Monday, November 17, 2008

Bush was here


Let's work together to promote love and equality. Find the rally location nearest you by clicking on your state or country!


Arkansas Postcard
Our friends at LGBTQ Civil Rights Front have come up with a brilliant way for us to ensure that LGBTQ issues aren't forgotten as President-elect Obama makes his transition into the White House.

Their idea: buy a postcard from your home town, include a handwritten message, and mail it to Obama's Presidential Transition Office.

Keep up the momentum! Get the suggested message and transition office mailing address here. Then post a photo of you and your card here!

Turley: Blanket pardons would be 'final nail in Bush's coffin'

by David Edwards and Muriel Kane

President Bush has consistently claimed executive privilege in response to attempts to investigate potentially illegal actions by his administration, and it now seems that he could continue to make that claim even after leaving office. There is also speculation that Bush could issue blanket pardons for anyone who might have engaged in torture or other criminal activities under his orders.

On Wednesday, an article in the New York Times noted that President Truman had invoked executive privilege in 1953, when he was no longer president, to avoid having to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Congress did not challenge that unprecedented claim, and legal cases involving Watergate and Iran-Contra have given it some tentative support.

"Can they really do that?" MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley on Thursday.

"This is very controversial," Turley replied. "Truman's own people later questioned whether they actually did have the right that they invoked, and it's really never been tested, it's never gone to the Supreme Court. I personally have considerable doubts about it."

Turley explained that although federal law gives former presidents control over the release of presidential papers, what is being discussed here goes far beyond that. He indicated his belief that "this idea that President Bush can continue to invoke executive privilege even against the position of a sitting president, I think is pretty shaky."

"Ultimately," Turley suggested, "a court may have two presidents in front of it, one a sitting, one an ex-president, taking rivaling positions on executive privilege. In my view, the court would be insane to take the position of the former president over a sitting president as what is required to protect the office of the presidency."

The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla

Electronic devices dislike me. There is never a day when something isn't ailing. Three out of these five implements — answering machine, fax machine, printer, phone and electric can-opener — all dropped dead on me in the past few days.

Now something has gone wrong with all three television sets. They will get only Sarah Palin.

I can play a kind of Alaskan roulette. Any random channel clicked on by the remote brings up that eager face, with its continuing assaults on the English Lang.

There she is with Larry and Matt and just about everyone else but Dr. Phil (so far). If she is not yet on "Judge Judy," I suspect it can't be for lack of trying.

What have we done to deserve this, this media blitz that the astute Andrea Mitchell has labeled "The Victory Tour"?

I suppose it will be recorded as among political history's ironies that Palin was brought in to help John McCain. I can't blame feminists who might draw amusement from the fact that a woman managed to both cripple the male she was supposed to help while gleaning an almost Elvis-sized following for herself. Mac loses, Sarah wins big-time was the gist of headlines.

I feel a little sorry for John. He aimed low and missed.

The End

The era that defined Wall Street is finally, officially over. Michael Lewis, who chronicled its excess in Liar's Poker, returns to his old haunt to figure out what went wrong.
Fallen bull statue in Wall Street

To this day, the willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense investment advice to grownups remains a mystery to me. I was 24 years old, with no experience of, or particular interest in, guessing which stocks and bonds would rise and which would fall. The essential function of Wall Street is to allocate capital—to decide who should get it and who should not. Believe me when I tell you that I hadn't the first clue.

I'd never taken an accounting course, never run a business, never even had savings of my own to manage. I stumbled into a job at Salomon Brothers in 1985 and stumbled out much richer three years later, and even though I wrote a book about the experience, the whole thing still strikes me as preposterous—which is one of the reasons the money was so easy to walk away from. I figured the situation was unsustainable. Sooner rather than later, someone was going to identify me, along with a lot of people more or less like me, as a fraud. Sooner rather than later, there would come a Great Reckoning when Wall Street would wake up and hundreds if not thousands of young people like me, who had no business making huge bets with other people's money, would be expelled from finance.

When I sat down to write my account of the experience in 1989—Liar's Poker, it was called—it was in the spirit of a young man who thought he was getting out while the getting was good. I was merely scribbling down a message on my way out and stuffing it into a bottle for those who would pass through these parts in the far distant future.

Hillary will be a great secretary of state: Bill Clinton

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) — Former US president Bill Clinton said on Sunday that his wife Hillary will be a "great secretary of state" if president-elect Barack Obama named her to the post.

"If he (Obama) decided to ask her and they did it together, I think she'll be really great as a secretary of state," Clinton told an economic conference in Kuwait hosted by the National Bank of Kuwait.

"She worked very hard for his election after the primary fight with him, and so did I, and we were very glad that he won and we have a lot of confidence that he can do a good job.

"But she didn't do what she did with the hope or expectation of getting any kind of job offer, much less having this discussed," Clinton said.

US media reported on Friday that Obama was considering naming former first lady Hillary Clinton, his onetime rival for the White House, as his secretary of state.


Tariq Ali, Flight Path to Disaster in Afghanistan

by Tom Engelhardt

One of the eerier reports on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan appeared recently in the New York Times. Journalist John Burns visited the Russian ambassador in Kabul, Zamir N. Kabulov, who, back in the 1980s, when the Russians were the Americans in Afghanistan, and the Americans were launching the jihad that would eventually wend its way to the 9/11 attacks… well, you get the idea…

In any case, Kabulov was, in the years of the Soviet occupation, a KGB agent in the same city and, in the 1990s, an adviser to a U.N. peacekeeping envoy during the Afghan civil war that followed. "They've already repeated all of our mistakes," he told Burns, speaking of the American/NATO effort in the country. "Now," he added, "they're making mistakes of their own, ones for which we do not own the copyright." His list of Soviet-style American mistakes included: underestimating "the resistance," an over-reliance on air power, a failure to understand the Afghan "irritative allergy" to foreign occupation, "and thinking that because they swept into Kabul easily, the occupation would be untroubled." Of present occupiers who have stopped by to catch his sorry tale, Kabulov concludes world-wearily, "They listen, but they do not hear."

The question is: Does this experience really have to be repeated to the bitter end -- in the case of the Soviets, a calamitous defeat and retreat from Afghanistan, followed by years of civil war in that wrecked country, and finally the rise of the Pakistani-backed Taliban? The answer is: perhaps. There is no question that the advisers President Obama will be listening to are already exploring more complex strategies in Afghanistan, including possible negotiations with "reconcilable elements" of the Taliban. But these all remain military-plus strategies at whose heart lies the kind of troop surge that candidate Obama called for so vehemently -- and, given the fate of the previous 2007 U.S./NATO "surge" in Afghanistan, this, too, has failure written all over it.

If you want a glimmer of hope when it comes to the spreading Afghan War -- American missile-armed drones have been attacking across the Pakistani border regularly in recent months -- consider that Barack Obama has made ex-CIA official Bruce Reidel a key advisor on the deteriorating Pakistani situation. And Reidel recently reviewed startlingly favorably Tariq Ali's must-read, hard-hitting new book on Pakistan (and so Afghanistan and so American policy), The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power for the Washington Post. ("My employers of the past three decades, the CIA and the Brookings Institution, get their share of blame," Reidel wrote. "So do both of the current presidential candidates…")

The third most important story of the year


HYDERABAD, India, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- About 6,000 Muslim clerics from around India approved a fatwa against terrorism Saturday at a conference in Hyderabad.

The Muslim world has not been eager to hate America. For many Muslims, America with its religious freedom represented for decades a refuge against what all were pleased to call "godless Communism" and the USSR persecution of its Islamic republics. After the 9/11 attacks, there was a candlelight march in the streets of Tehran in mourning for the victims.

American flags were waved. No flags are waving now. I visited Tehran once, in 1972, for the film festival. My Iranian guide took me home for tea with her parents. There was a point that her family members wanted to make. "We are not Arabs," her mother said. "We are Persians. We speak a different language. We are Muslims, but we are modern Muslims. You do not see our women covered up in the streets or locked up in their houses. America is our ideal, where all are left to worship in peace." Then the Shah was overthrown, and the fundamentalists took over. Moderate candidates have been elected to national office in recent years, but the ayatollahs have veto power over moderation.

That was an Iran I hope still exists beneath the hostile stance they are taking against us. When we sent an army to Kuwait to throw back Saddam, Iran rejoiced, because Iraq was their ancient enemy. It was after we invaded Iraq after 9/11 that feelings began to sour. The sight of our occupation of a Muslim country disturbed the entire region. If we would invade its neighbor of our own volition, was Iran next? Until very recent months it seemed as if Iran was next. The White House reportedly ordered a military plan to be drawn up.

Now we see the first light before a distant dawn. Although India has world's second-largest Muslim population, I am not naive enough to think the clerics in Hyderabad will bring a sudden change of feelings in the Middle East. But listen to a statement by the conference president. UPI reports: "He blamed Islamic radicals for their actions and the news media for failing to distinguish between the radicals and the majority of Muslims. 'We have no love for offenders whichever religion they might belong to,' he said. 'Our concern is that innocents should not be targeted and the careers of educated youth not ruined'."


University of Cape Town: Not for whites only

This is a moral statement from the core of Islam. Now journey with me to South Africa, where I spent the year of 1965 studying English at the University of Cape Town. Because of historical guarantees, UCT admitted African, Coloured and Asian students. But it was a liberal island in the sea of apartheid. Every day I saw signs saying "Whites Only." "Nonwhites" rode in the back of the bus. They called me "boss." They made long trips to and from their segregated townships, by rail tracks that could be instantly blown up. Nelson Mandela and his fellows were imprisoned on Robben Island, which could be seen from the slopes of Table Mountain. Remember that 1964 was the year Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and famously said the Democrats had with that stroke of the pen lost the "Solid South" to the Republicans. There were more "Whites Only" signs in America than in South Africa.

Banks Rob People Twice

Foreclosures are on the rise and we paid $700 Billion to make that stop. It didn't stop. Banks robbed people! TWICE!

Randi RhodesBrainiacs and financial gurus are cautiously telling me what's gone wrong in banking, investment banking and insurance companies. They never fail to begin with "It's very complicated". When they explain it to you they do so in low voices as if you shouldn't be hearing this. They say it as slowly as possible as if this allows "idiot non financial types" their best chance for comprehending what they view as the seriously difficult subject of "Financial Markets" They expect you to react with the proper amount of awe due any discussion of "Financial Markets" and "Financial Instruments:" Then, you are to respond and the only proper response, the only response that will satisfy your "financial friend" is the "Lawn Mower Man" response. In a hushed but awakened voice, a tone that indicates that you've just absorbed all the knowledge in the world, you must say "I never knew it would be so complex". So I did.

But then I thought about it. If it's too complex to explain chances are its astronomy or bullshit. The financial world is full of absurd rules, products with unintelligible names "Credit Default Swaps" "Derivatives" "Synthetic Assets" and penalties. But in the end it's just a game played by institutions (like casinos) and people with money (investors) instead of muscle. It's like football without a helmet. There are tons of obscure rules, strategies and explanations for what went wrong after the game. Crowds and fans are equally invested in the outcome of either game.

Focus puts retailers on a naughty and nice list for Christmas

Focus on the Family wants shoppers to know which retailers are naughty and which ones are nice - at least when it comes to holiday lingo.

On Thursday the Colorado Springs-based ministry's political action arm launched its second-annual holiday campaign by posting an online shoppers guide with three categories: "Christmas-friendly" retailers, "Christmas-negligent" retailers and "Christmas-offensive" retailers.

The "friendly" retailers are so designated because they prominently use "Merry Christmas" and other Christmas-specific references in their catalogs and in-store promotions. Those on the Christmas-offensive list use secular phrases such as "happy holidays" and have "apparently abandoned" the use of the word "Christmas," Focus said. Christmas-negligent companies "marginalize" their message by using "Christmas" in some cases and "holidays" in others.

The ministry - which made its determinations based mostly on an examination of retailers' print and online holiday catalogs - encourages shoppers to patronize the Christmas-friendly stores, but does not tell them to avoid the other retailers.

"It is not a boycott," said Sonja Swiatkiewicz, Focus' director of issues response. "Consumers can do what they wish with the information."

Even so, the online guide includes an electronic petition shoppers can sign that tells retailers "I plan to consult Focus on the Family Action's Shopping Guide ... while making my Christmas purchases this year."

the squirrels in Brazoria County


And a thanks to Kathy for the heads-up about the squirrels in Brazoria County --

LAKE JACKSON — Church seems an unlikely place to hear the phrase "Islam is the light."

To Linda Huebner of West Columbia, the phrase shouldn't come from a baby doll's mouth, either.

Huebner, 50, said a couple at her church told her the Fisher-Price Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Cuddle and Coo Doll had the phrase "Islam is the light" as part of its recorded cooing noises. Then she heard it for herself.

"She has three voice cycles, and moms shopping would go, 'Oh how precious!' " Huebner said. "I would buy her right then until I got her home and my baby kicked her legs and then it says, 'Islam is the light.'"

Huebner, who said she is a Christian, said the message was sneaky and she was offended it would play on a toy that was not advertised to say that. She went to the Target store in Lake Jackson on Tuesday and bought the doll, then set up in the store's parking lot to alert shoppers.

"This is subversive," she said. "I'm offended by that, I'm greatly offended by that."

     Oh Dear Lord, it's religious tolerance! That has to be stopped immediately before some poor child is ruined - ruined, I tell you - by gibberish. 
     I'll bet you fifty bucks cash American money that Linda Huebner has read about this on the Internet Machine and went to five different Target stores to find this particular doll solely so she could get her outrage in the newspaper.  I promise you that outrage is considered foreplay in Republican households.

Science lesson of the day

Dr Quantum - Double Slit Experiment

Love in the Time of Darwinism

A report from the chaotic postfeminist dating scene, where only the strong survive

Earlier this year, I published an article in City Journal called "Child-Man in the Promised Land." The piece elicited a roaring flood of mailed and blogged responses, mostly from young men who didn't much care for its title (a reference to Claude Brown's 1965 novel Manchild in the Promised Land) or its thesis: that too many single young males (SYMs) were lingering in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood, shunning marriage and children, and whiling away their leisure hours with South Park reruns, marathon sessions of World of Warcraft, and Maxim lists of the ten best movie fart scenes.

Illustration by Arnold Roth.

It would be easy enough to hold up some of the callow ranting that the piece inspired as proof positive of the child-man's existence. But the truth is that my correspondents' objections gave me pause. Their argument, in effect, was that the SYM is putting off traditional markers of adulthood—one wife, two kids, three bathrooms—not because he's immature but because he's angry. He's angry because he thinks that young women are dishonest, self-involved, slutty, manipulative, shallow, controlling, and gold-digging. He's angry because he thinks that the culture disses all things male. He's angry because he thinks that marriage these days is a raw deal for men.

Misery loves TV

Unhappy people watch lots more toob. But it doesn't stop there

They don't go nearly far enough.

They don't say, in this new study from the General Social Survey that found that unhappy people tend to watch lots more TV than "happy" people, even though it's only about 30 percent more, and by the way who the hell knows how they calculated such a percentage, maybe something to do with retinal tracking and blink rates and blood viscosity, or perhaps just how many times the ghostly image of Tyra Banks or Keifer Sutherland or some hellspawn teen from "My Super Sweet 16" slithered into a study subject's nightmares later on, after the TV flickered off and the Cuervo ran its course and the Ambien kicked in. Just a guess.

Anyway, they don't say, in this cute and obvious new study, what everyone already knows: that there's an entire universe of unhappy things that unhappy people also indulge in besides watching way too much TV, and perhaps those things are all interrelated, and it might be worth exploring those things too, because oh my God don't you know this here life is a veritable liquid madhouse of unhappiness? A giant smoldering smoothie of misery and angst and vague feelings of inadequacy and spiritual barrenness? It's the American way.

Let me put it another way: Could the headline to this study also read, with equal revelatory power and forehead-slapping obviousness, "Unhappy people don't drink enough fresh water?" "Unhappy people twitch a great deal and wear itchy sweaters and vote Republican, often simultaneously?" "Unhappy people drive very large vehicles that smell like stale beer and which they can't parallel park worth a damn?" You're damn right it could.

It doesn't stop there. Have you heard that unhappy people grumble a lot and have terrible posture and still wear high-waisted pants with pleats? I bet you have. Or that unhappy people drink pink wine and wear tube socks with sandals and name their eighth cat Mr. Grumpy McPurrsington III, and think that's so adorable they almost pee themselves in their sleep, and then wonder why they can't get laid? Aha! Now we're getting somewhere.

This just in: Unhappy people never pluck their nose hairs, walk around the city with an expression like they just stepped in a bucket of sauerkraut, would very much like to invite Sarah Palin over for a game of "let's sit in opposite corners of the house and ignore each other for five solid hours of seething resentment before never having sex." See? So fascinating.

A new compromise