Friday, March 25, 2005


Hope of the Day

I promise you that if she dies, there's going to be hell to pay with pro-life, pro-family Republicans who have used pro-life, pro-family conservative rhetoric to get into power and then when they get into power, refuse to use it. You can bet there will be people who just might lose their jobs after this is over.
— Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, commenting on the Terri Schiavo case

The smell of fear

I've written a couple of posts recently about my belief that Rumsfeld's days at the Defense Department are numbered. Of course, I've had false hopes before. Some people see the Virgin Mary; I see "signs."

But the signs keep coming. I can't escape the feeling, surveying the news as a whole, that the matters of illegal imprisonment and torture are taking on a life of their own that is beginning to get out of control of the Bush administration and the Neocons. And that exposes them to risk—not just political but legal.

One of the chinks in their armor turns out to be, of all things, the alliance with Britain, of which they may yet rue the day. The British seem further along in the exposure of Blair's shenanigans with respect to the invasion of Iraq and the illegal imprisonment and torture of aliens than we are here in the U.S.

This can be laid at the feet of several factors. I would like to say that one of them is that the British have a slightly more functional democracy than we do in the U.S., and though it is true, I don't believe that accounts for much. Unlike George Bush, Blair is encountering considerable resistance from within his own party. But it is the British participation in the European Union that seems the greatest cause of Blair's difficulties.

Blair has been in a struggle with the House of Lords over anti-terror legislation in Britain, but it must not be forgotten that those struggles would not have been precipitated if Britain were not a subscriber to the European Convention on Human Rights.

There is simply nothing equivalent for the Americans. The closest parallel is our subservience to the decision-making apparatus of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but that relates to trade, not torture, and if it's not bad for trade, the IMF couldn't care less. Of course, the U.S. is signatory to all sorts of treaties forbidding the kinds of behavior in which the American government has engaged, but the Bush administration has abrogated or ignored all of them and may continue to do so with impunity.

But the Europeans—including the U.K.—need the European Union to work, if for no other reason than to defend themselves economically against the gorilla across the Atlantic. Hence, the EU is having an unmistakeable effect on British human rights policies, at which the Brits simply cannot thumb their noses without incurring yet greater risks to the union.

And so it is that as damaging revelations on the lead-up to war mount in Britain, and British courts hear cases against British troops more readily than in the U.S., there is bound to be a certain blowback. I don't know if the Neocons have reached the point of being frightened, but I have no doubt that they are "concerned." Let's just say that they are going to be going all out to protect Bush's pardon powers.

Then there's that pesky ACLU. They keep gaining access to documents through the Freedom of Information Act. These documents are cumulatively so revealing and damning of the illegality of this administration that perhaps even federal judges will be forced to take note.

All of this was flitting through my head when I came upon "Army Documents Shed Light on CIA 'Ghosting'," which was tucked back on page 15 of the print edition of the Washington Post. It seems that WaPo has discovered that its reporters are also allowed to look at government documents.

Here's an excerpt of what reporter Josh White has found [all emphasis added]—

Senior defense officials have described the CIA practice of hiding unregistered detainees at Abu Ghraib prison as ad hoc and unauthorized, but a review of Army documents shows that the agency's "ghosting" program was systematic and known to three senior intelligence officials in Iraq.

Army and Pentagon investigations have acknowledged a limited amount of ghosting, but more than a dozen documents and investigative statements obtained by The Washington Post show that unregistered CIA detainees were brought to Abu Ghraib several times a week in late 2003, and that they were hidden in a special row of cells. Military police soldiers came up with a rough system to keep track of such detainees with single-digit identification numbers, while others were dropped off unnamed, unannounced and unaccounted for.

In other words, there are witnesses galore.

The documents show that the highest-ranking general in Iraq at the time acknowledged that his top intelligence officer was aware the CIA was using Abu Ghraib's cells, a policy the general abruptly stopped when questions arose.

CIA operatives began looking for a central place to put detainees captured during secret missions in Iraq in mid-2003, and an early choice was the high-security Camp Cropper near Baghdad International Airport, where CIA officers hoped to deposit a few of their prisoners without registering their names. Lt. Col. Ronald G. Chew, the military police commander there, told Army investigators later that he "argued against the practice" and turned the operatives away.

Instead, according to the documents, the CIA quickly looked to Abu Ghraib, then a dusty and decrepit compound outside Baghdad that was slated to be transformed into the central U.S. detention center for the war.

According to statements investigators took from soldiers and officers who worked at the prison, a stream of ghost detainees began arriving in September 2003, after military intelligence officers and the CIA came to an arrangement that kept the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations from knowing the detainees existed. The investigative documents show that Col. Thomas M. Pappas and Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the top two military intelligence officers at the prison, took part in discussions with the CIA on how to handle agency detainees.

Pappas and Jordan are still under investigation, and Army officials said they believe a decision about whether to discipline them could come by the end of the month.

We will be looking forward to hearing that decision.

Now here's where it really gets good—


Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top Army officer in Iraq at the time, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last spring that there was no system of keeping such detainees at Abu Ghraib, but he later acknowledged two cases in which it had happened, including that of one detainee who died in custody and another who was kept without registration at the behest of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

As one eyeball said to the other, "I don't have a clue what that thing is between us, but it sure does smell." Yes, it's getting all smelly up near the head, where it really matters.

One of the highly publicized incidents at Abu Ghraib was the death of an unregistered CIA detainee in a shower room in November 2003. Another case that year allegedly gained Sanchez's attention as well, when the CIA logged three Saudi nationals into Abu Ghraib under false names.

In one of several Pentagon studies of detainee abuse, Army Maj. Gen. George Fay reported last August that the three hospital workers had been swept up by the CIA. The Saudi government asked the United States if it held the three but was told no, because their real names were not registered.

A statement to investigators provided more detail. Darius Khaghani, chief of interrogation operations under Sanchez's command, said it became "a very political situation." Over several weeks, he said, requests to locate the Saudi citizens came from L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and then from the office of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

Finally, soldiers "came up with the idea to question three detainees" who had been brought to the prison by the CIA, "even though they were registered under other names," Khaghani said. "In short order, the three were released and transported to Saudi Arabia on a CIA aircraft, and later I heard the chief of station was relieved over this matter and recalled back to Washington."

This resistance to the Neocon Defense Department may yet prove to be significant. Conveniently, neither Bremer nor Powell are currently in the administration and are free to testify.


Capt. Carolyn Wood, a military intelligence officer in charge of interrogations at Abu Ghraib, told investigators that she was one of a few who objected to the CIA using her facility for "overnight parking" of unregistered prisoners and that she expressed her "disapproval" to Pappas and Jordan. "But I was overridden," she said, and ghosting continued at least until her departure on Dec. 4, 2003.

You may count Capt. Wood as one sure witness to Pappas' responsibility.

Chief Warrant Officer Jon D. Graham, a member of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, told investigators that "OGA [CIA] had what we refer to as ghost detainees that were 'buried' or hidden in our facility," adding that he also objected to the practice.

Jordan, in his statement to investigators, said there was a memorandum of understanding between his unit and "OGA" to guide the housing of prisoners brought in by the CIA and Task Force 1-21, a secret Special Operations unit. He said they "dropped off a detainee about two to three times a week."

Documents, documents, documents. Even the Nazis couldn't resist creating them.

Donald Rumsfeld, Lt. Gen. Sanchez and Col. Pappas may some day be praying for the intervention of a Higher Power—that of the Presidential pardon.

Related posts
Anti-human-rights law to go to the Law Lords (12/14/04)
The Law Lords have decided — Let those people go! (12/16/04)
House of Lords tears into the Terrorism Bill (3/9/05)
The Lords are holding firm against Blair terror (3/11/05)
Wolfie to World Bank; Rummy to oblivion? (updated) (3/16/05)
White House planning a pardon-fest (3/19/05)
U.S. ambassador to Turkey resigns, contemplates more mischief (3/22/05)

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Quote of the Day

I could not imagine Tom DeLay interrupting an Easter recess to come back for special legislation because there was a possibility that someone on death row was innocent.
—Louis Michael Seidman, professor, Georgetown Law School, speaking of Congressional activities in the Terri Schiavo case

As the White Rabbit said ....

I'm late, I'm late
For a very important date
No time to say "Hello", "Goodbye"
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late

No, no, no, no
No, no, no, I'm overdue
I'm really stew
No time to say "Goodbye", "Hello"
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Quote of the Day

... the improbable fact about missionary activity is that it works, regardless of the faith’s specific dogma.
—Christopher Hayes in "How to Turn Your Red State Blue"

Tart Fest: Tucker Carlson interviews Guckert/Gannon (updated)

I've been slumming. And like any good Catholic boy left with that slimy feeling the morning after, I'm going to confess. Here.

Friday night, quite by accident as I channel-surfed, I caught two tarts in dialogue on PBS. Naturally I could not change the channel.

There was Tucker Carlson "interviewing" Jeff Gannon, known now to most of us as James Guckert. Until then I had not realized that they had been together before.

The younger one opened by saying to the elder: "Jeff Gannon was outed in every possible way, and he hasn't been back to the briefing room since. But he joins us now. Jeff Gannon, thanks a lot."

This theme—that Gannon/Guckert was "outed"—continued through the interview, but I have yet to figure out how you "out" someone who is selling their services on the internet. That is not an "outing"; it's a referral.

Carlson uses James Guckert's professional name throughout.

Since neither of them had much to say, the interview was brief. But it still merits the Reader's Digest treatment [all emphasis added].

Carlson: .... This is the first thing that occurred to me when I saw the now-famous clip of you asking the president that question, how can you work with these people. Why would you waste your one opportunity, or one of your opportunities to ask the president a question, on a sort of non-question, even, you sympathize with the president. You're a conservative. So am I. Good for you. But wouldn't you want to ask him a tougher, harder question, simply because it's more interesting?

Guckert/Gannon: I think the question was valid. And there's a lot of people that want the answer to that question. How do you expect to work with people who have expressed no desire to work with you? As a matter of fact, they have said that they're going to oppose you at every turn. And his answer was a good answer. I'm going to go directly to the American people. Meaning that he's going to bypass the Democrats and he's also going to bypass the mainstream media in getting his message about Social Security and the rest of his agenda through to the American people.

The truth is that Bush has trouble understanding "tougher, harder" questions. He does best with pre-arranged questions for which he has already been prepped.

Carlson: Now ... there are allegations floating around the Internet that that question ... was a setup. People have said that you were attempting to give the president breathing room, some space, an easy question so he could collect his thoughts. Is there any truth to that at all?

Guckert/Gannon: That's an insult to the president. He certainly doesn't need me to do that. As a matter of fact he did a briefing without me yesterday and I think he did just fine. My question was my question. If you look at the map from the 2004 election, ... all that red space out there, those are the people that want to hear the answers to the questions I ask....

As usual, Guckert/Gannon does not answer Carlson's two-part question, which was (1) Was the question a setup, and (2) Did you ask it to take the heat off the President. He implies the contrary but denies neither.

As for the Red-Staters, their predilections are well recognized. Among them is a fascination with tarts.

Carlson: Now you spent a couple of years sitting in the back .... [T]he front seats are reserved for mass-market dailies and the networks and the wire services.... What did you think of your colleagues up front?

Guckert/Gannon: I felt that their questions were sometimes tilted in one direction. But they had every right to ask them. All I wanted was my chance to ask my question my way. And I got that.

But the question is: How was it that you got the right to ask your questions while the rest of us must sit in dumb incomprehension, unable to ask the simplest questions of this administration such as "Why did you really go to war with Iraq?"

Carlson:, your Web site, is owned by the same person or company that owns a couple of Web sites with pornographic sounding names anyway - or whatever has gotten a lot of press. I'm not going to ask you questions about what those sites are beyond what they apparently are. But here's my question. Isn't it obvious to you that that's sort of discrediting in the eyes of a lot of other people? Why would you have any tie at all, if you want to be a mainstream journalist or - regardless, a legitimate journalist, to Web sites with names like that?

Guckert/Gannon: Well, first of all, people misunderstand what those names represented. They're just Web site names, they're just domain names. Years ago I was doing Web site development and these names were reserved for a private client. They were never hosted. Nothing was ever on them. And as we know on the Internet, things never disappear. And these are all things that are from a long time ago that people have dug up just to destroy my credibility and damage my reputation.

The short answer to Carlson's question is that Guckert/Gannon is a tart. But Guckert/Gannon's answer is more entertaining. "" has been misunderstood in much the same way that "" might be misinterpreted. It's just a domain name. The domain names were reserved by Guckert/Gannon's company for a "client," but it has never been demonstrated that his company had any clients for web development other than himself. In fact, when he actually wanted to develop a website, he went to a professional for help.

As for domain names disappearing, all you need to do to relinquish them is to stop paying your annual fees.

Carlson: .... I'm struck by how you were essentially outed, or these implications about your personal sex life, were made by people on the Left. Somehow the implication was because you may be gay, that you shouldn't have access to the White House.

Guckert/Gannon: Well, I mean the hypocrisy is stunning. If I were a liberal there would be marches in the streets with pitchforks and torches in support of me. But because I'm a conservative, it seems to be that there are no rules and we can - those people can leave their principles behind about personal privacy and sex doesn't matter and diversity and inclusion. They can leave all those things behind if it's useful to attack somebody who's a conservative.

We're back to the "outing" theme. Republicans seem to be having great difficulty with words such as "personal" and "private." Here we have Carlson talking about Guckert/Gannon's "personal sex life."

I for one have never had any interest in—nor have I ever made a comment about—his personal sex life. I don't even have a glimmer as to what it might be. It is his public and commercial sex life that is of interest.

And Carlson is not being honest by suggesting that anyone (at least on the Left) has implied that Guckert/Gannon should not have access to the White House because he may be gay. But then we shouldn't expect honesty from these people, should we?

As for Guckert/Gannon's response, the only hypocrisy that is stunning is that of the Republican anti-gay "family values" rhetoric. The simple fact is that if he were liberal, his ass would never have darkened the doorway of the White House press room. Now how did it happen that his did?

Carlson: Has anyone on the Left stood up for you?

Guckert/Gannon: Well, actually, David Corn from The Nation wrote a great article that took a look at this. Of course, he has disagreements with, obviously, with some of my political beliefs, but he pretty much stood up for my right to practice them.

I've written about David Corn previously.

Carlson: Good for David Corn. Now what about on the Right? Presumably a lot of your friends are conservatives. You have a lot of ties to the conservative establishment in Washington, some, anyway.

Guckert/Gannon: Uh-huh.

Carlson: And yet you're - and so you're essentially outed in public, at least somebody who owns these kind of racy-sounding, gay-sounding domain names. Did you have any conservative friends who said, I'm not talking to you anymore? What was the reaction from the Right?

Guckert/Gannon: Actually, the reaction has been fairly supportive. I've had messages of support. You know, I don't ask anybody to be responsible for - for my past, for personal issues, anything that I've done prior to this. And I wouldn't ask anybody to defend those things. That's my responsibility. I will do that at some point in time when I'm able to clear the air and counter some - some of this very inaccurate information that's out there. I think you're seeing much more tolerance on the Right than you are the Left. The Left is - loves diversity, except for people that don't agree with them.

Yes. We are all of sudden seeing a lot more tolerance on the Right—or at least a lot more silence. While Guckert/Gannon fingers someone he says is on the Left, no names from the Right are mentioned. Of course, there's always Tucker Carlson.

And we're all eager for Guckert/Gannon to clear up the "inaccuracies." Carlson's show might have been a great opportunity.

Carlson: So what do you do now?

Guckert/Gannon: Well, I think there's plenty of opportunity here for me. I'm still writing. I think I have a great story to tell. I've continued to write these things. I've kept a journal for several years about my coverage of the White House. I'm going to continue to do that. And who knows what that will turn into? But, look. I was a legitimate journalist, still. I'm going to go back to practicing journalism at some point in the very near future. And there's no reason that I shouldn't do that.

No. We can hardly wait for the memoir. And there are a number of journalistic precedents. Assuming the Position, Rent Girl and Mayflower Madam spring immediately to mind, though there are many other fine examples.


Via Buzzflash, SusanG of Daily Kos has been unable to verify Guckert/Gannon's service in the Marines.

All I can say is that of all the times I've seen him he has never been in uniform.

Related posts
Tucker Carlson - What we're losing (7/1/04)
Doing the Watusi at the polling station: Reflections on David Corn
Another press outing? (updated) (2/16/05)
Letter from Joystick re Guckert/Gannon-McClellan (2/18/05)
Guckert/Gannon on record at CNN (updated) (2/19/05)
More Guckert/Gannon questions (2/23/05)
Talon News retracts its claws (2/25/05)
The juiciest speculation yet (2/26/05)
NY Times finally covers White House press pass episode (updated) (3/8/05)


Fresh appearance of the Virgin

We all knew She would be back. But She confounds us each time with the novelty of it all.

Related post
It's Holy Week

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


What in the hell is a content-neutral movement?

I've been meaning to tell you about my trip to a MoveOn House Party, but first I must get a Round Tuit. In the meanwhile, Buzzflash has a link today: "Help Set MoveOn's Course"

This takes you to their "National Goals Action Forum." An action forum is a gimmick that I had not seen before. According to their own explanation,

ActionForums are structured to promote a productive dialogue by automatically filtering out inappropriate or marginally relevant comments. They make clear where agreement and disagreement lie and foster collaborative problem solving. ActionForums support threads of comments and replies to comments ordered by the preference of the participants rather than chronologically. ActionForums are fair and non-partisan because they operate according to a transparent, content neutral set of rules, which are applied automatically.

First, this is the sort of hooey that can turn a Red-Stater blue, and I don't mean that in a nice way. If you're going to try to start a mass movement, try using language that is a bit more direct. None of this "productive dialogue" and "collaborative problem solving." Try "Let's work together." And then "content neutral." Content neutral?!

Why on earth would a progressive organization want a content-neutral set of rules? I'll tell you why—because they either don't know or don't want to say what "progressive" stands for. They want "you" to say what "progressive" means—but not to them directly. They're harder to email than your Congressistas. Is this any way to form a mass movement?

Well, at the moment of writing there are 2959 comments on the "action forum," each of which you are invited to rate on a scale of from 1 to 5. If you start now you may be able to finish by Monday. You are also invited to add your own comment. I did not contribute as I didn't want to add to your burden.

One of the comments (out of 10) that appeared on my opening page was this [I've cleaned up the typos for legibility]—

I see that you are bitching again about Israel's acts.

Have you covered how Abbas isn't curbing the terrorists?

Oh, sorry, they aren't terrorists. They are "Freedom fighters" who insist on killing Jews in Gaza even when Israel is telling them that the Jews are leaving Gaza.

Have you posted anything about the continual shooting at Jews? How about the continuing attempts to send human sacrifices to explode in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?

Aren't I a real pest, [to] bring this to you attention? - professional activist, Inforamtion technology (March 22, 2005; Manassas, VA)

This comment received a score of 66% agreement. Now can anyone tell me what the respondents are agreeing with? Are they agreeing with his anti-Palestinian position or with the notion that he's a real pest, or both? My guess is that he's a troll.

But the comment puts in question the action forum's supposed automatic ability to filter out "inappropriate or marginally relevant comments."

MoveOn appears to be badly in need of a leadership that knows how to lead.


Republicans may have removed their feeding tube

I happened to be in a group Sunday when one older gentleman, greeted with the usual question of "How're you doing?", said he was very upset by the news. Someone asked what he meant, and he replied, "Congress getting involved in the Schiavo case." Others in the group, basically conservative I would suppose, chimed in in agreement. This was the first time I had heard any of them discuss anything even vaguely political.

It was a wonderful moment. I felt quite certain, listening to their remarks, that the Republicans had finally gone too far. It is odd what will rouse the public, but roused they are.

An ABC News poll released yesterday confirms that observation. According to Reuters,

Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of the intervention by Congress in the case of Terri Schiavo and most believe lawmakers are using her case for political gain, according to an ABC News poll published on Monday.

Seventy percent deemed the congressional intervention inappropriate, while 67 percent said they believe lawmakers became involved in the Schiavo case for political advantage rather than the principles involved.

The telephone poll of 501 adults was taken on Sunday and has a 4.5 point error margin.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed in the ABC poll said they support the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube.

The Republican action was supposed to be a sop to their "base," but the pandering didn't pan out.

Among two core Republicans constituencies, 54 percent of conservatives said they support removal of the tube, while evangelical Protestants divide about evenly with 46 percent support.

According to the poll, conservatives and evangelicals also were more likely to support federal intervention in the case, although the support did not reach a majority in either group. [all emphasis added]

We should hear the sounds of Republican backpedaling very, very soon.


U.S. ambassador to Turkey resigns, contemplates more mischief

The State Department announced Friday that U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman has resigned both from the ambassadorship and from the Foreign Service. According to Louis Meixler of the AP,
U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman plans to resign from the Foreign Service this summer for personal reasons, said Adam Ereli, a spokesman for the State Department. Ereli said the ambassador "is leaving Turkey on positive, friendly, cooperative terms," and the spokesman declined to comment on Turkish reports that the ambassador would take a position in the Pentagon.

During a trip to the country earlier this year, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly instructed Edelman to do more to calm anti-Americanism in the Turkish media. [emphasis added]

If you read the Turkish press, you might easily speculate that Edelman's decision to resign was taken in an effort to "calm anti-Americanism in the Turkish media."

Here's what Ibrahim Karagul, a Turkish columnist, had to say about him—

.... Eric Edelman acts more like a colonial governor than an ambassador. Since his appointment as US ambassador to Turkey, Edelman’s actions have always caused discomfort among the public. His latest ‘suggestions’ on Sezer’s upcoming visit to Syria had the same impact.

Edelman is probably the least-liked and trusted American ambassador in Turkish history, and his reputation is not likely to recuperate. Edelman’s actions have exceeded his diplomatic mission. His ‘interest’ in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the Turkish media and ethnic minorities make him go beyond his role as an ambassador. His presence here has never contributed to Turkish-American relations, and it never will. If we want to address the reasons for anti-Americanism, Edelman must be issue one. As long as Edelman stays in Turkey, the chill wind disturbing bilateral relations will last.

But before you conclude that the Bush administration has belatedly discovered the meaning of the word "diplomacy," consider what the Turkish newspaper Zaman has reported and about which the State Department will not comment—

It is noted that Edelman could be appointed as the Deputy Defense Secretary, the position recently vacated by Paul Wolfowitz after President Bush reassigned him to the head of the World Bank. According to diplomatic circles, if this is not the case, Edelman may be assigned as a replacement for Douglas Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense.

In line with the administration's policy of rewarding neocon failure, Edelman will be promoted, and that right soon. Zaman says he will stay on until July.

In a previous post I predicted the near-term departure of Donald Rumsfeld based on the nomination of Wolfowitz to the World Bank and mentioned the Newsweek speculation that Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Richard Armitage will be replacing Rumsfeld. Now take a look at this AP photo released on Friday. How odd that Edelman should be shown with Armitage! It's not that there wasn't a perfectly good photo of him solo. And thus our media prepare us for the next load of crap to appear on the public plate. By the time the appointment of the Armitage-Edelman team has been announced, you'll feel as if you attended the wedding.

The July effective date of Edelman's resignation suggests the timeline of the events to follow. I say Rummy will be out by summer.

Related posts
If this is true... (Turkey & Rice) (3/4/05)
Wolfie to World Bank; Rummy to oblivion? (3/16/05)

Monday, March 21, 2005


Scottish bishop, Australian school marm acting up

Bishop Joseph Devine is president of the Catholic Education Commission in Scotland so his interpretation of the recently released "A Charter for Catholic Schools" is the interpretation that counts.

According to Hamish MacDonald in The Scotsman, Bishop Devine said—

Being homosexual would not at all be compatible with the charter. It would cut across the whole moral vision enshrined in the charter.

It would be offering a lifestyle that is incompatible with Catholic social teaching.

And when the bishop says "incompatible" he means it.

Bishop Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, said the charter would provide the framework to make sure gays were not employed in Catholic schools and would probably limit the promotion opportunities of those already employed.

He said: "In practice, I would think that it is possible that some may have been hired, but [the schools] may not have known until it was too late.

"That’s our fault for not making the proper checks and references. The charter tightens it up." [emphasis added]

He sounds more American than Scottish.

But anti-gay discrimination in employment is expressly forbidden in Scotland, and a trip to the court is predicted if the policies are pursued.

The Rev Ewan Aitken, COSLA’s [the local governing body] education spokesman, said: "Local authorities would never countenance discriminating against a teacher because of sexual orientation. Councils would be in court in seconds."

Europeans of the religious right are trying to pull off some of the same maneuvers that they have beheld with envy in the U.S. And evangelical Christianity is beginning to insert itself in the upcoming British elections [more on that in another post].

Happily there is a great deal more secular humanism—or old-fashioned Christianity—in Europe than in the U.S.

Judith Gillespie, from the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, described Bishop Devine’s views as "very sad".

She said: "His comments are worse than unfair and it reflects on the church that it wants to reject a group of people who are not choosing their lifestyle. I thought Christianity was about inclusion and brotherhood."

Australian pedagogue

Meanwhile, back in the States the idea that openly gay people would be hired in most parts of the country is just ridiculous. But you'll have no problem if you're a Bible-thumping nincompoop and wear your hair in a pompadour or bouffant.

Perhaps the American fondness for religious nuttery was what brought Aussie teacher Kristie Griffiths over to the Land of the Freely Indoctrinated.

Visiting in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Ms. Griffiths went out and bought her own instructional materials—A Beka Book. A Beka Book's website boasts that—

Our skilled researchers and writers do not paraphrase progressive education textbooks and add Biblical principles; they do primary research in every subject and look at the subject from God’s point of view.

It is always good to write textbooks from God's point of view. I probably should be doing the same at Simply Appalling so that you will be assured inerrancy.

Anyway, before anyone could say "Mother of God," Ms. Griffiths was teaching a lesson called "Scents Make Sense" to her fifth-grade class. According to Kristin Collins of the News & Observer,

"God's word tells us about a kind of odor only Christians have ...," the lesson read. "Christians carry forth the fragrance of Christ wherever they go by the way they live; that is, they remind people of Him.

"Could someone find Christ by the scent trail you are leaving behind you?"

Ms. Griffiths herself left a scent trail that led the school district into federal court.

In November or December, Ashlee Nicole Smith, a school spelling bee champion and president of the Sunnyside Beta Club, showed the scent lesson and one other to her parents, Troy and Mary Jane Smith of Fayetteville. The other lesson said, "God has a niche for each creature He has created, down to the tiniest microscopic being. He also has a niche for each person He has created."

The suit says that when the parents complained to principal Deborah Anderson, she asked, "What's the problem? Don't you and your family go to church?"

Anderson also told the parents she didn't understand their objections, because Ashlee earned perfect scores on the assignments. Anderson then promised that it wouldn't happen again.

In February, it did.

Ashlee came home with a worksheet on which she was marked wrong for answering that "chance" was the reason many animals are colored to match their surroundings. The teacher indicated that the right answer was "God's master design," the suit says. [emphasis added]

Well, I'm sympathetic to Ashlee because I get that one wrong every time too.

The federal judge upbraided the school district, and they have promised never to do it again. But the school superintendent explained that the teacher didn't understand that what she was doing was against the law because she is a foreigner.

Harrison said Cumberland schools have a policy, mandated by federal law, that bars teachers from endorsing any religion.

He said that Kristie Griffiths, the teacher, is a visiting faculty member from Australia and did not understand U.S. standards....

I think Ms. Griffiths understood U.S. standards very well. What she didn't understand is that you mustn't leave a scent trail.

Related post
Encouraging wassatiya in the schools (6/10/04)
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to church... (8/18/04)


It's Holy Week

It being Holy Week, la Semana Santa and all, you may expect to get your fill of religious news from the media. If we're lucky, the image of the Blessèd Virgin will appear in some unlikely place,1 and Univision, the largest U.S. Spanish-language cable network, will try to be there as the news breaks. NBC intends to stay out front of the English-speaking pack by featuring a weeklong series called "Faith in America."

So that it will have something to talk about, NBC decided to create some news and has commissioned a poll on "religion and American life", the results of which are conveniently and miraculously just out. [This link may take you to an online poll that you must pass through to see the poll results. I'm not sure.] The poll is based on telephone interviews of 800 adults conducted by Peter D. Hart Research between March 8 and 10.

I took the survey to see how I might measure up with my more affiliated brethren. Some questions left me confused—

How often do you watch or listen to religious programming on TV or radio?

Some days it seems that is all that's on the tube, depending upon how you define "religious programming." For instance (and speaking of tubes), is the endless headline coverage of the Terri Schiavo case "religious programming," or the hormone crisis in baseball? I'm not sure how I answered. I think I put "All the time."

Do your religious beliefs play a major role, a minor role, or no role at all in determining who to support in an election?

I believe rather religiously that George Bush should not be attacking other countries willy-nilly, so does that mean my religious beliefs play a major role in determining who to support in an election? I don't know. It seems to me that I would have thought the same in any case.

Do your religious beliefs play a major role, a minor role, or no role at all in making decisions at work?

My religious beliefs played a major role in my decision to work as little as possible. So how should I answer?

Of course, you may find the questions more in accord with your mode of thought. But my point is that the poll itself rather quickly leads you down a garden path so that by the time you've reached the end of it, you can think of nothing but religion. Insidiously clever. But it worked. I am devoting this week to religion, with perhaps an occasional look into its soulmate, moral turpitude.

Be forewarned.

Correction: "Terry Schiavo" has been corrected to "Terri Schiavo."


1 The appearances of the Virgin in a tortilla in Texas and in the window of a former bank building in Clearwater, Florida, are well documented. Her repeated appearances to Georgia homemaker Nancy Fowler, which at one point drew up to 100,000 people, are less so—

Some of the faithful said their cameras caught images of Mary along with strange colors and shapes emanating from the sun.

"I come because of all the miracles I have experienced," said Angie Moogalin of Chester, Va., clutching a Polaroid of Mrs. Fowler's house with another shape she claims is a door above the house. "I've seen different lights and different images. There's just a feeling of holiness here."


Sunday, March 20, 2005


Stop contributing to child pornography! Listen to progressive radio

Buzzflash has just turned up another link to a born-again child pornographer. The AP reports
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Agents with the FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force arrested a Christian radio station personality as part of a child pornography investigation.

Bureau agents began investigating Chris Ruleman, 40, a midday host for WFFI, 94FM The Fish, earlier this week after receiving information that he possessed child pornography.

Links are disappearing quickly from the Christian sites, but there's always the cache.

Here's what his station WFFI, whose motto is "Safe for the Whole Family" used to say about him—

Chris Ruleman is quickly becoming known as America’s top Christian adult contemporary radio voice. He's personable and friendly, and perhaps one of the silliest people you'll ever meet.... Chris is a smart dresser who enjoys collecting unique ties, colognes, pens and cuff links.

Doesn't that just say it all? How could they not have known?

Before launching a career in radio, Mr. Ruleman apparently was the "voice" in your voicemail—

Chris ... is a widely recognized voice talent throughout the mid-south region. (We're tired of calling folks on their mobile phones and hearing Chris's voice come on to tell us "the customer you're trying to reach is not currently available").

But it gets better. If you go to the page devoted to Chris Ruleman at [actually the Yahoo cache], you'll find—

Kids Quotes
Any little comedians living in your house? Contribute your "Kids Quote" by email at If your child or a child that you know has said something really funny or cute, email me and I'll use it on the air!

Two years ago the Tennessean did a feature on gastric bypass surgery and quoted the well-known radio personality—

... the thought of not being able play with his children spurred Chris Ruleman, 38, of Brentwood to weight-loss surgery last month.

And finally there's the Chris Ruleman laugh [Audio. Warning! Very scary].

Really, I hope Mr. Ruleman can get his life back together. The laws against downloading kiddie porn are draconian, as are so many others. But I always enjoy a bit of embarrassment for the holier-than-thou Christian right. After all, it was only last month that they prevailed in keeping the sight of Lesbian moms in a children's show off the air in the majority of PBS markets.

Related post
A postcard from the edge

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