Monday, July 26, 2010

Republicans show their true colors

Andrew Breitbart to speak at major Republican Party fundraiser.

Josh has the story:
In other words, not only are the Republicans embracing the racist Tea Party agenda, but they are embracing the most vicious race-baiting segment of that agenda.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Daniel Schorr, Dead at 93

Regular listeners to NPR will remember Daniel Schorr's last year as a sage, avuncular presence on Weekend Edition. He will be missed in that role.

What is more important to remember, though, is how he got to be Daniel Schorr. If you read his Times obituary you see that his journalistic career is a record of getting fired repeatedly by the so-called liberal media for standing up for his principles: Facing down a contempt of Congress charge for refusing to name a confidential source, leaking an important story to the Village Voice when CBS was too cowardly to run it, refusing to cohost a panel discussion of the Republican National Convention with party apparatchik John Connally.

Of course, his greatest honor was to be named on Nixon's infamous Enemies List.

He can serve as a model for all of us.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time to man the fuck up!

When Obama was running for president there were people saying that he needed to stand up to his attackers. Others, like my friend, fellow blogger, and state Senate candidate Phillip Baruth, said that he knew what he was doing, he'd lived in the country and dealt with racism all his life, and that we should have confidence in him. I wasn't necessarily sold, but it seemed to be working for him so I didn't complain too much.

But after this Shirley Sherrod fiasco I have to ask, "Can't anyone here play this game?"

The basic outlines of the story are clear: Serial liar and right-wing scaremonger Andrew Breitbart published a heavily edited video of two minutes of a speech by Shirley Sherrod, an official at the US Department of Agriculture. Breitbart's claim was that Sherrod is a racist and that she is using her position with the USDA to screw white people. Within seconds the Obama administration leapt into action and fired her without even finding out the truth of the story.

Things have been changing so fast that when I walked out to the end of my driveway this morning the headline on the front page was that Thomas Vilsack was sticking to her firing, even though by now it was clear that the whole thing was built on a lie, but by the time I got back to the house and turned on the radio the same Secretary of Agriculture was considering reconsidering his decision. You can almost picture people running up and down the halls at the White House, bumping into each other, throwing files in the air, and tripping over their own ties.

By the end of the day the White House and Vilsack were apologizing to her, practically begging her to take her job back, and that might happen. Even Breitbart, that lying sack of shit, was pretending to feel sorry for her.

So why is the Obama administration rolling over for a lying, right-wing hit man like Breitbart? What is he really afraid of? There were a lot of people who didn't like it when Obama appointed Rahm Emmanuel his chief of staff, but I kind of liked it because he is a fighter. The problem is, there's no fighting. Just when is this administration going to decide that it's not going to play dead for every right-wing attack?

What's next? Is Obama going to invite Sherrod and Breitbart to the White House for another beer fucking summit?

It is time to fight.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mr. Deity and Larry

At long last, we learn where Larry and Mr. D. come from.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Big news on marriage

I haven't read them yet, but there are two new District Court decisions invalidating provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Judge Joseph Tauro, of U.S. District Court in Boston, issued rulings on two separate cases today.

"This court has determined that it is clearly within the authority of the Commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages among its residents, and to afford those individuals in same-sex marriages any benefits, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of their marital status," Tauro wrote in the decision for Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services.

"The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and, in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment. For that reason, the statute is invalid," he wrote.

In the other case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, Tauro ruled that DOMA violates the equal protection principles in the Fifth Amendment, according to Bay Windows. From his decision (PDF):

Taken together with the decision this week of the governor of Hawaii to veto civil unions, this seems to be another very important step in the direction of marriage equality. (What's the connection? The decision in Hawaii suggests that civil unions are not a sufficient alternative.)

Of course, there are many months and many hundreds of pages of briefing before these cases are resolved, but it sounds like a big step.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Scienceblogs torpedoes its own credibility

UPDATE: The management has acceded to the demands of the Scienceblogs posters and agreed to dump Pepsico.

I like Scienceblogs, a network of blogs about science, written by scientists. I've mentioned PZ's blog, Phrayngula, here more than once, and I'm also a fan of Dr. Isis and some of the others.

So why would they do this? Why would they give space to Pepsico?

PZ and Romenesko have the story.

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Time for some prosecutions

At last! Thanks to the Supreme Court we now have a tool to prosecute people in the United States who are financing terrorism in the Middle East.

You may have heard of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.

Under the law, It is a federal crime to "knowingly provid[e] material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization." 18 U. S. C. §2339B(a)(1). The authority to designate an entity a "foreign terrorist organization" rests with the Secretary of State, and is subject to judicial review. "[T]he term 'material support or resources' means any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more individuals who may be or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials." §2339A(b)(1).

The Supreme Court, in one of its last decisions this term, held that Americans who provide aid to organizations that engage in terrorist activities can be criminally prosecuted for violating this law, even if the assistance they provide is designated to support humanitarian, not terrorist, activities.

This week the Times published an investigation of American assistance to terrorist activities in the Middle East, but I suspect we won't be seeing prosecutions any time soon.

As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.

A New York Times examination of public records in the United States and Israel identified at least 40 American groups that have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade. The money goes mostly to schools, synagogues, recreation centers and the like, legitimate expenditures under the tax law. But it has also paid for more legally questionable commodities: housing as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure outposts deep in occupied areas.

That's right: Americans are getting tax deductions for giving money to support the terrorist activities of the Israeli government: building settlements in occupied territories and maintaining what Jimmy Carter has rightly characterized as a system of apartheid in the occupied territories.

The outposts receiving tax-deductible donations — distinct from established settlements financed by Israel’s government — are illegal under Israeli law. And a decade ago, Israel ended tax breaks for contributions to groups devoted exclusively to settlement-building in the West Bank.

So tell me: Is the United States really opposed to terrorism, or do our allies get a break on that?

We know who's making the contributions because they're claiming an income tax deduction. Somehow, though, I suspect we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for the first prosecution.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Mr. Deity & Cast at the AAI 2009 Conference

If you've been coming here for a while you know that I really like the web series "Mr. Deity". In the series, Brian Dalton, who created the series and plays Mr. D., mercilessly eviscerates most of the key concepts of Christian theology and mythology.

This video isn't the perfect introduction to Mr. Deity, but it really illustrates what a lot of us have to say about the absurdities of religious belief and the utter outrages that religious belief leads people to.

Do watch it. Then subscribe to Mr. Deity on You Tube.