Saturday, October 16, 2004

More on Mary Cheney

According to this source, the recent indignation of Dick and Lynne Cheney over Kerry's comments about their daughter's sexuality was orchestrated by Mary herself:

Sources close to the Bush-Cheney campaign tell that the idea came up in a telephone call between Mary and her parents immediately after the presidential debate Wednesday night.
The younger Cheney, who serves as a backroom advisor to her father, suggested that she would continue to be a "issue" for Democrats unless something was done to stop it immediately.

If this is true, it worked. The possible wedge issue Kerry introduced to perhaps alienate some of Bush's fundie base has now become the major talking point about the debates.

Read This Now!

This article by Ron Suskind in the New York Times is a must-read for anyone interested in American politics. Or interested in the survival of this world.

For Fun: The New PBS Daily Schedule

After the conservative takeover, this is what we might get on the PBS stations:

1:00 pm Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?: Guest detective Pat Buchanan helps kids build a wall around the U.S.

2:00 pm William F. Buckley's Firing Line: Guests George Will, Rush Limbaugh, John Sununu, Pat Buchanan, James Kilpatrick, Mona Charen, G. Gordon Liddy, Robert Novak, Bay Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Joseph Sobran, Paul Harvey, Phyllis Schafly, Maureen Reagan, and John McLaughlin bemoan the need for more conservative media voices.

3:00 pm Nature: Join James Watt and Charlton Heston as they use machine guns to bag endangered species.

4:00 pm NOVA: "Creationism: Discredited, But What the Hell?"

5:00 pm Newt Gingrich NewsHour: Clarence Thomas and Bob Packwood present in-depth personal reports on sexual harassment. Pat Buchanan says he's being shut out from national exposure.

6:00 pm Mystery Theater: Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, and Sherlock Holmes team up to investigate Whitewater.

7:00 pm Great Performances: Pat Buchanan is a guest conductor of Wagner's "Prelude to a Cultural War."

8:00 pm Masterpiece Theater: Ibsen's "A Doll's House." Phyllis Schafly adds to this classic with an added scene where Nora gladly gives up her independence while her husband chains her to the stove.

Jokes, of course. Well, aren't they?

The Earth IS Flat!

Here we go:

Scandal-hit Fox News moved yesterday to fire an employee who says she was sexually harassed by Bill O'Reilly - but wants a judge to declare the canning isn't retribution.
Andrea Mackris, 33, said she was served legal papers about her termination by a man lying in wait for her at her Manhattan apartment building.
The documents said Fox had asked a judge to let the TV station dump her from a $93,200-a-year job as associate producer on "The O'Reilly Factor" - and to rule that the firing was not in retaliation for her accusations about the show's host.
Mackris sued O'Reilly and Fox News on Wednesday, saying her boss had made "disgusting" phone calls to her. O'Reilly sued Mackris the same day, alleging extortion.

Sure, terminations after the employee sues someone in the firm for sexual harassment have nothing to do, ever, with the suit. Everybody knows that.

Can this possibly be true?

Kerry Not a Good Man?

Lynne Cheney called Kerry a bad man for mentioning that her daughter, Mary Cheney, is a lesbian. Mary Cheney is in her mid-thirties and out-of-the-closet. She has worked in gay-lesbian marketing. She has also worked in her father's campaign for vice-presidency. Her father has mentioned in a public speech that Mary is gay, and when John Edwards referred to her in complimentary terms in the vice-presidential debate, Dick Cheney thanked him. Yet suddenly it makes John Kerry a bad man to mention anything at all about the well-known fact that Mary Cheney is a lesbian.

Well, color me surprised. Sure, maybe Kerry mentioned Mary Cheney to point out that the party which tries to ban same-sex marriage is hurting their own members. This is politics, after all. But the reaction from Bush and the Cheneys is inexplicable at this point, except in the sense that they can't think of any other possible gaffe in the debates to talk about that wasn't perpetrated by Bush.

To be honest, this isn't really surprising. I was lying in the previous paragraph. What is surprising is that the cable stations and radio talk show hosts have decided to make this into the big issue of the debates. Not that Kerry won all three debates. Not that Bush lied in all three debates and in general came across as someone who doesn't know enough to vote in this country let alone lead it. This is despicable, even from the so-called liberal media.

If you want to read a different take on Kerry's comments, I recommend this one in the Washington Post.

Friday, October 15, 2004

More Nasty Campaigning

Via Eschaton. It seems that the Democrats have been making fun of the Special Olympics:

The gist is that someone went into Tennessee congressional candidate Craig Fitzhugh's office and "found" a bunch of fliers with George W. Bush's head pasted onto the body of a competitor in the Special Olympics, with the tagline "Voting for Bush is Like Running in the Special Olympics -- Even if You Win, You're Still Retarded."

Except that this doesn't make sense. Who would Fitzhugh convince with these fliers? Not someone still sitting on the fence. No, the whole thing smells of a Rovian plot, and probably is:

Fitzhugh's office put AP in touch with a woman named Katie Honey, who said she was one of the two volunteers in the office the day the fliers were delivered last week.
"Someone brought them in and they left. I looked at them and said, 'This is not something we need in here. This goes in the trash,' " she said. "Well, here comes a man up and raising Cain and Mr. (David) Reynolds (the other volunteer) told him they were out in the trash. He went and picked it out of the trash and said, 'Well, this is going in the paper.' "
She said the second man did not come back after picking the flier out of the trash.
"It really, really is strange. Who around town was putting out this stuff I'll never know," she said. "There had to be somebody printing them up, but who it would have been I don't know. I'm just so sorry this stuff happened I don't know what to do."

The man went out to dig in the trash to find one of these fliers...

Don't you find it interesting that there is so little about the Nevada vote suppression scandal in the so-called liberal media? You'd think that any self-respecting liberal would run with a story that shows how low some Republicans have fallen in their determination to hold on to power at any cost, but no. Nary a peep from the talking heads. Only vicious goddesses and people in the left Blogosphere mutter about this.

No Dog Blogging Today

I begged and pleaded, but Henrietta turned on her other side and just continued snoring. Hank raised one eyelid and said:"You've gone stark crazy, goddess. It's raining and all good Americans take naps. Now go away."

So you're stuck with me. Henrietta's tumor turned out benign so our neighbors will have many more years of wild barking to listen to. Plus seeing me dance in the street with wild happiness and a certain divine charm after hearing the good news.

It's shedding season here at the Snakepit Inc., not for the snakes, but for the dogs. Newly laundered sheets are covered with dog hair when they emerge from the dryer, and so is the mail before it has even entered the house. The place probably looks like the center of a duststorm from some distance. I'm used to this phenomenom by now, but like every year, I think about ways to turn all this hair to some good purpose. There must be something I could knit out of all the furry balls in the corners and under the stairs and in my mouth. Maybe little anti-Bush sweaters for all your dogs and cats? Would there be a market for them? I could embroider horrible George faces on them and also slogans that appeal to my dog market:"One Bush not even worth pissing on."

Dogs are lovely, though. Hank just woke up and came over to check what I'm doing, gulping down some water en route. Now that water is dribbling down my legs. This keeps me in touch with nature and the feelings of the physical world: cold, pain and dirt, mainly.

Dogs are also excellent kissers or lickers, with the exception of Henrietta who will not kiss anyone as she's the boss of the house. Hank's tongue is big enough to cover the American continent, and when she loves someone successfully, that person doesn't need to take a shower for some time. I recommend pets for everybody, especially goddesses who need to be taken down a peg or two.

Redefining Rights in America

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has released its report on The Civil Rights Record of the George W. Bush Administration, 2001-2004. Read it while it's still available.

The report's conclusion is that George has done really well in his attempts to destroy the long record of the U.S. government as a protector of civil and human rights. I'm going to write more about the report soon. For now, I just wanted to give the link to any of you who'd like to have a closer look before November 2.

More on the Conscience Clause...

News from New Hampshire:

A pharmacist in New Hampshire refused to fill a prescription for emergency contraception last month, adding to a long list of related incidents across the nation in which women have been thwarted from obtaining their time-sensitive legally prescribed medication. According to the Concord Monitor, Todd Sklencar of Brooks Pharmacy in Laconia, New Hampshire refused to fill Suzanne Richards' prescription for emergency contraception (EC), also known as the "morning-after pill." EC can be taken up to five days after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy, although it is most effective if taken within 24 hours. Sklencar's actions were in defiance of Brooks Pharmacy's policy that pharmacists are not allowed to refuse a prescription based on personal beliefs. The state of New Hampshire does allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions, but requires that the customer be give a referral to a pharmacist who will fill the prescription. By the time Richards found another pharmacist to fill her prescription, it was too late for the medicine to be effective.

No comments necessary.

O'Reilly's World

It's not ours, friends. His world is full of left-wing conspiracies and plots. Even a Republican producer working for Fox News is part of a left-wing plot if she sues O'Reilly for sexual harassment. This is what Bill said about it all according to Media Matters for America:

But be that as it may, everybody knows the power of the books, the column, the radio, the television and they -- people who don't like me, and they come from primarily the left, all right? We believe that the people behind this lawsuit are on the left. But on the right, too, I mean, I get a lot of lunatic-fringe right people screaming and yelling. And they want to do anything they can to destroy the voice. They want us off the air. They want FOX off the air; they want O'Reilly off the air; and the other commentators they don't like.

Reminds me of the cartoon family Simpsons watching Fox News on their television: a script on the bottom of the screen asked:"Democrats Responsible for Cancer? Coming Soon..." Or something very similar.

The Biggest Foot in the Mouth

After a day's worth of talking heads in the so-called liberal media it may be difficult to remember that the biggest gaffe of the third debate was not Kerry's mentioning Mary Cheney's lesbianism but this statement by Bush:
BUSH: Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations.
Of course we're worried about Osama bin Laden. We're on the hunt after Osama bin Laden. We're using every asset at our disposal to get Osama bin Laden.

No, we are not using every asset at our disposal to get bin Laden. Most of those assets are busy in Iraq. And yes, indeed Bush did say that he's not worried about bin Laden, or, rather, that he was not concerned about him:

I don't know where he is. Nor — you know, I just don't spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you. I....I truly am not that concerned about him.

In my dictionary at least, 'concerned' is a weaker term than 'worried', so that if Bush wasn't concerned you can bet that he wasn't worried. And this is not just wordplay:

Remember how everything is supposed to have changed after 9/11? Remember how Americans united behind Bush so that he could avenge this horrendous deed and bring its creators to justice? Remember the name of the man who is believed to have masterminded the slaughter of innocents on 9/11/2001? We should be angry at a president who has taken the power we have given him and who has then used this power to attack Iraq rather than to actually hunt for bin Laden and other terrorists directly responsible for the attacks. That he wasn't even concerned about bin Laden when the rest of the country was very concerned about the same man shows how poorly this man has protected the country.

But it's a lot more profitable to discuss what Kerry might have said instead.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Mainstreet Moms Oppose Bush

I infiltrated this organization tonight! We spent the whole evening writing nice letters to mothers in the swing states, telling them to vote for Kerry and Edwards and giving them the information that will show why they should. The idea is to write these letters by hand so that the recipient is tricked into reading the message. This worried me as my reaction to such trickery would not be pretty to see. But maybe it works.

I also managed to eat most of the goodies that were on offer. On the whole, a satisfying evening.

Alfred Nobel and Women

I very much doubt that Nobel ever worried very much whether his prizes would go to women or not. In general, they have not. But this year women won the Peace Prize, the Literature Price and a shared Prize in Medicine. This brings the total number of female Nobel Prize winners to thirty-two. A ten percent increase in one year! Do we hear mutters abour reverse discrimination? But it's very easy to raise a small number by ten percent, of course. For example, adding one to ten would do it. On the other hand, adding three women to the very small percentage that women constitute of the total number of Nobel Prize winners (around five percent of the total) isn't going to raise that relative proportion very much. Such are the wonders of mathematics.

The Nobel Prizes are selected largely on the basis of peer recommendations, and this can handicap women's chances in fields where the old boy network is live and kicking. Joan Robinson, for example, should have gotten the Economics Prize, but she wasn't in high favor among her peers for reasons that had a lot more to do with politics than economics. I once read a book which argued that the women who have won the prizes in sciences were almost totally in brand new fields of research where the old boy network didn't exist yet.

In any case, this year's women Nobelists are Linda B. Buck in Medicine:
American researchers Richard Axel, MD, and Linda B. Buck, PhD, won the 2004 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine on Oct. 4 for their work on the sense of smell.
The researchers discovered a large gene family of about 1,000 different genes that give rise to an equivalent number of olfactory receptor types. Their effort clarifies how the olfactory system works.
Dr. Axel is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Columbia University and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University in New York. Dr. Buck is a member of the Basic Sciences Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Wangari Maathai in Peace:

Wangari Maathai, a 63-year-old Kenyan environmentalist, has won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. She rose to international fame for campaigns against government-backed forest clearances in Kenya in the late 1980s and 1990s.
Here are some facts on the first woman from Africa to be honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize.
* Wangari Maathai was born in Nyeri, central Kenya in 1940. She is an academic and has taught zoology at Nairobi University.
* She founded the Green Belt Movement, mainly with women members, which has gone on to plant some 30 million trees around Africa in a campaign to slow deforestation and erosion.
* As well as protecting the existing environment, her strategy is to strengthen the basis for ecologically sustainable development.
* In 1992 riot police clubbed her and three other women unconscious in central Nairobi during a demonstration. She has been teargassed, threatened with death by anonymous callers, and once thrown into jail overnight for leading protests.
* Maathai went to court numerous times to block forest clearances by the former government of President Daniel arap Moi. He lost power in 2002 elections in which Maathai won a parliamentary seat for the victorious opposition.
* Maathai was made an assistant environment minister but says forest clearances continue and has threatened to quit the government.

and Elfriede Jelinek in Literature:

Austrian novelist and playwright Elfriede Jelinek, whose works feature themes of feminist struggle between men and women, was 'in despair' after winning the Nobel Prize in literature today.

The Swedish Academy cited her "musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clich├ęs and their subjugating power".

Jelinek said in Vienna that she felt "more despair than peace" about winning the prize.

"It doesn't suit me as a person to be put on public display," she said. "I feel threatened by it. I hope it doesn't cost me too much. I hope I can enjoy the prize money, because one can live carefree with it.

The last two have been controversial, Maathai for receiving the Peace Prize for what some regard as unrelated pursuits of environmental protection and women's rights in Africa, though one could well argue that the roots of peace might be found in the respect for trees and women. Jelinek is a political writer and the Austrian right-wing dislikes her work. She's also a feminist writer, and this makes some others dislike her work.

But I could really identify with her reaction on hearing that she received the Prize. I think that she'd be an interesting person to meet.

Facts in the Debate

If you're one of the rapidly dying breed interested in facts rather than the way the candidates smile or don't smile, you can go here for a quick check on many of the things that were said.

I'll be happy not to hear another presidential debate for a while. They are not really a useful way of acquiring information except perhaps about the possible health problems of our sitting president. He still had something square on his back, by the way. And no, it's not his guardian angel. Good night, everyone!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Final Debate

I'm suffering from an overexposure to George Bush, but I struggled valiantly and have survived it. So far. The third and final debate is in the bag, Kerry's bag, that is, as expected. But Bush did quite well in staying awake and stuff.

The big disappointment in this debate were the questions. They were not very sharp or interesting, and there was absolutely nothing about the environment. Also, Bush was offered opportunities for both a) talking about foreign politics once again and b) for flaunting his faith. I do believe that the moderator may have tipped a little in his moderation...

Other than that, there was very little to learn from this debate that you haven't heard before. The same soundbites were repeated with one addition, by Bush, and that was the expected one about the archliberal Kerry. Examples:

Bush: I'll tell you what PAYGO means, when you're a senator from Massachusetts, when you're a colleague of Ted Kennedy, pay go means: You pay, and he goes ahead and spends.
Bush: As a matter of fact, your record is such that Ted Kennedy, your colleague, is the conservative senator from Massachusetts.
Bush: And secondly, only a liberal senator from Massachusetts would say that a 49 percent increase in funding for education was not enough. We've increased funds.

Why does Bush hate Massachusetts so much?

Kerry managed to bring in women's issues in a few places, Bush managed to assiduously avoid them altogether:

Kerry: I believe that choice is a woman's choice. It's between a woman, God and her doctor. And that's why I support that. Now, I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade. The president has never said whether or not he would do that. But we know from the people he's tried to appoint to the court he wants to. I will not. I will defend the right of Roe v. Wade.
Kerry: If we raise the minimum wage, which I will do over several years to $7 an hour, 9.2 million women who are trying to raise their families would earn another $3,800 a year. The president has denied 9.2 million women $3,800 a year, but he doesn't hesitate to fight for $136,000 to a millionaire.
Kerry: We also need to hold onto equal pay. Women work for 76 cents on the dollar for the same work that men do. That's not right in America. And we had an initiative that we were working on to raise women's pay. They've cut it off. They've stopped it. They don't enforce these kinds of things.

I'm not holding these arguments against Kerry, though I admit that his interest in the economic difficulties of women has seemed less central to him earlier in the campaign. Bush is silent on these issues, naturally. He's more prone to mention homes for unwed mothers when women's issues are on the table.

Though both men were asked by the moderator to praise all things bright and beautiful, including strong women. It seems that they all have a parcel of this rare breed at home. So each candidate was given an opening to show that they, too, are human, that they, too, are lovable and that they, too, regard women as an admirable invention.

Sounds grumpy, doesn't it? There's nothing wrong in this little chivalrous gesture, is there? Well, yes, there is. Women are introduced into the debate as some sort of a post-dinner toast.
But maybe this is all that can be expected given the current state of cultural understanding.

O'Reilly and Sexual Harassment

It appears that Bill O'Reilly, a talking head on the Faux News, has been sued for sexual harassment, and that he has decided to countersue the plaintiff of that case. I don't have any additional information and it would be wrong to comment on the case any more at this point.

Pre-Debate Stuff

Here's another one of those weird news stories that have been pre-written:
In the last televised debate of the U.S. election campaign on Wednesday, President George W. Bush and John Kerry each hoped to break the deadlock gripping the race.
The crucial showdown on domestic issues at Arizona State University was the last big chance for the two candidates to woo large numbers of Americans before the Nov. 2 vote.
Kerry, credited in opinion polls with winning the first two debates, was favoured in the third face-off, focused on the pocketbook concerns of voters where he has traditionally enjoyed more support than Bush.
Health care, jobs, education and cheaper prescription drugs from Canada were among issues expected to dominate the 90-minute session. But the Iraq war and anti-terrorism, still the president's strong suits, were also expected to come up.

Well, I have not pre-written my debate comments and I don't plan to do so, either. That's the nice thing about being an amateur. The not-so-nice thing about amateurishness is that I'll have to watch the debate taped one hour later, and that will make my comments less fresh. But at least they were not predigested.

Charles Murray's Question For Kerry

The New York Times published something by this famous wingnut in their today's opinion columns. Specifically, Murray was one of the people asked to submit questions for tonight's presidential candidates. (These are not actual questions for the debate, just opinions about questions). This is one of the questions Murray chose to pose:

Five percent of Americans pay 54 percent of all personal income taxes. They do not use more government services than other Americans; they use fewer. Why is this fair?

There is a sense in which nothing that Murray says should be taken seriously, given his history as a supporter of pretty racist ideas and the belief that poverty is ones just desserts for laziness and sloth. But I can't resist his bait. So here it goes:

Murray appears to be using data from 2001 for his information, and the five percent he refers to are the five percent with the highest incomes of all Americans. No doubt these individuals also have wealth so that their total assets are much higher than just their earned incomes. Other types of assets are not taxed as strictly as incomes, and it's pretty likely that if we compared overall taxes paid as a proportion of total assets we'd find that this group pays less than 54% of the total. For example, the same five percent only paid 14.6% of social insurance tax liabilities during the same year.

Still, let's play Murray's game and focus only on the income taxes. What is the impact of this 'tremendous tax burden' on the highest earning five percents of Americans? The answer: while they earned 27.5% of all pretax incomes, their after-income shared dropped by an enormous three percent, to 24.5%.

This was to clarify Murray's first sentence. To clarify his second sentence, note that he makes an assertion backed with no evidence. How do we know if the well-paid Americans use fewer government services?

In fact, there is a pretty good case for the opposite argument: that the wealthier individuals benefit more from the government than the less wealthy. Who benefits from the legal system the most: those who hardly ever use it or those who use it routinely to acquire property rights to various inventions, to litigate over various issues and to resolve corporate lawsuits. Who benefits from the financial systems supported by government oversight and legislation? Those who have hardly a penny to set aside, or those who use all financial services to their utmost ability? And it's good to remember here that the whole society, including its markets, its educated workers and consumers, its national defence and so on benefit us all and surely benefit the higher earners at least proportionately.

So is this all fair? I could make a strong case for arguing that the higher earners should be taxed more than they currently are, given the above arguments and the fact that money can be argued to be worth more to those who are poor than those who are rich. Just consider being given a ten dollar tip by someone. Its effects on your well-being are very different if that's the first ten dollars you've earned today than if your name is Charles Murray, and your income is quite nice and well protected by government arrangements such as copyright laws, thank you very much.

But what this question reveals most clearly is the way a very simple and short question can hide a wealth of nasty secrets. John Kerry faces this sort of thing all the time, and the media appears to agree that long and careful answers are just another sign of flipfloppery. Never mind that truth often is long and complicated.
The Charles Murrays of this world prefer soundbites.

I Told You So!

Kerry knows his stuff:

At the time, founder John Kerry was practicing law, which he found to be "quite predictable and very boring". So this chocolate lover and his friend and business partner K. Dunn Gifford opened the bakery and named it after their mothers, featuring family recipes. In 1982, Lt. Governor Kerry bought his partner's shares of the business and sold them to Stanley and Linda Klein. A few years later, he sold his own shares to the Kleins. Even though Senator Kerry is no longer at Kilvert & Forbes, we hear that he still loves chocolate!
(Bolds mine.)

This should be enough for any yet undecided voter! A man who loves chocolate versus a man who loves...?
Via Atrios.

Whenever I Feel Blue, I Start Breathing Again

This is a joke among many sent to me by my favorite boa constrictor. I like it because of its truthfulness, only slightly hidden by the joke. Breathing is a good thing to do. In fact, if you have no idea what to do in a hairy situation, breathe. You can't go wrong.

Like many truly crucial things, breathing doesn't get the attention it deserves. We only worry about it when it stops...

Breathing deep into the belly is one of the best ways to help yourself feel better. Try it during tonight's debates when you start going blue in the face.

Another one of boa constrictor's jokes is similarly meaningful:

There is a theory, which states that if ever anybody discovers
exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly
disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and
inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has
already happened.

Meditate on that while you practise belly-breathing.

FCC's Indecency Fines

The FCC is keen on its task of getting rid of indecency in television. Even the Fox television stations have fallen under their keen scrutiny:

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday proposed a record-setting $1.2 million fine against 169 Fox television stations for an April 2003 broadcast of "Married by America" that featured whipped-cream-covered strippers and digitally obscured nudity.
It is the agency's most recent ruling in its stepped-up effort to police radio and television. Complaints to the FCC are at an all-time high as viewers and lawmakers object to the increasing raunchiness of over-the-air radio and television, and broadcasters compete to keep pace with edgier cable programming.

Perhaps this is "a stepped-up effort to police radio and television". Especially as the lack of any kind of media fairness doctrine to enforce leaves the FCC far too much time to twiddle its thumbs otherwise. It's not indecent to do what the Sinclair group is doing: requiring its stations to show an anti-Kerry propaganda film just before the elections.

The overall question of indecency in the media deserves a longer post of its very own. I have a lot of questions and ideas about what indecency means, and I could see the fines used much more effectively against hate and violence and misogyny. But that post must wait for more time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Al Capone's Campaign

The politics in this country is developing a 1930's Chicago gangster flavor. For one thing, voters in Nevada who recently registered may not in fact be registered. The reason? Their forms have been shredded by a private firm called Voters Outreach of America:

The out-of-state firm has been in Las Vegas for the past few months, registering voters. It employed up to 300 part-time workers and collected hundreds of registrations per day, but former employees of the company say that Voters Outreach of America only wanted Republican registrations.
Two former workers say they personally witnessed company supervisors rip up and trash registration forms signed by Democrats.
"We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, handed them to her assistant and he ripped them up right in front of us. I grabbed some of them out of the garbage and she tells her assisatnt to get those from me," said Eric Russell, former Voters Outreach employee.
Eric Russell managed to retrieve a pile of shredded paperwork including signed voter registration forms, all from Democrats. We took them to the Clark County Election Department and confirmed that they had not, in fact, been filed with the county as required by law.

This firm is largely financed by Republican sources.

For another thing, a website predicting electoral votes has repeatedly been attacked by hackers who seem extremely professional. The hate mail the site receives is entirely Republican in nature.

Now, I'm not arguing that only Republicans play with maffia rules. The Democrats might be as bad, though if they are, they are so incredibly skillful at it that we don't hear a peep from the Republicans. Nah, it's a lot more likely that Democrats are held back here by both their ethics and their wussiness.

That was about Democrats as a class. There are exceptions, of course, and I'm one of them. I'm quite ready to start throwing evil spells on various operatives of this Al Capone campaign. Karma be damned.
Link to the Nevada disgrace by Kos.

Not-So-Deep Thought for the Day

Why is it that all the comments to my posts appear in the mornings?
Is it something about the refreshing effect of a good night's sleep on my dear readers or the busy requirements of afternoons and evenings? Or is it that the most eager writers read in the mornings? Or am I especially obtuse/wrong/exciting in the mornings and the reverse later on in the day?

This may be one of those eternal mysteries, like the reason why I can't learn to tie my shoelaces however hard I try. And it's probably of equal interest to anyone else. But you could add your own eternal mysteries if you like.

Chocolate-Coated Ramblings

Have you ever noticed the advantage Bush gets in this campaign by being the sitting president? All the headlines put his name first, and so do the other media. This may have an impact from just sheer repetition, though I naturally hope that the impact is like someone grinding their teeth in your ear.

And why is the current flu shot shortage not Bush's fault? Why did he outsource the manufacture of this vaccine, but doesn't let Americans buy cheaper drugs from Canada? Questions, so many questions, and not a single answer.

But we get plenty of answers from the talking heads after each debate. In fact, they tell us what really happened, so that we are not misled by our own eyes and ears. That nobody thinks this is really funny is a sign of the times. Is Rapture closing on us?

After all these thoughts that lead nowhere I went out and bought the most gorgeous chocolate tartlet in the whole world. It's filled with all sorts of French sauces and covered with several layers of chocolate: the only no-fail orgasm. I needed it!

Why isn't Kerry offering free chocolates to everybody? If it works for goddesses, think what it would do to ordinary mortals!

Rocco Buttiglione

This is not a name well-known in the United States, yet, but the man it belongs to would feel quite at home with our current administration. Who is he?

The answer:

The European Union has been plunged into uncharted constitutional waters following a parliamentary committee's rejection of Italy's nominee for European commissioner, Rocco Buttiglione.
The Civil Liberties Committee voted against his appointment as justice, freedom and security commissioner by a majority of 27 to 26, and also opposed his being moved to a different portfolio by 28 to 25.
MEPs were angered by his support for creating transit camps in Africa for asylum-seekers, by his views on the place of women in the family, and especially by his stance on homosexuality.

It's worth stressing that Mr. Buttiglione's post is one of overseeing women's and gays' rights! This doublethink to an excellent degree; in fact, Orwell would call it doubleplusgood!

Rocco is a good friend of the current Pope. He believes that homosexuality is a sin, that the purpose of marriage is for women to have children, and that men are to be the protectors of women.

Hard to see what else remains to be done in the overseeing of women and gay and lesbian rights...

The Ten Commandments and the Supremes

The Supreme Court has announced that it's going to review the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government property. If you read between the lines this seems to be a possible victory for the conservative bloc of the court:

In the past decade, justices have refused to get involved in Ten Commandments disputes from around the country. Three conservative justices complained in 2001, when the court declined to rule on the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments display in front of the Elkhart, Ind., Municipal Building.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said the city sought to reflect the cultural, historical and legal significance of the commandments. Rehnquist noted that justices' own chambers includes a carving of Moses holding the Ten Commandments.

This suggests that we are going to find the Ten Commandments completely constitutional in various parts of our courtrooms. But I might be wrong: maybe Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas want to slam the door closed on this attempt to bring one very specific kind of religion into the public realm. And snakes might fly.

If putting religious monuments on government premises becomes an ok thing to do, I'm going to travel around the country erecting my statues everywhere. So that my dear Skin Shedders won't feel ignored.

Will You Vote in the Next Elections?

I hope you do. Saudi women will not be voting any time soon, certainly not in the forthcoming municipal elections next year:

In response to a question about women's getting the vote, Prince Nayef bin Sultan said simply: "I don't think that women's participation is possible."
An election law published in August did not explicitly ban women from voting.
This led many campaigners for women's rights to hope for a substantial breakthrough for Saudi women.
The Associated Press quotes an unnamed Saudi election official as saying that the main reasons for barring women from the election were administrative.
The official told AP that there were not enough women electoral staff to run women-only voter registration centres, while only a fraction of women in Saudi Arabia had photo identity cards.

One could argue that having at least the men vote is a baby step forwards in democracy, but it's still rather disappointing to find that women in Saudi Arabia will not be allowed to vote. Especially as the Saudis are our special friends and all that.
Link via Kos.

I Hope You Like Greenhouses

As Mother Nature may have decided to give us the fruits of our decades-long polluting binge. The carbon dioxide levels have been double the usual levels for two years in a row:

The average rise in CO2 levels has been about 1.6 parts per million by volume in recent decades, although there have been several peaks associated with El Nino – a disruptive weather pattern in the tropical Pacific.

However, in the last two years the level has risen by 2.08ppm and 2.54ppm and neither were El Nino years.

Let's hope that this is not the beginning of a new trend. Let's hope that Bush is voted out of office before it's too late and Mother Earth decides to give the cockroaches another look.

Monday, October 11, 2004

We Are Safer Now?

Satellite imagery shows that entire buildings in Iraq have been dismantled. They once housed high-precision equipment that could help a government or terror group make nuclear bombs, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report to the U.N. Security Council.
Equipment and materials helpful in making bombs also have been removed from open storage areas in Iraq and disappeared without a trace, according to the satellite pictures, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said.
While some military goods that disappeared from Iraq after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, including missile engines, later turned up in scrap yards in the Middle East and Europe, none of the equipment or material known to the IAEA as potentially useful in making nuclear bombs has turned up yet, ElBaradei said.
The equipment -- including high-precision milling and turning machines and electron-beam welders -- and materials -- such as high-strength aluminum -- were tagged by the IAEA years ago, as part of the watchdog agency's shutdown of Iraq's nuclear program. U.N. inspectors then monitored the sites until their evacuation from Iraq just before the war.
The United States barred the inspectors' return after the war, preventing the IAEA from keeping tabs on the equipment and materials up to the present day.
Under anti-proliferation agreements, the U.S. occupation authorities who administered Iraq until June, and then the Iraqi interim government that took power at the end of June, would have to inform the IAEA if they moved or exported any of that material or equipment.
But no such reports have been received since the invasion, officials of the watchdog agency said.

U.S. officials had no comment on this report.

Both George Bush and John Kerry mentioned nuclear proliferation as the greatest international threat in their first debate. It would be nice to know where this material and equipment might be. Even if it is under the custody of our fearless leader.

What's Not News Anymore

Deaths in Iraq. They no longer come up first on my Google news page. They are no longer discussed in any length on television or radio news, and you have to search the newspapers to find any mention unless the carnage was unusually large in numbers.

So you may not know that at least three American soldiers died today in Iraq, together with at least two Iraqi civilians.* These people are dead now, they won't talk to their loved ones again or breathe even one short breath of dusty air into the lungs. They will rot away soon.

This is one of the nasty faces of war, one of many, but a face that we rarely focus on: that it brutalizes all of us, even the ones like me who are sitting and typing thousands of miles away. Another forty bombed to smithereens! Well, I wonder what's for dinner. I'm not proud of this, I'm deeply ashamed of this, but that's what war does. It coarsens our consciences until we feel nothing at all unless some new record in cruelty has just been broken.

Time to stop and think about where we are going. High time.
*This link only refers to one American dead. The other two died in Baghdad, according to my NPR news.


Via Atrios:

You know, Josh Burkeen is our rep down here in the southeast area. He lives in Colgate and travels out of Atoka. He was telling me lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?" -

This is Tom Coburn speaking, the Republican candidate for senator from Oklahoma. Funny. I imagine long lines of cross-legged girls standing in line, waiting, waiting...

But there is something not-so-funny beneath this blustering. Something a little scary and paranoid, hmh?

Christopher Reeve - Rest In Peace

Christopher Reeve died yesterday of heart failure. He is famous for playing Superman in the 1970s, but more famous for turning into one after he was paralyzed in an accident in 1995.

His work on behalf of the handicapped will live. I recently heard him speak about his goals and dreams for this world, and his humility and humanity shone through everything he said.

May his transition be smooth. May his rest be refreshing.

Faith-Based Marriages

President Bush's faith-based initiative is working wonders in the marriage markets. Look at this:

President Bush has some new troops in his crusade to promote "healthy marriage" and teen celibacy with federal funds -- followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the controversial Korean evangelist and self-proclaimed new world messiah.

The Reverend Moon is also the owner of the very right-wing Washington Times, and a firm believer in no separation between church and state. John Gorenfeld has a whole blog following Moon's escapades.

At least four of Moon's operatives have received government money for marriage initiatives:

In some ways, Moon is an unlikely ally for President Bush's crusade to promote traditional family values.
The 85-year-old Korean is perhaps best known for presiding over mass marriage ceremonies for devotees whose unions are arranged by Moon or other church leaders. After marriage, Unification Church couples are given detailed instructions for their honeymoon, right down to the sexual positions they are supposed to assume during their first three conjugal couplings.

And these are not egalitarian marriages that Moon proposes. Just in case you were wondering.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Martha Stewart: The Only Mention

I have not written about Martha Stewart before, and I don't plan to write about her again. But she's today's topic of fluffy entertainment in many newspapers. The joke is that a homemaker guru has to go to prison and forfeit her 900,000 dollar annual salary and her Egyptian cotton sheets. She got a five-month prison sentence for lying:

Stewart was convicted in March of lying to investigators about why she sold stock in a biotech company in 2001, just before its price plunged. She was allowed to remain free while she appeals her conviction, but asked to begin serving her time anyway, to help remove the cloud of uncertainty hanging over her and her company.

This is astonishing in a country where lying is the name of the game in everything from politics to business, and it's not even called lying.

Stewart is an extremely hated image in this country. Some argue that it's simply because she's a very unpleasant person, but this would not explain why so many who have never met her would detest her so heartily. I believe that she's a hate magnet for more complicated reasons than that.

First, she's a woman who has made it in what still in many ways is a man's world. I doubt that we'd ever have heard of a Martin Stewart in the exact same situation, or not at least on the front pages of newspapers. No, Martha's gender is central for the displeasure she evokes. She has broken the rules, and she has not done it in a pleasant way, the way women are supposed to break rules if they must. This alone would make many traditionalists hate her guts.

Second, she's a woman who has made a fortune from telling other women to refocus on the home, something she's not doing herself. This makes her suspect from a feminist point of view, and Martha has indeed stated that she's not a feminist. She belongs to the "honorary men" category of women. Many women with feminist leanings are angry at her for this, though feminist organizations have pointed out the sexist bias in the Martha hounding.

Finally, Martha angers many of the women who devour her homemaking advice, because the advice is largely ridiculously impossible to follow for anyone without a full-time staff of cooks, gardenerers and housekeepers. After hours of desperate crafting, a hopeful reader might end up with something that could be used to cover the toilet roll in the bathroom. In a sense, Martha is making fun of the traditionally female skills that she sells, and I suspect that many women understand this deep inside. Thus, schadenfreude is the proper emotion to feel when Martha herself lands in the dock.

Still, the subtext in Martha hating is femininity in various forms. Can it be escaped? Should it be celebrated? How is it celebrated? And what's the punishment for someone who plays games with these questions? Martha has the answer.

The Pucker

Much has been rumored in the blogistan about the mysterious bulge on the back of president Bush's suit jacket during the first presidential debate. What on earth could it have been? A rectangular patch, right between Bush's shoulder blades?

Speculation has ranged from a back brace via a Kevlar vest to a hidden radio receiver or its battery back. Even the possibility that this is where the key goes in has been raised. Now the mainstream press has caught up. A New York Times article contained this statement by a member of the Bush campaign:

"There was nothing under his suit jacket," said Nicolle Devenish, a campaign spokeswoman.
"It was most likely a rumpling of that portion of his suit jacket, or a wrinkle in the fabric."
Ms. Devenish could not say why the "rumpling" was rectangular.
Nor was the bulge from a bulletproof vest, according to campaign and White House officials; they said Mr. Bush was not wearing one.

Supposedly this has been verified by Bush's tailor, who admitted to such bad tailoring like a pucker in the back seam of the jacket.

I don't believe this. I have made a suit, once, just to find out how hard it is, and no self-respecting tailor would leave such a pucker in. It's just not done, especially in a very expensive suit made for the president of a country. Nope. The tailor's admission is like a surgeon saying that he cut into a patient with a hacksaw.

My personal favorite among the theories is that the mysterious bulge was caused by Bush dressing himself and for a moment forgetting where extra padding goes...