Mom Lets Cops Taze 10 Year-Old Daughter Who Refused to Take a Shower

This story should put the annoying "bad mommy" confessional genre out of its misery. Nothing can top this. Bad mommies have officially jumped the shark:

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Tea Bagger Bus Company Sued Over Fire That Killed 23

One of the featured corporate sponsors of the Tea Party Express had to pay millions of dollars to settle lawsuits for its role in a bus fire that killed 23 seniors fleeing Hurricane Rita in 2005.

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Does the Surgeon General Need to Be a Scrawny Supermodel?

Did anyone ever suggest that C. Everett Koop was too portly to be Surgeon General?

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Jeffrey Goldberg Defends Israeli Actions by Smearing Human Rights Watch

Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic is accusing Human Rights Watch of "fundraising corruption" for allowing some of its officers to discuss the group's work in Gaza at a fundraiser in Saudi Arabia. The corruption charge is specious. Assuming Goldberg believes what he's saying, he got punk'd by an Israel-based group called NGO Monitor with ties to the Israeli government. The whole pseudo-controversy seems calculated to distract from HRW's latest revelations about Israel's use of white phosphorus in Gaza. 

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More Details on Bush Admin Iraq Forgery Allegations

Louis Bayard details Ron Suskind's claim that George Tenet ordered CIA officials Rob Richer and John Maguire to forge a letter from Iraqi security chief Habbush to Saddam Hussein.

The letter was a fictional smoking gun tying Iraq to 9/11.

It's generally accepted that the Habbush letter is a forgery.

The question remains, who forged it? Juan Cole suspects that Habbush forged the letter himself and that the CIA "authenticated" it in bad faith through its asset Ayad Allawi--whom journalist Con Coughlin contacted to vouchsafe the letter's authenticity after it was leaked to him.

What's novel and remarkable is that Suskind got Richer and Maguire to claim on the record that George Tenet ordered them to forge it.

Suskind believes the White House ordered the forgery in response to Joe Wilson's 2003 op-ed debunking many of the administration's lies about Saddam Hussein's alleged attempts to obtain uranium from Niger.

McCain Thinks Energy Crisis is a Laughing Matter

The Republicans have been handing out tire gages with Obama's name on them. This is meant as a joke because Obama pointed out that the U.S. stands to save more energy from keeping the nation's tires properly inflated than it would from offshore drilling.

The tire gauges are supposed to be a joke. I don't get it. Usually, I can reverse engineer jokes even if they don't make me laugh. This one leaves me at a loss. What's funny about an attractive useful gadget that associates your opponent with his own message?

I can see why the Obama campaign would give out tire gage pumps to donors. That would be making fun of John McCain and the emptiness of his offshore drilling promises.

I can imagine the creative brief. Suggested tagline: McCain's plan falls flat. So, remember to check your tires with this Obama tire gage.

Frank Jones at TIME Magazine thought McCain's wisecrack was funny:

War Profiteer KBR Responsible for Killing at Least 16 Troops

A congressional report released yesterday blames faulty electrical work by contractor KBR for the deaths of at least 16 American troops in Iraq:

The denials leave an accountability problem that may ultimately lead to the Pentagon officials in charge of overseeing KBR.

"Who is to blame for this?" Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the ranking Republican on the committee, asked Bruni. "Was it the army? Was it the soldier responsible for taking the shower?"
"The responsibility lies with the army," Bruni said after initially dodging the question.
The army, meanwhile, remains uncertain how many soldiers have actually been electrocuted.
Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq, said last month that 13 soldiers had been electrocuted. Last week the Pentagon said the number was 16. Now the oversight committee says it has documents indicating 19 deaths.
At the hearing, Jeffrey Parsons, executive director of the Army Contracting Command, said that the Pentagon is still in the process of investigating the electrocutions. Parsons also noted that Pentagon auditors lack "sufficient skill sets or expertise to perform adequate oversight of electrical work being performed by KBR." [Washington Independent]

KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton until last year, recently won yet another contract for Iraq reconstruction.

Lobbying Firm Brags About Smoothing Way for a Stolen Election

The Sunday Times caught politically-connected lobbyist Stephen Payne on tape suggesting that a $250,000 donation George W. Bush presidential library could help secure access to senior administration officials.

Perhaps even more incredible is the Worldwide Strategic Partners brochure that ran with the expose. [Download payne.pdf]

Here's what WSP claims to have done for Azerbaijan, verbatim, from the last page of the brochure, emphases added:

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Fake Federal Agent Fought Own Private Drug War

A mystery man came to Gerald, Missouri. Said he was sent from Washington, DC to fight our town's meth plague. Wouldn't take any money.  "Sargent Bill" said he didn't need a warrant to search people's houses because he worked for the federal government. Pretty soon, Sargent Bill was busting people left and right. It seemed almost too good to be true. Maybe we shoulda known:

GERALD, Mo. — Like so many rural communities in the country’s middle, this tiny town had wrestled for years with the woes of methamphetamine. Then, several months ago, a federal agent showed up.

Busts began. Houses were ransacked. People, in handcuffs on their front lawns, named names. To some, like Mayor Otis Schulte, who considers the county around Gerald, population 1,171, “a meth capital of the United States,” the drug scourge seemed to be fading at last.

Those whose homes were searched, though, grumbled about a peculiar change in what they understood, from television mainly, to be the law.

They said the agent, a man some had come to know as “Sergeant Bill,” boasted that he did not need search warrants to enter their homes because he worked for the federal government.

But after a reporter for the local weekly newspaper made a few calls about that claim, Gerald’s anti-drug campaign abruptly unraveled after less than five months. Sergeant Bill, it turned out, was no federal agent, but Bill A. Jakob, an unemployed former trucking company owner, a former security guard, a former wedding-performing minister, a former small-town cop from 23 miles down the road.

The strange adventures of Sergeant Bill have led to the firing of three of the town’s five police officers, left the outcome of a string of drug arrests in doubt, prompted multimillion-dollar federal civil rights lawsuits by at least 17 plaintiffs and stirred up a political battle, including a petition seeking the impeachment of Mr. Schulte, over who is to blame for the mess.

And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for that pesky reporter Linda Trest from The Gasconade County Republican!

Cops and Teachers Hoax Drunk Driving Deaths to Scare Teens

Last month, police officers visited 20 classrooms at El Camino High School to inform teens that several of their classmates had been killed in drunk driving crashes over the weekend. Not surprisingly, the students were devastated by the news.

Several hours later, the adults revealed that it was all a hoax. Nobody died. There was no accident. Trusted authority figures cooked up the whole story to teach the kids a lesson.

Unfortunately, the lesson they learn is that adults have to lie to convince them that drinking and driving is dangerous. So, this cruel stunt precisely backfired. The take home message became: Don't trust adults who warn you about drinking and driving.

Great public health outreach, folks.

[HT: Ellen of The D'Alliance]

Indian Guest-Workers in New Orleans on Hunger Strike

Ruchira Paul reports that Indian guest workers are striking in New Orleans:

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Republicans Want Low-Income Renters to Pay for Mortgage Bailout

The Republican ranking member from the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee wants to pay for Chris Dodd's mortgage bailout program out of a trust fund for housing the poorest of the poor, according to the National Coalition for Low Income Housing:

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Wash U Honors Anti-Feminist at Graduation

KathyG excoriates Washington University for offering an honorary doctorate to anti-feminist crusader Phylis Schlafly:

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Tom Friedman Blames the Victim for Subprime Values

Tom Friedman blames the victims:

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Congress Probes Child Abuse Under Guise of Treatment

Congress is investigating brutal and lucrative fringe "treatments" for troubled youth, Maia Szalavitz reports:

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What Did John McCain Say About His Wife?

A man attending a McCain event as a registered member of the press was kicked out of the Des Moines town hall meeting for asking a question that working press should have asked him weeks ago: Did you call your wife a "cunt"?

The headline is typical of the kid glove treatment McCain gets from the media. McCain didn't "field the question" he kicked a member of the press out of his town hall meeting for asking a question:

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Legislators Say Sean Bell Shooting Case not Closed

A coalition of New York legislators vows to seek redress for Sean Bell at the federal level, according to a statement released by Rep. Gregory Meeks on Saturday:

"We do not accept that this is the end of this case.  We have joined with the families and their attorneys in filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice requesting an investigation of violations of the civil rights of Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman, and Trent Benefield.  Indeed, this afternoon the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it's Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York Field Division will conduct an independent review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Sean Bell and two of his friends.

Government Employees Could Be Fired For A Hobby

Federal employees could be fired for blogging about politics with their personal computers, on their own time, Stephen Barr reports:

Blogging about politics at work falls into the don't-do category, but
blogging from home may also get a federal employee in trouble.

Presidential campaign Web sites, for example, encourage supporters
to create blogs on the site to advocate the candidate's positions. They
also usually carry a link for campaign donations, and that can be
trouble for a federal employee, even when using a home computer. The
OSC may view the donate button as soliciting for political
contributions, another no-no under the Hatch Act, and set off an
investigation. [WaPo]

This passage is part of a longer story about how the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has decided crack down on political activities of federal employees in advance of the election.

The Hatch Act restricts the political activities of federal, state, and local government officials. The rules are very complicated. Presidential employees confirmed by the senate can even engage in political activities on government time, in government facilities, as long as these aren't paid for with government money. However, appointees must not compel their subordinates to play along. 

Since the beginning of the Bush administration, the definition of electioneering has been very narrowly indeed, at least when it comes to Republicans helping Republicans. Karl Rove was allowed to make the rounds of 20 federal agencies, delivering regular PowerPoint presentations about how bureaucrats could help get Republicans elected. This went on for years. In fairness the OSC did investigate some of these allegations, but neither Rove nor the senior government employees who participated in these briefings has been sanctioned.

The highest-profile targets for Hatch investigation, Rove, Ken Mehlman, and Scott Jennings, all resigned before any action was taken. Proximately, Jennings was a casualty of the U.S. Attorney scandal. It's not clear how much influence the Hatch Act investigations by OSC and Rep. Henry Waxman's Oversight Committee had on the timing of Rove's exit.

Abortion Art A Hoax?

After this was written, Yale announced that the art project was a hoax. We are reprinting this blog post anyway, because it shows how blogs can be useful in correcting misinformation.

What do you want to bet that this is a hoax?

Art student Aliza Shvarts claims that she induced multiple miscarriages for her senior project at Yale--according to a story in the Yale Daily News, linked above.

Allegedly, the sperm came from donors whom Shvarts declines to identify. She says she used "legal", "herbal" preparations to induce these miscarriages "as often as possible" over the course of nine months, and never consulted a doctor about her plan.
The "fabricators," or donors, of the sperm were not paid for their services, but Shvarts required them to periodically take tests for sexually transmitted diseases. She said she was not concerned about any medical effects the forced miscarriages may have had on her body. The abortifacient drugs she took were legal and herbal, she said, and she did not feel the need to consult a doctor about her repeated miscarriages.
Shvarts declined to specify the number of sperm donors she used, as well as the number of times she inseminated herself. [Yale Daily News]
The Daily News was unable to reach Shvarts' senior-project adviser before press time. So, really all we have to go on is the Daily News' account of the student's description of her project. It just so happens that there is no medical record of her experiment. She claims that she inseminated herself, but she won't say where she got the sperm. Her academic supervisor isn't available to confirm the details of the project.

Facebook Bans Union Organizer for Making Too Many Friends

A Canadian union organizer has been banned from Facebook for making too many friends.

CUPE organizer/Labour Start correspondent Derek Blackadder's foray into labor-related social networking was rudely interrupted by a warning from Facebook saying that he was making too many friends. Blackadder ignored the warning.

John of jonninit explains:

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New York Times Identifies Shooter in Blackwater Massacre

The New York times has identified the primary suspect in a federal investigation into the Blackwater massacre at Nissour square, one Paul Slough formerly of the Texas National Guard:

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Union Activists Uncover American Crucifixes Made in Chinese Sweatshops

This post, written by Lindsay Beyerstein, originally appeared on Majikthise

Labor activists at the National Labor Committee say they have traced the path of crucifixes from a sweatshop factory in China to prominent retailers in North America:

NEW YORK - With Christmas just weeks away, a labor group on Tuesday denounced "horrific" sweatshop conditions where crucifixes are made in China to be sold at religious gift shops in the United States.
Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor Committee, held a news conference in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral to call attention to conditions at a factory in Dongguan City where the religious objects, sold in St. Patrick's gift shop, are made.
Kernaghan said the crosses were exhibited at an annual trade show organized by the Association for Christian Retail, a Colorado-based trade association that works with thousands of religious stores across the country. [AP]
Here is the National Labor Committee's report on the working conditions at the Junxingye Metal and Plastic Products Factory in Guangdong Province, China.

The report documents the paper trail from the factory, to major importers of religious gifts, to prominent end-line retailers in the USA.

The report's sourcing on the working conditions is a bit thin. Apart from a few direct quotes from anonymous workers, it's not clear how the ILC got its information.

Clinton Campaign Caught Planting Questions at Iowa Town Meetings

This post, written by Lindsay Beyerstein, originally appeared on Majikthise

Hillary Clinton's campaign admitted Friday to planting a question at a town meeting in Newton, Iowa:
SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton's campaign admitted Friday that it planted a global warming question in Newton, Iowa, Tuesday during a town hall meeting to discuss clean energy.
Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elliethee admitted that the campaign had planted the question and said it would not happen again.
On this occasion a member of our staff did discuss a possible question about Senator Clinton's energy plan at a forum," Elliethee said. [FOX]
Grinnell student Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff told the campus paper that a Clinton senior staffer approached her at Tuesday's event and told her to ask a specific question about the global warming.

Today, a second Iowan came forward to claim that Clinton's people had approached him to ask a question about war funding:
One day after Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign confirmed that a staffer planted a question for the presidential candidate at a recent campaign stop, another person has come forward with a similar story.
Geoff Mitchell, a minister who recently moved to Hamilton, Ill., from Iowa, told ABC News that he was approached this spring by Clinton's Iowa political director Chris Haylor to ask Clinton a question about war funding. [ABC]