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What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Bush to POWs: Too bad, So sad

Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court earlier this week refused to take the case of a group of 17 Desert Storm veterans who had been held (and some tortured) as POWs in 1991 (some even held at Abu Ghraib prison) and, due to a 1996 law that allowed victims of torture at the hands of nations that sponsor terrorism, won a judgment against Iraq in 2002 nearing $1 billion dollars.

In 2003, the Bush administration decided that the mighty dollar was more important than the suffering of men who had served their country in combat and appealed the case on the grounds that Iraq no longer was a state sponsor of terrorism, so fuck you very much, veterans. The money my fellow Gulf War vets had been awarded needed to be spent in Iraq. So much for Iraqi oil paying for Iraq's reconstruction.

Unlike the Terri Schiavo case, it seems no one in Congress was there to stand up for the POWs and plead their case. Where were the chicken hawk right-wingers who love the military so much? The Tom DeLays, the Bill Frists, demanding justice for the 17 POWs and their families?Not so much as a peep anywhere. No late-night deals to attempt to change the outcome of the case, no photo-ops sound-bites to express outrage over the decisions of the courts. Nothing. It just goes to show that the Bush administration really does not value the sacrifice of the men and women who have served their country honorably. Being tortured apparently is just part of the job in serving your country.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Paging Doctor Frist

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sure has been all over the news recently. You'll recall a few weeks back when Sen. Frist and Rep. Tom "Ethics" DeLay interjected themselves into the Terri Schiavo case, with Frist using his medical expertise to better understand Schiavo's condition. Without actually examining her in the way a doctor normally would, which usually involves the doctor and patient in close proximity, hopefully in the same room, for the exam to be most effective (he apparently reviewed video tapes and the testimony of a few doctors who felt Schiavo wasn't in a vegetative state, something Dr. Ronald Cranford, an actual neurologist who actually physically examined Schiavo strongly disagrees with).

Now Frist is out on the airways to blast Democrats for being "obstructionist" in not confirming ten Bush administration judicial nominees (out of 171 they did confirm) and wanting to do away with the filibuster in order to make sure Bush's nominees get to the Senate for confirmation. “My goal is to have fair up-or-down votes on judicial nominees," Frist told reporters at a press conference. Never mind the fact that the Republican led Congress used the filibuster to block 60 of Bill Clinton's judicial nominees.

Let's go back in time to 1996, when Clinton judicial nominee Richard A. Paez was blocked from confirmation...for four years. Yes, it wasn't until March 10, 2000, that Paez was confirmed. Four years that Republicans prevented an up-or-down vote on a judicial nominee.

And why, exactly, did Republicans object to Paez? Well, according to a press release issued by former New Hampshire Republican Senator Bob Smith (PDF viewer required to read press release) on March 9, 2000, Smith stated his reason: "Paez and (Marsha) Berzon (another Clinton nominee) are activist judges. I think they are out of the mainstream of American thought and I don't think either one should be on the court."

Say, that has a familiar ring to it.

The press release continues:

"Smith...built a coalition of several moderate and Conservative senators in an effort to block the nominations."

Quick: can you name one of the senators in that coalition? If you said "Bill Frist," you win!

Rush Limbaugh's Obsession

I missed a great bit from Rush Limbaugh. On his April 12 show, Limbaugh babbled on about Al Gore's new TV network. And Rush was pissed that Gore had stated his network would reflect the views of young people: "What the hell is that, Al?...what the hell is the point of view of young people? Blow jobs, that's what they're doing out there. They're out there getting oral sex all day long, that's what they're talking about."

Man, I had no idea that Limbaugh had his pulse on the youth of America.

Limbaugh, of course, blamed Bill Clinton for making oral sex "the number one sport in high school today." And here I thought it was football.

Click here to listen to part of Limbaugh's tirade.

I wonder what Rush's pal Newt Gingrich thought of the whole oral sex angle. He is, after all, intimately familiar with the idea of it not actually being sex.

And finally, the Top 10 Conservative Idiots from the Democratic Underground.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

How to Thank Veterans

A group of 17 Desert Storm veterans, all held as POWs in Iraq in 1991, won a lawsuit in 2003 as compensation for their treatment (they were tortured) at the hands of Saddam Hussein's regime. The award was nearly $1 billion. The POWs were able to sue Iraq due to anti-terrorism legislation passed in 1996.

"For the...48 days of my captivity, I experienced torture, starvation, mock executions and confinement in a freezing, filthy environment," retired Marine Corps Colonel Cliff Acree told the Copley News Service on April 7. Acree also suffered "violent, prolonged and frequent beatings, to the point of being beaten into unconsciousness."

"This case is not so much about us, as for the people who follow on...we want Iraq to be held accountable for what it did to us and have that serve as an example for other nations (that might hold Americans prisoner in the future," Acree added.

Another POW, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Tice recalled his imprisonment in Iraq, "...Shivering, starving and just trying to survive for the next 15 minutes ... I never, ever imagined, in my wildest dreams, that I would be petitioning the Supreme Court to help me fight my own country for the rule of law."

The tortured Gulf War veterans at the present time are not going to receive a dime; the Bush administration appealed the case to the U.S. Circuit Court in Washington, D.C., claiming the money needed to go to Iraq to pay for reconstruction, and that the current government of Iraq could not be held accountable for what happened under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. The case has been appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

You'd think with all of the money we've poured into Iraq, the least we could do as a nation would be to award the men who not only served their country, but were tortured and abused as part of that service. But hey, I guess the money is better spent providing free health care for Iraqi citizens.

John Norton Moore, a lawyer for the POWs, counters that the United States does have the money to pay the Gulf War vets, as $1.7 billion in assets had been seized from Iraq during Desert Storm.

It's just a small thank-you from the Bush administration, the kind of thank-you our veterans have come to expect from an administration that holds corporations in higher regard than the men and women who serve this country.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Will They Nail The Hammer?

Remember the 90's? A great decade, and we had a great president. Lots of people were working and the budget deficit left behind by Ronald Reagan was being turned into a surplus. Good times.

Throughout that decades, Republicans did everything in their power to punish Bill Clinton legally, based on vague allegations of wrongdoing, from Whitewater to the travel office firings, Republicans really enjoyed launching endless investigations of Clinton, all part of an investigation by independent counsel Kenneth Star. $40 million dollars later and the verdict was in: insufficient evidence to charge Bill and Hillary Clinton with any crimes.

When it's one of their own, however, Republicans aren't quite as interested in getting to the bottom of things. Tom DeLay, the House's ethically-challenged majority leader, has so far not found himself at the center of any investigations into wrongdoings, despite three admonitions from the House Ethics Committee last year and allegations of numerous potential violations of House ethics rules.

On Wednesday it appeared that the ethics committee was ready to launch an investigation into DeLay. There was a small catch: House Democrats had to agree to changes in the way ethics violations would be investigated -- a change that many had charged was simply a way to protect DeLay.

Democrats rejected the deal, so for now, it's unlikely that there will be any investigations into DeLay. Of course, Republicans claimed Democrats were only interested in using DeLay as a "political punching bag," which is pretty funny when you think of all the times Republicans used Bill Clinton as a "political punching bag."

House speaker Dennis Hastert issued a veiled threat that Democrats might find themselves investigated (rather than DeLay, I think): "There’s probably four or five cases out there dealing with top level Democrats...there’s a reason that they don’t want to go to the ethics process and as long as they can keep somebody dangling out there like they have Tom Delay, they take great glee in that," Hastert said on Sean Hannity's radio show.

Taking glee in a political attack...sounds awfully familiar. Straight out of the Republican playbook.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Stop the ACLU! And other great right-wing ideas

Conservatives cannot stand dissent. When President Bush gave his "you're either with us or against us in the war on terror" speech in 2001, right-wingers really took it to heart. Anyone who dared to speak out against the Bush administration was immediately labeled a traitor (not that conservatives understand the concept or legal definition of treason).

Take the case of the Dixie Chicks. Singer Natalie Maines had said at a London concert in 2003 that she was "ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." And before you could say "book burning" country music stations across the nation removed the Dixie Chicks from their playlists. You know, because you cannot criticize the president! Except when he's a Democrat, of course.

Comedian Margaret Cho found herself on the receiving end of "compassionate conservatism" following a stand-up gig for Move On in Jan. 2004 when she received hundreds of e-mails from nut-job right-wingers outraged over her comments (a few minutes from her stand-up act) and her (the horror!) criticism of the Bush administration.

Jon Alvarez of the organization Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood has taken the concept of ostracizing anyone who speaks out against George W. Bush by organizing boycotts against anyone in the film/TV industries who dare to say anything critical of George W. Bush. Alvarez even has a petition up to have Michael Moore charged with treason. Really. I wrote a column about Alvarez last year to challenge his claim in the petition that Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11 had resulted in the deaths of American troops. From the petition: "Director Michael Moore's film can only be seen as irresponsible, dangerous and thus a threat to our national security. How many more American captives will be executed as a result of Michael Moore's actions?"

The answer was none, according to a spokesman from the United States Central Command I had contacted.

If you can log onto Alvarez's site (he has blocked me from logging on as we have a bit of a...history) and take a look at the message boards, you'll find the surreal list of celebrities to boycott, which must be in the thousands by now. At the rate people are added to the list (as well as the distributors of movies starring the boycotted actors and the theater chains the movies are shown at), before long Alvarez's robots will not be able to ever see any movie, since at some point the boycotted actors/directors will invariably make a movie with an actor/director on the "good celebrity" list.

And now we have a grassroots movement to stop the ACLU. Lots of blogs and web sites out there really wanting ACLU not only stopped, but put out of business. Because, you know, the ACLU really stands for the Anti-Christian Liberties Union. They're a threat to America! It's just nuts. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the efforts to stop the ACLU, but the question I would ask is this: how many court cases has the ACLU won, and how many have they lost? That would seem to be an important consideration. If they are losing cases, that means they are not completely successful in advancing their "radical" agenda. Here's a funny bit from the group I linked to above:

See how your Congressmen and senators "stack up" to the ACLU's wacko agenda!

Which 18 Congressmen have 100% records with the ACLU?
Which 5 Senators voted with the ACLU every time except on the date rape drug Raves? (heck, no senator was with the ACLU on this one, not even Hilary or Old Ted)
Which 25 Congressmen supported the ACLU's position on Raves?
Which 72 Congressmen agreed with the ACLU on the death penalty
Which lawmakers sided with the ACLU's radical pro-abortion positions?
Who backed the ACLU in support of flag desecration?


Let's look at some of those numbers. Now, 18 members of Congress out of 435 is a very small percentage, only .04%. Five senators out of 100 is only .05%. You can see that the members of Congress in complete support of the ACLU's "agenda" is very, very small, as to almost be insignificant.

The ACLU has every right to do what they do. That's hard for conservatives to swallow, but it's true. They are not breaking any laws. And not every court rules in favor of the ACLU. Is there really a reason to stop them?

Conservatives have taken what should be constructive debate and instead have created an atmosphere of intimidation for anyone in opposition of their ideals. Conservatives like to say that liberals hate America. But they're wrong.

They hate America.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

You Can't Handle The Truth!

Question: what do you do when statistics show that something that should be on the decline is actually on the rise, and at a rate much worse than you've said? Well, if you're the Bush Administration, and the State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism shows an increase in terrorist activity overall since George W. Bush took office, you simply stop publishing the report. That'll teach 'em!

Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst who also served as the deputy director of the State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism from 1989 - 1993 (and has been seen on cable news as an expert guest) broke the Patterns of Global Terrorism story on the Counterterrorism Blog.

According to Johnson:

Just when you thought the Department of State could not top last year's debacle in failing accurately to count the number of international terrorist incidents, it appears that the State Department is going one step better--they reportedly have decided to not issue a report to the public. This move has been prompted by the Department's discovery that the new methodology used by the recently formed National Counter Terrorism Center has produced statistics that shows an enormous jump in the number of international terrorist attacks. For example, in 2003 there were about 172 significant attacks. The numbers for 2004 have jumped to at least 655.

It is tough to argue we are winning the war on terrorism when the numbers in the official Government report will show the largest number of incidents ever recorded since the State Department started reporting on terrorist incidents.

The Seattle Times also ran a piece on Johnson's column on Sat., April 16. Quoting Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman:

This is the definitive report on the incidence of terrorism around the world...it should be unthinkable that there would be an effort to withhold it — or any of the key data — from the public. The Bush administration should stop playing politics with this critical report.

Also from the Seattle Times:

Another U.S. official said (Secretary of State Condolezza ) Rice's office was leery of the center's methodology, believing that analysts eager to avoid a repetition of last year's undercount included incidents that may not have been terrorist attacks. The U.S. intelligence officials said Rice's office eliminated Patterns of Global Terrorism when the counterterrorism center declined to use alternative methodology that would have reported fewer significant attacks.

So much for the fiction that the world is safer from terrorism due to our role in the war on terror. Also: the fact that Al-Qaeda hasn't attacked us since 9/11 doesn't necessarily mean that domestic anti-terrorism programs are preventing those attacks. We do know that Al-Qaeda is willing to wait years before launching an attack. Hopefully if they do strike again here we'll actually be ready for them.

One last quick note: blogger MoxieGrrrl's (she's angry) fabulous blog was featured on CNN on April 15. And while I am happy for Mox I am also intensely jealous. How can I get on CNN? If someone knows how let me know. I want that sweet taste of fame.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Fair and Balanced

If you're a conservative guest on Hannity and Colmes, and need to know how to respond to the "hard pressing" questions from liberal host Alan Colmes, Sean Hannity will be there to hold your hand. Because fair and balanced means telling your guests what to say, instead of letting them respond on their own.

According to the New York Daily News, on the March 31 episode of Hannity and Colmes, Hannity coached his guests, two former nurses of Terri Schiavo, between commercials, on how to respond to questions from Alan Colmes. (A tape of the comments was obtained by comedian/radio personality Harry Shearer and aired on his program Le Show last week).

Here's a transcript of what Hannity said:

"Just say 'I'm here to tell what I saw'...no matter what the question, 'I'm here to tell you what I saw. I'm here to tell you what I saw.'"

And:
"Say, 'I'm not going to be distracted by silliness.' How's that? Does that help you? Look into the camera. Look at me when I'm talking."

What better way is there to get to the truth by telling your guest what the truth is?

Fox News. They report, and they decide.

Speaking of Fox News, Media Matters For America reported that Bill O'Reilly is convinced gay marriage will result in someone wanting to marry a goat. Really. A goat. Here's the quote, from the March 29 broadcast of The Radio Factor:

So this is just the beginning, ladies and gentlemen, of this crazy gay marriage insanity -- is gonna lead to all kinds of things like this. Courts are gonna be clogged. Every nut in the world is gonna -- somebody's gonna come in and say, "I wanna marry the goat." You'll see it; I guarantee you'll see it.

Which raises the question, how does O'Reilly know it's going to be a goat? What about a buffalo or a duck-billed platypus? Who knows what kind of craziness will ensue with gay marriage. Bill O'Reilly seems to know.

And finally, my favorite pundit, Ann Coulter, weighing in on an incident a few months back where she was attacked with pies. In her latest column, Coulter offered this opinion of the pie throwers:

Last October, two liberals responded to my speech at the University of Arizona – during question and answer, no less – by charging the stage and throwing two pies at me from a few yards away. Fortunately for me, liberals not only argue like liberals, they also throw like girls.

And now, the good part:

Unfortunately for them, Republican men don't react favorably to two "Deliverance" boys trying to sucker-punch a 110-pound female in a skirt and heels. The geniuses ended up with bloody noses and broken bones.

That's what is great about Ann. In the same column, where she decries physical attacks against conservatives, she thinks it's great that the pie-throwers were beaten to the point of breaking bones.

Ann, what would we do without you?







Wednesday, April 13, 2005

When Good Technology Goes Bad

Sorry for the lack of updates, Dear Reader, but my broadband provider has been having some major network issues over the past two days. Internet access is available, and then all of the sudden it's out for several hours. So I have to take the opportunity now to post before the network goes down (again).

Before today I had never heard of the American Family Association and its online publication, the AFA journal. The group is right-wing Christian, and since I'm not Christian (or right-wing), I don't think I'd ever have any reason to check them out. But in looking at some articles online today (in the few minutes I've been able to get online) I caught at article from AFA called Homeless by Choice.

It's a great read. No, it's not, it actually creeps right up to anti-Semitisim. The author of the piece basically implies that a Jewish upbringing is just a step away from a life of crimes and drugs.

Writing about a man named Keith Wasserman, who operates a ministry program for the homeless, author Randall Murphree states, of Wasserman:

"The Athens, Ohio, man grew up in a Jewish home and developed a hostile attitude toward Christ. As a teenager, he used drugs, sold drugs and accumulated quite a juvenile crime record. But after a high school friend persistently witnessed to him, Keith accepted Christ during his junior year in high school."

Isn't that heartwarming? So, I guess if you grow up in a Jewish home, hating Christ is bound to turn you to a life of crime. Something Christian proselytyzers do not understand are the complicated implications of someone Jewish becoming Christian.

Right away you lose the Right of Return, which allows any Jew to live in Israel. In fact, once you become Christian, you are no longer considered Jewish: you are not counted for a minyan and you lose the right to a Jewish burial, among other things. Maybe that sounds harsh, but one cannot be Jewish and worship Christ. Sorry. It's like saying you're Christian but follow the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. I think in that situation you'd be considered a Muslim, not a Christian.

I realize many Christians probably do not think there are consequences for someone Jewish to become Christian. There are, and Rabbi Tovia Singer's Outreach Judaism is a great web site that offers up the Jewish perspective as it relates to Christian proselytizing, while proving some background on the Jewish faith and what we believe.

Now, lest you think I'm anti-Christian, I'm not. But I'd never presume to try and pressure a Christian to give up their faith for another faith. And we Jews deal with proselytizing a lot; some Christian groups even actively seek out Jews for conversion, as the Southern Baptist Convention did in 1995.

Let's face it, it's difficult enough being Jewish in America (as this offensive tract from Jack Chick illustrates) or around the world, for that matter. Many Christians still hold to the belief that Jews are guilty of deicide in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and of course most Middle Eastern countries would like to see Israel wiped off the face of the map.

Look, let me deal with my own afterlife. You may think I'm hellbound, which is fine, that's your belief, but it's not mine, and I wouldn't presume to convince you otherwise.

Thus concludes tonight's sermon.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sleep Would Be Nice

Insomnia is frustrating on so many levels, but what really sucks is "the wait." My fellow insomniacs, you know what "the wait" is: waiting for the hour that (hopefully) finally comes when you actually get sleepy. For me, that was 4:00 this morning. Usually I'm asleep by 3:00 (and, one amazing night a week ago, at 1:30 a.m.) and I wake up by 11:00 a.m., and it's off to school for my daily dose of liberal indoctrination. You know, because all colleges try to brainwash students into believing the liberal ideology.

One piece of good news today: the announcement of possible troop withdrawal from Iraq, perhaps as early as next year. Senior military officials say the U.S. force level in Iraq might be reduced from 142,000 to 105,000. No firm word yet from the Bush administration, though, and factors to affect troop withdrawal include how quickly Iraqi police and military can be trained to take over from U.S. and coalition forces. In an interview with CNN two weeks ago, Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., the top commander in Iraq, said that, if all goes well, "we should be able to take some fairly substantial reductions in the size of our forces" by this time next year.

I've already seen on some of the right-wing message boards that liberals will supposedly be upset by this news, which just goes to show how crazy those people are. I'm wondering if over the next few days the usual suspects (Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh) will comment on how liberals suddenly do not want troops to come home from Iraq. I guess the thinking must be that if the troops come home, Bush's policy in Iraq was a success, and liberals cannot stand for Bush to have a successful foreign policy. Which is asinine. Troops coming home is a good thing.

One last thing: gas prices. Getting higher. The average is $2.28 a gallon; this week will be the fourth week in a row that gas prices have increased. And it's usually in times like these that the politicians come out to blame the crisis on the president. Now, let us go back in time to...

Those Wacky High Gas Prices in 2000!

Yes, gas prices were high in 2000, and Republican members of Congress hit the media to bitch about it.

Rep. Terry Everett, Republican, Alabama:

Clinton "Napping" While Americans Assaulted With High Gas Prices
March 17, 2000

"The Clinton Administration has failed in its duty to develop a policy to deal with our national energy supply and is therefore directly accountable for the higher prices Americans are now paying at the gas pumps," Congressman Terry Everett, R-Enterprise, said (on March 17). "...only the Administration has the power to order our ambassadors to get tough with the oil producing nations. Many Americans find it offensive that some of these same OPEC member nations, for which American troops shed blood during the Gulf War, are now involved in an oil price setting scam while the Administration just shrugs its shoulders."

Rep. Dennis Hastert
From CNN, July 14, 2000

"House Speaker Dennis Hastert accused the Clinton administration Friday of misleading members of Congress about the causes of skyrocketing gas prices in the Midwest...Hastert set the stage for a heated political joust in a tersely worded memo to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner, whom he accused of misleading 30 members of Congress during a June 15 meeting."

Larry Kudlow, The National Review
March 28, 2000

"The Clinton-Gore administration’s hapless and incoherent management of foreign policy is nowhere as evident as in their bungling on OPEC’s oil-price hike. Energy secretary Bill Richardson’s tin-cup diplomacy — Tom DeLay’s apt phrase for his pleading to our so-called Persian Gulf allies to increase production and reduce prices — is unseemly and inappropriate for the world’s only superpower."

UPI, March 13, 2000
Republicans Use High Gas Prices Against Democrats

"With gas prices at their highest level in nearly a decade, Republicans have begun using them to fuel political attacks against the Clinton administration and against Democratic presidential front-runner Vice President Gore.

The average price of a gallon of gas at stations across the country this week rose to roughly $1.50, including taxes, according to statistics from the Department of Energy. The department predicted a further 30 cent price hike through the summer; some analysts have predicted $2 per gallon prices by Memorial Day. This time last year the average price of a gallon of gas was just over $1.

'The price of oil is clearly getting some attention, as it should,' Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Ark., said at a GOP press conference Wednesday. 'This is going to be a big issue in the political campaigns because this country is in a period now of coming to the reality that we're getting hit all over.'

Murkowski and fellow Senate Republicans blamed the Clinton administration for a bungled energy policy that left U.S. oil supplies at the mercy of international markets and made matters worse in 1993 with a 4 cent per gallon gas tax, approved in Congress with a tie-breaker vote by Gore."

I think it's to be assumed these same Republicans and conservatives will not be as vocal nor blame George W. Bush about high gas prices now. When in doubt, blame Clinton!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Saturday Blahs

I wish I was one of those people who can fall asleep anytime, anywhere, within minutes. I have a friend who could probably fall asleep on top of a stereo speaker blaring heavy metal music at the highest volume. And he'd be asleep right before the first guitar solo.

Instead, what I deal with is falling asleep really late...like, say, 4:00 a.m. My fellow insomniacs will know just how hard it is to pass that time, and how frustrating it can be, as you sit on your couch in your silenced home, with the wife (or husband, or partner) and children (if any) sleeping peacefully while you stare at the wall and try to make out patterns in the carpeting or admire how your living room is painted.

Sigh.

It's been a particularly quiet Saturday, at least as far as politics go. So, to liven things up, let's take a look at what the top right-wing pundits are up to.

Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin

Malkin's column for this week, posted up at WorldNet Daily, is about...Jane Fonda, and for the millionth time we get a rehash of what "Hanoi" Jane did in Vietnam back in 1972. Malkin must have writer's block this week. What's next? A report on Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick incident?

Crazed Harpy Ann Coulter

Ann's bitching about liberals and Christianity in her current column. Yeah, yeah, we've got it, Ann, we've heard it from you a million times, liberals hate America and Christianity. What's next? A scathing piece on liberal bias in the media?

Rush "Oxycontin" Limbaugh

Rush is bitching about liberals and Christianity at his web site. Yeah, yeah, we've got it, Rush, we've heard it from you a million times, liberals hate America and Christianity. What's next? A scathing piece on the White House Travel Office firings?

Laura "I'm not Ann Coulter" Ingraham

Can't say I know much about her, and a visit to her web site wasn't particularly interesting, although through a poll at the web site her fans, apparently, had some problem with Jimmy Carter being on Air Force One to attend Pope John Paul's funeral. As of 4:58 p.m. April 9, 86% of respondents said "no." I'm not sure why they opposed Jimmy Carter going to the funeral. Maybe he snores loudly? I mean, it's a long plane ride to Rome. Or maybe W. didn't want to be bored with stories of how Carter had built hundreds of homes for the poor. Blah blah blah, Jimmy. And, as it turns out, he was not invited to travel with W., Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Well, the White House says there was no snub, Carter had been invited but since the Vatican had limited the U.S. delegation to five people, it made more sense to have, say, Laura Bush as part of the envoy instead of Carter.

There is some irony at play here: Jimmy Carter was the first American president to welcome Pope John Paul II to the White House.

And to wrap things up: tens of thousands of Iraqis hit the streets to protest the American occupation of Iraq, on the second anniversary of Saddam Hussein's ouster.

We'll win the hearts and minds of Iraqis. One of these days.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Crazy Hammer

My apologies for no update yesterday, but Comcast's broadband network was out of commission for several hours.

Now, I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist, so what follows will include my opinion about a certain person. I may or may not be right (although I think I am on to something).

Many colorful people have spent time in elected office. Some are (or were) celebrities (Fred "Gopher" Grandy, former star of the TV show The Love Boat, served four terms in the House of Representatives as a Republican from the state of Iowa); Fred Thompson, veteran character actor (that's him as the air traffic control boss in Die Hard II, among other films), served as a Republican senator for the state of Tennessee from 1994 to 2003. And, of course, Sonny Bono (of Sonny and Cher fame and writer of that classic song, "I've Got You Babe"), representing California as a Republican as part of the legendary class of 1994. Congress has had its infamous members, such as whack-job Robert Dornan of California.

Which brings us full-circle to Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, Republican, and House Majority Leader. If you hadn't heard of DeLay in the past, I'm sure you learned who he was, when he and Senator Bill Frist decided to involve the Congress in Terri Schiavo's case. When the case finally ended, DeLay offered up a sort of veiled threat against the judges involved in the case: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior," he said following Schiavo's death. DeLay also said, "We will look at an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president. Congress for many years has shirked its responsibility to hold the judiciary accountable. No longer."

Which is essentially a sort of temper-tantrum that a six-year-old might have when mommy takes away his favorite toy.

Meanwhile, DeLay has found himself at the center of an ethics controversy (which is chronicled in detail at MSNBC). In 2004, three of his aides were indicted on charges of illegally funneling corporate cash into Texas legislative races. Remember when Republicans investigating the many Clinton "scandals" stated that "where there's smoke, there's fire," meaning if people Bill Clinton knew were guilty of crimes, Bill Clinton must be guilty as well. Well, using that metaphor, I guess you can say that Tom DeLay is currently on fire.

And let's not forget that the House Ethics committee had already admonished DeLay for his actions in 2004, warning DeLay to "temper" his future actions to comply with House rules and standards of conduct.

Since most Republicans are hypocrites at their core, they're not very interested in any investigations into DeLay's ethics issues. They only become concerned about following the law when it applies to Democrats. In fact, House Republicans decided to change ethics rules to allow a person in a leadership position to remain in that position if indicted for certain crimes.

Stay tuned for more reports on Republican hypocrites who think the rule of law does not involve them or their actions.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Sorry, It's Not Memogate II

You'll recall a couple of weeks ago ABC's report of a memo that had been circulated to Republicans, outlining how to best take advantage of the Terri Schiavo case.

Of course, right-wingers were quick to say the memo was a fake because, you know, only Democrats and/or liberal news organizations forge documents.

And now we have proof: there was a memo, written by a staff member of Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez.

The staff member was identified by the Washington Post as Martinez's legal counsel, Brian Darling, who resigned his position.

There you have it.

Who Really Hates America?

First up: I forgot to include a link last week to my latest column at CounterBias. If you'd like to give it a read, you can check it out here. Let me know what you think.

If you follow politics like I do, you know just how nasty the whole business is, especially the efforts by conservatives to demonize liberals and Democrats. Like they did with Terri Schiavo by pitting liberals against conservatives. Conservative pundits and politicians all basically said that liberals wanted Terri Schiavo to die. Conservatives took every single opportunity they could to hammer in this message. They do it for just about any situation that can be put into an absolute black and white point of reference in order to take sides. (Interestingly enough, the conservative pundits who seemed to be on every single cable news show talking about Terri Schiavo have apparently moved on to more important issues, like the Michael Jackson trial. Which, I think, reinforces a theory I have: most conservatives had never heard of Terri Schiavo prior to Tom DeLay and Bill Frist making her case public. I mean, where was the outrage in 2003 when her feeding tube was removed for six days?)

A staple of conservative attacks against liberals is that liberals "hate America" and that liberals are Communists.

I like to counter that whenever I see it, and my response is: it's really conservatives who hate America, because of their apparent endorsement of Fascism. I know, some of you think that's a crazy conclusion, but think about it: how else to explain why so many conservatives are so willing to curtail civil liberties in order to carry out a war against terrorism? What's more dangerous: a protester opposing the Bush administration, or a Congress that allows law enforcement to bypass some of the key provisions of our Bill of Rights?

Buried in the news of Pope John Paul II's death was the story on the Patriot Act and how some of its temporary measures would need to be made permanent by Congress.

The FBI is really itching to expand its powers, wanting the authority to obtain records without a search warrant.

One of the temporary provisions has been called by some the "library provision," which allows law enforcement to use secret warrants in order to obtain books, records, documents and other items from hospitals, businesses and other organizations.

A conversation with your typical right-winger about the Patriot Act will usually end with the right-winger saying that liberals are overacting and asking who has had their rights violated by the Patriot Act.

It's a stupid question. What does it have to do with anything? The issue isn't that any one person has had their rights violated; the issue is that the government has the authority to violate those rights if they choose to.

Hopefully, this time, Congress will spend a little more time in reviewing the Patriot Act and its provisions. Most members of Congress voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 without even knowing the full details of the provisions.

FYI, the provisions up for renewal can be found here.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Pope John Paul II

As some of you know, I'm Jewish, and as I've stated before here, am not very familiar with Catholicism. I'm actually a convert to Judaism, but as a kid, we were Baptists, so I have the perspectives of both faiths.

I've done quite a bit of study on my own about the early origins of Christianity, but I was mainly interested in the writers of what came to be the Christian bible. Beyond that, I couldn't tell you what the differences were between, say, Quakers and Pentecostals, and couldn't tell you anything about Catholicism.

I do know that Pope John Paul II did a lot to help strengthen Jewish/Catholic relations. Growing up in Poland, he knew first-hand how Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis. He was the first Pope in history to visit the central synagogue in Rome and he worked to normalize relations with Jews and Israel, while condemning anti-semitism. Pope John Paul II also made a historic trip to Israel and prayed at the Western Wall.

The Anti-Defimation League has a series of articles about Pope John Paul and his efforts to strengthen Catholic relations with Jews. Click here to check it out.

Now, one aspect of the Christian faith that has puzzled me is the fact that there are so many sects, with many claiming that they are "real" Christians and others are not, such as the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).

Many fundamentalist Christians are anti-Catholic. Here's an example from way off the deep end: Jack Chick's tract on Catholicism, called Last Rites. It's a great read. No, it's not. Here's a great line from the tract: a Catholic man, about to be sent straight to hell, says, "Don't you love the Roman Catholic Church?" (I think he's talking to Jesus) and the response is "How could I, John? Her false teaching are why you are going into the lake of fire!"

Chick really hates Catholics. Here's another tract, called Are Roman Catholics Christian? (The quick answer is NO).

And another! Called Man In Black. This is a good one. It calls the Catholic Church "The Great Whore."

At least, for now, people are putting aside these feelings and the world is mourning with Catholics on the death of Pope John Paul II.

Not surprisingly, the short attention span of the media has dropped the Terri Schiavo case like a hot potato (or, potatoe if you are Dan Quayle). Good thing all of the media attention on Schiavo and the Pope distracted attention away from the scathing report issued by the commission on weapons of mass destruction, which, among other things, concluded that U.S. intelligence was "dead wrong" in assessing Iraq's weapons capabilities.