follow through with the scope and sequence of a curriculum, and bear with the intense transference of emotional highs and lows from student to teacher and back again come together to create an amazing combination of forces that makes it dangerous to have a loose piece of chalk lying around, let alone a .38 caliber pistol. Teachers are too close to the edge as it is to leave them the option -- or even the glimmer of an idea -- that they could pull a gun on a misbehaving student. (In some schools, the teacher would be outgunned if they were carrying a .357 Magnum.)

The speed of light may be constant, but this proves that stupidity has no limits.
The wingers are really having a field day on the fringes of sanity this week, aren't they?

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Hell Hath No Fury Like a Wingnut Scorned

randall terry

I've just about reached my limit when it comes to blogging on the Terry Schiavo episode, although each day seems to bring some new low you just didn't think possible. Between the crazy distortions fueling the 24/7 news cycle (Media Matters really has its hands full) and the teetering heights of lunacy required to climb to the new pinnacle of the crap heap, you wonder where some people get the energy.

But the thing I can't get my head around is -- what exactly do they want, these people who are screaming about the "right to life?" I mean, yes, we all know they want the feeding tube put back in and for Terri to remain hooked up to it for the rest of her life, however long that may be. And I do understand that many people's concern is for this particular case. But all this emotion, all this rage -- it's got to have a larger context, and so far the right-to-lifers have failed to define one. How would they change existing law such that this never happens again? What exactly is wrong with the law and the process, that this ever occurred in the first place?

Are they asking that in the absence of a living will, that extraordinary measures always be used to keep everyone alive? I'm not sure, maybe that's what the Catholics and the fundies in the base believe, but it sure as hell ain't what the GOP leadership wants. The cost to insurance companies and Medicare would be astronomical. Which is why GWB signed the bill that ultimately cut off the respirator and lead to the death of that baby boy in Texas -- even though the mother desperately wanted extraordinary measures used to keep the boy alive, the state was unwilling to pick up the tab.

So now they are railing about "activist judges" and courts. Which is pretty much where the GOP has pointed them -- the current Republican Congress has been steadily trying to erode the power of the judiciary for some time. Now, we'll pretend for a moment that it was one lone activist judge and not 19 who heard the case. Would they like to take away the right to judicial review? In which case Terri's parents would never have had the right to challenge the husband's decision in the matter, since the law as written gives the responsibility for the decision first to the spouse, then to adult children, and finally to parents. Fine, so you want to take the courts out of it. Who is going to decide in cases where there is a dispute? You think Congress is going to re-convene in the middle of the night every time someone wants to pull a respirator plug? Not bloody likely.

Do they want all parents to be given equal say with spouses? Nobody really seems to be asking for that -- giving multiple people responsibility for such decisions would be a pretty damned good way to make sure all these mattes wind up in court, and that seems to be counter-productive with what they're complaining about in the above. Do they want extraordinary measures to be used every time there is a dissenting physician who can be found who will say that there is some hope of recovery? That would be pretty ironic, given the general contempt for science on the part of most fundies and the fact that a couple hundred bucks can buy just about anyone a medical opinion saying just about anything. I haven't heard that argument being roundly touted, either.

No, every time they try and tie the rage over Terri to larger issues, it winds up lassoed to something completely tangential -- Peggy Noonan, the Wall Street Journal's drooling Jesus loon in residence, manages to sling the Terri matter around spousal abuse, drilling for oil in Alaska, saving the whales and even PETA, but ultimately it all sounds like the syphilitic ravings of a Bedlam resident.

I think it's actually in the interest of the DeLays and the Frists of the world to keep the whole thing in the land of extreme emotion and utter nonsense. Because once they start talking about realistic change to the existing system that actually WOULD keep more people alive and for longer, the rift between the big business-oriented GOP and their damn-the-expense base is going to be explosive. Fortunately for the leadership, the base has repeatedly proven itself unable to articulate any meaningful questions that would expose this potential schism, and has willingly allowed itself to be aimed at any convenient target in need of a good excoriation on that particular day.

But it looks like the party may be coming to an ugly, angry close. The night is over, the drugs are gone and the unforgiving light of day is hitting everyone in the face. Pro-lifer Randall Terry was on CNN yesterday, saying that the GOP will have "hell to pay" for cynically using the pro-life movement if they don't "save" Terri, accusing them of using the religious right to gain power and then doing nothing for them once they get there.

And you know what? For once I think he's right on the money.

Update: Wolcott lets us know that Charles Krauthammer is trying to feed the beast:
Not even waiting until Terri Schiavo is dead, he proposes Terri's Law to prevent future tugs of war over no-hope cases.

The column rises above Krauthammer's standard of bilious character-assassination. For once, he seems to have put his sneer in the denture cup to let it rinse. But the conservative agenda is still secure in place. "There is no good outcome to this case. Except perhaps if Florida and the other states were to amend their laws and resolve conflicts among loved ones differently — by granting authority not necessarily to the spouse but to whatever first-degree relative (even if in the minority) chooses life and is committed to support it. Call it Terri's law. It would help prevent our having to choose in the future between travesty and tragedy.
Let's just be clear here. Big GOP contributors in the insurance industry? Happy as a clam with a right-to-lifer agenda that means they don't have to pay for abortions. But picking up hundreds of millions (if not billions) in extraordinary measures tabs? Mmmmm...not so happy.


Friday, March 25, 2005

The Elvis of Stupid Has Arrived

From Time Magazine:

Tom DeLay: "It Is More Than Just Terri Schiavo"
Transcript: The embattled House Majority Leader finds parallels between Terri Schiavo's case and his own

I.... words fail me.

(Via Wanda at words on a page)

Update 11:21 am - Roy Edroso found some words: "The secret to DeLay's success (besides his affiliation with the eerie "Family" Jesus cult, I mean) is his shamelessness. Really, one would like applaud. That's how *I* would play it if I were toe-tally ee-vil! The references to LBJ and George Soros are precious. How did he leave out Michael Moore?"

Update 11:25 am - Steve Gilliard lets us know that Ralph Nader has now entered the Terri fray, calling on food and water to be fed to her by mouth. Because, you know, nobody thought of trying that before, they just carved a hole in her throat and started feeding her by a tube because -- well, just for kicks.

Moron. She can't swallow. Trying to feed her by mouth, despite all the pay-as-you-go quackery to the contrary, would kill her. Nader showed during the last election that there was no bottom to the shamelessness he would display in his grasp for the limelight, even taking wingnut dollars to finance his pathetic loser of a campaign in 2004.

This freak show only seems to accelerate.

Update 12:25 pm - Wolcott: "George Bush thought he was going to spend his political capital on privatizing Social Security. History may show that it was spent and squandered on one plane flight from Crawford, Texas to Washington, DC to sign a bill that had no business being signed, or passed, or even proposed. If the latest poll numbers are indicative, he may have lame-ducked himself with one foolish, headstrong sweep of the presidential pen."

Update 7:55 pm - Fallenmonk asks the question -- who's paying for all this? Turns out the fight to keep Terri alive is being financed by the same people who funded the witch hunt of the Clintons -- Scaife, Coors et. al. Lovely.


American Women and Maturing Islam

One of our favorite blogs is Dove's Eye View, where Leila Au-Saba writes about a lot of events and subjects that aren't normally covered in the blogosphere, and she does so from the perspective of an Arab-American woman. Recently she wrote about Muslim WakeUp!, an organization devoted to progressive Muslim thought. Comprised of a group of activists, journalists and scholars, they are encouraging women to lead services in mosques, breaking with the centuries-old tradition whereby women and men are separated during prayer and the role of prayer leader is reserved for males only.

As someone who has lived through the growth and adaptation of Japanese Zen Buddhism as it made its way to American soil and watched the subsequent challenges that it faced as its traditions were passed down from Japanese spiritual leaders to their American successors, I recognize a lot of the same growing pains in Islam at the moment. Zen had a pretty patriarchal history in Japan, and interestingly it wasn't until women started taking their place in leadership positions in American Zen that they began to also assume those roles in Japan.

There's a good article in the New York Times about the topic of Islam maturing in America that Leila links to. Sadly, there's been a lot of loud and active resistance to the efforts of Muslim WakeUp! and others to develop an American Islam, and when I went to their web site it had been hacked and their servers taken down. So hit the PayPal button if you can and help them out -- and check out Leila's site, it's always thought provoking and well-written, with a lot of insight into the rich world of Middle Eastern literature that gets covered all too infrequently in the Western press.

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Make the Bastards Work For It

One of the most nefarious clauses of the odious No Child Left Behind act requires that if your child is in the public school system, your private information must be turned over to recruiters for the purpose of luring him or her into a stint as cannon fodder for the military industrial complex. That is, unless you officially opt out.

The Military Free Zone supplies an Opt Out form that you can download as a PDF and fill out to provide to your Principal or school administrator, requesting that your name, address and telephone number not be released to armed forces, military recruiters or military schools.

Just Say No to the literal telemarketers from hell.

(Via LJ's Blogorific)


Thursday, March 24, 2005

"West Wing" Develops Science Fiction Sub-Plot

I was watching tonight's episode of The West Wing where Alan Alda plays the Republican Presidential nominee who is pro-choice, wants to cut spending by $2 for every $1 cut from the budget as a means of balancing it, makes a deal for a fair minimum wage because it's the right thing to do, and dresses down right wing fundamentalists for being political hypocrites, and I'm thinking to myself, what the hell world does John Wells live in that he thinks this is a Republican?

There is a considerable amount of nostalgia about these days for old-style Republicans, and perhaps the Alda character is an homage to this. But as Ben Regenspan over at Calyzer Journal notes, it may be a nostalgia for something that never was. He writes this time about a Seattle PI article entitled What Ever Happened to Real Republicans?:
When I was a boy, Republicans cherished personal liberty. Creating secret no-fly lists and spy-on-your-neighbor programs, turning medical records over to police, holding people without trial in hidden military compounds, saying it's legal to torture them -- that's how we thought only Communists would behave.
As convenient as the "they're not real conservatives" argument is for our side, I'm having trouble identifying any grounding in reality behind the "When I was a boy..." sentiment found in this and other 'Republican nostalgia' writings. The guy is holding up Barry "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice" Goldwater as an example of the pre-'spy-on-your-neighbor' conservative; Goldwater, who, while preaching the anti-interventionist line (sound familiar?), simultaneously argued for intervention against powerful labor unions, journalists who exposed secret arms shipments to mujahideen (NYT), "un-American" student journalists,etc., while defending McCarthy's witch-hunts. While it is clear that the basic principles of conservatism are being violated by the modern-day Republican party, I have trouble seeing Goldwater Republicans as an example of these elusive rightwing virtues either.
I guess the Alda character has passed through the filter of the "liberal media" and came out as a member of a party who would never, ever celebrate him. If the GOP gave a wild crap about who was popular with their membership, John McCain would've been the nominee in 2000. But they're in the business of dictating to their base, not listening to it, and I'd be better off watching that insufferable Kevin Sorbo show Andromeda or whatever it's called if I want something more grounded in reality.


Brazen Women Blogging Plug

Elayne Riggs is having an official Estrogen/Women in Blogging month. I am going to be a bit shameless at this moment and ask for recommendations to join her blog roll! I really like the things she covers a lot, and without women supporting other women bloggers and making some noise the boys who dominate this media would never acknowledge us at all. So if you like what you read here, please click over to Elayne's site here, and let her know! And if you don't like it -- well, thanks for stopping by anyway, constructive comments always appreciated.


Bringing the World Together

12th Harmonic has a great photo essay going, graphically showing how George Bush has united the world. This is just a small portion:


Sao Paulo


They also have a new radio show. Check out Volume One, "War is a Racket." Check 'em out!


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Terry Schiavo and the Imminent Danger of Bill Frist

choir director for the rapture

Our friends over at the excellent blog Gotham Image have these words about the ambitious Senate Majority Leader, Dr. Bill Frist, who has repeatedly lurched this week into the spotlight over the Terry Schiavo case:
Whenever you see him slime someone, say something scandalously dishonest or disingenuous, or just plain nasty, take note what venue he does this in. Usually it is from floor of the United States Senate.

Civics lesson: Read this link, because Frist and his aides know about this.

This is not an accident. Frist is well aware of what is contained in the above link. Also, reader of polls that he must be, he must know that his constituents are unaware of such things. The floor of the United States Senate has legal protection. You can say anything!

Frist cannot be sued for libel or slander for anything he says on the floor.

Don't think he did not know this when he went after Richard Clark for being a whistleblower. It now seems just about everything Frist said about Clark has been proven false. Has Frist apologized?

Further, one of the scabby media-ific attack he made on Clark, was that Clark was just trying to sell books. Interestingly, Frist himself had just published a nauseating book about himself.


Physician, heal thyself!

So, this is why I took note of Frist today.

Frist to the well of the Senate and diagnosed Terri Schiavo as not being in a vegetative state.

Frist made this 'diagnosis' on the basis of some old videotape. Frist is not a brain doctor, but he is smart enough to know that he can use the image of his MD to make 'the base' think that Frist knows what he is talking about. They want to believe him. They want to believe he is honest. In this case, Frist is like someone with a PhD in Phys. Ed, calling himself "Doctor" to sell supplements or bogus impotence pills.

Will Frist's medical license be revoke for such quackery? See the above link about congressional immunity.

Frist was very careful not to pull this stunt while congress was not in session. Frist was also careful to insert a few qualifying sotto voce doubts, for pundits ears, but phrased in a way that would go over the head of his targeted audience - people he thinks of as the worthy rabblement.

Why is a character like Frist, who never showed much care about unnecessary and accidentally death in Mesopotamia, with no WMD found, now trying to show his 'concern' about Terri Schiavo and the culture of life?

Will this 'excite the base' (Another example of their Marxian style use of propaganda to properly direct the wrath of the 'proletariat' for revolutionary purposes) as this memo illuminates as the reason for action this day.

Make sure to read the memo contained therein- it's a 'cookie full of arsenic.' Linda Douglas of ABC deserves great credit for ferreting it out of the rat's cage.

This memo suggests the Republicans in DC think of Schiavo not as human being, but as an idée fixe.

The DC Republicans, not ordinary people, insincerely claim to be her ally. The DC Republicans view her as modern equivalent of those 'socialist realist' posters the Soviets used to motivate the masses.

That's just sick, because many of us have mixed feelings about the case. We have no idea who to believe.

In fact, we think that many people now have sided with Schiavo's husband over the parents because common sense suggests that if Frist, Delay, and Bush are one side, prudence suggests taking the other side.
I find Frist really frightening myself. He has an odd habit of smiling at inappropriate times, and by his own admission lied to the SPCA and adopted cats so he could experiment on them and kill them. The DMS-IV definition of an antisocial personality disorder, or APD (which was previously known as the psychopathic or sociopathic personality disorder) includes both of these characteristics, in addition to glibness and superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, conning and manipulation, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow affect and failure to accept responsibility for one's own actions. It is estimated that 3% of all adult males suffer from this disorder, and every time I see Frist on TV I wind up betting dollars to donuts he's one of them.

I think he's dangerous as hell. And for all of the above reasons, we should all be very, very afraid that he's one of the frontrunners for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. I know this country's got some messed up karma, but I really tremble to think we deserve that.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The American Way of Death

Paul Klee, "Death and Fire," 1940 (painted shortly before his death)

Roy over at Alicublog (one of my daily must-reads, and one of the best blogs on the net) had this to say about the Terri Schiavo affair:
I recently talked to a fellow whose aged, infirm mother passed on last year. At one point the woman was hovering between life and death, and the doctors had a talk with her son: we can probably revive her, they said, but she will certainly be brain dead and unable to breathe on her own. No heroic measures were taken, and the woman died peacefully.

This sort of thing -- for those of our readers unacquainted with life as it is lived by actual human beings -- goes on all the time.

Of course, but for an accident of timing, hordes of imbeciles might have forced Congress into an extraordinary session to get the mother on a respirator, or denounced the son as a murderer, or explained that the moral superiority of persistent vegetative states was proven by their childhood reaction to a "Star Trek" episode.

At the moment the American people seem to recognize what a lot of bullshit this whole Schiavo case is. But what they think hardly matters. The Republicans, flush with power, know that they can get away with a lot right now, and so are quickly handing out candy to their most powerful interest groups. The banks and financial companies got their turn with the Bankruptcy Bill, the oil companies got theirs with ANWR; now the Jesus Freaks are getting some play.
I thought it was nice way to bring the whole affair back down to the personal, and I'm reminded of the two people I know who have died with the assistance of Hospice, an organization that offers care to approximately 500,000 of the 2.3 million people who die in the US each year. When you sign on to Hospice, you must be diagnosed with less than 6 months to live, and agree not to have any exceptional measures taken to sustain you -- and that includes feeding tubes, IVs or respirators.

As a result, one of my friends who had cancer of the digestive tract actually died of starvation; the other, who eventually grew too weak to breathe, died of suffocation. It's my understanding that these are fairly common ways for hospice patients to die. Now, Terri Schiavo didn't have the opportunity to officially and personally agree to these terms, it's true. But I think that all of the people who are upset that removing her feeding tube is some sort of cruel and unusual death might want to take it up with the Hospice people. My experience with their program is that they are one of the most compassionate and supportive organizations in the world.


Monday, March 21, 2005

The Passion of the Joe

Joe Lieberman finally came down on the right side of something -- he voted against drilling in Alaska. But like a drunken frat boy swaying on the balcony, he just can't pass up the chance to piss on his own party. When Democrat Mary Landrieu, who has supported drilling for years, predictably voted in favor of it once more, Joe said "I was disappointed. I felt it personally."

I was disappointed too, Joe. But maybe you could have taken a swipe at Santorum? Or Specter? As Archpundit points out, "No, you had to complain about the Democrat who has been consistent. As wrong as she is, you couldn't help the Party out, but instead had to take pressure off Republicans who should have been held to account?"

Predictably, Joe takes a knock at the Democrat, without bothering to note that it is the underlying Republican policy that is the source of this irresponsibly evil mess.

Kudos to the GOP members who didn't vote for the giant corporate handout:

- Chafee, R.I.;
- Coleman, Minn.;
- Collins, Maine;
- DeWine, Ohio;
- McCain, Ariz.;
- Smith, Ore.;
- Snowe, Maine

BTW, Gordon Smith is one of my Senators here in Oregon, where environmentalism is a big concern. He also was the chief sponsor of the motion to strip all the proposed Medicaid cuts from next year's $2.6 trillion budget last week, which passed by a close 52-48. Smith has to run again in 2006, and it's curious to me that he and many other of the Republicans up for election in 2006 are trying to distance themselves from much of the draconically cruel GOP agenda. Doesn't sound like they feel all that secure with the notion of a "mandate," either.

(Photo by Pawel Sobocinski, courtesy of Stock.xchng)


Sunday, March 20, 2005

Pig Pile on DeLay?

Two months ago we reported that Tom DeLay, unhappy about being censured not one but three times by the bi-partisan House Ethics Committee, had his marionette Dennis Hastert replace the committee's remarkably uncooperative Republican chairman, Joel Hefley of Colorado. DeLay also had two other recalcitrant Republican members of the committee replaced with two Reps who had contributed money to his own legal defense fund. At the time we offered up our prayers for the instigation of the Republican circular firing squad, 'cos Hefley was righteously pissed.

And we are pleased to report that God came through on this one. Per the Upper Left we learn that Hefley has signed on as one of the co-sponsors of a bill put forward by Rep. Alan Mollohan (W-VA), the ranking Democrat on the ethics committee, to repeal or revise changes that the Republican leaders made to the committee's procedure at the start of this congressional session. More than 190 House Dems have signed on as co-sponsors since that time, although so far only one other Republican -- Christopher Shays (R-Conn) -- had done so.

It's a GIANT slap in the face to DeLay, and it's expected to provide political cover for other GOPers who might be thinking that support of the dyspeptically corrupt DeLay is turning into a giant stinking turd of liability in the upcoming election.

Hefley was the only Repug who voted for Nancy Pelosi's resolution yesterday calling for Hastert to appoint a bipartisan task force to look into the House ethics procedures. But lest anyone want to put him on a white horse, it should be noted that Hefley voted for the changes in the procedures when the vote came up early in the session; his change of heart seems to have coincided with getting the boot from the chairmanship by Hastert.

I'm thinking maybe God wound up with the same bellyache the rest of us did when DeLay stood up as a self-appointed pillar of morality in the Terry Schiavo affair this week and finally said "enough is enough."