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Month: June 2006 (page 1 of 3)

White House Executes New York Times

Trial Next Thursday, Bush Says
In a hastily called press conference early this morning, George W. Bush fixed reporters with a steely eye and told them that the New York TImes was no more, calling it “the paper of the broken record.”
The White House was quick to note that the New York Times would be convicted of treason in a completely fair trial before a military tribunal next Thursday. The judge will not be permitted to see the evidence because of national security concerns; but President Bush has already personally assured him that the New York Times was “way guilty.” The New York Times was not earlier given notice of the trial or execution for fear that that would “give aid and comfort to the terrorists.”
The President appeared puzzled by a question from a reporter asking how the White House could convict the paper using a military tribunal similar to that which the Supreme Court ruled illegal yesterday. The President, smirking, scratched his head and said, “That applied to Guantanamo. Last I heard, the New York Times wasn’t anywhere near Cuba.”
George W. Bush and his staff concluded that the New York Times committed treason last week when it published details of a secret government program to sift banking data, and President Bush ordered that the newspaper “be hung by the neck until dead” in a secret missive signed by the President yesterday afternoon. The newspaper was hung, drawn, and quartered shortly after midnight this morning.
Last night, using a mammoth crane, the White House lifted the famous, massive Times building off its foundation and hung it until the backbone of the building snapped in two. Over a million copies of today’s paper, which had been printed but not yet distributed, were pulled apart by teams of horses.
Times readers reacted with outrage over the execution, demanding the immediate return of their subscription fees.

Bush supports contraception. Kinda.

After over a year of dancing around his position on birth control, Pres. Bush has finally said that he supports contraception. But hold your horses–only “responsible” people deserve the right not to procreate.
This Administration supports the availability of safe and effective products and services to assist responsible adults in making decisions about preventing or delaying conception.
So contraception for young people is immediately out. (Enjoy those babies, kids!) Then of course there’s the question of what constitutes a “responsible adult.”
If you take a look at the Bush administration’s record on contraception, the answer is pretty clear.
Rape victims aren’t responsible adults.
Last year the U.S. Department of Justice put out the first-ever federal medical guidelines for treating sexual assault victims. Emergency contraception (the morning after pill) was deliberately left out, despite the fact that it’s the only way to prevent pregnancy after a rape.
Women who shop at pharmacies aren’t responsible adults.
The administration has been oddly silent on the growing trend of extremist pharmacists who are refusing to give women their birth control pills. Because every sperm is sacred. Besides, you shouldn’t be having The Sex anyway, slut.
People whose birth control fails aren’t responsible adults.

Condom broke? Oh well. Wouldn’t have happened if you’d been responsible. For the past three years, women have been waiting for emergency contraception to be available over the counter in order to prevent unplanned pregnancies. But politics has trumped science again and again–with the White House’s knowledge and encouragement.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-D)–who has been a driving force behind getting the president’s position on birth control–asked Bush about this clear contradiction of the administration’s rhetoric and the reality of women’s lives in a recent letter. I’m guessing it’s going to be a while before she gets a response.

The Neville Chamberlain of Global Warming

Bill Blakemore of ABC News recently gave us a moment of clarity:
The President — as far as the extensive and repeated researches of this and many other professional journalists, as well as all scientists credible on this subject, can find — is wrong on one crucial and no doubt explosive issue. When he said — as he also did a few weeks ago — that “There’s a debate over whether it’s manmade or naturally caused” … well, there really is no such debate.

At least none above what is proverbially called “the flat earth society level.”
It is not comforting to hear a reputable journalist say that your President’s understanding of the world is blindly pre-modern. Again, our President is asserting things that are not real, comparable but scarier than saying that the earth is flat — after all, there are graver consequences to the President’s willful ignorance.
2006 is now the year that global warming became real, because the press decided that it was real. They happen to be right, although one has to ask where they’ve been up to now. 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley has been doing great work, as has Time Magazine. And regarding Al Gore’s foray into cinema, “Scientists give An Inconvenient Truth five stars.” (The remarkable thing about this last AP article is that they actually contacted 100 climatologists to ask their opinions on the science presented in the movie. That’s how journalism is done, folks. Seth Borenstein, take a bow.)
And we must give high praise to new environmental hero, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who in the face of severe resistance from Energy and Commerce chair Joe Barton (R-Exxon), requested a National Research Council report which confirmed that indeed, global warming is real and caused by us. (This would have been real Profiles in Courage stuff, but Boehlert’s retiring.)
Global warming is the story of the year… and unfortunately it’s going to continue as such, because it literally hits home. It’s not just Katrina and last year’s horrific hurricane season: New England is seeing historic flooding; tornadoes are at an all-time high. To say that global warming didn’t necessarily cause any of these individual events ignores the elephant in the living room: Last year was the hottest year in 2000 years. The global-warming deniers look more and more like dismembered-but-undeterred Black Knight from Monty Python’s Holy Grail:
“I’m invincible!”
“You’re a loony.”

Al Gore and his “slide show”, of course, are smack in the middle of this. Finally, he’s being taken seriously as a fellow with real ideas, because 1. he’s treating the issue with the urgency it deserves, and 2. he’s right. I have to agree with some critics who feel that the biographical background and political swipes may narrow the appeal of the film to those already favorably disposed to Gore. (Can you really imagine W deigning to watch the film’s rehash of the 2000 recount?) And the film does gloss over the eight years of the Clinton administration’s ambivalent attitude towards taking action on global warming, a lack of moral and message clarity which may well have led to Gore losing Florida to … Ralph Nader. That being said, Gore is the moral leader of this historical moment, filling a huge gap that institutional Democrats have been unable or unwilling to address.
And so, Bush becomes progressively isolated from the real world. Normally politicians are very sensitive to the public sentiment, and try to get out in front of externalities. While one could contend that a lack of attention to polls is a virtue, Bush’s inattention to reality is the reason why he’s polling in the 30’s.
Al Gore quotes Winston Churchill in An Inconvenient Truth: “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients is coming to a close. We are entering an era of consequences.” Unless he wakes up and smells the externalities, Bush can only be called the Neville Chamberlain of global warming.

It’s not to sell papers

One of the most annoying memes that is used to explain the rightward tilt of the mass news media is the claim that stories are chosen or slanted the way they are because these things “sell”. Supposedly, stories that are false, distorted, propagandistic, or utterly trivial are slapped on front pages and TV screens because it is what the public “wants”.
There is no earthly reason to believe this. Time and again, we are presented with stories that merely reiterate views that the public has seen before and no longer finds intriguing. Often the truth would be much more interesting to the public and sell more papers.
For example, as an anti-censorship activist, I have often been asked to explain the startling fact that I represent a feminist organization that opposes the suppression of sexual material. Particularly during the mid-1990s in Britain, this was news, because pro-censorship women had been representing themselves as holding the sole feminist position. Having set that up as the conventional wisdom, they were vulnerable to the newsiness of a group called “Feminists Against Censorship” that directly contradicted what had become the “obvious” analysis, and thus we were able to grab the attention of many journalists and readers alike. And that’s how we changed the debate and ultimately the law.
The press can undoubtedly rouse the citizenry by implying that a recent study shows that pornography could be dangerous. But the press might also arouse the citizenry by informing us that more than half a century of sex crime research shows a direct relationship between sexually-related violence and repressive sexual attitudes.
The press can encourage the public to demand harsher laws by sensationalizing reports of criminals who have been released from prison and then committed new violent crimes. But the press might equally incite the public to demand better rehabilitation programs by giving front-page attention to the fact that we already know that good programs, undertaken in good faith, go much farther to reduce crime and violence.
Similarly, the press today is making a choice to de-sensationalize the startling story of how virtually the entire Republican Congress and their president are embarked in an enormous, unconstitutional criminal enterprise to pour our treasury into their own pockets and those of hugely wealthy donors while destroying our economy and our rights as citizens at the same time.
They choose not to. And whatever their reasons may be, it is certainly not to sell papers.
Washington, DC, used to have two major papers called The Washington Post and The Evening Star. The latter paper was the more conservative and eventually folded from lack of interest. In time, a new, even farther-right paper, Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times, opened up shop in town. It has a predictably meagre readership but a generous owner who funds it himself. Washington’s citizens have not become more conservative, but its newspapers certainly have. Why would The Washington Post move farther to the right if it were intending to pick up subscribers?
In fact, it has lost them precisely because of this move. They may complain that this has something to do with “a new environment” caused in large part by the Internet, but my own father, who had taken the Post on his doorstep for most of his life (and all of mine), did not have any Internet access when he finally cancelled his subscription in disgust. He’s not the only Washington-area resident I know who did this.
The same can be said of The New York Times, another paper that serves a large and liberal metropolitan area yet spent the ’90s shifting to the right, went insane attacking a Democratic president whose detractors came mostly from the far-right although he had barely been in office long enough to offend anyone, and then gave a complete pass to George W. Bush, even going so far as to cover up for the fact that he had lost the presidential election in 2000.
You think the press “loves scandal” to “sell papers”? Good lord, the Bush administration has been a continuous scandal since even before they took over our government, and the press hardly seems to have noticed.
They choose to treat Democrats and liberals badly. They choose not to carry truly liberal stories on the front page. They choose not to argue strongly even for their purported liberal views. They choose to let GOP talking points lead the news.
And it doesn’t sell papers.
[As always, a comment thread will be started at The Sideshow if anyone wishes to discuss this post.]
PSA: I don’t get the Sunday talk shows so I can’t provide Bill’s usual weekly service. However, those who are hungry for a Sunday talk show breakdown might want to check out Roger Ailes (the good one) sitting in at Firedoglake.

The Week in Revue

As a service to its readers, LiberalOasis presents a round-up of actual headlines from around the country.
GOP Pushes Estate Tax Repeal
“Repealing the death tax is our number one priority when we have soldiers fighting over in Iraq,” said House Leader Dennis Hastert. “They are the ones who are in most danger of having to pay it.”
Bank Data Sifted by U.S. Secretly in Terror Fight
“Warrants are for wimps,” said Dick Cheney. “Read my lips. We don’t need no stinkin’ warrants.”
Doctors See Way To Ease Suffering from Executions
“And I thought, maybe we shouldn’t kill them quite so much,” said Dr. Gwendolyn Methusalah.
Dr. Methusalah is engineering a new form of execution she calls “Barely Lethal Injection.”
Supreme Court Ruling Eviscerates Knock Knock Joke
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that police could enter an apartment after orally announcing their presence, without waiting for the occupant to answer the door. Humorists were horrified. “They got rid of the knock!” said entertainer Wiley the Clown.
Funny people now maintain that the ruling destroys the comedic import of the knock-knock joke and renders it obsolete. “All of a sudden, it’s, at best, knock-knock and you have to go right in to the punchline. No waiting for the response from the audience, no who’s there. It’s awful,” said Stan Menchnik, a comedian from Brooklyn.
Menchnik demonstrated. “Knock knock. Sam and Janet Evening,” he said without a pause. “Here’s another: Knock knock. Orange you glad I didn’t say banana.”
“You see?” he said. “Not funny.”
Menchnik said that comedians are attempting to create a new joke, the “barge right in” joke. “Here’s how it goes: Police!”

Condoms reduce HPV risk (much to the chagrin of religious conservatives)

A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine reports that consistent condom use reduces women’s HPV risk.
[The study] followed 82 female college undergraduates who reported their first intercourse with a male partner during the study or within two weeks of its start. The women had pelvic exams and HPV and Pap tests every four months. They also completed a Web-based diary about their sexual behavior every two weeks…Women whose partners always used a condom were 70% less likely to acquire an HPV infection than women whose partners used condoms less than 5% of the time, the University of Washington researchers found.
Clearly this is fantastic news–certain strains of HPV cause cervical cancer, which kills 200,000 women a year worldwide. But religious conservatives who promote abstinence may not be so pleased with this news. They’re already in a tizzy over the HPV vaccine, and this study is just another nail in their scare-tactic coffin.
Katha Pollitt reported on this last year:
Christian conservatives have a special reason to be less than thrilled about the HPV vaccine. Although not as famous as chlamydia or herpes, HPV has the distinction of not being preventable by condoms. It’s Exhibit A in those gory high school slide shows that try to scare kids away from sex, and it is also useful for undermining the case for rubbers generally–why bother when you could get HPV anyway? In 2000, Congressman (now Senator) Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who used to give gruesome lectures on HPV for young Congressional aides, even used HPV to propose warning labels on condoms. With HPV potentially eliminated, the antisex brigade will lose a card it has regarded as a trump unless it can persuade parents that vaccinating their daughters will turn them into tramps, and that sex today is worse than cancer tomorrow.
We already know that Focus on the Family has their claws in the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)–which recommends how the vaccine should be administered. Which of course, should be never.
Leslie Unruh of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse has said “If you don’t want to suffer these diseases, you need to abstain…I personally object to vaccinating children against a disease that is 100% preventable with proper sexual behavior.”
Proper=zero, naturally. I wonder how Unruh (scariest woman ever) and the rest of the anti-sex sect will react to the news that their number-one scare tactic is on it’s way to being completely preventable. I’m guessing they’ll just ignore the study outright and go along their fear-mongering way.
Even with this great news about condom use and HPV, it’s ridiculously important that they’re not successful in blocking the vaccine from being mandatory for entry into public schools. Cause these same folks will be telling kids that condoms don’t work anyway. Cancer, schmancer. Better that teens pretend to be abstinent than actually have medically accurate information that could save their life.

Democratic Unity on Iraq? Really?

This week has found the Democrats finally putting the GOP on the defensive about our future actions in Iraq — perhaps because the Dems took the tiniest of baby steps towards having an actual debate about what the hell we ought to do now. How about that: Leadership … even if overdue and too timid. Well, they tried everything else. And I have a sense it will start to work politically. The Democratic position on Iraq is this: We don’t want to be there forever. A date certain, gradual pullout, redeployment — that can all be negotiated. But it is a useful reassurance to a weary public, and a stark contrast with the GOP, which has really painted itself into a corner. Republicans still think it’s 2004. The public was doubtful then, but pissed off now. In 2006, I think the public will find that “stay the course” has a depressing ring to it.
And as a bonus, Karl Rove’s sleazy but now stale lines were met with equal ferocity by Jack Murtha, a guy who has actually seen combat. This is how you do it, folks:
He’s in New Hampshire, he’s making a political speech, he’s sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big fat backside, saying, “Stay the course.” That’s not a plan. I mean, this guy — I don’t know what his military experience is but that’s a political statement. This is a policy difference between me and the White House. I disagree completely with what he’s saying.
Finally, someone has called Rove’s bluff in a convincing manner. “Stay the course — that’s not a plan.” Look, you can’t defend yourself from Karl Rove, per se; the blows will land, and they’ll hurt. So you gotta reach for the biggest, bluntest object you have: Outrage and — most importantly — derision. (And isn’t that what the blogs have provided for years?) Murtha doesn’t take Rove’s bluster at face value, and it’s a wonder why anyone ever has. Bash back. Up the ante.
And let’s not overplay the significance of a genuine difference of opinion within the Democratic Party. In his new support for a date certain for withdrawal, John Kerry is at least providing a useful frame of reference for the debate; this kind of division may actually be healthy. Of course, the president’s proposal is far more extreme: As Josh Marshall points out, he has no plan to ever not be in Iraq. He’s happy just having us camp out there until the next president bails us all out. The Dems are correct, morally and politically, to appeal to the public’s impatience with the Iraq escapade. Look for them to remind the public how long this has been going on, as from Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI):
“This is about getting the president to do the job correctly, something
he has failed to do for the last three years and three months.”

Time is not on the GOP’s side. The proposals make the GOP defend the idea that an unpopular war should be extended indefinitely. That’s the real untenable position. After three years and three months, people have had enough; and there is growing realization that the US presence detracts from the sense of urgency among Iraqi leaders (even Hillary agrees on this) and inflames the insurgency.
The Democrats don’t even need to be unified on this. They’re the opposition, after all, and it’s understood that they don’t bear responsibility for this mess. But they owe it to themselves, and us, to ask tough questions about what to do now, to be accountable to the historical moment. For now, the Dems should not be afraid of good-faith disagreement within the ranks. Right now, they sound a hell of a lot more serious, realistic and statesmanlike than the brittle GOP.

Don’t Think of the Elephant on the Table

The blogosphere has become an important new cultural, political, and journalistic phenomenon. The Yearly Kos celebrated the newfound power of the blogosphere — and there will be many other conferences to ponder what it all means.
There are also all sorts of conferences this summer to discuss politics and important issues of the day as we head into the drama of the mid-term elections. But amidst all of the turmoil of the changing political landscape and fascinating advances in communications technology — one thing remains largely unchanged. When organizations get together, one subject that is rarely on the agenda is the religious right and what to do about it.
Oh sure, the legislative policy wonks talk about the threat of the Right to their agenda, but in terms of seriously building an understanding of this formidable movement into the short and long term planning of the major organizations in America, it just doesn’t much happen.
Sometimes we wonder why the religious right is doing so well. It is the leading faction in the GOP in Congress these days. And it enjoys outright control of many state Republican parties including Texas — where they recently reaffirmed their conviction that the U.S. was founded as a Christian Nation.
The religious right has influenced the domestic and foreign policy of the Bush administration on quite a range of matters, and with appalling consequences. For example, Uganda had a model AIDS prevention program. But thanks to the coercive funding policies of the Bush administration, “abstinence only” replaced the successful model program — and recently the minister of health announced that the HIV rate had doubled.
Horror stories abound.
But here is the deal.
In order to have coherent conversations about the religious right — just as with any subject — it helps to have some kind of common set of knowledge, an agreed upon set of terms, and the capacity to develop deeper understandings that can inform our evolving understanding of the dynamics of political life. I have suggested five books that could form the basis for such a conversation. At the blog site, Talk to Action, we are trying to ratchet-up our collective literacy about these things. But it is just one place. We need to have more such places in our political lives to have these conversations. One event that always features at least one discussion of the right is the annual reproductive rights conference at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.
I was on the panel this year, when a remarkable thing happened:
There were about sixty-five people in the session; mostly young; almost all women. Some worked for reproductive rights organizations around the country. As always, it was an interesting and informative set of presentations, and a thought provoking question and answer period.
At the end of the program, each of the presenters was asked to take a minute for a final word.
I took my minute to observe that in our workplaces; in our political organizations, be they prochoice, LGBT, Democratic Party; whatever — there are no spaces where we can speak knowledgeably and coherently about the religious right. As I said this, audible murmurs of agreement rippled through the room, and there was a visible physical reaction among many. I was startled by this: clearly I had surfaced and identified a need people have in their political lives.

At conferences all over America this summer, the elephant on the table will be the religious right — and everyone will be talking around it. Few will be so impolite as to ask when we are going to actually talk about it.

Those Awful Liberal Ideas

I’m always on the lookout for brief outlines of what we stand for that could fit on one side of a single sheet of paper to be popped through peoples’ doors or left on freebie tables at local markets, cafés, clubs, chruches, and so on. I think I may have found one recently when I wrote an article at The Sideshow about Ann Coulter, “Why the harpy screeches“, that elicited a comment from a right-wing troll calling himself “tom harrester” who said:

Sorry folks but I have read the books. Coulter DEMOLISHES one liberal position after another with logic and relentless sourcing. You airily dismiss her with one vapid sentence “Her message is that liberals are evil….” Can you not see why the “liberal” sphere of influence is shrinking? A proper democracy requires at least 2 sides of argument. The Left’s continuing slide into political limbo will continue as long as it’s current policies are pursued.

I don’t suppose this person understands how recursive it is to say that Ann Coulter is right because her books say she is right, but we’ll let that pass, since I liked the snarky response from Charles (of Mercury Rising) better:

The left never had an idea anyone liked, which is why it’s in terminal decline. Think of all the completely repulsive things the left stands for, such as:

  • letting people earn enough money so that they can live indoors,
  • schools for all children, not just the lucky 10%,
  • not wiretapping people just because they have political views different than the government,
  • medical care for the elderly,
  • lawyers for people accused of crimes, even if they can’t pay for it,
  • prosecutors for all criminals, even ones that wear white collars,
  • not starting random wars for profit,
  • paying the country’s bills, rather than letting debt pile up for other generations…

The list is long, and the public hates it. Why, if the left would just shut up, the United States could become a free market paradise like Haiti.

There, Tom, the truth is out for all to see. Just point your right wing friends to this confession that the left is intellectually bankrupt.

He left out Social Security, but never mind. The joke is that most Americans not only support these liberal ideas, but have ceased to think of them as “liberal”. In fact, most people probably think of support for such ideas as apolitical, and if they see them as ideological at all, they think of them as “conservative”. People who support these things will also describe themselves as “moderate” or “conservative”. They are unaware that today’s conservatives are actively embarked on a program to get rid of these mainstream liberal ideas.

But I like the way Charles has re-phrased those liberal policies into plain English in such a way that they just might make a great reminder of what those horrible liberal ideas are that conservatives are always deriding. Might make ’em think.

On another meme-related point, my mission this week has been to ask people to stop talking about the “war”. As long as people think of it as a “war” they think our only choices are to “win” or to “lose”, and that getting out of the quagmire means to “cut and run” or “surrender”.

But it’s not a war. It’s an occupation. You don’t “win” or “lose” an occupation.

[I’ll be linking to this at The Sideshow; since LO doesn’t have comments, anyone who wants to discuss this post is welcome to do so at my place. Trolls will be given all the respect they deserve, however.]

“Look At Me, I Turned A Corner in Iraq,” Says Bush

President George Bush surprised himself in Baghdad this week by boldly predicting that he had “turned a corner.”
“Today I looked myself in the eye,” he said, “and I liked what I saw.”
President Bush had originally travelled to Iraq to encourage Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to establish a true democracy “just like America’s,” he said. “But without the extreme religious groups,” he added.
Bush, swollen with pride after U.S. troops successfully killed terrorist leader Musab al-zaquari, told the Iraqi people that everything was on the upswing for him now. “I don’t read the polls,” he told them, “but I sure want the ones I’m not reading to be really good.”
When pressed by reporters to say something about the future of Iraq, Bush told them he was confident that Iraq’s poll numbers would get better, too.

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