Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Cheers for Citizens for Legitimate Government

One of my favorite activist sites is Citizens for Legitimate Government, which, from the beginning of this awful period in American history, has made me feel less alone in some of my more radical and, some would say, conspiratorial thinking.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Seattle Times: Kerry for President

The Seattle Times: Kerry for President

The Seattle Times

Friday, August 27, 2004, 01:16 P.M. Pacific

Kerry for President

Four years ago, this page endorsed George W. Bush for president. We cannot do so again — because of an ill-conceived war and its aftermath, undisciplined spending, a shrinkage of constitutional rights and an intrusive social agenda.

The Bush presidency is not what we had in mind. Our endorsement of John Kerry is not without reservations, but he is head and shoulders above the incumbent.

The first issue is the war. When the Bush administration began beating the drums for war on Iraq, this page said repeatedly that he had not justified it. When war came, this page closed ranks, wanting to support our troops and give the president the benefit of the doubt. The troops deserved it. In hindsight, their commander in chief did not.

The first priority of a new president must be to end the military occupation of Iraq. This will be no easy task, but Kerry is more likely to do it — and with some understanding of Middle Eastern realities — than is Bush.

The election of Kerry would sweep away neoconservative war intellectuals who drive policy at the White House and Pentagon. It would end the back-door draft of American reservists and the use of American soldiers as imperial police. It would also provide a chance to repair America's overseas relationships, both with governments and people, particularly in the world of Islam.

A less-belligerent, more-intelligent foreign policy should cause less anger to be directed at the United States. A political change should allow Americans to examine the powers they have given the federal government under the Patriot Act, and the powers the president has claimed by executive order.

This page had high hopes for President Bush regarding taxing and spending. We endorsed his cut in income taxes, expecting that it would help business and discipline new public spending. In the end, there was no discipline in it. In control of the Senate, the House and the presidency for the first time in half a century, the Republicans have had a celebration of spending.

Kerry has made many promises, and might spend as much as Bush if given a Congress under the control of Democrats. He is more likely to get a divided government, which may be a good thing.

Bush was also supposed to be the candidate who understood business. In some ways he has, but he has been too often the candidate of big business only. He has sided with pharmaceutical companies against drug imports from Canada.

In our own industry, the Bush appointees on the Federal Communications Commission have pushed to relax restrictions on how many TV stations, radio stations and newspapers one company may own. In an industry that is the steward of the public's right to speak, this is a threat to democracy itself — and Kerry has stood up against it.

Bush talked like the candidate of free trade, a policy the Pacific Northwest relies upon. He turned protectionist on steel and Canadian lumber. Admittedly, Kerry's campaign rhetoric is even worse on trade. But for the previous 20 years, Kerry had a strong record in support of trade, and we have learned that the best guide to what politicians do is what they have done in the past, not what they say.

On some matters, we always had to hold our noses to endorse Bush. We noted four years ago that he was too willing to toss aside wild nature, and to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We still disagree. On clean air, forests and fish, we generally side with Kerry.

We also agree with Sen. Kerry that Social Security should not offer private accounts.

Four years ago, we stated our profound disagreement with Bush on abortion, and then in one of his first acts as president, he moved to reinstate a ban on federal money for organizations that provide information about abortions overseas. We disagree also with Bush's ban on federal money for research using any new lines of stem cells.

There is in these positions a presidential blending of politics and religion that is wrong for the government of a diverse republic.

Our largest doubt about Kerry is his idea that the federal debt may be stabilized, and dozens of new programs added, merely by raising taxes on the top 2 percent of Americans. Class warfare is a false promise, and we hope he forgets it.

Certainly, the man now in office forgot some of the things he said so fetchingly four years ago.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Democracy, That's the Ticket

This is probably already on my friend Dick Mac's blog, but I couldn't help including this. I find this kind of behavior really reprehensible, not to mention unAmerican. This example is from northern Michigan, but it has been happening throughout the country at Bush's Youth--er, rallies (if anyone doesn't understand that reference, e-mail me).

Traverse City Record-Eagle
August 17, 2004

Ticket ripped because of sticker
Teacher, 55, wanted to see a president

Record-Eagle staff writer
TRAVERSE CITY - Kathryn Mead wanted to see her first sitting president when George W. Bush visited the city.
Instead, Bush campaign staffers tore up the 55-year-old social studies teacher's ticket and refused her admission because she sported a small sticker on her blouse that touted the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards.
"I had my ticket and photo identification, but they would not let me in because of this sticker," said Mead, a teacher at Traverse City West Senior High, who said she has seen Queen Elizabeth and Pope John Paul in person.
"I have never found this kind of screening anywhere in my travels around the world. I can't imagine being denied access to hearing the president of the United States speak."
"How can anyone in the United States deny someone entry? Isn't this a democracy?"

Several people outside the campaign event tried to console Mead, who was visibly upset.
"It really is comedic," said a man holding a Kerry/Edwards sign. "What absolute nonsense."
Kate Stephan, chair of the Grand Traverse Republican Party, could not be reached for comment after the rally.
But Ralph Soffredine, a Traverse City commissioner, school board member and former police chief who worked security at the front gate, said it is part of the Bush campaign policy.
"We were told that anyone with stickers or shirts would not be let in if they would not take them off," he said. "(Mead) came to me after her ticket was torn up, but I told her there was nothing I could do.
"I know her and it was really too bad, but I would say that we had very few instances of that. I thought it went very well."
Lynn Larson, chair of the Grand Traverse Democratic Party, said the move is typical of other Bush rallies that only allow Republican supporters to see the president.
"The very reason that we are here protesting is to protect our First Amendment rights," she said. "When the Secret Service rips somebody's sticker off and takes their ticket away, it makes me even more determined to march to protect our rights."
Mead, who has taught for two decades, instead stood on the sidewalks with other John Kerry supporters, listening to Bush from behind a fence.
"I really, truly wanted to have the experience of having seen the president and hear him speak, which is very important to me as a social studies teacher," she said. "How can anyone in the United States deny someone entry? Isn't this a democracy?"

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Time to Get Out the Bush

Time To Get Out The Bush
How do you know it's time for a major change in American leadership? Let us count the signs

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

You know it's time for a serious change when the president of the United States actually mutters the infantile, instantly infamous line, "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we," just after finishing phonetically spelling out his name, in his favoritest red crayon, on yet another budget-reaming $417 billion defense-spending bill.

And you know it's time for a change when not a single one of the rigid and spiritually curdled military yes men standing around the ceremonial signing table, those sad automatons with their wooden smiles and stiff spines and bone-dry souls, not one broke into a hysterical bout of sad, suicidal laughter, followed by uncontrolled wailing and the rending of flesh and the muttering of oh my freaking God what the hell is this man doing as leader of the free world.

You know it's time for a change when you hear that Kerry and Edwards both wrote their own riveting, galvanizing acceptance speeches at the Democratic National Convention, heartfelt and effective rhetoric that gives you hope not for the quality of polished oratory but for genuine, refreshing political intellect, and verbal acumen, as you offer deep thanks that at least some politicians can still speak coherently and cogently without mangling the goddamn language at every adjectival clause.

Whereas you just know Dubya isn't capable of writing a single word of his own speeches, and will employ entire squadrons of lackeys to do it for him at the RNC, and will regardless still insist on mispronouncing "nukuler" and "'Murka" and "terrist" and "gin bender at Yale," and will doubtlessly say something like, "We must stamp out evil in all its forms because evil wants to do evil things to us and evil don't know the depths of its own, uh, evilnesses. Praise Jesus."

There are signs and indicators. There are feelings and intuitions. There is that undeniable tang in the air, that clenching of the cultural colon, that cringe in the collective soul. Something has got to give. A national shakeup is more than imminent—it is desperately, urgently needed. And Bush is just about finished.

Don't you feel it? The sensation that the country cannot continue to careen down this ultraviolent, antihumanitarian path much longer without implosion and desperation and a massive increase in sedative prescriptions for anyone with an even slightly intuitive sense of justice and future and long hot sighs of hope? You're not alone.

You know it's time for a dramatic change when American bookstores and movie theaters are filled with unprecedented numbers of extraordinarily damning BushCo exposés and embarrassing tell-all tomes and brutal whistle-blower digests from all corners of the culture, produced by everyone from disheartened CIA insiders to ex-generals to respected reporters to former U.S. allies.

From Clarke's Against All Enemies, Woodward's Plan of Attack, Suskind's The Price of Loyalty, Phillips' American Dynasty, Dean's Worse Than Watergate, Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud and Imperial Hubris, by Anonymous, to Fahrenheit 9/11 and Outfoxed and The Hunting of the President. Go ahead, Google any one (or all) of those titles. The list is endless and stunning in its depth and in the heat of its unanimous BushCo condemnation.

Hell, it's getting so you can't turn a corner or have a nuanced, humane thought without confronting another hunk of undeniable proof that what these media documents say is true: The Bush administration is quite possibly the most economically destructive, environmentally devastating, ethically corrupt, internationally loathed, deliberately tyrannical, worst-dressed administration in American history.

What, too harsh? Hardly.

When the professors and other intellectuals and the artists and the social workers and the mystics and the truly spiritual among us are appalled and mournful, and the homophobes and the rednecks and the religious zealots are cheering and shooting their guns in the sky, this is how you know.

When America has become a global punch line, a petulant and screeching child in an oversize Texas cowboy hat throwing oily little tantrums on a WMD whim, and the global community can only sit there, stunned and enraged, as every ally withdraws all offers of support and overtures of concern for our well-being, this is how you know.

The activists know it. Angry groups are popping up by the hundreds across the nation, all working diligently to toss a nice emetic into the Republican gorge-fest. Some are even going so far as to offer up the ultimate sacrifice: They will have sex with any Republicans willing to withhold their Bush vote this election.

It's true. It's funny. It's called fthevote.com. What, too extreme? Hey, extreme times call for extreme lubrication.

The watchdogs know it. The usual reaction from most analysts and wonks, most intellectuals and artists, when faced with another presidential election, is this: Yawn. After all, such ultra-elitist, top-tier shifts have little effect on the massive daily political grind, the real meat and potatoes of government, right? This is the common wisdom. A change in presidents is like changing the paint on an aircraft carrier: different patina, same damn boat.

Not this time. All those who normally claim that a change in who sits in the Oval Office means nothing are now all frantically waving their arms and shouting their protests and joining the resistance. This election is different. This one matters like never before in history, considering how so many of us underestimated just how much damage a single president's gnarled, hateful administration could unleash upon the world in a single term.

This is the new rallying cry. If you care at all about the soul of this country, if you care at all about women's rights and gay rights and true spiritual freedom and the environment and our international standing, if you care at all about actually reducing the anti-U.S. hatred in the world, as opposed to amplifying it a thousandfold, then oh my god yes, this election matters.

This, then, is how you know it's time for a serious change. When you can feel it in your bones, when you finally attune and really listen to the underlying messages and dig deep into your own spirit and discover that no, this isn't the way the world is supposed to work. This is not the way the country has to be.

This is not the way the world's greatest superpower is supposed to behave, this bitter metallic taste that leaps into my mouth whenever I see a picture of BushCo isn't really supposed to be there, the vice president isn't supposed to make children cry and flowers wilt and the gods recoil in disgust.

And the president isn't supposed to mangle the language and induce multiple wars and invite international derision and make so many millions of us ashamed to be Americans. It's time for a serious change. This is how you know.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Bush "seeks new ways to harm US"

From my brother, web surfer extraordinaire (and master of Fingertips).
Bush 'seeks new ways to harm US'
From correspondents in Washington

US President George W. Bush offered up a new entry for his catalogue of "Bushisms" today, declaring that his administration will "never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people".

Mr Bush misspoke as he delivered a speech at the signing ceremony for a $US417 billion ($593 billion) defence spending bill.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Mr Bush said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

No-one in Mr Bush's audience of military brass or Pentagon chiefs reacted.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Fun with Vocabulary

Since it's unfair to slime all Republicans with the same viscous brush of lies, slander, and acid that spew from the administration's henchmen from Cheney down to Sean Hannity, I've decided this new breed that the GOP hath spawned needs a new name. hence:


Use it as you like. We'll start a movement.

Monday, August 02, 2004

My iPod's Dream House

A digression from the political arena:

The other day, while I was surfing the 'net, through Everything iPod, iPod Hacks and iPod Lounge, I saw the plethora of third-party add-ons available, everything from high-tech aluminum sleeves and sports bands to designer cases for multiple collections and customized ear plugs.

I looked down at my sleek second-generation 'pod, surrounded by its black cover, its skintight fire-engine blue cover, its two different car adapters, its selection of cables, of earplugs and headsets, not to mention the various different iterations of itself available through the playlists (am I feeling angry today? am I feeling folksy today? am I feeling spontaneous today?), and nestling in its brand-new Altec Lansing collapsible portable speakers, I recognized a feeling.

The feeling of play, of whimsy, of imagination, of accessorizing. Of projecting my personality onto an inanimate object.

Oh my god--my iPod has become my Barbie doll.

It even has its own dream house--I had to buy an external hard drive for iTunes and the music library, since my first-generation white iBook (obsolete, circa 2001) ran out of space.

Think about its impossible dimensions, the slim white casing with its good looks unattainable by any normal human, the wealth of mix 'n' match available, the bonding of creativity and self-expression. It even comes in different colors now; though maybe the minis are more like Skipper and Scooter and Midge. Or even Francie.

And love. I am in love with my iPod. It has opened up new worlds for me, takes me away from the mundane, and I can play with it at work. How great is that? Granted, it's not as personal as a Barbie--if something were to happen to this iPod I could update without feeling devastated. I don't have to worry that a different iPod's hair and face wouldn't be exactly the same, the coif pressed to the side by lying in a box or the face perhaps a slightly different color from a new batch of dye.

I've never lost my love for my childhood Barbie, the vintage Barbie with the sloe eyes, ponytail, and pouty red lips. Not the generic wide-eyed teen of current crops, but a Barbie who was never, never, never ever 16. Even as a child I knew she wasn't 16.

My much-adored Barbie with her still-perfect ponytail and well-kept clothes (for I was a careful child with my dolls) suffered an unknown fate. She just disappeared. The last time I saw her she was in the attic of the last house my parents lived in. My mother swears she never let any children play with her. Yet all that remains, once my mother moved out of the house, was the double-case in black plastic vinyl, some miscellaneous accessories and stacks of old catalogues, my second Barbie, the swivel-hipped beach babe with orange net bathing suit and bendable legs, some panels from the Fashion Shop, and my Dream House (untouched, I might add, for some 30 years until my cat chewed a corner of the roof). In some misguided generosity I had given my cousin, the closest relative I have to a sister, my beloved Francie doll and her incredible wardrobe. Neither my cousin nor my aunt have any recollection of what happened to her.

Luckily, early on I had rescued Skipper and Scooter, stuffed in their case with clothes bulging off the wardrobe and shoes and socks and tights and butterfly nets bursting out of the drawers.

But I still mourn the loss of my Barbie and her clothes. Her wonderful, stylish, well-made clothes with sewn seams, carefully proportioned patterns, and wonderful attention to detail.

A few years ago, in a period of blue funk, I fixated on Barbies, most likely trying to recapture the elusive feeling of play that people inevitably lose to social conditioning. I bought a new Barbie, some clothes, accessories, and a new case. But today's Barbie dresses in what can only be described as white-trash couture, full of too-short skirts in unattractive bright pastels made of glued-together, poorly dyed fabrics that probably never saw human hands. No one with any taste would ever want those clothes in real life, but we all wanted vintage Barbie frocks, the pouffed skirts, white gloves, oh-so-perfect high-heeled mules. Look at Charlotte's wardrobe from Sex and the City--pure Barbie doll! (I was so waiting for SATC fashion dolls! Why not, HBO, why not?)

So i'll continue accessorizing my iPod with sheaths and coats, cases and personalities. And while it plays, so will I.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

More on "Bill of Non-Rights"

Well, I did something I rarely ever do, that is, circulate something without checking it out.

Turns out the "Bill of Non-Rights" is actually the "Bill of No Rights," and was written by Libertarian Lewis Napper, not Georgia State Rep. Mitchell Kaye. (See the Truth or Fiction.com website.) This screed is still as fictional as it ever was.

Even stranger, Article XI was not in the original piece. It was added somewhere along the way, by someone in desparate need of a wack upside the head and a repeat course in American History. In that order.

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Bill of Non-Rights

A friend of mine sent this around. Some of it's true, some of it's funny, some is just obnoxious—articles IV, V, and VIII in particular. But I really had a problem with the last part, article XI.

The following has been attributed to State Representative Mitchell Kaye from GA:

We the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the blessings of debt free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great-grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt ridden, delusional, and other liberal bed-wetters.

We hold these truths to be self evident: that a whole lot of people are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim they require a Bill of NON-Rights.

ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV, or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc.; but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.

ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.

ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.

ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim, or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.

ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat, or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big screen color TV or a life of leisure.

ARTICLE VIII: You do not have the right to a job. All of us sure want you to have a job, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

ARTICLE IX: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to PURSUE happiness, which by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an over abundance of idiotic laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.

ARTICLE X: This is an English speaking country. We don't care where you are from, English is our language. Learn it or go back to wherever you came from!

ARTICLE XI: You do not have the right to change our country's history or heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith, or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE TRUST is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable with it, TOUGH!!!!

It is a popular misconception that the United States was founded on any one religious belief. First of all, "In God We Trust" was placed on American coins during the Civil War, and then only for a little while. It didn't start showing up on coins in continuous use until 1909--in other words, not even 100 years. It wasn't adopted as the American motto until 1956, and didn't start to be used on paper money until 1957 (source: US Treasury Dept.).

This was also the height of the Cold War and the McCarthy witch trials, not a coincidence, I think. 1954 was also the year that "under God" was placed in the original, secular Pledge of Allegiance, a move that would have angered the writer, Dr. Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister.

The original motto of the United States, as created by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, was E Pluribus Unum, meaning, "out of many, one."

As for the founding fathers, James Madison objected to state-supported chaplains in Congress and to the exemption of churches from taxation. He wrote, "Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 states: "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

In his A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-1788), John Adams wrote: "The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

"Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind."

Another comment from Early America.com:
If indeed our Framers had aimed to found a Christian republic, it would seem highly unlikely that they would have forgotten to leave out their Christian intentions in the Supreme law of the land. In fact, nowhere in the Constitution do we have a single mention of Christianity, God, Jesus, or any Supreme Being. There occurs only two references to religion and they both use exclusionary wording. The 1st Amendment's says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,"
and in Article VI, Section 3, ". . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

In other words, the United States was founded to be a place where people of any belief could live together in peace, where no one belief would be more important, or better than, any other. In other words, a secular nation that welcomes people of all faiths.

Why is this so difficult for people to understand?

(sigh) remember:

President Kerry, President Kerry, President Kerry . . .

Florida, a state of mind--an evil mind

Lately a couple of incredibly newsworthy events have happened in Florida--newsworthy, that is, if the mass media was really interested in news. A congresswoman was censured for suggesting that it might be a good idea for the November elections to have international monitoring. And newly sworn-in citizens were given a push to vote—Republican.

First, a congresswoman was censured because she had the nerve to suggest that the November elections have international monitoring. I could only find this item in an obscure website, First Coast News:

Congresswoman Corrine Brown in Jacksonville after Censure

By First Coast News Staff

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville)hosted a healthcare roundtable at the Mary Singleton Center this morning.

Representative Brown told First Coast News she still stands behind her comments that ignited a firestorm in Washington.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives censured Brown after a shouting match on the House floor Thursday night.

The argument started during a debate over HR-4818. The bill would provide international monitoring of the November presidential election. Congress has been considering an outside monitor due to all the confusion over the last election, and the "hanging chads" in Florida.

Representative Brown said, "I come from Florida, where you and others participated in what I call the United States coup d'etat. We need to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Over and over again after the election when you stole the election, you came back here and said get over it. No we're not going to get over it and we want verification from the world."

Those comments drew an immediate objection from Republican members of the House. Leaders moved to strike her comments from the record. The House also censured Brown which kept her from talking on the House floor for the rest of the day.

Congresswoman Brown responded to the matter in a statement late Thursday night. Congresswoman Brown wrote, "Striking my words from the House floor is just one more example of the Republican Party's attempt to try and cover up what happened during the 2000 election."

Brown also wrote, "When the words of Corrine Brown are stricken from the floor, so is the voice of her 600,000 constituents in Florida's 3rd Congressional District."

More recently, brand-spankin'-new citizens of the U.S. of A. were welcomed to their new home by friendly people at voter registration tables--with registration forms already helpfully checked off as "Republican." (Thanks to my brother for this item--check out his awesome website, Fingertips.)

Posted on Fri, Jul. 23, 2004

GOP gets scolded on recruitment

Naturalization ceremonies in Jacksonville are to be relocated after complaints that GOP activists registered new citizens as Republicans.


The citizenship ceremony in Jacksonville seemed to go off as usual, with a crowd of nearly 200 people going home as new Americans.

Just before the new citizens left the June 29 event, an immigration official directing the swearing-in urged the them to stop by a voter registration table -- a not uncommon sight at naturalization ceremonies.

But this table was unusual: Those handing out forms were Republican volunteers -- and the party affiliation box had been checked off ahead of time to make all of the new voters members of the GOP.

All of it was suspicious to Linda Cross, who was there to watch her husband, Dario Cruz, take his citizenship oath. Cross asked one of the women sitting at the table in the foyer of the University of North Florida auditorium whether there were any forms that left the party affiliation blank.


She was told no.

''They said they didn't have any forms that weren't checked,'' Cross recalled. 'She said, `We're a Republican organization.' ''

Now, after complaints from Democrats, immigration officials say the table was unauthorized and that the incident will mean delays in swearing in naturalized citizens in Jacksonville. Top Republican party officials insist they did not authorize the voter registration effort, but Democrats remain skeptical as to how a Republican group would know when and where to show up.

''We don't know if this is happening anywhere else,'' said Ann Farra, voter registration director for the Duval County Democratic Party. ``Our other concern is, how long has this been going on?''

Jack Bulger, the Florida district director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told The Herald that the group was not authorized to pass out pre-checked voter registration forms. He said that from now on, naturalization ceremonies in Jacksonville will be held at the local immigration office or in a federal courthouse, where immigration officials can have better control of the premises.

''The outcome of all this is that I understand better than anybody the sensitivity of voter registration, at any time . . . and I will not permit the naturalization process to be politicized in any way,'' Bulger said. ``It will not happen.''

A top immigration official sent an e-mail last week to aides to Florida's two senators to alert them to the naturalization ceremony changes, ``because of a recent flap regarding the registration of voters.''

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday that the Melbourne Democrat wants assurances that those eligible for citizenship will not endure lengthy delays because of the change.

Bulger said no other cities in Florida have reported any similar occurrences and that no limitations on where to hold citizenship ceremonies will affect other cities. Only one ceremony in Jacksonville will be delayed a few days, he said, to accommodate the change of venue from the university campus to the Jacksonville immigration office.

Joseph Agostini, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, said that voter registration efforts are directed by local clubs and local party organizations and that the state party had no involvement in the June 29 registration drive.

''At the local level, volunteers often attend these kind of events to register voters,'' said Agostini, who said he had registered voters at swearing-in ceremonies in Hillsborough County in past years.

Dick Carlberg, assistant supervisor of elections for Duval County, said that on the basis of complaints from Democrats, the elections office set aside 36 registration forms from June 29 that were dropped off by the Duval County Republican Party. It is a third-degree felony in Florida to alter voter registration forms without the voter's consent.

But he said those registrations were processed after the office got an opinion from the division of elections that nothing illegal had happened. Carlberg said that while the forms were pre-checked Republican, some voters had crossed it out and selected another party affiliation, indicating they understood they had a choice.

''At worst it was unethical,'' Carlberg said. ``It depends on your point of view. But illegal, no.''

Bulger, the immigration chief in Florida, said that immigration officials typically allow nonpartisan groups or local election offices to register voters at ceremonies and no one thought to question the identity of the people who showed up to register voters in Jacksonville.

'In this particular incident, when our people were almost ready to start the ceremony, a group came in and had a nondescript sign that said `voter registration,' and our people made the assumption, without verifying it, that it was one of the nonpartisan groups we typically have dealt with,'' he said. ``Later, someone approached one of our people and said they thought they had received a form that was pre-checked. That would be inappropriate.''


While immigration officials said that the organization that offered voter registration cards to new citizens was ''unknown,'' a story about the initial controversy in The Florida Times-Union identified one of those registering voters as being a Republican volunteer named Millie McLean.

McLean was identified last October as being in charge of voter registration drives for the Republican Women's Club of Duval County Federated, one of dozens of clubs statewide that are chartered by the Republican Party of Florida. McLean refused to answer questions from The Herald, but she denied any wrongdoing to the Times-Union.

Judith Albertelli, a Jacksonville resident and president of the Florida Federation of Republican Women, said she had been told that the women's club itself did not sponsor the voting booth at the June 29 naturalization ceremony.

Y'know, Florida is just a microcosm of the United States as a whole. Two Bushes out of control beat democracy into the ground.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

It's Official: Bush Stupidest Man on Planet

Toronto Star

Jul. 24, 2004. 10:51 AM
Bush wins big at Stupidity Awards


MONTREAL — The November elections may still be ahead of him but U.S. President George W. Bush came out a big winner yesterday — at the World Stupidity Awards.

Bush was a dominating presence at the second edition of the awards presented at the Just for Laughs comedy festival.

Host Lewis Black, whose biting satire is a highlight of TV's The Daily Show, took pride in the recognition the United States received at the awards, saying: "we are the gold standard."

Black said the awards "celebrate the pros" and "perfection in idiocy" because real stupidity is hard work.

"It's easy to fall down a manhole, it's easy to put the candles too close to the drapes, it's easy to launch a military invasion of another country based on a few blurry satellite photos," he observed.

"This year my people, we scaled the Everest of stupidity and we stand upon its peak."

Bush took the Stupidest Man of the Year Award and for the second time in the history of the two-year-old awards won the Stupidity Award for Reckless Endangerment of the Planet.

That award was presented by Justin Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. He got the biggest reaction of the night from females in the packed house, who hooted, whistled and yelled "yum" at him while he was on stage.

Bush didn't take the category alone, however, and tied with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The controversial Texan president shared in two other awards as the United States was noted for having the Stupidest Government of the Year.

"What was interesting about that is that the decision was made overwhelmingly by Americans who voted," said Albert Nerenberg, of the Main Organization Revealing Obvious Numbskulls which runs the awards.

Nominations and voting took place at the organization's online site, except for the lifetime achievement award which is settled by the judges.

The nominations were judged by experts in their fields — "a bunch of idiots" and overseen by the Academy for Recognizing Stupidity Everywhere.

Stupidest Statement of the Year was Bush's pronouncement that "combat operations have ended in Iraq," where fighting still rages more than a year after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Bush beat out pop princess Britney Spears, nominated for saying, "I do," at her brief Las Vegas wedding, and singer Jessica Simpson, who wondered aloud on TV: "Why does Chicken By the Sea taste like tuna? Is it chicken or tuna?"

Though he is facing war crimes charges after being captured by U.S. forces, Saddam can take solace in the Lifetime Achievement Award for Stupidity, which was bestowed on him with a musical tribute and a montage of film clips and photos, including one of him getting a fashion makeover from the cast of Queer Eye For the Straight Guy.

Iraq and the conservative right in the United States figured heavily in the awards, which declared Fox's The O'Reilly Factor the Stupidest TV Show and gave Fox News the nod for Media Outlet Which Has Made the Greatest Contribution to Furthering Ignorance Worldwide.

Also, Stupidest Woman of the Year was U.S. soldier Pte. Lynndie England, who became notorious after pictures were published of her allegedly abusing Arab prisoners in a Baghdad military prison. She is facing charges.

Presenter Maggie Cassella said England beat out convicted homemaking guru Martha Stewart, dysfunctional rocker Courtney Love, Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson who "finally had enough surgery to place himself in this category."

Cast members from Survivor: All Stars — Rob Cesternino, Kathy O'Brien and Shii Ann Huang — gave the award for stupidest trend, which was trucker hats.

Stupidest Act of the Year went to Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, who cradled his baby while feeding a crocodile, an act which sparked a storm of protest.

"What is it with celebrities dangling their babies?" asked presenter Scott Thompson of Kids in the Hall fame. "Next year, they'll be eating them. Good thing cocaine is an appetite suppressant."

Gigli, considered one of the worst movies of the year and an albatross for stars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, tied with Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ as Stupidest Movie. The tie was to be broken by audience members at the Friday night event but the audience couldn't decide which was worse so the tie stayed.

Although Canada was shut out, Nerenberg said it was a banner year for stupidity.

"It was a stupendous year for stupidity," he said.

The show ended with a raucous musical number by mini Kiss, a group of singing dwarfs who perform made up like the '70s glam rock group.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Creative Visualization for Kerry

I had this idea. Remember the Harmonic Convergence in 1987? The New Age celebration of the supposed beginning of a New Age of Peace?

That obviously didn't work.

Well, let's start our own Harmonic Convergence on a smaller, more manageable scale. According to one Convergence observer from the Mt. Shasta Project:
While truth is defined individually, global change is controlled by what the majority think. If enough people "think" a belief, the belief becomes real.

So . . . let's practice some creative visualization. Every day, this should be our mantra--let's repeat it many times a day, when we get up, during breaks at work, as a blessing over dinner, before we go to bed to create good dreams:

When John Kerry is elected in November.
When John Kerry is elected in November.
When John Kerry is elected in November.
When John Kerry is elected in November.
When John Kerry is elected in November.

Or, if you prefer:

President Kerry.
President Kerry.
President Kerry.
President Kerry.
President Kerry.

Come on people now, smile on each other, everybody get together, try to love one another right now!

We got "Outfoxed"!

We hosted a house party on Sunday night to view the new documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism. These house parties were sponsored, as it were, by the brilliant grassroots activist group MoveOn.org; there were nearly 4,000 such house parties across the United States.

We got together and watched the movie at 7pm EST, and then afterwards took part in a coast-to-coast conference call with Al Franken and the documentary's director, Robert Greenwald.

Pretty cool, huh??

So when I signed up for our house party, I didn't think that anyone besides the friends I sent the invite to would pay any attention. And yet our party soon filled up, and went beyond. I actually had to turn two people away. We had about 10 people here, and only 3 of them were people we knew. It was a very positive experience, to be with like-minded people that we didn't know!

I highly recommend the documentary. It's available on the "Outfoxed" website for about $10.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Welcome to Public Service

Eric and I decided to go out for community service. It wasn't decreed by a judge. Eric is now one of two new members of Natick's Cultural Council, and I got named the Natick representative to the MBTA's Advisory Board.

At one point, when one of the selectmen was mentioning the state's "parsimonious" budget for the arts, I was reminded of the scene from "Waiting for Guffman" where Corky St. Clair goes in front of Blaine's town council and is, as we say here, wicked disappointed when he doesn't get the $10,000 he wants for his production, and ends up having a temper tantrum: "'cause you people are BASTARD PEOPLE!"

As for my position, I got the feeling I had just volunteered to spend a night in a house everyone swears isn't haunted, but finds convenient reasons not to enter themselves.

But this is POLITICS for the PEOPLE, man! We're in the game!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

U.S. Mulling How to Delay Nov. Vote in Case of Attack

Top News Article | Reuters.com

Herald Sun: Terrorism could delay US election [12jul04]

Herald Sun: Terrorism could delay US election [12jul04]

People need to write their elected officials and warn them of the coming threat to our democratic processes. The regime is going to try to pull a fast one again because they're running scared. This isn't The X Files, folks.

In the words of Buffalo Springfield:

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Friday, July 09, 2004

To Read or Not To Read II

As I was saying, in a normal world, the more mundane of mysteries--the serial killers, the sexual predators, the vengeful apprentice or jealous spouse--would be enough to make me feel that all's right with the world, that the ingenious, intrepid detective or private eye or special agent can get the bad guy.

But now even the mysteriously sinister anthropomorphic house, imbued with the occult for generations, is losing its abiity to suspend my disbelief. There's just nothing more horrifying than what's going on in the news. The Haunting of Hill House? The scariest book ever written? A picnic. The unreliable narrator? Don't make me laugh--what we are living with now is the ultimate example of an unreliable narrator.

The Blair Witch Project, yeah, that could be scary--if you renamed it The Bush White House Project.

I want my fun reading back! Vote the scary man out of office!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

To Read or Not To Read

You know things are really bad when a good mystery just won't do it anymore. You know, to take your mind off the drudgery, cruelty, mean-spiritedness of what passes for news and politics.

I love a good mystery. Michael Connelly, Elizabeth George, Nevada Barr, Sue Grafton, Donald Harstad, Val McDermid. Tough, smart, and often witty protagonists making the world safe, if sometimes a bit sadder.

I just finished a really good one, Earthquake Weather, by Terrill Lee Lankford, a hard-boiled Hollywood mystery with more than a taste of Raymond Chandler.

But murder most foul just wasn't, well, foul enough to drown out the bleak white noise of everyday life. I need a stronger hit these days. Like apocalyptic weather, reptilian aliens, ghosts, ghouls, things that not only go bump but also crash in the night. Anything strong enough to make me glad to be in this dimension--er, world.

More on this theory anon . . .

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Help Wanted

The "Don't ask, don't tell" policy has had some unforeseen--unforeseen, that is, by the idiots who thunk this up--consequences, some of which could be serious. May have been serious all along. I kinda think that the armed services could've used more interpreters all along, maybe saved some lives. I dunno. I'm just a goofy liberal.

from UPI
Published 7/2/2004 4:28 PM

1,000 gays have needed military skills

By Pamela Hess
Pentagon correspondent

WASHINGTON, July 2 (UPI) -- Around 1,000 service members with special skills that are now sorely needed in Iraq have been expelled from the military in the last five years because they are gay, according to a United Press International analysis.

The military next week will recall from their civilian lives some 5,600 soldiers to fill out the ranks of 141,000 soldiers serving in Iraq. The service is calling in those former soldiers who have specific skills tailor-made for the Iraq conflict -- those experienced in food service, truck driving, auto repair and healthcare as well as paralegals, combat engineers, administration specialists and infantry. It is the largest mobilization of the Individual Ready Reserve in two decades.

The IRR is a pool of former military personnel who either volunteer to be on call for duty or who, by virtue of their initial enlistment contracts, owe up to four years in the IRR after they leave the military. An Army official this week admitted some soldiers will be "shocked" to be called up for a year's duty from their civilian lives as the IRR is so rarely tapped.

However, according to numbers provided by the Army and by the Defense Department, at least 948 gay service members with the very same specialties have been forced out of the military under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars homosexuals from serving. Not all of the 948 are from the Army; service by service breakdowns were not available.

The Army is seeking 790 "motor transport operators" -- truck drivers -- to pull a year's duty in Iraq. At least 113 military truck drivers were forced to leave the armed forces between 1998 and 2003, according to statistics the Defense Manpower Data Center in Seaside, Calif., provided under the Freedom of Information Act to the University of California-Santa Barbara's Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military.

The list continues: The Army is seeking 211 food service operators for a year's duty in Iraq. At least 153 gay food service operators were forced out of the military between 1998 and 2003. The Army is activating 531 "administration specialists." At least 234 supply administration specialists were kicked out of the military in the same five-year period. The Army is seeking 361 light-wheel mechanics and 52 tracked-vehicle mechanics. And at least 122 automotive service specialist and 28 tracked-vehicle specialists have left the military because of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The Army also needs some 307 medical personnel. At least 212 general medical care treatment specialists have left the service along with dozens of other medical specialists ranging from surgery to dental care to registered nurses.

The Army is also seeking 143 combat engineers. At least 57 were forced from the military between 1998 and 2003.

The military has also expelled 163 law enforcement specialists and 15 language interrogators for homosexuality, the same specialties that have come under such scrutiny in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal -- in no small part because of the graphic, homoerotic and humiliating pictures taken of the prisoners. In some pictures, prisoners were forced to emulate fellatio on each other. In others, they were forced to masturbate with hoods on. In still others, they were piled naked on top of each other.

Due to a lack of trained Arabic linguists, the military has hired private contractors to conduct interrogations and provide translation to intelligence teams. At least three such private contractors have been implicated in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. In November 2002, CSSMM reported that seven military Arabic linguists were discharged because of their homosexuality.

According to CSSMM, 6,273 service members were expelled from the U.S. military between 1998 and 2003 for sexual orientation. After peaking in 2001 with 1,227 service members kicked out for violating the policy against homosexuals serving in the military, the numbers declined for the last two years -- to 885 in 2002 and 770 in 2003. The reduction coincides with an increased need for soldiers in general, as the United States has engaged in two ground-force intensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"At a time when the military is forced to recall previously discharged service members on an involuntary basis, these data show that 'don't ask, don't tell' has undermined readiness by depriving the armed forces of mission-critical talent," said CSSMM Executive Director Aaron Belkin, in a report released last week.

"Repealing the gay ban is essential to preserving the fighting ability of our armed forces," said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that advocates for homosexuals in the military.

The controversial "don't ask, don't tell" rule was crafted in 1993 by Congress and then President Clinton, softening the military's stance since 1981 that declared homosexuality incompatible with military service. Under the new policy, the military could no longer interrogate troops or recruits about their sexual orientation nor conduct investigations based on hearsay. For their part, gay troops were not to declare their orientation nor act on it while in the military.

Nevertheless, the policy still holds that homosexuality poses an unacceptable risk to morale, cohesion and discipline in the armed forces. Clinton initially promised in his presidential campaign to lift the ban on gays in the military, causing an outcry throughout the armed forces.

The policy is also a law: Even if the military wanted to keep openly gay service members, it is forbidden to do so. The policy is somewhat selectively enforced, however: retired Lt. Steve May, a member of Arizona's state legislature, declared himself to be gay in 2000 but was allowed to complete his term of service in the Army Reserve.

"The current law mandated by Congress makes it necessary that individuals who make it known publicly that they are homosexuals must be considered for separation," said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Keck. "At this time there is no other option for commanders in the field."

According to the Pentagon, about 90 percent of those who leave the military under the "don't ask, don't tell" ban do so voluntarily -- that is, they declare their sexual orientation to superiors or colleagues thereby forcing their removal.

The SLDN, however, says 95 percent of the service members who contact the organization for assistance report they were harassed because of their perceived sexual orientation.

A 1999 Pentagon survey on gay harassment in the military suggests that figure is not far off: 80 percent of respondents had heard derogatory, anti-gay remarks during the past year; 37 percent had witnessed or experienced targeted incidents of anti-gay harassment; and 9 percent of respondents reported witnessing or experiencing anti-gay physical assaults.

The survey was undertaken after the 1999 beating murder of Pfc. Barry Winchell while he slept in his barracks at Fort Campbell, Ky., by Pvt. Calvin Glover, a soldier in his unit who believed Winchell was gay. Glover is serving a life sentence.

Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International

Monday, July 05, 2004

Soldier Mental Illness Hits Vietnam Levels

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Soldier mental illness hits Vietnam levels
Many returning troops suffer combat-related afflictions


Nearly one in five U.S. combat troops returning from war-torn Iraq suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression or other serious mental afflictions, according to new data detailing the psychic costs of the bloodiest war in a generation.

A study conducted by the U.S. Army shows that combat-related mental problems have been higher among those who have served in Iraq than in any military action since Vietnam.

It also paints the first broad statistical picture of the battlefield horrors encountered by the American combatants on the front lines in Iraq. For instance, one in four U.S. Marines surveyed reported killing Iraqi civilians. About one in five Army members surveyed reported engaging in hand-to-hand combat. More than 85 percent of those in Marine or Army combat units said they knew someone who had been injured or killed. More than half said they had handled corpses or human remains. The figures were based on soldiers' responses; the military does not have statistics available to confirm them.

Up to 17 percent of these troops in Iraq suffered mental health problems, though less than half said they had sought professional help after ending their tours, according to the study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"There's no question that these service members have truly experienced the spectrum of things that happen during the war," said Dr. Charles Hoge, psychiatry chief at the U.S. Army Walter Reed Medical Center and lead author of the study. "This is real, sustained war."

The Pentagon's health affairs chief, Dr. William Winkenwerder, said it was premature to compare service in Iraq to Vietnam, but added, "We can certainly surmise there's plenty of stress."

With more than 800 U.S. soldiers killed and more than 5,000 wounded, Operation Iraqi Freedom has become the deadliest American military conflict since the Vietnam War, in which some 58,000 Americans died.

The new study's chief purpose was to gauge the effectiveness of mental health services provided by the military. The data indicated a dramatic improvement since the Vietnam era, when the military's mental health care was relatively unsophisticated.

But the study still revealed gaps in the system, chief among them a continued stigma about mental illness among troops despite considerable educational efforts by Pentagon brass over the past decade. Also, nearly half of Iraq veterans reporting mental symptoms said they had trouble scheduling a psychiatric appointment.

The mental trauma from the Iraq war appears to be approaching Vietnamlike levels for the 40,000-plus U.S. soldiers in the thick of daily violence, according to the new study.

Wartime psychology was in its infancy during the Vietnam conflict, and no comparable studies were done of soldiers during the war. Later research found that about 15 percent of troops who served there suffered PTSD.

The most recent studies found that about 30 percent of Vietnam veterans had developed psychological problems after the war, as condemnation of soldiers by stateside critics exacerbated combat stress in some.

The study found that 12 percent to 13 percent of troops returning from Iraq reported PTSD symptoms, and another 3 percent to 4 percent reported other mental distress. By contrast, PTSD estimates for veterans of the first Gulf War range between 2 percent and 10 percent. The rate is about 4 percent in the U.S. adult population. The new Army study found about 11 percent of troops returning from Afghanistan reported symptoms of mental distress.

reprinted in

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Most heartening sign of intelligence this week

Yankee fans. Gotta love 'em.

from The New York Times
Published: June 30, 2004

Cheney Pays Visit to Stadium


Vice President Dick Cheney spent about 20 minutes in Manager Joe Torre's office and in the clubhouse shaking hands with players before the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox, 11-3, last night at Yankee Stadium.

Cheney studied the photographs inside and outside Torre's office and asked Yogi Berra, the Hall of Fame catcher, why he was playing the outfield in one picture. Cheney started watching the game from the private box of the Yankees' principal owner, George Steinbrenner, switched to a seat beside the Yankees' dugout for a few innings, then returned to Steinbrenner's box.

"I told him before the game I hope he brings us more good luck than he brings them," Torre said. "It's great any time a dignitary like that visits. It slaps you with pride."

During the singing of "God Bless America" in the seventh inning, an image of Cheney was shown on the scoreboard. It was greeted with booing, so the Yankees quickly removed the image.