Viewing the Candidates Through the Iran Vote

Here is why liberals cannot believe a word of Hillary’s talk on Iraq (Nezua, Unapologetic Mexican):

Here she goes again, authorizing war. I’m just curious…what will she say later, when the obvious disaster that bombing Iran would bring about has the People furious, out in the street, and demanding accountability? That she was duped? Again? That we ALL thought Iran was a grave threat?

This is damning. What will she say? Hillary took a long time, longer than any of the other candidates, to even come around in the weakest of ways as an anti-war candidate (if you can call her nuanced position even that). And now she goes and preps this nation for another round of blood, money, and perhaps even nuclear waste. Also notable was Obama’s brave abstention from the vote. What the fuck is that about? Cowardice. Unable to take a stand and get nailed to an issue as (gasp) having a position, Obama joined McCain in staying silent and ineffective.

And for all the talk about experience, well, here’s that argument shot to shit. Hillary has mountains of experience, and look at her vote! Now contrast that with freshman senator Webb (via Florida Democrat at Dailykos):

Senator Webb’s video at Think Progress urging a vote against this Amendment:…

We haven’t had one hearing on this. I’m on the Foreign Relations Committee, I’m on the Armed Services Committee. We are about to vote on something that may fundamentally change the way the United States views the Iranian military and we haven’t had one hearing. This is not the way to make foreign policy. It’s not the way to declare war.

This is no way to lead, and no way to be a Democrat. It is a great way to drive us into another dangerous war even as we stretch our military to the breaking point losing two others in the region. At what point does the blatant disregard for the practical detriment to our security become enough of a crisis for us to end this madness? You’ll notice how many Senators, Republicans and Democrats, voted for this to pass.

Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121. Ask to be connected to your Senator. Talk to a staff person. If you don’t get through Call or Email them directly.

Let your local candidates know they have won your active opposition in the future. Let’s do everything we can to keep the Hillarycrats and the Republicans from one more term of power. This nation cannot afford it.

The Miss Ripped Off Pageant

Apparently Beauty pageants, in addition to all the other lovely things they represent, are more about exploitation than scholarships (Freckles Cassie, YOUTHinkLeft):

I HATE beauty pageants. Big time hate. But I know I will need a scholarship to go to college and I support girls that do the beauty pageant thing in order to get a scholarship. So reading stories like this bothers me. They’re combining to try to keep her from collecting. I hope she wins!

Jennifer Lee, New York Times:

Ashley Wood, 2004’s Miss South Carolina, is locked in a dispute with the pageant over its failure to distribute the scholarship that was part of her prize.

You are talking about an organization that is promoting itself as the largest scholarship provider for women in the world,” Ms. Wood, 26, said of the Miss America Organization. “When contestants try to collect their funds, they encounter one obstacle after another.”

Which negates the raison d’etre of Beauty Pageants:

But in 2007, when women are attending college and grad school in record numbers, when the first female Speaker of the House is in power, and when women have unprecedented access to almost all professional fields, why are we still playing dress-up for money?

Only, for some at least, they aren’t even playing dress up for money.  Makes me wonder where the “tax deductible contribution to the Miss America Scholarship Fund” is actually going.

AT&T Building Censorship into New Terms of Sevice


From slashdot:

marco13185 writes “AT&T’s new Terms of Service give AT&T the right to suspend your account and all service “for conduct that AT&T believes”…”(c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.” After cooperating with the government’s violations of privacy and liberties, I guess AT&T wants their fair share. AT&T users may want to think twice about commenting if they value their internet service.”

I’d say this adjustment to the their Terms of Service damages the name and reputation of AT&T, its parents, affiliates, and subsidiaries. A brand is a difficult thing to build, and AT&T appears to be doing a great job of marketing their new brand as a censored communications firm.

(original image from AT&T)

American Mercenaries and the Death of Law

Blackwater mercenaries:  Coming to an American neighborhood near you (pecunium at Majikthise, emphasis mine):

The reports out of New Orleans, that Blackwater had been deputised to provide security, were worrisom.

Then I see things like this piece by Naomi Wolff which is about the ways in which Blackwater is positioning istelf to get more work in the states.

What is Blackwater? According to reporter Jeremy Scahill, the firm has 2,300 private soldiers deployed in nine countries, and maintains a database of an additional 21,000 to call upon at any time. Blackwater has over ‘$500 million in government contracts — and that does not include its secret “black” budget…’ One congressman pointed out that in terms of its manpower, Blackwater can overthrow ‘many of the world’s governments.’ Recuiters for the company seek out former military from countries that have horrific human rights abuses and use secret police and paramilitary forces to terrify their own populations: Chileans, Peruvians, Nigerians, and Salvadorans.

Blackwater is coming home to Main Street, and one of our key constitutional protections is at stake. The future for growth is directed at increased deplyment in the US in cases of natural disaster — or in the event of a ‘public emergency.’ This is a very dangerous situation, of course, now that laws have been passed that let the President decide on his say-so alone what a ‘public emergency’ might be.

The Department of Homeland Security hired these same Blackwater contractors to patrol the streets of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — for a contract valued at about $73 million. Does Blackwater’s reputation for careless violence against civilians in Iraq, protected by legal indemnification, matter to us? Scahill reports at least one private contractor’s accounts of other contractors’ abrupt shooting in the direction of American civilians in the wake of Katrina: ‘After that, all I heard was moaning and screaming, and the shooting stopped.’

How protected is Blackwater from prosecution for its crimes? The company’s lawyers argue that Blackwater can’t be held accountable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, because they aren’t part of the US military; but they can’t be sued in civil court, either — because they are part of the US military.

The thought of armed mercs with a history of violence and terror patrolling our streets, convinced they have the authority to detain, the authority to act as officers of the law, is really fucking frightening.  pucinium’s reaction is understandable at a visceral level:

I’m spending more time at the range than I used to, and if Blackwater comes to my part of town, well that’s it, you’d better believe there’s a civil disturbance, because at that point I’ll be in revolt.

Before it comes to that, we might want to remind our congress critters, our senators, the newspapapers; and everyone we can think of, that USC Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 118 § 2441 is out there, and see about using it.

Blackwater maintains its employees are above the law (with our government’s support!), and has a history of violence and murder:

I was amazed, actually, that the problem of Order 17 (Paul Bremer’s diktat that contractors were immune from Iraqi prosecution) didn’t come to a head sooner, when this happened.

In December, a Blackwater employee shot and killed one of the vice president’s guards without provocation, Iraqi officials say. The employee left Iraq and no longer works for Blackwater.

Imagine that happening here (one of Dick Cheney’s Secret Service detail being  shot dead by the private bodyguard of the Ambassador of anywhere), and the only thing happening is the guy, “is no longer in [the United States].”

Yeah, right.

And there’s more:

Or this,

BAGHDAD — The Blackwater incidents cited by Iraq’s Interior Ministry as reason for the security firm to be barred from operating in Iraq include the deaths of four people with ties to Iraq’s government-funded television network.

The first of those was the Feb. 2 shooting death of Suhad Shakir, a reporter with the Al Atyaf channel, as she was driving to work. She died outside the Foreign Ministry near the Green Zone, where top U.S. and Iraqi officials live and work.

B lackwater employees murdered a journalist.  Who is to say they won’t pull the same stunt here?  Here is an except of Lindsay’s encounter with some Blackwater employees in the US (Majikthise):

When I looked in their eyes, I felt something entirely new to me–a basic mammalian sense of dread. It was as if some part of my brainstem came alive and said: “These people are predators. They would kill you.”

These mercenaries were nothing like the lunger. In fact, they weren’t overtly threatening, or outwardly aggressive. Actually, some of them were friendly in their own twitchy dead-eyed way.

As soon as I got out of sight and back to the rental car, I started shivering and didn’t stop for almost an hour.

In retrospect, I realize that I only dared to approach these guys because of a naive faith that I was an unarmed US journalist in the USA.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a society where these guys were around every corner, unbound by the rule of law.

I can.  Suddenly the appeal of mercenaries, especially for domestic security, becomes absolutely clear.  Individuals who are not bound by normal human emotions or ethics employed in a way to minimize or eliminate any recourse through the courts, military or civilian.  Blackwater represents an authoritarian’s  dream come true.  And every bit of power and legitimacy they obtain makes opposing them all the harder, and stopping their abuse of human rights an uphill battle.

The image was taken from unitedcats:

One last thing that concerns me. Do we want private American armies in the USA? The above picture of Blackwater Mercenaries was taken in New Orleans.

In the markedly vain hope somewhere in our leadership there remain those with, if not wisdom, then at least good sense, I’ll offer up a few words from an old hand at politics and war:  Machiavelli:

Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you.

And these prescient words should chill you with the cold air of familiarity (emphasis mine):

I wish to demonstrate further the infelicity of these arms. The mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skilful, you are ruined in the usual way.

American employed mercenaries, abroad and at home, represent a grave and present threat to our safety, our freedom, and the rule of law.

Burma Killing Unarmed Civilians

The Burmese government is committing murder (The Guardian):

Burma’s brutal suppression of street protests has been graphically exposed in video footage that raises the possibility that soldiers deliberately shot dead a Japanese journalist.

Japan is sending a diplomat to Burma to investigate the death of Kenji Nagai, who was one of at least nine people killed when troops opened fire on protesters yesterday.

The video images – which some Japanese experts say depict Nagai being deliberately shot in the chest at close range – will pile further pressure on a regime already facing international revulsion.

They’ve switched off internet access and are doing their best to stifle dissent.  In the meantime rumors of military unrest continue to grow:

As fresh clashes broke out, bloggers inside Burma reported dissent among troops, with soldiers refusing to leave their barracks.

The reports, which could not be independently verified, said soldiers in Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city, had refused to fire on demonstrators and had even been fighting each other.

For more updates (via Bob Harris at This Modern World):

Now that the inevitable crackdown has begun, with Buddhist monks being rounded up and protesters shot in the streets, if you’d like to follow what’s happening in Burma a little more closely — even after the next American celebrity gets in trouble with the law — bookmark Burma Digest.

Via MoveOn,  Stand with the Burmese Protesters.

Ron Paul Would Veto Children’s Health Insurance

Here’s an interesting point to consider when regarding Ron Paul as a potential President.  Imagine he was in office now.

We know he opposes universal health care.  And federal level social programs.  And taxes.

So even as Bush, in a widely despised move, prepares to veto health care for millions of children, consider.   Ron Paul would do the same thing.

The Creationist Trap

There’s an interesting post by Cory over at Josiah Concept Ministries.  In the post and the ensuing thread, we can see an old battle taking place.  Cory (representing creationists) is asking scientists to defend evolution, and Elizabeth (representing scientists) is stating that there is no science on their side.  Cory responds by criticizing Elizabeth’s knowledge of scripture, and oh what a mess we have.

Its a very instructive mess.  The first thing to leap out is the “knowledge of scripture” issue:

As a favor to her, I will help her readership by dismantling the logic behind this post, which of course betrays the fact that Elizabeth (can I call you Liz?) has surface level knowledge of Scripture at best. That statement is being kind, actually.

If creationism is a scientific theory, how is scripture in any way relevant?  We are talking science here, where empirical observations and repeatable results are the order of the day.  It gets better.  When coupled with the attacks on evolution as a theory, you can see a clear projection of faith based reasoning to science.  Faith is set in stone.  Science endeavors to find and describe reality.  So even if evolution were utter bunk, hey, no problem.  Find a better theory.

But even getting into that debate, tempting though it may be, is not productive.  The issue isn’t one of epistemic concern about how theories are born.  It is an issue of inserting religion into the science classroom, and the ensuing effects.

Creationism is, bluntly, a religious issue.  Pretending otherwise is completely dishonest.  So called intelligent design is nothing more than apologetics dressed up in a lab coat with a serious expression.  “Buy Christianity”, the actor says.

So don’t get into the debate.  Calls to “defend evolution” are a ploy to get the debate off topic from separation of church and state.  Creationism and its deformed cousin Intelligent Design are firmly nailed to the church.  And the church has no place in biology class.  It has no place in a public school save as an elective for the curious.

But let’s play devils advocate for those Christians who want to force their beliefs on all students in the public school system.  Ok, you win.  Now what?  Imagine an America with anti-gay, abstinence only, creationist, flat earth, curricula.  This isn’t just an issue of how poorly our students could compete in the sciences.  We’d be utterly trashing an entire generation’s ability to handle sex, sexuality, and even reasoning.  When you introduce the idea that faith can substitute for hard facts, all kinds of crazy possibilities open up.

The best way to keep a lid on those possibilities is to nip this in the bud.  Creationism isn’t science.  Its religious belief.  It has no place in the classroom, and no, we don’t need to take its proponents as serious scientists.  Creationists are nothing more than apologists trying to keep the light of reason from shining on their scripture by pulling the wool over the eyes of our students.

And for all that, I really liked how Cory ended his post:

So, if God formed mankind special out of the soil–then that is true.  Perhaps, then, there are intermediate steps (shown by evolution) that are not discussed by the Bible since the Bible isn’t pretending to be a science textbook.  There is truth in it, certainly, and we can’t ignore the truth it contains.  But understanding the mechanics of the nature that God created isn’t sinful, and certainly brings Him glory.

Both for the positive aspect (a creationist making an effort to tackle evolution), and the negative.  This line of thinking is much the same as the medieval logic that posited heaven existed outside the sphere which held the stars.  It is the belief that where science hasn’t reached, religion lives.   But as long as religion relies on arguments from authority and faith, rather than reason and observable reality, there is a gulf that cannot be breached.  Science doesn’t need to fit in the intellectual box religion affords it.  Science is just this:  our attempt to understand and interact with reality.

So when you read about priests accepting evolution, yes thats nice.  But it feeds into a frame that actually weakens our position.  The conciliation of science and religion has no bearing on the creationist debate other than to afford religion a false legitimacy.  And there’s no need to make our opponents arguments for them.  All the more so when our own argument is that rarest of gems: simple and effective.

Fox’s Latest Push on Iran

In an article titled U.S. Military Families Insulted By Ahmadinejad Visit, Fox News goes on to show once again that they are a propaganda organ for the Bush administration:

For military families who have lost loved ones in Iraq, watching Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speak to students at Columbia University showed just how disconnected certain factions of American society have become to the sacrifices of their sons, daughters, parents and spouses.

Fucking Idiots. They are leaving the claims of the Bush administration that Iran is interfering in Iraq as unchallenged and agreed upon facts. What a ridiculous statement. What the article does go on to show is how disconnected some people are from reality (emphasis mine):

“There is no consideration for people who have sacrificed so much,” said Patricia Roberts of Lithonia, Ga. Her son, Army Spc. Jamaal R. Addison, was the first soldier from Georgia to die in Iraq. Roberts said she considers the Iranian president a “terrorist” and said she was “appalled” when she first heard of his speaking engagement at Columbia.

“How can we allow him to come here, to speak to our children, when he has already said that if we go there, he will kill us?” she asked.

Yes. How can we let someone come here who said he would retaliate if we invaded his country. Why, only a terrorist would say something like that, right?

The whole article has the corrosive smell of heavy manipulation, as they go on to quote those who have lost dear people in this war. As they use their words to push us towards yet another war of choice.

Don’t let them. Fight back.

Burma’s Cowardly Rulers

Even as the military begins to turn against the Junta, Burma’s rulers are violently suppressing protests (The Australian):

Burma’s state-controlled media said the police had reacted after the crowd became violent.

“The protesters threw bricks, sticks and knives at the security forces, so because of the desperate situation the security forces had to fire warning shots,” the report said.

Bullshit.  The Australian should be a bit more critical (RickB, Ten Percent):

 Burma Campaign UK sources in Rangoon have reported that soldiers have been ordered to shave their heads, in possible preparation for infiltrating peaceful demonstrations. They would start rioting or attacking police, providing the regime with a pretext for a brutal crackdown on protestors.

The Burmese military used automatic weapons against non violent protesters, killing a foreign journalist:

But when a crowd of 1000 protesters refused to disperse, police charged, firing automatic weapons.

A Japanese video journalist, Kenji Nagai, from APF news in Tokyo became the first foreigner killed since the protests began 10 days ago.

The soldiers who took part have nothing of honor or humanity in their actions.  And the leaders who ordered this have no claim to legitimacy.  When you kill your own people, you have lost the right to rule them.  Period.

Do not mistake this for anything other than what it is.  State sponsored murder of dissidents.

(image source: Time)

Phonetic Guide For Bush

This is priceless (Reuters, emphasis mine):

When Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, the White House inadvertently showed exactly how — with a phonetic pronunciation guide on the teleprompter to get him past troublesome names of countries and world leaders.

The White House was left scrambling to explain after a marked-up draft of Bush’s speech popped up briefly on the U.N. Web site as he delivered his remarks, giving a rare glimpse of the special guidance he gets for major addresses.

How amusing the White House felt the urgent need to explain this away.

At a speech during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney earlier this month, Bush seemed to confuse the organization with OPEC and spoke of Austrian troops in Iraq when he meant to say Australian.

Relax my fellow Americans.  We are in good hands.

Gouging Customers, the Verizon Way

Hey there campers. Got a big business? Want to score some easy cash? Here’s how in 5 easy steps:

  1. Contracts contracts contracts! If a customer doesn’t commit to at least 2 years of unwavering product loyalty, screw them in their wallet.
  2. Plans. Different charges for different folks. Why make your customers pay for what they don’t need?
  3. Answer? It’s profit baby! In the lucky happy event a customer goes over their monthly allowance, charge them till the cows come home. (Be sure to shoot the cows).
  4. Remember, changing plans costs money… for the customer! Unless they agree to another 2 years of nifty special loyalty time.
  5. In fact, why not just assume they want this and update their loyalty preferences every time they change a plan or replace a phone. The customer will thank you (but not over the phone. That costs 45 cents a minute when they exceed their minutes allotment).

On a related note, there’s some cell phone legislation in the works (MN Daily):

On the subject of early termination fees, Farren said while prepaid cell phone service exists as an alternative to a long-term contract, “85 percent of people choose the contract because of the tremendous savings that you can get through the contract. An early termination fee only becomes an issue when the consumer decides to renege on a contract they voluntarily signed.”

Yeah they signed it, because cell phones literally double in price, and there is no alternative when it comes to monthly service.

And the wireless carriers are whining that this will create “less choices” and “higher prices” for consumers. Higher prices?

“For consumers, I think it would be helpful, but not for T-Mobile or the (other) phone companies,” she said.

“I think this is how the phone companies make profit,” Jeylani said, referring to stipulations such as early termination fees.

RCR News has some choice quotes:

“Most wireless carriers advertise a price significantly lower than the bill consumers pay each month, adding mysterious regulatory charges and other junk fees. If this legislation is passed it would go a long ways toward eliminating those shenanigans,” said Chris Murray, senior counsel for Consumers Union.

“For most wireless users, their wireless company is also their local telephone monopoly, and nobody can offer the same bundle of wireless, local phone and high-speed Internet. The wireless industry will blow a lot of hot air trying to convince you that they’re so competitive, they don’t need oversight. One quick glance at their anti-consumer practices demonstrates otherwise,” said Mark Cooper, research director for the Consumer Federation of America.

If companies behaved, we wouldn’t need regulation.

(image source: future of the book)

Myanmar Protest Question

I was reading the AP’s coverage of the protest, and came across a few interesting quotes:

hours earlier some 30,000 monks and 70,000 supporters had massed in an extraordinary gesture of defiance.

The NLD joined calls for a peaceful resolution to the demonstrations, which have swelled into a nationwide movement that poses the most potent challenge to the junta’s rule in 20 years.

When you think of the million marching against war in London, and half a million in New York, you start to wonder.  What if those were simply anti-government protests?  What if liberals, finally fed up with a corporate government of the elites by the elites and for the elites, took to the streets to demand this government step down?

Voting in this country has become a very sick joke, with questionable elections and possible murder coverups.  The last two Presidential elections were suspicious, and that doesn’t even get into local elections that operate under infinitely less scrutiny.

So why not protest the government?  I bet we could eclipse the anti-war numbers.  We could certainly hit 100,000.  Do you think world media would pick up on it?  Would other governments call us courageous, and offer up sanctions to support us?

The monks in Myanmar/Burma are indeed very courageous.  And well positioned to make a stand:

The clergy’s revered status has made them rallying figures for public anger, which first erupted more than one month ago after a crippling hike in fuel prices.

Analysts believe the junta, which has extended iron rule over Myanmar for more than four decades, has held back so far for fear that any violence against monks in this devoutly Buddhist nation would spark a huge outcry.

Where are our monks?

More Women in Government: She Should Run

From SheShouldRun at myDD:

Two percent.

That’s the proportion of Congress in U.S. history that’s been made up of women.

She Should Run is a project to get more pro choice women into office.  I got an email from Alicia Durfee:

The greatest part of this project is that it’s not a superficial exercise, but real action to elect pro-choice women.  As the nominations have come in, the WCF has been following up to make sure these women receive the support and resources they need to run.  They’re even planning their first training session with women who have been encouraged to run as a direct result of this project.

This is pretty straight forward.  Our government is growing increasingly hostile to women’s rights.  This is a great way to begin turning back the tide and moving our policies from the 1950’s into the current decade.

You all probably know someone who could run for office.  An inspiring teacher whose always talking about politics.  A doctor who is passionate about health care reform.  The office manager who advocates for change in the workplace.

Another good place to look would be your handy local politicians.  I can think of a particularly courageous, deft and principled State Rep from Massachusetts who should really consider running for a higher office.  I’m sure you can too.

The New York Times Betrays Free Speech

The New York times regrets stepping outside its traditional media role as a state sanctioned news source.  (AFP):

The New York Times has expressed regret about publishing a paid advertisement that contained an attack against the commander of US forcers in Iraq, General David Petraeus.

The full-page add by the liberal group appeared in the paper on September 10, the day Petraeus appeared before Congress to testify about the war in Iraq, under the provocative headline “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?”

Pictured below is John Coryn, who appears really very concerned and upset about the ad.

“How dare those peasants?”  he seems to be saying.  Well the New York Times has listened to their unofficial editorial board in DC.

On Sunday, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt said “the ad violated The Times’s own written standards

I think we have a copy of those standards here, dear readers.  Let’s have a look see (I’ll bold the relevant sections):

72) Never run an ad that questions Giuliani’s manliness.

73) Never run an ad that contains unapproved facts.

74) Don’t even think about mentioning Kucinich.

75) If congress condemns an ad, say you’re sorry and make nice.

76) We still heart Judy Miller.

That’s what this is all about, isn’t it?  Congress screams and the New York Times folds with a practiced speed.

Of all institutions, you’d think the press would fight for freedom of speech.

Bush and Cheney Thought Experiment

Some wingers are wondering what would have happened if MoveOn had been around in 1942 (David, Orcinus):

Oliver Willis observes that the right-wingers, in their mass fainting spell over’s Gen. Petraeus ad, have been busy speculating what America would have looked like if MoveOn had been around during World War II (see here for a local example, which seems not to credit or link to the original).

Never mind, of course, that the historical examples are far removed from each other both by circumstance and context, and that comparing Petraeus with Eisenhower is like comparing Christopher Cross with The Beatles.

Two can play at that game:

What the hell — we can have a little fun with this line of speculation, to wit:

What if Bush and Cheney had been in charge at the time of Pearl Harbor?

I dunno about you, but it’s pretty clear that this:

… would have been replaced by this:

And of course, it would now be 1949 and the president would probably be explaining why they hadn’t yet captured Hitler (he’s not that important, you know) and the invasion and continued occupation of India was the major battle front in winning the war.

Zing! For my part, I’d be concerned about the fate of lil’ orphan annie:

I’m fairly certain Dick Cheney would eat her.

(Source Images: FDR, Bush, Cheney.)

All of this illustrates a fairly important point in rhetoric: Don’t employ a tactic your opponent can use to better effect.