Saturday, August 30, 2008

Affirmative Action, Republican-Style

Other than the insult of picking a female VP candidate who believes fetuses are the same as live, breathing human beings, and that gays are the equivalent of illegal immigrants (less than full citizens), what really offends me about McCain's pick more than anything is the blatant hypocrisy.

If you recall, the Republican Party and their white voting base in general fulminate at the thought of minorities getting a few extra points for consideration in hiring practices. And on those rare occasions when such employees do not work out, they rally to lambaste the entire practice of affirmative action. Remember that Jayson Blair controversy at the New York Times several years ago? This is what the right-wing National Review had to say about it.

Was Blair — who never graduated from college — less qualified than other would-be journalists? That seems obvious. Indeed, the Times admits that he was hired through a diversity program. Presumably, had he been the best-qualified applicant, the program would have been superfluous. And we know that Howell Raines, the executive editor of the Times, considers diversity to be more important than journalistic excellence. Referring to the Times's outreach program, he told the National Association of Black Journalists: "This campaign has made our staff better and, more importantly, more diverse" [emphasis mine].

Was Blair's work not up to the standards of the Times? This is even more obvious and beyond dispute given the Times's description of Blair's work as a "low-point in our 152-year history." It should be noted, however, that Blair's correction rate, as discovered by The Weekly Standard, was below that of several top reporters, including Adam Clymer. Of course, Clymer also didn't fabricate quotes.

And lastly, is the Times's coverage influenced by its obsession with diversity? Well, using the Blair story as an example, that seems obvious too. And that's where my main beef is. I didn't think this was that big a story until I read the 7,000-word "investigation" of Blair, which revealed that the Times actually cares more about protecting the mythologies of diversity than about protecting its own reputation. Nowhere in its mea culpa did the Times give the idea that race had had something to do with this fiasco. The idea was raised only to be shot down — not discussed or investigated. Managing editor Gerald Boyd says, "To say now that [Blair's] promotion was about diversity in my view doesn't begin to capture what was going on." But why does he say that? Does anyone disagree? If this were a story about some non-diversity-related topic (say, white-collar crime or accounting fraud), a host of motives and explanations would have been presented — with quotes — for the reader to sift through himself.

When discussing this third criterion — Does diversity affect the substance of news coverage? — it doesn't matter if race was a tiny or irrelevant issue, because the Times refuses to treat the question as even a reasonable one. Is it really true that nobody in the Times organization believes race was a contributing factor? Or is it true that the authors of the mea culpa didn't solicit opinions on the subject? Or is it that Times employees are too scared to voice that point of view? Frankly, if the answer to any of these is "yes" then the Times simply cannot be trusted ever again on the issue of race — ever. Indeed, as Heather Mac Donald points out, the Times has preferred to insist that Blair didn't get any special treatment rather than even entertain the notion that diversity-mongering could have been a factor. That's fine, but it in effect puts the Times in the position of saying that this fiasco was the result of business-as-usual practices.


Here is what that same publication (via Canadian boot licker Mark Steyn) has to say about the nomination of Sarah Palin.


The hostess with the moosest [Mark Steyn]

Over in the Frumistan province of the NR caliphate, our pal David is not happy about the Palin pick. I am - for several reasons.

First, Governor Palin is not merely, as Jay describes her, "all-American", but hyper-American. What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew? As an immigrant, I'm not saying I came to the United States purely to meet chicks like that, but it was certainly high on my list of priorities. And for the gun-totin' Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who's done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of "community organizer" and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy.

Second, it can't be in Senator Obama's interest for the punditocracy to spends its time arguing about whether the Republicans' vice-presidential pick is "even more" inexperienced than the Democrats' presidential one.

Third, real people don't define "experience" as appearing on unwatched Sunday-morning talk shows every week for 35 years and having been around long enough to have got both the War on Terror and the Cold War wrong. (On the first point, at the Gun Owners of New Hampshire dinner in the 2000 campaign, I remember Orrin Hatch telling me sadly that he was stunned to discover how few Granite State voters knew who he was.) Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are more or less the same age, but Governor Palin has run a state and a town and a commercial fishing operation, whereas (to reprise a famous line on the Rev Jackson) Senator Obama ain't run nothin' but his mouth. She's done the stuff he's merely a poseur about. Post-partisan? She took on her own party's corrupt political culture directly while Obama was sucking up to Wright and Ayers and being just another get-along Chicago machine pol (see his campaign's thuggish attempt to throttle Stanley Kurtz and Milt Rosenberg on WGN the other night).

Fourth, Governor Palin has what the British Labour Party politician Denis Healy likes to call a "hinterland" - a life beyond politics. Whenever Senator Obama attempts anything non-political (such as bowling), he comes over like a visiting dignitary to a foreign country getting shanghaied into some impenetrable local folk ritual. Sarah Palin isn't just on the right side of the issues intellectually. She won't need the usual stage-managed "hunting" trip to reassure gun owners: she's lived the Second Amendment all her life. Likewise, on abortion, we're often told it's easy to be against it in principle but what if you were a woman facing a difficult birth or a handicapped child? Been there, done that.

Fifth, she complicates all the laziest Democrat pieties. Energy? Unlike Biden and Obama, she's been to ANWR and, like most Alaskans, supports drilling there.

Sixth (see Kathleen's link to Craig Ferguson below), I kinda like the whole naughty librarian vibe.

08/30 03:53 AM


Nice to see the Canadian compradors are well represented at National Review (I guess their beloved 'new Europeans' from Tbilisi were not able to make it after their dance with the Russians). I swear, if I did not know any better Mr. Steyn was vying for citizenship of our great republic (which would be ironic considering his views of immigrants in his country [although he only seems to care when they are black or Muslim]).

Getting back to the issue at hand, if conservatives were honest with themselves, like on the Clarence Thomas case, they would admit that they are partaking in the same kind of tokenism they accuse the left of on affirmative action. Indeed, it is even more blatant on their part because they are raiding communities who they know will not be voting for them, at least by majority, anyway. Of course, the difference for them is ideology (whereas we pursue it to actually increase representation of folks from all communities). Thomas and Palin are politically correct for the Republican Party, particularly when it comes to controlling women's birth canals or our rectums, but make no mistake: If they looked like Mark Steyn they would not be where they are at right now, which for the Steyns and Goldbergs of the world only is an issue when it is Jayson Blair or, goddess forbid, a regular working person receiving a few extra points for consideration on a civil service exam. In those cases, naturally, it is reverse discrimination.

In addition, remember the criticism of Obama for lacking experience? How about less than two years as governor of a state with more animal life than voters? Can you imagine the call at 3am in a foreign policy crisis with Sarah Palin? Actually, I could, not that it matters, but these were some of issues used against Obama during the primaries and now in the general election campaign. It seems if the right was less disingenuous they would just concede: Look, we are nominating a female to get Hillary voters who do not care if our veep is anti-abortion and anti-gay. Not that it will work, either. Somehow, I have a hard time imagining too many pro-choice Hillary voters deserting for this. If you doubt this, just ask Sarah Palin her view on the Violence Against Women Act, the Equal Rights Amendment, or the idea of legislating equal pay for equal work. Once you hear her start talking about the market and how women are better off being treated like something other than equal human beings, you will know who is writing her checks.

Then again, the nomination of Palin does shore up McCain's support among the ovaries control squad. I am sure they are saying their amens today, dodging the bullet of a pro-choice VP on the ticket. Praise be to Gaia.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Legacy of Bill Clinton

There has been much made in the media about Bill Clinton's upcoming convention speech, his anger at being coerced into talking about national security issues in his endorsement of Barack Obama, etc. Apparently, Bill is upset that his image and legacy as President are being disrespected and tarnished. Well, to give fair time in my attempt to disrespect and tarnish the most right-wing Democratic President since Grover Cleveland, let us list the calumnies and evils committed by our man from Hope.

1. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement): When Bill Clinton campaigned for President in 1992, he did so as a protectionist and critic of free trade (and supposed friend of labor). He lambasted Bush Sr. for "coddling the Chinese" after the Tienanmen Square massacre. He asserted that if he was elected President he would sign a striker replacement bill into law, banning scabs during strikes (the US remains the last industrialized country to permit this). When Clinton was first elected, the Democrats controlled Congress (with over 55% of the seats). Throughout 1993, Congress kicked around a striker replacement bill. It went absolutely nowhere. Indeed, President Bill Clinton never lifted a finger to lobby for its passage.

But he found the time to personally campaign over 200 hours in 1993 for the passage of NAFTA, the first big blow to labor in this country (and the most damaging piece of legislation to workers since the Taft-Hartley Act). He lobbied, made calls, even had committee chairmen offer up millions in extra funding (i.e., your tax dollars) to purchase the support of members of Congress. It worked. In the autumn of 1993, NAFTA passed the House (carried by Republican support [not the first time Bill Clinton would depend on Republicans to get his legislation passed]).

2. GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade): The global version of NAFTA, passed with much less fanfare in 1994. It was, however, the death knell of the American worker. It presaged capital liquidity on a scale much greater than ever before and led directly to the de-industrialization of our workforce this past decade. It also has gutted traditional industries that were heavily unionized, workers who had been told by their union leaders that they should vote for Bill Clinton. Of course, the striker replacement bill went nowhere, because after the passage of these trade bills (off the backs of Congressional Republicans) the GOP took over Congress.

3. Welfare Reform Act of 1996: If the trade bills were the assault on workers, the Welfare Reform Act was our Poor Law. Passed with the support and lobbying of both Bill and Hillary Clinton, the bill gutted what once remained of the Democratic Party's tie to the welfare state and the people who depended on it for some modicum of a living standard. The bill imposed penalties on recipients (or as Hillary liked to call it, "incentives"), including time tables for support, and eventually "freedom from poverty" (Bill Clinton's perverse lifting of Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech) by being forced to work low-wage, no benefits employment (in which the government gave tax breaks to the low-wage employers to induce them to hire [with the knowledge they had a free hand to exploit] the people they were threatening to throw to the streets). The bill also made it easier to expel such folk from public housing (without anything resembling presumption of innocence when a resident was accused of a crime), and "encouraging" two-parent (i.e., potentially abusive and heterosexualist) homes, satisfying the neo-liberal tax dodgers at The Republic and holy rollers alike.

4. 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill: In 1980, the US retained over 600,000 inmates in our local, state, and federal prisons. Today, it is 2.2 million. The Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994 played a vital role in this, our largest lock down of African American males since the end of slavery. It also led to a massive infusement of funds into corrupt and abusive police departments, as well as the greatest expansion of the death penalty of any federal legislation in history. This crime bill made possible Rudy Giuliani's "miracle" as Mayor of New York in the 1990s, punctuated by a police department that used its local African American population for target practice.

The 1994 legislation also facilitated the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (following the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City the year before), replete with liberalized definitions of terrorism, new allowances for surveillance for the federal law enforcement, and not the least important restricting habeas corpus (becoming the enabling act for Bush's later assaults on the same principles with the Patriot Act).

5. Clinton Foreign Policy: We look back today from the Bush era and think how peaceful the '90s were. It was not. Bill Clinton bombed no less than a half dozen countries during his time in the White House. He killed 5,000 Serbs to make a point about the 200 ethnic Albanians killed in a civil war with the Yugoslav government. He bombed Pakistan, Iraq (multiple times), Afghanistan, Bosnia, and even Bulgaria (I kid you not. Look it up).

So, yes, this is the "legacy" of Bill Clinton. Militarism, representing the interests of global capital, an increasingly complex domestic police state, and with the exception of abortion an Administration any Republican could love. To that, I say, Bill, on behalf of the people who still believe in the progressive values you crushed, good riddance.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Joe Biden?

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy ... I mean, that's a storybook, man."--Senator Joe Biden on Barack Obama
Joe Biden has been a perpetual Presidential candidate for the past two decades, making the rounds on Sunday morning talks shows, pontificating and sharing his foreign policy "expertise," and basically making a fool of himself as a speaker (who can forget his speech plagiarisms during his Presidential campaigns?). Ideologically, to be sure, there are worse Democrats, but that is not saying much. Like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, Biden voted in favor of going to war in Iraq back in 2002, and just like Clinton and Edwards (right before announcing all of their Presidential campaigns) decided it was time to have a change of heart and oppose what they helped enable. And just like his friends in the DLC, ole Joe is one of those supporters of transnational capital on issues of trade, at least when it counts (supporting the two most devastating pieces of legislation to organized labor since Taft-Hartley, NAFTA and GATT). Naturally, he claims to like workers and working class people (something he has not been in his entire adult life), and like all the other pro-free trade Democratic candidates will periodically criticize what they support to fool people into thinking they oppose the trade legislation that they implemented (and Biden was an ardent supporter of those trade agreements, regardless of what else he says). If cowardice was a gold medal, Joe Biden would be Michael Phelps.

I write this not as a hit piece on Senator Biden. And I at least give Obama credit for not picking the baiter from New York as his VP (who ran the most openly racist Presidential campaign in the Democratic Party since George Wallace). The real problem here is not with Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton. It is with the leadership of the Democratic Party. This is what constitutes substance to them. Spineless people who cave in to the greatest foreign policy disaster in the history of our country. People who continue to refuse to try to stop it, but indeed who make it possible to go on by "compromising" with a President the vast majority of Americans despise and a war 70% now oppose. If the DLC, which has run the Democratic Party with an iron fist since Bill Clinton's election to the White House, cannot get behind 70% of the population (of course, this means going against their own militaristic instincts and being anti-war), what hope is there on all the other issues?

Yes, there is the Supreme Court. I will concede that this matters because these nine, mostly elderly people get to dictate what constitutes a right in our society. This is the same Supreme Court who equates money with speech, death with rehabilitation, and surveillance with liberty. And yes, John Paul Stevens has one or both of his feet in the grave (and I have little doubt that John McCain would not risk angering his party's Evangelical base by picking another David Souter for Stevens' seat). If it was just based on the courts, any progressive would have to hold their nose and vote Democratic. However, the courts are only one position and one part of our government and its policies (and by the way, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Senator Biden made possible the ascension of anti-abortion Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court by refusing to support the filibustering of his nomination). Moreover, if Joe Biden is the answer to a "foreign policy expert" who, as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, commandeered the passage of a war resolution for Iraq, what does this mean for Barack Obama's position on being the earliest opponent of the war in the Iraq?

Well, I could spend more time whining about the Democratic Party, its leadership, and candidates, or delude myself into thinking some right-wing ex-member of Congress who hates black people and labor unions is really progressive, but I think we real progressives have a responsibility to promote those candidates who actually think like us, for a change.

To give equal time, here is Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. She does not criticize NAFTA and GATT, while hiding past support, like all of the Democratic Presidential candidates like to do (which apparently is all it takes to get the support of the AFL-CIO these days). She is an actual opponent of these trade agreements, and supports repealing NAFTA and leaving the WTO and pulling out of GATT altogether. She also opposed the Iraq war from the beginning and supports an immediate pullout of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Furthermore, McKinney opposes the Patriot Act (voted against it, actually, whereas Biden and the choice libertarian racist candidate supported it), opposes expansion of FISA and government surveillance of our citizenry, opposes the death penalty (which all of the candidates support, although to his credit Senator Biden has voted in favor of restrictions on the death penalty in the past), and is the only Presidential candidate outside of the Socialist Party and probably Ralph Nader who advocates an all-encompassing single payer health care system (meaning everyone will receive health care without the bureaucratism of the mixed and managed care systems all of the other candidates advocate).

True, she has no chance of getting elected, but why not give some attention to someone that represents a perspective that the party tries to cleanse from its presence? If you recall, McKinney was run out of Congress by her own party leadership (just as they attempted to do to Dennis Kucinich this last primary season). Yes, she is controversial. She has somewhat of a conspiratorial mindset, one that I do not share, especially on 9-11. She also slapped a DC cop after he apparently man-handled the Congresswoman (if anything, that is a mark for her). And naturally, after Nader 2000 there are few liberals or leftists who will vote for a third party.

All of this is understood, but there is nothing wrong with looking at a candidacy like this. It will at least remind you of what you will be missing when you watch the proceedings in Denver this next week. A real anti-war candidacy, which you know is something Joe Biden does not bring to the table.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

John McCain, War Hero?

I am not sure how one judges a "war hero." I am even less sure how I would respond to someone torturing me. Nevertheless, there are some who take issue with this description of Senator John McCain.

Why the Senator is Not a War Hero
John McCain In A New Context

by Patty O'Grady

Did you know that when John McCain was away from home for extended periods of time working as a U.S. Senator, Mrs. Cindy McCain would tell her children with his acquiescence that he was “deployed” and imagined herself just another lonely - albeit very, very wealthy - naval wife?

As a military wife and daughter I don’t think living in D.C. - wining and dining lobbyists – is the equivalent of deployment to Afghanistan, Iraq or Vietnam.

Why is this story worth repeating? The Cinderella quality of such imaginings provides a telling context – revealing the man and his presumptions hiding behind the mask of war hero.

In this election season, understanding the full context of presumptions is very important. My husband, also a former Vietnam Prisoner of War (1970-1973), spent time in both the "Hanoi Hilton" and a secondary camp -"Plantation Gardens" - as did John McCain who never mentions time spent in the latter. I am also the daughter of Colonel John F. O'Grady who was known to be a POW captured on the border of Laos and Vietnam in 1967 and who never returned. Like John McCain, John O'Grady was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (1952). John O’Grady earned 7 military commendations for heroic service including the Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

There were many heroes in Vietnam – and there are many freshly bloodied heroes returning from new wars started by old men - and John McCain's claim is tarnished by long forgotten historical facts that few are brave enough to proffer today for fear of vicious attack on their “patriotism”. My father’s legacy protects me from such attack and so demands that I ask the unspoken questions and remind voters of the forgotten history. When the Vietnam POWS came home in 1973, President Nixon traded a small group of them celebrity status - anointing them as "heroes" - for political support of his failed war policies. John McCain was one of the anointed heroes while others were virtually discarded in exchange for their continued support of the false Nixon plan of “peace with honor” in Vietnam.

Politics can magnify or ignore heroism as it suits. In turn, the select POWS were introduced to very wealthy and influential members of the Republican Party, their records were elevated over other POW heroes with more compelling stories, and many difficult questions were not asked of them.

Today, some of those same POWS are employees of the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute and many others have profited greatly from their staunch affiliations within the Republican Party.

In 1973, “patriotism” was traded like a commodity and heroes were used as political props. Essentially, the architects of both Vietnam and Iraq (Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al.) launched a highly successful propaganda campaign (remember the Private First Class Jessica Lynch POW shameful sequel) using Vietnam POWS - at least the ones that were willing to be used wittingly or unwittingly - in an attempt to prop up the failing Nixon administration. Yet, if Mr. McCain is now intent on running on his character and his war record almost - because he has nothing else to offer - while suggesting that others do not care about their country as much as he does - then the wife and daughter of two other Vietnam heroes has a few questions for him:

In the interest of full disclosure why do you refuse to release your Department of Defense POW debriefing?

In the interest of full disclosure why have you failed to release all military medical records including psychological studies - 1973-1993?

Why do you only reference the time spent as a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton"?

When will you provide details about the time spent in the prison referred to as “Plantation Gardens"?

Did you ever receive any preferential or atypical treatment while a POW in any location where you were held? How soon and when did you reveal your true identity to your Vietnamese captors - did you simply give name, rank and serial number?

Has any other former Vietnam Prisoners of War or Vietnam veteran questioned the record that you claim particularly your claims of "torture"?

What was your connection to the “Peace Committee”?

Have you ever referenced the “blue files” in any speech that you have given? What are the “blue files”? Where are those files housed? Why do you not want those files released?

Have you ever lost your temper with military families who challenged your position?

Have you ever acted in an inappropriate way or in a less than gentlemanly manner with any female spouse of any active duty military personnel member?

Why not let citizens, who know the personal and painful history better than anyone else, ask the questions? Why not let these questions prompt more thorough investigation and scrutiny and less shilling by the press? Why shouldn’t change really mean accountability as framed by ordinary people who also made an extraordinary sacrifice? The answers might provide all citizens the context needed to fully judge some less than credible claims that have aged into myths over time.

There is always the context to consider…

Patty O’Grady, Ph.D., teaches in the Department of Education at the University of Tampa.

Of course, all of this goes back to McCain's time as a collaborator of the North Vietnamese when he was a POW. He signed many documents implicating himself in war crimes and even delivered radio addresses praising the NVA and attacking the US.

I am no fan of John McCain. The only discernible lesson he has seemingly drawn from war is that it is preferable, even for a hundred years. In spite of this, I am not sure how easy it is to judge someone for his/her conduct as a POW. On the other hand, there are still many veterans who were POWs at the Hanoi Hilton who are upset about this, particularly since they did not cave to this pressure (or to the same extent), so it is worth noting.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Sweet Charms of Palmetto Bugs

Growing up in the Midwest, we have what you call cockroaches. They do exist. However, like with everything else in the heartland that experiences seasonal change, cold winters and autumns have a way of regulating the size of these critters. Nothing prepared me for my move south and meeting the ultimate American cockroach, the Palmetto bug. Here is one of them, just in case you live in a part of the country that is denied the honored presence of these creatures. They are huge, usually 1.5-plus inches in length.

I can take many things. I have eaten fried scorpions, assorted animal parts that would probably not be legal in the states, and bugs in general do not bother me. Cockroaches, on the other hand, are a nuisance I cannot abide. When I see them, without exception, I go on a murderous rampage. When you kill them, you must squash and flush the little devils, or else they will potentially breed from their dead carcasses.

When I first moved down here, I saw one or two of these fine beasts in my place. I killed them, of course, and sprayed the daylights out of my domicile, figuring that this would do the trick. Well, over the past few weeks, they have made a reappearance. One here, one there, to which I am averaging about one kill a week (and yes, sorry to say, Palmetto bugs are cockroaches...I think they just call them Palmetto bugs to give them a special romance or pass the appearance of these things as being something else). I spray the doors, windows, everything. I hate to break down and call the exterminator, but I feel I must. I live on the ground floor and right next to a park, so they have many places to hide and sneak into my residence.

I have made a couple of observations about these bugs. One, as an added bonus to them being oversized cockroaches named after a tree, they can fly, like dung-eating Peter Pans, zipping around the room, resembling a nimble fighter dodging your jabs and sprays. The second big observation is that my exes would transform into an eight year old seeing their first mouse when these ladies encountered them. Needless to say, I am the responsible jerk on bug patrol, so I was obviously not doing my job. Damned you cockroach. Damned you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Moron Report #17: Bigfoot and Ghosts

I will never understand how people can be this stupid. I understand the hucksters, the liars, and con artists. There is an obvious motivation for them, but for everyday people to be suckered in by this....

Bigfoot claim a fake, ex-enthusiast says

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The Bigfoot in the freezer is made of rubber, a Web posting asserted Tuesday.

The initial promoter of two hikers' claim that they found the body of Bigfoot in Georgia said he has determined that the discovery was a hoax.

The body turned out to be rubber, and the two men who claimed that they found it, Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, have admitted that it was a costume, said a posting Tuesday on the Web sites of Searching for Bigfoot Inc. and Squatchdetective.

The posting purportedly was written by Steve Kulls, who maintains the Squatchdetective Web site and hosts a similarly named Internet radio program, where the find was announced weeks ago.

In addition, Stanford University anthropologist Richard Klein said Monday that he was not aware he had been identified as participating in the project and would not be involved in any effort to examine the purported Bigfoot carcass.

Whitton and Dyer announced last week that they had found the body of a 7-foot-7-inch, 500-pound half-ape, half-human creature while hiking in the north Georgia mountains in June. They said they put the carcass in a freezer and had spotted about three similar living creatures.

"We were not looking for Bigfoot," Whitton, a Clayton County, Georgia, police officer, said Friday during a news conference. "We wouldn't know what we were doing if we did."

He and Dyer insisted that scientific analysis would bear out their claim.

The hoax was discovered after an "expedited melting process," Kulls wrote. "A break appeared up near the feet area ... as the team and I began examining this area near the feet, I observed the foot which looked unnatural, reached in and confirmed it was a rubber foot."

Kulls said he contacted Tom Biscardi, the self-described "Real Bigfoot Hunter" who has been searching since 1971 for the creature of legend and appeared alongside Whitton and Dyer at the news conference.

"Later that day, Tom Biscardi informed us that both Matthew Whitton and Ricky Dyer admitted it was a costume," the posting said.

Whitton and Dyer reportedly agreed to sign a promissory note and an admission of the hoax and meet with Biscardi at their hotel on Sunday. But when Biscardi went to the hotel, the two had left, Kulls wrote.

"At this time, action is being instigated against the perpetrators," the posting said, adding that the motives behind the claims were unknown. Do you believe in Bigfoot?

The posting said Biscardi's organization, Searching for Bigfoot Inc., "is seeking justice for themselves and for all the people who were deceived by this deception."

Kulls did not immediately return a call to the Squatchdetective contact number. A woman answering the phone at Searching for Bigfoot Inc. said Biscardi had been ill and said she was not sure when he would be returning calls.

A number listed as belonging to Matthew Whitton was disconnected as of Tuesday. Efforts to locate a phone number for Dyer on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Dyer and Whitton failed to show up Monday for a scheduled appearance on CNN's "American Morning."

Kulls said that at the time he first interviewed Dyer on July 28 for the radio program, he suspected the duo's motive was financial. On August 12, he said, the two "requested an undisclosed sum of money as an advance, expected from the marketing and promotion."

Two days later, after signing a receipt and counting the money, Dyer and Whitton showed the Searching for Bigfoot team the freezer containing what they claimed was the body: "something appearing large, hairy and frozen in ice," Kulls wrote.

Dyer, he said, insisted on holding the news conference and told Biscardi he would not release the body unless the briefing was held Friday.

On Sunday, the research team was able to extract some hair and burn it. The hair sample "melted into a ball uncharacteristic of hair," Kulls wrote.

Biscardi then gave the group permission to expedite the melting process, and the rubber foot was discovered, Kulls wrote.

Meanwhile, Klein, the Stanford professor, said Monday that he was "sorry that my name and Stanford's name have been brought into this."

Klein's name was mentioned Friday as one of four scientists, two of them Russian, who would analyze the corpse. Klein said he was unaware that Biscardi had identified him.

He said he had been contacted by Biscardi in the past and responded to a request to examine bones that were identified as coming from a deer.

"He seems like a nice enough guy," Klein said, "but I can't imagine why anyone would devote their lives to proving the existence [of Bigfoot]. Anything has a remote chance of being true, but there is virtually no prospect of this animal being real."

It is not just the bigfoot craze, either. Just look at the spate of ghost "reality shows" on tv. I understand it is cheaper than hiring actors, writers, sets, and support crew, which is the reason why reality tv exists, but they could just as easily have shows on something real. I also have no doubt that this is a response to a market demand for these kinds of programs (as well as the owners of these haunted houses looking for tourist dollars), but why? Why would anyone believe in this nonsense?

Yes, I might sound mean to these believers, but in all seriousness, if one sincerely believes in ghosts then you believe a human being has something like a soul, one that transmits after they die, and a soul that apparently wants to communicate with the living after death. Never mind the concept of the afterlife. It is the non-physical world that I have a problem with. Notice that in these shows, they have never actually encountered a visible ghost. It is always a bucket, chair, table, shadow, or some other prop. How can anyone not get the hint?

To all of the ghosts believers, I will say this. I remain a good agnostic, like all social scientists. I am willing to believe. Just tell your apparition, floating phantasm, or poltergeist to come over to my house and visit yours truly. In fact, on the off chance your imagination, I mean your ghost, is reading this, I challenge it to visit me.

For the record, I have been making this challenge since childhood and I have yet to encounter a single spirit. In fact, in high school, we used to take our dates to a local cemetery (usually, to scare our dates [everyone has a local cemetery that is supposed to be haunted or frequented by devil worshipers]), and in all that time not one Casper (friendly or otherwise) has appeared (no devil worshipers, either). I even played with a Ouija board after watching The Exorcist. Nothing. So, dear believers, bring up your dead uncle or aunt. They are all more than welcome to stop by my place anytime they want, right alongside Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy.

Wait, believers, I see it.

There it is.

There it is.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hospital Murders Waiting Patient

I will never understand in this country how the government and the corporations who fund it can get away with murder. In a more just society, the workers and the board of this hospital would be on trial for their lives. In the US, however, murder by commerce or service is called a tort. If these were individual home health care providers, you would have a good case for felony murder.

NC man dies after waiting 22 hours at hospital

By WHITNEY WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. - A mental patient died after workers at a North Carolina hospital left him in a chair for 22 hours without feeding him or helping him use the bathroom, said federal officials who have threatened to cut off the facility's funding.

The state sent a team Tuesday to help Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro draft new procedures to ensure patients receive proper care.

An investigator's report released Monday found that 50-year-old Steven Sabock died in April after he at one point choked on medication and had been left sitting in a chair for close to a day at the facility about 50 miles southeast of Raleigh. Surveillance video showed hospital staff watching television and playing cards just a few feet away.

It was not clear from the report exactly how Sabock died. The report states that he was in a hospital bed and later found unresponsive. A phone call placed after business hours to the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner rang unanswered Tuesday.

Federal officials have threatened to cut off funding because of Sabock's death and a report that a physician punched a patient after the teen bit the doctor.

Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Tom Lawrence said the state team also may investigate what, if any, disciplinary action should be taken following Sabock's death.

Lawrence said the Sabock incident is isolated but that officials are concerned.

"It's not the kind of thing that we in our wildest dreams would expect to happen in our hospitals — in our wildest nightmares, I guess," Lawrence said.

Sabock's father, Nicholas, declined comment when reached by telephone Tuesday evening. A man who answered the phone listed for Susan Sabock, Steven's wife, hung up without commenting.

The investigation released Monday said Sabock died in April after Cherry Hospital nurses left him unattended in a chair and did not feed him or help him to the bathroom.

The report said Sabock sat, unattended, in the room for four work shifts. The report also found that Sabock, formerly of Roanoke Rapids, ate nothing the day he died and had little food in the three days preceding his death. The 47-page report also said workers were supposed to be closely monitoring Sabock's condition and may have forged documents that said they had.

The state has until Aug. 23 to file a report with the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services detailing what changes officials are making, Lawrence said.

If the center rejects the report, federal funds will be cut off beginning Sept. 1, Lawrence said.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton said in a statement that nurses may be reassigned to provide more patient supervision. Officials are also considering better ways to manage staff resources, he said.

A patient in New York died in June after she waited in a hospital's mental ward waiting area for nearly 24 hours. Security video showed her writhing on the floor. It was nearly an hour before someone else flagged down a staff member who got help for the unresponsive woman.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Empire Gets Slapped

If the South Ossetia War has taught us anything this past week, it is the utter weakness of the US to project its power in Eastern Europe and most importantly on the Russian government. And make no mistake about it: The Russian government has illustrated the weakness of the US.

First, the war itself. Contrary to the most of what the Western media has reported, which waited until the Russians militarily intervened, the conflict began when Georgia attacked its quasi-independent territory of South Ossetia (which was provoked after its 2006 referendum supporting independence from Georgia [the vast majority of South Ossetia's population are Russian citizens]). For this, the so-called democratically-elected President Saakashvili attacked South Ossetia, sending in Georgia's military, which precipitated a massacre of Russians living in the breakaway province.

It was at this point that Russia finally intervened, which was its responsibility as a neighboring country, one that has had troops in South Ossetia as peacekeepers, and even more so since tens of thousands of South Ossetians began migrating into Russian territory to avoid being slaughtered by the Georgian government. Of course, Russia is Russia, and it does not fight the way a normal democratic country does. It has shelled Georgia and certainly committed its own killings of innocent civilians. However, it was provoked into its current situation. That much is a fact.

In the American media, though, you would never know any of this. Here is Fox 'News' cutting off a family in South Ossetia after they retold the story of being saved by the Russian military. Fair and balanced, indeed.

One might ask, why should the US care about South Ossetia? Georgia is probably the closest ally of President Bush of any Eastern European state. There are streets in Tblisi named after him. The Rose Revolution was openly subsidized by the US CIA, installing Saakashvili into power. Not surprisingly, one of Saakashvili's first acts as President was to increase Georgia's military commitment to Iraq (as one of the members of the "coalition of the willing") and sign an agreement allowing for a joint Georgia-NATO military exercise (seen as a precursor of Georgian membership of NATO). This is not unusual, of course. The US has made vassals of most of the ex-Eastern bloc countries, and sadly the majority of the leadership of these countries has gone along (in part because of their pathological hatred of the Russians and also because they want to curry favor with the new superpower).

But like all Quislings, Saakashvili's appeal was limited. His government was losing popularity--due in part to the Georgian economy which, while not as lowly as Maldova's, is nowhere near the growth and vitality of Hungary, Poland, or the Czech Republic. To rouse of support for his government, Saakashvili employed the tried and true tactic of nationalism, which came at the expense of breakaway province of South Ossetia (who has never accepted living under Georgian control). Saakashvili has promised, as one of his most important acts as President, to crush the "criminals" in South Ossetia.

I do not want to delve into the legitimacy of South Ossetia's claims, or for that matter Georgia's insistence that it is a province of their country. Indeed, the Ossetians as a group live on both sides of the border, experienced annexation and mistreatment at the hands of the Georgians and Russians. Nevertheless, when 99% of the population of your territory claim they do not want to live under your government (a government whose language, politics, and laws it does not recognize and never has since its own independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union), I think it is safe to say there is a reason for conflict.

What is not acceptable is the manner in which the conflict was stoked by Georgia's President, including a military incursion that killed and expelled thousands of civilians (virtually ignored in the American media). There is no way Saakashvili would have started this war without the certainty of the positive intervention of the US. Well, it did not happen. It did not happen because it was an impossibility, a bitter lesson that Georgians are learning the hard way.

For its part, the Bush Administration, and especially its ally in French President Sarkozy (interesting to see how servile the French become when they elect a like-minded neoliberal) is threatening Russia with potential sanctions, but nothing will come of it. What will almost certainly happen is that this war will be used by the US and its "new European" allies to manufacture support among Eastern European states to support NATO expansion (which brings with it a multinational military alliance and US nuclear umbrella). Saakashvili simply mistimed his South Ossetia campaign. This is why they lost. The remainder of Eastern Europe (more paranoid about the Russians than being reduced to useful idiots by the US) will follow suit and join NATO (an American organization, since the US is the largest power and by rule the commanding general of the institution). The Russians rightly see this as targeting them.

The most entertaining comments, though, and the ones that illustrate the moral hypocrisy of President Bush, are the ones centered on criticizing Russia for militarily invading a "sovereign nation." Naturally, such sentiments need not apply to the US in Iraq. It does, actually, which is why there is so much support for Russia in this war (from China to Latin American and most all of the Middle East). It is why Saakashvili is completely isolated and likely why his government will fall (and with it the aspirations of the US government in gaining a new Eastern European servant). If you read the Eastern European press, you would never know the Russians saved so many of these peoples from the Germans during World War Two. Apparently being slaughtered by the Germans, as opposed to living under a Russian-sponsored Communist state, would have been preferable to these people.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sick and Tired of "Values Voters"

I do not know about anyone else, but I am weary of being told any Presidential candidate must suck up to a group of people who think women's vaginal canals are subject to Scriptural control and who believe gay people are not and should not be recognized as full citizens. I am even getting angrier at the thought of these bigots being called "values voters," as though hating women, gays, and anyone who does not think like them is what constitutes having values. Those are not my values and I take offense that the entire concept of values must be tied with such ascriptions.

For those of you who do not believe that these people are a threat to a free society, here is an offering of the media's leading values voters. Here is Jimmy Swaggart (he of "I-have-sinned"-after-renting-the-services-of-hookers fame) opining on what he think should be done with gay people.

Here is tax-exempt huckster televangelist Rod Parsley (his accent is fake [he was born and raised in Ohio]) claiming that people like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin founded the US to "destroy" Islam.

Here is another John McCain supporter, multimillionaire John Hagee (notice how all of these televized "servants of God" like to wear expensive suits and jewelry [Hagee has a reason to, since he pulls in several million dollars a year from his hate speech....all tax free]), who claims that the invisible man upstairs will unleash terrorists on the US because of our "anti-Israel" policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Middle East peace process.

As a refuge from this ignorance, enter my favorite fake news source, Onion News Network, catering to no-values voters like myself.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Getting Away With Murder

Just read the comments below in the article.

Murder charges against seven NOPD officers tossed out by judge

by Laura Maggi
Wednesday August 13, 2008, 2:46 PM

Murder and attempted murder charges against seven New Orleans police officers, accused of shooting unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina, were tossed out by Criminal District Court Judge Raymond Bigelow, who concluded that an Orleans Parish prosecutor tainted the secrecy of the grand jury process by showing a piece of testimony to another officer.

"The violation is clear, and indeed, uncontroverted. The state improperly disclosed grand jury testimony to another police officer," Bigelow said, reading his ruling from the bench.

The judge also dealt a blow to the prosecution on two other pending defense challenges to the indictment, providing further reason to quash certain charges against specific defendants.

He concluded former Assistant District Attorney Dustin Davis improperly gave immunity to three officers for their testimony before the grand jury, which subsequently indicted those officers, as well as four others. Bigelow also found that the instructions that Davis gave to the grand jury considering the attempted murder charges were flawed.

The officers stoically sat in the front row of Bigelow's courtroom, showing almost no emotion as the judge read his decision, while a couple of their wives wiped away tears with tissues.

The family of one victim, 40-year-old Ronald Madison, also sat at the front of the courtroom. After the judge read his decision, they lamented the state of the city's criminal justice system, saying they planned to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to take over the case.

"Our family today still feels that the ruling just proves again that the justice system here in New Orleans is still flawed," said Romell Madison, the brother of Ronald Madison.

Bigelow's decision comes at an uncertain time for the Orleans Parish district attorney's office, several months before a new DA will be elected. But Assistant District Attorney Robert White, who took over the DA's public corruption unit earlier this year, said he will be looking at various options to possibly revive the charges, including an appeal or a new grand jury.

The shootings on Sept. 4, 2005 left two men dead: Madison, a 40-year-old man whose relatives describe him as having the mental capacity of a child, and 19-year-old James Brissette. Four other people were severely wounded.

In civil federal lawsuits, survivors of the shooting have said they were unarmed and ambushed by the officers, who jumped out of the back of a rental truck and started shooting.

Police officials have acknowledged the officers shot people on two separate sides of the bridge, but said they did so only after first being shot at. A police report said they arrived at the scene that morning in response to calls over the police radio about people shooting at other officers and rescue workers.

The officers were indicted in late December 2006 after a lengthy grand jury investigation. Former officer Robert Faulcon, who quit the force after the storm, was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Madison. Along with Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius, and officer Anthony Villavaso, Faulcon also faces a first-degree murder charge in Brissette's death.

Those officers, as well as officers Michael Hunter, Ignatius Hills and Robert Barrios, also were indicted with a slew of attempted-murder charges for wounding or shooting at the other victims.

While the officers have all maintained their actions were justified, the police investigation into the incident conducted by the NOPD's homicide unit was incomplete and, in many ways, questionable, according to a review of the 53-page report obtained last year by The Times-Picayune.

Homicide detectives limited their extended probe into the incident to mostly police witnesses. The investigate report, which cleared the officers, based its conclusions, in part, on the statements of a man who was pretending to be a St. Landry Parish sheriff deputy, but who in fact turns out to be an impostor with a criminal record.

Physical evidence wasn't picked up by police right after the shooting. Instead, officers went back to the scene seven weeks later. At the same time, the police department allowed some evidence to be discarded, such as the rental truck used by officers after the storm, which they drove the bridge when they received a call about officers in possible distress.

And for this we have a retiring judge who made his living as a prosecuting attorney to thank. To Mr. Bigelow, murdering people is OK, so long as you are a police officer. There can be no other conclusion, especially when one considers his past record of rulings in favor of law enforcement against defendants in coercive settings. It is remarkable how pro-police judges start writing and sounding like members of the ACLU when it is one of their own. In both cases to which the killer cops stood charged, the victims were perfectly blameless (one of the victims was disabled, unarmed, and shot in the back). Of course, none of them look like Mr. Bigelow or lived in his neighborhood. Indeed, the victims were black, a group Bigelow enjoys making remarks about on the bench.

When Bigelow is not making racially charged remarks or dropping charges against murderous police officers, he likes to skim court fine money (on goddess knows what). A real New Orleans politician.

For those of you who would like to contact this lovely man, here he is.

Section I Court sessions are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. except during scheduled holidays and other section specific announced activities.

Presiding Judge: Honorable Raymond C. Bigelow
Location: 2nd Floor (S. White Street side of building)
Phone Number: (504) 658-9310
Fax: (504) 658-9311

Bumper Stickers

I have seen this bumper sticker on cars and SUVs over the past few years on about a half dozen occasions and in three different states.

When I first saw this, I remember thinking, "Wow, he must have really done something terrible. He probably was caught surfing internet porn or running around with her best friend."

By about the third I heart my wife bumper sticker, I started to wonder if it was possible that the wives put the men up to it, or if maybe the husbands were inserting the stickers of their own volition. I just assumed it was not possible.

By the fifth one, I began to sense a practical joke, sort of like the "Eve was Framed" or "My Kid Can Beat Up Your Honor Student" stickers I have seen over the years.

I witnessed my latest one earlier today, and now I am back to thinking that maybe the husband is just declaring his love after all. Still, I could not envision myself buying a proclamation of my love and then sticking it on my car. It seems tactless, even disrespectful, almost encouraging fellow drivers to think the worst (like maybe this is his way of saying he already has a mistress or one of Mr. Haggard's friends). There is just no way a happily married man should put that on his vehicle. You would either have to be on drugs or believe in religion to be that sincerely commercial.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Climb a Rock: Sexual Healing

I never thought I would see the day where people would consider hiking or wearing shoes better than having sex. Yes, our new 'lovers' are now apparently rocks.

It's better than sex, they say

(LifeWire) -- When it comes to the natural highs, Gracienne Myers says sex just doesn't cut it. Shoes, on the other hand, get her heart racing.

The 34-year-old Brazilian native who now calls State College, Pennsylvania, home says there's just something about heels, sandals, platforms and wedges that give her a rush.

"They're thrilling," says the entrepreneur, who recently started designing her own line of shoes and selling them online and through a handful of retail locations.

She still remembers the rush she got when she found a pair of strappy gold heel sandals at a boutique in Brazil. "I'll never forget it," she recalls, "that feeling of being powerful and sexy in those shoes."

For natural highs -- from stilettos to skydiving -- experts say to look beyond the bedroom. Some activities can actually mimic your brain's response to sex, says Ronald Frederick, a licensed psychologist and the author of the forthcoming book "Living Like You Mean It: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want."

"Some of the same chemicals are involved," he says. "A 'natural high,' that pleasant feeling one experiences during and after a certain activity like running or strenuous exercise, has to do with the release of endorphins, as well as other mood-regulating hormones such as adrenaline, serotonin, cortisol and melatonin. Orgasm also produces a flood of endorphins, which is what makes us feel calm and relaxed after sex."

Break a sweat

For some people, the natural high is just that: high up.

"Hiking and climbing mountains is better than sex," says Ramani Durvasula, a professor at California State University Los Angeles who discovered the sport last year after reaching a big weight loss goal.

"When you pull yourself up onto a summit -- and climax, so to speak, particularly as a woman -- the sheer physicality, beauty and endurance are like no other feeling on earth," she explains.

Durvasula, 42, has climbed summits throughout California. "My favorite 'lover' was Half Dome," she says, "the iconic rock formation in Yosemite." When she reached the top, "I fell to my knees. It was one of the best moments of my life."

The science of natural highs

Scientists have long known that some decidedly nonsexual things can get our brains going. For instance, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found that a baby's smile activates a region in the mother's brain known to produce feelings of euphoria.

The same can be said for money and praise; Japanese researchers have linked both to the brain's pleasure centers. In other words, whether you get a raise at work or a big compliment from the person you're dating, your striatum -- the brain's reward system -- is likely to be turned on.

Anecdotal research maintains that shopping does it, too. According to a small study released earlier this year by the British research and consulting firm MindLab International and sponsored by retailer T.J. Maxx, successful shopping produces a euphoric experience equal to kissing and other romantic activities. The informal study, which followed 12 women for a day of shopping, found that heart rates increased to 192 beats per minute while shopping and, in particular, when they discovered an exciting find -- more than triple the normal resting heart rate of 60.

The thrill of the crowd

Sometimes the best natural highs come from facing a crowd, a challenge that can be terrifying for some. Terry Wisner, 58, of Grand Blanc, Michigan, says it's public speaking that turns him on. Not surprisingly, he's a professional speaker and leadership coach.

It's not that he likes to hear himself talk -- "it's all about the audience's reaction," says Wisner.

He particularly remembers the time he took the stage in front of a crowd of 8,000 in Las Vegas at an automotive convention. "The connection to that audience was amazing," he says. "Not just for me, but for them as well. This event took place over 5 years ago, and I still hear from audience members every now and then. It still rocks my world just to think about it."

Sausalito, California, resident Andy Kurtzig, 35, finds his pleasure on a plate. The CEO of regularly travels to the celebrated Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry.

"Each course is like foreplay," he explains. "Not too much, not too little -- just enough to make you want more. Each course gets you progressively closer to tantalizing your taste buds even more. The entire three-hour buildup is incredible!"

Addicted to that feel-good feeling?

Love something a little too much? You might want to start worrying, says Frederick, if it's helping you mask or avoid underlying feelings, issues, anxiety or discomfort -- "for example," he says, "being overly active, or addicted to working out, as a means to regulate one's anxiety."

The good news, he says, is that unlike drugs and alcohol, which produce dopamine in the brain, natural highs are less likely to be physically addictive.

"Research has shown that addictive substances like alcohol, nicotine and heroin activate a single pleasure circuit in the deepest and oldest part of the brain," says Frederick. "People become addicted to these substances because their systems become used to higher levels of dopamine and, when they don't get it, feel deprived. A drug floods the brain with dramatic levels of dopamine that are not the same as what is produced during a natural high."

In short, he says, behaviors that cause natural highs may be a ton of fun, "but they don't have the same propensity to become addictive."

I am not sure if this is a commentary on how stupid we have become, or if maybe we have lost our ability to have good sex. The article demurs by claiming the non-sexual acitivities are just another form of "natural high," but how can a self-deluded natural high be better than having sexual intercourse?

I doubt seriously that it is a product of sexual ignorance. People know more about sex now than ever before. With a click of a mouse, I can find out the best way to perform cunnilingus on my life partner. Two decades ago, I would have had to reference a bad porn movie or ask someone (neither of which I would have done). Coule it be that we are sexually unsatisfied? Over a fifth of the adult population has genital herpes, after all. Over half of all adults will suffer from an STD in their lifetime. It is perfectly understandable why someone in those circumstances would be less inclined to want to have sex.

Then again, maybe this has less to do with the act of sex, per se, and how unsatisfied we are in our relationships. Over half of all marriages end in divorce, couples are having fewer children than previous generations, and the average person seemingly goes through numerous relationships (and in many cases do not even bother having relationships). Admittedly, in between the diseases and bad relationship endings, outside of the most non-committal situations sex has become a drag for people. Still, I would like to think that I would not confuse one of my volumes of Rousseau with a past lover.