Saturday, October 21, 2006

Not A Good Sign

Europe has an history several millenia older than America's.

Europe has, long before New York City was considered the melting pot of the world, been a place where strangers were frequently seen, where differences were cautiously tolerated overall.

America has been the jingoist nation, probably because it's so big and so difficult to get to and to get around in. The coasts are fairly heterogeneous, and so we tend to be accepting of differences, but the heartland has learned to fear differences. So today comes this story that America's southern states are infecting Europe
European Muslims worry about frank new Islam debate

[...]Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sparked off the British debate this month by saying the full facial veils some Muslim women wear hindered integration. Some Muslim leaders called his remarks offensive and accused him of whipping up Islamophobia.

"Intolerance is growing in Europe," said Dalil Boubakeur, president of France's Muslim Council, who saw the new mood as a response to security fears and the radicalization of a small minority of Muslims who do not accept European values.

"There is a sense we are living in a different time," said Dilwar Hussain, head of policy research at the Islamic Foundation in Britain.

"With all the security concerns, people feel they can be more frank," Hussain said. "The reaction from Muslims is to recede further and further into a sense of victimhood."
Not good. This does not bode well for any near-term settlement of the terrorism issue.

As we've seen in our own country, strident militancy and extremist positions do not make for good relations with anyone else or for good governance, for that matter. Partisanship has its place, of course, but the ability to reach out and hear the other side, and more important, to get the other side to hear you, is far more valuable.

A parallel circumstance, altho admittedly a bare parallel, occured in the time after the Civil War here, when blacks, because they stood out, were still challenged to show they belonged in our society. The polarization on this created such lovely testimonies to American tolerance as the KKK, the John Birch Society, and eventually, the Black Panthers (lest you think only whites were polarized).
European policies toward Muslim minorities have ranged from the tolerant British and Dutch "multicultural" path to France's strict ban on Muslim headscarves in state schools.

But the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh and the bombings in Madrid and London have deepened concerns about whether Europe's 15 million Muslims all accept European values.

"Europeans were stunned to see that even people who were quite integrated could do these things," Boubakeur said.
Lest you think it's only the Euros who are polarized.

It took America nearly 150 years (and counting) to overcome this xenophobia. Europe is really only just getting started.

By Popular Demand...

Let me introduce to my blogroll and to my blog, Targa's Tirade.

Best of luck, sir!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

Friday Music Blogging

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights

I so would have had her babies. This song and video are from about 25 years ago. This is what she looks like now:

Masterpieced Theatre

Way back in the dark mists of time, in the early days of Simply Left Behind, I blogged about a crematorium in Brooklyn, NY that was accused of bodysnatching: basically, selling parts of the deceased for use in medical laboratories and procedures.

Today, comes this story, curiously, from the BBC:
US undertakers admit corpse scam

Seven undertakers in the New York area have admitted being part of a scheme to steal body parts for transplants.
The criminal operation saw body parts removed from corpses without the consent of relatives and sold to biomedical companies.

The body of veteran BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke was among those used.
You can read the more gruesome details, including the fact that the corpses could have been used on a "This Old House" project, at the Beeb. It's Friday, and my Mets lost last night, so I choose to focus on another aspect of this article.

Any time you introduce capitalism into an equation, shit like this happens. Whether we're talking about used cars, salvaged from floods and other disasters, being gussied up and resold as "pre-owned" for a higher markup, or laptops sold with defective batteries, it happens.

This particular instance dramatically underscores that point.

See, there's not much that a consumer can do to ensure that he's not the subject of one scam or another. That's the bottom line of life, and while caveat emptor worked back in the 18th and 19th Centuries, when you dealt directly with the people who produced the goods you were purchasing, it's not such a safe strategy anymore.

Not a day goes by that some consumer rip-off or other makes the rounds, and yes, believe it or not, that Nigerian e-mail scam draws enough suckers into it to have a serious impact on people's lives and entire communities.

Part of the job of government is to talk to these issues, to help protect consumers. But the Republicans in Congress have gutted entire departments designed in large part to offer protections from the world at large to people: Interior, OSHA (and by extension, Health and Human Services), the FDA, FTC, and FCC. Agencies and departments like that serve a higher purpose, one that the Bush administration and Cognress apparently believe is less important than fighting one-off terror attacks.

Meanwhile, these agencies might end up being our first line of defense against the next wave of attacks. Think back to the recent spinach scare. It was caused by one man who forgot to wash his hands at a processing plant.

One man nearly took down an entire agricultural sector. Now, no one would suggest that the FDA keep an inspector on-site to make sure everyone washes up after pissing, but in the past six years, we've seen major shortfalls in oversight in the meat packing industry, the pharamceutical industry, nutritional supplements (you know, like Enzyte, that "natural male enhancement"? Smilin' Bob?)...hell, things are so bad at the FDA that the head of the agency was forced to resign this week over failure to disclose stock holdings he had in Pepsi!

A fact that, you know, the SEC should have brought to someone's attention?

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

For Sale: One Useless Cat

....Must be a Republican...sucking up to Jack Abramoff...


Approval of Republicans at record low: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With congressional elections less than three weeks away, the Republican party's approval ratings are at an all-time low, with approval of the Republican-led Congress at its lowest point in 14 years, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday.

Forty-seven percent of respondents said they were less in favor of keeping Republicans in control of Congress, compared to 14 percent who were more in favor of maintaining the current congressional makeup, according to the poll.

Only 16 percent of respondents approve of the job Congress is doing, the lowest level since 1992, NBC said.

In October 1994, when Democrats held congressional majorities, Congress had a 24 percent job approval, NBC said. Democrats lost 52 House and 8 Senate seats in the 1994 midterm elections.
Sixteen percent? Not even the usual 30% of Americans who are too dumb to do anything but nod like bobblehead dolls at Republicans?

Well, now, this IS an interesting poll!

But wait! There's more!
Bush had a job approval rating of 38 percent, down 1 percentage point from a previous NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this month after the Foley news first broke, NBC said.
So even with news sort of "evening-keel" after the Foley scandal storm, and people are less focused on sex and more on the nation as a whole, Bush is back to dropping in polls? That's not a real good sign for his last two years. If he's a lame duck now, he's going to be barely quacking after November 7.

Percentages of likely voters show some interesting signs as well:
Asked who they planned to vote for in the congressional election, 37 percent of those polled said Republicans and 52 percent said Democrats. The 15 percent difference was the highest disparity ever in the poll and up from a 9-point difference a month ago, NBC said.
"The highest disparity ever".

There's a deep disconnect in the Republican party and the populace, and the Dems, while having done little to nothing to exploit it, will back into power, possibly controlling the entire legislative branch.

It may not be a question of "if", but a question of "by how much". Will the margin be enough to be fillibuster proof? Veto proof? Will moderate Republicans, those who survive this onslaught, side with Democrats on bipartisan legislation, à la the Gang of Fourteen?

Stay tuned...

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hump Day Marx Brothers

Today's Episode: Groucho and Harpo Explain How the 2006 Democratic National Committee Platform Differs From The Republican

Ethical Dilemma

Yesterday's outting of Senator Larry Craig of Idaho has me in a bit of an ethical pickle.

On the one hand, hypocrisy is what hypocrisy does, and Larry Craig has voted consistently on a family values platform and against homosexual interests. Assume he is homosexual, as Michael Rogers is asserting.

A quick check of his voting record shows he voted to ban gay marriages, against adding sexual orientation to the hate crimes legislation, and against ending job discrimation based on orientation.

Does that make him a hypocrite, though?

After all, a Senator or Congressman is supposed to vote the way he sees fit, based on the constituency he represents. Idaho is not a bastion of liberal thought, to be sure. Is there something I'm missing about his voting record?

I'm not aware of any bills he's sponsored that are specifically against gay rights, nor am I aware of any uberinflammatory speeches he's given against gays.

Assuming he is gay, and assuming that there are no such bills or speeches, shouldn't the private behavior of a man, no matter how offensive his constituents might find it, remain his private behavior?

Wasn't this the whole argument we liberals threw out when Clinton was being pelted with stones from the right? From all appearances, these encounters Rogers claims he has uncovered were with men of age, and while some of them take place in some rather shabby circumstances, what difference does it make?

See, Mark Foley had two strikes against him: first, he sponsored legislation about the very crime he committed and second, he may have committed a felony. For that, he clearly deserved to be exposed (no pun intended).

But Craig's a different case, and while I'm all for knocking another Republican out of the Senate, we ought to start taking a closer look at how "Republican" we want to become.

There is a side issue, and that is, should he have come out and been honest with his constituency? Again, I think that's a matter of choice, and I cannot critique his choice. Clearly, his being gay (or at least bi) was an issue for him. How many politicians come out as drunks or Jewish (a la George Allen) or divorced, unless pushed to by circumstance? So why is "being gay" held to a different standard than smoking pot?

Another Reason To Cringe As A Christian... get lumped in by articles like this:
Is God dead? Atheism finds a market in U.S

By Michael Conlon, Religion Writer

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A fresh wave of atheistic books has hit the market this autumn, some climbing onto best-seller lists in what proponents see as a backlash against the way religion is entwined in politics.

"Religion is fragmenting the human community," said Sam Harris, author of "Letter to a Christian Nation," No. 11 on the New York Times nonfiction list on October 15.

There is a "huge visibility and political empowerment of religion. President George W. Bush uses his first veto to deny funding for stem cell research and scientists everywhere are horrified," he said in an interview.

Religious polarization is part of many world conflicts, he said, including those involving Israel and Iran, "but it's never discussed. I consider it the story of our time, what religion is doing to us. But there are very few people calling a spade a spade."
I take issue with Harris' statement that religion fragments a community, even one as large as the entire planet, but I can wrap my mind around his point: more wars and bigger wars have been fought throughout history, nominally over religion, than any other rationale.

Yes, all wars are economic. It's the cloak we give wars that matters to the people fighting the war. Vietnam and Korea were to stop the spread of "godless Communism" in Southeast Asia. World War II was to protect Jews from Nazi atrocities. God is invoked on all sides by all comers in order to justify their rightness and righteousness.

The current conflict in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan are the first inherently religious wars fought by America, our first Crusades, but note the odd reversal here. We aren't bringing Christianity to the Islamic world, but "democracy and freedom".

"Gifts from God," we call these. So what should the average Kabulan or Bagdhadian believe?

My quarrel with Harris' point is that he speaks of fundamentalism as if it was the dominant voice in Christianity, when it simply isn't, anymore than fundamentalism is the dominant voice in Judaism or even Islam. It may be the most vociferous, the loudest voice, but at the end of the day, most Christians I know say a prayer for peace and try to get some sleep.

It's this backlash from atheism, agnosticism, and other minority religions in America that the liberal church must support, in an attempt to show that, while we disagree with the overall theory of this protest, we stand foursquare with its intent: to ratchet down the level of discourse in the nation from one of righteous purity to one where tolerance is the norm, and bigotry and polarization the outliers that only occur in inbred communities within small pockets of society.

You see, religions brings communities together. We share a lot in common with each other within our faiths, but also with those outside it. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Wiccans...our first principles are all the same, and best summed up by Hypocrates: First, do no harm.

It is when we get to the nitpicks that problems arise. When personal faith subsumes to a greater community, part of that individuality is lost forever to the larger voice. This works fine for broadstroke issues that we can all pretty much agree on, the environment and how humans are shepherds of the land, but when you take issues into account that demand individual adjustment or alteration, like abortion, like gay marriage, like how much religion should be introduced into government, that things start to get sticky.

I like my church the way I like my government: stay out of my life as much as possible. Teach me about God's word, the way He spoke it, not the way you heard it or some scribe heard it thousands of years ago. Tell me what Jesus said on the Mount, and let me make up my own mind about it.

I suppose the rise of the religious right was inevitable in the country. People are scared and when they get scared, faith is the one thing they can count on, until they learn about what it is that's scaring them. That's why twelve step programs demand you submit to some form of higher power: you have work to do, and it's going to be scary, like apologizing to people you've hurt and to try to make up the pain you caused. By submitting to a faith, you place in that power's hands your fear and in return, receive a measure of courage.

My fervent hope, in my own small way, is to try to "learn" people, so they aren't so scared anymore. "Democrats seek solutions, Republicans pray the problem goes away," is more than the motto of this blog, it's a life affirmation that, once you understand a problem fully, you have the tools to deal with it. Within you. Whether you want to believe that God put them there, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or your genetic code, it just doesn't matter.

They're yours. Use them. Do good with them and that good will come back to you. Do evil with them, and expect to be confronted hard by life, because ultimately, that's society's job.

So what we have here is a society comprised of three overlapping circles: government, individuals, and faith (because when all is said and done, atheism is as much a faith as any belief system: no one knows for sure). A Venn diagram of the world. Overlap any of the two circles too much, and society becomes unbalanced. Distance them too much, and society falls apart.

We seemed to do fairly well for 230 years in America, so I'm sure this current imbalance is temporary, but damn, it's been like trying to sit still through a root canal without anesthetic.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oh, Brudder!

Woman Sues Over Ticket for Anti-Bush Bumper Sticker

ATLANTA (Oct. 17) - A woman who was ticketed for having an obscene anti-President Bush bumper sticker filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday against DeKalb County and its officials.

Denise Grier, 47, of Athens, Ga., got a $100 ticket in March after a DeKalb County police officer spotted the bumper sticker, which read "I'm Tired Of All The BUSH*T." (The actual bumper sticker didn't delete any letters.)

Although a DeKalb judge threw out the ticket in April because the state's lewd decal law that formed the basis for the ticket was ruled unconstitutional in 1990, Grier is seeking damages for "emotional distress" against the county, according to the lawsuit.

Grier also seeks a declaration in federal court that her bumper sticker is considered protected speech under the First Amendment because she is "uncertain and insecure regarding her right to display her bumper sticker in DeKalb County," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
Now, first of all, why is the cop still at his job, when he issued a ticket against a law that's been off the books for six years?

Second, is a lawsuit really necessary here? I get that the ACLU is trying to take a stand in regards to personal freedom, but we're talking a goddamn bumper sticker, fercrissake!

Or maybe that's the point. Discuss.

Gitmo Woes

There's a theme recurring in the administration lately, between the Foley scandal, the David Kuo book , the run-up to the midterm elections, and now Guantanamo Bay: You broke it, you bought it:
U.S. allies impede Guantanamo releases: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Britain and other U.S. allies have demanded closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but have also blocked efforts to let some prisoners return home, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

British officials recently rejected a U.S. offer to transfer 10 former British residents from Guantanamo to the United Kingdom, arguing that it would be too expensive to keep them under surveillance, the newspaper said, citing documents made public this month in London.

Britain has also staved off a legal challenge by the relatives of some prisoners who sued to require the British government to seek their release, The Washington Post said.

While all British citizens in Guantanamo were freed starting in 2004, Britain has balked at allowing former legal residents of the country to return, the newspaper said.

Germany and other European allies, which have spoken out against Guantanamo, also have balked at accepting prisoners from the facility, the Post said.
Couple of reasons spring to mind, of course:

1) Bush's arrogance and continued blind obedience to failed policies (which might be changed once the Baker report is digested, three years too late).

2) Al Qaeda: by spreading out "terrorist prisoners" (since they haven't been tried, much less convicted, we have to assume innocence) to other nations, those nations are now at risk of being perceived as more accessible targets for terrorist activities. Not that they aren't already, but you know, when you see a hornet's nest, the last thing you want to do is throw a rock at it.

3) Keeping them on Cuba means keeping them out of contact with any potential allies in country, in order to foment internal strife.

A little on this last point: the last three terror plots, including the notorious 7/7/05 bombings in London, have all been overseen by nationals of the countries they were to occur(ed) in. By spreading the prisoners around, you have created instant local celebrity for these prisoners, and attempts to impress them (and by extension, Al Qaeda) with terror activities.

This convocation of circumstances force the US to have to plead negotiate with other countries to take people back they really don't want, and probably didn't want in the first place but had no choice, since they had entered legally.

Keep a careful eye out on the papers over the next few days to see just how far Bush will be forced to drop to his knees concede in order to clear Gitmo off the national agenda by Election Day.

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The Great Dictator

The Great Dictator is a film directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin. First released on October 15, 1940, it is a satire of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Chaplin's film is highly exceptional for this period (1940), when the U.S. was still at peace with Nazi Germany, for its fearless satire and condemnation of Hitler and Nazism, and for its vivid portrayal of the plight of Jews in Europe. It holds the distinction of being both Chaplin's first "talkie," and his most commercially successful film.
If Only We Had Leaders Who Would Speak Like This To Us Today

For the non-YouTubal amongst you:
I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an emperor. That's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another.

Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge as made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little.

More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all.

Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don't hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural.

Soldiers! Don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you!

You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.

By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people.

Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.

Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Sometimes, I Cringe At Being Christian...

...and this "testimony" is one reason why...from the Congressional race in Minnesota, which features Patty Wetterling running against Michelle Bachmann. I've added my own inimitable comments to certain selected passages....
"And I tell you that, because—I hate to disappoint you, darling—but it wasn’t a big romantic surge that led us to each other. It was His Word."
I wonder if He made her sign the prenup too?
"We were praying one night, a girlfriend and I, not Marcus—and the Lord gave each one of us the same, exact vision."
Gee...sounds like someone had late night Cinemax on in her dorm room...
"It was a picture of me, marrying this man, in the valley where his parents have a farm in western Wisconsin."
What I couldn't figure out is, why he had a straw hat and really big ears....
"And we got that word, we were praying in the Spirit, I’d been baptized in the Spirit, we were praying in the Spirit and the Lord showed us that, and I just said, “Well, Lord, that’s really strange, I’ll just put in on the shelf.” "
Sure enough, that bottle of Jack Daniels is still there today...
"And I put it on the shelf, put it in His hands, and said: “You make the calling sure.”"
Want a beer back with that, Mickey?
"I had no idea: at the same time, the Lord was speaking to my husband, and He showed my husband—he was repairing a fence on the farm where he worked—and the Lord showed him in a vision that he was supposed to marry me."
The webcam in the dorm room with the two girls watching Late Night Cinemax, I'm sure
"And my husband said, “I don’t want to get married. I want to wait til I’m twenty-seven, I want to see the world, I want to have a great time in life, I don’t want to marry this girl.”"
"But he put it on the shelf. "
....mostly because she Bobbitized him
"And by faith, he followed the Lord. And over the next two years, the Lord began romantically to knit these two hearts together—because we said “yes,” to pursue His Word, in His perfect plan, in His calling."
That's 1-900-2STUPIDFUCKS
"And now twenty-eight years later, I think we might have a chance, this thing might actually work out."
TRANSLATION: If I win this election, I promise to take the latex glove off when I give him his annual handjob
"And during those dorm years, when I was busy studying, the Lord put in my heart, that if I would be diligent and I would be steadfast, He would take me to law school. And I thought—law school? I have no interest in going to law school. But I put that in His hands and I put in His plan, and I put it in His hands, and pursued that, and eventually He did, He took me to law school. "
Where we smoked a doob on the stairs and I let Him feel me up
"And I went to the first Christian law school that there was in the United States, down at Oral Roberts University, where they taught the law from a Biblical worldview. "
Oral Roberts. Nuff said
"And from there, my husband said “Now you need to go and get post-doctorate degree in tax law. Tax law? I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord says: Be submissive, wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands. "
Suddenly Jesus stopped being the man? Maybe Christ wanted her to go into import-export law?
"Never had a tax course in my background, never had a desire for it, but by faith, I was gonna be faithful to what God was calling me to do through my husband, and I finished that course of that study. "
And only six of my first seven clients were convicted!
"We had our five biological children that God gave to us, and then He called us to take foster children into our home. We thought we were going to take unwed mothers in. And by faith we started taking teenage girls in. And one girl, after another girl, after another girl—we took twenty-three foster children into our home, and raised them, and launched them off into the world, and now they’re off seeking their calling as well."
Jesus hired them for the 1-900 line....
"And by faith, by coming to Him, very slowly, He began to use us, in our own little world, not just to bless us, but to pour ourselves out. Just like Jesus Christ did."
Jesus wept, he didn't come.
"And in the midst of that faithfulness that God called us to, to raise five children, and raise twenty-three foster children, and as God called my husband to open the Christian counseling clinic, to reach out to others, He has blessed that calling in my husband as well. "
Husband probably had to get out of that house. Did you know they had five kids and 23 foster kids????
You are now looking at a fool for Christ. This is a fool for Christ.
Fortunately for us, Christ doesn't suffer fools gladly.
And in the midst of Him making this calling sure, what’s occurred now, in this particular race, is that this Congressional seat, one out of 435 in our country, it has become one of the top five races in the country, and in the last week this has become one of the top three races in the country.
I'm guessing NASCAR had a slow week. To think that this is one of the top three races in the country is pretty, um, well, paranoid.
And you may have seen how God has, in His own will, and in His own plan, has focused like a laser beam, after this scandal that came up about a week or so ago—He has focused like a laser beam, in His reasoning—on this race.
Right. Nevermind that thousands are dying in Iraq. Nevermind that Americans are suffering the worst month for casualties in that war ever. No, God's response to the Foley scandal? Elect yet ANOTHER wacko Republican...she may have a point. He probably needs a good laugh what with all His young children suffering at the hands of Republicans.

You may consider this a flat out endorsement of Patty Wetterling for Congress.

Soon, The Dollar Really WILL Be Monopoly Money...

Virtual economies attract real-world tax attention

By Adam Pasick

LONDON (Reuters) - Users of online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft transact millions of dollars worth of virtual goods and services every day, and these virtual economies are beginning to draw the attention of real-world authorities.

"Right now we're at the preliminary stages of looking at the issue and what kind of public policy questions virtual economies raise -- taxes, barter exchanges, property and wealth," said Dan Miller, senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.

"You could argue that to a certain degree the law has fallen (behind) because you can have a virtual asset and virtual capital gains, but there's no mechanism by which you're taxed on this stuff," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The increasing size and public profile of virtual economies, the largest of which have millions of users and gross domestic products that rival those of small countries, have made them increasingly difficult for lawmakers and regulators to ignore.
You know, it's a game. Second Life, World of Warcraft, they're games.

Yes, from time to time, you see an eBay auction, but that's real-world, reportable income, and by law, should be reported (although I can't imagine anyone but a regular dealer in this stuff would report it). And that's fine. You make actual income that you can use to buy actual goods. You receive a real benefit from that transaction.

But to buy a virtual lapdance? So you can fire up your fantasies and masturbate? Yeesh. That's just sad. If this was a different day of the year, say April 1, or a different news outlet, say the The Weeky World News, then I'd get the joke.

But I ain't laughing. Opening this door would literally mean opening the door to having Monopoly games tracked, or any of a dozen other games where fake money changes hands.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

For America...

...and for some subsets of this country's liberal wing:
Ernst Janning: There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves.

Only when you understand that - can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us: 'Lift your heads! Be proud to be German! There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed.'

It was the old, old story of the sacrifical lamb. What about those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country! What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through. It will be discarded sooner or later. Hitler himself will be discarded... sooner or later. The country is in danger. We will march out of the shadows. We will go forward. Forward is the great password.

And history tells how well we succeeded, your honor. [...]What was going to be a passing phase had become the way of life.

Big Dog Bares His Teeth

Clinton says Republican extremists divided country

By Kay Henderson

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton told Iowa's Democratic Party faithful on Saturday that the actions of "an extreme sliver" of the Republican Party have backfired and "profoundly divided" the country.

"We've got a big responsibility. Forget about 2008. Forget about the politics. Just go out and find somebody and look them dead in the eye and say 'You know, this is not right'...This is America," Clinton said. "We can do better and this year, it's a job that Democrats have to do alone."
In other words, as has always happened in the past, Republicans fuck up, trash the place, and leave it to the Democrats to fix things and pay the hotel tab. It's been this way for almost a century now, which is why we had a Democratic congress for 40 years.

One can only hope the Dems learned from their decade-long exile, but I digress.
Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, Clinton charged "paint themselves as pure and the rest of us who don't agree with them as stained" in order to divide the country and stay in power.

"People know things are out of whack, that fundamentally the order of, the rhythm of public life and our common life as Americans has been severely disturbed," he said.
Again, Republicans pray the problems will go away. Anyone who's raised a kid knows that problems don't go away, they have to be solved, or they only get worse.

One thing I loved about Clinton's policies (when he could get them passed or when he could issue an executive order) was that they looked forward, not to the present, not who could make the most short term off the government. He solved a budget deficit by shifting the tax burden around and imposing more on those who could afford it while easing it on those less able to. The policies he created built an economy, boosted by investment in new technologies and newer, smarter ways of doing things, where everyone benefitted: jobs, housing values, lower interest rates, better currency exchanges making for a better trade deficit, and so on.

And he did it with only minimal preaching to family values, without turning the country into a moral morass. The asshat Republicans did that for him, to our unending regret and shame. We were better off with a president who was getting his pole smoked than one who smoked the Poles in a war they should never have been fighting.

But Bubba gives his buddy Joe Lieberman some wiggle room too:
"You cannot blame the entire Republican party for this reason. The entire government of the United States, the Congress, the White House and increasingly the courts for the last six years has been in the total control not of the Republican party but of the most ideological, the most right wing, the most extreme sliver of the Republican Party."
True, there are good decent men running as Republicans, moderate men who in a better, less strident world, might even get my endorsement: Lincoln Chaffee springs to mind, so does Chris Shays, although his unexpected melt-down this week made my hair curl, a very tough task.

But our country, our world, our lives are in peril here, and as with any treatment of a cancer on the body politic, it seems that some healthy tissue must die in order to rid us of the threat.

So a quick update on some key races around the country: Rasmussen Reports shows that Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey has taken a slim lead (42-39) over Republican Tom Kean Jr. in his bid for re-election. Keep in mind that Rasmussen skews heavily conservative (they really average out a series of other polls (including Fox News, of all people), and had Kean up by as many as four points even just a month ago. Reuters called this race for Menendez a week ago, showing him with a comfortable ten point lead.

Rasmussen calls the Tenesee race between Harold Ford Jr and Bob "Corky" Corker as being a dead heat (to be precise, Ford holds a two point lead, 48-46, but with a margin of error of 4.5%. Which if I'm not mistaken is higher than any other poll I've seen conducted. Reuters' MOE is just about 4%. Reuters calls this race a toss-up, with 40% preferring each man, and 18% undecided. Rasmussen shows the undecided vote as emphatically lower and many more voters claiming they've settled on their choice now. I think we can call this one for Ford, but by the thinnest of margins. Does Tennessee allow Diebold machines?

C. "Moremonetary" Burns in Montana remains mired, 7 points in back of Democrat Jon Tester in his re-election bid.

Overall, Rassmussen is reporting that the Senate right now is a toss-up, with the Dems picking up three seats for a total of 48, the Republicans losing three to drop down to 49, with three races close enough to be deemed toss ups: Menendez, The Ford/Corker race, and surprisingly, the McCaskill/Talent race in Missouri, which Reuters called for Talent (43-39, with only 11% undecided).

The Democrats need to win two out of three of the toss-ups, and hold onto their gains, and they will control the Senate.

More bad news for the GOP: In the lowest display of confidence in the United States’ position in the war on terror since Rasmussen Reports began polling on the subject two years ago, just 31% of American adults say the U.S. and its allies are winning the War on Terror. That’s a 10-point drop since the last poll taken in the days immediately following the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Considering Bush's campaign talks on the hustings have been about how he has depicted Democrats as soft on terrorism and accused them of pushing a "cut-and-run" approach to Iraq by calling for a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable he has refused to set, this undercuts his message by quite a bit.