Saturday, September 09, 2006

Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D., Lt. Col. USAF (ret.) takes on Legion speeches

Let's summarize: Using dubious information and a whole lot of propaganda, we launched the destructive power of the world's most expensive and deadliest military on extremely weak fourth rate Middle Eastern countries of narrowly perceived strategic value in the name of promoting "democracy."

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John Kerry on National Security

Apparently he's ditched the gutless wonders who advised him in the last election.

Leadership means talking with countries who aren't our friends. It means engaging directly when our vital national security interests are at stake -- even with countries that we strongly disagree with -- because treating dialogue as a means rather than an end can help us achieve our goals. As John Kennedy once said, "we must never negotiate out of fear but we must never fear to negotiate." If Richard Nixon could send Henry Kissinger to China, surely George Bush can send a real negotiating team to North Korea. If Ronald Reagan could talk to the evil empire, surely we can talk with Iran or Syria.

We must start treating our moral authority as a precious national asset that does not limit our power but magnifies our influence. Only this week did the Administration finally recognize that the protections of the Geneva Convention had to be applied to prisoners in order to comply with the law, restore our moral authority, and best protect American troops. Let me say it plainly: No American president should be for torture before he's against it1.

Anyone who understood the conflict we face could never shrug off the imperative of winning the hearts and minds of Muslim moderates.

We must start leading by example. We should never engage in or excuse violations of basic human rights. We must uphold the rule of law in our own conduct. And we should never accept official lying by our leaders. No White House should ever bully the Director of the CIA to make a case he knows isn't true -- and no White House should reward it with the Medal of Freedom.

To restore our credibility with moderates in the Muslim world and to safeguard Israel's place in the world, we must renew the search for a lasting peace in the Middle East. We know from the hard lessons of the past that it won't be easy. But we know from the disasters of the present that it is essential.

I've outlined five specific steps to make our nation safer which I believe stand in stark contrast to the Republicans' failed policies.

So let's have a real debate. Let's give all of us -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- a real "accountability moment" this November.

1: Flip. Flop. Ouch. Who says liberals ain't funny?

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Friday, September 08, 2006

John Ensign Bio

Do you ever find yourself yelling at some political ad or useless product demonstration>
demonstrates how that dream can come true!
Nevada Up North

Mark Fiore : What you are supposed to remember and what you are supposed to forget...

America Remembers Again 9/6/06

Text of the Clinton letter to Disney

September 1, 2006

Dear Bob,

As you know, ABC intends to air a two part miniseries, “The Path to 9/11,” which purports to document the events leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. ABC claims that the show is based on the 9/11 Commission Report and, as Steve McPherson, President of ABC Entertainment, has said: “When you take on the responsibility of telling the story behind such an important event, it is absolutely critical that you get it right.”

By ABC’s own standard, ABC has gotten it terribly wrong. The content of this drama is factually and incontrovertibly inaccurate and ABC has a duty to fully correct all errors or pull the drama entirely. It is unconscionable to mislead the American public about one of the most horrendous tragedies our country has ever known.

Despite several requests to view the miniseries, we have not been given the courtesy of seeing it. This is particularly troubling given the reputation of Cyrus Nowrasteh, the drama’s writer/producer. Mr. Nowrasteh has been criticized for inaccurately portraying historical events in the past. In response to previous criticism, he has even said, “I made a conscious effort not to contact any members of the Administration because I didn’t want them to stymie my efforts.” Indeed, while we have not been given the courtesy of a viewing, based upon reports from people who have seen the drama you plan to air, we understand that there are at least three significant factual errors:

-- The drama leads viewers to believe that National Security Advisor Sandy Berger told the CIA that he would not authorize them to take a shot at bin Laden. This is complete fiction and the event portrayed never happened. First of all, the 9/11 Commission Report makes clear that CIA Director George Tenet had been directed by President Clinton and Mr. Berger to get bin Laden (p. 199 & 508-509). Secondly, Roger Cressy, National Security Council senior director for counterterrorism from 1999-2001, has said, on more than one occasion, “Mr. Clinton approved every request made of him by the CIA and the U.S. military involving using force against bin Laden and al-Qaeda.”

In addition, ABC’s own counter-terrorism consultant, Richard Clarke, has said that contrary to the movie:

1) No US military or CIA personnel were on the ground in Afghanistan and saw bin Laden;

2) The head of the Northern Alliance, Masood, was nowhere near the alleged bin Laden camp and did not see bin Laden; and

3) CIA Director Tenet said that he could not recommend a strike on the camp because the information was single-sourced and there would be no way to know if bin Laden was in the target area by the time a cruise missile hit it.

As Clarke and others will corroborate, President Clinton did in fact approve of a standing plan to use Afghans who worked for the CIA to capture bin Laden. The CIA’s Afghan operatives were never able to carry out the operation and the CIA recommended against inserting Agency personnel to do it. The Department of Defense, when asked by President Clinton to examine the use of US troops to capture bin Laden, also recommended against that option.

-- The drama claims that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright refused to sanction a missile strike against bin Laden without first alerting the Pakistanis and notified them over the objections of the military. Again, this is false.

-- Using newsreel footage of President Clinton, the drama insinuates that President Clinton was too pre-occupied with the impeachment and the Lewinsky matter to be engaged in pursuing bin Laden. This allegation is absurd and was directly refuted by ABC News consultant Richard Clarke in his book, Against All Enemies: “Clinton made clear that we were to give him our best national security advice without regard to his personal problems. ‘Do you recommend that we strike on the 20th? Fine. Do not give me political advice or personal advice about the timing. That’s my problem. Let me worry about that.’ If we thought this was the best time to hit the Afghan camps, he would order it and take the heat.”

While these are three examples that we are aware of that are utterly baseless, they are clearly indicative of other errors in the substance and bent of the film. Indeed, the overall tone in the advertisements we’ve seen for this drama suggest that President Clinton was inattentive to the threat of terrorism or insufficiently intent upon eliminating the threat from bin Laden. Note that the 9/11 Commission Report says:

-- We believe that both President Clinton and President Bush were genuinely concerned about the danger posed by al Qaeda.” (p. 349)

-- “By May 1998 … clearly, President Clinton’s concern about terrorism had steadily risen.” (p. 102)

-- “President Clinton was deeply concerned about bin Laden. He and his national security advisor, Samuel ‘Sandy’ Berger, ensured they had a special daily pipeline of reports feeding them the latest updates on bin Laden’s reported location.” (p. 175)

-- “President Clinton spoke of terrorism in numerous public statements. In his August 5, 1996, remarks at George Washington University, he called terrorism ‘the enemy of our generation.’” (p. 500)

We challenge anyone to read the 9/11 Commission Report and find any basis for the false allegations noted above or the tenor of the drama, which suggests that the Clinton Administration was inattentive to the threat of a terrorist strike.

Frankly, the bias of the ABC drama is not surprising given the background and political leanings of its writer/producer, Mr. Nowrasteh, which have been well-documented on numerous conservative blogs and talk shows in his promotion of this film. Mr. Nowrasteh’s bias can be seen in an interview he gave to David Horowitz’s conservative magazine Frontpage, during which he said:

"The 9/11 report details the Clinton’s administration’s response – or lack of response – to Al Qaeda and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests. The worst example is the response to the October, 2000 attack of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen where 17 American sailors were killed. There simply was no response. Nothing."

But as Sandy Berger told the 9/11 Commission: “[T]o go to war, a president needs to be able to say that his senior intelligence and law enforcement officers have concluded who is responsible.” And as the 9/11 Commission report repeatedly acknowledges, the US did not have clear evidence of bin Laden’s connection to the attack on the USS Cole before the end of the Clinton Administration (p. 192, 193, 195 & executive summary).

While ABC is promoting “The Path to 9/11” as a dramatization of historical fact, in truth it is a fictitious rewriting of history that will be misinterpreted by millions of Americans. Given your stated obligation to “get it right,” we urge you to do so by not airing this drama until the egregious factual errors are corrected, an endeavor we could easily assist you with given the opportunity to view the film.


Bruce R. Lindsey

Chief Executive Officer

William J. Clinton Foundation

Douglas J. Band

Counselor to President Clinton

Office of William Jefferson Clinton

Cc: Ms. Madeleine K. Albright

Mr. Samuel R. Berger

Mr. Richard A. Clarke

Mr. Stephen McPherson

Mr. George J. Mitchell

Mr. John D. Podesta

Mr. David Westin

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States

Man. that is right up there with a polite letter from the IRS, or the Center for Disease Control.

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New poll says most Canadians blame U.S. for 9/11 attacks

A majority of Canadians believe U.S. foreign policy was one of the root causes that led to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and Quebecers are quicker to criticize the U.S. administration for its international actions than other Canadians, a recent poll suggests.

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"Path to 9/11" director connected with evangelical Christians.

The director of ABC's controversial "Path to 9/11" docudrama has ties to an evangelical Christian group whose goals include "transform[ing] Hollywood from the inside out,"

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Americans, Blame Clinton News

The Blogosphere is abuzz about ABC and Disney putting out a "Docudrama" about the events leading up to 9/11 that seem to be the attempt of "the victors waiting history" before the victory is actually certain.

It is, if descriptions of certain scenes are to be taken as accurate, untruthful to the point of actually defaming certain persons within the Clinton Administration.

I use the term "Defame" in the very legal, "You will get your ass sued and LOSE if you air this," sense because that was the direct impression conveyed by rather pointed objections made by Sandy Berger, Madelaine Allbright, The Clinton Foundation on behalf of Bill Clinton - and their lawyers.

Indeed, if the descriptions are true - and I'm neither conservative enough, nor important enough to have been given an advance copy - the lapses from the truth were examples of such wildly wishful thinking on the part of the creator as to depict a complete alternate universe.

You know, the same alternate universe in which the Earth is square, George Bush is a foresightful, competent and articulate defender of our constitution and the rights of all Americans, whether black, Latino, gay, straight, male, female, rich or poor, and in which when taxes are lowered for the rich, their bodily wastes are transformed into manna to trickle down upon the masses huddled below.

The blogosphere seems particularly abuzz over here at Think Progress, where the trolls are out in force. I was moved to leave a comment and the comment became a post... so I repost it here.

It seems to me that some folks are confused about the necessary distinction between fact and fiction, truth and lies.
A thing is not true because you wish it to be true. It is not a lie because you wish it were a lie. A thing is true, or it is not true, and if you cannot understand that basic foundation of discussion and debate, you deserve to be heckled out of the public arena.

This is as true for ABC as it is for any individual commentator who says "Ah got a RIGHT to my opinion." To quote Harlan Ellison - a terrifyingly blunt critic of media since the seventies, by the way - "You don't have a right to an opinion, you have a right to an INFORMED opinion."

Or in other words, arguments based on ignorance, wishful thinking and sheer prejudice have no validity, no matter how hard you jump up and down and hold your breath.

To illustrate the difference, and the importance of the difference: in Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore ambushed Charlton Heston. To do that, he represented himself - factually - as an NRA member. He did not introduce himself as a "Liberal Filmmaker" - and if Heston was ignorant of that, well, there's a "failure of intelligence" for you. But the questions he asked of Heston, while pointed, were utterly legitimate:

"Why did you feel it was important to hold a rally in support of gun ownership in that city, just after the killings at Columbine? Didn't it occur to you as being possibly insensitive?"

It should not have been a difficult question to answer, had Heston any compelling reason, or had he even thought about it for five minutes. After all, it's his job to answer questions like that. Instead, he had a hissy fit about being treated "disrespectfully" and stomped off.

That behavior in response to a completely legitimate question is a fact. It's not a very pretty fact, and it allows one to question the motives of the NRA in doing what they did. And surely it furthered Michal Moore's agenda in including that "disrespectful" footage.

But it was not "a lie." It was not a misrepresentation, either, unless you wish to suggest that Heston himself "misrepresents" the NRA and interests of US Gun owners.

Likewise, in Fahrenheit 9/11, the most devastating points are made by the very people crying (or having others cry) "liar, liar!"

But these were not "fictionalized;" Moore indulged in some arguably tacky stunts, like cornering legislators to hand them Army recruitment fliers and ask them if they were encouraging their own children to sign up for the war.

The results were, of course, predictable and hilarious. They were also real, factual, not contrived, not made up.

Of course, you can be sure that no reaction that did not fit his agenda hit the cutting room floor and was subsequently shredded with extreme prejudice. But then, he wasn't pretending to present an "objective" vision.

ABC went further, claiming, initially the twin virtues of Objectivity and Factual Accuracy. Both of those assertions turned out to be - what's the word?

Ah, yes. "Lies."

Both Michael Moore's work and this particular excrescence may be accurately called "propaganda," in that they attempt to persuade you to hold one view of reality over another. The distinction here is that Moore's is "White Propaganda" - which relies on telling inconvenient truths and ABC's propaganda is of the Black variety, relying on getting you to accept at least one critical lie.

As to why the Liberal propagandist can use facts with such telling effect, while the Conservative propagandist must resort to fibs of such magnitude, I leave to the reader as an individual exercise.

But I will point out that no self-respecting or competent propagandist, black OR white, is foolish enough to craft a lie so easily disproved, unless they honestly believe that their "base" will actively prefer the lie to the truth.

That means, dear conservative commentators, that ABC, George W. Bush and his ilk all think that you are as gullible and unaware of the outside world as any preschooler.

You are being lied to, and in lying so blandly and baldly, they show you even less respect than the liberals they call "traitors." Meanwhile, the hysterical equations of non-equivalents are as persuasive to real Grownups as any three-year old whining to the effect of "It's Billy's fault" or "Billy did it TOO!"

THESE are the heirs of Barry Goldwater and Teddy Roosevelt? What an excruciating embarrassment for our nation, that our very government hasn't the wit or the will to be persuasive to anyone with an IQ that exceeds tepid water or ethics that would challenge a rutting goat!

Not that I have a strong opinion on the topic, or anything like that.

I was further moved to leave this comment on ABC's Blog. We shall see if it appears or not.

Dear Mr. Disney, and the rest of this Micky Mouse operation:

It would seem to me, as a journalist and an ethicist that it would be both first and second nature for an organization claiming similar values to be routinely and scrupulously certain that a movie launched on such a significant date would cause distress to none, be impeccably accurate, and could by no means be mistaken by wild-eyed partisans as being politically motivated.

Instead, it seems that such a conclusion is nearly unavoidable, based on the "rushes" you provided Rush Limbaugh - and pointedly NOT to Mr Clinton nor to Sandy Berger.

Indeed, it seems likely to me that the versions provided were intended to be a final edit, and that hints of corrections are desperate afterthoughts contrived in haste and confusion.

It seems telling to me that a person could be so utterly partisan that they cannot even consider the possibility of rational, reasoned objections to scenes the director himself casually admits were "improvised."

One does not casually "Improvise" a critical scene that reflects upon the reputation of a living person. Ask ANY non-disbarred lawyer, Sir. They will concur on this point, that you have just placed your tenderest parts within their grasp, trusting them not to squeeze.

I do not recall Mr. Limbaugh contributing much to the run-up to 9/11, so it seems the choice of Mr. Limbaugh as a "reality check" to ensure against inaccuracy to be odd. But whatever his qualifications on the matter, he, along with most of the others first given access, is a noted conservative media personality.

It's certainly unfortunate that, in giving review copies only to conservatives, you have, perhaps unintentionally, given the impression that this is a work of black propaganda in the model of Allen Dulles.

And, in giving the impression that you expected every conservative to find the movie unobjectionable despite such glaring errors, you may well have given occasion of insult and distress to sincere, fair-minded Conservatives.

I'm sure, of course, that allegations spreading around that ABC is an anagram for CIA is wildly exaggerated, possibly even the sort of "Internet rumor" the "Clinton had him but let him go" meme turned out to be. It would be more easily dismissed, of course, were this movie not so exquisitely timed so that it creates an impression prior to an election, while allowing enough time for the exact source of that impression to be lost.

And, of course, it would definitely help if it were true.

But of course, in the worlds of media, politics and, indeed, within the shadowy realm of espionage and psychological operations, impressions count for more than reality, and I'm afraid that this miscalculation has created negatives of perception both for ABC and the current administration far in excess of whatever "redeeming social value" it might have merited, if aired after the midterm election.

And, well, if you thought it your genuine duty as a news and entertainment organization to bring matters of vital importance to the American people, as is arguably the duty of the Fifth Estate, it would be well were those matters factual, verifiable and provable beyond a reasonable doubt.

Anything less is a disservice to your credibility, and of course, Mr. Disney and the various other officials of ABC, does reflect upon your personal honor and truthfulness.

This is, of course, why journalists have historically hewed as closely to the truth as possible. It serves both as an infallible guide to the real story - and is an infallible defense in court against accusations of defamation.

It is unfortunate, of course, that no actual verdict will matter a damn to you, or your market share, should you even managed to not lose.

If you have to "clarify" "mistaken impressions" so often for what is, after all, just a movie, how can anyone be sure your standards are high enough in areas I cannot fact-check you on using publicly-available documents?

And I think it will be rather difficult to find a jury both uncontaminated by this impression and not demonstrably unfit to serve due to questionable sanity or intelligence.

I Remain, Gentles, your former viewer;
Bob King

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'Values' We Have to Hide Abroad

In response to the President's tortured reasons for rationalizing torture, Eugine Robinson of the Washington Post observes:

'Values' We Have to Hide Abroad:

"Why not hold the suspects, say, in one of the many super-secure facilities in and around Washington? They would be much more accessible to the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon and any other agency that wanted a crack at them. And since al-Qaeda is already determined to attack the United States, why even risk creating potential problems for loyal overseas allies? Why not interrogate America's deadliest enemies on American soil?

Since the president didn't address this question, I'll try. The only reason that makes any sense to me is that the Decider wanted to put his secret prisons beyond the reach of U.S. courts. I think the president and his lawyers knew from the beginning that detaining suspects indefinitely and wringing information out of them with methods that international agreements define as torture -- "an alternative set of procedures" was the president's delicate euphemism -- wouldn't amuse even the most law-and-order federal judge.

The full story of what has taken place at Guantanamo Bay and in the CIA's overseas prisons will come out someday. But even with the little we know so far, I remain convinced that history will view these acts of arbitrary detention, extraordinary rendition and coercive interrogation with strong censure and deep shame. The president's claim that "the United States does not torture" comes with an asterisk, since his definition of torture is as tortured as Bill Clinton's definition of "is." "

Me, I kinda wonder how many of those nameless, secret prisoners were pretty girls and boys, and what "cutting brush" might be a euphamisim for.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mercury: it isn't just in VACCINES, and it's probably not just causing autism.

Tip o' the hat to: Autism and Reality: April 2006:

"The very questionable ethics of experimenting on indigent and orphaned children with a very toxic heavy metal looking for neurological impairment.


Summary of critique.

The Children’s Amalgam Study is an $11 million study which began in 1997 to prove the “null hypothesis” that mercury amalgam dental fillings do not cause adverse health effects in children. Approximately 500 American Children and 500 Portuguese children are the subjects of the study. The Nuremberg Code, federal regulations (45 CFR 46 et.seq.) and common law require that study subjects or their parents/guardians give informed consent prior to commencing any study with associated risks."


Preliminary results show that the Casa Pia children, as of March 2002, had 4.22 ug/l of mercury in their urine. University of Washington researchers in 1998 published a peer-reviewed study showing that dentists with 4 ug/l of mercury in their urine had adverse neuropsychological and neurobehavioral effects. (While no preliminary results have been revealed for the American children, similar results would be expected.)

This critique finds that the informed consents used in this study are inadequate and invalid under the standards of the Nuremberg Code, federal regulations and common law. Dental therapy was not the primary purpose of this study. Its primary purpose was to justify the continued use of mercury amalgam by dentists even though it was well known that mercury from the amalgam bioaccumulates and has been shown to be the primary source of mercury in the human body. The purpose of the study is to serve the economic purposes of dentistry.

While I'm not one to subscribe to the mercury=autism argument, at least to the exclusion of all other causes, we do know for a fact that mercury does cause serious problems, and that as a cumulative toxin, there is really no "safe" exposure level.

The evidence linking thimerosal-based vaccines is debatable (although the secret embedding of lawsuit protection into the Patriot Act) may indicate that such evidence either exits, or is strongly suspected by the makers of childhood vaccines. However, vaccines are the least of your worries if you are worried about mercury exposure. Stack emissions from coal-fired plants, seafood and dental amalgam all put mercury into our systems, with dental fillings being the largest source by far.

And we know that at certain levels, people start showing various signs of neurological impairment. In some people, that may manifest as an autistic-spectrum disorder. It could conceivably manifest as, oh, say, Parkinson's, depending on genetics, individual brain chemistry, or who knows what else.

Given this is a given, the attempt to prove that mercury is "safe enough" in dental amalgam is unethical to start with, even before we get to the issue of human experimentation.

This study needs to stop - and mercury amalgam fillings need to become history forthwith. They may or may not specifically cause autism - but in a predictable portion of the population, they will cause brain damage and probably accounts for a stunning proportion of our mental health caseload.

I should also mention that one of the likely causes for the collapse of Roman civilization was it's lead-lined aqueducts and it's use of lead-based cosmetics. The barbarians that eventually toppled Rome suffered from no such amenities.

Therefore, I think it foolish in the extreme to be concerned as to whether mercury is the specific causative agent for Autism. We already know enough to take much more stringent steps to keep it out of our air, our water - and our bodies. This might frustrate researchers who would like to draw scatter-grams depicting the variation of manifestation due to ethnicity, location and lunar phases. Various industries and professions will scream about how there's no proven correlation between "insignificant" levels of mercury and subtle outcomes twenty and thirty years later. But we do know enough to err on the side of safety. We have the technology, the danger is obvious and widespread; all that's needed is the political will.

From a personal perspective, I've always had problems with my teeth and by the time my baby teeth fell out, they had quite a few amalgam fillings. I was also environmentally exposed to elemental mercury, mercury in fungicides, herbicides and possibly pesticides - aside from the direct neurotoxic effects of such compounds as DDT, 2,4,5T and other such chemicals.

It strikes me, though, that of all the potential environmental causes that could have lead to neurological damage from growing up in the time of "better living through chemistry" mercury is the one thing I can do something about, with some possible positive benefit.

Pardon me, but I think I need to go pee in a cup...

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Lie by Lie: Interactive Timeline of Bush's Lies

A Mother Jones interactive feature that tries to clarify who knew what when, and lied about it.

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Aspie Inside t-shirt and apparel from

Damn, I'm Good!

...considering that toook me about five minutes to make.

Yes, of course I'm gonna make a better versiion! But... I'm not sure I'll put it up.

Top 10 Pot Studies Government Wished it Had Never Funded

8) THE "GATEWAY EFFECT" MAY BE A MIRAGE: Marijuana is often called a "gateway drug" by supporters of prohibition, who point to statistical "associations" indicating that persons who use marijuana are more likely to eventually try hard drugs than those who never use marijuana -- implying that marijuana use somehow causes hard drug use.

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The Reality-Based Community Lens

I've created a squidoo lens focusing on "Reality-Based" blogging. I'm particularly interested in links to factual sources and of course, links FROM other sites. The Reality-based community is a loose, informal, non-traditional alliance of blogs and resources that adhere to old-fashioned journalistic standards of factual support. Please drop any useful links for this lens in comments. I particularly need conservatives with impeccable journalistic standards.

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You Are What You Do.

Headline gleefully stolen from Bill Mahr, who says he likes to say it often. It's a good truth-test technique. In the case of our current government, we know we can't trust what they say, but they cannot entirely hide what they are up to. Connecting the dots is not all that hard.

Frog Style Biscuit: What is Bush Preparing For?

q Links and the conclusions of an ordinary guy like me connecting the dots.

q Plans to federalize the National Guard, over the objections of the Governors.

q Attempts to repeal the Posse Comitatus Act. Pentagon’s classified plans for Domestic takeover.

q HUNDREDS of functional FEMA detention camps, with contracts in existence with KBR/Halliburton to construct more if needed. No bid contracts, of course.

And of course, the administrations treasured "enemy combatant" theory for detaining citizens indefinitely, without trial, on the basis of the President deciding you are an enemy, with no evidentiary threshold at all.

He's got the links, go there and give him the love.

Now, here are a few dots I want to add.

Air Force probes religious bias charges at academy

We have concluded that both the specific violations and the promotion of a culture of official religious intolerance are pervasive, systematic and evident at the very highest levels of the academy's command structure," said the report from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The group, which according to its Web site is a nonpartisan, nonsectarian organization founded in 1947 to defend the principle of religious freedom, said its investigation and report were based on "numerous complaints from a variety of sources."

Among the allegations are that cadets are frequently pressured to attend chapel and take religious instruction, particularly in the evangelical Christian faith; that prayer is a part of mandatory events at the academy; and that in at least one case a teacher ordered students to pray before beginning their final examination.

The report said it found that non-Christian cadets are subjected to "proselytization or religious harassment" by more senior cadets; and that cadets of other religions are subject to discrimination, such as being denied passes off-campus to attend religious services.

The report said that in at least two cases "highly qualified individuals were dissuaded from attending the academy ... after learning of the official culture of religious intolerance and hostility toward those who do not subscribe to and practice evangelical Christianity.

"When the Air Force is denied the service of the country's best and brightest young people because they feel excluded from the academy by religious intolerance, the armed forces and the nation as a whole are weakened," the report said.

Consider that Air Force Academy grads have direct and indirect control of a lot of very lethal hardware, and if you were wanting to ensure the success of a coup, or enforcing martial law on an uncooperative or even hostile population.

Now consider this:

America as a One-Party State
Today's hard right seeks total dominion. It's packing the courts and rigging the rules. The target is not the Democrats but democracy itself.

By Robert Kuttner
Issue Date: 02.01.04

We are at risk of becoming an autocracy in three key respects. First, Republican parliamentary gimmickry has emasculated legislative opposition in the House of Representatives (the Senate has other problems). House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas has both intimidated moderate Republicans and reduced the minority party to window dressing, rather like the token opposition parties in Mexico during the six-decade dominance of the PRI.

Second, electoral rules have been rigged to make it increasingly difficult for the incumbent party to be ejected by the voters, absent a Depression-scale disaster, Watergate-class scandal or Teddy Roosevelt-style ruling party split. After two decades of bipartisan collusion in the creation of safe House seats, there are now perhaps just 25 truly contestable House seats in any given election year (and that's before the recent Republican super gerrymandering). What once was a slender and precarious majority -- 229 Republicans to 205 Democrats (including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who votes with Democrats) -- now looks like a Republican lock. In the Senate, the dynamics are different but equally daunting for Democrats. As the Florida debacle of 2000 showed, the Republicans are also able to hold down the number of opposition votes, with complicity from Republican courts. Reform legislation, the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), may actually facilitate Republican intimidation of minority voters and reduce Democratic turnout. And the latest money-and-politics regime, nominally a reform, may give the right more of a financial advantage than ever.

Third, the federal courts, which have slowed some executive-branch efforts to destroy liberties, will be a complete rubber stamp if the right wins one more presidential election.

Taken together, these several forces could well enable the Republicans to become the permanent party of autocratic government for at least a generation. Am I exaggerating? Take a close look at the particulars. Read more

How and why.

Some clues from Theocracy Watch.

Voter apathy is key to the phenomenal ascent of the theocratic right in the U.S. government.

With the apathy that exists today, a small, well-organized minority can influence the selection of candidates to an astonishing degree. (Pat Robertson, The Millennium, 1990)

Robertson tells us who makes up that "well-organized minority." It includes only Christians who share his point of view. As he said on his television program, the 700 Club:

"You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists, and this and that and the other thing. Nonsense! I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist." (Rob Boston, Pat Robertson, the Most Dangerous Man in America?, Prometheus Books, 1996, p. 149.)

"The apathy of other Americans can become a blessing and advantage to Christians," wrote Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell in 1989 in America's Providential History, a popular textbook for Christian schools and the Christian homeschool movement.

If just 10% of all Christians in America today woke up and realized how easy it is, got involved consistently for the long haul, it would not take long to reform America completely. (p.266)

For the authors, the term "Christian" refers uniquely to people who share their biblical worldview. The word "reform" is key. It means reforming the United States so that it becomes a "Christian" nation.

Also consider this: the Left Behind Demo includes spyware.

Why? To serve targeted ads to the kids you downloaded it for. Cheating? Well, yes. The 25 year history of the Dominionist movement is full of examples of stealth advocacy, bait and switch, linkage with various pyramid schemes (Amway, Matol); in small words, they intend to rule "by any means" and that means throwing out the Ten Commandments while giving the impression they are trustworthy because they believe in them.

And they do. Sort of. They believe The Ten Commandments are for others; they only honor the 11th; Thou Shalt Not Get Caught. Fortunately, that doesn't always work as well as they hope.

MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris told a religious journal that separation of church and state is "a lie" and God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be "a nation of secular laws."

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will "legislate sin," including abortion and gay marriage.

Harris made the comments -- which she clarified Saturday -- in the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention, which interviewed political candidates and asked them about religion and their positions on issues.

She also went on record saying separating religion and politics is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers." In an interesting side note, there is an editorial, linked from the page of the interview, which states that it’s a sin to not vote.

A lot of people tend to be more candid when they think they are speaking to a "friendly" audience. They tend to forget that not every person there, or every reader of such a publication will share such values, or at least agree that a value imposed on others creates a moral benefit. And in this case, they forgot the fact that Google and Digg exist.

In fact, some, like Dr. James Dobson, feel that it's a religious right to discriminate against gay, bisexual and transgender persons - while accepting state funds. And they are not at all embarrassed by being quoted, it’s now a common theocratic talking that any restriction on their right to harrass, denigrate, intimidate, shame, slander and discriminate against persons or views they disagree with is "religious persecution" and a violation of their “free speech rights.”

But they still want that tax-exempt status - and expect to be catered to in the public sphere with prior restraints put on those who disagree. In other words, the demand that their "religious freedom" be respected is in fact a an expectation of exceptional, preferential treatment - the very thing they claim same-sex marriage advocates are demanding.

Now, don't get me wrong; I'm a strong advocate of personal responsibility, of a strong moral code and of impeccable personal ethics. I believe that it's the duty of a religion to advocate the principles they stand for.

The difference is, I do not expect other people to live up to my standards, or impose my standards upon them as a condition for my help.

I stopped dealing with a local charity organization entirely because they violated my principles in this way.

My view on our current infestation on the overtly religious in political life is simple: Unethical behavior trumps any public statement of belief. Don't quote the Bible at me, not Leviticus nor the Beatitudes. Act according to your faith, while respecting the law, the constitution and the rights of others and I'll respect you for it, even if we disagree on certain points. But play fair.

When you steal votes, lie about the cause of war, legislate so that the rich are favored and the poor are oppressed, put moneychangers in your temples (did you know some big box churches have their own banks, which automatically remove tithes up to THIRTY percent from automatic payroll deposits?) and otherwise act just like the Pharisees and Sadducees Jesus condemned and mocked, what you call yourself is just another lie.

There are no Beatitudes in the Republican legislative agenda, but that’s ok. I'm voting the straight Samaritan ticket.

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Study: Terror cases now at pre-9/11 rate

Good news: No more risk of being the victim of terrorism since 9/11.
Bad news : No LESS risk of being the victim of terrorism since 9/11.

read more | digg story

Hot Journalist Gossip from Burning Man.

Jane Stillwater's Web Log:

Jane Stillwater went to Burning Man. Clearly, I should too.

" Much to my surprise, at the world's most jankity Media Center this side of Lebanon, I met one of the world's most renowned journalists. And what are top journalists if not sources of magnified hot gossip? This guy knew ALL of the juicy tidbits. And was actually willing to spill....

Before talking with him last night, I had NO idea how many prominent Republicans were gay -- but not the gay-marriage type of gay. "I'm talking about the closet types who have orgies in the White House and then denounce homosexuality on the floor of Congress the very next day." Oh. Those kind.

So. Who was Jeff Gannon actually sleeping with? "My bet is Scott McClellan." Not Tony Blair?

I love hot gossip and this guy named names. "Jane, all that stuff that Dick Cheney said at the VFW convention in Reno about the NSA only wire-tapping foreign-originating phone conversations is a complete lie. He taps the phones of every journalist in America. I know for a fact that I've got a tap on my phone." Gee. I wonder if my phone is tapped too. That would definitely promote me to being a "real" journalist and not just a Molly Ivins wannabe!

Then I talked with another representative of the press as we went on a wonderful after-dark media tour of the Art Projects of Burning Man. They drove us around in a gigantic three-story bus tricked out to be a fire-breathing dragon and escorted by eight glow-in-the-dark Samurai. It was awesome.

"There's a blog run by U.S. soldiers in Iraq that has adopted me as their current object of scorn," I told this journalist, who had just gotten back from Iraq. "Here's my question -- this blog is one of the most up-scale efforts I've ever seen. Graphics to die for. Fabulous writing. Oxford dictionary-style grammar and spelling. Comment forms that actually work. How can they pull all that together if they are stuck out there in Iraq?"

"They can't. Soldiers stationed in Iraq ARE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE BLOGS. In many cases, they aren't even allowed to get e-mail. It sounds like this blog is a psy-ops operation." Journalists know everything!"

That last tidbit is worth following up. It makes a great deal of sense to me, and probably explains a lot of what I've noticed about "from the front" blogs of late. They don't seem like they are written by armed, scared kids who are mostly worried about individual concerns of individual soldiers, like mail from home, jock itch, GI cuisine, bitching about officers, bitching about intel, bitching about the intelligence of intelligence officers, bitching about broken equipment, bragging about "field expedients" and most important of all, getting laid in a place where getting laid can get you killed and other concerns of 20-somethings. Instead, they talk about "The War on Terror."

As freakin' if. People in full contact with reality do NOT sound like Pentagon information officers - whatever their opinions. Period.

When I read the writings of a soldier - from ANY war in US history - and the terms SNAFU or FUBAR do not appear - I am suspicious of it's authenticity. There is a long tradition of sanitizing the opinions and behaviors of soldiers for Home Front consumption and of course there is a realistic point to that.

But they ain't no plaster saints, and trust me, they are not especially concerned with the socio-political implications of what they are doing. Those that are thinking men realizes that in fact, THEY are the socio-political manifestation of the fuckups of civilian leadership.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission; an uncharitable charity.

Sells broken, non-functional appliances and do not honor promises and exploit and oppress their client workers.

We bought a television there, that proved to have an intermittent fault. We returned it, but they gave no refund, instead they promised a replacement. That was the last we heard. It was also the last I expected to hear, for in returning the television, I got a glimpse into the operation itself.

Earlier, we bought a fridge there. Quit in two days from a common fridge ailment, a rusted fan, which should have kept it in the spare parts bin. The replacement fridge worked, but was delivered without replacement shelves and shelf components critical to proper function. This is from an operation that had a wealth of spares and the clear ability to fabricate replacements.

It was delivered in a truck in such poor operating condition that it would be taken off a MEXICAN highway as a hazard to public safety.

You would expect a Christian organization to have a certain ambiance of cheer, of welcome and gladness. Instead, it has a seedy, down at heels and oppressive atmosphere, both in it's outlet stores and it's main operation site. It's mission is to help people who are "down and out," but it clearly feels that segregating the sexes during lunch breaks and making sure that they listen only to Christian radio or local CONSERVATIVE talk radio is more important than installing the virtues of pride in workmanship and a solid, positive self-image.

Large signs are posted prohibiting Unchristian behaviors like listening to rock and roll music or fraternization between the sexes. There was not a single sign or other indication of positive encouragement. It's pretty clear that a subtext of their charity work is to humiliate and oppress those who recieve it. This clearly affects the quality of the goods and services they provide.

All of my encounters with persons of authority there could be described as dismissive and rude. Perhaps it was due to the conspicuous lack of a cross around my neck, a fish on my car and a polyester wardrobe. Perhaps it's my somewhat autistic body language; I note that I get much more negative interpersonal reactions from religious conservatives than any other single identifiable group; something I cannot explain, as I don't make a point of saying, doing or wearing things that might offend folks when I call upon them. But it could be they treat everyone that way, and I'm just more sensitive than most.

But in any case, the lack of respect for customer and client is also evident in the ambiance they create and if you wish to see what the world would be like, if Dominionists succeed, just visit the warehouse and sorting depot of Reno Gospel Mission.

The only spirit in evidence there is the Spirit of Oppression. It is a dead-end swamp of futility and though the operation is clearly well-equipped to do the work they claim to do, it is only doing it to the extent that appearances and audits require. Don't buy anything there you can't sterilize and that's more complicated than a dinner fork. But better yet, go to the WARK stores. Those are cheerful places run by folks who strike me as reasonable and honorable people.

There are two very good reasons for not dealing with Reno Sparks Gospel Mission: Believing in Christian principles - or having principles of any other sort. But if you like oppressing the poor and are willing to put up with shoddy and dubious practices in order to feel superior while searching for a rare collectable - good luck with that.

I think they keep all the good stuff for themselves.

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