Archive for May, 2006

In a recent Lee Enterprises poll, Tester pulled into a virtual tie with primary rival, John Morrison, 41-42%, a difference that falls within the poll’s six-point margin of error.

According the poll, Paul Richards won 2% of polled votes, and missing-in-action man Kenneth Marcure pulled down a point.

(Is there a weirder candidate than Marcure? He’s running for a U.S. Senate seat from Japan! Apparently he can’t make it back because of “logistical reasons.” And check out his picture. What’s up with the leather suit? Did he send this picture into the Gazette as his official campaign photo? And check out this little quote from the paper:

Asked about specific issues recently, Marcure has e-mailed Montana reporters a rambling 62-page essay with his view about what he calls his quest, which "boils down to power and moral values."

I’m half-tempted to write up the paper and ask for a forwarded copy of the essay, but I’m afraid the Gazette’s editors might actually send it to me. And he polls at a percentage point? Surely you must be joking.)

Are you thinking what I’m thinking about Paul Richards? Those two percentage points tacked on to another candidate’s totals may tip a candidate into victory.

I’m thinking maybe Richards might decide who wins this primary race.

The rumors are true. Tester supporters everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief.

Links…

Um…so…there’s no connection between Iranian Badge author Amir Taheri and neocons? So…Taheri being invited to the White House in the capacity of an “expert” is just a coincidence…

Electoral College reform gains steam.” Why do Californians love Democracy?

Barak Obama likes bloggers. Is he running in ’08?

Firedoglake has an excellent post up about unions.

Time does a story on the growth of hate groups over the issue of immigration.

There is no debate about global warming. Except among energy companies and the Bush administration. Listen to Al Gore on Fresh Air talk about his documentary and global warming.

Weird: wingnut Christian post-apocalyptic role-playing games

Arianna Huffington claims we’re losing Afghanistan.

Has Karl Rove lost his touch? He’s planning to package the 2006 elections around the US economy. Um, Karl, most of us are barely hanging on, thanks to high health insurance, student loans, rising housing costs, and credit card debt. But then Rove and his ilk probably aren’t aware of how most folks are living.

A Kos post claims Iraq is not “another Vietnam” – it’s more like Northern Ireland, and we’re the British. Another Kos post claims the US has reached the “tipping point” in Iraq. The war is already lost.

Bush apparently can’t be bothered with the details of the war. Like the Haditha massacre, which he found out about only after Time started investigating the story.

Clemens to the Astros? Say it ain’t so, Rocket!

I’ll believe it when it hits the wires. Why would he do such a thing? Seriously? Who cares if the ‘Stros play in his home state. Houston sucks! It’s polluted. It’s dull. There are way too many conventions. The Bushes consider Houston their political capitol. The Texans. Ugh.

But Boston! La la! Now there’s a city and team to join! If I were Clemens, I’d pick the Sox in a heartbeat. In fact, I predicted it. So it’s got to happen! And why not? There’s the tradition. There’s the career full circle thing. Plus, with Clemens, the Sox would be the instant faves for the whole shebang! (Not so in Houston, dear readers.)

But…would I trade the Rocket for a US Senator from Big Sandy?

*gulp*

*gulp*

Let me get this straight. Would I deny the Boston Red Sox Roger Clemens and a clear shot at the title in exchange for a Jon Tester victory in the primary and general elections?

Is that the deal?

*gulp*

Um, okay. I guess that’s a fair trade. I mean the Sox just won in 2004, so it’s not like we really need to win it all this year. So. Okay. Sure.

Deal.

(*sigh*)

Update: Argh! It's hitting the wires! But only as a rumor…

Interesting article in today’s Gazette: “Montanans like state’s direction, not country’s.” It’s an analysis of the recent poll that shows Sen. Burns’ approval numbers are plummeting while Gov. Schweitzer’s numbers are rising. (Funny how some of these newspaper articles are like blog posts, aren’t they?)

When it comes to judging the direction of our nation, a majority of Montanans think we're on the "wrong track," according to a Gazette State Poll.

But when the same question is asked about the direction of the state, the answer is quite the opposite: 72 percent of those surveyed said Montana is on the "right track."

Governor Schweitzer’s approval ratings are nearly at 70% — while Conrad Burns’ sinks to below 40%.

There’s been a lot of controversy lately about how the Democratic national party has been funding grassroots organizations across the States. (Democratic strategist, Wayne Begala, said of Howard Dean’s spending on grassroots organization, “What he has spent it on, apparently, is just hiring a bunch of staff people to wander around Utah and Mississippi and pick their nose.”)

But it seems to be paying off, as evidenced by this Gazette report, and a report from Colorado over its 6th Congressional District – paleo-conservative Tom Tancredo’s seat – which cites similar poll numbers as those in Montana.

When asked the "do you think we are moving in the right direction" question, only 50% thought Colorado was and that number dropped to 29% when talking about the US generally. The rest were divided between 'wrong direction', 'mixed', and 'don't know', with 55% opting for saying the US is moving in the wrong direction. 

If anything, Coloradans think the country is worse off than Montanans. Only 29% of Coloradans thought the country is in the right track as compared to 34% of Montanans. While 50% of Coloradans thought the state was moving in the right direction, 72% of Montanans said the same thing. Seventy-two percent!

What’s the difference between the two states? Montana has a Democratic Governor and a Democratic-majority in the legislature. Colorado has a Republican Governor and a Republican-majority in the legislature.

It seems that Dean's strategy is beginning to affect the political climate at the state level. Democrats are fielding superior candidates, and enough money is floating around to make viable challenges against vulnerable seats. Even seats that are "traditionally" Republican.

There are other things, too, of course. Colorado’s TABOR – the spending-cap bill – is generally seen as a disaster for the state, so much so that Colorado citizens passed Referendum C last year, allowing some easing of the spending cap. Maybe there’s still resentment against conservative fiscal groups for TABOR. Maybe people tend to get weary of the majority party.

Or maybe it’s just that Democrats govern better. That sounds like a radical and partisan statement – maybe it is. On the other hand, who here believes that the Bush administration has handled its responsibilities better than Clinton’s? No hands?

And after all, many conservative fiscal extremists – like Grover Norquist and his ilk – want to destroy government, or at the very least its role in providing services for the people. And many conservative social extremists – like Bill Napoli and his ilk – want to limit civil liberties in favor of nebulous moral experiments.

Maybe six years of majority rule has weakened the Republican Party. Maybe somewhere along the line the extremists hijacked the conservative movement. Whatever happened, it seems like plenty of voters are growing increasingly turned off by their incompetent and nut-job representatives…

Update: Oops! I was wrong about Colorado's legislature. Apparently it is already controlled by Democrats and has been since 2004. (Hat tip to commentor, Matthew Rasenick.) Still the Governor is a Republican, and the legislature has polled well with state residents…

Links…

Matt Singer makes a plea for Tester on the Daily Kos, urging us to donate to his campaign. Good advice, Matt. If you want to see an honest, competent politician win an election for a change, drop a sawbuck into Tester's hat.

Joshua Micah Marshall weighs in on the Iranian Badge story and Amir Taheri: “As we gear up for the mix of agitprop and disinformation aimed to lay the groundwork for war with Iran, few claims could be more incendiary than alleging that Iran was recapitulating one of Nazi Germany’s steps as it built toward the Final Solution. For the war party, such a development would be so good that, as the phrase goes, if it hadn’t existed it would have to have been invented.”

Red State Rebels has a post up about a Congressional race that bears watching. It pits a moronic, rude, and utterly incompetent Republican (and that’s the criticism from his own party), Bill Sali, against a moderate, competent Democrat, Larry Grant. Grant, too, needs your help.

The SCOTUS limit protection for government whistleblowers (reg req’d). Alito cast the deciding vote. Way to go, Congressional Democrats.

Orcinus analyzes Lou Dobbs’ as an example of how the immigration debate has opened the floodgates for racism in traditional media.

The Great Society’s Matt presents the 2006 mid-term rallying cry: “Gay agenda means less freedom for all.” I just don’t understand how granting more people access to cultural institutions means less freedom.

Be afraid of the Bush dynasty. Be very afraid.

TPMMuckraker analyzes a recent AP attack on Harry Reid. Guess what – Reid didn’t do anything wrong, even according to the report. Not like, say, Conrad Burns.

Great article on the responsibility of the press: “Stop whining and do your job.”

Firedoglake’s Pachacutec’s Memorial Day post: “There is No “War on Terror.”

Livingston, I Presume thinks pregnancy-as-punishment is cruel. I can only agree.

Intelligent Discontent’s thoughts on the administration’s phony news broadcasts. No, he doesn’t mean Fox News.

Blogenlust notes that the administration wants to launch submarine missiles loaded with conventional warheads at terrorist camps. You know, whatever, probably just a way to justify the outrageous expenditure for Cold-War-era toys, but only thing is that other countries can’t discern a conventional-weapons missile from a nuclear warhead when it’s launched. Um…? Isn’t that a problem?

Pat Robertson is “pressing on” with his heroic weight-lifting claim.

The Inland Northwest Space Alliance (INSA) story gets more convoluted. You remember the story: INSA is (was supposed to be) a non-profit working to spur space technology industries to start up in Montana. Instead, it seems Burns and his staffers used the group to…well…give money to out-of-work staffers and their family members. It's currently under investigation by both state and federal authorities.

In other words, just another day at the office for Conrad Burns.

In today's Missoulian, it appears that INSA gave a $250K no-bid contract to a company with ties to Senator Burns. And by “ties,” I mean the company employed both Burns' former chief-of-staff and Burns' daughter.

The company, called Compressus Inc. of Washington DC, which, according to the report,

is a “software company that sells, among other things, a kind of software that enables doctors to send digital pictures like X-rays or scans clearly over less-advanced Internet connections.[snip]

Exactly what Compressus did for the money is unclear. Larry Mortensen, the business manager for INSA, said he could not release the list of services Compressus promised to do for the money because it was part of a proprietary contract.

George Bailey, a former UM official who quit to lead INSA, said Compressus did a number of things for the space startup. The company hired an employee to work in INSA's Philipsburg office and hired INSA's Missoula-based information technology employee.

Bailey said Compressus also worked with INSA to test medical devices.

According to the report, Burns was “instrumental” in getting INSA going and funded. He was responsible for INSA's $3million grant.

Other tidbits from the report include the revelation that INSA was listing folks as board members who weren't hadn't served on the board, or weren't even aware that they were listed. Among these board members include former Burns' aide, Mark Baker; Burns' daughter, Keely Burns; and Missoula entrepreneur, Russ Fletcher.

There's other stuff, too. It's a big clusterf*ck, this INSA thing.

What's evident is that Conrad Burns, using his pull as U.S. Senator, appropriated a multi-million dollar grant for an old friend, who p*ssed away the money on his friends and family. Did Burns know? Did Burns help direct funds? Or are all of Burns' former staffers still looking out after one another? Where the heck did they pick up this habit of dishing out money for favors, anyway?

Ultimately, it may be this INSA scandal that really does in Burns. Burns and his zombie followers love to cite the $2 billion the Senator has allegedly brought to Montana during his tenure as Senator. Besides the obvious fact that Rehberg and Baucus no doubt had a hand in some of the appropriations, it's now becoming increasingly clear that a portion of Burns' appropriations went directly to his friends, not Montanans who needed it.

Two billion for Montana. Burns' Montana. If you haven't received your check, I can't see why you would actually vote for the man.

Go fly a kite!

Now comes a discernible change in the Curious George series with “Curious George Flies a Kite.” First, it's a much longer book than the others – a whopping eighty pages. Next, the language bumps up a notch; instead of “This is George. He's a monkey,” suddenly it's “George is a little monkey, and all monkeys are curious. But no monkey is as curious as George. That is why his name is Curious George.” Cause, now, alongside effect. And then the narration gains an element of cohesion, where previously – as mentioned on this blog – there was none.

The plot. Again George is left on his own by the clueless Man in the Yellow Hat. This time he leaves with a warning:

“I have to go now,” said the man with the yellow hat. “Be a good little monkey till I come back. Have fun and play with your new ball, but do not be too curious.” And the man went out.

(Um. I'm sure that will work, Man in the Yellow Hat.)

George strikes out minutes after the Man's departure. He raids a rabbit hutch, tries his luck at fishing and nearly drowns, then flies a kite, which pulls him high into the air, where the Man in the Yellow Hat rescues him with a helicopter.

For the first time in a Curious George book, the plot takes on a three-act structure: rabbit, fishing, kite. Each act builds off the first and increases in peril. Each act – rabbit, fishing, kite – has also got a catch, wrinkle, and resolution, climaxing in the dramatic mid-air rescue of George by the Man in the Yellow Hat.

The cool thing about this plot is how the seemingly disparate acts are tied together in a single panel early in the book: George standing on the windowsill of the Man in the Yellow Hat's house overlooking the landscape of the neighborhood. Lying beneath the monkey's feet are the elements soon to star in the book's plot: there's the rabbit hutch enclosed in its stone wall; there's the road to the lake and the pier where George will fall into the hungry jaws of lake fish; there's Bill slowly pedaling his bicycle, clutching the very instrument of George's future ascension into the book's heavens, the monstrous kite, bigger than the boy and his bicycle combined.

Not only is this landscape a map of the book's plot – an elaborate foreshadowing – it's also a map of peril for the monkey. This neighborhood is where George will nearly die – twice – in the next few hours. But not only that, this simple drawing is a synecdoche of George's world, a seemingly placid and unremarkable world from which George creates adventure, chaos, and, invariably, great danger to himself.

This adventure and peril that George wrests from this world always involves the way in which he violates its rules, the theft of the cow and destruction of the museum in “Curious George Gets a Medal,” for example, or the false alarm called in to the fire department in “Curious George.” (Of course, the monkey doesn't know the rules, which is why we think the book is so d*mn funny.)

But what's also interesting about this world is that the authority that safeguards it is not guiding: it punishes, it does not explain or lead. The world's inhabitants intuitively follow the rules. Nothing needs explaining. The world is the offspring of the collective unconscious of its inhabitants. (Which might explain the unnatural furor of those that punish George for wrongdoing: the firemen who imprison George in a maximum security facility for making a prank call, the museum curator who locks George away in a cage for vandalism and then coerces the monkey into a suicide suborbital flight in exchange for his freedom. George, in his cheerful ignorance of the rules, is also violating the essence of culture.)

Ripped from his native habitat, bereft of family and friends, the monkey has no authority figure to guide him through this intuitive and most delicate of environments – other than, of course, the Man in the Yellow Hat, who seems an almost criminally indifferent eccentric, ever inappropriately dressed, of indeterminate sexuality, unknown profession, and mysterious comings and goings. Is it any wonder that George consistently runs afoul of the law?

It is then with little surprise when we discover Curious George sprung from the minds of two Jewish refugees who fled the Nazis on a bicycle:

In 1940 [H.A. and Margaret Rey], both of whom were Jewish, fled Paris as the Nazis mounted their invasion of the city, making their way by bicycle to Spain, by train to Lisbon, then to Brazil, New York City, and finally Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they made their home. The few belongings they carried with them from Europe included the manuscript of Curious George, which Houghton Mifflin published in 1941.

(Check out this additional information about the Reys with some links.)

How like George to be two foreigners set down in 1941 America, just having faced an unspeakable horror, to now negotiate the quaint American towns and suburbs, which must have seemed a fairy-world compared to Depression-era Europe, wracked by violence, extremist movements, and crushing poverty. But American suburbia also contains an irrational sensitivity to things that are “wrong.” How else can you explain the contemporary hysteria surrounding non-issues like gay marriage and Mexican immigrants?

Curious George is the story of an immigrant trying to co-exist with a world that views itself as rational, just, and orderly, when it is actually none of those things. Still, everything turns out in the end. In part because this world is quick to forgive and accept, in part because George's friend, the Man in the Yellow Hat, seems to have friends in powerful places. That's a good lesson for anybody trying to carve a niche in a new place: be persistent and cultivate important people.

The rush of Curious George books released in 1958 – alongside “Curious George Flies a Kite” were “Curious George Takes a Job,” “Curious George Rides a Bike,” “Curious George Goes to the Hospital,” “Curious George ABCs,” and “Curious George Gets a Medal” — are obviously influenced by the raging popular and intellectual success of Dr. Seuess' “The Cat in the Hat.” Seuess' classic was written during a major shift in pedagogy, when educators were rejecting memorization as the path to reading comprehension in favor of learning through phonics, the forty-four sounds found in the English language. The theory is that, if kids learn phonics, they'll be able to spell out, learn, and use words quicker an on their own. (American Democracy was at stake: those pesky Russian children were learning quicker and better than our kids – just look at Sputnik, fer chrissakes!)

The culprit in the mess were those irritating reading primers, “See Dick Run” and the like. Something else was needed, educational books that would engage a youthful reader's attention with its creativity and storyline and would educate the reader's mind, paying specific attention to teaching children to read on their own at an early age. So Theordore Geisel – Dr. Seuess – already known for his creative and entertaining books like “Horton Hears a Who” (1954), was given a challenge by Houghton Mifflin director of educational literature, William Spaulding: write a book using only words from a list three hundred long that embodied the phonics program:

Spaulding handed Geisel three lists, drawn up by experts. The first was composed of two hundred and twenty words that first graders could be expected to recognize at sight—like "a," "about," "and," "are," and so on. Geisel selected a hundred and twenty-three. The second list contained two hundred and twenty words that beginning readers might recognize from phonics exercises—sets of words similar in sound, such as "make" and "rake" and "cake." Geisel chose forty-five. And the third list contained two hundred and twenty words that first graders had probably never seen but should be able to decipher, such as "beat," "fear," and "kick." Geisel used thirty-one. This netted him a hundred and ninety-nine words. It wasn't enough to make a story from, so he added twenty-one words of his own, including "nothing," "mess," and "pink." "The Cat in the Hat" is 1,702 words long, but it uses only two hundred and twenty different words. And (as the cat says) that is not all. Geisel put the whole thing into rhymed anapestic dimeter. It was a tour de force, and it killed Dick and Jane.

The book was a runaway success. Released in 1957, benefiting from a Cold-War program to boost American education, which swelled the coffers of schools and libraries who were desperately looking for books like Seuess', it sold upwards of 12,000 copies a month, a million by 1960, and 7.2 million copies by 2000. In response, Random House started a division called “Beginner Books,” and put Geisel in charge. The publisher made up a list of 379 words and sent them out to authors. The rush of entertaining, educational books was on.

The 1958 Curious George books were a part of this educational race. The Reys published through Houghton Mifflin, the publisher Geisel left for a cushy desk job at Random House. That the Reys to the publishing standards Geisel set with “Cat in the Hat” is obvious from the book flap of “Curious George Flies a Kite,” which specifies the number of words found on different English lists.

(I suspect that this educational program produced maybe the best run of children's books – ever seen. Thanks to government funding of schools and libraries!)

You're probably asking yourself, is this all Jay has to say about Curious George? Well, funny you should ask, because, well, no it's not. There's the movie, which I haven't seen, but, like a good blogger, I am prepared to give you my opinion about it. Or at least I want to say a few things about it…

First, it's gotten decent reviews. The worst say it's too boring for adults to sit through, but that kids love it. Fine, I can handle that. Second, the reviewers, almost to a man/woman claim that the movie is faithful the spirit of the original Curious George books. By that, I suppose the filmmakers didn't make the monkey talk. The Seattle P-I review praised the movie for what it wasn't:

Here are the easy outs and common crimes the filmmakers didn't make, though: no flatulence jokes, no pointless cruelty or violence, no bad language, no scenes that seemed designed to tie into a video game, and no product placements we could identify beyond a crate of Dole bananas. It's fast-paced, but not in a hyperkinetic, MTV fashion — more in the entertaining style of the book itself, which lets each scene play out quickly and simply, then moves on to other, loosely linked fun.

Yet after claiming the movie was faithful, the review dropped this little bomb:

It also deals, deliberately or not, with the uncomfortable overtones that make modern parents wince when reading the stories: Rather than having the Man in the Yellow Hat pluck George from his home to imprison him in a zoo, the movie George stows away on a boat (sweetly titled "H.A. Rey" after one of the book's two creators) in order to follow his curiosity and new friend. Added P.C. points for having a native guide repeat "I know. I live here!" when explorer Ted offers lectures on the region's marvels; Elgin Marbles points deducted for a story line that makes it heroic to remove an ancient icon from the jungle and move it overseas for museum display.

Oh, really? So giving the Man in the Yellow Hat a name – which you will never see my type on this blog – a love interest and a foil is “faithful” to the original? You know what I think of the Man's distant, paternal role and George's romps through American suburbia. Slapping a good/evil dichotomy on George's escapades is frankly heretical. Do kids need a world where everything is defined as good and bad? Can't they just watch a monkey f*ck sh*t up and laugh their *sses off?

And that, my friends, is about all I could ever say about Curious George. But there's still “Madeline”…

USA Today is as mad as h*ll and isn’t going to take it anymore!

Well…maybe they’re just mildly irritated. But they’ve come out swinging against Congress in the wake of the standoff against the FBI’s search of Rep. William Jefferson’s office.

Now we know what it takes to make Congress mad enough to stand up for constitutional rights.

When the government snoops on your phone calls and records without warrants, lawmakers barely kick up a fuss. But when the target is a fellow congressman — one under investigation for taking a bribe, no less — they're ready to rumble.

[snip]

If only those leaders were as profoundly disturbed about executive branch incursions on the rights of average citizens. You certainly have to wonder where they've been for the past several years while the Bush administration ran roughshod over the legislative branch and launched anti-terror programs of questionable legality.

Indeed.

The good news is that, if this grantor of graphs, purveyor of pap, and messenger of the masses is speaking harshly about Congress, then public opinion is pretty much in lock-step.

That can only be a good thing. The media has sometimes been called the “fourth branch” of US government for its duty to challenge, question, and prod lawmakers into telling the truth, and to expose their lies and misdeeds. The media failed us after 9/11 abdicating its duties to the administration, and even now traditional media sources are slow to call attention to the failure of the President and Congress.

I like my civil liberties. How about you? (Still no word from “What’s Right…”)

Apparently there is a psychological experiment unfolding at my house. It involves two full-time agents of the malicious researcher – let’s call them X and Y — and a subject, who feels very tired and beaten down today.

The experiment seems to involve breaking down the subject by attacking his capacity to operate under stressful situations while sleep-deprived. I’ve managed to attain the researcher’s notes for the last 14 hours. Here’s an excerpt:

Operation “Sleep Time”

11:45 pm. The subject retires for the night. When he drifts off to sleep, Agent X begins to cry at an elevated volume. Agent X demands the subject’s presence. When the subject enters the room and asks Agent X what she wants, Agent X demands a gesture of affection from the subject. The subject provides Agent X with an embrace. Agent X demands that the subject hold her hand while she drifts off to sleep. The subject holds Agent X’s hand. Agent X falls asleep. The subject releases Agent X’s hand in preparation for returning to sleep. Agent X wakes and demands that the subject hold her hand. The subject refuses. Agent X cries at an elevated volume. Agent Y wakes and asks why Agent X is crying. The subject informs Agent Y of the situation. Agent Y demands that the subject hold his hand, too.

1:00 am. Agent X begins to cry at an elevated volume. Agent X demands the subject’s presence. When the subject enters the room and asks Agent X what she wants, Agent X demands a gesture of affection from the subject. The subject refuses. Agent X cries. The subject gives Agent X a stuffed lion. Agent X informs the subject that she prefers a gesture of affection from the subject than the lion. The subject refuses. The subject claims that providing Agent X with a gesture of affection at 1 am would only encourage her to repeat the experiment. Agent X clutches her lion. The subject returns to bed.

2:30 am. Agent X begins to cry at an elevated volume. Agent X demands the subject’s presence. When the subject enters Agent X’s room, Agent X reiterates her demands, and the 1:00 am scenario is repeated in full, with the exception that a stuffed cat replaces the lion.

4:30 am. Agent X repeats her performance from 1:00 am and 2:30 am, again with the lion.

6:00 am. Agent Y wakes the subject with loud thumping. When the subject goes to Agent Y’s room, Agent Y is kicking his bed with his feet. The subject informs Agent Y that he has woken too early, that Agent Y still has 90 minutes of sleep time remaining.

Agent Y demands books. The subject gives Agent Y several books. Agent Y declares that he doesn’t, in fact, want the books. The subject removes the books from Agent Y’s crib and places them on the floor. Agent Y reissues his demand for the books. The subject turns to go. Agent Y redoubles the effort of demanding books. Fearful of waking Agent X, the subject returns the books to Agent Y, who promptly refuses to accept them. The subject offers Agent Y a choice – in or out? – and indicates that this is the last time Agent Y will be able to make a demand. Agent Y refuses the books.

Operation “Breakfast”

Agent X demands a spoon. The subject brings Agent X a green spoon. Agent X demands a purple spoon and raises her voice. The subject says there are no purple spoons available. Agent X shouts, then cries. Agent X reiterates her demand for the purple spoon. The subject repeats his claim. Agent X repeats her request. The subject says Agent X can use the green spoon or eat with her hands. The subject places the spoon on the table. Agent X picks up the spoon and throws it to the floor. The subject picks up the spoon and puts it on the table. Agent X throws it on the floor again. The subject leaves the spoon on the floor and turns away. Agent X demands the spoon on the floor.

Agent Y, meanwhile, demands cereal. The subject fills Agent Y’s bowl with cereal. The subject picks up the milk and begins to pour milk into Agent Y’s bowl. Agent Y cries. Agent Y indicates his preference for cereal without milk. The subject lifts Agent Y’s bowl and drinks the milk from the bowl and resets the cereal in front of Agent Y. Agent Y demands new cereal and a new bowl. The subject eats the cereal from the bowl, washes the bowl in the sink, and returns the bowl to Agent Y. The subject fills the bowl with cereal. Agent Y demands that the subject put milk in his bowl.

Operation “Playtime”

Agent X demands that the subject carry her. The subject denies her request. The subject explains that he needs to tidy the breakfast dishes and the kitchen area. Agent X retires to the couch and reads. Agent Y demands that the subject carry him. The subject denies his request. The subject explains that he needs to tidy the breakfast dishes and the kitchen area. Agent Y repeats his request. The subject repeats his refusal. Agent Y goes over to the couch and kicks the book Agent X is reading, provoking a strong response from Agent X, which requires intervention by the subject.

After the subject removes the breakfast dishes, cereal, yoghurt, banana peel, granola, milk cups and milk jug, the spoons, plate, and wipes the table and kitchen counter, Agent X demands a second breakfast. The subject provides Agent X with a fresh bowl, cereal, and milk. Agent X eats her cereal.

Agent Y demands that the subject read him a book. The subject complies. When Agent Y is seated upon the subject’s lap and the book has been selected for reading, Agent Y demands a second breakfast. The subject lifts Agent Y and brings him to the table where Agent X is eating. Agent Y demands to read a book. The subject turns and returns to the couch. Agent Y reissues his demand for a second breakfast. The subject returns Agent Y to his chair at the table, whereupon Agent Y expresses his heartfelt desire to read. The subject offers Agent Y a choice – reading or eating? – and insists that whatever Agent Y chooses, he will do that, regardless of how his sentiments may change. Agent Y demands to play outside. The subject refuses the demand; Agent X is still eating. Agent Y must wait for Agent X to finish her cereal.

Agent Y repeats his demand to play outside.

Links…

Christy Hardin Smith agrees with me about Congress’ standoff against the President. It seems like they’re finally getting it. Digby chimes in.

Congress acts against unwarranted eavesdropping! Specter and Feinstein submit a bill that bars using any federal funds for NSA activity that doesn’t comply with FISA! Congress avoids a showdown with the administration…but if it works, it’ll keep the feds off our phones.

The federal government builds another database to track every citizen in the United States, ostensibly to ensure that employers don’t hire illegal aliens. Of course, it can be used for other reasons…

Matt Singer has the fundraising numbers from the Montana Senate race: Tester has outraised Morrison in the past six weeks.

The Cunning Realist on the Iranian Badge story. If this free-market conservative is on the far-left, I must be on the right…

Canada’s press shows us how it’s done. Remember, the government is obligated to give us accurate information.

Where should you buy your gas?

Sex offender gets lenient sentence – for being short. National Organization of Short Statured Adults celebrates. The short-tempered, however, are angry.

Um. I’ll just use the Guardian’s headline, because it’s stupendous: “Invisibility Cloaks in Sight.”

Some weird things (reg. req'd) going on in Washington DC. In yesterday’s post I jokingly said that Congressional Republicans are finally standing up to the Bush administration – not over important Constitutional matters like domestic spying, torture, or the war – but on an FBI search of corrupt Representative William Jefferson.

But it does look like Congress won a victory in the dispute over the administration and were the brunt of typical administration strong-arm tactics.

Bush agreed to seal the documents seized in the FBI raid on Jefferson’s office for 45 days. I don’t know why this delay period matter, to be honest, but House majority leader Hastert seems to think it’s a victory of sort.

Hastert said the order would "give us some time to step back and try to negotiate with the Department of Justice."

Maybe some “classified” information could “slip” into Jefferson’s papers, eh? That’d get the Department of Justice off their backs! (Not that I want to give any bright ideas to Senator Burns.)

Furthermore Hastert is accusing Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez of trying to push him around using leaks to implicate Hastert in ongoing Congressional corruption investigations. Hm. Who should we believe? Part of the pork-guzzling cabal associated with Jack Abramoff, or the man who condoned torture?

Just a hunch, but I believe Hastert really is a target of malicious leaking by the administration. Hastert isn’t the kind of courageous guy to pick a fight with the administration over a fallacious claim – I mean, this is a guy who rolls over on the Constitution – so it seems there really would have to be something made up against him to get him to act.

What amuses me is that he seems so outraged! Come on, Hastert! These thugs have been strong-arming their opponents for years! Just ask Joe Wilson! Now you choose to be angry?

Maybe there’s hope in this ridiculous incident. Maybe now Congress realizes there are real-world consequences to advocating their power to Dinky & co. Maybe they’ll fight, if not for our civil liberties or for good governance, then to protect their precious pork-and-lobbyist fiefdoms.

Maybe.

Links…

I got called out by Mike for noting that the Iranian Badge story was a hoax in yesterday’s “Links…” post. Apparently it makes me a “cretin” and “anti-semetic.” I suppose The Jewish Week’s account of the story also makes its editors typical Jew-hating SOBs and “comrades” of Islamic terrorists.

This is probably a bad time to link to an examination over the controversy surrounding the academic essay, “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” which questions the US’ unconditional support of Israel. But what the h*ll, I’m a cretin.

There is justice after all: Enron execs found guilty on all charges! We’ll see what the sentencing is like. I say, send ‘em to maximum security and let ‘em get what they gave to Enron employees and investors…

Dennis Hastert is under investigation for corruption! No wonder he’s up in arms about FBI searches of Congressional offices.

Steven Colbert’s comedy reaches a new high: Tom Delay uses a satirical interview as a fund-raiser for his legal defense. It’s quite revealing as to how ridiculous right-wing punditry has become…

Pat Robertson can leg press 2,000 pounds! Not.

O’Reilly criticizes Jon Stewart viewers for being uninformed, er, about Fox News spin…turns out Stewart viewers are more informed about politics than…well…nearly everyone else.

Some casting director is going to have a very short career: Cate Blanchette to play Bob Dylan in an upcoming movie…

Joe R visited my post on the sleazy personal lives of famous Republican lawmakers and upbraided me for ignoring our Governor's trip to Iraq, which apparently he saw as a grandstanding maneuver while the state was going to h*ll.

His shrill histrionics were amusing. Schweitzer is, if anything, competent and well-liked, and he – along with the Democratic state legislature – seemed to have pulled the state's finances together. I'm not a blind supporter of the Governor, nor disillusioned as to his acerbic personality, but he's by far a better Governor than the last two we've had. And he'd certainly be more capable as President than the joker that sits like a lump in the Oval Office today.

Still, Joe R may be right: Schweitzer's trip to Iraq may have been a publicity stunt for his run as…President?…Vice President?…Secretary of the Interior? And that he accompanied one of the front runners for the Republican Presidential bid, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, seems to confirm this.

But I ask, what's the problem with that? He went to Iraq to visit the troops, and it's ironic that Joe R, who very likely has a yellow ribbon stuck to the back of his pickup, thinks that Montana troops don't need their commander-in-chief's support. Schweitzer has at least seen where his troops serve.

Did this guy make the same complaint when Conrad Burns went to Iraq? I’m sure Burns did good business with the Iraqi lobbyists — I mean, I’m sure Montana’s troops were overjoyed to see their Senator

Incidentally, these trips make both Schweitzer and Burns more knowledgeable on Iraq than the Secretary of Defense.

I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to go numb with the revelations coming in about the Bush administration’s spying schemes. Who are they spying on? Everybody. How are they doing it? You name it.

Tom Tomorrow nailed it in a May 16 strip.

First it was the revelation of the unauthorized overseas phone calls. But only for suspected terrorists, of course! And then it was data mining of all domestic phone calls. Billions of ‘em. But no one’s actually listening to the calls!

Hersch (who’s always right):

Instead [of getting approval from FISA], the N.S.A. began, in some cases, to eavesdrop on callers (often using computers to listen for key words) or to investigate them using traditional police methods. A government consultant told me that tens of thousands of Americans had had their calls monitored in one way or the other. “In the old days, you needed probable cause to listen in,” the consultant explained. “But you could not listen in to generate probable cause. What they’re doing is a violation of the spirit of the law.” One C.I.A. officer told me that the Administration, by not approaching the FISA court early on, had made it much harder to go to the court later.

No response to this revelation, no “mainstream” organization broke the story. (See, this will break after the midterms and it’ll “surprise” everyone.)

Of course the Internet is being monitored, as is all your commercial records. They do have all your tax returns, your SSN, and your birth records. What’s next, medical records?

Does anyone reading this believe the Bush administration is spying only on perceived terrorists? Or do you think they’re spying on…well…whoever they want? Democrats, anti-war activists, and reporters?

In an earlier post, I noted that the only people who can put an end to Bush’s aggressive seize of power are GOP Congressmen. Did I think the Republic had much chance?

That’s right. The only thing standing between us and the endangered republic is a pack of spineless, corrupt weasels who have done nothing to protect their own body’s power, their own electorate, their own country from George W. Bush.

Well…it turns out that these spineless miscreants did recently exhibit some spine against unwanted intrusions! No, no, not in denying Hayden confirmation as new head of the CIA – which they did, quite meekly — no, our gallant Congressmen have taken arms against the FBI search of the office of Representative William Jefferson (a Democrat, nonetheless) — a crook and a scumbag.

These are the interests of the legislative branch they want to protect?

Bush nullifies 750 laws they've passed, and [House majority leader, Republican Richard] Boehner wants to protect them from FBI corruption investigations?

Indeed. It’s almost as if the Congressional Republicans have willfully turned over their power to the administration in exchange for their perks, and now that their goodies are threatened….outrage! Imagine, too, if the FBI ran amok among Congressional offices! Think of the things they’d find!

Poor Boss Hogg Burns might have to turn over his Ronco Showtime Professional Rotisserie & BBQ Oven Jack got him as a farewell gift.

I’m just glad they’re in Washington watching out for the rule of law!

Links…

Uh oh. Morocco downs the US in a pre-World Cup “friendly.” Um. And we’re going against the world’s second-ranked team in the first game? Of course the US squad is ranked fifth, which tells you something about the ranking process.

It appears the Iranian Badge Story was planted by neo-cons to whip us up in an anti-Iranian frenzy. These guys are still pursuing their nutjob agenda even after its dismal failure in Iraq!

The Intelligence Czar can now help fight terrorism by exempting businesses from SEC rules! Allowing businesses to…um…to…um…insider trade al Qaeda into nonexistence? To…er…falsify the earnings out of bin Laden? Something tells me Halliburton’s getting some exemptions.

Orcinus has a thought-provoking post up about the pseudo-fascist fundamentalist youth rally, “Battle Cry.” These people are nuts.

The latest Tester endorsements.

Speaking of writing pieces about politicians’ families…it appears there’s a rift in the First Couple’s relationship – over gay marriage. I think Dinky better suck up to Laura. After all, she has the highest approval ratings in the administration and is its best fund raiser. (That’s not a joke, friends.)

Review of former ex-Nixon official, Kevin Phillips’ “American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.” The shorter version: Bush sucks.

Wired on Superman.

Is it too late for a virginity pledge locket? Well, then, hook up with a “Pilgrim’s Badge”! (Not safe for work?)

I saved the best sleaze-news for today, which should once and for all determine which political party is superior. I don’t mean politically or philosophically, of course. I mean style-wise.

You’ve got two Presidents. Each of whom has a brother. The first brother was Attorney General for his brother and a front-running Presidential candidate before his assassination. The other is a Governor of a powerful state and a possible Presidential candidate.

      

Both brothers and their families had plenty of personal problems. The Attorney General’s younger brother killed a girl in a drunk driving incident. The Governor’s brother was an alcoholic and drug-user and his daughter is a cocaine addict.

Both are known philanderers.

The Attorney General’s girl was hot:

The rumored former mistress of the Governor?:

’Nuff said.

There’s an interesting interview in The Hill with Bob Keenan, who claims he’s running against Boss Hogg Burns because he’s “his friend.”

“It was as much a service to the Republican Party and to Conrad, that he not just slide through a primary and have the kind of polling numbers that he has,” Keenan said. “It’s hugely important to me that Republicans maintain this U.S. Senate seat, and so that’s what I did — I put my name on the ballot.”

Some friend.

While it is true Keenan has studiously avoided talking about anything related to Jack Abramoff – which would be Keenan’s only real hope at making a dent in this race – and it is true the primary gives Burns a chance to spit out his talking points, Keenan did hire a pollster to tell us all that Burns is unelectable.

I shouldn’t be too hard on Bob Keenan. Let’s recall the self-described moment he decided to enter the race:

The tipping point for him on the U.S. Senate race came March 13 as he listened to a regular Monday morning weekly conference call with top Montana Republicans. It included state Republican Chairman Karl Ohs, campaign managers for Burns and Rep. Denny Rehberg, legislative leaders and others…Keenan described it as a business-as-usual meeting, discussing bus tours and other campaign matters. Then he finally spoke out, referring to Burns' electability problems because of the Abramoff scandal.

"I just feel that we are out of touch," Keenan says, recounting what he said, "When are we going to talk about the elephant in the living room? The perception of the people I talk to around the state is we have an electability problem."

Maybe Keenan is a real friend of the Republican Party and Conrad Burns. The kind of friend that spearheads the intervention for the alcoholic or drug abuser. The kind of friend that gets his friend the help he needs.

Let’s face it. Burns doesn’t represent conservative “values.” He’s not fiscally responsible. He doesn’t favor small, non-intrusive government. He’s a pork merchant. He’s made a very fair contribution to the federal government’s wayward spending by adding unneeded appropriations as earmarks onto legislation. He’s blindly supported the President’s illegal spying activities, helping expand the power and presence of the federal government in our daily lives. And he’s raised taxes.

So maybe Keenan’s intervention is truly “friendly.” Any true conservative would be up and arms against Burns, too.

Or maybe Keenan's just throwing his "friend" under a bus and getting name recognition for his 2008 gubernatorial bid.

Links…

National Geographic has a feature on World Cup soccer! Yipee! I can’t wait!

Hero Jean Rohe appears on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Public Citizen – Congress Watch put out a report (pdf) on lobbyists who contribute the most money to Congressmen, and the Congressmen who take their money. (Conrad Burns makes all the lists!)

Speaking about corrupt Congressmen, Dennis Hastert gets all worked up about the FBI’s raid on crooked Rep. William Jefferson’s office. Hey, when you roll over for the administration, you get to keep your perks, right? By the way, good Dems should demand Jefferson’s resignation. We don’t support crooks.

That NSA wiretapping? Apparently they’re tracking more than just your phone records

The Bush administration has been using “state secrets privilege” to keep itself out of the courts. The administration is running amok, and here are the top ten signs of the impending police state. Heck, the administration is downright anti-American! I’m gonna say it…if you support Bush, you are not a patriot.

Never haven rejected an editorial idea because of its inanity, the Missoulian tries to scare us with the specter of an overcrowded and expensive America. Full of brown people. (Meanwhile conservative pundits are saying white people need to procreate faster.)

Carbon Dioxide is Good for You!

The NYTimes does a negative write up of the Clintons’ personal life. Digby is mad as h*ll, and has suggestions on what we can do about it.

Kennedy honored two Americans with the Profiles in Courage award yesterday. Hint: they went to people who stood up for American values. Follow the link for the full text of Kennedy’s speech. And people are worried that Congress will be “dominated” by this guy? Sheesh…

Matt Singer got his hands on Morrison’s “fact sheet.” Plus some other commentary. Speedkill weighs in.

The Iranian Badge Story: who started it and why?

Hero: Jean Rohe

Unlike my “creeps,” 4&20 heros say smart things. Some even stand up and speak the truth directly to the faces of those in power. Enter Jean Rohe.

You, like me, may have tuned your radio to NPR this weekend and heard some of the raucous commencement at New York’s liberal college, New School, when John McCain was invited to speak and was met with a chorus of protests and chants and heckling.

You, like me, may have had some mixed thoughts about the proceeding. John McCain, while moving steadily right in his 2008 bid for President, is still one of the better politicians in DC right now. (That’s not saying a lot, I admit.) While he kowtows to the President more than we like and waaaaaaaaaay more than he should, he’s also one of the few Republican Congressmen to stand up to the administration – and offhand I’m thinking of his opposition to Cheney on the subject of torture. So when he’s booed…well…seems like maybe they’re picking the wrong target.

Or so it seemed to me while listening to NPR’s story. Part of that story was a quick sound bite of the introduction of student speaker, Jean Rohe, made to begin her speech, which directly proceeded McCain’s. This is what I heard on the radio:

Right now, I'm going to be who I am and digress from my previously prepared remarks. I am disappointed that I have to abandon the things I had wanted to speak about, but I feel that it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge the fact that this ceremony has become something other than the celebratory gathering that it was intended to be due to all the media attention surrounding John Mc Cain's presence here today, and the student and faculty outrage generated by his invitation to speak here. The senator does not reflect the ideals upon which this university was founded. Not only this, but his invitation was a top-down decision that did not take into account the desires and interests of the student body on an occasion that is supposed to honor us above all, and to commemorate our achievements.

The nerve!

But then I found the full text of the speech along with some thoughts on why she made the decision to speak out against McCain on a post over at the Huffington Post. Um…in context the speech is…well…pretty d*mn cool!

First, Rohe had no plans to make a controversial political speech until she read the content of McCain’s speech, the same one he gave at Colombia and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. She realized that the national media would be covering McCain’s speech – both Fox News and NPR planned on being there – and she felt she had to speak out against the “particularly loathsome” elements of McCain’s speech. So she rewrote her speech the night before commencement as a rebuttal to the points McCain would make in his speech following hers directly.

Here’s the full text of Rohe’s speech:

If all the world were peaceful now and forever more,Peaceful at the surface and peaceful at the core,

All the joy within my heart would be so free to soar,

And we're living on a living planet, circling a living star.

Don't know where we're going but I know we're going far.

We can change the universe by being who we are,

And we're living on a living planet, circling a living star.

Welcome everyone on this beautiful afternoon to the commencement ceremony for the New School class of 2006. That was an excerpt of a song I learned as a child called "Living Planet" by Jay Mankita. I chose to begin my address this way because, as always, but especially now, we are living in a time of violence, of war, of injustice. I am thinking of our brothers and sisters in Iraq, in Darfur, in Sri Lanka, in Mogadishu, in Israel/Palestine, right here in the U.S., and many, many other places around the world. And my deepest wish on this day–on all days–is for peace, justice, and true freedom for all people. The song says, "We can change the universe by being who we are," and I believe that it really is just that simple.

Right now, I'm going to be who I am and digress from my previously prepared remarks. I am disappointed that I have to abandon the things I had wanted to speak about, but I feel that it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge the fact that this ceremony has become something other than the celebratory gathering that it was intended to be due to all the media attention surrounding John Mc Cain's presence here today, and the student and faculty outrage generated by his invitation to speak here. The senator does not reflect the ideals upon which this university was founded. Not only this, but his invitation was a top-down decision that did not take into account the desires and interests of the student body on an occasion that is supposed to honor us above all, and to commemorate our achievements.

What is interesting and bizarre about this whole situation is that Senator Mc Cain has stated that he will be giving the same speech at all three universities where he has been invited to speak recently, of which ours is the last; those being Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, Columbia University, and finally here at the New School. For this reason I have unusual foresight concerning the themes of his address today. Based on the speech he gave at the other institutions, Senator Mc Cain will tell us today that dissent and disagreement are our "civic and moral obligation" in times of crisis. I consider this a time of crisis and I feel obligated to speak. Senator Mc Cain will also tell us about his cocky self-assuredness in his youth, which prevented him from hearing the ideas of others. In so doing, he will imply that those of us who are young are too naïve to have valid opinions and open ears. I am young, and although I don't profess to possess the wisdom that time affords us, I do know that preemptive war is dangerous and wrong, that George Bush's agenda in Iraq is not worth the many lives lost. And I know that despite all the havoc that my country has wrought overseas in my name, Osama bin Laden still has not been found, nor have those weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, Senator Mc Cain will tell us that we, those of us who are Americans, "have nothing to fear from each other." I agree strongly with this, but I take it one step further. We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet. Fear is the greatest impediment to the achievement of peace. We have nothing to fear from people who are different from us, from people who live in other countries, even from the people who run our government–and this we should have learned from our educations here. We can speak truth to power, we can allow our humanity always to come before our nationality, we can refuse to let fear invade our lives and to goad us on to destroy the lives of others. These words I speak do not reflect the arrogance of a young strong-headed woman, but belong to a line of great progressive thought, a history in which the founders of this institution play an important part. I speak today, even through my nervousness, out of a need to honor those voices that came before me, and I hope that we graduates can all strive to do the same.

The interesting thing about all this was NPR’s premise, which mirrored McCain’s quote to the New York Times — “I feel sorry for people living in a dull world where they can’t listen to the views of others ” – that the student body displayed an arrogant display of intellectual intolerance.

Of course, hearing Rohe’s side of the story, nothing could be further from the truth. First, McCain had already given the speech twice and gotten plenty of press from the speeches. Second, most of the students at the New School were familiar with the text before he gave the commencement.

Ultimately of course, the reason the students were so shrill was that the current administration and the GOP in general had not “listened to the views of others,” that they had recklessly and dangerously chased their ideological and narrow foreign and domestic policies despite popular outcry and against the advice of policy experts.

McCain is right when he says people aren’t listening. But it’s not the students who hear the Republican talking points – like we do, too – every night on the national and local news programs and in our newspapers. McCain wanted an audience, this was supposed to be his triumph of bipartisanship, his display of intellectual bravery to give the same speech to fundamentalists, ivy leaguers, and liberals. It was his grand entrance into the Presidential campaign. Only the New School students didn’t want to be talked at, they didn’t want to be a passive target of vetted sound bites.

This was obvious in a reply to Rohe’s post on the ‘Net by McCain aide Mark Salter, who wrote, that McCain intended to “discuss” with his “fellow countrymen” the “things that are important in political debates: that we owe each other respect…”

Well, Ms. Rohe, and your fellow graduates's comical self-importance deserves a rebuke far stronger than the gentle suggestions he offered you. So, let me leave you with this. Should you grow up and ever get down to the hard business of making a living and finding a purpose for your lives beyond self-indulgence some of you might then know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of living in an echo chamber.

Truly Salter missed the entire point of Rohe’s speech, that McCain’s “gentle rebuke” was essentially a demand that she – and we – should clam up in our opposition to the state, and that she would not stay silent.

That she spoke out against what she felt is a great injustice despite pressure not to do so, for that reason Jean Rohe is a 4&20 blackbirds hero.

It’s official. I’m publicly endorsing Jon Tester for Senate.

I’ve been fighting making a “4&20” endorsement because I like much of what Morrison has to say on health care, I liked the way he carried himself at the Missoula debate, and I think – barring questions of ethics – he’d have a good chance to beat Burns out in the November election.

Morrison’s and Tester’s health care stances are similar, they both advocate putting more state and federal funds into alternative energies. I prefer Tester’s stance on Iraq and on the administration’s abuse of “executive privilege,” but I also disliked what Tester had to say about illegal immigration.

Issues aside, I’m incredibly nervous about the Morrison ethics scandal. I’m nervous that Morrison has more skeletons in the closet that will emerge after the primary. Things like the Tacke scandal aren’t usually a one-time thing – and that seems to be the case with Morrison, who handled the publicity and spin a little too well. (How did the scoop get brokered? Why isn’t Lee Enterprises following up on John Adams’ piece in the Independent? Why is Morrison’s camp treating any inside challenge to his story like a virulent virus that needs stomping out rather than openly discussing the issues? What are they hiding?)

But more importantly, an image of Morrison is emerging from gossip, and innuendo, rumors that makes the man look like an over-ambitious, arrogant politician willing to do anything to get the nomination but likely not to make waves in Washington. In other words, the exact opposite of the kind of person we need right now. And by “we,” I don’t mean just Montanans. I mean Americans. I mean Europeans and Asians and Africans. I mean humans. ‘Cause frankly, the Bush administration is bad for the human race.

Still, I don’t want to make any conclusions based on rumors. There’s been a lot of pro-Tester buzz in the Montana blogosphere and some pretty harsh words for Morrison. But – and I say this as a blogger myself – I’m cautious about getting caught up in the spin. I try to read the articles the blogger links to or study the evidence presented and make my own conclusions.

But the reports seem to confirm the rumors. And Mike Dennison’s article on the origin of campaign donations for the state’s Senate candidates tipped me over the edge. Pogie’s already commented on this story, but I think the essential message of the article bears repeating:

Burns gets 83% of his money from “non-Montanans and political action committees.” Basically, only $1 million of Burns’ $5.9 million campaign chest is from in-state individuals. Guessing that a majority of his individual donors list themselves as “CEO,” “president,” or “executive,” or “vice president” as occupation, I’m guessing that of Burns’ instate contributions, only a handful of donors actually ponied up.

Morrison is better. A grand total of 45% of his $1.4 million is in-state contributions. And more than a third of his total is from “individual attorneys” from Montana and around the country. Again, it’s likely only a handful of donors contributed the bulk of Morrison’s contributions.

And then there’s Tester. Of Tester’s $702K, 63% is in-state money. He’s received the most contributions of $200 or less, raising more than half of his total funds from “small contributors.”

Why does this matter to me? I’m tired of big-moneyed interests running our country. Period. That’s why I loathe most Republican politicians, that’s why I started this website, that’s why I’m a raving “progressive.” Big money is running the show, folks, and it's ruining the country. Whatever happened to community? To selflessness?

Tester is a grass-roots politician. It’s obvious he’s creating the biggest buzz among those that care enough about politics that they invest their time and money months ahead of the primary. Regular people fed up with business-as-usual pay-for-play politics. Me. You.

John Tester for Senate.

Links…

Matt Singer has the new Jon Tester ad. Nice job on the ads, Tester. Anybody have a link to the new Morrison ad that features his children? I’ve got a few things I’d like to say about that…

Guess who voted for making English our “national” language? “Democrat” Max Baucus. I expect this kind of nativist crap from a Republican, who has to pander to their prehistoric base, but c’mon, Baucus!

John Clayton defends independent bookstores from Slate. Clayton forgot to mention that the books at B&N at the front table are there because the publisher paid for the privilege.

Basin Street Blues defends the “DaVinci Code” from religious boycotters, but throws Ron Howard overboard. Amen, brother.

Pogie’s on a Burns roll again: First, he scrutinizes Burns’ Wikipedia page, which I still notice is missing the Saipan scandal. Then he examines Burns’ contributors and finds that rich DC insiders love Burns. (Gee, I wonder why?) And he leaves with a snark for Burns’ mouthpiece, Jason Klindt, who can’t come up with anything new to say.

Jane Hamsher is agog that the NYTimes’ Krugman “completed the triangle.”

Edwards slams Bush and Cheney. It’s too bad Dems in Congress lack the nerve to tell it like it is.

Some journalists are p*ssed at the Bush administration for spying on them. To keep them in line, Alberto Gonzalez hints he might prosecute journalists for reporting stories that reflect poorly on the administration. Are we witnessing the official castration of traditional media?

Ned Lamont wins a third of the delegates in the Connecticut convention. The Hartford Courant’s Colin McEnroe thinks it’s big trouble for Lieberman…one can dream, right?

Conservative college students are being oppressed by being forced to learn about the Civil Rights movement.

So…it seems that not only is the NSA data mining…they’re actually listening to conversations without a warrant.

Creep: David L. Green

Today’s creep, David L. Green of Missoula, is admittedly a minor one. Contrary to Dave Budge’s assertions that I’ll label anyone a “creep” who’s “not of his ilk on the reproductive rights issue,” I reserve creep status for…well…creeps, people who are close-minded, bitter, and who work to stir up hate or violence.

Let’s look at the lineup:

Jack Wells: State legislator who supports concealed weapons, militias, and the word “squaw.” That is, a racist supporter of right-wing extremists.

Kelly Wood: Said “Brokeback Mountain” was supporting a hidden gay agenda and used shabby stats to tell us gays were amoral sex fiends riddled with disease and prone to pedophilia.

Ralph Nader and Bill Napoli: The South Dakota state legislator whose anti-abortion stance seems to be fueled by violent rape fantasies, and the grandstanding “rebel” who enabled the movement that spawned him.

Bruce King: Equated the “Vagina Monologues” with porn; apparently feels that sexuality belongs solely to men.

Ethel Fay Jordan: Apparently feels that good Christians should demonize homosexuals because of six Bible verses in which Christ never says a word, and which are probably largely the result of prejudiced translation. So much for love and charity.

Joel Olinghouse: Accuses “liberals” of making stuff up about his President and the Iraq War and, weirdly enough, of wanting to enact an Aryan master-race plan of eliminating “mentally or physically challenged [children]”. And you wonder why the country is bitterly split along political lines.

Jenny Erickson: Says Montana’s anti-bullying policy shouldn’t include mention of gay children. Need I say more?

bob t: The worst of the lot, a commentator over at “What’s Right…” (go find your own link) who called Arabs “savages” and “quasi-humans” and called for their elimination by nuclear bomb.

Martin Weinstein: Believes that freedom of speech should be extended only to those who have nice things to say about the government, and argues that unfettered liberties lead to Nazi or Stalinist states. Oh, and liberals are allied with Islamic terrorists.

Mike Dey: Claimed that raising children out of wedlock was “dangerous” to society. Are single parents the new terrorists?

Nativist immigration foes: The slew of racist-spewing opponents to Mexican immigration who crawled out from under their rocks to leave comments at the Billings Gazette.

It takes quite an effort to land on my creep list. Dave Budge has nothing to worry about. Despite our many differences and childish swipes at one another, Budge wants nothing but good for this world.

Anyhow, today’s creep writes in to the Missoulian to attack David James Duncan and his new book on Christianity, “God Laughs & Plays” (of which I’ll write more later):

This letter is in response to the article appearing on the front page of the Missoulian on April 16, regarding David James Duncan. Duncan believes that the United States is in a national psychosis due to the two-headed beast of neo-con politics and Christian fundamentalism.

Duncan is the one suffering from a lasting mental disorder as evidenced by his modern liberal-eco paradigm. He is upset that Jerry Falwell appeared with Karl Rove, which apparently indicates a nefarious intermarriage of politics and religion promoting the idea that President Bush has a divine mandate to govern. Love is lacking in Christian fundamentalism, asserts Duncan, and in all fundamentalism for that matter. Christianity has been hijacked by self-serving, manipulative, cynical political operatives. Self-certainty by a Christian is not good. This is all pure poppycock.

Neo-cons advocate a free market economy with minimum taxation, limits on social welfare, a strong military and governmental policy that respects the importance of traditional institutions such as religion and the family. Duncan apparently believes that this program is being promoted by just cynical political operative that constitutes a threat to all that is wise and spiritual. This is totally laughable.

Duncan selectively quotes Jesus to promote his view. Jesus said in John 14:16, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." I wish to point out that so-called fundamentalists can be forgiven for having faith that Jesus meant what he said and promote that statement. If Duncan was so wise he would realize that some people actually take that assertion by Jesus seriously and in so doing they do not constitute a danger to the Republic.

No country stands for freedom and liberty like America. The ideal of America is the hope of mankind.

(You can always tell when a freeper is in trouble when he makes up terms like "modern liberal-eco paradigm" in an attempt to "balance" the debate and make himself sound smart. What the h*ll does this mean anyway?)

First, launching an ad hominem attack, accusing Duncan of having a “mental disorder” is not a good way to advocate for your version of Christianity. If Green had actually read Duncan’s book, he’d see that Duncan consciously avoids letting hate dictate his attacks on neocons and fundamentalists. Instead, the book is a gentle, pleasant feel-good suggestion to use Christianity to defeat modern conservatism.

Next, Green’s defense of neocons is…well…wrong. Neoconservatism is an ideology surrounding foreign policy. Period. (Incidentally Duncan gets this wrong, too.) Neoconservatism is the school of thought that advocates the use of America’s overwhelmingly superior military force to spread democracy throughout the globe. Iraq is the first step: according to neoconservative thought, installing a democratic state in Iraq would create a “domino effect” throughout the region, spreading democracy by popular uprising supported by US force and creating open markets and stable, peaceful governments throughout the Middle East. (In other words, it's a dumb-*ss ideology.)

They are not small government, free market tax resisters. Most neocons couldn’t care less about conservative social “values” of Christianity, family, gay-hating, and so on. H*ll, a good chunk of them are automatically disqualified from belonging to the Great White Society because they’re Jews – Wolfowitz, Perle, etc.

And even if these were the tenets of neocons, they’re still repulsive or at least un-Christian. Free market, social-welfare-disdaining activists hardly embody Christ’s message of caring for the weak and poor. And fundamentalist morality is an elegant code for saying the US should be white, straight, suburban, and wealthy. Forget tolerance, empathy, understanding, and compassion. These values are for p*ssys. Like Christ, for example.

Finally it’s ironic that Green quotes John 14:16, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." I think in his book Duncan is saying that people should follow Christ. Thus Duncan’s disdain for hate, for separatism, for racism, sexism, homophobia, war, and environmental degradation, all “values” that the current Republican party and their followers excel in.

The issues that Christian fundamentalism pursues the most are abortion, homosexuality, and plain ol’ sexuality. However, none of these seem to be major concerns of Christ himself. If anything, Christ was most concerned by social inequality. Poverty is his gig. Suffering. Why is it that conservative Christians eschew battling economic inequality in favor of picking on minority groups and women?

Um…maybe because truly following Christ might entail reconsidering modern America’s consumerist lifestyle? Christian fundamentalism allows Americans to consider themselves on a “mission” and part of a “destined” or “chosen” people without actually having to make any material, psychological, or emotional sacrifices.

David James Duncan objects.

Links…

Matt Singer links to Jon Tester’s health care plan. If you’re a Montana voter, go read it.

New West’s Pete Talbot tells of an encounter with a number of trial lawyers reluctantly supporting Morrison. Ugh. So Morrison has all the money because he’s a vindictive SOB? You know…I like that Morrison makes health care his highest priority. I admired how he handled himself in the Missoula debate. But…but…it’s stories like these that leave me cold.

Orcinus on the “Brown Peril,” and how the hyperbole about Mexican immigration is recycled racism.

Jonathan Singer’s interview with Russ Feingold.

Speaking of Feingold, he upbraids Specter on the Senate’s pathetic attempt to revive gay marriage just in time for the mid-terms. Should Feingold be a 4&20 blackbirds “hero”? I’ll mull it over…

Jack Cafferty calls Specter and his ilk, “the lunatic fringe,” for their anti-gay bill.

Speaking of dumb and racist Senate legislation, that Congressional body voted to make English the “national language.” What’s with these people anyway? Aren’t Americans those who live here, not just white English speakers?

Livingston, I Presume flaunts her opposition to the Senate’s proposed gay marriage ban.

Pat Roberts, meet Patrick Henry.

A Harper’s report details how pessimistic CIA field reports from Iraq were “angrily rejected” by the White House and the agents making them were replaced or shunted aside. I’m with Kevin Drum: “Am I a bad person if I barely even react to this kind of thing anymore?”

The Daily Kos has a detailed report on California Rep. Richard Pombo’s links to Jack Abramoff, including the Marianas Island scandal, which involved Conrad Burns, too…

Dan Savage points out the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy in its objections to the recently released “Da Vinci Code.”

US Senators punted when given the opportunity to grill Hayden during confirmation hearings for his appointment as head of the CIA? I’m shocked! So much for the Republic.

Reducing abortion

A while back, Dave Budge drilled into a post I wrote about a recent proposal by Sens. Clinton and Reid to reduce the number of abortions Americans have by providing more access to family-planning services, thus reducing unwanted pregnancies. The eloquent title of Budge’s work sums up his message: “Getting off at the public trough.”

In my recent posts on abortion, I warned against the dangers of imposing a comprehensive ban on abortion: every miscarriage will be a potential murder, every woman a suspect during her gynecological examinations. While many of us don’t have a problem with abortion, there is a rising movement in the States that does. So the question is, how can we compromise? How can we reduce abortions without imposing draconian measures that treats women’s bodies as property of the state?

I suggested increasing public funding for contraceptives and education to decrease the numbers of unwanted pregnancies, and increased availability of day care and maternity leave, etc., to ease the challenge for women to bear unplanned children.

For some reason, Budge assumes that these measures will only encourage more irresponsible f*cking.

In his post, he crunches some Guttmacher numbers about contraceptives funding and abortions and comes up with the following conclusion:

In other words, it doesn’t seem that public funding is the issue and in fact, if we are to draw any correlation, it would seem that the less we fund contraception the less abortions we have. In economic terms that kind of makes sense – the less the f_cking subsidy the less f_cking we get. Seems like an appropriate thought for government in general. No?

As is typical of the “free-market” proponents, Budge boils everything down to a simple cause-and-effect relationship between government funding and outcome, as if the people in the country were living in a vacuum-sealed laboratory pressing buttons for pellets.

Budge’s conclusion is based on his analysis that more contraceptive funding equates to higher abortions. What he fails to contemplate is a whole slew of other information provided in the Guttmacher report, like availability of clinics, number of women living under poverty levels, the changes in abortion rate over time, and the availability of health care.

One example of the fallibility of Budge’s number crunching is the state of Utah. Utah has the lowest abortion rate in the US – 7 per 1,000 women – but placed 34th (out of 51) for its public funding rate for contraceptives and family planning. What Budge doesn’t mention is that Utah women ranked among the highest for being insured (thus probably more likely to have non-state-funded family planning services), finished 48th for percentage of women in need being serviced by public clinics, ranked 48th for laws and policies regulating abortions and contraceptives, and ranked 44th for availability of clinical service.

Despite the low abortion rate, Utah does have an extremely high pregnancy rate – 114 per 1,000 women – how many are unwanted, but carried to term because of lack of clinics and societal pressure? And never mind that Nevada, which abuts Utah, ranks 14th in clinic availability and has an astoundingly high abortion rate – 31 per 1,000 women. You think Utah women seeking abortion don’t slip across the border to avoid the legislated road blocks to reproductive freedom in their home state?

Budge also fails to account for culture. For example, California’s high abortion rate may be due to the ready availability of abortion services, its proximity to Mexico (which has outlawed abortion), and its left-leaning population who may be less likely to carry a pregnancy to term because of religion or societal pressure. Its high rate of contraceptive availability may actually be reducing unwanted pregnancies.

To further discredit Budge’s findings, The Christian Science Monitor did a story on the same Guttmacher report. Somehow the paper came to the opposite conclusion as Budge:

States that showed stronger efforts to improve access to birth control, by Guttmacher's ranking, have also shown higher drops in teen pregnancy: In California and Alaska, the rates declined by 39 and 34 percent, respectively, between 1992 and 2000. In Nebraska, the lowest-ranking state in the Guttmacher report, teen pregnancy declined by 17 percent during that same period.

In the end, there is no evidence to support Budge’s claim that public funding of contraceptives and family planning leads to more unwanted pregnancies and abortions. In fact, the evidence says the opposite.

If we are to take Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1960’s study The Negro Family: The Case for National Action seriously, as Budge would have us do, public assistance only encourages out-of-wedlock births. But according to the report, our obligation is not to abandon families, but encourage them:

What then is that problem? We feel the answer is clear enough. Three centuries of injustice have brought about deep-seated structural distortions in the life of the Negro American. At this point, the present tangle of pathology is capable of perpetuating itself without assistance from the white world. The cycle can be broken only if these distortions are set right.

In a word, a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be directed towards the question of family structure. The object should be to strengthen the Negro family so as to enable it to raise and support its members as do other families. After that, how this group of Americans chooses to run its affairs, take advantage of its opportunities, or fail to do so, is none of the nation's business.

The report actually calls for public assistance directed at encouraging two-parent families in the African American community, not booting everyone off the public rolls, as Budge would have us believe. (And let us acknowledge, that this report is highly controversial, has been called racist and sexist. Here’s an article that discusses – and refutes – those claims, but it’s still something to be wary of.)

The main premise of the report is that public assistance encouraged the endemic occurrence of “broken homes” in the African-American community, and that these single-parent families perpetuated poverty. But we’ve seen from a recent discussion on this blog, that this isn’t necessarily true, that single parents often can and do raise children successfully on their own. Of course most of these accounts were from white, middle class Montanans – and in this particular culture, single-parent families are hardly the norm.

So is it a culture thing? Moynihan’s report implies as much. According to the report, while an upturn in public funding seemed to correlate with an increase in out-of-wedlock childbirths and stable poverty rates despite lower unemployment rates for African-Americans, no such similar correlation exists for whites on public funding. Moynihan attributes the difference to the “centuries of injustice” and goes into quite a bit of detail in his report on studies done on slavery and prisoners and the effects those institutions might have had on the African American community as a whole.

Bottom line: Budge attributes to simple economic forces what Moynihan and his report attributes to social and cultural forces.

Here’s the problem. Denying women access to contraceptives only increases the number of unwanted pregnancies. Forcing women to carry their unwanted pregnancies to term only increases the numbers of out-of-wedlock births. Eliminating assistance for those women and their children only ensures that those families will not succeed.

What more do you need to know?

Links…

Pentagon probe shows that US Marines killed Iraqi civilians “in cold blood” in Haditha. Is this the next My Lai?

The Mystery Pollster analyzes the NSA polls. Apparently the WaPo’s poll was…hasty. The most resent, Gallup, poll finds that a majority dislikes the NSA’s data mining. Additionally those that are following the issue closely are overwhelmingly against it.

Apparently in 2001 the NSA shelved a data-sniffing program that worked well and protected privacy. (Tho’ I quibble with that claim.) Hm. The administration preferred an intrusive program that doesn’t work? Shocking.

F-Words tackles Bill O’Reilly. F-Words wins.

How did George W Bush get his National Guard commission anyway? He didn’t earn it. And the post has an interesting theory: Bush is relying on the Guard to make his own pathetic cowardice look good by elevating the Guard’s importance.

Livingston, I Presume contemplates the irony that those screwed most by the GOP’s policies are some of its biggest supporters.

Not only are we descended from monkeys, we may have also f*cked them! This news should really p*ss off the fundies! (via Blogenlust)

A fascinating correspondence between a monkey in Rumsfield’s office and a grizzled war correspondent. Odd that the correspondent actually knows more about the military than a DoD staffer, isn’t it?

The Billings Gazette, in its editorial on the school soft-drink ban, shows up the lowly Missoulian’s editorial page.

John at Blogenlust is dead on with his comments on President Bush’s proposal to use National Guard troops to patrol the US – Mexican border:

With the caveat that I know very little about the National Guard and its training, it would seem to me that rotating that many troops in and out of the area on such a short interval (however localized or spread out they may be) is something of a logistical headache for those in charge of making sure they’re doing whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing.And, that’s not even taking into consideration what would happen if/when there is a major national emergency (like another Katrina, for instance).

John also references a WaPo report that says historically there is no correlation between increased police presence on the border and a decrease in illegal immigration:

About 10,000 Border Patrol agents are deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border, and patrol hours climbed about 167 percent between 1997 and 2005. But there is no clear link between staffing and arrests, or between arrests and a reduction in the flow of illegal immigration, analysts say.

And never mind that deploying Guardsmen to the border further weakens our national security by stretching our military further and weakening our ability to respond to emergencies. And never mind that Guardsmen aren’t trained to do police work. And never mind that there aren’t enough jails to lock up the illegal aliens we do catch.

I must admit I’m also nervous that Bush is putting a small army on domestic territory, controlled by…who? Not the Pentagon. Then who? The NSA?

Meanwhile WaPo editorialist Robert J. Samuelson tries to whip up fear among Baby Boomers to the dangers of Mexican immigrants:

…we face a future of unnecessarily heightened political and economic conflict. On the one side will be older baby boomers demanding all their federal retirement benefits. On the other will be an expanding population of younger and poorer Hispanics — immigrants, their children and grandchildren — increasingly resentful of their rising taxes that subsidize often-wealthier and unrelated baby boomers.

Watch out, Boomers! The Mexicans are after your pension money! (Funny that, in this future, conservatives and the “Brown Peril” will have the same values. Why isn’t there a plan to deport Grover Norquist to Mexico?)

The Senate just passed an immigration bill that provides for a 370-miles of triple-layered fencing along the border, and 500 miles of vehicle barriers. Also the bill offers illegals…guess what? A form of amnesty:

The bill…would…create a guest worker program and offer legal status — ultimately leading to U.S. citizenship — to many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the country.

It’s also apparent that this thing doesn’t have a chance to do an end run around the paleo-conservatives in the House. Like Tom Tancredo, who once said illegal immigrants "need to be found before it is too late. They're coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren." He also sounds like he buys into right-wing fantasies of an impending “culture war”:

America is wrestling with an identity crisis. Part of it is a result of what I call the 'cult of multiculturalism.' The idea that there is nothing — nothing — of value in Western civilization, that we have nothing to offer the world, that we have nothing to offer as a viable society, that everything we have is bad and ugly…. If we are truly in a clash of civilizations… which I happen to believe, then it is important for us to understand who we are.

Do you need me to explain why this guy is nuts?

Anyhow, as a liberal I’m going to enjoy watching the Republican party reveal its racist underbelly when the the Senate bill hits the House floor.




  • Pages

  • Recent Comments

    Former Prosecutor Se… on Former Chief Deputy County Att…
    JediPeaceFrog on Montana AG Tim Fox and US Rep.…
    Jhawkinstx on Thirty years ago ARCO killed A…
    Jhawkinstx on Thirty years ago ARCO killed A…
    ups on Former Chief Deputy County Att…
    Former Prosecutor Se… on Former Chief Deputy County Att…
    William Skink on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
  • Recent Posts

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,647,753 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,738 other followers

  • May 2006
    S M T W T F S
    « Apr   Jun »
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
  • Categories