As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, December 03, 2004


The No Child Left Behind Act forces public schools to meet certain federal standards in order to receive funding. After reading this report by my Representative in the House, Henry Waxman (and boy am I proud to say that), one wonders if the federal "abstinence-only" education programs savaged therein need to may any basic standards of truth or legitimacy. Among the many things being taught to children (and using taxpayer money to do it):

-Condoms do not prevent HIV 31% of the time.
-Condoms do not prevent pregnancy 14% of the time. (which is weird, because I've had sex with a condom more than 7 times, and yet do not have a kid. I guess I'm lucky.)
-10% of women who receive abortions will become sterile.
-A 43 day-old fetus is "a thinking person."
-Women need "financial support," while men need "admiration."
-HIV can be acquired through sweat or tears.
-Women are more prone to suicide following an abortion.
-An abortion makes premature birth in subsequent pregnancies more likely.

All of these are blatantly false, and are really blatant scare tactics by the administrators who want to use fear to push their abstinence-only agenda. They clearly do not feel confident enough in the "it's better to wait" argument in and of itself, and have to resort to scaring the living bejeebus out of their students. Why don't they trust kids to make the right choices? Why don't they trust the value of Christian celibacy? Why lie?

Well, maybe because they know that their entire worldview is based on horseshit.

It's just a theory.


Ukraine to revote

All power to the people.

Yushchenko apparently leads in the polls, if that means anything.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, The Democratic House Judiciary Committee staf has written a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, asking for his help in investigating the numerous voting irregularities in the state. It's the most thorough set of allegations I've seen. You have to go read it yourself, the list of allegations are too dense to summarize.

Not that American election integrity matters when judges are handing down Scott Peterson's sentence, and Santa Barbara police are searching Michael Jackson's house.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

More Tales of Freedom of Speech

Can we at this point end the silly notion that speech is free? Cuz I don't see it. For instance, you can't run an ad that promotes tolerance:

The CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a 30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its all-inclusive welcome has been deemed "too controversial."

The ad, part of the denomination's new, broad identity campaign set to begin airing nationwide on Dec. 1, states that -- like Jesus -- the United Church of Christ (UCC) seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation.

According to a written explanation from CBS, the United Church of Christ is being denied network access because its ad implies acceptance of gay and lesbian couples -- among other minority constituencies -- and is, therefore, too "controversial."

And you can't show a 16th-century fresco:

US distributors of the film Merchant of Venice, which premiered in London this week, have asked the director to cut out a background fresco by a Venetian old master so it is fit for American television viewers.

...according to Mr (director Michael) Radford, there was "a very curious request which said 'Could you please paint-box out the wallpaper?'. I said wallpaper, what wallpaper? This is the 16th century, people didn't have wall-paper."

When he examined the scenes, he realised the letter was referring to frescoes by Paolo Veronese, the acclaimed Venetian 16th-century artist, which, when examined closely, showed a naked cupid.

"A billion dollars worth of Veronese great master's frescoes they want paint-boxed out because of this cupid's willy. It is absolutely absurd," he said.

I'm leaving the planet tomorrow. Somebody lock up for me.


Blog is the Word of the Year

I proudly accept on behalf of the entire blogosphere.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Gee, wonder why some of us aren't for Social Security privatization? Maybe because the stock market is like gambling. Just ask 2008 Presidential hopeful Bill Frist:

CHATTANOOGA — After big losses in the stock market, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's campaign committee is short of money to cover a bank loan that was due in August, records show.

The committee's most recent filing shows a little more than $10,000 was paid on the $360,000 loan from U.S. Bank.

Records show Frist's committee had losses in the stock market totaling more than $524,000 since November 2000. After paying other expenses, the committee had $312,807 in its accounts as of Sept. 30, according to records reviewed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Boy, if the little old ladies contributing to Frist's campaign knew that he was taking their $20 and trying to parlay it by putting it into the NASDAQ, I think they'd be pissed. Wait, what am I saying? Frist's contributors are more likely to be captains of industry, not little old ladies. But little old ladies will be depending on the volatilities of the market for their Social Security checks, if Frist and his allies in Congress have anything to do with it.

If this scandal deepens, that's it for Frist '08. I mean, the attack ad writes itself. "Bill Frist can't even keep his own campaign funds. Are you going to trust him with the federal budget?"


Our Military

A poster at Daily Kos found this 2002 Mother Jones article for me, which was likely one of the first to report that the No Child Left Behind Act forces high schools to submit the names, addresses and phone numbers of all of their students to military recruiters. The final paragraph tells you exactly how much the armed forces value privacy:

Recruiters are up-front about their plans to use school lists to aggressively pursue students through mailings, phone calls, and personal visits -- even if parents object. "The only thing that will get us to stop contacting the family is if they call their congressman," says Major Johannes Paraan, head U.S. Army recruiter for Vermont and northeastern New York. "Or maybe if the kid died, we'll take them off our list."

This, despite the fact that you're supposed to be able to opt out of the provision and withhold your child's records. Not that "the law" matters to the military.

Why, in fact, our leaders at the Pentagon have no problem with breaking the moral, ethical, and actual law against using media to deliver propaganda and disinformation:

WASHINGTON — On the evening of Oct. 14, a young Marine spokesman near Fallouja appeared on CNN and made a dramatic announcement.

"Troops crossed the line of departure," 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert declared, using a common military expression signaling the start of a major campaign. "It's going to be a long night." CNN, which had been alerted to expect a major news development, reported that the long-awaited offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Fallouja had begun.
 In fact, the Fallouja offensive would not kick off for another three weeks. Gilbert's carefully worded announcement was an elaborate psychological operation — or "psy-op" — intended to dupe insurgents in Fallouja and allow U.S. commanders to see how guerrillas would react if they believed U.S. troops were entering the city, according to several Pentagon officials.

Remember that in 2002, the Pentagon tried to set up an official psy-ops arm called the Office of Strategic Influence, dedicated to planting fake news stories in the international media. This was scuttled, yet apparently the strategy is still ongoing. And the architects of this policy are still playing the familiar "I don't know" defense:

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said he recognized the concern of many inside the Defense Department, but that "everybody understands that there's a very important distinction between information operations and public affairs. Nobody has offered serious proposals that would blur the distinction between these two functions."

Di Rita said he had asked his staff for more information about how the Oct. 14 incident on CNN came about.

Exactly why are we supposed to believe anything coming out of the mouths of official sources in Washington, then? And exactly why are we supposed to believe their charges that al-Jazeera and other Arab news sources are lying when they negatively portray the effort in Iraq? It is now US policy to lie to the media. There was an excellent sermon written by a Texas minister that discusses how our current government resembles all the key characteristics of a fascist state. I think we're getting closer every day.


Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Colleges Do What High Schools Can't

In yet another dose of sanity from those pesky "activist judges," yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that universities can ban military recruiters from campuses "to protest the Defense Department policy of excluding gays from military service." What's funny is that the court applied the same standard that the US Supreme Court used to allow the Boy Scouts to ban gay scoutmasters. Payback is indeed a bitch.

But what's crazy is that, while universities can do this, high schools can't, since (as I noted yesterday) recruiters are allowed access to high school campuses (as well as every student in America's name and phone number) by federal law, under the No Child Left Behind Act. No child left behind indeed. No child left behind the plane on the way to Iraq, is more like it.


Follow Up

I had to read that "US to Deport Man Who Has Transsexual Wife" story again to catch the impact. Welcome to the New Morality (TM), ladies and gentlemen.  I was actually looking for a link to the Tom Ridge resignation when I stumbled across this story from the LA ABC affiliate:

LOS ANGELES -- A lawsuit filed against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services alleges the agency discriminated against a Filipino couple when it denied the husband's legal residency because his wife had a sex change operation nearly 24 years ago.

Now, I don't know how well this guy's story checks out.  It seems that he's 27, and his wife is 58.  Sounds like a marriage of convenience possibility.  However, it does appear that the Feds are solely basing their denial of residency on the fact that the woman had a sex change in 1981.  They refused his application three weeks after they found out.

Look at this graf:

The Department of Homeland Security said in a letter to Javenella explaining its decision that "currently, no federal statute or regulation addresses specifically the question whether someone born a man or a woman can surgically change his or her sex."

The letter cited an internal memorandum dated April 16, 2004, that said CIS policy "disallows recognition of change of sex in order for a marriage between two persons born of the same sex to be considered bona fide ... ." The memo calls on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act - which defines marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman - to support its position.

So now nobody can get a sex change and then marry, and have it recognized in the US.  Is that what I'm reading here?  Is their argument that women with a sex change can't marry a man because they USED to be a man?  And mind you, this sex change was 24 years ago.  So what's the statute of limitations here?  And exactly why is the immigration service deciding on this policy, rather than the legislative branch?

Here's a couple more grafs of interest:

"I'm certainly not aware of any other cases where the INS is interpreting or disregarding someone's sex reassignment," he (attorney Alphonso David) said. "It's a little problematic because they're saying that someone who has been living as a woman for 24 years now ... will be treated as a male."

David said the decision also sets up a conflict between state and federal law, because California is one of about 25 states that reissue birth certificates to transsexuals after sex change operations and legally recognize them as their new gender.

Ganzon, a registered nurse, was born in the Philippines and has lived in the United States for more than 25 years, Abramowitz said. She was granted U.S. citizenship in 1987 - six years after her sex change operation - and given a certificate that listed her sex as female, the lawsuit said. The couple met in the Philippines in 2000 and Javenella was granted legal residence in the United States on June 5, 2001. The couple married in Las Vegas on Nov. 21, 2001.

She's listed as female on her fucking certificate of citizenship! But this is too close to gay marriage, I guess. That's nasty. Let's just legislate it away.

And here's my favorite part... this lawyer's got some balls:

The lawsuit also names as defendants Attorney General John Ashcroft; Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge; William Yates, CIS associate director for operations; and Jane Arellano, director of CIS' Los Angeles district office.

I'd pay money to see Ridge and Ashcroft take the stand in this one.  Maybe that's why he's leaving Homeland Security, to prep.



To Pennsylvania, where he can hole himself up in a house sealed with duct tape and color-code to his heart's content. Thanks for nothing, genius.

(this means that Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge has resigned, in case it sounds inscrutable.)

Maybe he's ducking out to work on this bizarre lawsuit:

LOS ANGELES — A lawsuit filed against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services alleges the agency discriminated against a Filipino couple when it denied the husband's legal residency because his wife had a sex change operation nearly 24 years ago.

The lawsuit also names as defendants Attorney General John Ashcroft; Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge; William Yates, CIS associate director for operations; and Jane Arellano, director of CIS' Los Angeles district office.


Monday, November 29, 2004

Never Surrender

Working Assets has been my long distance company for years, and they have a nice little campaign on theirwebsite right now, which is marred only by the fact that it bears the same title as a really bad Corey Hart song. But the Never Surrender campaign sounds pretty cool, and they're selling a bunch of bracelets, which are sort of like those ubiquitous Lance Armstrong foundation things that make you look like you've just been to a hospital or an all-ages show. They're also setting up a lot of volunteer opportunities.

It's in concert with the American Civil Liberties Union, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Project Vote, Public Campaign, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Free Press, Media Matters for America, Alliance for Justice, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and Human Rights Watch. An impressive list, to say the least. Check it out; it's better than giving up and moving to Canada. Besides, it's too cold up there.


A Pauper Class of Hirelings

A story in today's Boston Globe highlights some of the problems with our volunteer military system that I discussed at length yesterday. Not surprisingly, Army recruiters are more aggressive in working-class and poor areas than in wealthy suburbs. What is surprising is the lengths to which these recruiters go after their prey:

POMFRET, Md. -- Military recruiting saturates life at McDonough High, a working-class public school where recruiters chaperon dances, students in a junior ROTC class learn drills from a retired sergeant major in uniform, and every prospect gets called at least six times by the Army alone.

Recruiters distribute key chains, mugs, and military brochures at McDonough's cafeteria. They are trained to target students at schools like McDonough across the country, using techniques such as identifying a popular student -- whom they call a "center of influence" -- and conspicuously talking to that student in front of others.

The Globe inquiry found that recruiters target certain schools and students for heavy recruitment, and then won't give up easily: Officers call the chosen students repeatedly, tracking their responses in a computer program the Army calls "the Blueprint." Eligible students are hit with a blitz of mailings and home visits. Recruiters go hunting wherever teens from a targeted area hang out, following them to sporting events, shopping malls, and convenience stores.

Officers are trained to analyze students and make a pitch according to what will strike a motivational chord -- job training, college scholarships, adventure, signing bonuses, or service to country. A high-school recruiting manual describes the Army as "a product which can be sold."

This should be familiar to those who have seen the recruiters hanging out at the mall in Fahrenheit 9/11. But is anyone else profoundly disturbed by this? We cherry=pick our most needy, our most at-risk children, pump them up by calling them "brave volunteers" and send them off to do our imperial bidding.

Kids may see the deification of the military in the dominant culture, but they aren't stupid. They know that a trip to Afghanistan or Iraq isn't exactly safe. So they need a lot of incentive to risk getting their head blown off. But the Army reads "incentive" as "pressure":

"This closing method works best with younger men," the manual reads. "You must be careful how you use this one. You must be on friendly terms with your prospect, or this may backfire. It works like this: When you find difficulty in closing, particularly when your prospect's interest seems to be waning, challenge his ego by suggesting that basic training may be too difficult for him and he might not be able to pass it. Then, if he accepts your challenge, you will be a giant step closer to getting him to enlist."

And then this graf knocked me over:

In schools where educators are skeptical of the military, recruiters are shut out beyond the minimum required by President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act: two visits a year per service, as well as a list with every student's name, address, and phone number.

That's MANDATED in the No Child Left Behind act? The Army gets everybody's name and phone number, and an open-door policy into the school twice a year? Now that I think of it, I remember getting a call from an Army recruiter in 1990 (right before the Gulf War). It never occurred to me to think about where they got my number. At least not then.

We are closer to Thomas Jefferson's "pauper class of hirelings" than ever before. The underlying questions about this policy must be addressed. Are desperate teenagers necessarily the best soldiers? Is this the best way to protect the country? Would mandatory national service make war a little more distasteful to otherwise armchair generals? The national discussion about this is long overdue.


Right Man for the Job

Today, the President announced his choice for Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, a Cuban-American former refugee who became CEO of Kellogg. This is certainly a choice with a political bent, to pick a Cuban during a time when the Administration has been criticized for its strict travel policy to the island. But frequently that's all the media sees, the race or ethnicity of these nominees (all of whom so far have been part of a minority group). They don't delve any deeper into the nominees' actual backgrounds. Like Gutierrez' history of downsizing:

In a move to cuts costs, Kellogg Company said it is considering the closure of the South Operations portion of its Battle Creek, Mich., cereal plant. The closure would eliminate up to 64 percent of the jobs at the facility.

"Streamlining our operations and avoiding future costs would help keep our North American cereal business cost-competitive going into the 21st century," said Kellogg chief exec Carlos Gutierrez.

So what exactly is going on with the blatant use of minority nominees? I think it's more than simply an olive branch to traditionally Democratic constituencies (although Bush got a healthy 44% of the Latino vote in this cycle). It's more about a kind of innoculation from the inept policies of these nominees. It's a chance for the Administration to play the race card if their choices are questioned in any way. More than just a marketing tool, it's a kind of Democratic bug spray.


Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Miltary Deification of America

I suspect this diary is going to get me in some trouble. Let me start by saying that I am the descendent of soldiers. My recently departed grandfather repaired Navy warships, DURING combat, in the Pacific Theater in WWII. His father fought on the back of a horse for the Polish Army in WWI. I have plenty of respect for them and all soldiers, so much that I don't think it even needs to be said.

But I am growing increasingly uncomfortable with the military deification currently in fashion in America.

You could not watch a football game this Thanksgiving weekend, or hear a rendition of the National Anthem, without a gauze-filtered shot of a beret-clad Marine, or a stadium flyover from a cadre of F-15 fighters (it occurs to me we are the only people on the planet that cheer when they see F-15s overhead), or satellite footage of Army regulars in Baghdad standing at attention with a turkey in the background, followed by the requisite announce booth salute "to our brave men and women fighting for our freedom overseas." This is common courtesy, but it strikes me that we've gone further with this than ever before.

We live in a country where even the slightest criticism of Administration foreign policy is met with the derisive cry that "you're undermining our troops in the field of battle." We live in a country where Dennis Kucinich is laughed off the debate stage merely for proposing a "Department of Peace." We live in a country where a religious leader can say things like "Let's blow them (terrorists) all away in the name of the Lord," and nobody bats an eyelash. We live in a country where half of the video games advertised on television during the holiday season are for military-based first-person shooters, games like "Call of Duty," "Full Spectrum Warrior" (which originally was created as a training tool for infantrymen that the video game company simply turned into entertainment), and "America's Army, a game made by the US Army, that they released as a free download, a kind of marketing tool designed to indoctrinate young men and women into the idea of war.

We live in a country where concerned parents find it appropriate for their kids to dress up as soldiers, or at least more appropriate than dressing up as members of the opposite sex. Amazingly, the ringleader of this incident, Delana Davies, justified her belief in overturning a sanctioned Cross-Dressing Day this way:

"It's like experimenting with drugs," said Davies, who also has a 2-year-old daughter. "You just keep playing with it and it becomes customary. ... If it's OK to dress like a girl today, then why is it not OK in the future?"

The notion that the substitution of "Camo Day" makes OK dressing like a soldier, a man or woman with a rifle, hired to kill the enemy, never occurs to Davies or anyone else. Nothing could be more honorable than to be a soldier, in this country.

The United States obviously has enemies in the world, and enemies sometimes must be engaged militarily. But I see too many signs that the pendulum in this country is swinging away from Athens and toward Sparta. Our soldiers are not just heroes anymore, but infallible gods who are only on the side of righteousness. Such belief, the endless replaying of "support the troops" over and over again, complicates the relationship between military policy and military action. If the troops are always right, it's a slippery slope to the belief that the policy is always right, and if you're not on the side of the policy, you're against the troops. And in such moral anarchy, you end up in places like Abu Ghraib, or in the mosque with Kevin Sites, watching the downed insurgent being shot at point blank range. And then you get the rebuke from the faithful truth-supporters, that "you don't know what it's like over there" and "you don't know what these kids are going through" and "you hate the very soldiers that guarantee your freedom." These are the very people who would never consider the fact that doctors help guarantee life, the law enforcement officers help guarantee liberty, that teachers and social workers help guarantee the pursuit of happiness. But nobody worships at their collective altars. Soldiers are heroes, not gods, and the difference is crucial.

The difference is crucial because societies that deify the military find it hard not to also deify militarism, and it leads to more war, more death, and more destruction. All societies that laud state power in this way become imperial. There simply is nowhere else to go. It wasn't too long ago that the Founders of America were wary of a standing army, which if you think about it, is the very basis of the Second Amendment. They almost certainly would frown at the thought of a "volunteer" army that preys on the poor who have no other outlet if they want to seek higher education or a decent job. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "Where there is no oppression there will be no pauper hirelings." But today we not only perish the thought of abolishing the Army (and consequently have every citizen ready to serve if needed), we see that as heretical as abolishing religion. There are three organizations in this country that display the same hierarchial, top-down, just-follow-orders-or-be-expelled structure: the military, the church, and the Republican Party.

In this election cycle, the Democrats, from the rank-and-file to the top leaders of the Party, were keenly aware of this deification of the soldier. That's why they chose John Kerry with the same fervor with which they would choose Sgt. Rock or GI Joe (Clark performed too sloppily in the embryonic stages of his campaign; Kerry provided the best combination of politician and soldier). But in the madness to pick a "war hero," we forgot the other aspect of the New Heresy; you can't ever, EVER speak out against a war. There is no more national consensus against a war than the adventure in Vietnam. But that didn't matter. Such opposition cannot and should not be made plain. I phone banked to Nevada during the election, and I'll never forget one phone call I made to a registered Democrat. "I was going to vote for Kerry, but then I saw Stolen Honor." Most people believe that no atheist President will ever be elected. I'm beginning to think that no antiwar President ever will be either, and certainly not an antiwar activist.

A lot of people would counter that we're in a time of war, and that such jingoism is natural. But I would say that it's never been to this degree. The only other war I've lived through in my lifetime was Gulf War I. I was a freshman in college. And the biggest hero I remember at the time was Whitney Houston, who pulled an Ashlee Simpson at the 1991 Super Bowl. And Schwarzkopf was certainly revered, and I remember the yellow ribbons, and the parade for returning vets. But Time's "Person of the Year" was not the American soldier. And you could credibly criticize the policy and not have that reflect on the troops in any way. The two were not yet connected. And this connection was absolutely calculated.

It's in the Bush/Rove clan's best interest to deify the soldier, thereby blurring the line between the military and militarism. And with the genie now out of the bottle, with news organizations riding along with battle units as if they've been given a chance to fly with angels, with the soldier so paramount as the face of the nation, it becomes increasingly difficult for progressives to separate the architects of war from its implementers. One of the only ways is by playing into the deification; by articulating that a diplomatic, internationalist agenda is in effect a way to save the lives of our brave men and women in the field rather than put them through a meat grinder in another of a series of optional wars.

As I said before, it goes without saying that I support the troops. I'm just not comfortable with accepting them as my personal savior(s). I'm not comfortable with a society that values warmaking as much as we do. I have seen troops marching lockstep in Red Square, in North Korea, in Nazi Germany, the the cheers of the masses. I don't want to live in a country that does that. And we're getting pretty close.