American Samizdat

Sunday, April 29, 2007. *
Serenade For The First Sufferers (Song Parody)
Laura Bush's appearance on the Today Show inspired me to write a song parody called Serenade for the First Sufferers. Here's a bit of the conversation that set me off:
NBC: Do you know the American people are suffering?

Laura Bush: Oh, I know that very much. And believe me, no one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this. And certainly the Commander in Chief, who has asked our military to go into harm’s way.

My song parody, which can be sung to Carolina in the Morning begins:

"No one suffers more
Than George and Laura from the war.
They’re really mourning.

Photos of the dead
On cable news fill them with dread.
They’re really mourning. ..."

The rest of my
Serenade For the First Sufferers is here.

Mad Kane
posted by Mad Kane at 10:49 PM
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This is the end of my business with Sony. See also: The Goodness of Goats.


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posted by Dr. Menlo at 2:10 PM
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Saturday, April 28, 2007. *
Even if Bush leaves office in 2009 it largely won't matter: They have purged and stacked the CIA and NSA with "sleeper cells"; they have infiltrated and permeated the Pentagon ; they have appointed loyalists for a lifetime to the Supreme Court; they have appointed operatives for a lifetime to the State Department (and appointed for life to the Justice Department in non-administration positions They have been appointed to Federal Prosecutor positions (let's remember: the real scandal is not the Federal Prosecutors who were fired, but the ones who weren't fired because they're loyalists).

The president has a right to do whatever the citizenry and other branches of the federal government let him get away with.
posted by Uncle $cam at 4:41 AM
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Find out why the White House is touting Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department as defenders of religious freedom.
posted by Uncle $cam at 3:45 AM
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Friday, April 27, 2007. *
An essential measure of a civilized society is in how it treats its sick. When it comes to public policy and practice, the US is decidedly uncivilized and is descending to outright cannibalism. Witness, for example:
Protect the mentally ill

Cara H. Drinan/Special to The National Law Journal
April 16, 2007

On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the question of whether Texas may execute Scott Louis Panetti, a man who believes the state is punishing him for preaching the Gospel. In reality, of course, the state is punishing Panetti for committing murder, but the state's genuine reason is beside the point to Panetti, who was first diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1986 and was hospitalized more than a dozen times before he was arrested for murder in 1992. Panetti v. Quarterman, No. 06-6407.

In 1995, while on trial for his life, he represented himself — wearing a cowboy costume. Instead of asking the panel of potential jurors a question, Panetti said: "The death penalty doesn't scare me, sure but not much. Be killed, power line, when I was a kid. I've got my Injun beliefs as a shaman. I sent the buffalo horn to my sister. Adjustment, Jesus wrote." His standby counsel described Mr. Panetti's appearance at trial as "a joke ... like out of a dime store novel."

Panetti's case demonstrates that, for the severely mentally ill, the purported rationales for capital punishment — retribution and deterrence — ring hollow. Because Panetti believes that he is a victim of a government conspiracy, he certainly cannot "prepare himself for his passing," as Justice Lewis F. Powell articulated in the 1986 case of Ford v. Wainwright, in which the court held that the Eighth Amendment bars the execution of the insane. Moreover, Panetti's execution will not effectively deter others like him who commit acts of violence in a haze of hallucination, delusion and paranoia.

A recent U.S. Department of Justice study reports that 56% of state prisoners and 45% of federal prisoners have a mental health problem. The study also reveals that mental health problems are strongly associated with violent crimes and recidivism: 61% of state prisoners who have a mental health problem also have a present or past violent offense. These numbers suggest two conclusions: Untreated mental illness can lead to violent crime, and untreated mentally ill prisoners commit crimes repeatedly. At the same time, many mentally ill individuals cannot receive the health care they urgently need. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has reviewed and graded every U.S. state and its mental health care system, and the national average is a "D." Panetti's home state of Texas ranks 47th in the nation for per capita mental health expenditures . . .

According to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' application of Ford, Panetti does not meet the definition of insanity required to avoid execution. However, in the more than 20 years since the Ford opinion, the appellate court has yet to find a single inmate incompetent to execute. Even those who subscribe to the strictest method of constitutional interpretation should reject the execution of Panetti and those who are similarly insane, for even English common law recognized that execution of the insane "serves no purpose ... because madness is its own punishment." The court should rule for Panetti and confirm that the Eighth Amendment bars the death penalty in cases where the defendant has no rational understanding of the state's reason for punishing him.
Panetti is not, of course, an isolated case. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports, in "The Criminalization of People with Mental Illness" . . .
In 1992, NAMI and Public Citizen’s Health Research Group released a report, entitled Criminalizing the Seriously Mentally Ill: The Abuse of Jails as Mental Hospitals, which revealed alarmingly high numbers of people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other severe mental illnesses incarcerated in jails across the country. Most of these people had not committed major crimes, but either had been charged with misdemeanors or minor felonies directly related to the symptoms of their untreated mental illnesses, or had been charged with no crimes at all. Unfortunately, the problems described in that report have worsened in the ensuing years.

A report issued by the United States Department of Justice in 1999 revealed that 16 percent of all inmates in state and federal jails and prisons have schizophrenia, manic depressive illness (bipolar disorder), major depression, or another severe mental illness. This means that on any given day, there are roughly 283,000 persons with severe mental illnesses incarcerated in federal and state jails and prisons. In contrast, there are approximately 70,000 persons with severe mental illnesses in public psychiatric hospitals, and 30 percent of them are forensic patients. Additionally, police are increasingly becoming front-line respondents to people with severe mental illnesses experiencing crises in the community.

Conditions in jails and prisons are often terrifying for people with severe mental illnesses. These settings are not conducive to effectively treating people with these brain disorders. Many correctional facilities do not have qualified mental health professionals on staff to recognize and respond to the needs of inmates experiencing severe psychiatric symptoms. Correctional facilities frequently respond to psychotic inmates by punishing them or placing them in physical restraints or administrative segregation (isolation), responses that may exacerbate rather than alleviate their symptoms. Inmates with severe mental illnesses usually do not have access to newer, state-of-the-art, atypical antipsychotic drugs because of the costs of these medications. Federal and state prisons generally do not have adequate rehabilitative services available for inmates with severe mental illnesses to aid them in their transition back into communities.

These alarming trends are directly related to the inadequacies of community mental health systems and services. The widespread adoption of systems with proven effectiveness in addressing the needs of people with the most severe mental illnesses, such as assertive community treatment programs, would sharply decrease the numbers of people with severe mental illnesses involved in criminal justice systems. However, since these programs are available only sporadically throughout the country, NAMI’s strategies for reducing criminalization focuses both on improving community mental health services and on addressing the treatment and support needs of people with severe mental illnesses in criminal justice systems . . .
Amnesty International USA, in launching a campaign to protect mentally ill "offenders" from capital punishment, states . . .
There are currently around 3,400 people on death row in the USA. It is not known how many of them suffer from mental illness or other impairments of the sort listed above. The National Association of Mental Health has estimated that five to 10 per cent of the US death row population have serious mental illness. This would be consistent, for example, with a recent study which investigated 2,005 people convicted of homicide in Sweden over a 14-year period. The researchers believe that it is the largest study to date of mental disorders in homicide offenders. It found that one in five suffered from a psychotic illness. Specifically, 8.9 per cent of the individuals had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, 2.5 per cent with bipolar disorder, and 6.5 per cent with other psychotic disorders. The study pointed out that the homicide rate in Sweden was about three times lower than in the USA and suggested that "in countries with more liberal gun laws, the proportion of mentally disordered homicide offenders may be different". The study pointed out that earlier research in the United Kingdom and Finland had each found that six per cent of homicide offenders suffered from schizophrenia.

In any event, the primary purpose of Amnesty International's report is to illustrate that people with serious mental illness continue to be sentenced to death and executed in the United States of America, that existing safeguards are clearly inadequate to prevent this from happening, and that there is a profound inconsistency in exempting people with mental retardation from the death penalty while those with serious mental illness remain exposed to it . . .
In the same report, AI lists in detail 100 executions of mentally ill people in the US since 1977. The list is tragic, the practice unconscionable.

Executions are the ultimate, but not the only consequences for "crazy" people. Perhaps the most famous recent case is that of Andrea Yates, a woman suffering from schizophrenia and severe post-partum depression when she drowned her five children in her bathtub in 2002. Instead of being remanded to treatment, she was sentenced to life imprisonment. Texas. Shame.

In the late 19th century, the concept of "asylum" was born. Prior to that, the mentally ill were vilified, feared, and subjected to horrible treatment and conditions. Dorothea Dix, among others, advocated and built institutions which were designed to protect mentally ill people from society, not the other way around. It was a question of enlightenment and humanity.

What are known now as "state hospitals" were usually large, complex community campuses with many buildings, including cottages which housed both patients and staff. In many cases, such as Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, NC, the campuses included expansive park areas, well-kept and even bucolic.

The intentions were excellent. The pace of medicine and public enlightenment and commitment have been much less than consistent, however. Popular prejudices remain essentially undented by the findings that mental illnesses are brain disorders, chemical imbalances which produce sometimes radical malfunctions of thought and emotion. And it is truly only in the last ten or twenty years that medications have been developed which ameliorate symptoms without producing debilitating side effects.

It was not long before these original asylums became little more than warehouses. Sadly underfunded for adequately treating the increasing populations of mentally ill humans, and lacking the medical resources to effectively treat them, state hospitals became soon overcrowded and understaffed. Available medications were used not so much to make patients more comfortable, but more "manageable." I can tell you from first-hand experience what 500 megatons of Thorazine will do to your attitude and behavior. You're not going to bother the staff very much, believe me. (Oh, could I tell you stories!)

With underfunding, of course, quality of care plummeted quickly. Reductions in medical professionals (doctors, psychologists) shifted the burden to nurses, then further to "technician" staff (what we used to call "aides"). Techs, although many are truly committed to this helping work, are overburdened and in many cases are little more than guards. When I worked as a trainer for a Massachusetts state hospital in the 70s, 80% of our aides were Haitian immigrants, whose culture holds that the mentally ill are possessed by spirits and demons. You can imagine some of the interactions between aides and patients, but the work is not glamorous and we hired whoever we could get.

To emphasize my point, this is from "Mental illness history comes full circle: 161 years after Dorothea Dix pulled mentally ill out of U.S. jails, they are back again", a 2002 article in The Macon Telegraph:
In 1841, a Boston schoolteacher named Dorothea Dix set out for the local jail to teach a Sunday School class. What she discovered there changed history.

Dix was horrified to find mentally disabled people crammed into unheated, unsanitary quarters with all kinds of criminals.

Her revulsion and crusading spirit ignited a social movement that spurred the creation of "asylums" - places of refuge - all over the nation for people with mental disorders.

The asylums themselves ultimately became scandalously overcrowded, abusive and in need of reform. And in the late 20th century, the mental hospitals emptied out. But in their place, jails have once again become the institutional answer to mental illness.

"We've sort of gone back to the Dorothea Dix days," says Richard Elliott, a psychiatrist at the Mercer University School of Medicine.

A few decades ago, most people with chronic mental illness wouldn't have been on the streets or in jail. They would have been locked in state psychiatric hospitals like Central State in Milledgeville.

What happened in the interim is commonly described with a four-dollar word: Deinstitutionalization. It means taking people out of the institution . . .

"We deinstitutionalized people with the best of intentions," says Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a leading national advocate for mentally ill people and their families. "Basically we opened the doors and waved goodbye and said, 'If you'd like to get some treatment that's fine. We'll be glad to provide it, but that's up to you.'"

In most places, however, adequate community services never materialized to follow up on the released patients.

Torrey says the result was a huge upsurge in the number of homeless, hallucinating, hurting people wandering the streets, either unable to find treatment or refusing to seek it.

"One predictable consequence is that an increasing number of these discharged patients ended up in jail," Torrey wrote in a 1998 study. "The three largest de facto psychiatric inpatient facilities in the United States are now the Los Angeles County jail, the Rikers Island jail in New York City and Cook County jail in Chicago."

Another trouble, Torrey says, is that when deinstitutionalization began, mental health professionals and policymakers did not yet understand something important about the way mental illnesses affect the brain. Through technology such as magnetic resonance imaging, neuroscientists now understand that the brains of people with schizophrenia and manic depressive illness are different. The diseases impair a section of the brain governing insight.

"They have damage to the parts of the brain that we use to think about ourselves," Torrey says. "So almost half of people with this illness are sitting out there saying, 'Look, there's nothing wrong with me.' As I've been told 100 times if I've been told once, 'Doc, if you'll just stop the CIA from sending those messages to me, I'll be fine. But I don't want your damn medicine, and I don't need it. There's nothing wrong with me.'" . . .

Elliott says deinstitutionalization may not be the best term for what has happened. He calls it "trans-institutionalization."

"Nobody was really deinstitutionalized," he says. "They were trans-institutionalized to other institutions, like nursing homes or jails."
Institutions, of course, ill-equipped and unmotivated to provide the compassionate treatment required.

I mentioned above that emerging pharmacology shows promise, if not yet for a "cure", then of more effective treatments without troubling side effects. Therefore, whereas older medications have been largely used for patient management, producing a significant risk that a patient will stop taking them because of the extreme discomfort, newer medications seem to actually heal the brain without the side effects. I, for example, would never think of abandoning my bi-polar medications - because they work and, thank god, I am side-effect free.

Much of the problem here is economic, not clinical. Mentally ill people are less likely to be "productive members of society" than so-called "healthy" people. Social Darwinism is very much alive in the US. The finest, latest medicines and treatments are available only to folks with money. Why, we think, should we pour bucks into caring for people who are never going to be capable of contributing significantly in the workplace? It's cheaper to warehouse people than effectively treat them.

Mental Health America, an advocacy organization, in 2002 noted:
During September NMHA is sending to Congress a series of appropriations “fact sheets” aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues and the need for an increased federal commitment to mental health funding. NMHA hopes the materials will lay the groundwork for Congress to allocate the needed resources not only to provide treatment for mental disorders for the millions unable to access these services, but to make prevention of mental illness and promotion of mental health important public health objectives.

Congress will soon begin consideration of the FY2002 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill. Funding for mental health programs is in jeopardy; the Administration has proposed a cut for mental health services in its FY2002 budget . . .

Research Shows that Not Investing in Mental Health is Expensive

* According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, the impact of mental illness on overall health and productivity is profoundly under-recognized. Today, in market economies such as the United States, mental illness is the second leading cause of disability and premature mortality.

* The total yearly cost for mental illness in both the private and public sector in the U.S. is $205 billion. Only $92 billion comes from direct treatment costs, with $105 billion due to lost productivity and $8 billion resulting from crime and welfare costs. The allocation for the cost of untreated and mistreated mental illness to American businesses, the government and families has grown to $113 billion annually.

* Employees who are depressed are twice as likely to take time off for health reasons than employees who are not depressed, and are seven times more likely to be less productive on the job. However, the success rate for treating clinical depression is approximately 80 percent.

* Treating people in communities is far less expensive than treating them in institutions. In one recent study, total treatment costs in the community, including the cost of housing, was $60,000 per person per year compared to $130,000 for institutional care . . .

Without Mental Health Services, Society Pays a Larger Bill

* Twenty percent of youths in juvenile justice facilities have a serious emotional disturbance and most have a diagnosable mental disorder. Up to an additional 30 percent of youths in these facilities have substance abuse disorders or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.

* The unemployment rate among American adults with depression is 23 percent, compared to 6 percent of the general population.

* On any given night, over 600,000 people are homeless in the U.S., one-third of which has a serious mental illness.

* The World Health Organization estimates that depression and substance abuse are associated with more than 90 percent of all cases of suicide . . .

Research Shows that Mental Health is Under Funded

* In 1997, mental health and substance abuse expenditures represented only 7.8 percent of the more than $1 trillion of all U.S. healthcare expenditures. This is a decrease from 8.8 percent in 1987.

* The overall real purchasing power for state mental health appropriations between 1955 and 1997 declined from $16.5 billion to $ 11.5 billion.

* Mental illness is the second leading cause of disability in the U.S., yet only 7 percent of all healthcare expenditures are designated for mental health disorders . . .
This was in 2002. The situation has gotten worse, not better. Adequate community treatment is rare, to a great degree a function of privatization. The hope that competition would stimulate effectiveness is a pipe dream; striving for lower costs only results in lower standards of care and misery.

Perhaps there is some hope, but not from the feds. This month, in "[Iowa's] House OKs increase in mental-health funding", The Quad Cities Times reported . . .
The Iowa House on Friday approved $13.3 million to help counties provide care to people with mental-health conditions or developmental disabilities, under a measure pushed by Rep. Elesha Gayman, D-Davenport.

Many counties have faced a perennial problem of finding enough money, and Scott County officials announced earlier this year they would cut services because of budget shortfalls.

Gayman said the state assistance will help keep down property taxes Iowans pay. Her plan also called for study to see what other financial assistance the state could provide.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting opportunity to look at what we can fund at a state level and start moving to that direction rather than having a nightmare every year,” Gayman said . . .
More money, sad to say, is not the only crying need. A recent story from LA, "Caught On Tape: Caretakers Abuse Mentally Ill Men", is shocking, but not uncommon:
Los Angeles police have released shocking video taken on a cell phone.

It shows a caretaker physically abusing two mentally handicapped men.

The victim, described as a 38-year-old man with the mental capabilities of a 2-year-old, is hit repeatedly last April inside a bathroom at the Jossen Vocational Academy day program in Anaheim . . .

Also on the cell phone was another video, showing a second victim -- a 38-year-old man with the mental capabilities of a toddler.

The video shows him being hit numerous times while the suspects laugh . . .
Physical abuse is not the only affront the mentally ill must endure. As a society, we have also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually abused our fellow humans, just because they scare us or anger us or disgust us or amuse us. Is this not mass sick behavior?

In the state hospital in which I served the mentally ill a few decades ago, there was a young, brilliant psychiatrist. One of his responsibilities was facilitating therapy and discussion groups and education sessions for patients. I sat in on several and was amazed.

In the middle of one session, a patient asked the doctor, "Doc, do you ever hear voices, hallucinate, or laugh or cry uncontrollably?"

The psychiatrist replied, "Never." The young man asked, laughing, "What's wrong with you?"

What's wrong with us, indeed?

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posted by Unknown at 7:15 AM
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Thursday, April 26, 2007. *
posted by Dr. Menlo at 7:29 PM
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007. *
A red state country music anti-war song?

posted by m at 8:26 AM
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Tuesday, April 24, 2007. *
"If this Virginia Tech shooter had an ideology, what do you think it was? " Limbaugh asked. "This guy had to be a liberal. You start railing against the rich and all this other -- this guy's a liberal. He was turned into a liberal somewhere along the line. So it's a liberal that committed this act. Now, the drive-bys will read on a website that I'm attacking liberalism by comparing this guy to them. That's exactly what they do every day, ladies and gentlemen. I'm just pointing out a fact. I am making no extrapolation; I'm just pointing it out." [more]

I am guessing that the wholly non-consistent rantings of Cho must be one of the symptoms of madness, which is decidedly non-partisan (for example, Cho also named 'hedonism' as an 'enemy' which is as we know is not the sole province of the rich - to delve further into his primitive wordplay looking for ultimate cohesion would in and of itself be mad).

Of course, it is a whole other conversation whether or not drug addict Rush Limbaugh actually believes this horseshit - but this is irrelevant. He is a spewer of vile. He does this with knowing, malicious intent. He is an enemy of the state, in the truest sense of the phrase. Humanity should treat him as they treat a pile of dog feces on the sidewalk - stop breathing, and walk around quickly. Any businesses caught advertising with his show must be treated the same way. Like lepers. Like dog shit.

Humanity must learn to detect slime on its body. Cue hose, and maybe the scalpel.

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posted by Dr. Menlo at 7:48 PM
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Boston Globe news analysis: "Since so much depends on favorable rulings from Justice, the administration can't possibly look forward to having to justify its actions to a new team of lawyers. But that's almost certain to happen if Gonzales is replaced by someone outside Bush's inner circle. Bush would be very hard-pressed to get an inner-circle appointee confirmed by Democratic-controlled Senate. He or she would have had to withstand days of public grilling by Democratic senators, who would try to raise the curtain on any of the administration's secret programs.

More likely, Bush would be obliged to choose an attorney general with a reputation for independence, such as a former Republican senator with credibility on Capitol Hill. But such a figure would almost certainly be more skeptical of the administration's assertions of executive power than Gonzales, a close Bush associate from the president's Texas days."
posted by Anonymous at 4:28 PM
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Monday, April 23, 2007. *
The only people who are benefiting from Bush's war on terror are members of the Military Industrial Complex. Since 9/11, the pay for the CEOs of the top 34 defense contractors in the US has doubled, according to the August 2006 report, "Executive Excess 2006," by the Institute for Policy Studies, and the United for a Fair Economy.

The bill is rising so fast because the level of war profiteering is unprecedented. The Excess Report lists George David, CEO of United Technologies, as the top earner, making more than $200 million since 9/11, despite investigations into the poor quality of the firm's Black Hawk helicopters.

Halliburton CEO David Lesar made $26.6 million in 2005, and nearly $50 million since 9/11, an amount that even beats the $24 million that Dick Cheney received in exchange for the guarantee that Halliburton would be the number one military contractor during the Bush administration.

Cheney himself is also taking in war profits, contrary to what he told Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" in 2003, when he denied making any money off his former employer. "Since I left Halliburton to become George Bush's vice president," he said, "I've severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest."

"I have no financial interest in Halliburton," Cheney told Tim, "of any kind and haven't had, now, for over three years."

Those statements were proven false when financial disclosure forms showed that Cheney had received a deferred salary from Halliburton of $205,298 in 2001, $262,392 in 2002, $278,437 in 2003, and $294,852 in 2004.

In 2005, an analysis released by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), reported that Cheney continued to hold over 300,000 Halliburton stock options and said their value had risen 3,281% over the previous year, from $241,498 to more than $8 million.

To me, this is the true definition of obscene.

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posted by Dr. Menlo at 6:56 PM
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posted by Dr. Menlo at 2:44 PM
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Thomas said he and his wife came up with the unprecedented idea to present the president with the Purple Heart over breakfast one morning a few months ago as they discussed the verbal attacks, both foreign and domestic, the commander in chief has withstood during his time in office.

"We feel like emotional wounds and scars are as hard to carry as physical wounds," Thomas said.

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posted by Dr. Menlo at 2:27 PM
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I'm having the worst damn week of my whole damn life so I'm going to write this while I'm pissed off enough to do it right.

I am SICK of all this bullshit people are writing about the Iraq war. I am abso-fucking-lutely sick to death of it. What the fuck do most of you know about it? You watch it on TV and read the commentaries in the newspaper or Newsweek or whatever god damn yuppie news rag you subscribe to and think you're all such fucking experts that you can scream at each other like five year old about whether you're right or not. Let me tell you something: unless you've been there, you don't know a god damn thing about it. It you haven't been shot at in that fucking hell hole, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

How do I dare say this to you moronic war supporters who are "Supporting our Troops" and waving the flag and all that happy horse shit? I'll tell you why. I'm a Marine and I served my tour in Iraq. My husband, also a Marine, served several. I left the service six months ago because I got pregnant while he was home on leave and three days ago I get a visit from two men in uniform who hand me a letter and tell me my husband died in that fucking festering sand-pit. He should have been home a month ago but they extended his tour and now he's coming home in a box.

You fuckers and that god-damn lying sack of shit they call a president are the reason my husband will never see his baby and my kid will never meet his dad.

[Continues at link.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 12:33 PM
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Saturday, April 21, 2007. *
t is my opinion that after much trial and error, religion has been selected as the single most effective vehicle for mass hypnosis and mind-control.

Like the other major religions, Christianity is vulnerable to cynical exploitation by megalomaniacs, aspiring dictators, fascist regimes, and con artists who skillfully by-pass people's rational minds in order to exploit their deepest emotional needs and fears.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)

The crucial question here, is "believe in what?" Because once ignorant people can be made to accept the proposition that God demands belief without knowledge and without experience, then nothing is easier for "God's representative(s)" than substituting one's own agenda for God's. The "Good Shepherd" is replaced with the "wolf in sheep's clothing", and the protected sheep are turned into meat.

Because of Strauss' teachings, Kristol continued, "There are in Washington today dozens of people who are married with children and religiously observant. Do they have faith? Who knows? They just believe that it is good to go to church or synagogue. Whether you believe or not is not the issue -- that's between you and God -- whether you are a member of a community that holds certain truths sacred, that is the issue." Neoconservatives are "pro-religion even though they themselves may not be believers."

This noble hypocrisy on the part of intellectuals is required in order to encourage religious belief in ordinary people who would otherwise succumb to nihilism without it. In other words, Kristol believes that religion, which may well be a fiction, is necessary to keep the little people in line. This line of thinking has led him and other neoconservative intellectuals to attack Darwinian evolution because they fear it undermines religious belief.

The Voice of Neoconservatism

In the 1930s, a little known German philosopher named Leo Stauss came to the United States and began a university teaching career. Among his students were Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol and others neocons who adopted Strauss's philosophies as the foundation for the political ideals that have taken root so fundamentally in the Bush Administration. To wit: Strauss viewed religion as absolutely essential in order to impose moral law on the masses who otherwise would be out of control. At the same time, he stressed that religion was for the masses alone; the rulers need not be bound by it. Indeed, it would be absurd if they were, since the truths proclaimed by religion were "a pious fraud." As Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine points out, "Neoconservatives are pro-religion even though they themselves may not be believers."

[Strauss believed that]secular society..leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, precisely those traits that may promote dissent that in turn could dangerously weaken society's ability to cope with external threats. Bailey argues that it is this firm belief in the political utility of religion as an "opiate of the masses" that helps explain why secular Jews like Kristol in 'Commentary' magazine and other neoconservative journals have allied themselves with the Christian Right and even taken on Darwin's theory of evolution.
posted by Uncle $cam at 6:48 AM
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Friday, April 20, 2007. *
In March 1982, 25 years ago, the small town of Kennesaw – responding to a handgun ban in Morton Grove, Ill. – unanimously passed an ordinance requiring each head of household to own and maintain a gun. Since then, despite dire predictions of "Wild West" showdowns and increased violence and accidents, not a single resident has been involved in a fatal shooting – as a victim, attacker or defender. The crime rate initially plummeted for several years after the passage of the ordinance, with the 2005 per capita crime rate actually significantly lower than it was in 1981, the year before passage of the law. Prior to enactment of the law, Kennesaw had a population of just 5,242 but a crime rate significantly higher (4,332 per 100,000) than the national average (3,899 per 100,000). The latest statistics available – for the year 2005 – show the rate at 2,027 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the population has skyrocketed to 28,189.

By comparison, the population of Morton Grove, the first city in Illinois to adopt a gun ban for anyone other than police officers, has actually dropped slightly and stands at 22,202, according to 2005 statistics. More significantly, perhaps, the city's crime rate increased by 15.7 percent immediately after the gun ban, even though the overall crime rate in Cook County rose only 3 percent. Today, by comparison, the township's crime rate stands at 2,268 per 100,000.

[Article continues at link.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 12:28 PM
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There is not a [US] military base in the world that doesn't have some soil or ground water contamination. That is just a given. —Gary Vest, assistant deputy undersecretary of defense

War is hell, as old generals never tire of telling us. Not mentioned nearly enough, however, is that war creates hell. Wherever the war machine goes, it leaves a foul and toxic environment behind.

To the extent that an individual, group, or nation resorts to armed conflict, it inevitably turns against the environment. Militaries terrorize the local ecology by depleting natural resources, generating excessive wastes, spewing toxins into the earth, air, and water, and eliminating plant and animal species. To the planet, militant humans behave like out of control cancer cells, multiplying beyond the bounds of balance and reason, while destroying the host in the process . . . [more at P!]

[by Mike Sky, writer, editor, and peace activist, of Thinking Peace, and a co-editor at P!. He is the author of "Breathing" and "The Power of Emotion", two books that offer practical, proven methods for becoming more peaceful individuals.]

posted by Unknown at 10:12 AM
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Thursday, April 19, 2007. *
Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here.
Several years ago, in the pages of my first blog, ddjangoWIrE, I wrote an essay with the same title. When Blogger "accidentally" deleted my account, relegated ddjangoWIrE to a stripped archive, and "lost" some of my posts, the piece converted to disconnected bits in cyberspace and the essay was gone.

I'm really not going to use that disappearance as the primary excuse to post another brief essay on the same subject. Given the state of our nation, our democracy, and the inattention, malaise, and downright selfishness of its people, there are quite enough reasons to revisit this territory.

The main body of our Constitution, as you hopefully know, did not include a Bill of Rights. It was added as a series of amendments. The first draft of the document concerned itself only with the workings of the government, the methods by which the ruling class would make laws, assure that there was a balance of power, restrain the executive from instituting and exercising tyranny, and judging whether laws were conformed to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and were administered fairly and completely. It also dealt with the dynamic of states' rights as opposed to federal rights.

Fresh from a successful revolution against the still feudal monarchy of British rule, the finally independent American colonies were most concerned with the establishment and protection of the Republic. The fairly new concepts of liberalism and democracy were an afterthought, save the creation of a very limited "representative" legislature.

The rulers, mostly well-educated and wealthy land owners were in fact terrified of giving "the masses" much power and preferred that power remain in the hands of the aristocracy. Fortuitously, however, that same fear drove the "founding fathers" to delineate certain limited rights and freedoms for individuals, primarily to avoid a new internal uprising of the people against the government. After all, the Declaration of Independence, the document that justified revolution against British tyranny, celebrated the liberal concept that "all men are created equal".

In some infamous ways, of course, the Bill of Rights was incomplete: African immigrants, most all of them slaves, were deemed fractions of men. Women were not equal to men. To a great extent, at least in practice, these deficiencies remain to this day.

Individual rights and freedoms are, of course, essential to the well-being of humans. Truthfully, Western democracies have the best track record in establishing and enforcing these as law. here is the US Bill of Rights enumerated:
Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
Several times in our history, however, though never more than today, the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, has been raped and turned on its head. I will not go into the details, since much has already been written on the subject (not that it's done much good).

Now comes the question . . . how and why have our rights and freedoms been violated, disregarded, and perhaps lost to us completely? Because we simply have not taken the responsibility to protect them. We haven't paid attention. Use it or lose it. Simple as that.

I can't help but wish that a second ten amendments to the Constitution had been composed and ratified - The Bill of Responsibilities. Googling around, I found just such a thing, "An American Bill of Responsibilities" by Judith H. Rose. Here it is, in full:
Fifteen years after the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution of the United States, the amendments known as the Bill of Rights were ratified. These inspired men believed in a balance between citizen responsibilities and citizen rights. They knew that an emphasis only on rights would inevitably lead to self-interest and anarchy. They also knew that without this balance our nation could not endure. It is time to restore that balance. If they could counsel us today, the Founding Fathers might suggest the following Bill of Responsibilities:

1. You have the responsibility to be a loyal citizen of the United States of America and to expect the same of every other citizen or immigrant to this great land. You have the responsibility to honor the flag and everything she stands for, and to pledge your allegiance to your country.

2. Accepting citizenship means that you are, first and foremost, an American, not a hyphenated American or an expatriate of another country who is here solely for economic advantage. While you do not need to agree with every law that is passed, you do have the obligation to obey the law and work through peaceful means to achieve change. Further, for as long as you are living in this great country that continues to guarantee more freedom to its citizens than any other, you have the obligation to be grateful for the blessing of living in such a land. In America you have the freedom to leave at any time, should you be dissatisfied. No permission is needed.

3. You have the responsibility to speak up when the criminal or legislative actions of any persons threaten the welfare of your family or your nation. It is not someone else's responsibility to blow the whistle; it is yours. "They" should not do something about the problems. You are "they." It takes courage and time to stand up against evil and destructive forces, but if you do not do it, who will?

4. You have the responsibility to consider the welfare of ALL the citizens of the United States of America, even if it requires some personal sacrifice. The nation cannot survive the promulgation of narrow self-interest, be it of the individual, the community, or the state. As long as you judge every law or solution to a problem solely by how it affects you or your surroundings, rather than the country as a whole, there will be no real answers, nor can America remain great.

5. You have the responsibility to support yourself and your own immediate and extended family. Being self-sustaining, providing for your own family, and helping your neighbor to the extent possible are requisite for a healthy economy and society. No society can flourish when a sizable number of its citizens expect to do nothing while accepting a government dole. Reliance on government entities inevitably destroys individual self-respect and the economic well-being of both citizen and state. If you take care of yourself and family, and the community picks up the slack, this nation will have one-third more funds for worthwhile projects and both you and this nation, will become strong and resilient.

6. You have the responsibility to make a difference in the lives of your family, your community, and your nation. As a good citizen you are here to make a contribution to this country. America has always been in the forefront in medical advances, scientific research, humanitarianism, and other areas. You have the responsibility to continue this tradition through hard work and good use of your time. You have the responsibility to bypass excuses of race, economic standing, and victimization of any kind because, no matter which excuse you choose, someone has successfully overcome it.

7. You have the responsibility to be educated and informed. A public education is not enough. Finding truth is a challenging lifetime task that you must pursue diligently. You have the responsibilty to seek truth from many sources. You must question what you read in any publication or listen to in any media report and be willing to consider all sides of any question. You must realize that such a quest for truth will take a tremendous effort to seek it out. The truth is not revealed unless actively sought.

8. You have the responsibility to use wisdom in selecting those who will lead you. You must learn to seek men of good character, not those with only charisma or a handsome face. You must become a connoisseur of character rather than a pawn of a salient slogan. You must remember that character is never outdated. A man or woman with no self-control should never be trusted with the welfare of our great country. You must never tolerate leaders who are untruthful, deceitful, or seek to exercise power rather than give service.

9. You have the responsibility to value and defend human life. Quality of life considerations, age, or handicaps do not in any way lessen the value of life itself. Any life taken by mankind before its time cheapens the life of every other American. You also have the responsibility to educate those who would degrade human life by considering it, at best, equal to or even lower than animal life.

10. You have the responsibility to honor your freedom of worship and to defend that right for every citizen in this country. We, your Founding Fathers valued religion highly and depended entirely upon God for the inspiration and help needed to form this union. We expect no less of you.
I take issue with some of these items, the stuff about the flag, for instance, but all in all, it's a great start. My favorite is item 4, "You have the responsibility to consider the welfare of ALL the citizens of the United States of America, even if it requires some personal sacrifice. The nation cannot survive the promulgation of narrow self-interest, be it of the individual, the community, or the state . . ." Narrow self-interest, simply, is irresponsible.

Irresponsibility is the core reason that not only have we lost many of our rights and freedoms, but also that as a nation and even as a planet we are in grave danger. We have concentrated so much on what we want (avoiding the question of what we need), that we have ignored our individual and group responsibility to each other and the whole world.

It is often said that our government is of, by, and for the people. Somehow, while we were looking narcissistically at our own greedy navels, we have become a people of, by, and for a fascist government. We hire representatives, many of them liars and criminals, based on beauty contests and reports of millions of dollars of campaign contributions, to make our laws. We really know little of what policies they stand for, what their track records consist of, and who truly owns them. Then, shocked when they betray us, we do little more than ineffectively whine until the next election.

Not only haven't we been able to impeach The Doubleduh-Chainy Gang, we haven't even gotten Speaker Pelosi to consider it. Somehow, these thieves we've hired don't represent us, even when we're in the majority. I guess we're just more interested in celebrity antics and the newest bling. After all, holding our government's feet to the fire is hard work. A lot of us don't even vote; a lot less do things like express our views to our elected reps, even while they're clearly doing the bidding of lobbyists and their corporate handlers. Frankly, we should be more ashamed of ourselves than we are of, for example, the Bush regime. I mean, what the hell do you expect? A snake is a snake, even if he smiles and tells you he's a koala bear and cares about you.

Democracy only works if there is constant participation. Voting every couple of years just don't feed that bulldog. This is, after all, supposed to be a participatory democracy, one in which the people determine the outcome -laws, regulations written based on those laws, conformity with and enforcement of those laws. If we don't stay on top of things, as we can readily see, stuff gets out of hand . . . way out of hand.

I'm nearly sixty, and I've watched the notion of participatory democracy disintegrate over the past half century. My father told me that the last time people were really interested in government was during the FDR years . . . the Great Depression and World War II. We didn't win the latter, but we said we did, and aglow in the light of victory, having slain the dragon, we set about being "the greatest country in the world." We started to make things, build things, export things, but most important, buy things, lots of things. Rather than defeating fascism, we assimilated it. Then we turned to face "the Communist menace." Corporations which made a killing supporting the war machine grew monstrous and new ones were born in their image; the specter of communism, especially the notion of public, rather than private, ownership of the means of production was terrifying. If it had not been for the atrocities perpetrated by a psychotic Stalin, it would have been clearer that the "Cold War" was not so much a conflict between freedom and totalitarianism as between capitalism and communism.

Government was at first still important to a people convinced that the Soviet Union would take us over at the first clear opportunity. It was government that underlay our society, had taken care of us during financial disaster and war. Government was a part of us . . . until we started to dismantle most of it, with the exception of the military.

The first president I remember was Ike. He warned us about the military-industrial complex. Most folks didn't even know what he was talking about. Those who did just seemed to ignore it.

John Kennedy was narrowly elected for two reasons: he won the beauty contest and his daddy was rich and powerful enough to buy him the presidency. Although he's an American hero in the country's eyes, perhaps his statement during his inauguration, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country", needs to be revisited. Was he saying, "forget about government continuing to support you and start supporting your government?" It seems to me that it's a two-way street, a mutual relationship, in which we're involved in our government while our government is involved with us. We are the government, theoretically anyway.

LBJ tried to keep the government/society synergy alive in his "Great Society" dream - but Vietnam squashed that one. End of story, pretty much. Nixon was a true conservative - although he tried to reign in what he saw as wasteful and poorly managed programs, he never really tried to totally destroy the social "safety net."

Unbelievably, Ronald Reagan seems to be remembered as an even greater hero than JFK. He rode a national tax revolt into office and raised the basic concept of liberalism to new heights. "Get government off our backs," he cried. But what he really wanted was to get us off the government's back. His friend Margaret Thatcher hit the nail on the head when she claimed that there was no society, only individuals and families. The Reagan-Thatcher years, for both their philosophy and their policies, were probably the most destructive in the Western world's history.

At the same time that the sanctity of the individual was celebrated, corporations were taking full advantage of their legal status as individuals. Those were the individuals that Margaret and Ronnie were talking about. It was off their backs that government should be taken.

It is frightening and unconscionable, the degree to which we have distanced ourselves from our own government. It is, perhaps, the most terrible instance of self-destruction and self-betrayal in world history. Representative democracy has been abandoned. We have allowed corporations, those blind pseudo-human entities of greed and illusion, to supplant us as self-governors. We've been bought off, clear and simple, by celebrity and sizzle, by manufactured "needs", by false gods with two contrary masks. This is not a comic tragedy - nothin's funny here.

It might not be so bad if we were "only hurting ourselves." The truth is that we are most powerful, but also most corrupt. We are most responsible for the looting and destruction of the planet's resources; for the export of the mad monster of capitalism in the name of "democracy"; for the support of ravenous dictatorships enslaving their own people in the cause of corporate profit; for the creation of "weapons of mass destruction"; for the instigation of mass murder under the guise of "regime change".

As a nation, we are responsible for the health and welfare of everyone and everything on this rock we call Earth. But as individual residents of the United States of America, we seem each to be a nation of one.

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posted by Unknown at 11:03 AM
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When unexplained violence takes center stage, we tend to turn to modern psychology to explain it.

But there is an alternative explanation, one that has been played out in film, stage and writings since the beginning of history.
posted by Uncle $cam at 1:58 AM
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007. *
So you wanna wage a "war" on terror. Start by banning guns, all guns, all people. Pay attention!

Enough is more than enough. As I write, at least 32 people are dead at VT, the victims of a lone gunman, apparently with an assault rifle.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution:

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

OK, look, goddammit . . . it says, "a well regulated militia". Individual gun ownership has nothing to do with a well-regulated militia. And it's obvious that nothing here is well-regulated. We don't at all need a "militia" composed of individuals, except perhaps the National Guard. The Second Amendment was written at a time when individual states had no organized militias. During the Revolution, armies were created (read "bought") to respond to a specific threat, then disbanded when the conflict was over. Our Navy was created later to guard our shores and defeat piracy. Later, with guns in individual and army hands, we perpetrated the genocide of the tribes who first possessed Turtle Island.

The Gun Control Network reports:
Most Mass Gun Killers are also Legal Gun Owners - Research

The following data were prepared in the wake of the shooting in Erfurt, Germany, 26 April 2002.

In the 14 deadliest mass shootings committed in wealthy nations during the past 35 years:
  • 79% of the victims were shot with lawfully held firearms (185 of 233 victims)

  • 86% of these mass shooting (12 of 14) were committed by lawful gun owners
Many killers, like the 19-year-old who shot 16 people dead at his school in Germany, were previously law-abiding sporting shooters or pistol club members - men whose legal ownership of guns was not questioned by authorities until after the tragedy . . .

In a study of 65 high-profile multiple-victim shootings in the United States during 40 years, 62% of handgun shootings and 71% of long gun shootings were committed with legally acquired firearms (Violence Policy Center, 2001)
Private gun ownership in the 21st century should be a crime. Protecting private property is the police force's job. I remember at least two widely reported incidents in which kids were killed by an armed property owner who objected to their trespassing. Guns for "sport" hunting are an anachronism. Non-human species are enough in short supply without humans killing them for fun.

Here's the history of the "right to bear arms."

Here are some other stats, from he@lth:
# In 1998 (the most recent year for which there are statistics) 10 young people a day died from gunshot.

# Gun homicide is the fourth leading cause of death for young people 10-14 years of age and the second leading cause of death for young people 15-24. [National Center for Health Statistics, 1997.]

# Gunshot wounds are the leading cause of death for both African-American and white teenage males [Journal of the American Medical Association].

# One in six parents say they know a child who accidentally shot himself or herself with a gun [Harvard School of Public Health].

# A youth aged 10-19 committed suicide with a gun every six hours in 1995 -- 1,449 young people in one year [National Center for Health Statistics, 1997].

# At a national level, emergency room data verify that suicide attempts with firearms are almost always fatal -- for every gun suicide, there is less than one nonfatal injury. [Journal of the American Medical Association, 1995].

# Suicide is nearly 5 times more likely to occur in a household with a gun than in a household without a gun. [Kellerman, A.L. et al., N Engl J Med 327, 1993.]

# In 1996, 2 people were murdered by handguns in New Zealand, 15 in Japan, 106 in Canada, 213 in Germany, and 9,390 in the United States. [FBI Uniform Crime Report]

# Nine out of ten young people who are murdered in industrialized countries are slain in the United States [United Nations Children’s Fund report, "The Progress of Nations" quoted in St. Paul Pioneer Press, 9/26/93].

# Guns kept in the home for self-protection are 43 times more likely to kill a family member or friend than to kill in self-defense. [ Kellermann and Reay, N.E. Journal of Medicine]

# Every two years, more Americans die of gunshot than there were American soldiers killed during the entire Vietnam War [National Center for Health Statistics, Department of Defense Almanac].

Repeal the Second Amendment. Down with the NRA. Close down arms makers, dealers, and other merchants of death.


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posted by Unknown at 3:24 PM
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Monday, April 16, 2007. *
Roman Catholics in the News
BBC: Pope envoy ends Holocaust protest. The Vatican's envoy to Israel has attended the annual Holocaust remembrance event in Jerusalem after earlier threatening not to be present. Archbishop Antonio Franco was angered by a caption in the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum describing the actions of wartime Pope Pius XII.

Allison Hoffman: Judge Orders External Audit for Church. A federal bankruptcy judge Wednesday ordered an external audit of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego amid accusations church leaders are trying to hide assets to avoid payment to sex abuse victims. Judge Louise DeCarl Adler had earlier threatened the diocese with contempt for misrepresenting facts and possibly violating bankruptcy laws. She criticized church attorneys for failing to include 770 parish accounts in bankruptcy documents.

[Articles continue at link. Backstory.]

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posted by Trevor Blake at 12:33 PM
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Legislating Against Families
Diane Carman: Anti-gay rhetoric drowns out kids' needs. Sen. Schultheis of Colorado Springs and Sen. Renfroe of Greeley were among the 15 Republicans who voted against a bill that would allow same-sex partners to adopt each other's children. For them, granting children adopted by same-sex parents the same health care, pension, Social Security, workers' compensation and child-support benefits as those given to children adopted by heterosexual couples was considered a threat to something, although it was never clear exactly what.

Ryan Lee: Georgia judge halts lesbian adoption. Days away from her seventh birthday, a little girl named Emma Rose is currently trapped in Georgia’s foster care system, unable to reunite with the woman who has been her mother for almost a year — all because the mother is a lesbian. The prospective adoptive mother, Elizabeth Hadaway, was also sentenced to 10 days in jail earlier this month by a Wilkinson County Superior Court judge who refused to grant the adoption in part because “the child will have a long-term exposure to the homosexual parent’s lifestyle.”

[Articles continue at links. Would I be wrong if I guessed these politicians were motivated by an invisible monster that lives in the sky?]

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posted by Trevor Blake at 12:22 PM
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When an American President embarked on a religious crusade, pledging the nation to a with-us-or-against-us perpetual war between Good and Evil, at whatever the costs in lives, resources, and international relations, the terrorists won.

When the US Congress gave up its constitutional powers and responsibilities to decide when, where, and why the nation goes to war, the terrorists won.

When the American people, sick with pain and fear from the abominations of September 2001, allowed the drumbeats of vengeance and retaliatory violence to drown out concern for the innocent people of already long-suffering third-world nations, the terrorists won.

When two hundred years of concern for personal liberties and civil rights were overridden by the paranoia-laced, State-intruding, Orwellian-named Patriot Act, the terrorists won.

When a great democracy cast aside long-established laws, shrugged off its commitment to fair jurisprudence, rounded up hundreds of suspected terrorists, and held them for years without being charged with any crimes, given access to legal council, or allowed to communicate with family members, the terrorists won.

When an American President and Secretary of State went before the gathered leaders of the United Nations and presented a blatantly misleading casus belli to justify the preemptive invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation, the terrorists won.

When leaders of the democratic nations of Great Britain, Spain, Italy, and Australia ignored the will of their people, as well as the collective voice of millions who marched world-wide against the invasion, the terrorists won.

When anti-war protestors were corralled into out-of-sight "free speech zones"; when all forms of dissent were branded as cowardice and treason; when media professionals lost their jobs for speaking and reporting unpolitic truth; when the nation's economy and a long list of domestic priorities were sacrificed to the foolishness of perpetual war; when the democratic impulses of our European allies were branded as appeasement....

The terrorists won . . .

[more at P!]


Michael Sky, writer, editor, and peace activist, writes at Thinking Peace and is a co-editor at P!. He is the author of "Breathing" and "The Power of Emotion", two books that offer practical, proven methods for becoming more peaceful individuals.
posted by Unknown at 10:48 AM
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The esteemed Nicholas J. Pell has launched a blog covering the 2008 election from his non-Euclidean political perspective:

Giuliani was on the offensive, repeating what will likely be his mantra for the upcoming election, that social issues don’t matter. The Big G still leads in key states in all early polling, and I still maintain that he’s going to name Gingrich as his running mate long before the primary season even begins to wash away his sins. Specifically, his (alleged) socially permissive politics and being from “Nooo Yawrk Citaaay?!” The Manhattan Mussolini once again reiterated his opposition to more government spending on anything other than putting black ski masked thugs on every street corner in America. Internal security and intelligence services on a scale grander than the German Democratic Republic are a great idea but single-payer health care? That’s socialism! He also stated unequivocally that the other Republican candidates are better than Clinton, Obama and Edwards. One can only assume that proto-fascist Tom Tancredo and reanimated corpse Tommy Thompson are included in this assessment.
posted by Klintron at 9:30 AM
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Sunday, April 15, 2007. *
posted by Philip Shropshire at 9:28 AM
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Note: You have to lobby these guys to do the right thing. Even AIPAC's man in congress sees the light on Bush and War. Lobby and pester. Who knows. Maybe they'll see the answer staring them in the face.

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posted by Philip Shropshire at 8:36 AM
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Friday, April 13, 2007. *
WASHINGTON, April 13 — A Justice Department e-mail released on Friday shows that the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales proposed replacement candidates for seven United States attorneys nearly a year before those prosecutors were fired,in contrast to testimony last month in which the aide said that no successors were considered before the firings.

Repercussions???? Contempt of Congress? Lying under oath?, Ha! Nothing...

I guess, perjury only applies to us simple folk. From what I understand he was suppose to be back to talk to some staffers of the committee, and I think it was today.

That was until these emails were released, and he canceled his appearance.

Let us have a look at the law on lying to Congress, 18 U.S.C. 1001 t talks about anyone who "falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact." Note the word "trick."

If you are asked one question (did you have this in mind before 12/7) and you answer another question (did you have this in mind on 12/7) in order to trick Congress, you are guilty of violating section 1001.

The U.S. Attorney Manual states, "A statement is false for purposes of this statute even if it is a technically true statement, but it is knowingly put to a false use." In one case cited there, the court found that answering a question about the nature of a fee with a truthful answer about what the records show about that fee could still be a violation of 1001 if the answer was intended to avoid the real question.

I love section 1001. It sent away Scooter Libby and Martha Stewart. It would have taken away Caspar Weinberger if he had not been pardoned by Bush I.

Also see, Lawyer: That's No Contradiction.

What e-mails you say...

Those Missing White House Emails.

Finally, CREW is asking Fitz to re-open the case against Karl Rove

Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, said today, "It looks like Karl Rove may well have destroyed evidence that implicated him in the White House's orchestrated efforts to leak Valerie Plame Wilson's covert identity to the press in retaliation against her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson." Sloan continued, "Special Counsel Fitzgerald should immediately reopen his investigation into whether Rove took part in the leak as well as whether he obstructed justice in the ensuing leak investigation."
posted by Uncle $cam at 6:17 PM
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Liberated Paul Krugman

The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda — which is very different from simply being people of faith — is one of the most important stories of the last six years. It’s also a story that tends to go underreported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists.

But this conspiracy is no theory. The official platform of the Texas Republican Party pledges to “dispel the myth of the separation of church and state.” And the Texas Republicans now running the country are doing their best to fulfill that pledge.
The Bush administration’s implosion clearly represents a setback for the Christian right’s strategy of infiltration. But it would be wildly premature to declare the danger over. This is a movement that has shown great resilience over the years. It will surely find new champions.

Next week Rudy Giuliani will be speaking at Regent’s Executive Leadership Series.

You know it's bad, when the m$m finally starts to talk about it... Praise Jebus!
posted by Uncle $cam at 6:11 PM
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Thursday, April 12, 2007. *
I have a juicy new piece on another site about GovTech and the White House email controversy.

I've been hesitant to focus too heavily on GovTech, run by Bush family friend Mike Connell, whose IT enterprises straddle the "firewall" separating private from public. Although ePluribus Media has placed a great deal of emphasis on Connell and his enterprises (see here and here), I have yet to see hard evidence linking any of his firms with SmarTech. We know that SmarTech can be traced to the domain.


The GovTech story has just become very, very interesting. In this story, I note that a NewMedia web page lists GovTech as a "partner" business. (NewMedia is Connell's "other" business.) There is a link to GovTech and a brief description of what they do.

That description reveals that GovTech has set up "complex internet communications" for the White House.


So far, no other published account has mentioned any work done by GovTech for the White House. In fact, the White House is never mentioned on the company's site! (At least, I could find no such reference.) Congress, yes; the Department of Energy, yes; various state governments, yes. But not the White House.

Looks to me like GovTech may have scrubbed all reference to the White House from its site. If so, they forgot to rewrite the NewMedia site.

I theorize that the rewrite occurred when Patrick Fitzgerald tried to acquire emails relevant to the Plame inquiry in 2004-2006.

CREW has just revealed that no less than FIVE MILLION emails may have been scrubbed. (See the full CREW report here.) What does Mike Connell, Bush loyalist, know about this?
~ joseph cannon
posted by Uncle $cam at 7:23 PM
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Wednesday, April 11, 2007. *
Kurt is up in heaven now.

We had a memorial service for Isaac [Asimov] a few years back, and I spoke and said at one point, 'Isaac is up in heaven now.' It was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, 'Kurt is up in heaven now.' That's my favorite joke.

Telling it straight to the very end...
Thank god he's in heavy now, the magnificent bastard!

Kurt Vonnegut is gone, on a perfectly lovely morning.


It's like hearing that the the gypsy at the outskirts of town took off. That the one person who kept the mojo straight, who always knew where it was at, that the one who saw things -- has left town.

But then, anyone who keeps the mojo straight knows a secret -- that the mojo is never in one place, that it is not something one person made, that the mojo is just another word for us, all of us, all at once, present and accounted for, live like a snake, all over the world.

What a species. We.

Who do any damned thing we want to do, no matter how huge, no matter how mean. All over the world.

Kurt could never take his eyes off the mojo, he lived by the mojo, and he'd point you straight at it whenever you stopped to wonder where it's at.

Living being a series of days that are a series of minutes and moments; you are either here, or you are elsewhere. If you are here by the minute and moment, you are privy to the mojo, and it is a fascinating way to live. All those minds, all those hearts, all those souls, sensible, accessible. Present.

Here on this lovely morning, we have us, all of us. We have all we ever had, and all we will ever have.

Kurt has moved on, on a perfectly lovely morning.

And the mojo is yours.

Wilson, Ballard, Vonnegut, that completes the law of threes (if one is
to believe in such) too bad for Humanity. So it goes...
posted by Uncle $cam at 8:47 PM
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Of course you knew it was coming...

WASHINGTON — The White House said Wednesday it had mishandled Republican Party-sponsored e-mail accounts used by nearly two dozen presidential aides, resulting in the loss of an undetermined number of e-mails concerning official White House business.

Congressional investigators looking into the administration's firing of eight federal prosecutors already had the nongovernmental e-mail accounts in their sights because some White House aides used them to help plan the U.S. attorneys' ouster. Democrats were questioning whether the use of the GOP-provided e-mail accounts was proof that the firings were political.

(radically snipped)

[Stansel...WH guy) could not say what had been lost, and said the White House is working to recover as many as they can. The White House has now shut off employees' ability to delete e-mails on the separate accounts, and is briefing staffers on how to better make determinations about when and when not to use them, Stanzel said.

Hey, it's as plausible as any story they're gonna come up with...

Cannonfire has been all over this, and it's even deeper than you know:
Fraud, scandal and murder

Also see, Watergate? On a news day like THIS?

Now that the GWB43 tale is getting major attention (see Dan Froomkin's take on it here ), we are hearing voices comparing the Rove/Ralston/Abramoff emails to the 18 1/2 minute gap in the Watergate tapes. Except this time, we may get a chance to grab hold of the missing material. The technology has changed.
posted by Uncle $cam at 7:25 PM
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Donate your Phone Tax Refund: I am sure you are all aware you are entitled to this one-time refund of the telephone taxes now deemed to have been illegally collected for more than thirty years. The phone tax was, explicitly, a war tax, si isn't it fitting to donate it to an organization working for peace and social justice?
posted by Anonymous at 1:06 PM
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I am homeless. This is the second time in a year that I've been so. It ain't easy.

Just about a year ago, I was laid off from a job I had held for four years. It was a pretty good job, doing research, geographic information systems, and data analysis for an institute at a local university. The layoff was unexpected. I drew unemployment for awhile, had an apartment.

Not long after the layoff, however, I went into a deep clinical depression, was hospitalized for awhile and have needed to spend a time recovering. Financially, however, I was a mess, lost my apartment, and spent several weeks in a local homeless shelter. Boy, did I learn a lot.

I got back on my feet, started looking for a job, got an apartment. I was doing all right, then got hit with another bout of depression and had to be hospitalized again.

Hospital bills, other unforeseen expenses, etc. I lost my apartment again about two months ago. So I'm homeless again, living in a shelter program.

I'm pretty lucky. (What?!! . . . "lucky"?!)

Yeah, lucky. Because the county I live in has a shelter which also provides a lot of services: substance abuse/alcoholism counseling, 12 step meetings, mental health care, including a psychiatrist, a case manager, job-hunting assistance, money management counseling, transitional housing, and connections to other services, like medical care. For free. It's not a great place, of course: dormitory living with people in a very wide range of situations, like real street bums, active alcoholics, junkies, crackheads, mentally ill folks, folks in crisis like me, folks who lost their jobs and can't find new ones, folks who lost relationships and/or got divorced and really screwed because of it, disabled veterans, released prisoners, and just damn unlucky, confused, and lonely folks.

But the place is fairly safe and the staff work hard. It got really fucking cold last week and the shelter crammed in as many folks as would fit. Food, clothing, shelter in a life-threatening situation.

This isn't true in a lot of areas in this country. But you probably know that. I read an article yesterday about a homeless man who was beaten to death by a gang of suburban kids. This has happened often in the past few years. It seems it's a brutal sport.

"Street people" are severely marginalized. Prejudices are still ubiquitous. Once in the circle, it's hard to get out. Many cities and communities either arrest homeless folks or just push them outta town (this is called "passing the trash"). Many places have no shelter or programs, other have just the bare minimum. Charity and humanity is in short supply. I know I'll make it through (with some help), because I'm smart, very employable, and resilient. There's sometimes very little hope for many of my brothers and sisters out here.

There aren't many, but there are some folks on our side:

Just Neighbors . . .
The Just Neighbors Mission

The mission of Just Neighbors is to raise awareness of the root causes of poverty and homelessness.

Just Neighbors brings to its participants a deep understanding of the reality of poverty and a deep empathy for people living in poverty. Congregations, nonprofit organizations, colleges, universities, and high schools are using the program to change attitudes, to recruit volunteers, and to empower them as advocates for their neighbors in need.

The entire Just Neighbors experience is designed to foster a sense of community among the participants. It is an engaging, thought-provoking curriculum that offers a wealth of resources and materials along with the flexibility to make the program work in the widest possible range of settings and organizations.
National Coalition for the Homeless.
The National Coalition for the Homeless, founded in 1984, is a national network of people who are currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to a single mission. That mission, our common bond, is to end homelessness. We are committed to creating the systemic and attitudinal changes necessary to prevent and end homelessness. At the same time, we work to meet the immediate needs of people who are currently experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of doing so. We take as our first principle of practice that people who are currently experiencing homelessness or have formerly experienced homelessness must be actively involved in all of our work.

Core Principles

* Every member of society, including people experiencing homelessness, has a right to basic economic and social entitlements of which safe, decent, accessible, affordable, and permanent housing is a definitive component.

* It is a societal responsibility to provide safe, decent, accessible, affordable, and permanent housing for all people, including people experiencing homelessness, who are unable to secure such housing through their own means.

* All people, including people experiencing homelessness, who are able to secure safe, decent, accessible, affordable, and permanent housing through their own means need economic and social supports to enable them to do so.

* People experiencing homelessness deserve access to safe, decent, accessible, affordable, and permanent housing through the same systems and programs available to people with housing.

* People experiencing homelessness have unique needs and life circumstances that may be addressed through housing programs designed specifically for them.

* All people should have equal access to safe, decent, accessible, affordable, and permanent housing regardless of their unique needs or life circumstances.

* Universal access to safe, decent, accessible, affordable, and permanent housing is a measure of a truly just society.
National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Our Work
The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a leading voice on the issue of homelessness. The Alliance analyzes policy and develops pragmatic, cost-effective policy solutions. We work collaboratively with the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to build state and local capacity, leading to stronger programs and policies that help homeless individuals and families make positive changes in their lives. We provide data and research to policymakers and elected officials in order to inform policy debates and educate the public and opinion leaders nationwide.

The Ten Year Plan
Guiding our work is A Plan: Not a Dream—How to End Homelessness in Ten Years. The Alliance’s Ten Year Plan identifies our nation's current challenges in addressing the problem and lays out practical steps that can be taken to change its present course and truly end homelessness. The announcement of this plan started a snowball effect that is now felt across the country. The Administration and Congress have adopted significant parts of the Ten Year Plan as policy goals. Opinion leaders have begun to echo the language and key concepts of the plan and communities and states across the nation have taken up the challenge to end homelessness. Hundreds of communities are developing or have implemented plans to end homelessness within ten years. Across the country, the movement is growing. Now more than ever, our nation is poised to end homelessness.
Homelessness is fundamentally an economic problem. These and other groups, agencies, and programs are trying to address this. Especially under the regime of the Doubleduh-Chainey Gang, it seems an impossible task. But we must try.

On a personal note, we're doing a fundraiser here to keep me alive (and in cigarettes and bus fare) as I look for a job. My finances are trashed and I can use whatever help I can get. Please. Just donate what you can, if you can - I'll be more grateful than you can imagine.

Thank you.

Be at peace.
posted by Unknown at 9:58 AM
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