American Samizdat

Thursday, March 31, 2005. *
"One way they stopped churches from getting into politics was Lyndon Johnson, who passed a law that said you couldn’t get into politics or you were going to lose your tax-exempt status because they were all opposed to him when he was running for President. That law we’re trying to repeal; it’s very difficult to do that."

[While Representative DeLay may be confused about Lyndon Johnson being one of the authors of the Constitution, I think he is very clear on what law he is trying to repeal: the First Amendment. Until now it has been difficult to do that, but they're working on it.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 10:05 PM
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If you expressed your support to Terri Schiavo and her parents fight to keep her alive, you may begin to receive a steady stream of solicitations, according to a Local 6 News report. Terri Schiavo's parents have agreed to sell their list of supporters to a direct-mailing firm.
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:31 PM
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Douglas S. Smith, Jr.'s Duty to God and Country

Thanks to the Raving Atheist, we can read about Douglas S. Smith, Jr., National Program Director of the Boy Scouts of America, from two time periods: September 2004 and a few minutes ago. Back then he was defending the Boy Scouts of America policy of not allowing atheists. More recently, he was pleading guilty in court of receiving and distributing child pornography. Because in some people's minds (such as his), it's better to get off on pictures of cross-generational sex than to be an atheist. Anything is better than being an atheist. Because atheists don't have any moral base, don't you know, to prevent them from doing bad things. We need strong religious organizations like the Boy Scouts of America to engender good morals and safe child/adult relationships.
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:01 PM
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New York City: An investigation by the New York Daily News in 2003 found that books used in the city's Muslim schools "are rife with inaccuracies, sweeping condemnations of Jews and Christians, and triumphalist declarations of Islam's supremacy."

Los Angeles: The Omar Ibn Khattab Foundation donated 300 copies of the Koran (titled The Meaning of the Holy Quran) to the city school district in 2001 that had to be pulled from school libraries within months because of its anti-Semitic commentaries. One footnote reads: "The Jews in their arrogance claimed that all wisdom and all knowledge of Allah was enclosed in their hearts... Their claim was not only arrogance but blasphemy."

The Muslim Community School in Potomac, Maryland, imbues in its students a sense of alienation from their own country. Seventh-grader Miriam told a Washington Post reporter in 2001, "Being American is just being born in this country." Eighth-grader Ibrahim announced that "Being an American means nothing to me."

A textbook used at the Islamic Saudi Academy of Alexandria, Virginia, in 2004, authored and published by the Saudi Ministry of Education, teaches first-graders that "all religions, other than Islam, are false, including that of the Jews [and] Christians." An ISA class valedictorian, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, was recently indicted for plotting to assassinate President Bush.

[All this is assigned the usual code words of extremist and fundamentalist, when in fact it is an accurate representation of Islam as found in the Quran. And it is unmentioned that the same sort of anti-social behavior is encouraged by the Bible. The problem isn't a mis-representation and distortion of religion, the problem is religion itself.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 2:38 PM
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When they do the most under reported or censored stories of 2004, one of the top contenders would have to be statistical anomalies in the 2004 presidential election. And today, a number of PH D level statisticians have released a report showing that the numbers don't add up. If you're not aware of this, exit polling is pretty accurate. In Germany, where they use paper ballots, the exit polling gets the final vote count right, like, 99.9 percent of the time. Republican officials, who want to eliminate exit polling here, used contrasting exit polls/actual vote count numbers to help lobby for new elections in the Ukraine--thus proving that they refuse to recognize the principles behind both chutzpah and irony. Here's a snippet of the report from the Free Press article:

"The consortium that conducted the presidential exit polls, Edison/Mitofsky, issued a report in January suggesting that the discrepancy between election results and exit polls occurred because Bush voters were more reticent than Kerry voters in response to pollsters.

"The authors of this scientific study of the National Election Data Archive Project, consider that scenario highly unlikely, based on extensive analysis of the election data presented in their report “Final Study of the 2004 Presidential Election Poll Discrepancies”. They conclude, /“The required pattern of exit poll participation by Kerry and Bush voters to satisfy the exit poll data defies empirical experience and common sense under any assumed scenario.”/

An executive summary of the report by Josh Mitteldorf of Temple University has been released today and is available at: The full 25 page scientific report will be released tomorrow. This group's preliminary study on the exit poll discrepancies was not refuted by any PhD statistician in America, and we expect our final study to be similarly received in the academic community
. "

Amidst the data, many extremely unlikely anomalies exist, invariably in President Bush’s favor. For one, a state-by-state analysis of the discrepancy between exit polls and official election results shows highly improbable skewing of the election results biased towards the president.

We have had election fraud in this country before. November's wildly inaccurate presidential exit polls should warrant concern of the highest order by every American citizen.

Now, the folks at black box voting, who I quoted a few weeks ago, don't have the best reputation in town. But take a look at the folks who signed on to this study. And of course, as has been stated before, if this is true, everything else really doesn't matter. The Democrats can move to the commie left or the abortion bombing clinic right...they will lose. I don't know if you can yet call that fascism, but you certainly can't call it democracy. Here are the wacky, out of the mainstream contributors:

*Contributors and Supporters of the Report include:*
*Josh Mitteldorf*, PhD - Temple University Statistics Department
*Steven F. Freeman*, PhD - Center for Organizational Dynamics, University of Pennsylvania
*Brian Joiner*, PhD - Prof. of Statistics (ret) University of Wisconsin
*Frank Stenger*, PhD - Professor, School of Computing, University of Utah
*Richard G. Sheehan*, PhD -Professor, Department of Finance, University of Notre Dame
*Paul F. Velleman*, PhD - Associate Prof., Department of Statistical Sciences, Cornell University
*Victoria Lovegren*, PhD - Department of Mathematics, Case Western Reserve University
*Campbell** B. Read*, PhD - Prof. Emeritus, Department of Statistical Science, Southern Methodist University
*Jonathan Simon*, J.D., National Ballot Integrity Project
*Ron Paul Baiman, *PhD* *– Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago

posted by Philip Shropshire at 2:00 PM
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Tom DeLay Song Parody
I've finally finished writing my Tom DeLay song parody, Ode To DeLay, which you can sing to "To All The Girls I've Loved Before." Here's how it begins:

A Rep whose name is Tom DeLay,
He breaks the rules most ev'ry day.
He don't respect the law,
Thinks ethics are a bore.
'Tis time to show him crime don't pay.

Tom practices dishonesty.
Ignores the law with joy and glee.
Misused the FBI,
Golf junkets on the sly...

The rest of my Ode To Tom DeLay is here.
posted by Mad Kane at 11:28 AM
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No Holidays for Hate
What does it take to get the three major religions that claim Jeruselem as a spiritual center to agree about something?

A goodly dose of intolerance and hate.

International gay leaders are planning a 10-day WorldPride festival and parade in Jerusalem this August, saying they want to make a statement about tolerance and diversity in the Holy City, home to three great religious traditions.

Now a number of leaders of the three faiths, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, are making a rare show of unity to try to stop the festival. They say it would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable.

Christian and Muslim alike fear this event will call down God's wrath.

Muslim Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari voiced concern that the festival could draw down divine wrath akin to that which destroyed the biblical city of Sodom.
"God destroyed the city and we don't want this to happen to us. God will punish us if we allow this to happen," he said.

...California pastor Leo Giovinetti said hosting the 10-day World Pride event could bring divine retribution upon Jerusalem, citing the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorra as a precedent.

Mr Giovinetti is not speaking against the World Pride event out of intolerance.
He said, "I haven't come because I have hate for the homosexuals, I've come because I have love for the Jews…And I believe this is one of those moments where the Jews and the Christians can come together and truly be people of the Book, and make a united stand for what has always been known historically as a sin."

Mr Giovinetti seems to have left out his fellow fundamentalist homophobes, the Islamic monotheists. Go figure.

The aims of the event:
Jerusalem WorldPride 2005 will…

* Jerusalem WorldPride 2005 will make history in one of the world’s most historic cities. With the eyes of the world on them, the international LGBT community will bring a message of unity and reconciliation to people troubled by conflict.
* Jerusalem WorldPride 2005 will bring a message of dignity and acceptance to a city holy to three of the world’s great religious faiths.
* Jerusalem WorldPride 2005 will claim the rightful place of lesbians and gays in world history and culture.
posted by m at 10:34 AM
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Democracy Rising "Interview" with Smedley D. Butler, Major General, USMC

THE SMEDLEY BUTLER SOCIETY will enlighten you to the timeless thought of this American hero who died in 1940. Keep hitting the "Next" button...

Read the full text of "War is a Racket"
posted by m at 8:32 AM
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I was surprised to tune in this morning and hear that it was Unfiltered's last day . . . Jerry Springer to replace?
posted by Dr. Menlo at 6:45 AM
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Wednesday, March 30, 2005. *

" . . . for a successful recovery of old and generation of new knowledge on water management, a community-based sustainable integrated resource management under gender equity, a courageous stand against undemocratic, top-down bureaucratic resource control, an efficient use of a free press, and an independent judiciary to meet these goals." [more]

posted by Dr. Menlo at 9:58 PM
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Tuesday, March 29, 2005. *
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIf you've been reading ScruHoo for long, you're aware that I'm a covert medic, Dr. Beau D. Bagg, in the armies of The Christian Underground. It was via CU that Dr. Bagg learned, "the city of Jerusalem will be subjected to "a moral outrage" if a planned 10-day event known as WorldPride 2005 goes forward as planned. If it does take place, the event will bring some 250,000 homosexuals to the holy city in a celebration of their lifestyle."

That fancy Googlin' machine led me to "Love without Borders: Jerusalem WorldPride 2005 : Jerusalem, the Holy City, the city the world looks towards from east and west. With more than 5,000 years of recorded history, the very name evokes vivid images even in those who have not yet visited.
"Love without Borders: Jerusalem WorldPride 2005 will bring a new focus to an ancient city through a massive demonstration of LGBT dignity, pride, and boundary-crossing celebration. In these times of intolerance and suspicion, from the home of three of the world’s great religions, we will proclaim that love knows no borders."

If you've been wondering exactly where to find a definition of diametric opposition, look no further. And, according to Deacon Chad Groening, "holding WorldPride 2005 in Jerusalem would lead to the worst debauchery the Middle East has seen since the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah."

So which is it, people? Love or debauchery? Scrutiny Hooligans investigated further into's hidden pansexual agenda, "Islam, Christianity and Judaism affirm the dignity of all human beings and our creation in the divine image. Yet these same faiths have often been sources of hostility and intolerance for LGBT people.

WorldPride 2005 will bring thousands of us to Jerusalem to confront preconception with reality, prejudice with an opportunity for understanding, in a way that will capture the attention of the world. Together we will proclaim that in this ancient religious city – and in this region – we too belong."

So, it's clearly love that the WorldPride 2005 plans to bring to Jerusalem, like so many jesuses on donkeys. Right? This Hooligan thought as much until learning another truth from Comrade of the Christian Underground's Righteous Army, Mike Evans, founder of Jerusalem Prayer Team, "This is a moral outrage, Jerusalem is where heaven and earth met and will meet again. It is the holiest city. This event will bring to the streets homosexuals in immodest dress, in G-strings, with all kinds of pornographic images. They plan to fill the hotels and restaurants and party like Sodomites, while the world press takes pictures. It is a disgrace to the eternal holiness of Jerusalem and to its people."

Now we're definitely leaning towards debauchery. G-string clad, porno-wielding Sodomites invade Jerusalem? That's gotta be debauchery.

Both groups want you to sign up to help them out. The Jerusalem Prayer Team in concert with The Christian Underground want you to demand that the mayor of Jerusalem bar the door against God-hating homos. The InterPride Group at World Pride 2005 want you to make sure everyone in the world knows they're coming to Israel to protest against hatred.

Keep paying attention to this. August 18-28, 2005. Ten days of bold revelry by a global gaggle of GLBT activists in the heart of the three great Western faiths.
posted by Gordon Smith at 7:26 PM
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Her crime was being disabled, voiceless, and at the disposal of our media

"As to legal concerns," writes William Anderson—a senior psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a lecturer at Harvard University—"a guardian may refuse any medical treatment, but drinking water is not such a procedure. It is not within the power of a guardian to withhold, and not in the power of a rational court to prohibit."

Ralph Nader agrees. In a statement on March 24, he and Wesley Smith (author of, among other books, Culture of Death: The Assault of Medical Ethics in America) said: "The court is imposing process over justice. After the first trial [before Judge Greer], much evidence has been produced that should allow for a new trial—which was the point of the hasty federal legislation.

"If this were a death penalty case, this evidence would demand reconsideration. Yet, an innocent, disabled woman is receiving less justice. . . . This case is rife with doubt. Justice demands that Terri be permitted to live."
posted by A.Q. at 6:50 PM
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posted by Dr. Menlo at 6:46 PM
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posted by Dr. Menlo at 6:40 PM
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Esso is the world’s no. 1 climate criminal. It has done more than any other company to stop the world from tackling climate change.
Esso admits that it has a ‘vested interest’ in stopping governments from taking action on climate change. For over a decade, it has attempted to sabotage international negotiations on the issue and block agreements which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s thanks to corporations like Esso that the US ditched the Kyoto Protocol, the only international agreement to deal with climate change. With only five percent of the world’s population, the US is responsible for emitting 25 percent of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. Esso wants to keep it that way.

Esso even denies that climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels and has spent millions of dollars funding front organisations to reinforce its position.

To protect its own profits, Esso opposes the switch to clean energy. Despite being one of the world’s richest companies, Esso doesn’t invest a single dollar in renewable energy. In fact Esso would like to see a massive increase in fossil fuel use over the next 20 years - a scenario that would send climate change spiralling out of control. [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 5:54 PM
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Sunday, March 27, 2005. *
"The Hammer" hammered his own pater--into the grave!
posted by Dr. Menlo at 12:18 PM
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Yes, but in Saddam's day you couldn't even protest, so it's better now, right? At least you can protest! Just wear Kevlar! Damn liberals always gotta complain about something!
posted by Dr. Menlo at 11:55 AM
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It was fear of death wot won it for George Bush in last year's presidential election, if a series of psychological experiments are to be believed. [...] The four experiments were conducted before the presidential election and originally designed to test terror management theory (TMT), rather than as political analysis. TMT posits that human awareness of mortality makes it our core terror; we use culture in general, and leaders in particular, to create a protective shield against fears arising from the inevitability of this demise.

In the first experiment, reminders of death were provided to a sample of subjects by asking them to respond to questions about death and dying. Members of a control sample were given questions about watching TV. Both samples were then asked to read a highly favourable opinion of the measures taken by Bush after 9/11 and to say how much they endorsed his actions. Those previously reminded of their death were significantly more likely to endorse his policies. The second experiment established that, on its own, being reminded of 9/11 increased subjects' awareness of their own mortality. The third showed that reminders of 9/11 and reminders of mortality, per se, were equally effective in generating support for Bush, whether the subjects were leftwing or conservative.
posted by Trevor Blake at 9:14 AM
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Saturday, March 26, 2005. *

Southern school board buy their textbooks in a block, lead by the purchase decisions of Texas's board. "Liberal" school boards make individual purchase decisions. That means that reactionary anti-sex-ed and anti-evolution agendas dominate the editorial decisions at textbook publishers, which has led to the elimination sex-ed from every current health text in America and will shortly do in evolution as well.

There is a substantial buying bloc--namely, school boards in southern states--that follows suit with whatever the state school board of Texas does. These states buy textbooks uniformly, statewide. Most "blue states" buy district to district, so there is no unified bloc per se to counterbalance the southern states where points of politics are concerned. So this bloc of southern school boards has an unrivalled power to influence the choices of the major textbook publishers in the country--of which there are only like four, anyhow. Basically, they don't publish anything the school board of Texas doesn't buy.

You can see where this headed, but it's already shockingly total. Right now, a sex ed textbook that isn't "abstinence only" cannot be bought in the United States. Not a current one, not from any major publisher. There are inroads against evolution as well, but sex ed has basically been exterminated.

via BoingBoing via from Metroland
posted by ben at 8:04 PM
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posted by Trevor Blake at 2:10 PM
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Don Baker writes: "I have an Easter challenge for Christians. My challenge is simply this: tell me what happened on Easter. I am not asking for proof. My straightforward request is merely that Christians tell me exactly what happened on the day that their most important doctrine was born. The conditions of the challenge are simple and reasonable. In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and Paul's tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3-8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened. Since the gospels do not always give precise times of day, it is permissible to make educated guesses. The narrative does not have to pretend to present a perfect picture - it only needs to give at least one plausible account of all of the facts. Additional explanation of the narrative may be set apart in parentheses. The important condition to the challenge, however, is that not one single biblical detail be omitted. Fair enough?"

Why should a post about Easter show up at American Samizdat? Because President George W. Bush believes in Easter, and is making policy decisions based on said fairy tales.
posted by Trevor Blake at 1:30 PM
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Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.

Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide.
posted by A.Q. at 10:46 AM
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Friday, March 25, 2005. *
The Daily Show on the Terri Schiavo circus
Here and here. Worth checking out, particularly if you need a laugh to get over the past week's absurdities. (note that the links are to two different segments)
posted by Bill at 8:34 PM
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Bin Laden on the run, in pumps?

Gannon/Guckert dressing up his resume by falsely claiming military service?

Gang Green: NeoCons driving hybrids?
posted by m at 2:39 PM
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If a student had been caught smoking on school grounds, that student would be suspended (if not expelled) no matter how good their grades or attendance. This principal not only abused her position in suspending this student who busted her smoking, she apparently got away with the original offense.

Principal apologizes for smoking at school

PROVIDENCE, R.I., March 25 (UPI) -- A Providence high school principal who suspended a student for posting a picture of her smoking on his Web site has apologized to the student body.

Eliazar Velasquez, 17, caught Elaine Almagno lighting up on the grounds of Central High School, a violation both of Rhode Island state law and school district policy, the Providence Journal reported. She ordered him to remove the photograph from his Web site and suspended him when he refused.

On Tuesday, the sophomore was offered reinstatement but only if he complied with the removal order. On Wednesday, Superintendent of Schools Melody Johnson went public, saying that Almagno, "a veteran administrator with a 25-year unblemished record," had made a mistake.

Johnson said that she ordered Central High officials to remove the suspension from Velasquez's record and that Almagno had apologized over the intercom for smoking on school grounds.

Velasquez told the newspaper that, when he returned to school, the vice principal advised him to find some better way of expressing disagreements and that Almagno did not speak to him at all.
Copyright 2005 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.

posted by Unknown at 2:01 PM
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Skirting Title IX

Posted on a Friday afternoon so we wouldn't notice, the Education Department last week issued a "clarification" of Title IX that will make it a whole lot easier for colleges to skip out on their obligation to offer women the same coaching, courts, rinks and swim pools as the guys. The NY Times reports that "under the new clarification, colleges can demonstrate that they are satisfying the demand for women's sports by taking an online survey showing that female students have no unmet sports interests." Non responses could be interpreted as lack of interest under the ruling, even if the e-mails were trashed as spam. There's also the chicken and egg thing operating here. How are women to develop interest in particular sports if the sports aren't even offered?

Ms. Musings points us to Women's Hoops Blog which has the backstory on all this, including Bush Co's aborted attempt to push the same ruling through two years ago. Title IX, enacted in 1972 and barring sex discrimination in schools receiving federal funding, has been responsible for the surge in schoolgirl athletics and has boosted women's participation in college sports by 400 percent according to the National Women's Law Center.

Women comprise 57 percent of college students nationwide.
posted by RHerman at 1:57 PM
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Opposition to prayer in schools is often silenced by intimidation and threats from religious "extremists," the executive director of the Louisiana branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday. Joe Cook told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that before the organization challenged the practice of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board of starting its meeting with a prayer, it had also received complaints from Orleans and Ouachita parishes about prayer at school functions.

[Note that as usual, the code word for 'religious people doing things we don't like' is 'extremist.' The code word 'fundamentalist' has the same function. But also as usual, this is defining things after the fact. They did something they didn't like, so they're extremists. Before that, they were just other religious people doing other religious things. This sort of labelling after the fact is a useful way for religious people to keep their tax breaks and social power without ever having to 'clean house.' Because the only way to reform religion is to be less religious.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 1:09 PM
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Thursday, March 24, 2005. *

. . . via Aberrant News

posted by Dr. Menlo at 3:49 PM
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Contrary to inheritance laws the scientific world has accepted for more than 100 years, some plants revert to normal traits carried by their grandparents, bypassing genetic abnormalities carried by both parents. "If you take this mutant Arabidopsis, which has two copies of the altered gene, let it seed and then plant the seeds, 90 percent of the offspring will look like the parent, but 10 percent will look like the normal grandparents," Pruitt said. "Our genetic training tells us that's just not possible. This challenges everything we believe. "We've done a lot of experiments, described in this paper, that show none of the simple explanations account for this skipping of generations by an inherited trait." Once scientists understand more about the mechanism, they then may be able to manipulate it to modify genes already in plants and animals in order to correct mutations that cause diseases and abnormal growth.

[Admission of error. Search for truth. Delight in discovering one is mistaken. Challenging received wisdom. Pure exploration wed to practical applications leading to a lessening of suffering. That happens with science every day and with religion never. Religion has two ways of admiting it was wrong: one is to have a 'new revelation' (preserve the existing bullshit and add a new layer) and one is to go atheist. It is unfortunate that in the United States there is an increasing trend toward more religion and less science.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 2:29 PM
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Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.

The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee.

The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House. [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:19 AM
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posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:17 AM
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005. *
Works-Based Salvation? What the hell is that?
Faith-Based Initiative and why it won't work:

"You're either with us, or you're going to bed hungry tonight."

Charlotte, North Carolina, March 19, 2005

One of Charlotte's best-known churches has withdrawn support for a food pantry that serves the needy because the pantry works with Roman Catholics.

Central Church of God explained its decision in a letter March 1 from minister of evangelism Shannon Burton to Loaves & Fishes in Charlotte: "As a Christian church, we feel it is our responsibility to follow closely the (principles) and commands of Scripture. To do this best, we feel we should abstain from any ministry that partners with or promotes Catholicism, or for that matter, any other denomination promoting a works-based salvation.

The Rev. Tony Marciano, executive director of Charlotte Rescue Mission, said Burton told him the church could no longer support the agency after it allowed three Muslim students from UNC Charlotte to help serve a meal at the uptown ministry in November. Founded in 1938 by eight businessmen, including Charlotte-born evangelist Billy Graham's father, Charlotte Rescue Mission offers Christ-centered residential care for people fighting drugs and alcohol.

In the letter to Loaves & Fishes, obtained by the Observer, Central's Burton tried to end on a positive note:

"I hope and pray you receive this as intended -- in love," Burton wrote. "Thank you in advance for your understanding in this matter, and if you should have any questions, feel free to give me a call."

What a self-righteous scumbag.

I copied out some of the text of the article as the site requires registration at certain points, and some of us don't like to register for EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF NEWS WE MIGHT WANT TO READ.

posted by Lisa D at 8:30 PM
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Excellent analysis from Susie Bright into the mind of Jeff Gannon/James Guckert and his social matrix.
posted by New World at 7:01 PM
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According to the snivelling CNN, the President of the United States said this Monday

In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life[.]

According to the Texas State Legislature's own records of their tragicomic efforts at legalism, this is the law GW Bush signed in 1999

§ 166.039 Subsection (f)

The fact that an adult qualified patient has not executed or issued a directive does not create a presumption that the patient does not want a treatment decision to be made to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment.

In this context, a "directive" is a (possibly unnotarized) document which states the patient's preferences on the question "to pull, or not to pull" the plug.
posted by JoshSN at 9:39 AM
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posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:18 AM
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Obviously . . . as if the GOP gives a rat's ass about anybody's life other than their own . . .
posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:16 AM
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Tuesday, March 22, 2005. *
QUIT (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) is calling for a worldwide boycott of the World Pride event to be held in Jerusalem this year. They have issued an Open Letter to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer Groups and Individuals as follows:
We ask you to join us in a boycott of travel to World Pride Jerusalem 2005 as part of the international boycott of Israel and the campaign to divest from Israel.

As you know, many groups have joined the movement to boycott Israeli goods and to divest from Israel in protest of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands, the construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank, and the destruction of Palestinian olive trees, homes, and villages. We believe that the goal of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) liberation is best served by supporting local community organizing while also supporting the liberation struggles of all oppressed peoples.

We support the work of Jerusalem Open House (the local sponsor of World Pride 2005 in Jerusalem) in fighting queer oppression, and we understand and respect that LGBTIQ people and organizations within Israel and Palestine will decide for themselves how to relate to World Pride. However, we ask LGBTIQ people from other countries to boycott travel to Israel and not to attend World Pride 2005 in Jerusalem.

Although Jerusalem was designated as an "international city" by the United Nations, travel to Jerusalem may only be accomplished with the consent of the Israeli government and its military forces. Palestinians and other people of Arab and North African descent have routinely been barred from the City of Jerusalem by the occupying Israeli forces. We are appalled that InterPride chose Jerusalem as the site of the second World Pride event and is encouraging LGBTIQ people from all over the world to ignore the boycott and spend significant funds in Israel, bolstering its tourist economy and its disingenuous claim to be a "free," democratic, state. We are also appalled at the blatant misrepresentation of the event as one that will be open to all LGBTIQ people and the chosen theme "Love Without Borders."

The promotion of this event by InterPride has included the distribution of thousands of DVDs at Pride 2004 in San Francisco and New York. The DVD promotes the "great parties" and "beautiful women" in Israel. The DVD also promotes the fact that the Israeli army allows openly lesbian and gay people to serve. It does not discuss the role of the army in oppressing people in the Occupied Territories, but does condemn the Palestinian Authority for its treatment of lesbian and gay people. The only mention of the Intifada (Palestinian resistance struggle) is to say that it makes it more difficult for lesbian and gay Palestinians to come out or to "escape" to Israel.

We understand that some conservative and right-wing people in Israel are opposed to World Pride being held in Jerusalem because they oppose LGBTIQ rights, and that some LGBTIQ people are considering attending the event to oppose these forces and support the local LGBTIQ groups. We certainly understand this impulse, but we believe that after examining all of the many political issues involved it is more important to boycott travel to World Pride 2005 in Jerusalem to send the message to Israel that the civil rights victories gained by some LGBTIQ people within Israel do not justify or excuse the oppression of the Palestinian people or the occupation of their lands.

We hope that you will raise the issues discussed above with your group and others as part of the ongoing dialogue concerning how LGBTIQ people can both promote LGBTIQ liberation and the rights of all oppressed peoples including the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, refugee camps, and in the Diaspora. We will post thoughtful responses to these issues on this website in order to facilitate dialogue on these issues within the LGBTIQ community.

Please let us know if your group is willing to join us in endorsing or sponsoring the boycott of travel to WorldPride 2005 in Jerusalem.

In Peace and Struggle,

The Coalition to Boycott World Pride 2005
posted by levi9909 at 1:21 PM
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Monday, March 21, 2005. *
posted by Dr. Menlo at 4:12 PM
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Sunday, March 20, 2005. *
Religion Does Not Reform Humanity, Humanity Reforms Religion
The BBC reports: "A professor in the US is thought to have become one of the first Muslim women to lead mixed Friday prayers. More than 100 men and women attended the service and sermon given by Amina Wadud, professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. [...] 'The issue of gender equality is a very important one in Islam, and Muslims have unfortunately used highly restrictive interpretations of history to move backward,' Ms Wadud said before the service started. 'With this prayer service we are moving forward. This single act is symbolic of the possibilities within Islam.'"

As always, the way religion 'moves forward' is by being less religious and more secular. Women have moved forward in the secular world more in the past few decades than in the religious world in the last few thousand years. Ms Wadud can claim that the Quran does not encourage the oppression of women by men all she wants, but she will remain mistaken (see for yourself here, here, here... well, you get the idea). If you want to see more women moving forward (and more men moving forward and more of all of us moving forward), foster a world that is less religious and more secular. The alternative was clearly stated by a protester outside of Ms. Wadud's service: "If this was an Islamic state, this woman would be hanged."
posted by Trevor Blake at 7:38 AM
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Saturday, March 19, 2005. *
Late in 2004, Chelsea Green Publishing did the impossible. We signed George Lakoff, got his book, Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate out in five weeks (!) and then ushered it onto The New York Times and other national bestseller lists less than a month later.

We did this by partnering with progressive activist and indy media groups, to launch the book via e-mail blasts and on various web sites, like, Democracy for America, Apollo Alliance, Jim Hightower, GreenFestival, AlterNet and more. We also got a lot of help from the blogs, like DailyKos and BoingBoing. We published a book about new, progressive ideals, and rather than going the traditional and lengthy turn-your-hair-gray publishing route (calling on galleys, sales reps, early reviews, and ads), we went directly to progressives to get Lakoff's book out into the world. It worked. We created a new publishing model. And we're not shy about telling you that Chelsea Green and Mr. Lakoff have made a very nice chunk of change. [more]

See also: Making Unnecessary Enemies, a response from David Corn.
posted by Dr. Menlo at 11:01 PM
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Book recommendation: The book Emergence: The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software, might be interesting to some AmSam readers. It has some interesting insights into society and the diminishing value of top down leadership type organizations; exploring alternate methods of social structure. The last chapter talks about the Seattle WTO protests and how their distibuted "nobody in charge" organization worked. My review is over on my AI oriented blog if you're interested.
posted by ben at 9:57 AM
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Friday, March 18, 2005. *
posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:04 PM
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Imitation of Life
OK - so, as an ex-cook turned engineer I guess I shouldn't be too embarrassed quoting something out of Gourmet (which, for reasons I don't understand, has none of their articles on line - so you'll have to buy the issue if you want to read, sorry, I google'd and could not find a link to this).

Anyway - very good article on GM croups in, of all things, Gourmet magazine.

Summary (but you should drop by a borders, get a coffee, and read it) from Gourmet, April 2005 - Article "Imitation of Life":

Canadian court sets precident with ruling that says, even if GM (genetically modified) crops are blown by the wind into another's field and start growing the patent holder still has rights over those crops. So there's goes the natural cycle...

The official policy of the FDA is essentially to ask for, and be contented with, industry assurances that each particular GM food is "substantially equivalent" to an existing food. ... (Thus far, every GM food on the market has, not suprisingly, been designated as "substantially equivalent" to something)

Here at the Patent Office, lawyers for companies like Monsanto argue that their genetic inventions are not ho-hum "equivalent" to existing products but are actually shockingly unique - so much so, in fact, that they deserve special legal protection for 20 years.

Refering to tomatoes that won't freeze:
Center for Food Safety's Craig Culp: "But how can you not acknowledge that there's a substaintial difference between an ordinary tomato and a tomato with a flounder gene in it"

Given the US ruling that life is patentable - it's become common practice to find crops that have been being grown for 1,000 years and then patent them as your invention which

One Indian argicultural official suggested that the WTO penalize the US for encouraging such raids on indigenous property.

Corporate patents can be preempted by farmers' cooperatives ... The current apparatus places the legal and financial burden on the challengers, which GM critics argue is like expecting hens to wait for the murderous raid and the sue the fox

Anyway - really interesting article and, if you pick it up you'll get a great recipe for Wilad Salmon with Pearl Couscous, Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Lemon Oregano Oil...
posted by ben at 5:04 PM
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Two years ago today - when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.

In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists".

"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.

Insiders told Newsnight that planning began "within weeks" of Bush's first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the US.
posted by platts42 at 9:20 AM
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Thursday, March 17, 2005. *
Funny, I've heard a lot about Russia and Iran but haven't heard anything about China and Iran until an Iranian friend I work with said "Iran sold it's natural gas to China for a pittence in return for it's veto in the UN Security Council". Not sure if there's anything to this but China definitely seems more in bed with the Mullas than is generally being reported - or maybe I just missed it.

From a Washington Post article on Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Holding a veto at the U.N. Security Council, China has become the key obstacle to putting international pressure on Iran.

The burgeoning relationship is reflected in two huge new oil and gas deals between the two countries that will deepen the relationship for at least the next 25 years

the two countries signed a preliminary accord worth $70 billion to $100 billion by which China will purchase Iranian oil and gas

Accurate trade figures are difficult to get, in part because trade is increasing so rapidly and partly because China's large arms sales to Iran are not included or publicized
posted by ben at 3:48 PM
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Wednesday, March 16, 2005. *
posted by Dr. Menlo at 7:47 PM
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The Social Nerve
posted by Deleted at 2:42 PM
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A secret US plan to wreck Tony Blair's G8 initiative combating illegal logging in the world's threatened rainforests has been revealed in a State Department memo leaked to the BBC's Newsnight...

And even more damaging for the transatlantic alliance is the revelation in the memo that the head of forest policy in the State Department, Stephanie Caswell, drafted a strategy in January to work with Canada to stop imposing restrictions on timber purchasing and to lobby Russia and Canada to vote against the scheme.

The memo suggested that any measures by Mr Blair to issue a G8 communiqué committing to timber procurement rules was "unacceptable" and should be resisted.

Because the only apes the U.S. Government is interested in are the ones running this country.
posted by platts42 at 1:47 PM
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Tuesday, March 15, 2005. *
posted by Dr. Menlo at 9:01 PM
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Would you lie to the world about weapons of mass destruction--scaring the crap out of the dumb half of America--for 100 million dollars?
posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:51 PM
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posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:10 PM
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Freedom is on the March
Marriage is a human right. Unless you are prepared to say that some people are not human, then you must allow their basic human rights. - paraphrased Al Sharpton

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe court decision in California pointing out the obvious, "the denial of marriage to same-sex couples appears impermissibly arbitrary", means that we're in for a real media circus. Big Media will give equal time to raving homophobes and poorly prepped California crusaders for homosexual rights. Every sitting politican in the country will run screaming from the debate, and many of them will run directly to the Constitution to get their amendment on. The reality-based blogs will get behind the good guys, and the faith-based blogs will either get behind the crazies or ignore the matter altogether.

"...celebrations erupted at City Hall, as same-sex couples crowded into a news conference held by Newsom and other city officials. Marches and rallies were announced in at least a dozen other cities across the state."

Millions of Americans can, for the first time in history, see the possibility of equal treatment under the law and the recognition of their inalienable right to pursue happiness. Freedom is on the march, bitches, and it's rolling through California right now.

But while we're watching events unfold in California, it's important to remember that our patriotic love of diversity isn't shared by many,

"RIYADH - A gay couple was beaded in a public execution Sunday in Saudi Arabia after being convicted of killing a blackmailer. If they had been exposed as gay they could have been executed anyway.

Homosexuality is punishable by flogging, lengthy prison terms or death under Sharia Islamic law."

If you're going to take up the banner of human rights, get ready to run. Here in America, homosexuals are forced by the ruling culture to hide their sexuality or move to specific areas where a limited tolerance and isolated acceptance is practiced. This status quo is in danger of changing, and the armies of newly empowered evangelical kulturkops are righteously pissed. It's shocking to those who are pushing to eliminate evolution from serious scholarship that America might actually protect the rights of faggoty faggots. It's going to get ugly. The people who oppose Americans' right to marry are cousins to those who would lop off their heads. Freedom is going to lose a lot of battles as states pass man/woman marriage laws and dare the ACLU's legal team to bring it on. It's the mother of all wedge issues and may drive more people into the republican party as they dip their toes into the reality of the situation - they're surrounded by homos. Homosexuals cut their hair, do their taxes, sell their cars, lead their churches. This information is enough to make some peoples' heads explode.

Meanwhile, globally, the effort to establish basic human rights is barely off the ground. Slavery is still rampant in Africa. The global trade in children is on the rise. Nations torture prisoners who never receive a trial. But defending the basic human rights of our fellow free Americans is a great place to get started if you're new to this, and a great place to continue if you've been down since day one.
posted by Gordon Smith at 7:34 PM
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Washington, DC: US marijuana policies, which rely primarily on criminal penalties and law enforcement, are wholly ineffective at controlling the use and sale of marijuana, concludes a comprehensive report issued today by the NORML Foundation. The report, entitled "Crimes of Indiscretion: Marijuana Arrests in the United States," includes a detailed examination of the fiscal costs associated with the enforcement of marijuana laws at the state and county level, as well as a complete demographic analysis of which Americans are most likely to be arrested for violating marijuana laws.

Among the reports' findings:

* The enforcement of state and local marijuana laws annually costs US taxpayers an estimated $7.6 billion, approximately $10,400 per arrest. Of this total, annual police costs are $3.7 billion, judicial/legal costs are $853 million, and correctional costs are $3.1 billion. In both California and New York, state fiscal costs dedicated to marijuana law enforcement annually total over $1 billion. [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 11:49 AM
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Not only can you drive hybrids for green self-satisfaction, you can light your building with hybrids, too. Hybrid lighting, that is, a new technology from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The system pipes sunlight throughout a building, providing useful levels of light whenever the sun is out. But on cloudy days, or at night, the lighting fixtures turn on fluorescent tubes to supplement the output -- that's the "hybrid" part. The system can even capture light for power generation. [more]

posted by Dr. Menlo at 10:40 AM
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Juan Cole:
Readers often write in for an update on Fallujah. I am sorry to say that there is no Fallujah to update. The city appears to be in ruins and perhaps uninhabitable in the near future. Of 300,000 residents, only about 9,000 seem to have returned, and apparently some of those are living in tents above the ruins of their homes. The rest of the Fallujans are scattered in refugee camps of hastily erected tents at several sites, including one near Habbaniyyah, or are staying with relatives in other cities, including Baghdad.

The scale of this human tragedy-- the dispossession and displacement of 300,000 persons-- is hard to imagine. Unlike the victims of the tsunami who were left homeless, moreover, the Fallujans have witnessed no outpouring of world sympathy. While there were undeniably bad characters in the city, most residents had done nothing wrong and did not deserve to be made object lessons--which was the point Rumsfeld was making with this assault. He hoped to convince Ramadi and Mosul to fall quiet lest the same thing happen to them. He failed, since the second Fallujah campaign threw the Sunni Arab heartland into much more chaos than ever before. People forget how quiet Mosul had been. And, the campaign was the death knell for proper Sunni participation in the Jan. 30 elections (Sunnis, with 20 percent of the population, have only 6 seats in the 275 member parliament).

However much a cliche it might be to say it, the US military really did destroy Fallujah to save it.
posted by Bill at 7:45 AM
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Monday, March 14, 2005. *
"Proposing an amendment to Section 16 of Article I of the Constitution of Virginia [...] To secure further the people’s right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience, neither the Commonwealth nor its political subdivisions shall establish any official religion, but the people’s right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including public schools, shall not be infringed; however, the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions, including public school divisions, shall not compose school prayers, nor require any person to join in prayer or other religious activity."

Tax-subsidized prayer. Any student or teacher who wants to 'recognize their religious beliefs' in any way at any time allowed to do so - or perhaps only some religions and some beliefs but not others. Secular students, or students not of a particular religion recognizing itself, not forced to join in the ceremonies but offered no substitute - just a chance to wait and do nothing until math class starts. And don't forget that other public property, like parks and courthouses - also open to any religion at any time for any purpose (or maybe just some religions and some purposes). What country is this again?
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:57 PM
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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill must recognize a Christian fraternity that has waged a legal fight challenging the school's nondiscrimination policy. Alpha Iota Omega was stripped of its status as an official campus group because the fraternity wont [sic] accept nonbelievers or gay students. The university revoked the recognition after fraternity members refused to sign the school's nondiscrimination policy. The three-member fraternity sued last year, saying UNC-CH had violated their constitutional rights to free speech, free assembly and free exercise of religion. Recognition gives the fraternity access to student funds and university facilities. [Emphasis added]

[Bottom line: as long as an invisible monster that lives in the sky tells you what to do, you can discriminate against anyone you like and demand other people's money to facilitate your doing so. If you don't have the invisible monster part you have to either discriminate without public funds or be inclusive with public funds, not both.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 7:55 PM
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But That Violates Their Freedom of Religion!
Recently, thirty Muslims were fired from the Dell facilities in Nashville, Tennessee. The problem was that they claimed a need to stop working every day and pray at the setting of the sun, while their employer claimed that this was an undue burden on their production schedules. Join with me now in an atheistic examination of this event.

In the United States (in theory, at least) there is no state-sanctioned religion. All religions are supposed to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. Any privilage granted to one religion must be granted to all religions. What would happen if the law said that Dell is not allowed to fire people who refuse to work at sunset? Then the law would also have to prevent Dell from firing people who refuse to work at other times, or on other days - or on any day, or maybe even every day as long as a religion could be found that says working is forbidden. And since all religions are made up anyway, one could always make up the First Temple of Edward G. Robbinson and say "work is for saps" and never work - yet never get fired.

Dell is within their rights to fire people who do not work. That, or (as usual) anyone can do anything and get away with it as long as they say an invisible monster that lives in the sky told them to do it.
posted by Trevor Blake at 6:48 PM
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Sunday, March 13, 2005. *
posted by Dr. Menlo at 3:57 PM
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A former corporal and medic in Hitler's Nazi army, Schäfer fled Germany to Chile in 1961 to avoid child sexual abuse charges. He established the self-sufficient Colonia Dignidad, also called "Villa Baviera," in the mountains near the city of Parral, some 350 kilometers (218 miles) south of Santiago along with other German immigrants.

Surrounded by barbed wire and electric fences and protected by barricades, the community, populated largely by Germans, adhered to a strict discipline and remained cut off from the rest of Chile. A mixture of cultic practices such as exorcising devils and psychological terror were said to rampant in the sect.

In 1996 a number of former residents testified that Schäfer systematically abused the colony's young children, many of whom were taken from the parents at birth. Accusations of forced labor and other forms of maltreatment also surfaced at the time.
posted by New World at 1:08 PM
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Saturday, March 12, 2005. *
[Note: the 'law against incitement to religious hatred' mentioned here exists in the UK but not the US. It is posted as a warning to those who seek to blur the line between state and superstition in the USA. Some seek to blur it from the 'right' (anti-choice legislation) and some seek to blur it from the 'left' (hate speech law) - in the end, the theocracy we get stinks just as much. - Trevor]

Only last month a Hindu priest was jailed for 12 years for raping a woman at a temple in Croydon. During the 90s, there was the widely reported case of a Sikh woman in Southall, Sunita Vig, who was raped by a Sikh priest. Another Sikh woman, a recent convert to Hinduism, was sexually and physically assaulted by a Hindu priest who left her with a near-fatal gash in her neck. These are the more dramatic cases, but on a daily basis, women find their aspirations quashed by religious leaders. They cannot leave oppressive homes because of the stranglehold of culture, religion and enforced mediation by religious leaders.

When Asian women first started exposing the underbelly of our communities, we were told that we were providing ammunition for racists. For us it wasn't a choice. We couldn't hide one evil to fight another. [...] But when minorities ditch race for religion as a marker of their identity, the pressures on women increase a hundredfold. A "cultural" practice is difficult enough to challenge but one which has been given the dubious honour of being ratified by a holy book, open as that may be to interpretation, is even harder to resist. Our choices are limited by our ascribed roles: as guardians of sexual morality; transmitters of cultural values to the next generation; and vessels bearing the honour of the community.

[...] Religious and cultural pressures are an important part of the equation that keeps Asian women at the bottom of the pile. [...] [H]arping on about the racism of the liberal establishment can become an excuse for inaction in our own communities. This was exactly the kind of polarisation that occurred during the Salman Rushdie debate which led to the formation of Women against Fundamentalism. Then, as now, it was important to challenge the racism of the liberal intelligentsia regarding "backward Muslims". But, as women, we had to adopt a Janus-headed approach: then, as now, we have to fight the authoritarian strands in our own communities too. The very presence of the "incitement to religious hatred law", no matter how it is worded, will strengthen the voices of religious intolerance and choke off women's right to dissent. This is too high a price to pay to appease an alienated community. Religion may be a central part of your identity and culture, but at the end of the day it is a set of ideas. Any state policy that privileges religion over all other systems of belief must be dismantled.
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:35 AM
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Friday, March 11, 2005. *
According to Al Jazeera's Adam Porter, a new US government sponsored report, which he says marks a "landmark in the current oil debate," admits that the only uncertainty about "peak oil" is when it will arrive.

The report, "Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management," outlines three different scenarios contingent on the sorts of proactive measures taken to address the threat of diminishing oil supplies, ranging from nothing being done to actions taken 20 years before the peak is reached (based on an optimistic reading of current oil supplies).

Despite its assessment that several steps can be taken to ameliorate the effects of dwindling production, the report concludes, "the world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary. Previous energy transitions were gradual and evolutionary. Oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary."
posted by Bill at 9:45 PM
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Bring It On
My friend Sally has put together a new blog called, Bring It On...

"I want to introduce a new blog, Bring it on!. A collection of writers there write about acrimony, no personal attacks just debate.

Why did we start the blog?

After reading a lot of blogs that were focused on the neoconservative and right wing perspective and seeing liberalism being continually mocked as being lazy, whinny, unable to engage in coherent arguments; a lot of the commentators started noticing familar names trying to fight the good fight. We decided to band together and form a blog that gets our opinions heard. Thus,Bring it on! was born."
posted by http://lifeinthepresentlives at 12:18 PM
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Fatwa Fever!
cross posted at Scrutiny Hooligans

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTo add to your list of things Scrutiny Hooligans would like to see more of, you can add this tidbit from the CNN:

"Muslim clerics in Spain have issued what they called the world's first fatwa, or Islamic edict, against Osama bin Laden as the country marked the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people.

They accused him of abandoning his religion and urged others of their faith to denounce the al Qaeda leader"
"The fatwa said that according to the Koran "the terrorist acts of Osama bin Laden and his organization al Qaeda ... are totally banned and must be roundly condemned as part of Islam."

This is how you win the war on terror. Ally with muslim leaders and work to peacfully isolate these dangerous men, and when they're found, arrest them. I've never believed in the War on Terror...since terror is a tactic instead of an a War on Haymakers and Left Hooks. By declaring war against these cockeyed murdering fundamentalists, we've elevated them to a warrior status they would not have enjoyed without our help. They're criminals and should be treated as such. And when they twist religion to fuel a murderous agenda, people of faith should speak out.

I've forgotten, am I talking about bin Laden and Al Qaeda or George Bush and the neocons?

While church officials in this country have called for George W. Bush to seek peace, justice, and respect for human rights, they don't have anything analogous to the fatwa. Ah, the beautiful fatwa - it can make authors tremble in Irish castles, women seethe under slavish oppression, and diabetic gimpy old terrorists feel very, very alone. Scrutiny Hooligans would love to see Muslim and Christian leaders come together to condemn leaders who promote violence as a solution. Pin Bush to bin Laden in the popular press and help people to realize which of them has been responsible for the most innocent deaths.
posted by Gordon Smith at 10:02 AM
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Thursday, March 10, 2005. *
Prison as Cultural Barometer
Sometimes, what appears in a US prison first becomes acceptable or even popular in the general US population later. Surveylance cameras used to be something you would find mainly in prisons. Now they are ubiquitous, and unquestioned. In prison if a person is particularly dangerous (to themselves or others) they have their belt taken away. This makes their pants hang low. And this is the source of the fashion among young men on the outside wanting to look tough by having their pants hang low.

So if you want to see where the US will be in a few years, you can sometimes get advance notice by keeping track of what goes on in the prisons. Right now the trend is toward manditory Christianity. Read Beyond the God Pod by Silja Ja Talvi (original from the Santa Fe Reporter circa March 9-15 2005, mirror from Alternet). Federal funds spent on manditory Christianity for an incarcerated class of people. Women required to take classes on "basic life principles" such as "Moral Purity," "Yielding Rights" and "Proper Submission." Submission to one's owner / husband, of course, but also to government. Even a corrupt government: "'Must we continue to respect an evil ruler as a minister of God?' reads one question in a section of an [Institute in Basic Life Principles] workbook. 'YES' comes the answer from [founder] Gothard's reading of I Samuel 24:10. 'When David had an opportunity to destroy Saul, who was trying to kill him, he said: I will not put forth mine hand against the Lord: for he is the Lord's anointed.'" If you want a totalitarian state, you need total obedience and submission. Start with the women who raise the children and in a generation or two you'll be laughing all the way to the bank. Blur the line between morals and religion and the state and you've got a chance at building an empire that will last for centuries.

Note that in this article there is some talk of the problem of forced conversion of someone from another religion to Christianity, and the problem of forced conversion of someone from one type of Christianity to another, but not a word on the forced conversion of the secular or irreligious or atheistic to Christianity. This was, at one time, a secular nation. Now it is not. This is a theocracy in which unelected leaders wage war against the unelected leaders of other theocracies. The triumphs of the Enlightenment are being rolled back. And while the theocracy is being initiated in its most brazen form in US prisons, it appears likely to be on the way for the rest of us soon enough.
posted by Trevor Blake at 3:45 PM
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Those of us who like to think of ourselves on the progressive or countercultural end of the spectrum can't help but try to foment change. We want our revolution, after all, and won't be satisfied until we've won - and done so in a way that everyone notices. Catastrophe and climax are prizes for our long uphill battle. But by insisting on getting to notice change in dramatic ways, we guarantee it never truly happening.

There's a disturbing fundamentalism brewing in the counterculture these days - an aching towards apocalypse as dangerous as that of our counterparts in the reddest of states, and understood just as literally. We are to await the apex of novelty, that singularity when consciousness rises from the chrysalis of matter into a new state, beyond time and maybe even energy. And, of course, only those of us with proper spiritual or psychedelic credentials will be prepared for this inevitability, and make it through the bottleneck at the end of linear history. The rest, well, they finally get their comeuppance.

The story is no different in structure than any of the others we've developed over the last two thousand or so years since Aristotle identified the narrative arc of linear drama: create a character or group we like, put them into danger, increase the stakes until the audience can't take it anymore and then provide a solution: salvation, a political ideology, or even, in the age of marketing, a product that relieves the crisis and saves the day. It's the male orgasm curve that has dominated Western narrative for centuries: crisis, climax, release...and then you get to go to sleep. Winners and losers, saved and damned are properly categorized and justice is finally done. Just buy my product, believe in my god, vote for my guy, or suck my dick, and everything's gonna be alright.

The problem with this structure is that it postpones resolution to some distant and, for the most part, mythical future. Instead of taking actions and facilitating real, if only incremental progress at relieving human suffering, we dismiss reality as some temporary state - a precursor to the much more important light at the end of the tunnel. We keep our eyes on the fanciful prize, and relegate the plights of those around us to the category of distraction.

Whether we're setting out on the communist, capitalist, or Christian narrative journey, we're to endure or, a bit better, witness others' pain now for the promise of gain later on. The ends justify the present. For this, too, shall pass.
posted by Shannon at 2:22 PM
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Wednesday, March 09, 2005. *
posted by Douglas at 9:39 AM
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The Cost of Anti-Rationality
What happens when rational thinking is disvalued in popular culture? You get people willing to swallow grade-A horse manure by the shovel-full all day long - providing the shoveller claims an invisible monster that lives in the sky told them to beg for more. $180 million USD was recently redistributed from the faithful to the clergy in a Ponzi scheme carried out in Florida (and elsewhere). If the people who got bilked had a background in rational thinking they would not have been robbed. Rational thinking tells you what Ponzi schemes are and that they don't work, ever. Rational thinking tells you that just because someone talks nonsense doesn't mean they know something you don't - that religion is a game of smoke and mirrors that doesn't do anybody any good that can't occur (sans fraud and force) in a secular fashion. How much does it cost to be more flexible as to whether 'A' really does equal 'A,' to 'keep an open mind' about religion? Maybe it's okay that if people decide to be stupid they get to suffer for it. But I'd like to think it's better to not be stupid and not to suffer.
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:48 AM
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Tuesday, March 08, 2005. *
Dubya's Democracy Occupation; and Friday Hometown Blogging
I often wonder how Bush says most of what he says with a straight face. For instance, here's Bush doing his stern act regarding Syria's occupation of Lebanon:
We want democracy in Lebanon to succeed. And we know it cannot succeed so long as she is occupied by a foreign power.
Such hypocrisy calls for a poem:
Dubya's Democracy Occupation
By Madeleine Begun Kane

Democracy cannot succeed,
Said Dubya with a glower.
In countries that are occupied
By mean old foreign powers...
The rest of Dubya's Democracy Occupation is here.

And in another post, I suggest Friday hometown blogging for bloggers who lack a blog-worthy cat. My first hometown blogging effort is A Baysider's Ode To Queens, which begins:
Both a county and a borough,
Part of New York City too.
On Long Island, yet not of it.
I'm confused as hell. Are you? ...
The rest of my Baysider's Ode To Queens is here.
posted by Mad Kane at 11:25 PM
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Education as Birth Control
Women with a college education are having very few children, and the US economy is about to see a shortage in highly skilled workers because of it, warns Harvard economist David Ellwood in Harvard Magazine.

Demography is destiny, he says, and the numbers are quite stark. College graduates are putting off childbearing until their 30s and beyond, having on average 1.6 children. (some 27 percent of them at age 40 still haven't had children) Women who have never completed high school, by contrast, have an average 2.6 children and are less likely to be married than college women.

Women's wages tend to plateau after childbirth, the so-called "Mommy Penalty", so Ellwood posits that the career cost of children is steeper for the high-earning college educated mother and hardly a relative cost at all for low wage earners. The trend will leave us with a cohort of workers who did not have the intellectual and material benefit of well-educated parents.

The solution might be to look to well-educated immigrants or older workers, says Ellwood, but the longterm solution is to make work pay better. [Meanwhile our Senators today heeded the business lobby and voted down a proposal to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25. A person working 40 hour weeks on minimum wage with no time off earns only about $1,000 more than the poverty level annually.]

"If we don't take seriously a much more thoughtful immigration policy, if we don't ask what we can do to make work pay for low-skill people -- so that they, too, might have a chance to postpone childbearing and form families -- if we don't think about what it's going to take to make the family tradeoff less costly for high-skill women," Ellwood says, then "the consequences will affect everything, perhaps even our sense of unity and community."

VIA Girl in the Locker Room!
posted by RHerman at 6:27 PM
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The Los Angeles Times reports: "One of the main jobs at the Justice Department is enforcing the nation's civil rights laws. So when a nonprofit group was accused of employment discrimination last year in New York, the department moved swiftly to intervene — but not on the side one might expect. The Salvation Army was accused in a lawsuit of imposing a new religious litmus test on employees hired with millions of dollars in public funds. When employees complained that they were being required to embrace Jesus Christ to keep their jobs, the Justice Department's civil rights division took the side of the Salvation Army."

A few years ago I worked at a homeless shelter operated by the Salvation Army. Employees were required to sign a contract agreeing to refrain from engaging in 'immoral behavior' on or off the job. It was also strongly hinted to me that being 'out' was not okay at work. I signed it, then went on with being immoral off the job and out at work. Others wouldn't sign it and didn't get the job. Once a year a group of chefs, limo services and other companies donate their services and throw a 'prom' for the homeless kids. If a homeless kid showed up in drag (either way), or if they showed up with a same sex date, they were kicked out of the prom. These were my experiences with the Salvation Army: they do impose a religious litmus test on employees. If they think it is more important to keep boys out of dresses than to feed them, that's their business. But there is no reason at all they should do so with public funds. I support any sort of bigotry a person might want to practice on their own dime, just not with my tax dollars.
posted by Trevor Blake at 9:44 AM
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...what is rising in Canada is not so much anti-Americanism, as claimed by your and our right-wing commentators, but fundamental disagreements with certain policies of your government.

...rather than just reacting to events by drawing on old conventional wisdoms, many Canadians are trying to think our way through to some ideas that can be helpful in building a more secure world.

These Canadians believe that security can be achieved through well-modulated efforts to protect the rights of people, not just nation-states.
posted by Mike at 6:40 AM
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Monday, March 07, 2005. *

A U.N. commercial depicts American girls playing in a soccer match. A girl steps on a landmine and there's a big explosion. Kids get blown apart. CNN and other networks don't want to air the ad.

View the ad here.

WorldNetDaily Article

via BoingBoing
posted by ben at 2:03 PM
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FYI: Good piece about the torture jet thing the CIA is running on 60 Minutes last night. I know, kind of old news, but still interesting.
posted by ben at 5:03 AM
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Sunday, March 06, 2005. *

I Am Dead
Hi! I'm Atefeh Rajabi. I was sixteen years old when a judge put a rope around my neck and I was hung from a tree. The governor sent the judge a letter of congratulations after my murder. You see, I was raped - or as the courts described it, I had sex with unmarried men. Each time (there were at least five) I was sent to prison and recieved one hundred lashes. The prison guards raped me too. Finally it got too much and they just killed me - Praise Allah! I send my greetings from the grave to all those who want to turn the United States into a theocracy, just like here in Iran.
posted by Trevor Blake at 4:46 PM
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Vatican Asks Expert in Bold Face Lying for Aid
The Louisville Courier-Journal reports: "The Vatican reportedly has asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to intervene in a Louisville lawsuit that seeks damages for sexual abuse committed by Roman Catholic priests across the United States over more than seven decades. The request reportedly occurred when Rice met last month with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, as part of her tour of Europe. The American-based National Catholic Reporter, a weekly newspaper, reported from unnamed sources that Sodano asked Rice to support the church's argument that the lawsuit should be dismissed. The Vatican contends that, as a sovereign nation, it is protected under U.S. law from lawsuits such as the Louisville case attorney William McMurry filed last year."

The Washington Times reports: "The Kentucky case that prompted Sodano's request for help is different than most lawsuits working their way through the American court system in that it is the only one in which the Vatican is the lone defendant and the only one directly related to the recent series of sex abuse scandals that have stained the reputation of the Catholic Church in the United States. The class action was filed in June 2004 in a Louisville district court alleging sexual abuse centered on three men in northern Kentucky dating back to 1928. It named the Holy See as the only defendant in the case, with attorney William McMurry issuing a statement reading that 'the financial responsibility should be shared, if not borne entirely, by the Vatican' because the Vatican created the climate that allowed the alleged abuse to take place. Legal experts say that the case is likely to be dismissed, in part because the Vatican is a sovereign state - the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does allow for suits against other countries though it makes them difficult - and because U.S. courts have historically erred on the side of the church in borderline cases because of first amendment grounds. Despite dozens of cases filed against the Holy See in recent decades, no U.S. court has ever found the Vatican guilty of anything." [emphasis added]

Note that the Crimine Solicitaciones was in effect at the time of this abuse. "Sent to every bishop in the world in 1962, it outlines procedures for dealing with sexual abuse in the church - specifically the crime of using the privacy of the confessional for acts of sex abuse or to solicit sexual favours. What it commands is the utmost secrecy among those involved, on pain of excommunication, and, lawyers argue, promotes a culture of keeping abuse problems in-house. Alarmingly, the 69-page instruction spells out procedures for shifting accused clerics to new postings." And so there is every reason in the world that the Vatican should be held accountable for all - all - of the child abuse carried out by its clergy since 1962.

The Catholic News Service reports: "The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, did not ask U.S. Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice to intervene in a lawsuit against the Vatican, an informed Vatican official told Catholic News Service March 3."
posted by Trevor Blake at 4:21 PM
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Saturday, March 05, 2005. *
If Your God is Dead, Try Mine - Or Else
The Washington Post writes (and truth out mirrors, not requiring registration): "Setting out a second-term blueprint for advancing his faith-based initiative, Bush highlighted legislation, heading to the House floor today, that would allow religious charities to hire and fire based on religious beliefs even while receiving federal funding. If Congress does not follow his lead, Bush warned that he would try to circumvent lawmakers by using executive powers."

I am in favor of people making any sort of voluntary association they like, and playing according to their own rules. But I am not in favor of the use of my tax dollars to fund religious beliefs. If a religious group wants to hire and fire by any sort of criteria, more power to them. If they want federal funding, let them move to one of the many existing theocracies in the world to get it and stop chipping away at the fundamental laws of the United States of America.
posted by Trevor Blake at 5:26 PM
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The Raving Atheist asks: "What's the difference between being religious and spiritual? [...] Newsday has assembled an all-star team of theological experts to settle the matter once and for all. And it won’t be like when you ask three physicists what the speed of light is and get four different answers. These fine scholars know their stuff. None of that 'let's look at things through a microscope and just make up some ridiculous shit' that the so called scientists keep pulling on us."
posted by Trevor Blake at 5:20 PM
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Simplicity, Fairness, Growth
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI know you can get behind the words in the title of this post. And if I'm right, then you are already halfway to swallowing George W. Bush's next big idea, Tax Simplification. It's not called tax reform by the conservatives - reform is out, out, out. Simplification is in, in, in. It's simple - the rich keep more of their money and you lose more of yours. Really freaking simple.

Where could Bush have drawn such an idea from? The Reagan administration? "Tax Reform for Fairness, Simplicity, and Economic Growth: The Treasury Department Report to the President, November 1984". If simplicity, fairness, and growth were good enough for the gipper (who still isn't on Mt. Rushmore thanks to all of you obstructionists), the they're good enough for us. Who could possibly have a problem with these ideas? You may as well say that you hate freedom, liberty, and democracy. What, you want things to be complicated, unfair, and shrinking? That's just weird.

The Heritage Foundation is behind Bush in a big way. If they could get any further into Bush's behind, they would, "The current tax code is needlessly complex, and this hurts economic growth. As the President noted, Americans spend over six billion hours filing their tax returns every year. No doubt most Americans would prefer to spend these hours more profitably, at work or at play"

Jerry Falwell et al. are saying that I will have six billion hours to myself if the president stops hurting economic growth with all that complex junk? Right on!

The American Enterprise Institute is competing with the Heritage people for 'nearest-to-the-first-sphincter' status, "President Bush's bold convention promise to propose fundamental tax reform in his second term creates a real opportunity to modernize a tax code that is a half-century old."

Stupid Old tax system. Who wants a stupid, old, complex, unfair, economy shrinking tax code? Maybe some stinky hippie homo who hates the ground he walks on and wants to ban Jesus and kill the President with his hate.

I'm still doing my homework on the Bush Tax Reform Plan (a.k.a. "War on the Poor"), but I've learned a few things that might help you understand where we are, and where we might be going.

First, here's a look at how much money tax money the federal government has been collecting as percentage of our Gross Domestic Product.
Image Hosted by
Our GDP has risen exponentially since the war, of course, but so has the price of everything in sight, especially housing and real estate. The point is that the Feds are collecting a relatively small amount of money from the Big Picture Economy.

Out of these taxes come our defense, our bureacracies, our social programs, etc. As you've seen in the proposed FY2006 budget coming out of the White House, Bush plans to continue to cut tax revenue, slash social program spending, and raise military spending. This passes for fiscal discipline in an executive branch that has publicly stated the irrelevance of budget deficits despite the falling dollar.

Anyhoo - we're collecting less than ever. So is George W. happy? Nope. He wants the poor to pay their fair share. How? Through a Value-added tax/Sales Tax/Consumption tax - whatever you choose to call it. The current White House nomiker for it is consumption tax. Or though a flat tax. Everybody pays the same percentage! Fair! Simple! Pro-growth! And the poor will have less money than ever. Lucky Duckies!

Here is a site that lays out some pros and cons of (A) Consumption Tax; (B) Flat Tax; (C) Progressive Taxation like what we have now. The authors, from the Century Foundation ( I know nothing about the ideology of this group ), break their assessments down into three areas - Simplicity, Fairness, and Economic Incentive: "Congress is considering a number of proposals for overhauling the current federal income tax system. Proponents of each plan argue that theirs would be simpler, fairer, and better for the economy than today’s code."
"Consumption taxes, which are primarily intended to simplify the tax system and encourage saving by discouraging spending, fall into two main categories: (1) taxes levied at the point of a transaction, like a sales or value-added tax (VAT), and (2) taxes on earnings but not income from savings and investment, which encompasses many so-called flat tax proposals."
"The flat tax would replace current personal and corporate income taxes, as well as federal estate and gift taxes. For individuals, wages, salaries, and pension distributions would be subject to tax at a single rate regardless of how much a family earns. But income from savings and investments—interest, dividends, capital gains, rents—would not. Because flat taxes reward savings by exempting earnings on investments from taxes, they are considered to be consumption taxes. A number of politicians have developed their own variations on the original flat tax concept, but its main features generally include:

1. A family allowance that would shield income up to a specified level, taking into account the number of dependents, from tax. Above that threshold, the flat tax rate would apply.

2. No other deductions or credits would be allowed, including those for home mortgage interest, charitable contributions, child care, and so forth. The Earned Income Tax Credit would also disappear.

3. All businesses would pay tax on their total sales, minus purchases of material inputs from other companies, investment goods, wages and salaries, and pension contributions. Companies would no longer be able to deduct the cost of nonpension benefits such as health insurance for employees or their Social Security payroll taxes. Corporate interest payments and taxes to state and local governments also would no longer be deductible.
"Some advocates who agree that the current system is overly complicated and unfairly skewed in favor of particular groups and industries think that the real way to promote economic prosperity is not through the increases that the proponents of the various forms of consumption tax seek. Rather, they argue that a system that significantly reduces taxes for low- and middle-income households would broadly raise living standards and improve the economy as a whole."

Go read it all and get your wheels turning. Bush is going to try to ram some bad juju down the national throat just after the Social Security Bamboozle goes down in flames and just as the next war gears up. What? Are you Anti-Commander-in-Chief, Anti-Simplicity, Anti-Fairness, AND Anti-Growth? Get with the program and get cozied up to the Executive Posterior already.

Soon the economic-minded bloggerati will take up post on this issue and help the rest of us pajamahadeen get our heads around it.

{cross posted at Scrutiny Hooligans}
posted by Gordon Smith at 8:22 AM
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Friday, March 04, 2005. *

I found these Micah Wright like toons over at the

You also have to check out this
Daily Show riff on the New Journalism. (For the record, I'm probably wearing pants right now.) Is Dino Hardbody really Rodger Morrow? It's hard to tell the difference....

And finally:

I am not a fan of the folk music. When John Belushi destroyed the guitar in Animal House I felt he was talking to me. I don't think Bob Dylan is a good singer. When I saw Richie Havens live I thought he was so so. And so on. So, when I recommend that you listen to this folk tune by Willy Mason, I don't do so casually.

You can listen to the song here.

Here are the lyrics.

I like this part the most:

We can be stronger than bombs
If you're singing along and you know that you really believe
We can be richer than industry
As long as we know that there's things that we don't really need
We can speak louder than ignorance
Cause we speak in silence every time our eyes meet.

Philip Shropshire

posted by Philip Shropshire at 9:38 AM
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