Saturday, June 03, 2006


Factlet of the Day

One has to turn to the South Asian press to read that 'Cuba has provided the largest contingent of doctors and paramedics to Pakistan', paying all the costs (perhaps with Venezuelan funding), and that President Musharraf expressed his 'deep gratitude' for the 'spirit and compassion' of the Cuban medical teams. —Noam Chomsky in extract from "Failed States"

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Statistic of the Day

Since 2003, 71 journalists have been killed in Iraq, more than the 63 killed in Vietnam, 17 killed in Korea -- and now the 69 killed in World War II....Freedom Forum via Editor & Publisher

In addition to those killed, at least 42 journalists have been kidnapped, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Al Gore: "Congress ... has become a rubber stamp"

Earlier today I posted a segment of Terry Gross' interview with Al Gore on NPR's "Fresh Air." Here is the transcript of another segment in which Gore speaks of the failures of this Congress—
TERRY GROSS [31:20]: Does Congress look different to you from a distance? You know, so many Congress-watchers are saying it's more divided than they can ever remember it being in their memories. Does it appear that way to you too? And what are some of the differences you see?

AL GORE: Well, I served in the Congress for a long time—for 18 years and then as President of the Senate. And it was a different Congress from what we have today.

The legislative branch of government is intended to be co-equal with the executive and judicial, and independent. And as such it's supposed to conduct oversight and render independent judgments of policy.

And this Congress has been so shockingly obsequious to the desires of the President and his political advisors that it has become a rubber stamp. This Congress has actually... If you look at their plans and schedule, they will work 17 days less in this Congress than the legendary "Do-Nothing" Congress that Harry Truman ran against in his last race.

They allow lobbyists to write the laws. They ignore the parliamentary rules of procedure. They allow the Executive Branch and the lobbyists that work there to come in at the tail end of the legislative process after the conference committees have met and insert special-interest language that neither house of Congress has ever considered, much less voted on independently.

And that results in powerful and wealthy special interests writing laws that the rest of us have to abide by under penalty of imprisonment or whatever the penalty in the individual law is. And that is something the Congress has allowed to happen. And I do not think that... Many of them are simply not living up to their oath to defend the Constitution.

TERRY GROSS: Democrats and Republicans?

AL GORE: Well, I'm afraid that ... Well, first of all the Democrats, were they in power, would not allowed this to happen.

Have some of them been too willing to go along and too willing to allow some of these things to happen? Yes, I'm afraid that is the case. But I'm not going to blame the victims. Because I do believe that if they were in power it would be very different. And I have great hopes that the elections this fall—the 2006 midterm elections—will produce a real tidal wave of change. I certainly hope they will.

Previous post
Al Gore: "I would not have imagined ...." (6/1/06)



Al Gore: "I would not have imagined ...."

Tuesday I listened to the broadcast of Terry Gross's 30-minute interview with Al Gore on "Fresh Air" from NPR. The first part focused on Gore's recently released documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." But late in the interview Gore's talk turned to corporate corruption and the do-nothing Congress, then ended with a magnificent summary of this government's betrayal of the Constitution and the public's acquiescence.

Here's my transcription of that segment—

TERRY GROSS [at 34:40]: Does it ever amaze you how much the world has changed since you ran for the Presidency?

Did you imagine that that much change would even be possible?

AL GORE: No. No, I did not. And I'm not alone in that.

You know, the premise of that Saturday Night Live skit was the existence of an alternate universe, and (laughing) there are people who sort of voluntarily say now it feels as if we've entered an alternate universe.

I would not have imagined, for example, that Americans could be routinely torturing helpless captives in the name of the American people and to continue it day after day—it's going on right now—without an ongoing outrage and a demand that it stop.

I would not have imagined that the government could routinely eavesdrop on tens of milliions of Americans without a warrant and not have an ongoing outrage.

I would not have imagined that we the American people would tolerate the locking up by the Executive Branch of American citizens without right to trial—without right to inform their families—to be held in secret without being charged.

These are offenses against the constitution and the rule of law that I would never have imagined could take place, much less be allowed to continue after they came to light.

So yes. The degree of change is truly shocking to me.

Let the impeachment begin.


Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Prudery gone amuck

Despite whatever notions I may have conjured in my readers' minds, I consider myself a prude. Not by Christo-Republican standards of course. If invited to an orgy I'm the sort who responds "I'd love to but that's the night I do my hair." There are many activities—sexual and otherwise—that really are not for Yours Truly, but which don't distress me in the least when enjoyed by others.

Also, though we're talking now in historical terms, I remember what I was like as a teenager. And I note with dismay that the behaviors that I and my peers took for granted at that age have now become one more excuse to imprison people. So I'm going to be more personal than usual and dredge up some memories.

In that sheltered time before the Sixties destroyed our "innocence," we teenagers lived simply. In the rural South teenagers didn't do drugs. Adults did drugs and nobody worried about it. Most of the matrons I knew kept a bottle of Miltown in their purse and passed them around at church socials like aspirin.1 And everybody knew that the pharmacist's wife was addicted to morphine. But for us kids it was strictly beer, whiskey and cigarettes.

We had all the sex we could get, but there never seemed to be enough to go around. I don't know anyone who would have turned down an opportunity with someone ten years or twenty years older, and in many cases the twenty-somethings were our best prospects. In fact, I'm quite certain that a number of them were taken advantage of by predatory teenagers.

In my senior year one of the class beauties was dating a teacher. I don't know if the school principal knew, but certainly all the students did. The couple got married right after graduation—some said for cause. So far as I know they're still married.

Which brings me to Matthew Glasser, 29, who is charged with second-degree sexual assault for having sex with a 16-year-old student.

Only because he was a teacher and she was a student

The interesting thing about this case is that in Connecticut, where the alleged offense was committed, the age of consent is 16. Mr. Glasser is not being charged with statutory rape but is charged under a law making sex with one's students a crime. In other words, Mr. Glasser could have cavorted with a highschool dropout all he liked.

He is fighting the case on constitutional grounds. According to WFSB-TV in Hartford,

"We believe that the statute infringes on a fundamental right to sexual privacy and therefore does not hold up under constitutional scrutiny," Jeremy Donnelly, one of Glasser's lawyers, said Friday.

In their legal brief seeking a dismissal of the charges, Glasser's lawyers contend that privacy rights cannot be infringed upon unless there's a "compelling state interest" in doing so. The state has fallen short of defining that interest, they argue.

A similar motion in the case of a New Haven teacher is pending before the state Supreme Court.

School officials at Northwest Catholic learned of the affair in early May 2005 after the girl feared she might be pregnant, according to the arrest warrant.

The girl told police she had sex with Glasser at least eight times.

Michael Griffin, the school's president, said at the time that school officials had not received other complaints about Glasser and, before the investigation, were pleased with his work with the band and choir groups.

Now let's hear it from the prudes—

Advocates for sexual assault victims said the law is needed because teachers hold such sway over a student's life, that consent to a sexual relationship is not possible.

"I think it's appalling. It's sick," said Terri Miller, president of Sesame, a national organization that works to prevent sex abuse by educators. "To make a claim like this shows you how sick this person is, that they think they have some kind of constitutional right to take advantage of children."

The approach is typical. All you really need is a false generalization as your premise: "Teachers hold such sway over a student's life that consent to a sexual relationship is not possible." Then start an organization with a catchy name and begin fundraising. Toss around words such as "sex abuse" and "sick." I don't know either Mr. Glasser or Ms. Terri Miller personally, but if I had to select one of them as an example of a sick sex-abuser, I know which one I'd pick.

And on to Bizarro World

Living in the sophisticated United States, I'm always delighted when I have the rare opportunity to gawk at primitives, which is what the Travel Channel has let me do lately.

Yes, they've been showing some program about a tribe in New Guinea. The women go topless and the men wear a little woven braid around their penis, which leaves their testicles free in the heat.

Somehow all this is being shown in prime time, with one exception—we must not see the children's peepees. Though they're apparently running around naked, as they have from time immemorial, the Travel Channel carefully pixelates those little sex organs out of the picture.

I'm sure Ms. Terri Miller would agree that "there are some sick people in this world." It's just so damned hard to find some well ones.



1Do It Now Foundation has this recollection—

Meet Miltown, The "Happy Pill"

The first "real" minor tranquilizer marketed in the United States was meprobamate, patented in 1952.

Meprobamate proved successful, in fact, too successful, almost from the moment it hit pharmacists' shelves. The drug, which was marketed under the trade name Miltown (and later Equanil), was the immediate darling of the then up-and-coming psychiatric profession and became a popular recreational drug almost as quickly.

In fact, Miltown was one of the biggest drug abuse phenomena of the 1950's, probably the first really middle-class drug abuse phenomenon, and the drug quickly established itself as the "happy pill" alternative for harried housewives and stressed-out commuters. It was called a "dehydrated martini" by some, and "Miltown parties" became respectable in more than one suburb, at least until word began to leak out that there were problems -- lots of them, in fact -- associated with use of the drug.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Appalling Week 3 - The lighter side

This has been such an appalling week that I don't know where to begin. Everywhere people were appalled and usually with good reason.

But some of those appalled were simply appalling themselves. And others were "appalled" who didn't know what the word meant, an appalling trend. We have so few words left to express the horror that appalling really should be reserved.

Since there's so much ground to cover and all the appalling activities are so disparate, I've decided to divide this week's selections into separate posts, which I hope will allow me to get a grip on the material. But then, maybe not.

• DETROIT, MI — An appalling work-ethic

Local TV station WDIV-TV did what no news agency should ever do to a public official—follow him at work. This has put three parole officers in the stew. Dawson Bell reports that—

Three Macomb County parole officers, observed by a Detroit television news crew visiting a department store, tanning salon and bar while purportedly on duty, could face dismissal or even prosecution, state Department of Corrections officials said Thursday.

The three officers were suspended Tuesday evening in the latest setback for a department in turmoil since parolee Patrick Selepak was mistakenly released from prison and went on a killing spree in February.

Michigan Department of Corrections Director Patricia Caruso said Thursday the Macomb officers will be fired if the allegations ... are substantiated. Caruso said she was "appalled and disgusted" by the report and said the department also will confer with prosecutors about possible criminal violations.

Being appalled and disgusted may not be enough.

The latest blow to the department's reputation has increased pressure on Caruso herself, with one lawmaker suggesting she might need to be replaced.

State Sen. Alan Sanborn ... said Thursday that Caruso is "a nice person with a good resume."

"But there seems to be some disconnect in the department now where people think they don't have to follow the rules," he said. "You have to wonder how widespread is it...and is it a top-down thing?"

Most likely. The parole officers' union is incensed at the TV station for "sensationalizing the report."


• ALBANY, NY via VANCOUVER, CANADA — Appalling truth in the Drug War

David Soares, the district attorney for Albany County, went to Vancouver for the 17th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug-Related Harm and was apparently overcome by something in the air.

According to Greg Joyce, Mr. Soares said—

“My advice to Canada is stay as completely far away from U.S. drug law policy as possible. You (Canada) are headed in the right direction.”

If he had stopped right there, he might have gotten away with it. But he went on—

... Mr. Soares said lawmakers, judges and prosecutors in the U.S. know their system is ineffective.

But they support it anyway because it provides law enforcement officials with lucrative jobs.

He suggested that the heavy-handed drug fight in the U.S. is perpetuated by authorities' need to “give people a wonderful living” by hiring more police, more judges and more prosecutors.

He said, not sarcastically, that the U.S.'s well-known penchant for building more and more prisons was an accepted “economic development strategy.”

Well, you can imagine what happened when word reached home! Ronald Brooks fired off a letter to the Albany Times Union before you could say "Please pass the joint."

As the President of the National Narcotic Officers' Associations Coalition representing 62,000 police officers from throughout the country, including New York, I was appalled by the comments of Albany County District Attorney David Soares....

Mr. Brooks then used the same logical fallacy to justify the Drug War that's frequently used to justify the War in Iraq—that the death of people in the cause somehow becomes the justification for the continuation of the cause—

.... Since 1792, more than 17,000 American police officers have lost their lives in the line of duty, many while enforcing drug laws.

In the memory of the law enforcement officers who have been murdered while enforcing drug laws ..., I would urge the citizens of Albany County to reject the drug policies proposed by David Soares and deny him the opportunity to serve in such an important position the next time they go to the ballot box.

The Powers That Be joined in condemning Soares—

Soares' speech ... drew fire from Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, Albany Police Chief James Tuffey and Albany County Sheriff James Campbell. The Albany Police Officers Union called on Soares to resign.

Soares apologized for using the word "lucrative" in describing police salaries. But to his credit, he didn't back down—

"I would rather experience the alienation of 400 people, than stand by and witness the annihilation of an entire generation.'' Soares was referencing a statistic long highlighted by drug reform advocates: That the majority of people incarcerated on drug charges in New York's prisons are African American or Hispanic.


• CHARLESTON, SC — Freedom leads to appalling donation

Members of the Charleston County Council get to divvy up a $430,650 pot and distribute their portion as they see fit. It's a bit like the money your Congressman earmarks for his favorite friends and corporations except that in Charleston the money is actually within the budget.

Councilman Henry Darby, however, took his freedom a step too far and awarded a $500 grant to a group of undesireables. The AP reported

The chairman of the Charleston County Council said he was appalled the county put $500 in its budget to support a group that wants to reform South Carolina's drug laws.

Leon Stavrinakis said he recently became aware of the money that another council member directed to South Carolinians for Drug Law Reform.

"I'm appalled by it," Stavrinakis said. "I wish I had known."

The head of the group intends to return the money because a drug-reform bill was never drafted. The poor dear didn't realize that you can't begin to buy politicians for a mere $500.

Meanwhile the County Council is trying to assure that no member will ever have such freedom again.


• PEORIA, AZ— Foreign language spoken at Sears

Trina Jones had a horrific experience in her local Sears store and wrote this letter to the editor—

With all the rumbling about the illegal immigrants these days, I experienced something the other day that hit me really hard.

On my lunch hour I went into a local Sears store. Upon entering, I was greeted by some sort of message/promotion being played over the store PA system. When I say "some sort" of message/promotion, I am only guessing, since the message was in Spanish.

I was appalled. I couldn't move for an instant. I asked a fellow shopper if I had crossed the border. She looked at me with a disgusted look on her face and said she thought the same thing. I left the store immediately!

Wasn't it Sears that used the saying "Where America Shops" in its commercials?

My sense of patriotism seemed to have jumped right out of me, fists drawn. I was highly offended. It felt like my rights as an American had been violated in some way.

We must really address this language issue in our state. I heard some radio personalities talking about an issue to make the English language the official language. Excuse me, when did it change? Why do we have to pass a law that says so?

¡Ay! ¡Qué lástima!


• NAPERVILLE, ILL. — Miller sells beer to Leather crowd; Palmer House lets them in

Americans for Truth "exposes and opposes the homosexual, bisexual and transgendered agenda." I'm glad somebody's doing this because I'm still trying to find out what the agenda is.

The International Mister Leather contest just finished yesterday in Chicago, and it left Americans for Truth in an appalling state. Here's what they said—

Americans for Truth President Peter LaBarbera today condemned Miller Brewing Company and Palmer House Hilton for sponsoring and hosting an annual sadistic sex celebration in Chicago that glorifies ‘consensual’ sexual violence and degradation, and some of the most reprehensible perversions ever invented by men.

The International Mr. Leather (IML) contest draws homosexual, sadomasochistic “leathermen” from all over the world to Chicago every Memorial Day weekend. The IML’s vendors’ market shows what types of behaviors the IML celebrates: “gay” male porn videos featuring condomless, “barebacking” anal sex; whips, chains, “electrotorture” devices and other implements designed to inflict pain and humiliation; bondage materials; and even a booth for a group called “Water Boys” devoted to “sex pigs” who receive sexual gratification from urinating on one another during orgies.

This year’s event is being held from May 25th through May 29th at the Palmer House Hilton, a swank Chicago hotel which has often been host to this and other hedonistic homosexual events. Miller Lite is listed as an “IML Official Sponsor” on the International Mr. Leather website. Miller has been catering to the “leatherman” crowd, and other militant homosexual activists, for years through event sponsorships.

It is both appalling and mind-boggling that Miller Beer and the Palmer House Hilton would lend their corporate names to, and endorse an event that is dedicated to celebrating extremely dangerous behaviors which would absolutely repulse 99 percent of their customers,” LaBarbera said. “No corporation should seek to profit from sexual violence, albeit consensual, and organized perversion.”

LaBarbera said Americans for Truth will “work in the coming years to educate the American public on corporate pandering to the radical ‘gay’ and allied movements so customers can make informed choices on how to spend their hard-earned dollars."

Except for maybe taking them out for a walk on a leash, there's nothing more satisfying than watching the Christian Right organize a beer boycott.


Top of the charts: Stephen Colbert

To hear many critics in the mainstream media tell it, comedian Stephen Colbert bombed at that White House Correspondents dinner earlier this month. It was hard to know when to laugh when the jokes were on George, who was present but unamused. Many of them declared that Bush's own comedy routine—done of course with the assistance of a comedian—got far more laughs than Colbert's and was in fact much funnier.

But according to Editor & Publisher, the audio recording of Colbert's routine is the #1 album at iTunes, "beating out new releases from Pearl Jam, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Paul Simon."

For $1.95 you can download it here.

No word yet on how well Bush's routine is selling.


Monday, May 29, 2006


The roaches of Tishomingo

Tishomingo, Oklahoma, population 3,186 (2003), was named after a Chicasaw chief. Just north of the Texas border, it lies amidst the land given to the Chicasaws after the forced evacuation from their lands known as "the Trail of Tears" and is the very capitol of the Chicasaw Nation. By 1970 the Chickasaws had advanced to the point that Congress decided to let them select their own principal officers.

But don't start imagining an all-Indian enclave. The town, which is the county seat of Johnston County, is 73% White and 15% Native American. There are a few Blacks, a few Hispanics, even fewer Asians and one Hawaiian. Of the rest they're not sure.

There's a two-year college there, but it's probably more trouble than it's worth because—whatever the Indians may think—this is Red State territory and most people voted for George Bush. Naturally when the median income of the town is only $20,938, you expect that sort of thing.

You also expect some kind of public housing for the wage slaves. That's where the Tishomingo Housing Authority (THA) comes in. It's part of their responsibility to assure that you and your entire family are morally fit to occupy one of their dwellings.1

No doubt taking their cue from our Great Leader, they've become "proactive" and use whatever means at hand to police the tenants. In Tishomingo that means rats, roaches or whatever vermin they can find. Sarah Lindenburg of KTEN news reports

A Johnston County man has been arrested, thanks to a tip by an exterminator....

This is the fourth case where the Tishomingo Housing Authority has let police investigators know what some tenants might be hiding.

The housing authority had ordered an extermination at the Green Acres section of the apartments on North Byrd.

What the exterminator, from out of town, found when he got there led to the execution of a police search warrant yesterday.

Police just needed the tip.

"We've been working quite a bit with the Tishomingo housing authority....quite a bit of success... Actually this is the fourth search warrant that we have obtained this way," Shannon Smith, Tishomingo Police Chief said.

Due to the tip by the exterminator police were able to arrest 45-year-old Gary Morrow and take him to the Johnston County Jail.

He was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

In 2002 the White House was planning a project along these lines for all of us. It was known as TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System). The House of Representatives passed it, but the Senate refused to go along.

Anita Ramastry wrote about it at Findlaw—

Did you know that the cable installer, your FedEx deliveryperson, or your electricity meter reader might soon be spying on you? They may be preparing to alert the federal government to any signs of suspicious activity as they install cable, ask you to sign for a package, or check your meter.

According to the White House, TIPS is scheduled to be introduced as a pilot project in August 2002. By fall, up to one million U.S. service workers in ten cities may be recruited as volunteer citizen informants, assisting the government in its hunt for the terrorists among us.

TIPS is one of five component programs of the Bush Administration's Citizen Corps. The Bush Administration has proposed that it be administered by the U.S. Department of Justice and run in partnership with several other federal agencies.

Most of the other Citizen Corps functions relate to assisting with disaster relief and emergency preparedness in the event of an act of terrorism or crime. TIPS ... is very different - and intensely threatening to basic civil liberties. Shockingly, if the Bush administration's estimates are correct, under TIPS the US will have a higher percentage of citizen informants than were enlisted by the former socialist East Germany through the notorious Stasi secret police.

The ACLU has cautioned that law enforcement may use civilian volunteers as an end run around the warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

Police cannot routinely enter people's homes without first obtaining a search warrant. But the occupant's consent to a search allows an exception to that rule. So now, by consenting to have cable television installed or have your water meter read, and being unlucky enough to have let in a TIPS informant, you might be held to have effectively "consented" to a search - without any notice to you that this is what you have done.

Search resources that in the past have been limited will suddenly become virtually unlimited - with millions of new searchers enlisted as unpaid volunteers - and prioritizing serious crime may thus give way to a dragnet free-for-all.

Senator Patrick Leahy, (D-VT.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has compared TIPS to a "ghetto informant" program created in the 1960s by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI hired neighbors of suspected political protesters to spy on them.

Operation TIPS also seems reminiscent of the use of citizen informers in countries of the former Soviet Union - where neighbors, and even husbands and wives, were encouraged to spy on one another.

One lesson we can learn from history is that if citizen spies walk among us, we will live in a constant state of fear and distrust. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, that will be nothing less than a tragedy and a betrayal of our national character.

KTEN broke the exterminator story, and no other news outlet thought it was important enough to carry. And it may well be that the Tishomingo Housing Authority is just a bit over-zealous.

Or maybe the TIPS program is alive and well, nestled among the other secret surveillance programs of the Bush administration.



1Here are some of the ways you may be found wanting. These rules apply to any member of the family, and a discovery of a violation by any member will result in the eviction of the entire family.
  • Violation of family obligations under the program;
  • If any member has been evicted from Public Housing;
  • If any member of the family has been terminated from any federal housing program;
  • If any member of the family commits drug-related criminal activity, or violent criminal activity;
  • If any member of the family commits fraud, bribery or any other corrupt or criminal act in connection with any federal housing program;
  • If the family owes an amount to OCHA or another federal housing program;
  • If the family has not reimbursed OCHA for amount paid to an owner under the HAP contract;
  • If the family breaches an agreement to repay amounts owed to OCHA;
  • If a family participating in the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program fails to comply, without good cause, with the FSS Contract; and
  • If the family has engaged in or threatened abusive or violent behavior toward housing agency personnel.

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