Sunday, February 29, 2004

This is funny.


If we would have nuked the world in 1993, we wouldn't be in this mess.

El Presidente didn't actually lie, but what came out of his mouth was pregnant with the spirit of lying. According to the New York Times, he made these remarks during his most recent fundraising extravaganza:
His opponents, Mr. Bush said, "view terrorism more as a crime, a problem to be solved with law enforcement and indictments."

"Our nation followed that approach after the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993," he added. "The matter was handled in the courts and thought by some to be settled."

But after Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush said, "it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers."

If the United States shows weakness over the next decade, Mr. Bush warned, "the world will drift toward tragedy."

"This will not happen on my watch," he said.

The follow-up question should have been, "Mr. Miserable Failure, do you mean to tell us that the tragedy of 9/11 is somehow a consequence of our response to the 1993 bombing?"

That's not exactly what El Presidente meant to tell us, but I'm certain his answer continue to be some variation of the same implied causal relation between our response to 1993 under a competent president, and our victimization in 2001 under an incompetent fool.


Saturday, February 28, 2004

First, kill the intellectuals!

Or at least their ideas. Apparently, editing the works of scholars living in countries who are under trade embargo by the U.S. is verboten.

Writers often grumble about the criminal things editors do to their prose. The federal government has recently weighed in on the same issue — literally.

It has warned publishers they may face grave legal consequences for editing manuscripts from Iran and other disfavored nations, on the ground that such tinkering amounts to trading with the enemy.


Friday, February 27, 2004

Well, that didn't take very long. Check it out.

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was the guest of a Kansas law school two years ago and went pheasant hunting on a trip arranged by the school's dean, all within weeks of hearing two cases in which the dean was a lead attorney.

The cases involved issues of public policy important to Kansas officials. Accompanying Scalia on the November 2001 hunting trip were the Kansas governor and the recently retired state Senate president, who flew with Scalia to the hunting camp aboard a state plane.

Two weeks before the trip, University of Kansas School of Law Dean Stephen R. McAllister, along with the state's attorney general, had appeared before the Supreme Court to defend a Kansas law to confine sex offenders after they complete their prison terms.

Two weeks after the trip, the dean was before the high court to lead the state's defense of a Kansas prison program for treating sex criminals.

Scalia was hosted by McAllister, who also served as Kansas state solicitor, when he visited the law school to speak to students. At Scalia's request, McAllister arranged for the justice to go pheasant hunting after the law school event. And the dean enlisted then-Gov. Bill Graves and former state Senate President Dick Bond, both Republicans, to go as well.

During the weekend of hunting in north-central Kansas, Graves and Bond said in separate interviews recently, they did not talk about the cases with Scalia, nor did they view the trip as a way to win his favor.

Scalia later sided with Kansas in both cases.

In a written statement, Scalia said: "I do not think that spending time at a law school in which the counsel in pending cases was the dean could reasonably cause my impartiality to be questioned. Nor could spending time with the governor of a state that had matters before the court."

Okay, my head would explode, but it's so damaged by prior hold on to your hat and wallet Fridays that all that are left are bits of skin and fluff I keep poking back in through the holes where my ears used to be.


It's hold on to your hat and wallet Friday!

Often, supremely newsworthy activities and announcements from the offices of El Presidente are released on a Friday afternoon, because people put down the newspaper and turn off the television for the weekend. This usually means that by Monday, El Presidente has made you poorer and less free, but you won't know it for a few months, yet. It also can mean that something is revealed about El Presidente and/or his cronies that would likely send you into uncontrollable spasms if not make your head explode, if in fact you happened to learn what it was. But you probably won't know until it's too late anyway, so don't worry! Be happy.

Today, we've learned that the economy grew "a solid" 4.1% in the 4th quarter of 2003. You can read seven very upbeat paragraphs about this in the New York Times today. It's not until we get to the 8th paragraph that we are reminded that people are still out of work, and there is still a net loss of 2.2 million jobs since El Presidente took office. However, if you just skip that paragraph, we're back to good times again. The rest of the article talks about how businesses are spending again, and soon they're going to be spending on jobs!

So, where's the shocker? Stay tuned...


I'm beginning to like John Kerry a little bit more. It helps to have read David Corn's "What's right with Kerry." I guess now that I've had a chance to get over my Dean disappointment, I'm beginning to learn more about where he stands on the issues, and I like where he stands. The unfortunate thing is when he backs away from his convictions, which I think is the same kind of mistake Al Gore made in 2000 (although Gore actually won the election, he just didn't win it by as much as he could have and should have). I was one progressive who really liked Gore, and agreed with him on many issues. He seemed like he tried to distance himself from his own beliefs, and that was too bad. He turned off some progressives, and he probably didn't gain any ground with conservatives who were convinced Gore was more liberal than he actually is, anyway.

Last night in the debate, Kerry stood his ground against the death penalty. Liberal Oasis has some good analysis of Kerry's comments on a number of issues. In particular, I admire his stand against the death penalty. It does take a brave soul to make the case for justice and civility.


"I have always believed that the contract of marriage should be left to states and the sacrament of marriage should be left to religious institutions." - Senator Tom Harkin

Dear Senator Grassley,

I am writing to urge you to strongly oppose a constitutional amendment limiting the rights of a select group of Americans, the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment. My husband and I have two children and will be celebrating our tenth anniversary this year. This is the first and only marriage for both of us.

We were married in our church, and we know that for many religions, the definition of marriage is limited to a commitment between one man and one woman. However, we are also fully cognizant of the legal framework of marriage. We are grateful to live in a country where we are free to marry the one we love and raise healthy sons together.

Our joy is only diminished by the fact that others are not able to raise their children with the same kinds of legal rights and responsibilities that provide a framework for our family's prosperity. It would be a grave disappointment to my husband and me if the Constitution we love and appreciate for giving us freedom and opportunity, is used to deny rights to anyone.



We are the bully of the world

We are the only NATO country that will not sign an international anti-land mine treaty. Instead, we will follow our own policies, which happen to include throwing a few extra bucks to efforts to find land mines before an innocent child happens upon them, as has happened way too often in Afghanistan. We will also pursue so-called smart mines, that either blow themselves up or can be turned off, when we're through with them. Of course, these smart mines are not so smart, and are causing trouble in Chechnya today. Would you want to farm land that you knew was mined, even if the mines were supposedly smart? Senator Patrick Leahy has taken the anti-landmine lead in the U.S. For more information about landmines, here is a good place to start.


Thursday, February 26, 2004

Meanwhile in Baghdad

Some Iraqi men are trying to cover their women up , and some American servicemen are forcing their women to take it off.


Are senators inside traders?

The Ziobrowski study notes that the politicians' timing of transactions is uncanny. Most stocks bought by senators had shown little movement before the purchase. But after the stock was bought, it outperformed the market by 28.6 per cent on average in the following calendar year.

(By way of Calpundit)


While we were out...

While we were busy defending live peoples' civil rights, wingers in Congress are rushing to pass the Unborn Victims of Violence Act . This legislation treats a fetus like a live person with respect to violent crime.

Opponents of the bill argued that it was a thinly veiled move to advance the anti-abortion agenda by giving even a fertilized egg the same rights as the mother. The bill defines ``unborn child'' as ``a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.''

It's an attempt, said Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., ``to legislate fetal personhood as a foundation for depriving women of their right to make their own reproductive decisions.''

The legislation specifically states that those performing legal abortions cannot be prosecuted under the measure, but opponents said it would set a legal precedence for pitting the reproductive rights of a woman against the rights of the fetus.

The government and its agents cannot claim to care about the well-being of live women if they don't work as vigorously to assist women to make preferred reproductive choices as they do to limit women's rights to make private medical decisions. The "morning after" contraceptive pill should be available over the counter. The FDA delay to approve this despite a very strong scientific recommendation is obviously a direct response to some of those same socially conservative congresspeople, whose abstinence-only sex education ideas are about as rational as their belief in the rapture.


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Back in the day when I was actively involved in opposing NAFTA, being on the same side of an issue with Pat Buchanan was weirdly dissonant and slightly foreboding, but in an understandable way. However, having Tom Delay on our side with respect to a hate amendment, well, that must mean the rapture is fast approaching after all.

Obligatory joke: When the rapture comes, can I have your car?


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Who do we think we are?

After the Defense of Marriage Act was passed in 1996, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, the U.S. Government Accounting Office studied all the areas of federal law in which marital status was a factor, to identify benefits, rights, and privileges contingent on marital status. They identified 1,049!

I think the question is rather basic: What kind of country are we, if we do not extend the same rights to all our citizens?

Amendment XIV

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Make love, not war.

Just to test my brilliant haloscan abilities, I'm linking to Atrios, whose influence is apparent here at Tomato Observer.


Not surprisingly, I never thought much of anything Ronald Reagan did. Hell, I still get angry whenever I think of the Iran-Contra affair. But Mr. Reagan must have done at least one thing right to have raised a child who could write something as beautiful as this.


Congressman John Dingell sure has a sense of humor. I like that in a fellow, especially when he's on my side.


We need to put a line item in our budget.

The adults in this household have been giving a little bit here and a little bit there over the last year or so, to political causes. In the past, we'd hardly ever given money that wasn't tax deductible, and here we are, compelled by circumstance and conviction to give and give, over and over. For the first time in my lifetime, I think, I've come to view these contributions as investments in my family's future, rather than simple luxuries. I guess I have the right wing to thank for waking me up. The religious right wing has made it clear that they want to run my family's life into the ground, and we're not going to stand for that.

Who we are giving money to this week: Lloyd Doggett, congressman from Texas. Doggett was our congressperson when we lived in Austin, and he is one of the good guys. Tom DeLay gerrymandered the State of Texas, but in particular got a kick out of making it very hard for Doggett to get re-elected. On the other hand, Doggett's opponent in the democratic primaries, Leticia Hinojosa, does not differ significantly on the issues, and likely better knows the issues that people face in the Rio Grande Valley (newly attached to Austin through the redistricting plan).

I think Doggett has a learning curve, but he's proven that he can stick to his progressive values while working effectively to represent his constituents in Congress. Also, a dollar for Doggett is a poke at Tom DeLay, and you can't have too many of those.

Also, we shot a few bucks to Flowers for Al and Don. The weddings in San Francisco are historic and wonderful, and even though we can't be there in person to share in all the excitement, we wanted to show our support in a concrete way.

It's an exciting time to be alive.


Monday, February 23, 2004

So today, Rod Paige, the secretary of education, called the NEA (National Education Association, or teachers' union) a "terrorist organization."

Paige said later in an AP interview that his comment was "a bad joke; it was an inappropriate choice of words."
NEA President Reg Weaver shot back, "I think it is absolutely pathetic, and it is not anything to joke about."

I'll say. A few years ago, this looked cute on a t-shirt. Maybe tact is a communist plot.


Sunday, February 22, 2004

Atrios has "trackbacks" which I don't get, but I'm going to figure out somehow.


Friday, February 20, 2004



Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to a meeting with a staffer from Senator Tom Harkin's office, about the impending Energy bill. This was organized between moveon.org, saveourenvironment.org, and pirg. Before the holidays, Harkin had voted for cloture on the much more bloated and immoral version of the bill -- this means that he voted to bring the bill before the Senate for a vote -- and he was expected to vote for the bill because it contained the little bit about ethanol.

At the meeting, John Moreland, Senator Harkin's staffer, told us all the positives about the leaner bill, beginning with the fact that it's been trimmed to $14B as opposed to the original $31B. He also talked about tax credits for alternative energy projects, benefits to ethanol farmers. He was honest about the fact that 75% of the ethanol subsidies go to big business like Archer Daniels Midland, but he said that farmers increasingly had formed ethanol cooperatives, so stood to gain more this time around.

The new version in the Senate has no release from liability for MTBE producers, at least. This fuel additive is supposed to reduce production of carbon monoxide, but it turns out to be a carcinogenic toxin that has contaminated water supplies in several cities across the country. Apparently, it easily spreads into groundwater. In fact, it has been found in the water supply all around Iowa, despite the fact that it hasn't been used as an additive to gasoline in Iowa for years,

The idea would be to phase out MTBE and phase in more ethanol. Many researchers say that ethanol has a positive net energy balance; it takes less energy to make than it provides in liquid fuel. Some say that it has a negative energy balance. These researchers are cited selectively, depending on whether you are supportive or opposed to the use of ethanol. The Corn Growers Association, for instance, says that ethanol has a positive NEV. The WSJ and oil lobbyists say that ethanol has a negative NEV.

The US Department of Agriculture concluded in 2002 that ethanol has a positive NEV of 1.34. This means it yields 34% more energy than it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and process the corn. This can only get better with technological advances. Biodiesel may be even more promising.

Oil and gas both have negative NEVs by the way.

There are other benefits to ethanol and other renewable energy sources. For one, we can make it here, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and lead to more peace in the world. The downside is that we use more of our cropland to produce fuel. Iowa is an energy leader in the world, I think.

The problem with the new energy bill, like all these blockbusting bills, is that it is more than 1,200 pages long, and they want to vote on it right away, and you can't get enough information about it to know whether or not it is supportable. If it's good for people and the environment, with a few bones thrown to the oil companies to shut them up, I could support it. If it's all good for oil and nuclear power, with a few bones for people and the environment, I can't support it. I can't find any analysis of it on the internet, yet. Moreland couldn't tell me how much of the $14 B was going to renewable energy and how much was going to oil and nukes. He promised to follow up. I think I will try and contact him and ask if anyone has time to do a real cost analysis.


Thursday, February 19, 2004

To celebrate the marriages of so many loving couples in San Francisco this week:

Amendment XIV

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


It seems like Iowa just can't keep itself out of the news.

Three classes at Iowa State University -- two of them in the past two weeks -- have been interrupted by a man who flashed students and then ran.

A man wearing nothing but a trench coat, a Richard Nixon mask and tennis shoes entered a class auditorium Friday just as a meteorology exam began, said freshman Erik Triggs.

The man opened his trench coat, danced around and ran from one door to the other while yelling, Triggs said.

At least it's not bad news!


Wednesday, February 18, 2004

And I thought I was the only one

Wow, bashing Bush is becoming so trendy, I hope it isn't a flash in the pan. Even the geeks are getting in on the action:

The Bush administration has deliberately and systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad, a group of about 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, said in a statement issued today.


Together, the two documents accuse the administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing reports by its own scientists, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice, and refusing to seek any independent scientific expertise in some cases.

"Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front," the statement from the scientists said, adding that they believed the administration had "misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies."


The White House is backpedaling on their jobs prediction.

Asked about the 2.6 million jobs forecast, McClellan said, "The president is interested in actual jobs being created rather than economic modeling." He quoted Bush as saying, "I'm not a statistician. I'm not a predictor."
"We are interested in reality," McClellan said.

I have got to give El Presidente credit; he sure is good for a laugh or two. As Tom Tomorrow wrote, "...this is the biggest problem I face as a satirist these days: these guys keep outdoing my cartoons. How am I supposed to stay ahead?"

This brought out the best at Atrios' blog. Here is a small sample:

Mr. Happy wrote:

That's a great campaign slogan:

"The Economy - what am I , a staticician?!?"

gfyfe wrote:

No shit, Sherlock. Nice of you to state the obvious.

Seraphiel wrote:

Georgie's not a President either, but he plays one on TeeVee.

RushBush wrote:

I represent thousands of Americans who voted for Bush in 2000 for two important reasons: We were convinced he was a statistician and a paleontologist to boot.
This revelation today by McClellan proves we were lied to. But I'm still willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt -- statisticians are a dime a dozen.
I'll still vote for Bush again, as long as someone assures me that he really is a paleontologist.
Thank you and God Bless America.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

A liberal finds out about internet porn, looks at it for a coupla hours, gets bored and never looks at it again.

A rightwing rethuglican finds out about internet porn, looks at it for awhile, prays for forgiveness, looks at it again, vows never to look at internet porn again, looks at it again, makes an appointment with his pastor, looks at more porn, joins a support group, looks at it some more, tries to pass a law against internet porn, looks at it some more, blames liberals for helping Satan bring temptation to the world, looks at porn, speaks out against gay marriage on the local talk radio program, looks at gay porn, makes another appointment with the pastor...


Good morning! Okay, I'm stunned right along with them. The Virginia Republicans are hoping to pass legislation to end tax breaks for big biz. According to the Washington Post:

Faced with the prospect of closing Virginia's $1 billion budget gap with deep cuts to popular programs, the GOP-controlled House instead voted 59 to 36 to raise $520 million by eliminating sales tax exemptions enjoyed by utility companies, the shipping industry, airlines, dry cleaners, telephone companies and other businesses. House leaders expect the bill to receive final approval Tuesday.

The plan, first put forth by Republican leaders just 80 hours before the vote, turned the Capitol's tax debate on its head. Business lobbyists, Democratic legislators and Warner administration officials gathered for their own tense, closed-door strategy sessions and wondered what to make of a GOP plan that targets the party's traditional business allies.

Wow, is this the beginning of a movement? Read it and weep. Tears of JOY, that is.


Sunday, February 15, 2004

This is kinda cool. Here are all the states I've visited. Obviously, I've missed a few, in a rather orderly fashion.

create your own visited states map.


Okay, I just have to put this up because in a weird, indirect way, I'm semi famous since I had a couple of hours to kill one day and mixed a clip. Half my traffic comes from people listening to that clip.


I think that figuring out just where Bush was when he was supposed to be serving in the National Guard is only beneficial if it helps get him, Cheney, Ashcroft, and the rest of the maniacs, the hell out of Washington. Of course taking us into the current war is a much greater crime.

That said, I think it is becoming clear that answers to the following questions are the key to unraveling the whole TANG mystery:

1. Why didn't Bush have his medical examination when he was supposed to?
2. Relating to the first question, why was he suspended from flying?
3. Relating to the second question, what were he and James Bath up to, that they were both suspended from flying at nearly the same time, stemming from their refusals to take medical examinations?

I think if you pull these threads, a good part of the Bush family tapestry is going to unravel.

Edit: the administration's supremely stupid attempt to redact Bath's name from the flight suspension documentation simply highlights how close we're getting by asking these questions.


In my posting at 8:32 2/14/04, I quoted a joke:

Fox News dissed Coulter? My God, that's like somebody dropping a house on her/him/it/that.

Ananna writes in response:
Now, Ann Coulter is not a nice person, we all know that. But jokes bringing her gender into question aren't really appropriate responses to her rhetoric. Yes, I know a lot of people subscribe to the "hit 'em hard" school nowadays, because that's the only way we're going to "win". Maybe all the references to Ann Coulter's adam's apple (all women have some form of bump there, some more than others, you know this) caused her to overheat and start writing things that even Fox News wants to distance themselves from. Maybe. The ends don't justify the means, though, and it is done at the expense of one of the GLBTQ community's most vulnerable groups: trans people, who get enough shit from the GLBTQ community and much more from society in general.

Honestly, the part of the joke I thought was funny, was the part about dropping a house on her (a la Wizard of Oz). It had crossed my mind to change the end of it to simply "her," because frankly it's not as funny with the gender ambiguity at the end, but in the end, since I was quoting someone else, I just didn't. I surely didn't intend to pile up on transgendered people, but guess I did. I'm sorry.

I've been thinking a lot over the last couple of months about gender and identity: how much of it is done to us, and how much we do. Ru Paul said, "We are born naked. The rest is just drag." I've been thinking about that alot, whether that is true, and what the implications of that might be. In online communications, it is more obviously true, although I'm still thinking it through about the real world. When I started this blog I thought I might write as a man (because they still get all the respect), but couldn't easily pull it off, and I'm nothing if not lazy. I think it's possible, though, if you have the time to untangle everything you've learned about what it means to be you, from what you are, and then re-present yourself to the world using other kinds of rules.

I suppose it could be considered sexist to play with the Wicked Witch motif, as well. As much as I wanted to slap that creep Katherine Harris (the Florida 'thug), I was uncomfortable with disparaging remarks about her looks, makeup, clothing. I don't think Anne Coulter is bad looking or particularly ambiguously female. I do think there is a remarkable resemblance to the wicked witch of the West, though, having more to do with her attitude than her looks. Yes, it is a gendered insult, and I still think it's kinda funny (imagine those pumps sticking out from under the house), and I'm not sure there's a hard and fast rule anymore for me about what's okay and what's viciously sexist. I think to some extent, it has to do with whether or not the rest is all drag.

All these ramblings have something to do with the state of our country right now, and our warped collective imagination about sex, intimacy, and war. Some Democrats don't think we should touch gay marriage as an issue in this election year. Maybe not, maybe so. But I think it's all connected somehow. The public outcry about Janet Jackson's breast was itself perverted. These rightwingers are as mesmerized by breasts and gay marriage as they are offended by them. Several years ago, I made the connection between war and sex, but never saw it through. I know they are connected, but how?

Anyway, I'm still learning and thinking, and appreciate comments like Ananna's "written in love, respect and friendship and trying to be very kind but also firm."


Saturday, February 14, 2004

Whenever you have a few moments, you must give crap or credit to whomever deserves it.

Nicholas Kristof has a column on Afghan women in today's NY Times.

Dear Nicholas:

I was pretty angry that you used the plight of Thai women as an excuse to criticize women's groups in the U.S. Conservatives sure don't like it when liberals accuse them of not having their priorities straight. Furthermore, your assumption that "main" women's groups are representative of the majority of activists in this country is a little old-fashioned, to say the least. You'll have to look at the perhaps thousands of U.S. feminist affinity groups that make up what we might call today's women's movement. For instance, I'm a member of a small academic feminist affinity group. Sure, we work on 1st world intelligentsia problems like family leave policy in colleges and universities. But we also work on international issues of basic human rights, probably just as much.

In your more recent column on the dangers of being a woman in Afghanistan today after the liberation, you were rightly critical of how the U.S. has left the country and Afghan women vulnerable to violence. However, you failed to mention that some women's groups were the only American figures paying attention to the plight of women under the Taliban prior to 9/11, and that toppling the Taliban had nothing to do with that issue. It was an ancillary benefit that women were able to return to school and the streets (in theory). It's no surprise that the worsening condition for women in Afghanistan remains ignored by our leaders. It was never their priority in the first place.

Sincerely, Tomato Observer

Yesterday, I sent a note to Helen Thomas to thank her for her good work:

Thanks for doing such a nice job in the press corps. Just want you to know, some of us actually pay attention. I especially liked the exchange this morning with Scott McClellan about President Bush having to perform community service. I feel a little bit sorry for Scott; he is out of his league!

Keep up the good work!

Your fan,

Tomato Observer

Guess which johnny come lately sent me a form letter in response, and which icon of American journalism sent me a short personal message of appreciation?


According to the Center for American Progress, Fox News complained about the accuracy of their description of Ann Coulter as a Fox News contributor. Wow, when Fox News doesn't want anything to do with you, you know you must be crazier than a rat in a tin can.

This just in, from cosmic grappler in Atrios' comments section:

Fox News dissed Coulter? My God, that's like somebody dropping a house on her/him/it/that.


Is there anyone in this administration who has actually served in combat? I'll be the first to encourage everyone I know not to serve in an unjust, unnecessary war like the one we're in now, and I completely understand the men who didn't want to go to Vietnam. In fact, I think the guys who had an alternative, but went anyway, are just a little bit crazy. But it just seems so hypocritical of the self-initiated "war president" and his buddies to drive the rest of us into war when they wouldn't sacrifice anything of themselves.


Friday, February 13, 2004

Let's see:

I'm sure there is more, but it's depressing to think about it.


Another sad reminder of the state of our union. Army intelligence agents investigate a women's studies conference at University of Texas on women and Islam. From the local news:

The U.S. Army sent intelligence agents to investigate a conference about women and Islam at the UT School of Law.

UT law student and organizer Sahar Aziz was shocked at the Army's interest and methods.

"It was not a terrorism related conference. It was very benign … The reason why we put it together is there had been a lot of debate on campus about these issues due to the burka [face-covering mask worn by Muslim women] in Afghanistan and Iraq," she said.

A few days later, two U.S. Army intelligence agents showed up and wanted a list of all the people who attended the conference.

They approached Jessica Biddle, who helped Aziz get funding for the event.

"[I said] that he was intimidating me and is there a problem? His response was 'no, no problem, we're investigating a couple of people who attended the conference and we need to see the list,'" Biddle said.

Aziz said there was not a list of people in attendance.

The U.S. Army has confirmed that the investigating agents are assigned to the Intelligence and Security Command based in Virginia.

One agent left his business card with several students.

But the idea that a conference on women and Islam would garner such attention is troubling to both Aziz and civil rights advocates.

"We ought to be able to speak freely without worrying about government intimidation or the government spying on us," Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project said.

UT law professors also say the Army could be walking a fine line with regard to civil rights.

"We certainly hope that the Army doesn't believe that attending a conference on Islamic law or Islam and women is itself ground for investigation," UT constitutional law professor Douglas Laycock said.

Aziz said the Army's visit was a scary indication of attitudes towards Islam.

"It's confirming a lot of people in the Muslim community's fears that anything we do related to our religion, no matter how secular it may be, or religious which is perfectly legitimate, that we will be under surveillance that we are we are guilty by association," Aziz said.

Harrington and the Texas Civil Rights Project will publicly denounce the Army's investigation Friday.


Thursday, February 12, 2004

Human beings are human beings. Well, except for Rummy who is something else altogether.


El Presidente, hard at work, circa 1969.


"Where's AWOLdo?" - Homas, at Atrios

Not one person has stepped forward to say they knew him when. But more and more people are stepping forward to say he wasn't there!


Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Well, the feds have dropped the subpoenas. From the KCCI website:

Feds Drop All Subpoenas Against Peace Protesters, University
Advocates Rally At Federal Courthouse Tuesday

POSTED: 11:28 AM CST February 9, 2004
UPDATED: 6:38 PM CST February 10, 2004
DES MOINES, Iowa -- After almost a week of controversy, the U.S. attorney in Des Moines dropped four subpoenas against local peace protesters and one subpoena against Drake University Tuesday.

The attorney said in just-released court documents that all five subpoenas are quashed. A reason for the withdrawals was not given.

They deny that this was an anti-terrorism investigation. Whether it was or it wasn't, democracy won a battle today. We just have to keep yelling every time Ashcroft and his goons cross the line.


The Justice Department under the insane leadership of John Ashcroft is exceptionally active in attempting to squash peoples' civil rights. Unfortunately, the national media doesn't always pick up on it. Here's an article from Chicago Business, discussing DOJ efforts to subpoena medical records of doctors who are challenging the ban on late-term emergency abortions (so-called partial birth abortions):

Northwestern escapes DOJ subpoena
Judge denies Ashcroft's request for patient medical records

By Mark Taylor

A move by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to subpoena the medical records of 40 patients who received so-called partial-birth abortions at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago was halted—at least temporarily—when a Chicago federal judge quashed the information request.

The ruling is the first in a series of subpoenas by the U.S. Justice Department seeking the medical records of patients from seven physicians and at least five hospitals, Crain's sister publication Modern Healthcare has learned. Besides Northwestern, Mr. Ashcroft is seeking patient records from University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers in Ann Arbor; Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp.; Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital both of which are part of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System; and an unidentified San Francisco-area hospital.

In a 16-page decision, U.S. Chief District Judge Charles Kocoras denied the government’s request to obtain patient medical records from Northwestern, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and Illinois’ medical privacy law.

Northwestern received the subpoena in December, a month after obstetrician/gynecologist Cassing Hammond, a member of Northwestern’s staff and medical school faculty, was served with subpoenas seeking his patient records. Hammond is one of seven doctors and three groups who has challenged the constitutionality of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the National Abortion Federation; Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which are all filing challenges to the law. A hearing for all of the challenges has been scheduled for March 29 in U.S. District Court in New York.

Dr. Hammond refused comment last week. His case is pending.

Sources at New York Presbyterian and Hahnemann who requested anonymity confirmed the subpoenas at those hospitals. The University of Michigan had not returned calls for comment at deadline.

In his decision, Judge Kocoras said the records “appear to have been sought for the purpose of testing the assertions in Dr. Hammond’s declarations. At best, the government is seeking possible impeachment material.”

While the Justice Department has said it is not seeking information that would identify the patients, that did not persuade Judge Kocoras.

A department spokeswoman Monica Goodling said the department does not comment on ongoing litigation but said, “We are reviewing the ruling in light of our commitment to defending the law banning partial-birth abortions.”

Northwestern spokeswoman Kelly Sullivan said that HIPAA and the Illinois law required the hospital to protect the privacy and confidentiality of patient records. “Patients are not a party to the litigation and thus (Northwestern) cannot produce the medical records of nonparties,” Ms. Sullivan said. “The judge agreed and quashed the subpoena request.”

Alicia Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the American Hospital Assn., said the group is not aware of the patient records subpoenas. “But we assume that HIPAA medical records privacy protections apply equally to everyone,” Ms. Mitchell said.


Monday, February 09, 2004

Can you imagine? There you are, flying across country and your pilot gets on the intercom to ask you whether you're a christian or not. He tells you you're crazy, and suggests you learn a thing or two about christianity from your christian seatmate, to pass the time from coast to coast. Like many of the passengers on the American Airlines flight where this ACTUALLY OCCURRED, I'd be calling my relatives to say goodbye. Here is what the AA spokesman had to say:

"It falls along the lines of a personal level of sharing that may not be appropriate for one of our employees to do while on the job."

I think that's an understatement. If peace activists can be investigated under anti-terrorism laws, I should think a pilot who proselytizes while holding your life in his hands ought to be.


Here is an e-mail I received:


Yesterday, February 3, Detective Jeff Warford of the Polk County Sheriff's Office-FBI-Joint Terrorism Task Force came to Catholic Peace Ministy's office here in Des Moines with a supoena for me to testify before a Federal Grand Jury next Tuesday, February 10. Mr. Warford also served papers on Elton

Davis at the Catholic Worker House and Patti McKee, who was coordinator of Iowa Peace Network until last month.
The Grand Jury process is shrouded in secrecy. We do not know who or what the object of this investigation may be, beyond "possible violations of federal criminal law in the Southern District of Iowa."

The proceeding will be behind closed doors. We may not have an attorney present. We have the right to plead the fifth amendment, refusing the answer questions that might incriminate us. The government, then, can offer us
immunity from prosecution, in which case we will obliged to answer under threat of contempt of court and could be imprisoned for the length of the Grand Jury session, 18 months, should we continue to refuse to answer.

This immunity would be limited to our own testimony and anything any of us say could be used against the others.
Whatever is going on, this is definately an escalation on the part of the government's war on dissent and clamp down on civil liberties. The fact that anything that we three and the peacemaking communities we represent could possibly attract the notice of a "Terrorism Task Force" is reprehensible.

Please spread the word, express concerns you have with Federal and Polk County authorities. Keep us in mind and prayer. -- Brian Terrell Executive Director Catholic Peace Ministry
4211 Grand Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50312


Everywhere you look, there's something ghastly. Here in Iowa, peaceworkers have been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, and activists' records have been subpoenaed as well. Here's the AP report:

Feds Win Right to War Protesters' Records


Associated Press Writer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades, a federal judge has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war activists.

In addition to the subpoena of Drake University, subpoenas were served this past week on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15 forum at the school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury Tuesday, the protesters said.

Federal prosecutors refuse to comment on the subpoenas.

In addition to records about who attended the forum, the subpoena orders the university to divulge all records relating to the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a New York-based legal activist organization that sponsored the forum.

The group, once targeted for alleged ties to communism in the 1950s, announced Friday it will ask a federal court to quash the subpoena on Monday.

"The law is clear that the use of the grand jury to investigate protected political activities or to intimidate protesters exceeds its authority," guild President Michael Ayers said in a statement.

Representatives of the Lawyer's Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union said they had not heard of such a subpoena being served on any U.S. university in decades.

Those served subpoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited Iraq in 2002.

They say the subpoenas are intended to stifle dissent.

"This is exactly what people feared would happen," said Brian Terrell of the peace ministry, one of those subpoenaed. "The civil liberties of everyone in this country are in danger. How we handle that here in Iowa is very important on how things are going to happen in this country from now on."

The forum, titled "Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!" came the day before 12 protesters were arrested at an anti-war rally at Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnston. Organizers say the forum included nonviolence training for people planning to demonstrate.

The targets of the subpoenas believe investigators are trying to link them to an incident that occurred during the rally. A Grinnell College librarian was charged with misdemeanor assault on a peace officer; she has pleaded innocent, saying she simply went limp and resisted arrest.

"The best approach is not to speculate and see what we learn on Tuesday" when the four testify, said Ben Stone, executive director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, which is representing one of the protesters.

Mark Smith, a lobbyist for the Washington-based American Association of University Professors, said he had not heard of any similar case of a U.S. university being subpoenaed for such records.

He said the case brings back fears of the "red squads" of the 1950s and campus clampdowns on Vietnam War protesters.

According to a copy obtained by The Associated Press, the Drake subpoena asks for records of the request for a meeting room, "all documents indicating the purpose and intended participants in the meeting, and all documents or recordings which would identify persons that actually attended the meeting."

It also asks for campus security records "reflecting any observations made of the Nov. 15, 2003, meeting, including any records of persons in charge or control of the meeting, and any records of attendees of the meeting."

Several officials of Drake, a private university with about 5,000 students, refused to comment Friday, including school spokeswoman Andrea McDonough. She referred questions to a lawyer representing the school, Steve Serck, who also would not comment.

A source with knowledge of the investigation said a judge had issued a gag order forbidding school officials from discussing the subpoena.


Call me crazy, but I think I'm being set up.

CNN is now saying they overplayed the Dean Scream.

It probably means little now to Howard Dean (news - web sites), but CNN's top executive believes his network overplayed the infamous clip of Dean's "scream" after the Iowa caucuses.

"It was a big story, but the challenge in a 24-hour news network is that you try to keep all of your different viewers throughout the day informed without overdoing it," said Princell Hair, CNN's general manager.

The breathtaking media explosion turned the former Democratic presidential front-runner into a punch line and arguably hastened his campaign's free fall. It's also an instructive look at how television news and entertainment works today.

Whatever handwringing there may be in retrospect — and there's only a little — comes with a sense that repeats are inevitable.

How convenient that CNN and others, like Diane Sawyer last week, now admit their hysterical overreaction to an imagined moment of exuberance. With President Bush looking ever more like a caged animal, this will give them the excuse to be more subdued in reporting all his real crimes and misdemeanors.

Stop this world where a woman's breast is the foundation for an utter meltdown by the head of the FCC while a president's lies about his own military service and his reasons for pressing us into a murderous war can exist unchallenged. I want to get off!

El Presidente could not even do a good job explaining himself in a taped interview with a reporter who couldn't or wouldn't follow up his obvious inconsistencies. Sunday, the little Prick had a sitdown with Tim Russert on Meet the Press. As the Washington Post reports, he has agreed to release all his military records. It should be a problem for him, as his records are beginning to show that at the least, he lied about flying for the entirety of his National Guard Service. CalPundit's analysis of the "torn document" that wasn't torn after all, suggests that at some point, the young Bush was disciplined for not fulfilling his duties, being transferred to the Air Reserve Force, where they don't fly at all. So all that nonsense about flying in his autobiography was as we knew all along, nonsense.

As I have said many times, if I were Mr. Bush, I'd probably kill myself because the consequences of my actions would have been too great to bear. If it takes his poor character as a young guardsman to bring him down, fine. I just hope that it doesn't prevent us as a nation from learning a greater lesson about what happens when you put the country in the hands of murderous ideologues. I hope it doesn't prevent us from thinking more deeply about what competencies are required of democratic citizens, and how we can strengthen our citizenry.


Friday, February 06, 2004

The wingers clearly value an ideological frame where democracy is beside the point. Their activist stances to reduce the rights of others, as in their latest proposal for a marriage amendment, don't seem to ever work. I think their failures to hold back the development of U.S. society indicate that the will of the people clearly is for progress toward a more inclusive, accepting, and thus wiser and more prosperous collective identity. But this is not my evidence that they are undemocratic. My evidence comes from their enthusiasm to participate in election fraud, to slyly tack on pieces of legislation to behemoth bills and get them passed without good faith, to gerrymander states and consolidate power.

In my lifetime, the thugs have always been given enough rope to hang themselves with. And what do we have to show for it? A nation that cannot distinguish between the sacred and the profane. The crass simulation of sexuality in popular culture is perfectly understandable. The subtleties of intimacy are completely subsumed by sensationalism masquerading as avante garde.

The discourse surrounding Janet Jackson's breast is a case in point. The thugs are shocked, appalled, and offended. But they can only bring themselves to talk about the breast. What about that huge piece of jewelry constraining or even piercing Jackson's nipple, or the sexual violence portrayed throughout the show; the elephants in the room that everyone is too uptight to talk about? Our discourse in the end cannot distinguish between a breast -- which I have never heard to be privately described as anything but beautiful -- and the sexual violence that should and does offend us.


Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Hey, lookit! I can upload pictures now!

25% of families are worth nothing. The next 25% of families are worth about $44K, and that includes their house. The top 10% of families are worth 62 times that! Imagine.


Today, Richard Cohen wins the award for the most understated mea culpa of the day:

...But any truth commission worth its name would have to look beyond the government. It would be instructive to examine the yahoo mood that came over much of the nation once Bush decided to go to war. The decision -- its urgency -- seemed to come out of nowhere. Yet most of America fell into line, and in certain segments of the media, the Murdoch press above all, dissent was ridiculed. On Fox TV, France was called a member of the "axis of weasels" and antiwar demonstrators in Davos were disparaged as "knuckleheads." Colorful stuff, but wrong, irresponsible and craven.

I do not take myself off the hook. The mood got to me, too. And while I kept insisting that the Bush administration was exaggerating the case for war, was in too much of a hurry and was incapable of assembling a true coalition, I nevertheless went along with the program.

There is much cause for concern here. A consensus -- based on false facts, outright lies and exaggerated fears -- took over the nation. We didn't go on a bender, as we did after Pearl Harbor, and incarcerate a particular ethnic group, but we did go to war when we plainly did not have to.

What do you mean we, paleface?

More than 500 Americans and thousands of Iraqis have died for a mistake. Peace has not been brought to the Middle East and America is not only no safer than it was, it may well be in even greater danger. This was no mere failure of intelligence. This was a failure of character.

I wanted to make sure we were straight about whose character is in question, so I sent Richard a little note:

With all due respect, it was a failure of YOUR character, and those of your media compatriots. You all repeated the lies over and over, and let the liars speak them without so much as a word of challenge. They weren't even good liars, but all you did was go along to get along. I and millions -- MILLIONS -- of people around the world thought this war was wrong, and we said so in collective protests and in letters to media and public officials. The media pundits like you mischaracterized us as crazy hippies, communists even, while continuing to beat the drums of war. You need to own up to the gravity of YOUR crimes, not our collective crimes. You personally were complicit in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and hundreds of young soldiers. You personally should be feeling suicidally depressed over what you personally have contributed to.

These words are harsh, I know, but it just isn't enough to write it off as some collective mood. There were plenty of sane voices, and I believe if the media had truly been fair and balanced, this incomprehensible tragedy might have been averted. I don't know what you and your colleagues can do to save your souls, but taking responsibility for your personal contributions to this horror might be a start.




What's in a name?

Critics like Christopher Farah, Andrew Sullivan, and Tucker Carlson are quick to point out that bloggers using pseudonyms can write anything they want and not be held accountable for their ideas.

Tomato Observer has noticed, however, that those whose names are known do not themselves appear to be substantively engaged in the creation of quality ideas, nor in their exchange. The ideas of the corporate media marketplace have become disembodied from the everyday lives of actual human beings to such an extreme as Tomato Observer has never seen before. The ideas of those whose names are known, often are devoid of common sense, yet are quickly mimicked by named colleagues. At the end of the day, the "conventional wisdom" is a collection of silly, capriciously disoriented fairytales that refer to other fairytales for their substance, none of which bears any meaningful resemblance to the real world they are claimed to represent. They are symbols of symbols, simulations of simulations, unraveling faster than those whose names are known can weave them back together.

Perhaps the corporate media marketplace is an exchange of ideas for money. Yet money has always been nothing more than a symbol of something else, and its value as a symbol of quality has diminished over time. As a symbol for the quality of ideas, money clearly is worthless. We don't think it is too arrogant to suggest that Tomato Observer's ideas offered to you for free are worth more than the concepts of a horse farting in someone's face or a dog biting a man in the groin (corporations paid nearly $3 million dollars to bring these ideas to the public during the Super Bowl last weekend).

Tomato Observer used to imagine that those whose names are known (re)create silly ideas because they are afraid for their economic well-being, their family's standard of living, or even for their very lives. Tomato Observer has noted that many people in positions of prominence in media, public office, and corporate America, have become so cowed by the panopticon of public opinion they have created, they barely speak at all, let alone speak their minds. Yet, it is this very absence of resistance that causes Tomato Observer to conclude that it is unlikely that violence is involved.

Tomato Observer suspects that the answer lies at the very heart of naming and being named. To state your name and accept the rights and responsibilities of one whose name is known, is to acknowledge the legitimacy of the system that names you. This system holds that ideas are more valuable when they are created by those whose names are known. This immediately takes us out of the economy of ideas and into the economy of names. Are Tomato Observer's ideas more valuable than say, Bob Novak's? Tomato's mother probably thinks so, but in the system of naming, Tomato's ideas are less than worthless (especially if Tomato wants to pay for a blogging host that will allow the posting of images).

Tomato Observer thinks the ideas are for show (and a poor show it is). Those whose names are known are really engaged in the exchange of names; that is, an influence-peddling circle jerk that is growing ever smaller and more isolated from the everyday world of real human beings. Those whose names are known are tangled in the web they have woven for themselves, and their every move compounds their predicament.

In an economy of names, ideas must be silly and useless. In theory this is so, for those who express aloud the emperor's nakedness, must by the logic of this economy of names, do so from behind the veil of anonymity or from outside the system. There is abundant empirical support as well. The tepid response from those whose names are known, to the President asking, "What's the difference?" between weapons of mass destruction and no weapons of mass destruction, is but one data point among many.

Tomato Observer does not know if a system of no-names is superior to a system of naming, but Tomato Observer is willing to give it a try. After all, Tomato Observer is rather sensible, thus disqualifying us from any system of naming.


Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Usually I like Salon. Today I'm mad at Salon for hiring a stupid moron media whore to write an article about why anonymous bloggers are no good. Christopher "I'm a fucking moron" Farah writes:

These and other bloggers have made names for themselves by having no names at all -- and by using the safety and security of their secret identities to spread gossip, make accusations and levy the most vicious of insults with impunity.

He cites Atrios' joke about "Maria," a maid who was forced by George W. Bush to sleep with him and then have an abortion when she got pregnant. It was a JOKE, and Farah would have been able to tell you that in his article, had he been honest and included enough of the blog entry to make it clear. But being honest wouldn't have served Farah's purpose, to trash anonymous bloggers.

You see, for media whores, writing an article that gets published is just as much about them as it is about the object of their reporting. The advantage to anonymity is that you can get rid of some of the filter. The staff here at Tomato Observer (okay, there' s Tomato and a stuffed bunny) are making our names doing real things in real life with real people. This blog is just one candle against the darkness.


Invading Iraq has made us less safe than we were before. Saddam hadn't attacked us, hadn't threatened to attack us, wasn't capable of attacking us. As Human Rights Watch argues, there is no humanitarian case for invading Iraq. Saddam has a terrible, evil history, but he wasn't committing genocide presently, and you only kill thousands of innocent civilians if you will be preventing the deaths of many more.

Invading Iraq, instead, has reinforced our reputation as arrogant killers, has reinforced the fear and anger that people around the world have toward us, has probably incited many more to commit acts of violence against us, to prevent us from committing more acts of killing against innocent civilians.

We have reinforced the perception that we are a clear and imminent danger, just as the neocons intended. But the neocons think everyone is as fat and cowardly as they are, and will simply lie down in the face of their erect rocket launchers. We would not survive to blog if we were such cooperative animals.


Sunday, February 01, 2004

Nothing less than the truth is acceptable.

I want to hear some serious self-flaggelation from the members of congress who signed the authorization for war. Here is a suggested statement to get you going:

"My decision to go along to get along has resulted in an unneccessary tragedy that is almost too enormous to comprehend. I should probably kill myself, but instead I am going to try and be a better man (or woman)."

Then, you should discuss in detail what you are going to do to make things right, beginning with specific steps you are going to take in vigorous pursuit of the truth.


It's one thing to "go along to get along" when we're talking about which bar to go to or television program to watch.

What do you call it when someone knows someone else is lying to justify murder, and does nothing to stop them? What do you call it when someone knows someone else is lying to justify murder, and helps them to do it since they're going to do it anyway? That's the way I'm listening to politicians and media pundits these days. They helped these criminals to commit mass murder. They did it by going along to get along. Now, Senator Kerry acts surprised. Now, Senator Edwards, who at least looks guilty when he lies, acts surprised. The media drones are so fucking used to this that they barely express emotion anymore at all.

The DNC and Terry McAuliffe issued a statement that candidates should drop out after the 3rd if they haven't won a state. I disagree. The only people getting any air time at all to criticize the current administration are the presidential candidates. Who has effectively criticized the treachery of this administration with regard to the war in Iraq, the way that Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton have? We need a stinging indictment, but it can't and won't come from people who go along to get along. Who has effectively turned politics away from special interests that lead us to war to protect our stuff and get more, like Howard Dean? No one. John Kerry has taken more money from lobbyists in the past 15 years than any other senator!!! He says they haven't bought his vote. What have they bought, then? Is that why he goes along to get along?

Isn't there anything noble or worthwhile about getting more people involved in democracy, as Dean has done and continues to do? Why does the DNC treat us like crap? Who, if not regular voting Democrats, are they going along with, to get along?


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