Friday, September 30, 2005

Rarities: a politician beholden only to his constituents

I'm nowhere near as eloquent as Albert, but I stand in full agreement with his assessment of Chuck Pennacchio and the need for more (potential) leaders like him.

Pennacchio gets funding for his campaign from grass-roots efforts (real ones,
not ones cooked up by a political party's PR firm) & doesn't accept money from PACs (not even donations delayed by a need to do some laundry). As I described before, my donation to Chuck Pennacchio's campaign marked my first financial contribution to an election effort. I donated not only because I genuinely support Pennacchio's run for office, but because the Democratic Party in PA (much like the national party) has decided ignore ideals and unilaterally support Bob Casey Jr. instead of allowing for the primary election to make the party's decision. In doing so, the PA dems join what appears to be a concerted, transparent and frequently losing effort of becoming Republocrats and sell out women, gays and other minorities as a result of failing to realize they lose elections due to their lack of testicular fortitude. They do so knowing full well how much we fear the continued erosion of civil rights, religious freedom and the very reputation of this country under Repubevangelical domination; in doing so they take us for granted, but when they offer little protection, should it really matter to us which oppressing party is in power?

Bob Casey, Jr.
says little, if anything, instead relying on Santorum to. . .well, be Rick Santorum. It's possible this plan may back-fire on the democratsand, as Matthew Yglesias points out, it may not even be necessary

I can certainly see the case for running pro-life Democrats in, say, Oklahoma. In certain states, you're bound to get a pro-life Senator one way or the other, so it makes sense to take abortion rights off the table and try to fight for other priorities, including perhaps the other issues in the reproductive freedom package. But neither Rhode Island nor Pennsylvania actually seem to fit the bill. Pennsylvania has supported Kerry, Gore, and Clinton in all its recent presidential elections and has a pro-choice Republican Senator. It seems inconceivable that you can't find a pro-choice candidate capable of beating Rick Santorum.

Since Santorum is an almost uniquely loathsome figure in the Senate, I would imagine that people who care about choice will, in the end, rally around Bob Casey if he gets the nomination. Rhode Island, however, is another matter entirely. For the Democrats to nominate an anti-choice candidate to run against a pro-choice Republican in a blue state is asking the Democrats' pro-choice community to swallow an awfully big and awkwardly shaped pill. . .

[snip]

There's a strong impulse in the air to try and make gays, lesbians, and women pay the price for the Democrats' inability to come to grips with the national security issue and it's just very wrong on a whole number of levels. During the 1990s when foreign policy was off the table, Bill Clinton had no trouble running and winning on a pro-choice, mildly gay-friendly platform. What changed since then was 9/11 and the fact that all of a sudden people care more about issues of war and peace. That is what needs to be addressed. Instead, the party's near-compulsive desire to not confront these issues is pushing more and more people to throw important stuff out the window in a slapdash and cruel way.
The only reason I registered to vote with a party affiliation when I turned 18 was to be able to vote in the primary elections. In this way, I had a chance to to shape the representation of party with a platform that most closely resembled my own. By intentionally trying to ensure that primaries are uncontested, the voters are marginalized by deal-making politicos in a way that undermines the democratic process and far from discourages corruption.

Candidates like Pennacchio come from outside the political insider mold and are beholden not to special interest groups and big corporations, but to the constituents they hope to represent. This is what the voting process is meant to ensure and this is what we, as a state and a country, sorely need. Today is the last day in the quarter to donate to a campaign: support democracy by supporting Chuck Pennacchio.

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HUD Secretary goes Procul Harum on New Orleans

"it's not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again." [Washington Times]
Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of HUD in the Bush Administration, has announced he anticipates that New Orleans will be turning a whiter shade of pale in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina & Rita. Unfortunately, many fear that the plan for gulf coast reconstruction has always been to gentrify the area which would price the majority of the original residents (poor and predominantly black) out of the market hindering their return to the area. This has been compounded by the fact that during hurricane Rita, it's believed a better effort was put into fixing the 17th Street Canal which is surrounded by an upscale area in comparison to the Industrial Canal which protects the poverty-laden and crime-ridden 9th district.
The Lower Ninth is only a part of New Orleans. The city is a patchwork of rich and poor, black and white, dry and wet areas. But it is generally true that the better-off, white-populated neighborhoods are on higher ground, while the poorer areas where many African-Americans live were underwater after Katrina. Many people want to build a smaller New Orleans less prone to flooding. But others see in these plans a plot to drive out blacks from their homes and sacrifice their cultural heritage. Some see the hurricane as a chance to rebuild inner-city neighborhoods without the crime and despair; others want to turn those blighted parts of the city into flood plains (or golf courses). For understandable reasons, the debate is somewhat tortured and, so far, mostly conducted in private or in code. But it has already started to burst out in the open over the future of the Lower Ninth. [MSNBC]
It goes without saying that Mr. Jackson's statement, on the heels of the government's botched response to Katrina, the increased power of real estate moguls in light of the SCotUS eminent domain decision, the utter inanity of the less than virtuous Bill Bennett (who used the aftermath of hurricane Katrina to defend the racist statement he made yesterday) and Freeper comments like this

Rebuild the ninth ward with a 15 feet levee's and a razor wire fence to keep the rabble in. Just don't call it a prison, it's a evacuee reeducation center

Let the law abiding black residents live somewhere else, culturally heritage will come back where ever they settle
lend credence to a belief that the statement comes of more as a goal than a projection. Jackson has indicated his statement comes from urban reconstruction projects that show blacks don't return to the reconstructed areas and that those who wish to might not have the means or opportunity. He treats these as two different populations but it is likely they are one and the same and that, if redevelopment occurs in a reasonable time period, those who don't wish to return because they've established a new life elsewhere are a minority. The reason the majority of blacks do not return is because they are priced out of the market post reconstruction and/or there are not enough employment opportunities for those who have been displaced when people return en masse. In order to stem the tide of permanent flight, it is essential that the local communities (those that have been destroyed) be actively involved in the rebuilding efforts. They must not only be ensured that low cost housing with reasonable taxes are available for them to inhabit upon their return, they must also benefit from the job opportunities that are created as part of the redevelopment programs effort. This is the only way to curtail the poverty that is endemic to those areas and restore New Orleans to a higher level of glory as well as a lower crime rate.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Judy jets from jail

According to the INKY, Judith Miller was released from jail today after speaking directly to Scooter Libby who reaffirmed that he has released her from any pledge of confidentiality that would impact her ability to testify in from of the grand-jury investigating the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. There's no word on whether Miller will now testify (or has testified) in front of the grand-jury in response to a subpoena requesting specific information about conversations between Miller and Libby occurring in July 2003.

UPDATE (9:15 PM EST): NYTimes has more on the story. Miller will be testifying in front of the grand jury.



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Ann Coulter: no fan of BJs or island resorts

Ann Coulter, appearing on the RCC (Republican cheerleading channel), complained that poor Tom DeLay was indicted for a minor infraction of the law which, in the scheme of things, is nothing compared to the fact Monica Lewinsky gave Bill Clinton a blow-job on a religious holiday (if it weren't for the whole adultery thing, I'd call that a mitzvah)
The stench of corruption means Republicans are in power. They had a president getting oral sex from an intern on Easter Sunday in the Oval Office, and what they have on DeLay is which account a campaign contribution went into.

[snip]

This is no different from the prosecutor going after Rush Limbaugh and every ruling that comes out goes against the prosecutor. This is just going -- they want it to be against the law to be a Republican, and they would like us in Guant√°namo. [Media Matters]
Near as I can tell, all she's doing is complaining that law-breaking is OK when done by Republicans and that society would have no problem with it if those damned liberals (who, conversely, must abide by biblically ascribed mores as well the law) would stop making such a big stink about corruption being a bad thing. I'm not sure why portrays sending people like her to Gitmo as a bad thing: according to the Republicans, Gitmo is a veritable resort.

The Republican posturing regarding the indictment sounds like little kids trying to get out of trouble with flimsy attempts at diversion. Honestly, claiming Ronnie Earle's record of investigating Democrats is meaningless because the Democrats were in power at the time of the investigations? This all begs the question posited by the folks at Media Matters: why didn't CBS air Ronnie Earle's rebuttal to the republican cries of partisanship?


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Frist is gonna need a bigger fan

There's been a tremendous amount of excrement coming from the Republican leadership and it looks like a whole lot of it's flown back in it's entitled face. Despite yesterday's indictment of House [lack of] Ethics Leader Tom DeLay, Senate Majority Dictator and Grand Poobah of video-diagnostics Bill Frist is in the thickest of the muck with ongoing insider trading investigations (by both the Feds and the SEC, which upgraded its investigation to formal yesterday) into to extremely fortuitous timing of his sale order to divest his immediate family of HCA stock. HCA has been under investigation for multiple shady dealings starting in the early 90's when the senator's brother took over the helm from their father. According to RAW STORY, this isn't the first time the senator may have been helped by the timing fairy

Just two days before Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) stepped down as Majority Leader in 2002, the company Frist's father started quietly settled a massive Medicare fraud lawsuit for $630 million. The eleventh-hour deal -- brokered with Justice Department attorneys after a seven-year court battle -- was made as Frist (R-TN) secured the necessary votes to assume the Senate's top post.

Those close to the case tell RAW STORY that top HCA executives were scheduled to be deposed the following month. Frist's brother, Thomas Jr., would have been forced to go on the record during the opening days of the senator's tenure as leader.

The timing of the agreement could raise further questions about Frist's ties to the company. Given that the Justice Department had been investigating HCA since 1993 -- some 120 months -- the coincidence of a settlement date so close to Frist's leadership election is striking
For his part, Frist claims no access to non-public information regarding HCA and insists that the divestment was made purely to avoid future appearance of a conflict of interest (charges that have dogged him since he became a Washington insider). Even if investigators discover Frist had insider information, Frist is likely to use his conflict of interest excuse to show his sale order was placed as preparation for a run for the presidency and the insider information had nothing to do with his determination to sell. This could be a successful loophole, but the timing still seems premature even if Frist planned to toss his hat in the presidential ring when he completes his term as senator. The fact that in 2003, Frist claimed the trust was as blind as Oedipus (post self-inflicted bilateral enucleation of the eyes) when it appears as though he had his own Teiresias to fill him in on pertinent details.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Philly Rag writer perfects the cranio-anal inversion

I don't read Philadelphia Magazine, and I'm guessing the reason it hasn't held my interest since high school is due to tripe like Noel Weyrich's ill-informed attack on the Richard Cranium's creation of a blogstorm about the coverage of LaToyia Figueroa's disappearance (or rather, the lack of coverage) this Summer.
A lot of women go missing every year under similar circumstances. But LaToyia disappeared during the media frenzy over the mysterious fate of teenaged Aruban vacationer Natalee Holloway. Throwing down the race card, Dick Brain started complaining on his website that LaToyia's disappearance deserved the same attention as Natalee's.

“ Missing Non-White Woman Alert!” Dick Brain blogged. “Someone beep Geraldo! Call in the forensic dive teams! Crate up the Texan cadavar [sic] dogs. … LaToyia Figueroa doesn't fit the CNN or Fox profile of a missing someone that matters.” Other bloggers started piling on with their own race-based reasoning. And sure enough, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and the broadcast networks caved. They started covering LaToyia's case. Then that became the story, as the New York Times , the Washington Post and a bunch of syndicated columnists all wrote up how Philadelphia's bloggers had exposed the TV news obsession with fair-skinned beauties in peril.

Based on the article, it looks as though Weyrich spent an awful lot of time reading right wing blogs attacking liberal bloggers for thinking the disappearance of some ignorant woman of color killed because she let some low-life playa knock her up isn't less media worthy than the disappearance of a drunk, affluent white honor student who made the mistake of getting in a car with some affluent foreign playa wannabe in an island paradise.

Weyrich obviously did little, if any, actual research for the article as the "race card" was an issue in the coverage (and the aforementioned lack thereof) of missing persons for some time. Even NPR got in the action of commenting on the media's fascination with the missing white women and this was well prior to the Richard Cranium induced Figueroa blogstorm.

All one needs to do is take a look at the track record of which stories are deemed compelling enough to make national press: 17-year old Taylor Behl's mother was on the Today show a little over a week after she was reported missing, the police already had multiple people of interest in the case; 17-year old Monica Rose Sharp was reported missing when she took her dog for a walk and the dog returned home without her - her disappearance is not getting national media attention. The search for both women is being conducted by the same police department but Behl is an attractive well traveled 17-year old white college student who was involved with a 38-year old and other shady characters whereas Sharp is a short obese black girl who may have met up with a 57-year old Illinois man she met on the internet. The lack of coverage of Sharp's disappearance is telling considering that Bill O'Reilly frequently rails in support of Jessica's law on Fox and Dan Abrams has resumed his sex offender manhunt on MSNBC.

The excuse the networks provide is that they cover cases of affluent, attractive white women instead of women of color and/or from a lower socio-economic class because the former are more compelling or legally fascinating. Even the coverage of missing white women is oddly skewed by class. MSNBC & FOX continue to cover Natalee Holloway's disapperance, they also covered the disappearance/death of college student & part-time model Julie Popovich, but neither provided national coverage when 12-year Jodie Renee Collie ran away with a convicted sex offender (despite pre-hurricane Katrina requests to FOX that they cover the story).

Those of us who blogged about LaToyia Figeuroa and Tamika Huston did so because we, along with many others, noticed the very obvious difference in media attention when it comes to missing persons and that difference seems to boil down to classism and racism. Anyone who reviewed the mainstream TV coverage in response to the Figueroa blogstorm would have noticed that bulk of the reporting focused on the differential treatment of cases in the press, not on Figueroa's disappearance/murder. Pity Weyrich neglected to actually research the article, if he had he may have discovered that Richard's work getting the story of Figueroa's disappearance and the glaring disparity in media (especially cable news) reporting of missing persons.

I'm late to the game, in addition to Richard's self-defense, there are a bunch of other folks who have something to say about this: Matt, Atrios, Will Bunch, Philly Future, Terrance Ryan, Above Average Jane, Philebrity, Steve Gilliard, and Sisyphus Shrugged.

Previous and related @ DF


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Bill Bennett's racist response to a Pro-life Meme

Former Reagan Administration Secretary of Education and right-wing King of Virtue Bill Bennett rebuked the popular anti-choice Meme that legalized abortion has lead to a looming crisis in social security during today's Morning in America show

CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.

BENNETT: Assuming they're all productive citizens?

CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.

BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.

CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.

BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --

CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky. [Media Matters]

In FREAKONOMICS the authors argue the [non race-based] point that the majority of aborted embryos/fetuses would be raised by their single, poor mothers and that children raised in conditions of poverty & welfare are more likely to become criminals.

One point that wasn't specifically made by the above is that the more children raised by poor single mothers would lead to higher costs from welfare (regardless of race/ethnicity) and, possibly, more people relying on government financial support for a longer period of time than contributing to the financing of government programs via payment of taxes.

via Pam

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Another domino down

Tom DeLay, along with two co-conspirators (including John "since when is it illegal to launder a check?" Colyandro), has been indicted in a campaign finance scheme
"The defendants entered into an agreement with each other or with TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee) to make a political contribution in violation of the Texas election code," says the four-page indictment. "The contribution was made directly to the Republican National Committee within 60 days of a general election."
DeLay has stepped aside as House Majority Whip and, if convicted, could spend 2 years as Bubba's girlfriend at Club Fed.

The announcement doesn't help the Republican party that is in the midst of some
high profile corruption/cronyism allegations as the indictment comes on the heels of new investigations/implications against DeLay's buddy Jack Abramoff, an insider trading investigation into potential Repubevangelical presidential candidate and animal torturer Bill Frist, and faith in the Bush Administration that rivals the trajectory of HCA/Columbia stock after the Frist family divestment.

We all know what this news means: there will be announcement of a SCotUS nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor before the end of the week.

Does anyone else think it's past time for addressing correspondence to elected officials as "the honorable" [insert corrupt politico's name]?

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because an unwanted pregnancy is just what a woman needs when she's already devastated

Right to Life organizations are protesting Little Rock Family Planning Clinic's decision to waive the cost of abortions to hurricane evacuees because an abortion will further traumatize pregnant evacuees who don't want to be pregnant. Clinic director Dr. Jerry Edwards defended his decision to offer free abortions to evacuees as a way to ensure that those who wanted to terminate pregnancies were not forced to wait until later in term to do so
“If we didn’t provide it now, they would get it later — a late-term abortion that would give greater risk to the mother’s health,” Edwards told KTHV-TV in Little Rock.
Anti-choicers disagree accusing the clinic of disregarding the fact pregnancy and childbirth, which is always safe & stress-free in the best of circumstances, adds no trauma to those whose lives are filled with uncertainty
Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, said Edwards is risking further traumatizing women who have already lost their material belongings. “This just adds to the devastation these women already have in their lives,” she said.
Apparently, it is a fact that a woman who has lost everything will be emotionally & physically buoyed by continuing an unwanted pregnancy whereas an abortion will have the reverse effect [unpublished data from the FRC supported by CWA & the National Right to Life committee].


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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Religion, it does a country good bad

Despite the beliefs of the religious right that atheism and moral decay go hand-in-hand, data from a recent study published in the Journal of Religion and Society indicates that religion itself may be positively correlated with immoral behavior.

“Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

“The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.” [Times Online]

Based on social markers, the rates of murders, STDs & abortions are higher in the US despite the prevalence of religious belief and observance in this country. The religious right has been saying for some time that it's the forced absence of faith in the public square and that the country needs to not only make religion prominent in all public forums (including schools and government agencies/buildings) but to enact legislation based on scripture to stem the tide of immorality that is "destroying this country." Ironically, those one would think most devout are the ones with the most lurid and outlandish of scandals, porn addiction, and have as big a problem with divorce as those they frown upon for being immoral.

The problem with immorality isn't religion, faith or lack thereof, the problem is the hypocrisy of those who insist their way is the only way to be a good, decent, moral being. Sadly, these people frequently fail to adhere to the dictates of their own religious beliefs and their inability to take responsibility for their own actions leads them to insist on imposing their views on others as it is their only chance for self-control.

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I'd settle for Jimmy Olsen

Former FEMA chief & current consultant Mike Brown complained to a congressional Republican panel that everyone expected him to be an expert in managing disasters and save the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans
"I guess you want me to be the superhero that is going to step in there and suddenly take everybody out of New Orleans." [CNN]
He then went on to state his qualifications expertly managing over 150 presidentially declared distasters (not to be confused with presidential disasters such as the mess in Iraq and the Bush family's response to the devastation in the gulf coast) and laid the responsibility for all the problems in the response to the hurricane at the feet of Louisiana state and local officials. Brownie, who did a heckuva job not coordinating the disaster response, delineated one huge mistake on his part
"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," two days before the storm hit, Brown told the panel. [AP]
as well as 2 additional errors he made in preparation for Katrina's recent visit to Louisiana

"First, I did not set up a system of media briefings which I should have done as that would have required less of my time than responding to all the requests for interviews.

"Second, I regret not being able to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down and coordinate their response." [CNN]

If he had the chance for a do-over, Brownie would have found a way to NO Mayor Ray Nagin and LA Governor Kathleen Blanco to mandate evacuation and stressed that FEMA is coordinating agency, not a first responder organization.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Time for the Pro-Life Caucus to petition Margaret Spellings

Time for fundagelical teachers to whip out their rulers because nothing can prevent breast cancer better than refraining from induced abortion than a good rap on the knuckles can.


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Sunday funny

Email from my brother a few minutes ago:

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the President his daily briefing.

He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching
as the President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

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Frist's diagnosis of Schiavo more blind than his trust

In yet another report about Senate Majority Dictator Bill Frist's sudden and complete divestment from his family's owned HCA/Columbia, the AP is reporting that Frist was significantly more aware of the details of his "blind" trust than he was of Terri Schiavo's clinical condition when he proclaimed the diagnosis of PSV was in error. [emphasis mine]
Documents on file with the Senate show the trustees for Frist and his immediate family wrote the senator nearly two dozen times between 2001 and July 2005.

The documents list assets going into the account and assets sold. Some assets have a dollar range of the investment's value and some list the number of shares.

The trust is considered blind because eventually, through the sale of transferred assets and the purchase of new assets, the official will be shielded from knowing the assets he owns. The knowledge Frist learned about his holdings potentially makes it more difficult to avoid a conflict of interest. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
Over the years, Frist disregarded complaints from consumer groups who were concerned about the obvious conflict of interest of the senator maintaining his holdings while being involved in policy decisions that could affect his investments. The timing of the sale (just prior to a significant and continuing downward slide) and the rationale that the sudden sale was to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest when Frist doesn't plan to seek another term in the senate is curious to say the least. If Frist's previous assertion that the trust really is blind and he has no knowledge of any of the specific details of what stock he owns were accurate, the lack of conflict of interest he claimed while serving in the senate should be equally applicable during his anticipated bid for the presidency.

Frist's diagnosis of Terri Schiavo was dead wrong because he made it based on limited & biased information. In contrast, his decision for his wife, children and himself to completely divest from HCA when he placed the sell order was nothing short of uncanny for a man who claimed to have no knowledge of his holdings or any information about HCA performance issues not available to the public.

Previous @ DF

UPDATE (12:06 PM EST): and here I thought I was very clever this morning, but I see I was far from original. While I was busy yesterday, making a pre-holiday Rosh Hashana dinner to appease my goyisha friends, egalia had this amazing grace moment.


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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Crawford out, von Eschenbach in

Most of the pro-choice bloggers are pretty happy that embattled commissioner of the FDA, Lester Crawford, has suddenly resigned a mere 2 months after his confirmation. Shakes questions if Crawford's been forced out, Jill wonders what nut the Preznit will name to replace him. Based on how quickly urologist Andrew von Eschenbach was named as acting commissioner of the FDA, my guess is that Crawford was forced out.

People unfamiliar with von Eschenbach may initially rejoice that Bush has named a physician to replace Crawford, a veterinarian who was considered to be a typical FDA bureaucrat, but the urologist's record upon being appointed to head the National Cancer Institute (NCI) by Bush raises concerns whether he will permit science to trump politics and religion as the basis for agency decisions. When von Eschenbach was first appointed to the NCI, a fact sheet that stated there was no scientifically proven link between abortion and breast cancer was suddenly removed from the NCI web-site. von Eschenbach, who has a long-standing friendship with the first President Bush and his wife, defended the removal saying data from studies were inconsistent despite the fact the action was spurred not by scientific review, but by a letter from Chris Smith (R-NJ) and his Pro-Life Caucus urging the removal of the fact-sheet.


After complaints by scientists and clinicians that he was allowing politics to trump science, the NCI held the "Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop", designed to ensure a thorough review of the data produced from studies of the correlation between induced abortion and breast cancer. The result was a revision and publication of the NCI fact-sheet reiterating that there is no scientific data to support a causal link between induced abortion and breast cancer. Needless to say, anti-choice organizations have been crying foul ever since.

While science did eventually win out at the NCI, the FDA is a more visible government agency that has already permitted bureaucracy and politics to play a more key role in decision making than data from adequate and well controlled studies. The suddenness of Crawford's decision to resign coupled with the lightening speed of his replacement with von Eschenbach raises questions as to whether science will take center stage at the agency as it should. The first test will be how quickly the FDA, under von Eschenbach's direction, will address the long-delayed status of Plan B and whether data from appropriately designed controlled studies will be the final arbiter of a decision to approve Barr's application.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Christian school trips student in her walk with Christ

Pam has a story about 14-year old Shay Clark, who was expelled from Ontario Christian High School when school administrators learned her parents were lesbians.

The school welcomes Christian/Catholic parents to partner with the school to teach the children the right and moral way to lead their lives
Our philosophy of equipping the mind and encouraging the spirit of students allows each child to develop to his/her potential while encouraging them to "be filled to the measure of the fullness of God."

Ontario Christian School believes in a three-fold "partnership" that includes church, home and school. We believe that by working together our children will reach their full academic and spiritual potential and develop the foundation of a meaningful and successful life. To that effect, we require that families enrolled at O.C. are Christian or Catholic, attending a church regularly. We also encourage parents, grandparents, and extended family to be supportive of the education process and its needs.

While I understand that Christians find homosexuality to be immoral and abhorrent, Shay Clark was not expelled for engaging in those activities. Clark was ordered removed from the school because of her parents' "sinful" relationship, punishing the child for the sins of her parents.

By expelling Clark, the school sends a message that children are unworthy of salvation through Jesus Christ if they do not have at least one parent considered to be a good, moral Christian vis-à-vis fundamentalist doctrine. The school's policy dictates that those children considered most at risk for the religious and moral deficits (ones the school could potentially help rectify) should be rejected by Christians as unworthy, instead of embraced by Christ's love and taught "the way to go."

In rejecting Shay Clark and students like her, Ontario Christian High School failed its very
mission
to equip students to view themselves as transformers of society, using their unique personalities and talents to joyfully serve Christ and others in this world.

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Missing & Endangered: another teen runs off with a convicted sex offender

15-year old Erin Nembhard left home in Port St. Lucia, FL Sept. 16th to meet Corey Witty, a 35-year convicted sex offender she'd me over the internet, at his home in Opa-locka, FL. The teenager snuck out of her house late Friday night and was driven by another man she'd met on the internet, 21-year old Eduardo Narvaez, first to his Miami home where she spent the night, and then to Wittey's house the following morning. Witty, who has been arrested and is being held without bail on 3 charges of lewd and lascivious battery on an unidentified child, admitted he spent two days with Nembhard but claims she left his house unharmed at 2:30 last Sunday afternoon. Narvaez was arrested at his home on Wednesday and has been charged with contributing to the deliquency of a minor & harboring a runaway.
Investigators in South Florida are still trying to find Nembhard, a girl who grew up in Port St. Lucie and who has no friends or relatives in the Miami metropolitan area. Nembhard, a ninth-grader at Treasure Coast Christian Academy in Port St. Lucie, took a suitcase and backpack with her when she ran away but left those at Witty's home, investigators said. [Palm Beach Post]
There have been several reported sightings of Nembhard, who is 5'2" & weighs 100 pounds, on Carol Street in Miami and it looks like she's actively avoiding the police. Anyone with information should contact Miami-Dade Crimestoppers at (305) 471-TIPS or National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)

UPDATE (27SEP05): Erin Nembhard went to the Opa-locka police station yesterday and asked to go home.

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Bill meet Martha

Wow, the feds actually issued a subpoena to HCA related to an investigation of Bill Frist's order to unload HCA stock holdings. On June 13th, Frist called to unload all HCA holdings for himself (HCA made up 89% of his holdings), his wife and their children. The stock peaked at $58.40/share on June 22, then started to slide. Stock price took a tumble (from which it has yet to recover) after the July 13th announcement that quarterly earnings were below expectation. Frist claims the sudden move was an effort to avoid conflict of interest, but he'd been criticized over the years for refusing to sell due to that same conflict of interest and plans to end his Senate career next year.

The magic 8 ball predicts his anti-abortion rhetoric will increase substantially now that he's no longer profitting from abortions performed at his family's hospitals and his urgent need to get the repubevangelicals to forget his flip-flop on stem-cell research. It will be very interesting which new position Bill gets with the federal government.

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Bush ignored warnings - so what else is new?

In an extensive interview with the Associated Press Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, noted that the Saudis had warned King Emperor George about invading and occupying Iraq. Bush, the moralist, ignored Saudi expertise on terrorism because his gut told him that leading a war would make him appear to be a great leader and provide him the political capital he needed to rule the world.

With more than half the country believing the
war is unwinnable and his ratings taking a nose-dive, Bush continues to link the invasion with a war on terrorism by overstating bushitting about the number of foreign fighters that have joined the insurgency to give a false impression that if he were to pull out of Iraq the US would be ripe for attack on our own soil he'd been seen as the impotent pussy he accuses his predecessors (except Daddy, who he needs to clean up his mess) of being. In truth, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), foreign fighters account for less than 10% of the 30,000 person strong insurgency.
The report says the presence of foreign fighters is cause for alarm "particularly because they play so large a role in the most violent bombings and in the efforts to provoke a major and intense civil war". The CSIS disputes reports that Saudis account for most of the foreign insurgents and says best estimates suggest Algerians are the largest group (20%), followed by Syrians (18%), Yemenis (17%), Sudanese (15%), Egyptians (13%), Saudis (12%) and those from other states (5%). British intelligence estimate the number of British jihadists at about 100.

The CSIS report says: "The vast majority of Saudi militants who have entered Iraq were not terrorist sympathisers before the war; and were radicalised almost exclusively by the coalition invasion." [Guardian]
In the meantime, sectarian divisiveness in Iraq threatens to further destabilize the Middle East as the country grows closer to current US arch-Enemy Iran which would intervene to support the Iraqi Shiites while marginalizing the minority Kurds and Sunnis increasing the likelihood that Turkey and Arab nations will get involved in any conflict.

At home and abroad, one can always trust Gerogie's gut to create some sort of holy war.


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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Preznit: pattern of pussiness put us at risk

Speaking at the Pentagon today, the shrub claimed that previous administrations refusal to go apeshit and instigate wars to destroy foreign countries is what left the US vulnerable to terroristic attacks on our soil.
He cited as examples the U.S. response to the hostage crisis in Iran during the Carter administration, the Lebanon bombing under Reagan, and four crises that occurred during the Clinton administration: the first World Trade Center attack, the killing of American soldiers in Somalia, the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, and the attack on the Cole.

[snip]

"The terrorists concluded that we lacked the courage and character to defend ourselves, and so they attacked us," said the president [LA Times]
Noticeably absent from the presidential pansy posse was dubya's daddy who had enough character to wage the first righteous war protect oil interests but left that guy he'd secretly helped build a war machine in power.


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Archdiocese: secrecy is unfair when it comes to investigations of child sexual abuse

In its response to the report of the grand jury investigation of sexual molestation of children by Philadelphia area Catholic priests, the Archdiocese complains that Philly DA's office took advantage of the secrecy of the grand jury proceedings to engage in Catholic bashing [emphasis mine]
Taking unfair advantage of the secrecy and one-sidedness inherent in grand jury proceedings, and focusing upon lurid details of events, the District Attorney's office has chosen not to make this a tool for offering constructive recommendations to prevent sexual abuse of minors in the future. Rather, it focuses on long-ago episodes, and fails to recognize the limited scientific knowledge available in the past about preventing or healing childhood sexual abuse. It also fails to acknowledge any Archdiocesan effort to update its policies consistent with contemporary medical thought. [Archdiocese of Philadelphia]
Excuse me? First off, for an organization that used secrecy as a weapon in a one-sided effort to protect itself while putting its parishioners and, possibly, other children at risk of molestation, to decry the secrecy of the grand-jury process is the height of hypocrisy. Part of the reason for the secrecy of the proceedings is to prevent the undue and inappropriate outside pressure that can undermine an independent investigation. As coercion was a tool that helped the church foster secrecy and avoid responsibility for its role in covering up and therefore enabling continued abuse of children, it was most definitely appropriate in this instance.

Sorry, "we won't do it again" is not a legitimate reason not to focus on a thorough investigation of crimes committed in the past when it involves a pattern of denial, obstruction and seeming complicity.
The purpose of the grand jury is not to provide a performance evaluation with constructive criticism to achieve improvement, the purpose of a grand jury is to review evidence to determine if there is sufficient ground to return an indictment. The only reason indictments weren't issued is the fact that the church had been so successful in keeping this scandal quite for so long that the statute of limitations was long expired before DAs who couldn't be bullied by the church were willing to investigate and bring charges.

The cases of abuse described in the report were not rare and isolated events. To make matters worse, silence was ordered when complaints of abuse were made. The fact that a specific law to require reporting of sexual abuse to the police did not exist does not in any way exonerate the church from its failure to do so. Common sense alone should have dictated reporting of credible allegations to law enforcement officials. Scientific knowledge was not necessary to understand that keeping priests who engaged in inappropriate contact with children away from positions in which they were likely to have direct and unsupervised contact with children is a reasonable precaution against repeat offense. Due to the shroud of secrecy & stigma, this sort of abuse was generally unfathomable (especially to this degree); it's quite possible that had the church voluntarily reported credible allegations against priests, a law may well have been enacted to require reporting much earlier in history.

When investigating crimes it's difficult not to focus on the details, in these cases the details were lurid by nature as they involved depraved sexual acts committed against children including acts that, even were they engaged by consenting adults, are condemned by the church as heinous & immoral [emphasis mine]
  • An 11-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by a priest who took her for an abortion when she became pregnant.
  • A fifth grader who was molested by a priest inside a confessional.
  • A teenage girl who was groped by a priest while she lay immobilized in traction in a hospital room.
  • A priest who offered money to boys in exchange for sadomasochistic acts of bondage and wrote a letter asking a boy to make him his "slave." The priest remains in ministry.
  • A priest who abused boys playing the roles of Jesus and other biblical characters in a parish Passion play by making them disrobe, don loincloths, and whip each other until they had cuts, bruises and welts. [Inky]
For the church to complain the report is biased and anti-Catholic when the findings are consistent with investigations of this scandal world-wide is a prime example of the self-serving denial & evasion that has been a hallmark of this scandal. Taking full responsibility for one's actions is a requirement of penance and a necessary step in the path to absolution - it's about time the church starts practicing what it preaches.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Proving they're fiscally conservative too, FoF trims the budget

Purveyors of wingnut butter, Focus on the Family fornication, has announced it will trim it's budget by $9 M effective October 1st. In order to trim the fat, FoF will not fill 83 vacant jobs and reassign or lay off 79 people. The plan is to keep spending the same in 2006 as it was this year. . .could it be that donations have started to taper off?


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No sustenance for the sentient

Gee, and here I thought the Repubevangelicals were against starvation. According to Terrance, I must be wrong because I haven't heard to self-righteous roar of the religious right protesting FEMA's destruction of tons of British donated NATO ration packs instead of distributing them to needy victims of Hurricane Katrina. All the MREs are being destroyed, including 70 pallets of vegetarian MREs, due to fears of BSE from meat shipped from overseas. The FDA has declared them unfit for human consumption despite the fact that this is the same stuff we feed our troops (who, I gather, the Department of Homeland security must consider sub-human).

I guess leading US government officials are only concerned about the nutritional status of unaware severely brain-damaged patients that must be fed via invasive means; those who are starving but capable of feeding themselves are SOL.



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Being (mis)lead & missing the point

The Inky's Blog Cabin revisits the issue of the recent ruling against the indoctrination of public school children via the pledge of allegiance and notes that sweet Sin has made it about 40 years and, like many (over)reactionary conservatives, doesn't quite understand that anyone could have a legitimate beef with reciting the pledge of allegiance in public schools. As a matter of fact, he thinks US District Judge Lawrence Carlton is a moron for ruling that the daily ritual of reciting the pledge in public schools is unconstitutional based on the phrase "one nation under G-d" placing public school children in an environment which leads to a coercive requirement to affirm G-d. According to Sin, the fact that the pledge does not specifically state the god of any one particular religion means that the pledge does not constitute endorsement of religion
There are many different gods for many different people. Having “under God” in the pledge does NOT make it a sanctioning of ANY religion and it is most certainly NOT unconstitutional.
Sin doesn't seem to realize that the use of the phrase "one nation under G-d" not only implies there is a single personal creator but that it is a unified belief of this nation that it operates under said creator. This can be interpreteded as nothing but an overt endorsement of the religious belief in G-d and, therefore, an endorsement of religion [emphasis mine]

The "under God" movement didn't take off, however, until the next year, when it was endorsed by the Rev. George M. Docherty, the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Washington that Eisenhower attended. In February 1954, Docherty gave a sermon—with the president in the pew before him—arguing that apart from "the United States of America," the pledge "could be the pledge of any country." He added, "I could hear little Moscovites [sic] repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity." Perhaps forgetting that "liberty and justice for all" was not the norm in Moscow, Docherty urged the inclusion of "under God" in the pledge to denote what he felt was special about the United States.

The ensuing congressional speechifying—debate would be a misnomer, given the near-unanimity of opinion—offered more proof that the point of the bill was to promote religion. The legislative history of the 1954 act stated that the hope was to "acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon … the Creator … [and] deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of communism." In signing the bill on June 14, 1954, Flag Day, Eisenhower delighted in the fact that from then on, "millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town … the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty." That the nation, constitutionally speaking, was in fact dedicated to the opposite proposition seemed to escape the president. [Slate]

We do not wait to introduce the pledge in schools until children are of an age in which they understand what they are saying, let alone why. The daily ritual starts in Kindergarten as a captive audience of impressionable children are lead by (or under the direction of) an authority figure in reciting the pledge as currently written. These children are neither able to comprehend the allegiance they are pledging (an allegiance to an inanimate object as well as to a country under the authority of a religious authority) nor are they able to freely consent whether to participate.

The first amendment prohibits the establishment of religion and ensures the right to free exercise thereof. As such, the endorsement and promotion of religion and/or religious belief (not limited to a specific religion or denomination) as exemplified by the daily recitation of the pledge is inherently inconsistent with the constitution. The only lesson in civics children get from this daily ritual is one that a tyrannical majority will not rest until constitutional protections are not applied to those who need them most.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cap'n Humpalot reporting for duty

The deficit's going to get worse what with the cost of the war in Iraq, the cost of rebuilding Iraq now that we've bombed the shit out of it, the cost of rebuilding the Gulf Coast (necessary, in part, because the Busheviks cut some critical funding), and BushCo's insistence that American tax dollars not be used to pay for these things.

So, what does the shrub think is important enough a task worthy of tax dollar funding? The war on porn depicting and marketed to adults. Apparently, conservative Christians (especially their clergy) have perfected the single-handed prayer and when the conservative Christians are incapable of controlling themselves, they need to enact laws to prevent others from doing what they really want to do. Now that Cap'n Humpalot is back from winning the war on terror, he's ready to sniff out some smut.


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I wish I could say I was surprised

but I'm not. The wealthy get more out of hurricane tax relief bills than poor folks. On the bright side, survivors in need may actually get access to health care (via medicare) that many of them may not have had access to prior to the hurricane.


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Out of Action: LIA/R caught in it's LIES

It seems as though John Smid has little to smile about these days since, according to Wayne Besen, the TN Dept. of Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities has determined LIA was not operating only a "faith based ministry" as they claimed but has been operating unlicensed supportive care facilities for mentally ill patients.
Former Love In Action client Peterson Toscano said Monday that a house manager for the program told him one of the manager's responsibilities was dispensing drugs that had been prescribed for participants.

"He told me that it was to keep people from misusing the drugs," said Toscano, who is now a writer and performer living in Hartford, Conn.

Under state regulations, facilities that dispense medication to patients require a license. [WSMV]
Continued operations past September 23 would cause the state to file criminal charges that include fines & jail time for each day the facilities operate without appropriate licensure. LIA/R doesn't seem to have issued any press releases or comments on its site (those 2 house manager positions are still up for bids too).

Peterson unveils more breaking of G-d's commandment against lying by the organization including the fact that "Reverend" John Smid isn't ordained.

Related @ DF


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