Evan Derkacz

Conservative Christian Reserves Right to Preach Gay Bashing

Running around like a chicken with its head cut off, the American Family Association's Don Wildmon is out to prove that America's most high profile religious voices are as archaic, bigoted and dumbed-down as "the new atheists" preach they are.

Wildmon may as well be on tour with Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Dennett.

As James Watkins at Think Christian points out, Wildmon recently sent an ominous warning to supporters that "A bill in Congress makes it a crime for pastors and churches to speak against homosexuality," claiming that the new Hate Crime bill, which extends protection to the LGBT community, actually threatens free speech.

Err, not exactly. What H.R. 1592 DOES say is that if you bash a gay or transgendered person -- that is, if you physically assault them -- you are subject to a particular kind of prosecution because of the nature of the crime. In fact, while it should say that when a religious figure's expressed antipathy toward anyone in the LGBT community (or Muslims or women or anyone) can be directly tied to a violent crime, they can be held accountable -- but it doesn't.

It just says that if you cause bodily harm you're in trouble. Who could oppose that?

So you're left to ask yourself: is Wildmon's reading comprehension so poor? Probably not... it's more likely that Wildmon knows exactly what the bill says. But, as the conservative religious movement requires a surfeit of both fear and cash, any opportunity to misrepresent a bill that exactly ten people will read as the approach of the forces of doom will be taken and exploited. Case in point.

But these shenanigans are nothing new for the man whose reputation was solidified by a high-profile row with Three's Company, and its immoral message. This stuff just writes itself.

So, Mr. Wildmon, you can still preach the gospel of hatred to your heart's content, you just can't physically assault people. In today's marketplace, even this is controversial. And you can practically feel the whoosh of Hitchens' anti-religion screed flying from the shelves...

On the other hand, at this weekend's Pride parade in Sacramento, A Church for All came out to neutralize conservative evangelical protesters, commenting that:

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Group calls on Dems to leave Fox debate out in cold

The 75,000 strong Color of Change organization's efforts to urge the Congressional Black Caucus not to host a Democratic presidential debate with Fox have thus far been futile. The group argues that Fox News "consistent[ly] marginaliz[es]... Black leaders and the Black community." The video is HERE for those who aren't convinced.

Now, joined by Jesse Jackson and a bevy of publications and bloggers, ColorofChange is urging the DNC, which sanctions only six Democratic debates, to sanction the CBC/CNN debate and not the CBC/Fox partnership.

That would effectively make it an unofficial debate.

ColorofChange has all the quotes here, but below I cherry-pick:

*"FOX moderating a presidential debate on issues of importance to Black Americans is literally letting the Fox guard the henhouse – FOX should be rejected." -- Jesse Jackson

*"Fox News is not a 'fair and balanced' source of information or political debate, and it has repeatedly proven itself hostile to the interests of Black Americans... Case in point: Fox's recent sustained stain campaign against presidential candidate Barack Obama-they place undue emphasis on his middle name 'Hussein,' say he went to a fundamentalist Islamic school and question his religious affiliation, suggestively characterizing his church as having 'unusual doctrines.' And the network's framing and interpretation of Black (and Brown) issues and culture are often bigoted and lacking in any attempt to truly understand and present a fair picture." -- Afro American Newspapers Editorial

*"Anyone who has been watching the news the past few years should know that Fox News is nothing but a right-wing platform for conservative Republicans. So if that's the case, why were the Democrats even thinking about holding a debate on Fox News in Nevada? I understand the whole idea of reaching out to the other side, but Fox News is not just the other side. They are the opposition. It's one thing to debate Bill O'Reilly or the Fox News anchors. Everybody knows what's going on there. It's another thing to give Fox News a forum it doesn't already have where they can pretend to be 'fair and balanced.' But if the Democratic Party gets it, why doesn't the Congressional Black Caucus?" -- Keith Boykin, blogger and former Clinton official

*"Please help us Lord." -- Superspade

*"If the Ku Klux Klan or Council of Conservative Citizens had a cable news network, would it be appropriate to collaborate with them on hosting presidential debates, particularly when one of the candidates is black, a CBC member and a consistent target of the network's hatred and misinformation?" -- Jack and Jill Politics

Swiftboaters recruited to push abstinence

Guest post by Scott Swenson first appeared on RH Reality Check.

Using membership dues paid in part by federal tax dollars, the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) hired the Washington, DC, public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts, best known for the 2004 "Swift Boat Veterans" ads against John Kerry, to launch a public relations effort supporting the failed and unpopular abstinence only education policies. Without a proven proactive program of their own to reduce STDs and unintended pregnancies, NAEA is likely to attack supporters of successful public health methods, like comprehensive sexuality education. While progressives are promotiong Prevention First and Responsible Education About Life, social conservatives once again will use fear and smear to distract voters, evidenced in the hiring of Creative Response Concepts (CRC), to exagerate the influence of the fewer than 1-in-5 voters who support failed abstinence education efforts.

The leadership of NAEA also needs to be investigated. Some of them already have been. Their Advisory Committee is a who's who of those who have profited from the Bush Administration's...

Longest jailed journalist in American history freed

Josh Wolf was jailed for protecting source materials (footage of an anti-free-trade protest) for longer than any other journalist in American history -- more than seven months. He was freed yesterday after agreeing to forfeit the video tape in question. But you don't have to wait for the feds to vet it. He posted the thoroughly uneventful footage on his blog HERE, stating:

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ABC News pushing Bogus Iran nuke story

Guest post from Sean-Paul Kelley.

How Did Such . . .

. . . a patently bogus article get through the editors at ABC news?

Seriously, the article has one source, and one source alone that says an Iranian nuke could be possible by 2009. And what does this one source base this completely unrealistic claim on? 1,000 new centrifuges Iran is installing at Natanz, which the articles notes, are not even operational.

As David Albright says, "If they continue at this pace, and they get the centrifuges to work and actually enrich uranium on a distinct basis," said David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, "then you're looking at them having, potentially having enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 2009."

But if you go back and look at the record and see how long it has taken for Iran to get where they are you realize what garbage this article is. We've been expecting Iran to install 3,000 centrifuges for some time. And now that they've installed 1/3 that number we're going to blow it up into a crisis? First it was 3,000 centrifuges that make up the red line, now it's 1,000?

Please. This is nothing more than disinformation, a well timed leak doled out to Ross and ABC. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Refuting the Myth of Liberal Intolerance

Guest post by Frank Cocozzelli:

The Religious Right and their allies love to accuse liberals of hypocrisy. To that end, one favorite attack line is to accuse Liberalism -- for which tolerance is a core value-of itself being intolerant.

This is, of course is absolute nonsense. So much so, that when the leader of the neoconservative's pet religious battalion at the Institute on Religion and Democracy attempts to quote an esteemed liberal philosopher, he gets it so wrong that I begin to suspect that they actually believe their own propaganda.

In a recent article, Institute on Religion and Democracy President, Jim Tonkowich wrote on the subject of "The Dangers of Liberal Toleration," starting out by misstating both John Rawls' theory on morality as well the liberal...

Edwards campaign WILL continue

As we know from pre-war reporting, information from "a source" can be a dicey business. Anonymity is an absolutely crucial element to good reporting, but extra care must be taken to assess the motives and track record of a source.

Without a confirmation from a second source, it's more or less a synonym for "rumor."

As it was in the case of John Edwards' announcement today. The first to declare his candidacy for the Democratic nomination WILL remain in the running despite the recurrence of his wife's cancer.

The conference, which ended moments ago, included these words:

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Gonzales shut down probe of Gonzales last year

In a brand new article Murray Waas writes that Bush's Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recommended that the president shut down an investigation into domestic spying last year, knowing full well that a part of that investigation focused on Gonzales himself.

How many smoking guns can you fit in a Volkswagen Beetle?

Last year, in defending the president's decision to shut down the investigation, Gonzales noted that "the president of the United States makes the decision," writing to the Senate Judiciary Committee:

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ExxonMobil costs Stanford a big donor

Millionaire movie producer Steve Bing has withdrawn his donation to Stanford (his alma mater; and a school with numerous "Bing" buildings), due to its partnership with ExxonMobil commenting, through a spokesman, that: "Exxon Mobil is trying to greenwash itself, and it's using Stanford as its brush."

DUH. ExxonMobil is giving $100 million over 10 years (while other big oil interests are throwing in another $125 million over the same period) and is doing so to either rehabilitate their tarnished brand or to affect the research of one of the world's leading institutions -- or both.

According to Jennifer Washburne, an expert in the relationship between Universities and Corporations, an ad on the NY Times' oped page, signed by the Stanford Prof Lynn Orr, "suggested that the scientific debate about global warming is ongoing: 'Although climate has varied throughout Earth’s history from natural causes, today there is a lively debate about . . . the climate’s response to the presence of more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.'"

This, despite the fact that, as the Mercury article notes, there's a virtual consensus on the fact that human activity is the cause of global warming.

It comes as no surprise, of course, that ExxonMobil was still ...

Edwards to freeze out Fox News

A couple of weeks ago it came to light that Nevada Democratic Party were having one of their presidential debates hosted by Fox News.

Fox, as many have pointed out, is less "conservative" than it is a simple propaganda network for Republicans. In any case, it is extremely disparaging of Democrats:

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I was attacked by Rush Limbaugh

Guest post by Cliff Schecter:

Another week, more preposterousness to report.

So The Nevada Democratic Party somehow thinks it makes sense to have the closest living relative to Burmese State Television, the FoxNews Channel, televise a debate that will help choose our presidential nominee.

C'mon guys, you can tell us, is this secret plan to seduce Bill Bennett to the Luxor so you can plan for some major slots-based revenue enhancements? Because if there's one thing we know, it's that what happens to Bill Bennett's money in Las Vegas is that it stays in Las Vegas.

Yet, if this is not part of the plan, then this idea is so stupid, so very stupid, I am left speechless--kinda like Ted Stevens pondering the various complexities and spiritual implications of that series of tubes known as the Internets. The one and only Robert Greewald (discosure: we have worked together on projects and he has actually followed the capitalist ethic of paying me for my work) has just released a short film that is devastating, as his films always are, in displaying the level FoxNews will go to to discredit Democrat Barack Obama in his presidential quest.

I mean, does the Republican Party hand over its debates to the AFL-CIO? Does George W. Bush hand over his weekly radio slot to Jim Webb? Does Karl Rove plan his political campaigns around attacking gays because of a secret self-loathing due to his father's open homosexuality, a gap he fills by compulsively eating, growing his head to Zeppelinesque proportions and then developing a kindergarten plan for 2006, only to lose his enduring Republican majority to his own greed and stupidity?

Bad example.

Ok, do I go on Rush Limbaugh's show? Well, no, because he doesn't seem to like me much. Here's what he had to say about me today (for real)...

The Conservapedia has a Racist Agenda

Guest post by Jill Tubman.

The Conservapedia was recently launched as a rival to the Wikipedia.

The Eagle Forum sponsors this repugnant trash. You know the Eagle Forum -- it's Phyllis Schlafly the anti-feminist ultra-conservative. She's against Title IX, against "judicial activism" (code word = nigger loving dismantlers of segregation) and pro-Mexican border fence.

Here's a quote from one of her recent columns supporting Pat Buchanan's just-published book State of Emergency on immigration:
Today, our elites celebrate diversity rather than American ideals and identity. To justify the enormous numbers of foreign born entering the United States, legally and illegally, we are reminded ad nauseam that we are a nation of immigrants.
However, immigrants, legal and illegal, don't come to America because of our diversity of residents, but because we are a land of freedom and opportunity. Most of the creators of our unique land were not immigrants.
Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 48 were native-born Americans and two of the others came to this country as babies. Of the 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution, 32 were native-born Americans, and the few signers of both documents who were not native-born all came from Great Britain or British colonies.
The most diversity we had in the founding of America was that some came from big states like Massachusetts and some from small states like Delaware.
Buchanan's book lists all the obvious solutions: no amnesty, a border fence, eliminate birthright citizenship and taxpayer-paid social benefits, prohibit dual citizenship, require businesses to match employees' Social Security numbers, and time-out on legal immigration.
Right. So let's take a look at her alternative to the Wikipedia which supposedly...

Dean helping Dems with stab in the back?

Guest post by Matt Stoller.

What is this, stab a progressive in the back day? Here's an update on the Fox News fight.
The reason, according to an online letter MoveOn sent to 2 million of its members Thursday, is that "Fox is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel. The Democratic Party of Nevada should drop Fox as its partner for the presidential primary debate." Joining the chorus Thursday was liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald, the director of the anti-Fox film, "Outfoxed," who released a video online of Fox's coverage of Democratic candidates.
But the Nevada party organizers -- and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean -- said Thursday that while they may not think much of Fox's reporting, they want to reach out to viewers of the largest cable news network, one with double the number of prime-time viewers of CNN. And one whose believability is much higher with Republicans than Democrats, according to a 2005 study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The 50 state strategy does not mean ratifying a right-wing propaganda outlet as a legitimate news source. Seriously, this is ridiculous. Howard Dean is now defending Fox News, along with the Democratic parties of Arizona, Colorado, Montana and New Mexico, and Harry Reid is out there pretending that he has no role in all of this when one phone call from his office could make this go away.

There are three possibilities. One, someone in the Nevada state Democratic Party is embarrassed and doesn't want to 'fold' and the rest of the machine is too stupid to make them. Two, Reid is behind this, and genuinely believes that going on Fox News, a channel that regularly describes Democratic leaders as traitors and regularly lies about the major Presidential candidates, is a good way to reach out to Republicans. Three, the Nevada State Democratic Party is getting money from Fox News to put this debate on.

I didn't expect this to get hostile, since apparently these people are our friends and keep talking about how wonderful the netroots and the grassroots are. Maybe it's all a big misunderstanding, but seriously, this is crazy. You don't show respect to people who make up lies about you and your friends.  That's weakness, not outreach.

And yes, every time Fox News slimes a Democrat, this is going to get thrown in our face.

UPDATE: Apparently Dean ageed with us, until he didn't. In June of 2005, here's Howard Dean: ""My view is that Fox News is a propaganda outlet of the Republican Party and that I don't comment on Fox News." The response drew applause from the room." (hat tip faithfull - link rot has set in, here's a Dkos diary that quotes the article)

Joe Lieberman to become Republican?

Guest post by Taylor Marsh.

As we saw before the Senate went on recess, having Reid as the majority leader doesn't mean much when it's this slim of a majority. It also doesn't count when you have a Senate that doesn't have the spine to actually debate, but instead gets caught up in whether they should debate.

Well, Mr. Lieberman is threatening to make it official. As far as I'm concerned, I hope the door doesn't hit him on the way out of the Democratic Party. He's not doing us any good on Iraq and foreign policy, which includes the brewing Israeli - Palestinian - Lebanon crisis.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut told the Politico on Thursday that he has no immediate plans to switch parties but suggested that Democratic opposition to funding the war in Iraq might change his mind.
Lieberman, a self-styled independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has been among the strongest supporters of the war and President Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 combat troops into Iraq to help quell the violence there.
"I have no desire to change parties," Lieberman said in a telephone interview. "If that ever happens, it is because I feel the majority of Democrats have gone in a direction that I don't feel comfortable with." … ..
Lieberman Says War Vote Could Prompt Party Switch
It's time to let Joe go. Don't feel beholden, babe. Take the leap. You're most of the way there anyway, especially on foreign policy. As for this question, I could care less. I just want Mr. Lieberman to quit invoking John F. Kennedy's name every time he talks about being more like him than the current Democratic Party, because Lieberman doesn't know what he's talking about.

John F. Kennedy was strong on national defense, but before his murder he was planning for a way to get out of Vietnam. He also never fired a shot at Khrushchev, but yet got the old man to blink during the blockade. There is no way JFK would have condoned pre-emptive war with Saddam Hussein. I won't get into what Joe Kennedy's advice would have been on the 2002 Iraq war resolution, because it would likely be the same as Bill Clinton's. He would have voted yes in the Senate, but never gone to war in Iraq himself. Lieberman and most others do not understand Kennedy's mind when it came to war. He hated it. That's because he'd been in one and almost died getting out alive.

Joe Lieberman is just another chickenhawk who no longer belongs in the Democratic Party. You other James Webb Democrats out there know what I'm talking about. So let me close by saying, good-bye, Joe. You've gone from the riches of the civil rights movement and the 2000 vice president's slot, to the shame of thinking Iraq was more important than Afghanistan. That Saddam Hussein was more important than Al Qaeda, and now we've got those thugs with a stronger base, terrorism at an all time high, a coming spring offensive in Afghanistan, and an Armed Forces that is falling apart due to negligence, constant stop-loss, not enough troops, while our National Guard is in shambles, with the families of all our forces falling apart and PTSD at historic highs. If that's your idea of "strong on national defense," progressive Democrats want no part of your plans.

Impeach07 Campaign Launched

Guest post by David Swanson.

There is movement in the impeachment movement. And it's motivated by a strange sensation: hope. In Olympia, Wa., on Tuesday, over 800 people crammed in for a forum on impeachment with Ray McGovern, Elizabeth de la Vega, and Dave Lindorff. Why?

Not, I think, because of those three people, each of whom I consider a friend and a brilliant speaker. Rather, the excitement was focused on Eric Oemig, a state senator, who was there to discuss his resolution to petition the U.S. House to begin impeachment proceedings. The first committee hearing on this bill is scheduled for March 1, and -- according to the Jefferson Manual (rule book for the House) -- it can begin impeachment as long as one Congress Member accepts the state's petition. Video right, details HERE.

A similar bill in New Mexico has already cleared the Senate Rules Committee with a unanimous vote of Democrats, and every Republican skipping the meeting so as not to have to defend Bush or Cheney HERE.

Vermont has a bill making its way through the legislature as well and more states are in the works.

But the big news is in national organizing. The organizations that have had the nerve to step out for impeachment have been somewhat isolated from each other until now, as a result of various disagreements. One problem is that there are so many grounds for impeaching Cheney and Bush that no two people can agree on what the best ones are. But a new campaign has just been formed uniting all the major organizations under one umbrella: Impeach07.org.

Newsweek reported in October that a majority of Americans favor impeachment, and in January that 58% said they wished the Bush administration were over. We have new evidence from the Libby trial of the highest of crimes by Cheney. And we have yet another war threatened -- one that impeachment could prevent. At least two Congress Members say they'll impeach if Bush bombs Iran: John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). We want to impeach in order to PREVENT bombing Iran.

To see the list of projects we think can achieve this, and to get involved, go to Impeach07.org.
Finally, when people ask whether this group is united with that group on impeachment, we can all say yes. Or so I thought until I received this misguided Email this morning:

"Are you planning to collaborate with moveon and various other impeachment groups?"

No comment.

A search engine for the brain

This guest post was written by Sara Davidson.

Where the hell is my favorite hair clip? The black velvet one I bought in China while visiting my son? I remember taking it off, but it's not in its usual place. Methodically I scan every surface, open each drawer. Material possessions don't merit this kind of frenzy, but what drives me nuts is the mystery. Like… why can't I find a piece of paper I was just holding in my hand? I can feel it, see it, I had it two seconds ago and now it's gone, as if vaporized.

Things disappear. I know this from research I did for my book that's being published right now, Leap! What Will We Do with the Rest of our Lives? Experts tell you there are techniques and pills to sharpen your memory but I think that's a shameless lie. Counselors tell you to relax and let it go, you probably don't need the damn thing anyway. This is part of the wisdom and freedom that come with age. Ha.

Writer Dan Wakefield is convinced that items we can't find slip into a fourth dimension, or alternate time stream. I know a nuclear physicist who asserts this as well. Maybe they're right. My mother has a friend who lost a leg of lamb she was defrosting. She and three other ladies searched her apartment inch by inch, opened every cupboard, lifted every dish to no avail. Is that leg of lamb being chewed on somewhere in the fourth dimension?

I'd like to have a beeper for the things that keep disappearing, like my glasses and my purse. A button like the one on cordless phones. If you forget where you put down the headset, you push a button on the console and the phone beeps, leading you to it like a heat-seeking missile. Why can't we attach such a device to our coffee mugs and keys?

While contemplating this as I brush my teeth, I drop an empty toothpaste tube into the wastebasket and catch sight of something black and shiny. The hair clip? Oh, great joy! But what's it doing in the trash? Okay, the last time I took it off, I must have been thinking about something else and dropped it in the trash along with a Kleenex.

The fix for this is being mindful-focusing on what you're doing while you're doing it. No multi tasking, no thinking or dreaming about anything else but brush brush brush when you're cleaning those teeth.

I'd rather have beepers, and while we're at it, I'd like a search engine for the brain. When I can't remember a fact or quote for a piece I'm writing, I just type it into Google. But when trying to remember a person's name or whether I slept with him 30 years ago….if only there were a chip that could be embedded in our brains. We'd just pose the question in our mind and say, "Search." This is going to happen, rest assured, and I invite you, dear reader, to imagine the consequences.

To contact Sara Davidson or read an excerpt from Leap! please visit www.saradavidson.com.

Did Condi lie to Congress about Iran?

A few weeks back, Colin Powell's former aide, Lawrence Wilkerson, told BBC that Cheney rebuffed an offer from a more moderate pre-Ahmadinejad Iran, "to help the United States stabilize Iraq and end its military support for Hezbollah and Hamas." [VIDEO]

Now, a former aide to Condi Rice, Flynt Leverett, is accusing "[t]he Bush administration up to and including Secretary Rice," of not only missing this "serious proposal," but of "misleading Congress and the American public about the Iran proposal."

Last week, testifying before congress, Rice said: "I don't know what Flynt Leverett's talking about," and then faulted him for not telling her that "We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it."

Uh huh. Oooooh that Flynt Leverett, concealing an offer from Iran on the most important foreign policy issue of the decade (shaking fist).

That's so ludicrous I'm surprised she wasn't struck by Zeus's mighty lightning bolt on the spot.

The terrible irony is that the administration's clear desire -- yes, desire -- to go to war with Iran has helped create an increasingly radical leadership there (although the Supreme Leader, who controls the military, is the same as it was).

An important thing to remember, as signs of yet another chance for a peaceful end to this neocon wet dream is extended, is that many in the military, intelligence and policy world have claimed for years that with regard to Iran THERE IS NO GOOD MILITARY OPTION.

Fortunately it appears that noone is drinking the Bush Kool-Aid on Iran...

Was Bush admin Delusional or Deceitful on Iraq?

There have been two major schools of thought on the psyche of Bush and his Administration as a whole. One said that they're clueless and deluded, while the other contended that they've been well aware of the realities, it's just that they're equally well aware of the need to lie about it in order for the public to hew to their will.

Personally, I don't think these two schools are incompatible but I know how boring that is.

Some newly declassified documents show that, according to Thomas Blanton of the National Security Archive, prewar planners were "delusional" about what would occur in Iraq after an invasion.

Among their predictions:

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Anna Nicole Smith and the Kindness of Strangers

This guest post was written by "Mamacita," Joan Conde.

Tunku Varadarajan's "Citizen of the World" column about Anna Nicole Smith in the Wall Street Journal today is a heartless reading of her life and death. For the India-born Mr. Varadarajan, Smith's life is nothing but a metaphor for a dissipated American culture, where "most adult relations have been recast as transactions."

This sweeping generalization conceals a sexist analysis that neglects a real examination of Smith's situation. Anna Nicole Smith was an ignorant, downtrodden, single parent who took up dancing to support her son when minimum wage and tips failed to make ends meet. Her situation was that of millions of women the world over who are uneducated, alone and bear the sole responsibility of raising children when they are abandoned or orphaned.

Varadarajan fails to mention that Smith was first approached by Marshall, who pursued her vigorously (despite his physical condition) and who felt that she was the antidote to his depression following his wife's death.

Varadarajan eschews comparisons of Smith to Marilyn Monroe by virtue of her marriage to Arthur Miller, in other words, based on her short relationship to a man who was a well-known, American playwright. Pinning Monroe's value on Miller's lapel in no way validates her life or death. It's meaningless unless you consider Varadarajan's own background, as an Indian-born, Oxford-educated intellectual. Then the "transaction" occurs this way: if an accomplished, intellectual male playwright associates with a beautiful, artificially-enhanced actress and emotional basketcase, the actress is more worthy of consideration than if there is no association to the accomplished, intellectual, male playwright. Varadarajan would do well to examine the math involved in this transaction and its roots in his native India, where a good many Indian arranged marriages would not occur were not the education and social status of bride and groom considered equal or otherwise advantageous. It's not crass commercialism but it is a transaction.

Varadarajan should have looked to the playwright Tennessee Williams, to "A Streetcar Named Desire" and to his portrait of Blanche Dubois, whose life depended, with tragic consequenses, "on the kindness of strangers."

To be vulnerable, ignorant, and beautiful is no crime. To seek love on the wider stages of fame and fortune is no crime, indeed, if it was, half of Hollywood and a good many on Wall Street would be culpable. Let's not revile a woman who struggled to make the best of it, needed to make it work for her, and in the end, may have been murdered by a man whose greed was cloaked as kindness.

Are the deaths of our soldiers a waste of life?

This guest post was written by Terry Welch on the occasion of Barack Obama's comment that soldiers killed in Iraq have died in vain. Obama has since apologized, revealing once again that the Democrats still aren't getting it...

Michelle Malkin is, of course, livid that Barack Obama pointed out the obvious--that Bush's war is a waste of American lives--calling his statement "patronizing, infantilizing, and insulting" to the troops. She even quotes some service members who supported and died for the war and family members of other dead troops who believe the sacrifice was worth it. You can't argue with their opinion on this matter, because it is, after all, simply an opinion, no matter how hard it may have been to come by. Should one be interested in debating Malkin on the "uh-uh/uh-huh" playground level she's chosen, it would be simple to find an equal number of service members who feel the war is a waste and family members who believe that they gave a son, daughter, brother or sister for nothing.

A closer look, however, reveals that Malkin's childish fuming is just another version of Bush's spin point:

Harry Reid suing AP?

John Aravosis found a recent AP story noting that Reid had hired lawyer Martin Singer -- a libel, copyright and privacy specialist -- "to help Reid respond to a story by The Associated Press that was critical of a Las Vegas land deal involving the senator."

John Solomon, a reporter with a history of trumped up stories of political malfeasance (as if actual corruption is hard to find?), reported that Harry Reid "collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years."

TPM's Paul Kiel wrote, simply: "that's wrong," noting that Reid made $700k and he did own the land.

It's complex (read the full explanation here) but suffice to say, it doesn't look like Reid is taking the story sitting down and may, as the hire of Singer suggests, sue the AP for Solomon's shoddy reporting.

Dixie Chicks get last laugh on Bush

Ever since the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines dissed Bush at a UK performance in 2003 ("we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas" VIDEO), they've been shunned by country radio, the chief vehicle for popularity and sales in the music industry.

Bush himself said that "they shouldn't have their feelings hurt because people don't wanna buy their record."

No matter.

At last night's Grammy Awards, the Chicks won Best Album for "Taking the Long Way," which includes "Not Ready to Make Nice" a song about the fallout from the Bush criticism.

It won best song and record of the year.

When the album won best "Country" album of the year as well Maines reportedly said: "A lot of people just turned their TVs off right now."

My only quibble is that they didn't mention Iran.

Pat Robertson allegedly threatens to kill Texas bodybuilder and family

This should qualify as Friday's tabloid post.

Same old story. Bodybuilder loses 200 lbs through use of "age-defying" televangelist-sponsored diet shake. Bodybuilder contacts televangelist, Pat Robertson, to push the shake to health-conscious Christians. Televangelist winds up using image and story of bodybuilder for financial gain, telling bodybuilder to buzz off when he learns that it wasn't such a philanthropic, slimming-for-Jesus project after all.

After offering the recipe for free on the 700 Club, Robertson ended up licensing the shakes and selling them at GNC. Bodybuilder Phil Busch commented:

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Edwards beats back right wing noise machine

When you're done reading this post, you can take action HERE.

John Edwards announced a short time ago that although he doesn't agree with some of the statements made in past blog posts by his blogger Amanda Marcotte and organizer Melissa McEwan, he will stand by them.

Good for him.

Mentioning that some of the posts had "offended" him, Edwards was reassured that it was not their aim to malign any faith in general and vowed to give them "a fair shake."

He then redirected the conversation, subtly, to the blowhards in the right wing noise machine: "We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in."

Yesterday, when the news that right wing fanatic Bill Donohue had demanded their release, I wrote that this was the first test of his candidacy. It may not have been perfect, but it is an inspiring beginning.

There will be other attacks. Of that you can be sure. It's crucial that the dirty tricks and attack campaigns be anticipated and beaten back. Matt Browner Hamlin writes:
The netroots must continue to push back on the rightwing partisans who launched this attack on the netroots and the Edwards campaign. We must continue to point out that top staffers at the top levels of Republican presidential campaigns have ties to ongoing criminalinvestigations and past criminal malfeasance. We have to make sure the world knows about the ethical hardships some Republican presidential blog staffers have gone through in the past. We have to remind the media that they were played by Donohue, a hate-monger with no credibility to speak of (and potential lawbreaker himself).
But it isn't just the netroots in this fight anymore. John Edwards and all other presidential candidates must take up arms and push hard against the dirty tactics of the Right and the partisan hacks who perpetrate them.

Longest jailed journalist in American history

This guest post was written by Rachel Sklar.

Last Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup refused to release freelance videographer Josh Wolf from jail, where he has been for 169 days since being imprisoned for refusing to turn over raw footage to a grand jury. Today, he becomes the longest-running imprisoned journalist in U.S. history.

Wolf, 24, was held in contempt of court in August 2006 for refusing to comply with a subpoena demanding the raw footage from aJuly 2005 protest in which a police officer was injured and allegations of vandalism of police property were made. Wolf's imprisonment for contempt, if uninterrupted, will run until the expiration of the Grand Jury in July 2007 -- even though all the underlying criminal charges relating to the incident have been dropped.

Wolf's motion requesting a new hearing was made last week on the argument that the jail term was obviously not going to change his mind and had now crossed over into the realm of criminal punishment in a case where, at this point, there wasn't even a potential criminal. Like that mattered. From the SF Chronicle:
Alsup denied release in a one-paragraph decision, citing a prosecutor's statement that Martin Garbus, Wolf's lawyer, had offered to turn over the tape in exchange for a promise that Wolf would not have to identify anyone who appeared on it. "This reveals a realistic possibility that Mr. Wolf's confinement may be having its coercive effect,'' the judge said.
The Chronicle reported that Garbus had actually suggested that as a possibility to bring to Wolf (i.e. no, his frame of mind has not changed), but actually, various compromise offers had earlier been made by the Wolf team thus far, offering the tape without Wolf's testimony; it's the Court that is refusing to budge. (Wolf has also told the court that the specific incident of vandalism alleged -- the attempt to set fire to a police car -- was not on the tape). In November, Wolf was denied bail.

Note that Wolf 's case has come before a Federal court rather than a state court, before which he would be protected by California's shield law (there is no federal shield law for journalists, as we learned during the case of Judy Miller). Note also that the burden of proving that the investigation is frivolous or in bad faith in this case has been put on Wolf -- a difficult and onerous burden, and the reverse of what is usually required where the deprivation of liberty is concerned (though you would think that pointing out that the event in question was not even on the tape would factor somewhat into the assessment). So torecap: A 24-year old videoblogger refuses to turn over footage that is probably not relevant in a case where there are no criminal charges, to be held until the second the grand jury compelling him expires, just in case he changes his mind. After that, after almost a year in prison, the longest-running imprisoned American journalist will be allowed to go home. It's so great when justice is served.

Army spying on its own soldiers

Our freedom as Americans was -- okay, falsely -- one of the paramount battle cries of the Iraq War. So it's that much more of a spit in the face to learn that the Army is, without any explicit criteria, spying on soldier blogs.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has filed a Freedom of Information Act request so soldier/bloggers and the public will know exactly what information the army finds "inappropriate," writes:

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Al Franken running for Senate

Via Truthdig. Al Franken will run for Senator in Minnesota in 2008 against Republican Norm Coleman.

Coleman, a NY Jew, is using the ol' thinly-veiled anti-Jewish dig that Franken represents "Hollywood values," and not "Midwestern Values."

Uh huh.

Franken's line: "If I do run against Norm Coleman in '08, I'll be the only New York Jew in the race who actually grew up in Minnesota."

This is the state of Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, and Paul Wellstone. Coleman swept in on the death of Wellstone -- a man whose reelection he'd once chaired.

Yet another 60s liberal-turned-conservative as the zeitgeist, and political expediency, dictated, a 1970 Coleman said:

"I know these conservative kids don't fuck or get high like we do (purity, you know)... Already the cries of motherhood, apple pie, and Jim Buckley reverberate thorough the halls of the Student Center. Everyone watch out, the 1950s bobby-sox generation is about to take over."

Today's Coleman opposes gay civil rights (also known as civil rights), a woman's control of her own body, and he voted to prolong the suffering of Terri Schiavo.

Joshua adds …

Now that Conrad Burns is gone, Coleman has the honor of being the second dumbest law-maker in the Senate (James Inhofe takes the prize).

He'll probably be best remembered for his relentless pimping of the so-called "UN" Oil-for-food scandal -- Coleman made a fool of himself (and a darling of neo-cons everywhere) with his highly selective hearings on the program and his calls for the resignation of Kofi Annan.

His finest hour, as I'm sure you'll recall, was when he confronted British anti-war MP George Galloway, who would later say: "To be accused of a lack of moral character by senator Norm Coleman is a bit like being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame."

Here's Coleman just being owned by Galloway …

Go Al!

How to Beat the Right Wing

Here's a guest post from Cliff Schecter...

We don't have FoxNews. We don't have Rush Limbaugh (which at least means less progressive cash spent on buckets of honey-glazed wings and Schedule IV narcotics). But we have something almost as powerful, if recent events tell an accurate story. We have synergy. Coordination. Call it what you will.

On Monday, along with filmmaker Robert Greenwald and his fantastic team at Brave New Films, I launched a blog called The Real McCain (which features Robert's impressive short film "John McCain Vs. John McCain"). We decided, like many progressives, that we are tired of McCain talking like a "maverick" and voting like a Helms.

The response has been amazing. Almost immediately, we were mentioned on almost every medium-sized and high-traffic progressive blog. We were able to take our message to the always fantastic Young Turks on Air America. AlterNet prominently mentioned what we were doing.

We ended up getting our message out quite forcefully. There was an LA Times front-page story. A San Francisco Chronicle blog mention. And we already have two television stations working on stories. Hell, even Human Events wrote about us.

The result: In two days, Robert's video short has gotten over 110,000 views on YouTube, making it a top-rated, top-linked and top-viewed effort. Meanwhile, the blog has received over 60,000 visits.

So, for almost all of us forced to remember the political terrain of the 90s, how The Right disseminated false attacks on our politicians, causes and ideas, we now have a means to blow up a progressive message to the point where the MSM simply cannot ignore it. Don't get me wrong, we have a long way to go before we reach parity. But hey, it's a start.

The key is that we must coordinate, as progressive victories will take our working together. Yet, as in this case, the results will be glorious.

Well, at least if you're not John McCain.

Or some other right-wing hack masquerading as a "principled moderate."

Who exactly ARE those 33% of Americans still supporting Bush?

This guest post was written by Howie Klein.

I live in Los Angeles, in a neighborhood of single family homes with nice lawns and gardens. It's called Los Feliz and it's right off the 5 Freeway. Ethnically, the neighborhood is pretty diverse, one of the things that makes it so attractive. I don't think Republicans bother running in the area. I know one didn't challenge our congresswoman, Diane Watson (although that isn't because they approve of her impeccably progressive voting record); it probably has something to do with the fact Bush only managed to garner 16% of the voters against Kerry (an increase of 2% over what he managed against Gore). Not far down the 5 Freeway there are two very different districts that have long perplexed me-- the 42nd CD and the 44th CD, represented, respectively by Gary Miller, the single most extreme right wing congressman from California and by Ken Calvert, whose voting record isn't much different from Miller's.

Here's a description of the situation in CA-42 that I wrote last May:

Deadly new tactic in Iraq

According to the NY Times, Iraqi insurgents have taken to wearing US military uniforms for the first time since the invasion:

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Can Sex Ed Prevent Rape?

Guest post from Joan Conde.

As a mother of two teenaged girls, I believe that the best way to discourage them from making me a grandmother is to get involved in their sex education. Just the picture of their mother pulling a condom over a banana has been enough to take the glow off the romance of steamy, unprotected exchanges in cars. But contraception education isn't enough. We've had plenty of dialogues about "respecting yourself." A girl does have to learn to say "no."

But could sex ed reduce rapes? An persuasive case for this is made by Courtney Martin, whose excellent post, "Willful Ignorance" appears in today's American Prospect. Noting that most rapes occur to women under 30, Martin views college campuses as a primary venue for rape. Due to the Administrations' preference for abstinence only sex ed, Martin suggests that colleges are full of students with little or no sex education. She suggests incorporating knowledge about communication and power issues via role playing, into sex ed.

Martin should know that this is already being done, if on the sly. I met an eighth grade teacher last week who admitted that she and other faculty were teaching their students to say "no" and to respect their bodies, "under the wire" of the principal, who prefers the abstinence only program officially offered by the school. The teachers initiated this, she said, after having three pregnant eighth graders last year.

Sign this petition for accurate sex ed in your schools.

Read the Guttmacher Institute report on teen pregnancy to find out why Europeans do it better.
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