Saturday, October 01, 2005

Republican Political Machine Slowly Collapsing...

At least, that's what it sounds like in this article. I suppose it's just a matter of time now before the inherent problems in the machine bring it down. It's just not happening fast enough.

Embattled Republicans Seek to Regain Control of Agenda

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 - After a brutal political month, Republicans are scrambling both to reassure their conservative base and to send a broader message to the American public - that they are, in fact, confronting the real-world issues of soaring gas prices, Hurricane Katrina relief, Iraq and immigration, while the Democrats are consumed with partisan warfare.

In a range of interviews on Friday, Republicans acknowledged the shock waves of the last few weeks, capped by the indictment of Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader, which forced the reorganization of the Republican House leadership even as it struggled to deal with the fallout from Hurricane Katrina.

"It's been a difficult week, I'm not going to sugarcoat it," said Representative David Dreier, the chairman of the Rules Committee, who has assumed new duties in the reshuffling. "We know we've got a big challenge ahead, but we've got an agenda."

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, agreed. "You get your job done," he said. "You can't panic. Even though our poll numbers are going down, there's no great love for the Democrats, no great support."


"Still, some Republicans remain dismayed at their party's plight, and some of the strongest assessments come from Republicans with national ambitions. "The Republican Party has taken some real body blows and is on the ropes right now," said Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota. Because of recent events, he added, "Democrats basically have been keeping their mouth shut and watching as the Republicans kind of implode."

In the meantime...oh, Democrats!

Posted by crimnos @ 10:42 PM :: (2) comments

Audit Busts the Bush Administration for Phony TV

I wondered if this was just going to disappear, but it appears to have stuck around. And what delicious news it is. It's like I always say: the facts have an Anti-Bush bias. Now that something is confirmed to be illegal can we get rid of him? Please?

Federal auditors said today that the Bush administration had violated the law by purchasing favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party.

In a blistering report, the investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the administration had disseminated "covert propaganda" inside the United States, in violation of a longstanding, explicit statutory ban.


Lawyers from the G.A.O., an independent nonpartisan arm of Congress, found that the Bush administration had systematically analyzed news articles to see if they carried the message, "The Bush administration/the G.O.P. is committed to education."


The G.A.O. also assailed the Education Department for telling Ketchum Inc., a large public relations company, to pay Mr. Williams for newspaper columns and television appearances praising Mr. Bush's education initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act.

When that arrangement became publicly known, it set off widespread criticism. At a news conference in January, Mr. Bush said: "We will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."


The auditors also denounced a prepackaged television news story disseminated by the Education Department. The news segment, a "video news release" narrated by a woman named Karen Ryan, said that President Bush's program for providing remedial instruction and tutoring to children "gets an A-plus."

Ms. Ryan also narrated two videos praising the new Medicare drug benefit last year. In those segments, as in the education video, the narrator ended by saying, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."

Posted by crimnos @ 4:48 PM :: (0) comments

Man for Himself: Part 1

As I may have mentioned, Jessica from Cellar Door and myself are working on a separate site where we will create a book list and post reviews of the books we are reading through. I started my first book for this list last night – Man for Himself, by Erich Fromm. Since we’re still working on the site, I thought I’d share some of my developing thoughts on the book here before I lose them. This is a very dense book with a lot of very important ideas, and I don’t want to lose sight of them as other ideas rush at me. This, along with my full review of the book, will go up on the new site as soon as it’s ready.

First, a summary (which I do not completely agree with) of the book, from eNotAlone:

In Man for Himself, Erich Fromm examines the confusion of modern women and men who, because they lack faith in any principle by which life ought to be guided, become the helpless prey forces both within and without. From the broad, interdisciplinary perspective that marks Fromm’s distinguished oeuvre, he shows that psychology cannot divorce itself from the problems of philosophy and ethics, and that human nature cannot be understood without understanding the values and moral conflicts that confront us all. He shows that an ethical system can be based on human nature rather than on revelations or traditions. As Fromm asserts, “If man is to have confidence in values, he must know himself and the capacity of his nature for goodness and productiveness.”

I don’t agree with the summary because Fromm is not saying that lack of faith is the problem; he’s saying that lack of reason is the problem, and that, because people cannot construct a framework of ethics based on reason, they instead fill the void with systems and/or people who would take advantage of that need, using irrational systems that fill them full of hate and misery. The following paragraph makes this clear:

“The ideas of the Enlightenment taught man that he could trust his own reason as a guide to establishing valid ethical norms and that he could rely on himself, needing neither revelation nor the authority of the church in order to know good and evil. The motto of the Enlightenment "dare to know," implying "trust your knowledge,” became the incentive for the efforts and achievements of modern man. The growing doubt of human autonomy and reason has created a state of moral confusion where man is left without the guidance of either revelation or reason. The result is the acceptance of a relativistic position which proposes that value judgments and ethical norms are exclusively matters of taste or arbitrary preference and that no objectively valid statement can be made in this realm. But since man can not live without values and norms, this relativism makes him an easy prey for irrational value systems? He reverts to a position which the Greek Enlightenment, Christianity, the Renaissance, and the eighteenth-century Enlightenment had already overcome. The demands of the State, the enthusiasm for magic qualities of powerful leaders, powerful machines, and material success become the sources for his norms and value judgments.”

I think this is relevant to what’s going on in America today. I’ll post more on this as I read through the book.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:56 AM :: (0) comments

Is This The 1950s?

Did I miss something? Or is it just that the people who are running this country feel so safely entrenched in power that they feel they can bring the racist talk out of the backrooms of the country clubs and into the public discourse?

For those will prevaricate and say this isn't a racist statement, just "the truth", no, it is not the truth. The fact that someone who is supposed to be helping poor people (and poor black people) with housing thinks that black people will be pushed out of the new vision of New Orleans says a lot. Will they be consulting with the original inhabitants? Will they help them rebuild their homes? Will they have a say in how their city is rebuilt? Not very likely. And why should they? What have "those people" done to make the multinationals in New Orleans money? Besides, Barbara Bush can tell you, it's all working out very well for them.

Okay, yeah, it's the Washington Times, but this story deserves to be read...

HUD chief foresees a 'whiter' Big Easy
By Brian DeBose
September 30, 2005
A Bush Cabinet officer predicted this week that New Orleans likely will never again be a majority black city, and several black officials are outraged.

Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development, during a visit with hurricane victims in Houston, said New Orleans would not reach its pre-Katrina population of "500,000 people for a long time," and "it's not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again."

Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, quickly took issue.

"Anybody who can make that kind of projection with some degree of certainty or accuracy must have a crystal ball that I can't see or maybe they are more prophetic than any of us can imagine," he said.

Other members of the caucus said the comments by Mr. Jackson, who is black, could be misconstrued as a goal, particularly considering his position of responsibility in the administration.


Mr. Jackson, whose remarks were reported by the Houston Chronicle, said New Orleans might reach a population of 375,000 people sometime late next year with a black population of about 40 percent at the highest, down from 67 percent before Hurricane Katrina sent a storm surge that overwhelmed New Orleans levees and flooded 80 percent of the city.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:49 AM :: (3) comments

Friday, September 30, 2005

Cellar Door: Crime Statistics in opposition to Bill Bennett's statement

Man oh man, was Bill Bennett ever off the mark. Check out the stats; it's nice to see some reality seep back into things.

Posted by crimnos @ 3:38 PM :: (0) comments

More on the ESA

First of all, I have to give Tom Davis SOME support here. He voted AGAINST this bill. I may actually send an email to let him know that I support what he did; if he keeps it up, it might be a move in the right direction.

Next, got something from Defenders of Wildlife, and I'm going to be joining in on what they're planning at some level:

Here's the text of the email, links intact:

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed a bill that would deal a major blow to protections for America’s plants, animals, places and people. However, the vote was close and we are confident that -- with your help -- we can stop this bill in the Senate.

Shortly before 5:30 PM Eastern yesterday, the House voted 229-193 to pass Representative Richard Pombo’s re-write of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This "Wildlife Extinction" bill would dramatically undermine our national commitment to the recovery of endangered plants and animals.

Click here to find out how your Representative voted.

The bill passed only after the House narrowly rejected, by a vote of 216-206, a substitute amendment offered by Representatives George Miller of California and Sherwood Boehlert of New York that would have improved endangered species conservation.

Together, we have fought very hard over the last few weeks for our country’s vanishing wildlife. And I want you to know that we appreciate your efforts -- the vote may not have been so close without your help.

We’re not about to stop fighting now. We have strong allies in the Senate, and we're working with them to ensure victory.

Let me tell you some of what Defenders of Wildlife has planned. In the weeks ahead, we’ll…

Hold Representatives accountable for their votes.
Our elected officials should stand up for the natural legacy we leave to our children, not roll over for greedy developers. In the next few weeks, we’ll place print and radio ads to let people know how their Representative voted on the Pombo bill.

Mobilize grassroots activists for the Senate fight.
At county fairs and local gatherings across the country, our grassroots organizers are doubling their efforts to save the Endangered Species Act.

Build support for wildlife protection on Capitol Hill.
For more than 30 years, the Endangered Species Act has protected magnificent creatures like the bald eagle, the gray wolf, and the California condor from extinction. We’ll work with Senators of all political stripes to protect and strengthen the law’s record of success.
In the coming weeks, we’ll let you know about other ways you can help us beat back the assault on the Endangered Species Act. In the meantime, please consider making a special donation to support our Campaign to Save the Endangered Species Act.

I want you to know how much Defenders of Wildlife appreciates your support in this important fight. Together, we’ve sent more than 160,000 faxes to the House of Representatives. In the last two days alone, wildlife supporters like you made thousands of calls to Congressional offices. And, with your help, we mobilized activists across the country and placed targeted print and radio ads highlighting the importance of the Endangered Species Act. Your support will be even more critical to a Senate victory for the wildlife we all care about.

Make no mistake. There is a lot at stake, and we must stop the Pombo bill in the Senate. Please consider giving now to support our efforts.

Not only does the bill gut the Endangered Species Act, it also creates a government give-away program to greedy developers and provides new loopholes to make it easier to use deadly pesticides. The pesticides can harm not only wildlife, but also our children, by polluting our lands and waters.

Our children must not pay the price for Mr. Pombo’s reckless disregard for our nation’s wildlife. We’re going to keep fighting, and I hope you will too. Together, we can win.

Posted by crimnos @ 1:30 PM :: (2) comments

From Daily Kos: Barack Obama: Tone, Truth, and the Democratic Party

Thanks to Jessica for sending this. I'm in the middle of something, so I don't have time to properly assess my thoughts of this post by Obama, but let me just say that I respect the man a lot for posting this and generally agree with what he's saying: if we're going to move the progressive agenda forward, we have to learn to compromise and accept the viewpoints of others, rather than becoming insular and punishing those who don't fall in with the party line every time. I have a lot more to say about this, I just don't have the time. Please do read it, though, it's a very important message from a great politician.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:51 AM :: (1) comments

Live Cats and Dogs Used as Shark Bait

As if the Endangered Species issue didn't already have me sad enough...this comes along. I think the only proper response is: :(

Here's the text from the site...I wouldn't go there if I were you, the picture there, well, it's not blood and guts, but it will ruin your day. I'll provide the link for the petition at the bottom. Here's the text:

The RSPCA is shocked and appalled at the use of live dogs and cats as bait in shark fishing, reported recently on the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean.

It is understood that stray animals are rounded up by local fishermen for the purpose.

RSPCA International senior programme manager Paul Littlefair says: "This is one of the most brutal and distressing stories that we've come across. The use of a live animal in this illegal and barbaric way, involving the binding of its legs with wire and piercing of the muzzle with large hooks, is unjustifiably cruel.

"Given Réunion's status as a French overseas département, we strongly urge the French government to take immediate steps to enforce its animal protection legislation and end this horrific practice.
Members of the public should address their concerns to the French embassy to help put pressure on those in charge in order to bring this ghastly activity to an immediate halt."

Sign the petition here. I'm going to see if there's something more that can be done.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:42 AM :: (3) comments

The U.S. House of Representatives: Looking out for #1 since 1994

I’m absolutely devastated at this news, so I apologize if I go a bit incoherent here. I’ve blogged about this subject in the past, both here and with Jessica from Cellar Door at DailyKos, speaking about Representative Pombo’s corporate masters and how they’re driving him to gut the Endangered Species act. At the time I wanted to think that this heinous bill would never pass, but…well, never underestimate the ability of politicians to suck up to corporate interests and ignore the needs of the world around them. This is…just sickening.

Oh, and the first person today who talks about those “crazy hippie tree-huggers” is getting socked in the eye by yours truly!

From Environmental Defense (Please visit the site, they have great information on how to adopt a species and help to save those species that, apparently, our corrupt government can’t be bothered to help. I plan to do so):

Endangered Species Act Under Assault
Hastily-Approved House Bill Would Cripple Landmark Wildlife Protections

The grey wolf is one of many endangered species that has benefited from the Endangered Species Act.Thursday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would cripple the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the 30-year-old safety net that has saved the bald eagle, the grey wolf and other rare species.
"We knew there was a good chance this bad legislation would pass the House. Our focus is now on the Senate, where we hope to find more reasonable and responsible solutions to address species protection," says Michael Bean, chair of Environmental Defense's Wildlife program and an expert on species law. (Read Environmental Defense statement on House passage of "Threatened and Endangered Species Act.")

Today's vote in the House would complicate both listing new species and implementing recovery plans for species already on the list. The losers are the nation’s bald eagles, ocelots, grizzly bears, ivory-billed woodpeckers and other endangered species.

The Senate can act more responsibly and show that conservation and development need not be at odds (see sidebar). The Senate stood between the overly-hasty House and rare plants and animals once before.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:32 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, September 29, 2005

You Were Right: Coulter uses the Blow-job Defense

Jessica predicted this earlier today. How prescient!

Coulter also said the accusations against DeLay are minor compared to the Monica Lewinsky scandal: "They had a president getting oral sex from an intern on Easter Sunday in the Oval Office, and what they have on DeLay is which account a campaign contribution went into."

Oh noes, not a blow job! That surely affects Americans more than being paid to funnel tax money and opportunity to all your buddies.

Incidentally, I've watched two Fox News clips today; before that I hadn't watched the channel for at least 4 years. Mommy, make the hurting stop...

Posted by crimnos @ 1:49 PM :: (3) comments

'US has lost control of budget deficit'

Just heard this on Thom Hartmann.

We've known this for years; if Greenspan is just now saying this, how bad could it really be? I have to agree with Thom. "By and large, Conservative Economic Policies have brough us bankruptcy". And do the people in Congress care? Of course not. As long as they can smash, loot, and run, they're happy. Who cares what happens to the people who suffer through these policies.

Posted by crimnos @ 1:13 PM :: (4) comments

Senate Confirms Roberts As Chief Justice

I pray this doesn't come back to haunt us all.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:17 PM :: (2) comments

Crosspost from Cellar Door: Holy Crap, Blunt Is Just As Bad

I mean, I assumed he was corrupt, but not this corrupt. At this point, I don't know if it's impossible for the Republicans to find an uncorrupted Representative or they're just thumbing their nose at us. Maybe a little of both? God, I hate the state of this nation sometimes.

Some highlights, courtesy of Jessica at Cellar Door (she has the whole story, much more comprehensive and damning):
  • In 2003, Rep. Blunt divorced his wife of 31 years to marry Philip Morris (now Altria) lobbyist Abigail Perlman. Before it was known publicly that Rep. Blunt and Ms. Perlman were dating – and only hours after Rep. Blunt assumed the role of Majority Whip – he tried to secretly insert a provision into Homeland Security legislation that would have benefitted Philip Morris, at the expense of competitors. In addition, Rep. Blunt’s son Andrew lobbies on behalf of Philip Morris, a major client he picked up only four years out of law school. Notably, Altria is Rep. Blunt’s largest campaign contributor, having donated more than $270,000 to political committees tied to him.

  • In 2003, Rep. Blunt also helped his lobbyist son Andrew by inserting a provision into the $79 billion emergency appropriation for the war in Iraq to benefit U.S. shippers like United Parcel Service, Inc. and FedEx Corp. The provision required that military cargo be carried only by companies with no more than 25% foreign ownership. UPS and FedEx were seeking to block the expansion of a foreign-owned rival’s U.S. operations. Andrew Blunt lobbies on behalf of UPS in Missouri, and UPS and FedEx have contributed at least $58,000 to Rep. Blunt since 2001.

Why his actions are wrong:
  • Members of the House are prohibited from "taking any official actions for the prospect of personal gain for themselves or anyone else." 5 CFR §2635.702(a). By pushing for legislation that would benefit Philip Morris and UPS, and, as a consequence, his then-girlfriend and his son, Rep. Blunt may have violated this provision.

  • Federal law also prohibits public officials from directly or indirectly demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting or agreeing to receive or accept anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act. If Rep. Blunt accepted campaign contributions from Philip Morris, FedEx or UPS in exchange for legislative assistance, he may have violated the bribery statute.

Nice work, Jessica!

Posted by crimnos @ 9:50 AM :: (0) comments

FCC: Law Enforcement has Veto Power Over Software

Absolutely amazing. Is anyone going to reign in the FCC ever? Where do they get off thinking they have any say in software? Not only that, but how do they plan to enforce this? Strip away a few more civil liberties?

This just makes me think even more of the corruption I've been seeing everywhere lately. A government agency has ruled that another government agency has the power to dictate what you can and cannot run on your computer. You know, if they think you need to run it in order to assist them.

What happened to the government serving the people?

The Federal Communications Commission thinks you have the right to use software on your computer only if the FBI approves.

No, really. In an obscure "policy" document released around 9 p.m. ET last Friday, the FCC announced this remarkable decision.

According to the three-page document, to preserve the openness that characterizes today's Internet, "consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement." Read the last seven words again.

The FCC didn't offer much in the way of clarification. But the clearest reading of the pronouncement is that some unelected bureaucrats at the commission have decreeed that Americans don't have the right to use software such as Skype or PGPfone if it doesn't support mandatory backdoors for wiretapping. (That interpretation was confirmed by an FCC spokesman on Monday, who asked not to be identified by name. Also, the announcement came at the same time as the FCC posted its wiretapping rules for Internet telephony.)

Nowhere does the commission say how it jibes this official pronouncement with, say, the First Amendment's right to speak freely, not to mention the limited powers granted the federal government by the U.S. Constitution.

What's also worth noting is that the FCC's pronunciamento almost tracks the language of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Almost.

But where federal law states that it is the policy of the United States to preserve a free market for Internet services "unfettered by federal or state regulation," the bureaucrats have adroitly interpreted that to mean precisely the opposite of Congress said. Ain't that clever?

Posted by Declan McCullagh

Posted by crimnos @ 8:02 AM :: (0) comments

Can't Sleep...How about some DeLay Quotes?

DeLay on Hardball:

"I don't know what he's charging me with."

"TrimPAC has nothing to do with me... I was simply along on an advisory board; they used my name for fundraisers."

"Democrat [sic] parties and Republican parties do the same thing."

"TrimPAC was my idea. I asked to be on the advisory board."

"In Texas, you can raise corporate money to pay your rent, just not put it in someone else's campaign."

"I know very few of those people [money beneficiaries]."

"He's trying to rewrite the law, trying to criminalize the election process."

"His goal was to make me step down as majority leader."

"Grand juries is [sic] always one-sided. This is a ham-sandwich grand jury without the ham."

"Can't get me in the election, so they're doing it like this."

"Democrat leaders" conspired with Earle... including Pelosi. "They announced on their website they were going to come after me."

"Martin Cross, Pete Doggett... punishment for redistricting."

"He dun even go inna his office." [Earle]

"DCCC was shopping this story yesterday." ["proves" it was a setup]

"Dems did us a favor... we're now united as never before to pass our agenda."

Posted by crimnos @ 12:43 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Text of Tom Delay's Accusation Against Ronnie Earl

Ronny Earle partisan political
Ronny Earle partisan political
Ronny Earle partisan political

Posted by crimnos @ 7:54 PM :: (2) comments

Break out the Bubbly! DeLay Indicted

Way Awesome.

Washington - A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post.

DeLay attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee.

"I have notified the speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County district attorney today," DeLay said.

Posted by crimnos @ 1:53 PM :: (10) comments

Woohoo! It's a Party, Go Tommy, It's your Birthday: Tom DeLay Might Be Indicted Today

Today has suddenly taken a turn for the AWESOME.

The Texas grand jury investigating House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's state political organization was completing its term Wednesday after demonstrating a recent interest in conspiracy charges that could bring more indictments.

Lawyers with knowledge of the case said the DeLay defense team was concerned that the Travis County grand jury might consider counts of conspiracy to violate the state election code.

Their concern was triggered when similar charges were handed down two weeks ago in an expanded indictment against two DeLay political associates. The associates were accused of conspiring to violate the state election code by using corporate donations for illegal purposes.

House GOP rules require any member of the elected leadership to step down temporarily if indicted, and it would be up to the rank and file to select an interim replacement. Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., could make a recommendation, whether choosing to elevate another member of the leadership or tapping an alternative to reduce the possibility of a struggle if DeLay were cleared and then sought to reclaim his post.

The Associated Press spoke to several lawyers familiar with the case, all of whom requested anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. DeLay, R-Texas, said Tuesday that prosecutors have interviewed him. He has insisted he committed no crimes and says Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, was pursuing the case for political reasons.

Before the recent conspiracy counts, the investigation was more narrowly focused on the state election code. By expanding the charges to include conspiracy, prosecutors made it possible for the grand jury to bring charges against DeLay. Otherwise, the grand jury would have lacked jurisdiction under state laws.

Asked Tuesday what he had heard of any late developments, DeLay said Tuesday, "Not a word."

Posted by crimnos @ 9:57 AM :: (2) comments

Report Card: Rating My Representatives – Tom Davis

For the next few days, I want to do something a little different than just reporting the news. Oh, there’ll be plenty of vitriol to be spilt over whatever outrages the days might bring, but for now, I’m more interested in taking an objective look at the voting records, financial ties, and community outreach (if any) that my representatives have taken.

To preface, I live in a staunchly Conservative district in a Red State, so it’s difficult for me to objective about these people when I repeatedly tell them my point of view and they basically crap on it or just ignore it. That’s where I got this idea; is it just my liberal leanings and frustration with them ignoring me that’s made me feel they’re ineffective, or am I just being biased?

Let’s look at my Rep first. Meet Representative Tom Davis. You’ve probably heard of him; he’s the guy who chaired the committee investigating Steroids in Baseball, and is now chairing the bogus committee investigating what happened with Katrina.

I haven’t lived in my area long enough to have voted for him (I voted for a Democrat in my last district, and he won), so I’m fairly new to the guy. According to his official biography, “Tom has been a leader in reforming Congress’ lobbying and gift rules and was recognized as a “True Blue Reformer” by the advocacy group “Public Citizen” for his consistently strong support of political and ethics reforms. Tom has earned a “Deficit Hawk” Award and the highest score in Virginia from the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan citizen’s council dedicated to deficit reduction.” Okay. I can respect that; ethics are one of the most important facets, in my mind, to an effective Representative. But is it true? More importantly, does the man practice what he preaches?

Hmm, Tom, what is this?

And your record of donations is hardly spotless, my friend. Davis is involved in Tom DeLay’s ARMPAC (in for $4,520), and has voted with DeLay 93% of the time. 93%! From a guy who wanted to reform lobbying and gift rules. Unacceptable. Never mind the fact that he voted weaken the ethics rules to try to protect Tom DeLay (no doubt to save his own hide, as well).

Okay, here are some positives, though I have to think this guy is rotten to the core by now. If he ever had a spine or ethics, they’re long gone. I’ve included dates on these because almost all of these were before Bush blew into office and the Republican Party really went down the crapper.

Unfortunately, it ends there, and it can’t really outweigh the fact that the following pretty much sums up how I feel about the guy:

So, for all that, Tom gets a solid D. I think he really did get into Congress to try to make changes, but along the way he dipped his hand into the cookie jar with the wrong folks one too many times, and it’s now too late for him to listen more to his conscience and less to the party line. I won’t be voting for the guy.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:45 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Guest Column: Why Pushing Intelligent Design To Our Kids Is The Wrong Thing To Do...

A good friend of mine, Jamie, just sent me this. To quote her, "I got annoyed with an Intelligent Design article I just read and was inspired." It's a great opportunity for a rant AND a history lesson. I don't know about you guys, but I think Feathered Serpents pretty much trump all. I also think this pretty much covers my position on Intelligent Design, so I thought I'd share it with you:

The amount of press that Intelligent Design is currently getting is proof that ethnocentrism is growing rampant in America. An age-old yet conveniently unfamiliar concept, ethnocentrism is “the tendency to evaluate other groups according to the values and standards of one's own ethnic group, especially with the conviction that one's own ethnic group is superior to the other groups.”

You may wonder why I’m placing such importance on stopping ethnocentrism. I’m no history expert, but I’m pretty sure the last time a country let an ethnocentrist movement take over, World War II was the result. And it’s why Israel and Palestine are fighting, and why millions of Africans were sent to America as slaves, it’s what caused the Spanish Inquisition, and even the reason why Jesus was crucified by the Jews. That’s how dangerous ethnocentrism really is. It’s the primary reason why we “can’t all just get along”.

By telling our kids Intelligent Design is an alternative to the Theory of Evolution, we are committing yet another heinous act of ethnocentrism. If the Religious Right is truly concerned about telling our children about all of the possibilities, they should not be ethnocentric and insist on just teaching Intelligent Design as an alternative to Evolution, they should insist on telling our children about ALL of the creation theories. Here are some creation theories I found:

Native American Creation Theory - Before there were any people, the world was young and water covered everything. The earth was a great island floating above the seas, suspended by four rawhide ropes representing the four sacred directions. There were no people, but the animals lived in a home above the rainbow. The plants were placed upon the earth. The Creator told the plants and animals to stay awake for seven days and seven nights. Only a few animals managed to do so, including the owls and mountain lions, and they were rewarded with the power to see in the dark. People were created last. The women were able to have babies every seven days. They reproduced so quickly that the Creator feared the world would soon become too crowded. So after that the women could have only one child per year, and it has been that way ever since.

Eskimo Creation Theory - In the beginning, Raven was born out of the darkness. He was the Raven Father, Creator of All Life. He gathered strength and flew out of the darkness and found new land, called the earth. Raven wanted living things to be on the earth, so he made plants. One day, Raven was flying overhead and saw a giant peapod, and out came a man who was the first Eskimo. A woman was soon created for the man, and Raven taught the pair to make clothing, build homes, and make a canoe. The two became parents. Other men came from the peapods, and Raven fed and taught them too. When they were ready, Raven made women for these men and they, too, became parents. Soon the earth had many children.

Haida Creation Theory - One day, long ago, Raven was on a desolate beach. Alone, he needed company and came upon a half-open clamshell. When he examined the shell, he saw tiny people inside. The people were shy and slowly peeked out of the shell. "Come out! Come out!" called Raven. The tiny beings opened the shell and climbed onto the sandy earth. These were the first Haida.

Navajo Creation Theory - First Man and First Woman were to bring light to the world. They created a sun from a large turquoise disk and made the moon from a piece of rock crystal. As the light began to shine upon the earth, they saw an infant lying in a cradleboard decorated with rainbows and sunrays. The Holy People, who are friendly spirits, helped to raise the child on pollen and dew. She grew to be Changing Woman, the creator of all Navajo and the most beautiful woman who ever lived. She created the people from cornmeal and pieces of her own skin. She later had two sons who would grow to be monster killers, ridding the earth of evil beings and making it safe for all creatures. Then, all on the earth could live together in peace and harmony.

Australian Creation Theory - In the beginning the earth was a bare plain. All was dark. There was no life, no death. The sun, the moon, and the stars slept beneath the earth. All the eternal ancestors slept there, too, until at last they woke themselves out of their own eternity and broke through to the surface. Two such beings, self-created out of nothing, were the Ungambikula. Wandering the world, they found half-made human beings. They were made of animals and plants, but were shapeless bundles, lying higgledy-piggledy, near where water holes and salt lakes could be created. The people were all doubled over into balls, vague and unfinished, without limbs or features. With their great stone knives, the Ungambikula carved heads, bodies, legs, and arms out of the bundles. They made the faces, and the hands and feet. At last the human beings were finished.

Celtic Creation Theory - The giants are the gods of old. In the first winter, a mighty giant was created from hoarfrost. And when fire came, he melted. From the enormous bulk of his body came the world. From his blood flowed the sea, from his bones the mountains, from his hair the forests, from his skull the sky. In the centre of the Earth, on hills rising high as mountains, live the gods, and below seethes the Underworld, land of the dead and all their secrets.

Egyptian Creation Theory - In the beginning, before there was any land of Egypt, all was darkness, and there was nothing but a great waste of water called Nun. The power of Nun was such that there arose out of the darkness a great shining egg, and this was Re. Re named all things that are upon the earth, and they grew. Last of all he named mankind, and there were men and women in the land of Egypt. Then Re took on the shape of a man and became the first Pharaoh, ruling over the whole country for thousands and thousands of years, and giving such harvests that for ever afterwards the Egyptians spoke of the good things "which happened in the time of Re".

Greek Creation Theory - Zeus ordered the gods to unleash a flood onto the earth. When Zeus looked down upon the earth and saw that all below had perished, except for Deucalion and Pyrrha whom he knew for kind god-fearing people, he relented, and ordered the gods to return the dry lands as they had been. Deucalion, and his wife, floated in the chest for nine days and nine nights, before coming to rest on Mount Parnassus. When they discovered they were the only beings left alive they prayed to Themis, the Great Goddess of the Titans, and asked for her advice. Themis advised them to go forth and cast the bones of their great mother over their shoulders behind them. They strode the land casting stones from the great mother as instructed. The stones so thrown turned into a new race of mankind; men from the stones thrown by Deucalion, and women from the stones thrown by Pyrrha.

Hungarian Creation Theory - Above in his golden house, sits the great heavenly father on his golden throne. On his black robes there are thousands of sparkling stars. Besides him sits his wife, the Great Heavenly Mother. On her white robes (palast) there are thousands of sparkling stars. She is the ancient material of which everything is made. His son turned himself into a golden diving duck that brought up the sleeping seeds and dreaming eyes, to create a world out of them. When his beak hit the bottom of the sea, into its sand, he took some of it into his beak and like an arrow, he shot up to the top of the water with it. From the surface of the sea bed, he brought up the sleeping seeds. The sleeping seeds awoke, their sleepy eyes opened and grew up and became living beings.

Hindu Creation Theory - He, desiring to produce beings of many kinds from his own body, first with a thought created the waters, and placed his seed in them. That seed became a golden egg, in brilliancy equal to the sun; in that egg he himself was born as Brahma, the progenitor of the whole world. The Divine One resided in that egg during a whole year, then he himself by his thought divided it into two halves; And out of those two halves he formed heaven and earth, between them the middle sphere, the eight points of the horizon, and the eternal abode of the waters. From himself he also drew forth the mind, which is both real and unreal, likewise from the mind ego, which possesses the function of self-consciousness and is lordly. Moreover, the great one, the soul, and all products affected by the three qualities, and, in their order, the five organs which perceive the objects of sensation. But, joining minute particles even of those six, which possess measureless power, with particles of himself, he created all beings.

Meso American Creation Theory - The Feathered Serpent first created man from mud. These creatures were a failure; they couldn't see, they dissolved when it rained, etc. So the god broke them up and tried again. Then he made men out of wood. They were better than the mud-men. They could walk and talk; they had many children, built many houses, but they had no minds nor souls nor hearts. The Feathered Serpent was disappointed with what he had created, so he sent a great flood to cleanse the earth of his mistake. With the help of Mountain Lion, Coyote, Parrot, and Crow they fashioned four new beings. These four beings performed well and are the ancestors of the Quich.

Mongolian Creation Theory - Long ago Father Heaven had two sons, Ulgen Tenger and Erleg Khan, Ulgen became the lord of the upper world and Erleg Khan became the lord of the lower world. Ulgen Tenger created animals and humans out of mud and he spread them out to dry. He created the dog to keep watch over the bodies of the new humans while he was gone. Erleg Khan, unhappy to see that his brother was creating humans, came to see the new bodies. The dog would not let him come close, at that time the dog could talk but had no fur. It was cold, and snowing, so Erleg Khan tempted him, saying that if the dog allowed him to see the humans' bodies he would give him a beautiful fur coat. The dog agreed, and was given a shiny beautiful coat. Erleg Khan then spat on the bodies so that humans would have diseases and not be immortal. When Ulgen returned he saw that the dog had fur and that the humans had been damaged, so he punished the dog by making his coat smelly, taking away his voice, and by making the dog follow humans in order to get its food.

Scandinavian Creation Theory - Odin is the All-Father. He is the oldest and most powerful of the Gods. He created heaven and earth. He shaped man from an ash tree and woman from a vine.

There are even more theories. Did the religious right decide these creation theories were not valid enough to teach to our kids? Is it because they seem ridiculous to them? They seem just as ridiculous as teaching the non-scientific Intelligent Design to a science class.

I offer an alternative approach that should appease everyone (even a flaming heathen like me)--leave our science classes alone and truly do our planet a service by having schools offer a course about all of the major belief systems (Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Atheism).

If you put all belief systems on the same level, people will no longer feel like theirs is superior to the others. This effectively puts a stop to ethnocentrism. The right thing to do is teach our kids that being who you are is not bad if its different from others, its just who you are.

Posted by crimnos @ 2:21 PM :: (0) comments

Oh Good Lord, No: Affleck for Virginia Senator?

Listen, I dislike George Allen as much as anyone else, but please, please, PLEASE Virginia Democrats, do not run Ben Affleck for Senator. If you want to continue to gain standing in this state, do not go down this path. You will only become a running joke.

Posted by crimnos @ 1:04 PM :: (2) comments

Churches to get Money from FEMA

The insane, stupid FEMA story continues. From the Post via MSNBC:

After weeks of prodding by Republican lawmakers and the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday that it will use taxpayer money to reimburse churches and other religious organizations that have opened their doors to provide shelter, food and supplies to survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

FEMA officials said it would mark the first time that the government has made large-scale payments to religious groups for helping to cope with a domestic natural disaster.

For good reason; I can't believe I even need to state the obvious Church and State issues, but not only that, isn't volunteer labor supposed to be just that? What are all the church disaster relief funds for if not for...well, disaster relief? Every church I've ever attended collected money for just such projects (even the Mormons), and I can't imagine the churches wanting the money back. Seems kind of, well....UnChristian?

I think this quote really sums up my feeling on the matter:

"What really frosts me about all this is, here is an administration that didn't do its job and now is trying to dig itself out by making right-wing groups happy," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Don't forget, Reverend Lynn, they're also trying to use their poor response as an excuse to further Federalize the handling of disaster relief. That's the typical response from the Bush Administration: poor performance is only met with accolades and promotions.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:31 AM :: (1) comments

Monday, September 26, 2005

From Daily Kos: Guess Who's a New FEMA Consultant

Haha, oh my, it's like they're trying to make us laugh. Brownie is back! Brilliant PR move, guys.

Honestly, I'm too tired to be outraged. This has just moved to the absurd.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:15 PM :: (0) comments

The Poll Tax Returneth

First note: Cindy Sheehan was JUST arrested in front of the White House. Developing...

Heard about this on the Thom Hartmann show, and I'm shocked. The Republicans in Georgia are now pushing to require a driver's license or State ID card in order to vote. How much do they cost? $25. Who is least likely to have a driver's license or State ID? The poor. So, no money, no ID, no vote.

How is this not a poll tax? Read about it at the ACLU.

Posted by crimnos @ 2:07 PM :: (3) comments

Armed and dangerous - Killer Dolphins on the Loose

*note to those who might have missed it: my story of this weekend’s protest is located here: Part 1 Part 2

W. T. F.

Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina

by Mark Townsend Houston
Sunday September 25, 2005
The Observer

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.

Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped.

'My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,' he said. 'The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?'

Usually dolphins were controlled via signals transmitted through a neck harness. 'The question is, were these dolphins made secure before Katrina struck?' said Sheridan.

The mystery surfaced when a separate group of dolphins was washed from a commercial oceanarium on the Mississippi coast during Katrina. Eight were found with the navy's help, but the dolphins were not returned until US navy scientists had examined them.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:54 AM :: (0) comments

Posse Comitatus: They’re Coming for You!

First, a note to those who might have missed it: my story of this weekend’s protest is located here: Part 1 Part 2

Now, then. I’ve been covering an expected request for increased Federal powers since Katrina. This whole thing seems to be flying under the radar in a similar manner as the Patriot Act. I’m not surprised; I mean, who would want to advertise another power grab, especially one that could mean a soldier on every corner of every city? Best to keep people from knowing about it, right?

But, of course, that doesn’t stop it from happening. The Administration is seeking ways to utilize the military for law enforcement during disasters:

But over in the Department of Homeland Security, officials are already throwing out ideas to use the military to gather intelligence in chaotic disasters. In New Orleans, for instance, Coast Guard officials conducting helicopter rescues could see broken levees and burgeoning crowds outside the city's convention center, long before crucial federal officials on the ground learned of such developments from local authorities, according to extensive Coast Guard interviews with U.S. News. Russ Knocke, the DHS press secretary, says DHS realizes now that such eyes in the air are crucial.

"People want us to be omniscient and omnipresent, but the truth is, we're not," Knocke says. "We could have had the military, for instance, fly over New Orleans early on to help us gain visibility on things–water levels and developing pockets of criminal activity." Knocke says DOD assets in the future could even assist in "stabilizing a city" or "conducting a large-scale evacuation."

Look, I have absolutely no problem (in fact, I welcome) the military helping out with relief and rescue efforts during a disaster. There’s probably not a better-trained group out there to handle such matters. But the military is built for fighting wars, not for domestice law enforcement. Hell, there are plenty of existing civilian resources that could meet the need for intelligence. The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has P-3 Orions that could just as easily have been used to "gain visibility on things-water levels and developing pockets of criminal activity". The problem? BICE would have to stop the War on Drugs and Immigrants to help people, and we all know that isn’t happening.

So, what have we learned? The federal government screws up, and bigger government is the answer. Make sure a few civil liberties are eroded, and new police powers granted, even though the screw up had nothing to do with private citizens. Its almost enough to make me think they drop the ball on purpose.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:41 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Protest Story: Part II*

Permalink to Part I

Finally complete...

Speakers from Far and Wide

I attempted to document some of the speakers, but I admit this is not fully comprehensive, as I stopped taking notes at one point and allowed myself to be swept up in the emotions around me. The first speaker I have notes for is Virginia Rotira, who spoke about Iraq and impeachment, but also informed us that London had 100,000 people protesting at the same time as us. She also said that protests were ongoing in Mexico, Canada, Japan, and other locations around the world.

I believe there were some speakers in between, but I was so overcome by the experience that I temporarily forgot to take notes. Some of it is still a blur; the next speaker I have notes for is Representative Cynthia McKinney, who spoke on the theme of America being swept by an Ill wind, an ill wind that carried disenfranchisement and war, that thought Government more important than the people it serves. I’ll be honest; I cried during her speech, at least a little bit. It was very moving, especially when she talked about how, while dead bodies laid in the Superdome, military recruiters moved in on the Astrodome, trying to reap the benefits of the tragedy. My respect for Representative McKinney now knows no bounds.

The next speaker was Fred Mason from U.S. Labor Against War, who said “People of consciousness can win”. Very stirring, very emotional. A natural-born speaker. I have to say that, at this point, I noticed that there was a great amount of African-Americans running the show, and I have to say I liked it. Obviously, the issues of racism and poverty have been huge in this country lately, and they have always been tied up in military deployments and those who end up going off to fight the war. The sooner we recognize this, the better, and we can all work together to make the changes we need.

Curtis Mohammed of Community Labor United spoke next, focusing on the tragedy of New Orleans. He said their main focus is to find the survivors, who have been scattered to the four winds, and attempt to get their input on what will be done with THEIR communities. A great point – do they get a stake in where they used to live? My guess is no.

Following Mr. Mohammed were the Raging Grannies, who came from as far away as Washington State, with some even getting arrested along the way for attempting to enlist.

Jesse Jackson followed the Grannies. His speech was even more inspirational, as he compared Cindy Sheehan to Rosa Parks. He said that there are and have always been wars that are worth fighting, for the right reasons – the Civil War, World War I, World War II, but that “Nicauragua, Panama, and both Gulf Wars” are not those kinds of wars. My favorite quote? “It’s a long road, but keep marching.” I was also surprised when he led a chant.

Cindy Sheehan followed, holding hands with Jesse Jackson and waving to us before she spoke. She was very straightforward with her speech, obviously not a trained speaker, but she was very effective and inspirational for all of that; in fact, it was distinctly refreshing after the polished rhetoric of Jesse Jackson. Some quotes that I caught: “We will be the checks and balances on this government” and “We do not torture. We have to reclaim our humanity”. I liked her a great deal.

Several other speakers from different organizations came in between, but at this point, after several effective speakers in a row, I was more interested in following along with the speeches – chanting, yelling, and participating, in other words, which is very, very unusual for me when I’m in “journalist” mode. I finally got myself together as George Galloway came to the stage. Folks went nuts for him, too, and I can see why – what a great speaker. He brought a message from the Londoners who were rallying, and highlighted the importance of bringing the religions of the world together. It was nice to hear someone say that Christianity does NOT want war, and that Islam and Christianity can co-exist peacefully. Very fiery, very eloquent.

By the time he finished, it was close to 2:00, and the passion that had been stirred up in me was ready to move – not to continue to listen to speeches, so, as Ramsey Clark took the stage, I slipped toward the back to rest my feet for a bit and prepare to march. Unfortunately, this means that I missed quite a few speakers that I had wanted to hear, but I forgot at that point: I was ready to go.

Marching to Freedom

After resting for a bit, I went to join the march, which was already queuing for several blocks in every direction. I ended up behind the Iranian-Americans to End War in the Middle East, who hoisted a huge banner and led chants, including “No blood for oil”.

I chanted along with them for some time, waiting for the speeches on the Ellipse to end and the march to start. Eventually I got antsy and decided to move further up in the line and see what was going on. The sight that greeted me…well, I was glad I jumped out of the line. Here is what I saw:

At last I slipped in behind a student group that stood behind the Veterans Against War and waited for the speeches to finally end. And end they did. At last, we marched down 15th and turned onto Pennsylvania. On the way, we passed a rather pathetic throng of counter-protestors who asked “how dare we” and “how do we live with ourselves”, but they were pretty much a joke and not worth bothering with. I followed the march route down and past the White House. We moved very, very slowly, but we did make it. As I finally extricated myself from the march, I saw that the people snaked along EVERYWHERE. I had never seen so many people in one place, and I took a great deal of pleasure in that. One pathetic counter-protest to our massive throng. I do believe the tide is turning.

Why I Cried

And so, last night, as I began to write my story, I wondered why it was that I, who is not given to public displays of emotion, cried several times with very little provocation. I thought about it all night. I dreamed of seas of people with banners, signs, and flags, dedicated to change in the U.S., and yet I still did not quite get what made me cry. Was it the eloquence and passion of the speakers? Partially. Some of the speakers were quite moving on their own, but I am always able to hear a good speaker without tearing up. Was it the sight of so many generations in one place, dedicated to the same cause? Again, partially. It was a beautiful sight to behold, but that would not, on its own, have made me cry.

I thought about it and thought about it, and this morning I was reading Alice Walker’s Meridian, and a passage within the book answered the question for me:

It was a decade marked by death. Violent and inevitable. Funerals became engraved on the brain, intensifying the ephemeral nature of life. For many in the South it was a decade reminiscent of earlier times, when oak trees sighed over their burdens in the wind; Spanish moss draggled bloody to the ground; amen corners creaked with grief; and the thrill of being able, once again, to endure unendurable loss produced so profound an ecstasy in mourners that they strutted, without noticing their feet, along the thin backs of benches: their piercing shouts of anguish and joy never interrupted by an inglorious fall. They shared rituals for the dead to be remembered.

But now television became the repository of memory, and each onlooker grieved alone.

For the past year, I have lived this life in complete isolation, and I suspect that a great many other of us do, as well. Sometimes I feel like a hostage, surrounded by a community that is either apathetic or downright hostile to my ideals and dreams, surrounded by sleepers who are content to carry on their day-to-day lives and figure that the government would not rule if it was not just, that a man who has made it to head of this nation must, by default, be a wise man, or, counter to that theory, that a President should be like the guy down the street who would pop by for a beer after the sermon.

We are surrounded, in many ways, living in islands in cities and towns across America. Some islands are larger than others, but living in a Red State, I have felt this pain acutely, along with the fear of speaking out that comes with the threat of physical harm. It does not help when someone is already naturally withdrawn from the beatings that come with life. So it was that stepping onto the Metro and riding down to the Ellipse was a great act of will for me, a very conscious act of defiance. For a long time, I felt like I still didn’t belong, despite all the friendliness shown to me.

It was when I was in that crowd, chanting along with the ideas that I’ve never been able to voice anywhere aside from here, that I was seized by the beauty of what we were doing. And in retrospect, it was a form of grieving, of community that has been denied to us by the American lifestyle. I think it’s a beautiful thing that many people do have an outlet for what they have to say; I envy those who live in areas where they can have large groups and regular demonstrations, but for me and for many others, we are spread out, and feel forced to live this lifestyle, we have to live through the media, through the TV or the Internet, and it loses the immediacy and sense of community. You can share ideas on the Internet, but it’s not the same as looking around and seeing large numbers, of knowing you have the camaraderie and support of the people around you.

And that’s why I cried. For once, I was able to break out of the bubble and see the beauty and spirit of the American people and its system. We may live in defiance of those who run our corrupt government, but we do so because the system was built that way, and it is we who fight to keep it that way. Already they are eroding the freedoms that allow such demonstrations to happen. We must fight to get that system back before we’re all forced to live in that bubble forever.

That is why I cried, and that is why I marched.

Posted by crimnos @ 6:02 PM :: (5) comments

Much Hilarity to be Had...

Libertarians take note: this is why we have taxes. From Shakespeare's Sister:

The Observer (once again, we’ve got to get our news from Britain) reports that Bush’s charity fundraising effort to solicit donations from war supporters isn’t going so well.

An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (£337), The Observer has learnt…

The public's reluctance to contribute much more than the cost of two iPods to the administration's attempt to offer citizens 'a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq' has been seized on by critics as evidence of growing ambivalence over that country.

One word: laffo.

Posted by crimnos @ 5:11 PM :: (1) comments

A Protest Story: Part I

Here’s Part 1 of my story of the 9-24 Protests. There are 250,000 others, but mine is…well, mine. It’s lengthy, but it was the only way to write about my experience. I've decided to post it in parts, as it's long, long, long, and I'm still only halfway through.

Silent in the Morning

I wanted to make it to the Ellipse early, so I would have the full benefit of seeing the experience grow from a handful (well, relatively) of people to a seething mass. I live on the outskirts of the Metro area, so that meant getting up early, leaving enough time to shower, dress, and properly pack my backpack. When that was done, I left, picking up McDonald’s on the way. Yeah, it’s crap, and yeah, I’ve changed my eating habits, but I needed a source of energy that would last for awhile. A sausage biscuit seemed to contain enough calories to get me through two meals, at least, and I had water in the bag. And yes, I am aware of the irony of buying McDonald’s while on the way to such a protest. It actually added something.

If you really want to experience irony, however, you need look no further than the preparations for the President’s Cup. My region is serving as a sort of unofficial parking lot for the golf event, and as I was readying myself to go down to DC and protest, the people in my community were loading up their Hummers and Lexuses to prepare for a big trip down to the golf course. Never was I more aware of how I do not belong in this community, and what a mistake it was to move here.

I reached Huntington Metro Station (which seems to be the ideal staging ground for trips into DC, at least for me) at around 9:00. The sky was gray, threatening rain that would never really materialize, and around me were hordes of people easily identifiable as protestors. No, not identifiable by any stereotypes of “hippies” and “peace protestors” but by their signs, or their pins, or the buttons on their backpacks. These were people who were clearly ready to mobilize and make their voices heard. The train arrived earlier than expected, and the crowd filtered in. The car was surprisingly full for a Saturday at 9 AM. There was space to sit, but the train out of Huntington at that time usually only has a handful of people per car. I thought it was an encouraging sign.

Sitting opposite of me was a family who had traveled from Memphis to be there. It was interesting to see the energy of the children, especially the youngest daughter, who had never seen a taxi. How do I know? She cried out when she saw one out the window. Interesting little dichotomy of worlds there.

I later ended up beside these folks at the rally, if only for awhile. Here is a shot of them, dressed in red:

To my right on the train was a sharply dressed conservative couple. They weren’t going to counter-protest, to their credit, but their discussion was completely soul-crushing, especially for someone who was going to protest against the status quo and had just had the Presidents Cup epiphany. You know, typical Suburban stuff – how he was going to handle his Cub Scout pack, their childrens’ spelling bee results, etc. The kind of ennui that I really fear. Between that and the Presidents’ Cup, I really began to understand why I feel so nuts living out here.

The trip in took quite awhile. I found it more than coincidental that the Metro Transit Authority chose this weekend to work on the lines, especially when Amtrak was also experiencing “Power Outages” up and down the East Coast (more on that in a bit). A few transfers, and an hour later I finally made it to the Ellipse. Along the way, I saw more and more protestors load in, including a large group of African Americans all dressed in a white “uniform” – they were from the Black Concerns Working Group.

I got off the Blue Line at Federal Triangle and climbed my way out of the “pit”. Around me were plenty of protestors, and outside waited even more. For the record, the first sign that I saw hoisted in protest (rather than sitting at someone’s side) had a picture of Kanye West on it. The legend? “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People”. I didn’t get a picture, but I did have a good laugh.

The Great Set-up

There was electricity in the air outside the metro station; groups of people milled around, exchanging jokes and chants, taking a breather before heading down to the Ellipse.

For those who are not familiar with the Federal Triangle, it is “located between Pennsylvania Avenue, Constitution Avenue and 15th Street, NW and…is comprised of a unified group of important and prominent Federal office buildings.” Words don’t really do it justice, however. The architecture contained therein is amazing.

I didn’t really bother with getting shots of the architecture because I was far too focused on the reason I was there: the people involved in the movement. It was incredibly encouraging to see a group of white anti-war activists speaking with black anti-racism activists, then sharing a group hug (I shit you not, a real group hug, and the emotions were clearly genuine), but this was only one of a hundred tiny dramas and inspirational scenes playing out before me, in the area depicted in the second image above.

I hung around there for a bit before following the crowd down and out onto Constitution, where people were assembling into groups for the trek to the Ellipse. This was the first throng of protestors that I encountered, as we hit the corner of Constitution and 14th:

It was even greater than it looks in that picture. As our group waited for the light, we were approached by a group handing out signs and stickers. I didn’t take a sign because I wanted to have my hands free, but I did take this sticker:

And I wore it with pride, believe me.

It was about this point that I heard the speaker on the Ellipse talking about the Amtrak outages and how thousands were being held up in Stations all up the East Coast. The good news? Those folks were holding spontaneous demonstrations inside the stations, sending their sprit to be with us even if they couldn’t physically be there. What an awesome and humbling message to hear. I have video of the speaker repeating the message, and may post it at some point in the future.

Signs and billboards were set up all along the route toward the Ellipse. This was my particular favorite (if you can’t tell, the image on the left hand side of the billboard is New Orleans):

My first stop was at Camp Casey.

The sight of the crosses and, on the other side of the field, the boots of fallen soldiers, was incredibly moving and poignant – the first of many times where I was moved to tears by what I was witnessing. I went inside the tent to find the Veterans Against the War were meeting inside, laying out plans for how they would assemble for the March.

Outside, two protestors were wearing masks of Dick Cheney and Condi Rice.

After Camp Casey, I went to visit the group tents on the other side of the field. Included in the groups were NO DU,, and the Green Party. Being a Green member of sorts, that was the first table I visited, and purchased a Green “Bring Them Home NOW!” Ribbon, which should go over well in our ribbon-pasting, flag-waving community, and a Green Party button. While I was there, we spoke about the suspicious train outages around the area, and one of the fellows informed me of a little operation going on this weekend called Operation Granite Shadow, a story that ran in the Washington Post recently. We all agreed that it was somewhat suspicious that they were running such an operation on this weekend of all weekends, especially when such little snafus and worries were hitting us as a group. The description of Granite Shadow?

Granite Shadow is yet another new Top Secret and compartmented operation related to the military’s extra-legal powers regarding weapons of mass destruction. It allows for emergency military operations in the United States without civilian supervision or control.

A spokesman at the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR) confirmed the existence of Granite Shadow to me yesterday, but all he would say is that Granite Shadow is the unclassified name for a classified plan.
That classified plan, I believe, after extensive research and after making a couple of assumptions, is CONPLAN 0400, formally titled Counter-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Concept Plan (CONPLAN) 0400 is a long-standing contingency plan of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) that serves as the umbrella for military efforts to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction. It has extensively been updated and revised since 9/11.

The CJCS plan lays out national policy and priorities for dealing with WMD threats in peacetime and crisis -- from far away offensive strikes and special operations against foreign WMD infrastructure and capabilities, to missile defenses and "consequence management" at home if offensive efforts fail.

All of the military planning incorporates the technical capabilities of the intelligence agencies and non-military organizations such as the national laboratories of the Department of Energy. And finally, CONPLAN 0400 directs regional combatant commanders to customize counter-proliferation plans for each of their own areas of operations.

When that "area of operations" is the United States, things become particularly sensitive.

Uh-huh. Anyway, after visiting that area, I made my way across Constitution and into the stage area, where the speakers were blaring Bob Marley, Rage Against the Machine, and Blackalicious. Here, not only electricity was in the air, but the ever-so-subtle scent of Marijuana and Patchouli. Here I also discovered that my brilliant plan to freeze my Propel Water backfired: solid ice. Man, was I thirsty.

While we waited for the rally to begin, we milled around, led in spontaneous chants from the stage. The sole sour note was when the folks on stage asked people to lower their signs so the press box had a clear shot of the stage – that drew a few boos, but I could understand both points-of-view. Folks from different groups circulated, handing out flyers (which will earn their own post sometime in the future). Meanwhile, a police helicopter circled above, no doubt coordinating the effort on the ground, but they managed to earn the enmity of the crowd.

After what seemed an age, the speaks took the stage, and the rally began in earnest.

Posted by crimnos @ 2:36 PM :: (0) comments

Still on the Way

Just an update. The story is still coming. It's long, but I think it'll be worth the wait, and it's personally very important. Have another few pictures while you wait.

Posted by crimnos @ 11:09 AM :: (2) comments