Who Hijacked Our Country

Monday, February 28, 2005

Identity Theft: This Time It's IMPORTANT

Identity theft has become so rampant that the public has gotten numb to it. This numbness makes the retail and finance industries — and the pathetic agencies that are supposedly “regulating” them — even less likely to ever tackle the problem. But this time it’s different. In this most recent scandal, some Very Important People have had their financial information and Social Security numbers stolen. Oh My God, we have to do something.

Bank of America has lost some computer data tapes containing the personal information of 1.2 million federal employees, including some U.S. Senators. Maybe now they’ll take the problem seriously.

Last week 145,000 Americans had their personal information “lost” by ChoicePoint, a trafficker of personal data.

Last year nearly 10 million Americans were victims of identity theft. This cost the nation $5 billion, and that price doesn’t even include lost productivity. Identity theft victims soon find out how few laws (and how ineffective they are) are regulating the data brokers who gather and sell financial and personal information.

The average identity theft victim spends 600 hours and $16,000 — over a several-year period — recovering from the results of identity theft.

Beyond the numbers, identity theft victims are left with feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, knowing that this same catastrophe could strike again at any time.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

How To Manipulate Gullible Voters

Now we can see how American voters have been manipulated by Right Wing spinmeisters during the past four years. And we know some of the propaganda tactics we can look forward to during the midterm elections next year and the 2008 presidential election.

Conservative strategist Frank Luntz has written a 160-page playbook for advancing the right-wing agenda; and the document was leaked to the media.

When conservative candidates are asked about the economy, Luntz’ advice is “resist the temptation to use facts and figures.” Instead, candidates are told to continuously invoke 9/11. Luntz wrote “Much of the public anger can be immediately pacified if they are reminded that we would not be in this situation today if 9/11 had not happened.”

Reciting the 9/11 mantra serves two purposes: If people are terrified and paranoid about terrorism, they’re less likely to be focused on the economy. And, if job losses and the trillion dollar deficit can be blamed on 9/11, that let’s the Bush administration off the hook.

This is pretty much what we’ve been getting since 2001, and it’s nice to know what we can look forward to. There’s some speculation that this document was leaked on purpose just to confuse the opposition, or to send an intimidating message of “see what we‘re capable of doing.” But the information seems consistent with the tactics we’ve already seen, including their current $10 million Big Lie campaign against AARP.


And now, to lighten up the mood with a little humor:

Click here and here for a tongue-in-cheek view of the abstinence programs being touted by the Bush administration.

And, for a side-splittingly hilarious imitation of a Far Right mouth-foaming Bible-thumping snake-handling maniac, check this out. Uh, at least I think he’s just kidding…

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Have You Had An Abortion? We Want DETAILS!!

If you live in Kansas and have had an abortion recently, the Kansas Attorney General wants to know all about YOU. He’s claiming to be investigating underage sex and late-term abortions.

A State District judge has ruled that Attorney General Phil Kline is entitled to the medical files of about 90 women he’s investigating. Two clinics have appealed the decision to the Kansas Supreme Court.

The clinics have offered to provide the records as long as some personal information is edited out. A spokesperson for the clinics said “these women’s rights will be sacrificed if this fishing expedition is not halted or narrowed.”

The clinics are presently under a gag order: They are not allowed to inform any of these women that Big Brother is trying to get ahold of their medical records. Uh, what country is this again?

Kline is a staunch abortion opponent, and he’s been trying for two years to require health care professionals to report underage sexual activity.

Friday, February 25, 2005

AARP: A Bunch of Pervs and Traitors!!!

By now most of us realize the shocking truth. AARP is in favor of gay marriage, and they hate America, our troops and everything this great nation stands for.

Who knows what other evil lurks behind this blue-hair façade? This deranged organization needs to be investigated. And fortunately for Real Americans, Karl Joseph Goebbels Rove and his hired sleazebags are prepared to do just that.

AARP, which represents more than 35 million senior citizens, has had the nerve to disagree with Bush's plan for dismantling Social Security. And for this they must be squashed. Obliterated.

Charles Jarvis of USA Next said about AARP: “They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts. We will be the dynamite that removes them.”

USA Next is basically a slush fund for Big Business, including the pharmaceutical industry. Jarvis said in an interview that the above ad was a “test” to see how liberals would react.

Brace yourselves. Rove-Goebbels’ Attack Machine is gearing up for a $10 million character assassination campaign against AARP. It’s the Republican Way.

In a sense you almost can’t blame them: Bush is too inept a debater to discuss an issue out in the open, and Rove is too dorky-looking to appear in public. If throwing shit is all someone is capable of, well, the shit is gonna start flying.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Which Moral Issues?

Mention morals, or values, and you might have visions of some wild-eyed preacher foaming at the mouth over abortion and gay marriage.

But a new survey shatters these stereotypes, as well as revealing Karl Rove-Goebbels’ brilliance at pushing conservative “moral” issues to the center of the stage while taking “unfavorable” issues off the table.

The survey asked people to rate thirteen issues as “very important,” “somewhat important” or “not important.” The three issues named most important were child abuse (89%), spousal abuse (77%) and hunger (71%).

At the bottom of the list were same-sex marriage (38%), homosexuality (31%) and gambling (18%).

My post of February 9th, Green Christians reported that 52% of Evangelical Christians support strict environmental regulations.

It’s becoming more and more clear that no political party or philosophy has a monopoly on morals or values. It further highlights Rove-Goebbels’ shrewdness at defining the 2004 election in terms of gay marriage and abortion, while keeping all other moral issues off the radar.

The Democrats need to find some campaign managers who are capable of pushing the environment, corporate crime, and economic suffering to the center of the stage. Let’s hope there’s somebody out there who can do this.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

More on Robert Novak

My Friday 2/18 my post was on Robert Novak and what a lowlife sack of shit he is for outing Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, thereby endangering her life.

The Ultra-Conservative Rich Lowry also had a recent column on the same subject. His take
was a little different than mine.

This was my e-mail response to his column (and I‘m suuure he found time to read it):

“In your column you referred to the outed CIA agent as Victoria Plame. Her first name is Valerie. Not Victoria. Do your homework.

“Robert Novak created this whole mess by printing the information that jeopardized Plame's life (yes, it did). Novak should be in San Quentin right now, getting sodomized by 20 or 30 of the biggest, thuggiest, dirtiest inmates in the whole prison.”

I just saw “Anger Management” two days ago, so, to paraphrase a Jack Nicholson line from the movie: Robert Novak should be passed around from cell to cell like a peace pipe.

I try not to post over and over again on the same subject, but this whole issue has really pissed me off ever since the scandal first broke. It’s just unreal that two journalists might go to jail for refusing to name their sources. Novak created this whole mess by choosing to illegally publish this information and endanger this woman’s life, and meanwhile he’s just sitting there, completely unscathed, totally above it all.

It’s just not right.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Human Side of War

In all wars, it’s too easy to focus only on the number of dead and wounded, who’s fighting who, and who the “good” and “bad” guys are.

In Nepal, the countryside (i.e. almost everywhere outside of Kathmandu) has been torn by a civil war between Maoist rebels and the Nepalese government.

I was in Nepal in 1976; spent 2 or 3 weeks in Pokhara, a small town several hours (by bus) from Kathmandu. The residents of Pokhara (like most of Nepal) are now caught in the middle between the rebels and the government.

Nepal is very poor, and depends heavily on tourism. Now, of course, with a civil war going on, who wants to visit? Tourism in Pokhara is practically non-existent, and this has ruined everyone’s livelihood (directly or indirectly).

As if that isn’t bad enough, everyone — regardless of political views, or lack thereof — is in danger of inadvertently pissing off either the rebels and/or the government troops. Earlier this month, the rebels ordered all merchants to shut down for 3 days — Or Else. The trouble is, merchants who closed their shops were in danger of retaliation by the Nepalese army. One merchant said “We’re afraid of both sides. We just want to work, we just want to eat, we just want to survive.”

This is the forgotten, unseen side of any war; all wars. I’ve been to Pokhara, so this story (in the Sunday Seattle Times) really hit home. Very friendly people, the most beautiful scenery imaginable (lush vegetation, with Annapurna towering over everything); such tragedy and violence just shouldn’t be a part of these people’s lives. It reminds me of an article by P.J. O’Rourke about the 1980s civil war in El Salvador. He wrote “how can such terrible things happen in a place that looks like Santa Barbara?”

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson

Journalism has lost one of its greatest voices. Hunter Thompson was found dead at his home yesterday. It was apparently a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His son told reporters “Hunter prized his privacy and we ask that his friends and admirers respect that privacy as well as that of his family.”

If you haven’t heard of him, or only know of the drug-crazed maniac portrayed by Bill Murray in “Where the Buffalo Roam” and Johnny Depp in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” that’s like just knowing that Beethoven was some deaf musician.

He had the most riveting writing style I’ve ever seen. He could be writing about a senior citizens’ bingo tournament and he’d have you on the edge of your seat. I have no idea what kind of music he listened to, but reading even just a few pages of his work is like listening to Pantera or Slipknot at 200 decibels.

He had his finger on the pulse of this crazy, wacked out culture. Period. No other writer or journalist even came close. Some may dismiss him as just some looney who’d get zonked on acid and pot and booze and God-knows-what-else and go out and get in some politician’s face; but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

During the ‘60s and ‘70s, Hunter Thompson and Thom Wolfe were considered the main chroniclers of the era. Thom Wolfe was a better writer; he could “play” the English language the way Ingwe Malmsteen plays the guitar. (Thom Wolfe went on to become an even “better” writer, and more and more removed from any sort of pulse with John Q. Public.)

But future historians will note that Thompson’s Gonzo (his own word) journalism chronicled America — all of our idiosyncrasies, the dynamics and forces that have shaped our culture — more accurately than anyone in the 2nd half of the 20th century.

His books include “The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Hell’s Angels,” “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “The Great Shark Hunt,” (those are the books I’ve read), and many more recent books. Check him out.

He also of course wrote numerous articles for Rolling Stone.

Everyone should get twisted on Wild Turkey today in remembrance of a Great American icon.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

End of the New Deal?

The battle over Social Security is the latest round in a war that the far Right has been waging since the 1930s.

There is a small but well-organized minority that has been champing at the bit to dismantle every last shred of the safety net that was put in place during FDR’s presidency. Replacing the progressive income tax (i.e. the more you earn the higher percentage you pay) with a flat tax is right up there at the top of their list, along with dismantling Social Security.

This group is still a minority, but right now they have more power than at any time since the early 1900s.

Few people (outside of this group) look back on the 1950s as a period of socialism and massive giveaways. The G.I. Bill, home loans for veterans, the minimum wage — all contributed to making that period the most prosperous in our history. And it’s all headed for the chopping block. Eventually. Incrementally. Brace yourself for more and more Orwellian variations on their “saving Social Security” rhetoric.

A White House strategist said in a recent memo: “For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win—and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country.”

Make no mistake — this “ownership” society that the Right is chirping about is a euphemism for dismantling it all: Social Security, the progressive income tax, minimum wage, you name it. We were an “ownership” society during the 1930s depression. Do we want that again?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Robert Novak

You probably remember Valerie Plame, the CIA agent whose cover was blown by columnist Robert Novak. She was punished for being the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who contradicted Bush’s claim in early 2003 that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium in Niger.

A court has now ruled that two journalists can be jailed for refusing to identify the sources in the Bush administration who leaked Plame’s identity.

Regardless of whether these two reporters should be protected by shield laws, or jailed for not revealing their sources, why hasn’t Robert Novak been jailed??? He chose to publish this classified information that jeopardized a CIA agent’s life.

In the early 1970s, the Los Angeles Free Press published the names of several undercover narcotics agents. They had the book thrown at them.

So, again, why isn’t Robert Novak doing a looong sentence at Leavenworth, Pelican Bay or San Quentin? Why isn’t he a battered wife with a brutal husband who beats the shit out of him (for starters) every night? Why isn’t he world famous as the Queen of Pelican Bay?

How can Novak live with himself; even look at himself in the mirror? (Pssssstt: Bob, come on, do the honorable thing.)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Iran and Syria

With all of the disasters brought to us by Karl Rove and his cute little sock puppet, there’s one tiny silver lining. If you’re trying to teach somebody about logic and critical thinking and you need examples of what not to do, Bush has been providing a gold mine.

Before carrying out any task, you need to plan, prepare, think everything through. The war in Iraq was supposed to be a cakewalk and be over in just a few hours…Uhh, next lesson…

Self-fulfilling prophecy: two years ago Bush said the Iraqi government was aligned with international terrorists. It wasn’t. Now that we’ve been quagmired there for almost two years, Iraq is now the main gathering point for Islamic terrorists. Duuuhhhh!!!! Earth to Dumbya!

And now today’s lesson: the unintended consequence. Iran and Syria (among other countries) have been in our crosshairs lately. Whatever threat they actually posed, these two countries are now joining to form a united front against any possible attack by the United States. Iran‘s vice president said “We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats.”

Is this what we intended? Are the Chicken Hawks ever going to be held accountable?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Conservatives Rallying

The usual battle lines are being drawn in the upcoming fight over Social Security and tort reform. Mostly it’s nothing new; labor unions, AARP and trial lawyers are squaring off against Big Business and their legions of prostitutes, er, uh, legislators and call girls, oops, lobbyists whom they’ve purchased.

One fairly recent change: It used to be you could “follow the money” and see who’s donating to which candidate. Now it’s more and more common for corporations to give their bribes anonymously to an umbrella group such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the Club for Growth. This way you can still purchase an election right out from under the American people, but you don’t have to crawl out from under your rock and show us who you are.

The battle over tort reform is divided into several specific battles: relegating all class action suits to a federal court; limiting medical malpractice claims; and reducing “frivolous” asbestos claims.

We’ve all heard of corporations that declare bankruptcy in order to wriggle out of a union contract, paying medical claims, paying pension benefits, etc., and other than being “bankrupt” they’re just going about their business completely unhindered.

Some of the biggest abusers of bankruptcy protection are the firms that owe money for asbestos claims. Asbestos litigation has “driven” more than 70 companies into bankruptcy. I’m not accusing all companies of abusing the system; some companies (and likewise some people) are actually bankrupt and some are just hiding from their responsibilities.

But the legislators and lobbyists campaigning against asbestos litigation are trying to get political leverage out of the “bankruptcies” of these firms that owe money for asbestos claims. They’ve declared bankruptcy to get out of paying the money they owe for asbestos-related illnesses, and now they’re trying to use this “bankruptcy” to gain sympathy and political mileage.

It’s sort of like that overused cliché about the kid who murders his parents and then cries “I’m an orphan” at his trial.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Iran Next?

Iran has Weapons of Mass Destruction! Iran is involved with Al Qaeda and international terrorism! The Iranian government has slaughtered millions of its own people!

No, we haven’t started hearing this yet, but the parallels are pretty eerie. This time three years ago, the Iraqi invasion was just a “rumor” which would be denied any time a reporter asked about it. Summer of 2002 was when Bush hit the campaign trail to drum up hysteria about Iraq (and to get Enron, Halliburton and Harken off the front pages).

So, is Iran next? Bush and the neo-cons deny it, but that’s kind of like Scott Peterson being described as “not a suspect” when his wife was first reported missing.

For the past year, our government has been flying pilotless surveillance planes over Iran, looking for evidence of nuclear weapons “program related activities” and also trying to find weaknesses in Iran’s air defense system. This aerial espionage is standard operating procedure when preparing for an eventual attack.

Rumsfeld and Rice have both stated that an attack on Iran is not imminent, but the option remains available. That’s encouraging.

The Shah of Iran (overthrown in 1979) and his successor, Ayatollah Khomeini (who died in 1989) had some of the worst human rights violations in modern history. You can expect the Bush administration to highlight this (even though Iran’s current government is somewhat more humane than Khomeini or the Shah) when they’re whipping up the proper hysteria for an Iranian invasion. After all, one of their rallying cries against Saddam Hussein — “he gassed his own people!” — referred to the 1980s when Hussein was our ally against Iran.

Right now it’s impossible to imagine a broke, war-weary nation being motivated to attack yet another country. But then, four months ago who could have imagined a president being re-elected (on the basis of gay marriage and "family values") after killing over 1,000 American troops and driving this nation nearly to bankruptcy by staging a pre-emptive war.

The painful lesson should be getting clearer and clearer: what George W. Bush and Karl Rove-Goebbels want, they get.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Bush Mandate

What’s that shrinking sound? It’s the sound of Bush’s “mandate” getting smaller and smaller. Public confidence in the nation’s general direction, and Bush’s job performance, have slipped during the first few weeks of his second term.

The poll was taken February 7th through 9th, after the State of the Union speech and the Iraqi elections.

In January, adults were evenly divided over Bush’s job performance. Now they disapprove 54% to 45%. In January 51% thought the country was headed in the wrong direction; now that view is held by 58%.

Currently, 42% approve of Bush’s handling of Iraq; 57% disapprove. A month ago it was 44% approval and 54% disapproval.

Only about 40% approved of his handling of domestic policy in general. Social Security wasn’t mentioned in the survey, but some political scientists believe Bush’s obsession with privatizing Social Security has contributed to his dwindling numbers.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Medicare Costs

How much is this Medicare prescription benefit program going to cost us? Nobody seems to have any idea; the numbers just keep going up and up and up.

When this bill was still being debated in Congress during Bush’s first term, the cost was estimated at less than $400 billion. Then, the top Medicare actuary came up with a cost estimate that was tens of billions higher than the amount “estimated” by the Bush administration. The Medicare administrator threatened to fire this actuary if he didn’t keep his mouth shut.

The estimated 10-year cost is now $724 billion, but that cost could actually be closer to $1.9 trillion if certain projected savings aren’t realized. Who can you believe?

Many people think the biggest beneficiary of this bill will be the pharmaceutical industry, rather than Medicare recipients.


By this time we all know who Bush’s new deputy chief of staff is: Karl Rove, the great maestro who controls and maneuvers public opinion the way Leonard Bernstein used to conduct an orchestra.

If he’s able to manipulate Congress as skillfully as he manipulated John Q. Public, it’s gonna be a slam dunk for everything Bush and his neo-cons ever dreamed of. Hopefully, the few brains and spines left in Congress won’t be conned or intimidated by the Great Joseph Goebbels, er, Rove.

In spite of his new title, Rove will still be Bush’s senior advisor and strategist. And that’s not all: he will be overseeing and coordinating the Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council, National Security Council and Homeland Security Council.

The fun is just beginning.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Warnings Prior To 9/11

From April 2001 right up to September 10, 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration received numerous warnings about al Qaeda’s plans for hijacking airlines. This information was previously unreleased by the commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

Several of the warnings referred to al Qaeda members going through hijacking training; others mentioned various suicide operations. An FAA spokeswoman said the FAA received various intelligence reports, and passed the information along to airlines and airports.

The FAA received 105 daily intelligence summaries between April and September 10, 2001. 52 of these reports specifically mentioned Osama bin Laden and/or al Qaeda. In 1996 Congress ordered the FAA to improve passenger screening and other security measures.

On 9/11/01 these security measures still hadn’t been implemented.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The art of purchasing Congress and the White House has become much smoother, and much less visible to the public. In 2004 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce took in $90 million to be used for bribes, er, uh, “contributions.”

Instead of each industry blatantly bribing a senator or congressman, these industries are quietly making huge contributions to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This money then gets spent by the Chamber to lobby on general issues (tort reform, for example), rather than individual industry groups having to blatantly bribe Congress with their own specific requests.

A spokesperson for Common Cause said “an average citizen speaks only at a whisper in Washington. But the Chamber and other big business associations, thanks to their clout and fundraising, speak with a megaphone.”

The Chamber’s recent successes include the loosening of ergonomic standards. Easy for them to say; you probably don’t get carpal tunnel syndrome from lobbying and fundraising. Tort reform is now their main issue. This includes limiting medical malpractice claims, and relegating all class action suits to a federal court (weren’t they in favor of “states’ rights” at one time?). The privatizing of Social Security is also part of their agenda.

The Chamber is also suing the Securities and Exchange Commission (see, conservatives aren’t always against litigation) for being too “harsh” on corporate underhandedness. They referred to New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s prosecution of corporate sleaze as “the most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation that we have seen in this country in modern time.”

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Green Christians

The media often gives the impression that devout Christians and Big Business are one big happy family, and this family hates environmentalists. However, it’s a different story behind all the headlines and generalizations. One recent survey showed 52% of Evangelical Christians supporting strict environmental regulations.

This makes sense, since the Bible refers to Man having stewardship over the Earth. That passage is at least as prominent as the Old Testament passage condemning homosexuality.

I’ve sometimes thought (on a slow news day) of finding some of the more archaic prohibitions from the Old Testament and doing a tongue-in-cheek article about the “sinners” who disobey them. Here is an example of the fun you can have with some of the more obscure passages from the Bible.

Many Christians are wary of the “environmentalist” label, which conjures up images of hippie tree huggers who worship nature. They prefer terms like “creation care.” Whatever you want to call it, this can only be a good thing. People who disagree on other issues can still unite on the issues where they do agree. After all, hunters and animal rights activists have obvious disagreements, but they agree on the importance of protecting wildlife habitat.

The Rev. Leroy Hedman of Seattle said "it's amazing to me that evangelicals haven't gone quicker for the green. But as creation care spreads, evangelicals will demand different behavior from politicians. The Republicans should not take us for granted."

The Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals, said "the environment is a values issue. There are significant and compelling theological reasons why it should be a banner issue for the Christian right."

Last fall, Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, weighed in on global warming. It said that "Christians should make it clear to governments and businesses that we are willing to adapt our lifestyles and support steps towards changes that protect our environment."

The magazine came out in favor of a global warming bill — sponsored by John McCain and Joseph Lieberman — that the Bush administration opposed and the Republican-controlled Senate defeated.

Hopefully the environmental protection/creation care movement will have an increasing influence.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Asbestos Poisoning

The population of Libby, Montana was unknowingly exposed to deadly amounts of asbestos for nearly 30 years — a side effect of the manufacturing of insulation. This process produced a particularly dangerous form of asbestos.

Federal prosecutors are now accusing the mining company, W.R. Grace, of knowing about these dangers, and intentionally withholding this information from their employees and the townspeople. U.S. attorney William Mercer said “they, we allege, knowingly endangered people in the Libby community by failing to make disclosures."

Court documents show the death rate in Libby from asbestos lung disease to be 40 to 80 times higher than the national average. Also, 1,200 of the town’s 8,000 residents have scarring in the tissue around the lungs — all from asbestos exposure. This contaminated material was everywhere, including the running tracks at the local school.

Prosecutors say W.R. Grace never warned the schools; they even decided that telling their employees to shower before going home would only cause fear in the community.

When Bush referred recently to “frivolous asbestos claims,” is this what he was talking about? You go, Boy George. I for one have had it up to here with these over-the-hill retired blue-collar types running to the press crying “waaaaahhhh!!! I have cancer boohoohoohoooooo.”

The name W.R. Grace probably isn’t a household name, but if you saw “A Civil Action” with John Travolta , you’re familiar with that company. Their water pollution — and their extensive, over-the-top Mafia-like efforts to keep it covered up — was the subject of the movie.

W.R. Grace is currently in bankruptcy proceedings “because of” these asbestos claims. (As Dana Carvey used to say, “how convenient.”)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Parents TV Council (Again)

It’s an overused cliché to say “get a life,” or so-and-so “needs to get out more,” etc. OK, with that said, there is one person (or group) that stands head and shoulders above the rest for having absolutely nothing to do and all day to do it. No more calls, we have a winner!

The Parents Television Council -- already lampooned here and elsewhere for being the grownup version of the grade school tattle-tale and brown-noser -- has made the news again. And again, it just boggles the mind that someone can have this much free time, and such a twisted sense of priorities.

During a one-week period in March 2004, the Parents TV Council monitored MTV, and counted 3,056 flashes of nudity and 2,881 verbal references to sex.

I’m just trying to imagine a person (or group) actually counting 3,056 nude images and 2,881 verbal sexual references. This person, whoever he/she is, must make the typical elderly shut-in look busier than a one-armed paperhanger. He/she makes Boo Radley look like the most gregarious gadfly anywhere.

This just makes my head hurt -- counting the number of nude flashes on a TV station during a 7-day period. Doesn’t that just make your eyes feel like they’re gonna pop out?!? This would make a good case for a group intervention. We’re here to help you. Remain calm. Back sloooowly away from the TV set. Now look up. Now turn your head . See that glass-covered square-shaped hole in the wall? If you look through that hole, you can see the world out there. Streets, sidewalks, real people moving around -- you know, life!

I don’t know if these thousands of nude scenes and references were monitored by one person or a group. A group?!?!? How would they manage to synchronize their work? I can’t even imagine Monica Geller and Adrian Monk coordinating and synchronizing enough for this. “OK, at 4 o’clock and 20 minutes and 318 nanoseconds, I’m gonna take a bathroom break. You ready to take over?”

When they get through with this Earth-shaking project, maybe they could count the number of bristles on a hairbrush, or count (and measure) each blade of grass in Central park.

Sheesh! Get a life.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A Dog Makes House Calls

You’ve probably known people who seemed like they inherited the worst traits of each parent, and none of either parent’s good traits. Well, it seems Orwellian Big Brotherism and Free Enterprise had a little tryst, and this is their ugly child.

Imagine, a drug-sniffing dog making a house call to your place of employment to see if you or your co-workers are using (gasp) drugs. For just $20 you too can spy on your child, employee or co-worker and see if they’ve been exposed to drugs any time during the past 30 days.

This is one Canadian import we can do without.


I don't have an opinion yet on the Social Security "crisis," but Bush's tactic of crying Wolf is going to backfire. He's framing the entire debate with the same "This is Urgent! Act Now!" hysteria that he used so successfully to drum up support for the Iraqi war.

We don't have time to debate! This is an emergency! While we dither, Saddam Hussein has Weapons of Mass Destruction pointed right at your home!

And now he's crying Wolf again with Social Security. We have to Act Now! While we're bickering and dawdling, our nation is being bankrupted by the Social Security crisis! A catastrophe is going to strike any minute!

Whatever the Social Security solution turns out to be, there isn't an emergency or nationwide tragedy waiting to engulf us if we don't Act Now. We need to put aside the "Urgent! This is an Emergency!" rhetoric so that all stakeholders can examine this issue carefully and determine -- using reason and logic instead of hysteria and buzzwords -- what we need to do.

Friday, February 04, 2005

It Got Confirmed

Spines and consciences were displayed by 36 Democrats and zero Republicans in the Senate yesterday. It was a good fight, but Alberto “Ve Haf Vays of Making You Talk” Gonzales has been confirmed as the country’s top law enforcement officer.

Gonzales now has the second highest number of “no” votes of any successfully-confirmed attorney general. The all time record is held by his predecessor, John Ashcroft, who had 42 votes against him in 2001.

A Hispanic senator from Florida said “this is a breakthrough of incredible magnitude for Hispanic-Americans.” He also called Gonzales “a role model for the next generation.” Hmmm, well, it depends on what this next generation will be aspiring to. Are electrodes and waterboards going to be standard equipment in all of our public schools?

Senator Charles Schumer expressed concern that Gonzales’ blind loyalty to Bush might hinder his job performance as attorney general. He said “In short, Judge Gonzales still seems to see himself as counsel to the president, not attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of the land.”


Bush’s State of the Union message was so much more bland and composed than last year’s speech, I wasn’t even planning to write about it. It was almost disappointing that he didn’t repeat the over-the-top, foaming-at-the-mouth approach of his 2004 speech.

There weren’t any surprises; he pretty much just re-emphasized all of his previous positions. The Iraqi elections have validated him as one of the greatest humanitarian leaders of all time; Social Security will bankrupt the nation if we don’t Act Now; etc.

And of course it’ll be simple to fix our ailing health care system: every single problem can be traced right back to those useless parasites who file medical malpractice claims.

By the way, can anyone confirm whether Dennis Hastert is still alive? There was an embalmed, catatonic human-looking something or other that looked exactly like him, seated behind Bush throughout his speech. But it never moved, blinked or twitched once during the entire speech. Anybody know?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Property Rights

“Property Rights” is usually a slogan conservatives shout out whenever a factory owner has to comply with workers’ safety regulations or a developer has to scale back a large project. However, two pending cases, in Ohio and Connecticut, should be alarming for all of us, regardless of political leanings.

The government has always had the power of eminent domain: forcing the sale of private property for public purposes. Freeways, public buildings, national parks, were all made possible this way.

But increasingly, local governments have been using the power of eminent domain to confiscate private property and sell it to another, wealthier private owner. Using some incredibly twisted logic, local governments are using the “reasoning” that if someone’s house or small business can be replaced by a shopping mall or office building, the increased tax base counts as a “public purpose.”

This should be a red flag for everybody. Whether you rent or own, your place of residence could be condemned to make room for a larger or “nicer” building. No matter how wealthy you might be, there’s always a bigger fish (as Liam Neeson said in the Star Wars prequel).

In Norwood, Ohio, a couple is about to be evicted by the government from the house they’ve owned and lived in for 35 years. The city has bought up homes and businesses in their neighborhood to make way for a mall and upscale apartment complex; the neighborhood has been declared to be “deteriorating.”

The owners of this house have taken their case to court. A judge has already ruled in favor of the city and offered a price to the homeowners for the “sale” of their home. The owners are expected to appeal the ruling.

I hadn’t heard about this case until reading about it yesterday. A similar case in Connecticut has been working its way through the courts. When I first read about it a year or two ago, I didn’t give it much thought. I just figured as soon as the case reached a judge who had two brain cells to rub together, the case would be thrown out and the issue would become moot.

So much for that theory. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in favor of the municipal government and against the property owner, and this case is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Guantanamo Ruling

The dueling court rulings continue over whether the United States Constitution and the Geneva Convention are still alive and well. A federal judge has ruled that some of the terror suspects held in Guantanamo Bay can use American courts to challenge their indefinite confinement without trial.

U.S. District Judge Joyce Green said last year’s Supreme Court ruling applies to more than 50 detainees whose claims she is handling. She said their indefinite detention -- with no formal charges -- violates their right to due process.

The attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is representing the plaintiffs, praised the judge’s ruling, saying “her opinion sends a message to the rest of the world that democracy is still here.”

The Justice Department has been arguing all along that the detainees in Guantanamo Bay are “enemy combatants” rather than soldiers, and therefore are not covered by the Constitution or the Geneva Convention.

On January 19th, a different federal judge had the opposite ruling, agreeing with the Bush Administration that “enemy combatants” are not covered by the Constitution or the Geneva Convention. Both rulings will probably be appealed to the Supreme Court.


That loud THUD you heard a few weeks ago was the sound of thousands of conservatives doing a simultaneous flipflop. Now they’re in favor of affirmative action.

Apparently they all got the memo: play the race card, Now! And like good soldiers, the conservative columnists and bloggers are all screaming from the rooftops that Condoleezza Rice is an African-American woman, and Alberto Gonzales is Hispanic.

How’s this for a drinking game? Every time hear or read Gonzales’ or Rice’s ethnicity being stressed by a rightwinger, take a swig of your favorite poison. You’ll be crocked in no time.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Mountain Removal in Kentucky

It’s been a common practice in Kentucky for coal mining companies to lop off the tops of mountains, with the rocks and dirt being dumped into valleys and streams. This process is being used more and more because of its speed and efficiency.

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and two other groups have now filed suit to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop issuing permits allowing the dumping. One of the plaintiffs described the situation as “an outrageous abuse of their power and neglect of their duty to protect the nation’s waterways.”

The president of the Kentucky Coal Association claims that mining companies would be hampered in their ability to work if the lawsuit is successful.

A similar lawsuit was filed in West Virginia in 2002. A judge ordered the Corps of Engineers to stop issuing these permits; the decision has been appealed.

The plaintiffs say that in the past three years the Corps has rubber-stamped more than 50 permits for valley fills that will destroy more than 35 miles of streams. The suit says the Corps is violating the Clean Water Act by issuing these permits.

A resident of the area said she is surrounded by mountaintop removal mining operations. She said “I live with what the coal industry does to the land and the people every day. You can cut a tree. It will grow back. You cut the top off a mountain and it’s gone forever.”