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Miscellaneous Thoughts (a.k.a. The Ranting Corner)
Sunday, 17 April 2005
Two Op-Eds Worth Reading
Get Tom DeLay to the Church on Time

Published: April 17, 2005

A scandal is like any other melodrama: It can't be a crowd pleaser unless the audience can follow the plot. That's why Monica Lewinsky trumped Whitewater, and that's why of all the story lines ensnaring Tom DeLay, the one with legs is the one with the craps tables. It's not just easy to follow, but it also has a combustive cultural element that makes it as representative of its political era as Monicagate was of the Clinton years. As the lies and subterfuge of the go-go 1990's coalesced around sex, so the scandal of our new "moral values" decade comes cloaked in religion. The hair shirt is the new thong.

This time the plot begins with money. Two K Street fixers, a lobbyist named Jack Abramoff and a flack named Michael Scanlon, managed to snooker six American Indian tribes into handing over $82 million in exchange for furthering their casino interests. According to The Washington Post, some of their tribal takings, cycled through a nonprofit center for "public policy research," helped send Mr. DeLay golfing in Scotland. The pious congressman, a gambling foe, says he had no idea of his trip's sinful provenance. Never mind that Mr. DeLay was joined abroad by Mr. Abramoff, whom he has described as one of his "closest and dearest friends," or that Mr. Scanlon had once been his spokesman. Mr. DeLay was as innocent of the goings-on around him as a piano player in a brothel.

Beltway cronyism, dubious junkets, loophole-laden denials are all, of course, time-honored Washington fare. The few on the right backing away from Mr. DeLay, from The Wall Street Journal's editorial page to Newt Gingrich, make a point of reminding us of that. As they see it, more in sorrow than in anger, the Gingrich revolutionaries who vowed to end the corruption practiced by Congressional Democrats have now been infected by the same Washington virus as their opponents. That's true, but this critique of Mr. DeLay and company by their own camp all too conveniently sidesteps the distinguishing feature of this scandal. Democratic malefactors like Jim Wright and L.B.J.'s old fixer Bobby Baker didn't wear the Bible on their sleeves.

In the DeLay story almost every player has ostentatious religious trappings, starting with the House majority leader himself. His efforts to play God with Terri Schiavo were preceded by crusades like blaming the teaching of evolution for school shootings and raising money for the Traditional Values Coalition's campaign to save America from the "war on Christianity." Mr. DeLay's chief of staff was his pastor, and, according to Time magazine, organized daily prayer sessions in their office. Today this holy man, Ed Buckham, is a lobbyist implicated in another DeLay junket to South Korea.

But it's not merely Christian denominations that figure in the religious plumage of this crowd. Mr. Abramoff, who is now being investigated by nearly as many federal agencies as there are nights of Passover, is an Orthodox Jew who in his salad days wore a yarmulke to press interviews. In Washington, he opened not one but two kosher restaurants (I hear the deli was passable by D.C. standards) and started a yeshiva. His uncompromising piety drove him to condemn the one Orthodox Jew in the Senate, Joe Lieberman, for securing "the tortuous death of millions" by supporting abortion rights. Mr. Abramoff's own moral constellation can be found in e-mail messages in which he referred to his Indian clients as "idiots" and "monkeys" even as he squeezed them for every last million. A previous client was Zaire's dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, who, unlike Senator Lieberman, actually was a practitioner of torture and mass murder.

Another Abramoff crony is the political operative Ralph Reed, whom Mr. Abramoff hired for his College Republicans operation in the early 1980's. Mr. Reed, who has called gambling "a cancer on the body politic" and is running for lieutenant governor in Georgia, is now busily explaining that he, like Mr. DeLay, had no idea that some of his consulting firm's Abramoff-Scanlon paydays ($4.2 million worth) were indirect transfers of casino dough. Mr. Reed, of course, is best known for his stint as the public altar boy's face of Pat Robertson's political machine, the Christian Coalition.

It was at a Christian Coalition convention in Washington in 1994 that I first encountered yet another religious figure who pops up in this tale, the South African-born Rabbi Daniel Lapin. He was regaling the crowd with scriptural passages proving that high taxes are "immoral." Now the show rabbi of the Christian right, Rabbi Lapin has moved on to bigger broadcast pulpits. When he's not preaching the virtues of "The Passion of the Christ," he is chastising "Meet the Fockers" for promoting "vile notions of Jews" that "are not too different from those used by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels." He apparently didn't like the idea that Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman played characters who enjoy sex.

Rabbi Lapin, according to Slate, is the networker who jump-started the mutually beneficial business relationship of Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay by introducing them in the early 90's. That was some mitzvah. As Marshall Wittmann, a former Christian Coalition lobbyist who later jumped to the Democratic Leadership Council, told me recently, "We now see the meaning of Judeo-Christian values."

The values alleged so far in this scandal - greed, hypocrisy, favor-selling, dissembling - belong to no creed except the ruthless pursuit of power. They are not exclusive to either political party. But the religious trappings add a note that distinguishes these Beltway creeps from those who have come before: a supreme righteousness that often spirals into anger and fire-and-brimstone zealotry that can do far more damage to America than ill-begotten golf junkets.

It's not for nothing that Mr. DeLay's nickname is the Hammer. Or that early in his Christian Coalition career, Ralph Reed famously told a Knight-Ridder reporter that he wanted to see his opponents in a "body bag." The current manifestation of this brand of religious politics can be found in the far right's anti-judiciary campaign, of which Mr. DeLay is the patron saint. As he flew off to the pope's funeral in Rome, the congressman left behind a rabble-rousing video for a Washington conference on "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" staged by a new outfit called The Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration. Another speaker, a lawyer named Edwin Vieira, twice invoked a Stalin dictum whose unexpurgated version goes, "Death solves all problems; no man, no problem." The reporter who covered the event for The Washington Post, Dana Milbank, suggested in print that one prime target of the vitriol, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, might want to get "a few more bodyguards." It wasn't necessarily a joke.

You can see why Dick Cheney and President Bush in rapid succession distanced themselves from Mr. DeLay's threats of retribution against judges who presided in the Schiavo case. If an Eric Rudolph murders a judge in close chronological proximity to that kind of rhetoric, they've got a political Armageddon on their hands. Mr. DeLay got the message, sort of. At his Wednesday news conference, he tried to dial back some of his words, if only as a way of changing the subject from Indians and his own potential outings in a court of law. Unlike Bill Frist, he has yet to sign on to next Sunday's national Christian right telecast bashing what its organizer, the Family Research Council, calls "out-of-control courts."

Many believe that Mr. DeLay's legal fate is tied to that of Mr. Abramoff, whom the congressman has now downsized into one of "hundreds of relationships I have in Washington, D.C." Mr. Abramoff, intriguingly enough, hasn't always been a creature of the capital. He was raised in Beverly Hills, the town that is supposed to be anathema to every value that Republican theocrats stand for. And he returned there for a time in the late 1980's, when he produced an anti-Communist action film called "Red Scorpion." Once it was reported that extras and military equipment had been supplied by South Africa's racist government, Arthur Ashe's Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid condemned the film, and no major studio would touch it. But it opened nationwide nonetheless, to few customers and many protesters.

In 1992 Mr. Abramoff, eager to prove that he was unlike secular show-business Democrats, told The Hollywood Reporter that he was starting a Committee for Traditional Jewish Values in Entertainment to emulate Christian anti-indecency campaigns. (He didn't.) But "Red Scorpion," on which Mr. Abramoff shares the writing credit, has many more four-letter words than "Meet the Fockers," as well as violence, bloodied beefcake (Dolph Lundgren's) and crucifixion imagery anticipating "The Passion of the Christ."

Though Mr. Abramoff has closed his yeshiva and is now being sued for back wages by its former employees, his cinematic creation survives on DVD. "Red Scorpion" is seriously Godawful, but, unlike the Ten Commandments displayed in Tom DeLay's office, it may yet endure as a permanent monument to what these people are about.


Mr. Bush, Take a Look at MTV

Published: April 17, 2005

When Turkey was massacring Armenians in 1915, the administration of Woodrow Wilson determinedly looked the other way. The U.S. ambassador in Constantinople sent furious cables to Washington, pleading for action against what he called "race murder," but the White House shrugged.

It was, after all, a messy situation, and there was no easy way to stop the killing. The U.S. was desperate to stay out of World War I and reluctant to poison relations with Turkey.

A generation later, American officials said they were too busy fighting a war to worry about Nazi death camps. In May 1943, the U.S. government rejected suggestions that it bomb Auschwitz, saying that aircraft weren't available.

In the 1970's, the U.S. didn't try to stop the Cambodian genocide. It was a murky situation in a hostile country, and there was no perfect solution. The U.S. was also negotiating the establishment of relations with China, the major backer of the Khmer Rouge, and didn't want to upset that process.

Much the same happened in Bosnia and Rwanda. As Samantha Power chronicles in her superb book, "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," the pattern was repeated over and over: a slaughter unfolded in a distant part of the world, but we had other priorities and it was always simplest for the American government to look away.

Now President Bush is writing a new chapter in that history.

Sudan's army and janjaweed militias have spent the last couple of years rampaging in the Darfur region, killing boys and men, gang-raping and then mutilating women, throwing bodies in wells to poison the water and heaving children onto bonfires. Just over a week ago, 350 assailants launched what the U.N. called a "savage" attack on the village of Khor Abeche, "killing, burning and destroying everything in their paths." Once again, there's no good solution. So we've looked away as 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur, with another 10,000 dying every month.

Since I'm of Armenian origin, I've been invited to participate in various 90th-anniversary memorials of the Armenian genocide. But we Armenian-Americans are completely missing the lesson of that genocide if we devote our energies to honoring the dead, instead of trying to save those being killed in Darfur.

Meanwhile, President Bush seems paralyzed in the face of the slaughter. He has done a fine job of providing humanitarian relief, but he has refused to confront Sudan forcefully or raise the issue himself before the world. Incredibly, Mr. Bush managed to get through recent meetings with Vladimir Putin, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair and the entire NATO leadership without any public mention of Darfur.

There's no perfect solution, but there are steps we can take. Mr. Bush could impose a no-fly zone, provide logistical support to a larger African or U.N. force, send Condoleezza Rice to Darfur to show that it's a priority, consult with Egypt and other allies - and above all speak out forcefully.

One lesson of history is that moral force counts. Sudan has curtailed the rapes and murders whenever international attention increased.

Mr. Bush hasn't even taken a position on the Darfur Accountability Act and other bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Jon Corzine and Sam Brownback to put pressure on Sudan. Does Mr. Bush really want to preserve his neutrality on genocide?

Indeed, MTV is raising the issue more openly and powerfully than our White House. (Its mtvU channel is also covering Darfur more aggressively than most TV networks.) It should be a national embarrassment that MTV is more outspoken about genocide than our president.

If the Bush administration has been quiet on Darfur, other countries have been even more passive. Europe, aside from Britain, has been blind. Islamic Relief, the aid group, has done a wonderful job in Darfur, but in general the world's Muslims should be mortified that they haven't helped the Muslim victims in Darfur nearly as much as American Jews have. And China, while screaming about Japanese atrocities 70 years ago, is underwriting Sudan's atrocities in 2005.

On each of my three visits to Darfur, the dispossessed victims showed me immense kindness, guiding me to safe places and offering me water when I was hot and exhausted. They had lost their homes and often their children, and they seemed to have nothing - yet in their compassion to me they showed that they had retained their humanity. So it appalls me that we who have everything can't muster the simple humanity to try to save their lives.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 9:49 AM EDT
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Saturday, 16 April 2005
Crime and Abortion
From today's New York Times:

The Miracle That Wasn't

Published: April 16, 2005

It is an inspirational urban lesson from the 1990's: take back the streets from squeegee men and drug dealers, and violent crime will plummet. But on Thursday evening, the tipping-point theory was looking pretty wobbly itself.

The occasion was a debate in Manhattan before an audience thrilled to be present for a historic occasion: the first showdown between two social-science wonks with books that were ranked second and third on (outsold only by "Harry Potter"). It pitted Malcolm Gladwell, author of "Blink" and "The Tipping Point," against Steven D. Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago with the new second-place book, "Freakonomics."

Professor Levitt considers the New York crime story to be an urban legend. Yes, he acknowledges, there are tipping points when people suddenly start acting differently, but why did crime drop in so many other cities that weren't using New York's policing techniques? His new book, written with Stephen J. Dubner, concludes that one big reason was simply the longer prison sentences that kept criminals off the streets of New York and other cities.

The prison terms don't explain why crime fell sooner and more sharply in New York than elsewhere, but Professor Levitt accounts for that, too. One reason he cites is that the crack epidemic eased earlier in New York than in other cities. Another, more important, reason is that New York added lots of cops in the early 90's.

But the single most important cause, he says, was an event two decades earlier: the legalization of abortion in New York State in 1970, three years before it was legalized nationally by the Supreme Court.

The result, he maintains, was a huge reduction in the number of children who would have been at greater than average risk of becoming criminals during the 1990's. Growing up as an unwanted child is itself a risk factor, he says, and the women who had abortions were disproportionately likely to be unmarried teenagers with low incomes and poor education - factors that also increase the risk.

It's a theory that doesn't sit well with either liberals or conservatives, and Professor Levitt hastens to add that the reduction in crime is not an argument for encouraging abortion - he personally has mixed feelings on whether abortion should be legal. But he says the correlations are clear: crime declined earlier in the states that had legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade, and it declined more in places with high abortion rates, like New York.

Some criminologists have quarreled with his statistics, but the theory was looking robust at the end of the debate in Manhattan. Mr. Gladwell, while raising what he called a few minor quibbles, seemed mostly persuaded by the numbers.

"My first inclination," he joked at the beginning of his rebuttal, "is to say that everything you just heard from Steven Levitt, even though it contradicts things I have written, is true."

That's my inclination, too, as a less successful exponent of the same theory. (In 1995 I explained the crime decline with my version of the tipping point, the Squeegee Watershed, which became neither a buzzword nor a best seller.) In retrospect, the New York crime story looks like a classic bit of conventional wisdom, as the term was originally defined by John Kenneth Galbraith: an idea that becomes commonly accepted because it is "what the community as a whole or particular audiences find acceptable."

Unlike the abortion theory, which was raised in the 1990's and angrily dismissed, the tipping-point idea jibed reassuringly with everyone's beliefs and needs. Urbanites and politicians welcomed a new reason to crack down on street nuisances. Journalists wanted a saga with heroes. Criminologists and the police loved to see their new strategies having dramatic results.

I still think the police made some difference, and not merely because there were more of them on the streets. The new computerized crime-tracking strategies put new pressure on them.

One veteran cop told me that traditionally only a quarter of the officers had done their jobs, and that the heroic achievement of Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had been to get that figure up to 50 percent.

But it now looks as if the good guys did not take back the streets all on their own, and the moral of the story is less about safe streets than safe beliefs. Professor Levitt's abortion theory is not appealing. But the ideas that make us comfortable are the ones to beware.


I have nothing to add; it's what I've been saying all along with regard to low-income women with poor educations raising unwanted children.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 7:18 PM EDT
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Friday, 15 April 2005
I thought we had a flight suit demonstration to prove that the mission was accomplished two years ago. Mr. Bush, why have sixty people been taken hostage?

From the article:
The majority Shi'ites, long-oppressed under Saddam, have gained power along with Kurds while the Sunni minority has watched vast privileges from past years vanish.

Iraqi officials say they want Sunnis to play a role in the new government, hoping it would help end the insurgency, but there have been no tangible signs of this happening.

Bombs targeting U.S. and Iraqi forces killed at least four people on Friday.

A roadside bomb near the central city of Samarra killed two Iraqi soldiers, an army source said.

A car bomb designed to hit a U.S. military convoy passing through Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood killed at least one person and wounded five, including an American soldier, police and the U.S. military said.

Al Qaeda's wing in Iraq said one of its suicide bombers drove his vehicle into a convoy of American "cross worshippers" in Mansour and inflicted casualties.

"They are still gathering their dead and wounded," the group said in a statement posted on a Web site used by Islamists.

Elsewhere in the capital, a bomb targeting the Iraqi National Guard killed a civilian and wounded three, police said.


I thought we were going to be welcomed with open arms....

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 10:02 PM EDT
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The Headlines in today's New York Times are just depressing as hell.

Frist Set to Use Religious Stage on Judicial Issue
As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.
This is the man who is not able to say that you can't get AIDS through tears and sweat. And he's a DOCTOR. That's right. He's a licensed physician who isn't sure about how one contracts AIDS. Perhaps he can design a face-condom and make millions.


House Passes Bankruptcy Bill; Overhaul Now Awaits President's Signature
The House overwhelmingly approved a major overhaul of the nation's bankruptcy laws on Thursday, completing Congressional action on the measure and sending it to President Bush.
First the credit card companies and now this. Do you think they know something we don't? My husband the Beast thinks so. Why would they be tying up all these loose ends with regard to potential debtors otherwise? Makes me very nervous. Watching out, working poor, and don't forget, shit rolls downhill. Get umbrellas.


A Surprised Bush Says He Wants New Travel Rules Reconsidered
President Bush said Thursday that he had been surprised to learn in the newspaper of his administration's decision last week to require Americans to have passports to enter the country from Mexico or Canada by 2008. He said he had asked the State and Homeland Security Departments to look into other means of tightening border security.
What the hell? Let's leave aside for a second his surprise. Because that's just too frightening to really consider right now (he learned of his administration's decision in the NEWSPAPERS?!). Let's instead focus on the decision itself. Now, I am first and foremost a bleeding-heart liberal, but I don't see a real problem with this. I think people should have to carry passports when crossing borders - that's the point of passports. We want secure borders, right? Right? So doesn't it makes sense to keep track of who's crossing what? If it slows things down, well, so what? Once we're secure I'm sure we can find a way to streamline the operation. Or am I being naive to think that security should be a something of concern to us?

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 8:55 AM EDT
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Thursday, 14 April 2005
Beating My Head Against a Wall
It?s taken me a few days to come to grips with this whole contraceptive issue but I think I can comment now without totally flipping out.

It was with horrified stupefaction that I read, ironically on the same day that I called in a refill of my Rx for ortho tri-cyclin, that my pharmacist could possibly decide to conscientiously object to my desire for birth control. Is it also ironic that it?s the same week that Britney Spears announced her seems almost as if idiots are taking over the world. Where is reason anymore?

What if I calmly explained to CVS that I can?t afford to have children yet, or that ? wonder of wonders ? I think there may be too many people here already. There are kids out there who need foster homes and adoptive parents. Does it make me a bad person that I?d potentially rather help them than actively procreate? Or, let?s take it a step further. How is it anyone?s business? If I want to live a life of utter debauchery with drugs, rock and roll, booze and multiple partners, how is it anyone?s right but my own to say when the time is right for me to have children?

This crap makes me want to beat my head against a wall because I just don?t think beating their heads in will do any good. And ultimately, this is one of the major reasons for my not wanting to have kids. Look at the pile of shit we?re in. We?re a ?culture of life? that can?t be bothered to help the working poor out with health care. We?ve firmly established a horrendous quagmire of military disappointments and financial mismanagement in the Middle East. Old allies are now scratching their heads in wonder at us.

We?re about to send John Bolton to the U.N. Why would anyone want to bring a child into a world filled with Tom DeLay, John Bolton and George W?

And speaking of G Dub, I found this today on the Democratic Underground and had to giggle:

[Here is a] list of links featuring Republicans whining about high gas prices in 2000. I'm sure most of you are aware that average gas prices have been topping $2.50 per gallon recently, with San Franciscans recently reporting more than $3 per gallon for regular unleaded.

Now let's take a look at what some of those Republicans had to say in 2000, when gas was around a full dollar cheaper per gallon than it is today:

Rep. Terry Everett: "The Clinton Administration has failed in its duty to develop a policy to deal with our national energy supply and is therefore directly accountable for the higher prices Americans are now paying at the gas pumps."

Dennis Hastert: "House Speaker Dennis Hastert accused the Clinton administration Friday of misleading members of Congress about the causes of skyrocketing gas prices in the Midwest."

Rep. Wally Herger: "Congressman Wally Herger recently denounced the Clinton-Gore Administration's complacency during the current gas price crisis. 'Northern Californians are being held hostage at the gas pump,' Herger said. 'The Clinton-Gore Administration has demonstrated a complete and total lack of leadership in preventing this problem. It is a clear failure of domestic and foreign policy.'"

Larry Kudlow: "The Clinton-Gore administration?s hapless and incoherent management of foreign policy is nowhere as evident as in their bungling on OPEC?s oil-price hike. ... While crude oil prices could drop to $25 per barrel, they will stay well above the average $20 real price of oil registered over the past ten years. And way above the $10 worldwide average marginal cost of producing new oil. Meanwhile gas prices at the pump are likely to be upwards of $2 per gallon well into the summer."

Glenn Spencer: "In recent weeks, gas prices have surged to their highest level in a decade. Prices for home heating oil and natural gas are expected to rise by about 30 percent this winter. ... With the Clinton-Gore administration's policies largely to blame for the pain being felt by consumers, Vice President Gore's camp has pulled out all the stops to shift blame away from his own administration."

Various Repubs: "Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls), Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac), Paul Ryan (R-Janesville), and Mark Green (R-Green Bay) today blasted Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and the Clinton-Gore Administration for their failure to implement a comprehensive energy policy to deal with staggering gas prices Wisconsin consumers continue to face at the pumps."

So, gas is about 60-75% per gallon more at the pump and oil is about 100% more per barrel than it was when these moaning minnies were whining about how much Bill Clinton and Al Gore sucked, but now George W. Bush is the president - why, his shit don't stink. Perhaps they're still waiting for him to "jawbone" OPEC? Either that or they don't care about gas prices now that he's, y'know, got the gays on the run.

Because, yeah, that's what's wrong with our country - all those damn gays out there walking around.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 8:36 PM EDT
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Wal-Mark Sucks
Now Playing: Keren Ann
Wal-Mart Leaves Bitter Chill
Quebec Store Closes After Vote to Unionize

By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 14, 2005; Page E01

JONQUIERE, Quebec -- The baby buggies are all gone. In electronics, only "Le Gros Albert" and a few other leftover DVDs remain. A few pairs of pink boots are left in the shoe department. Over in household goods, red and yellow liquidation tags dangle beside thin skillets as Wal-Mart prepares to close.

The retailing behemoth, whose $10 billion annual profits are based on low prices, low expenses and its relentless pace of store openings, announced it will shut the doors here May 6 after workers voted to make this the first unionized Wal-Mart in North America.

The closure will leave 190 bitter employees out of work, the town uneasy over the future of unions, and the mayor angry at the company. Supporters of organized labor also say it serves as a warning for workers at other Wal-Mart stores who might contemplate defying founder Sam Walton's sharp distaste for unions.

"It's like we are digging our own grave," said store employee Nathalie Dubois, 38, a single mother with no other job to go to, as she helped pack up the store.

The world's largest retail chain has fiercely and successfully resisted unionization attempts at its 3,600 stores in the United States. Its closest call ended in Texas in 2000 when the store eliminated its meat department after 11 meat cutters voted to join a union. United Food and Commercial Workers is mounting a fresh campaign to organize Wal-Mart workers in the United States, a push it says has been given impetus by recent legal action and a former company vice president's contention that he surreptitiously organized anti-union activities.

In Canada, the battle has been pitched, pitting the country's still-healthy union movement against what is now its largest retailer. While union membership in the United States dropped to 12.5 percent of workers in 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, it was 28.6 percent in Canada. Since entering the country 11 years ago by buying the failing Woolco chain, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. now takes 52 percent of the retail market share in Canada, and is opening around 30 stores a year. It earns three times as much revenue per square foot of store space as Zellers Inc., its nearest competitor.

Quebec, where nearly 40 percent of the workforce carries a union card, has been a focal point. Jonquiere was the first store to be unionized. One other, in Saint Hyacinthe, east of Montreal, has followed. The company says it is bargaining "in good faith" toward a contract at that store but expects the negotiations to "go on for some time."

On April 1, in Brossard, in southern Montreal, employees voted against joining a union.

"They got the message from Jonquiere. People were afraid if they voted for the union the store will be closed," said Louis Bolduc, an organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers union in Quebec.

The company reads it differently.

You can find the rest of the article here.

Isn't that great? Workers wanting a little security, a little health insurance, and a little more money are left without anything. Thank you, Wal-Mart, for helping to ruin the world.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 12:51 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 13 April 2005
GOP Rejects Added VA Hospital Funds
"Republicans on Tuesday defeated a Democratic effort to provide almost $2 billion in additional healthcare funding for veterans, rejecting claims that Veterans Affairs hospitals were in crisis."

This is perfect. During a time of war, the GOP has decided the suddenly they're not for a culture of life when it comes to Vets. With more and more soldiers returning from Iraq with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder now is a great time to slash benefits.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 12:11 PM EDT
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"Bad Management of Problem-Solving"
According to Newt Gingrich, who I don't necessarily always agree with, "If there is a Social Security problem, it is somewhere around 25 to 30 years from now," Gingrich said. "The problem of children dying in Dumpsters is this evening. To ask me to go past every problem we could solve that is immediate in order to get at an abstraction that is 25 years from now is very bad management of problem-solving."

Read the full article from the Washington Post here.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 11:49 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 13 April 2005 12:05 PM EDT
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Arianna Online
Now Playing: Elton John
Arianna Huffington was on Bill Maher last night (replayed from Friday, I think), along with Ian McShane and a few others. It was the first time I'd had a chance to listen extensively to what she has to say and I must admit, I was impressed. Here is her last column, in full. Click the link to see her links.

A Cornucopia of Death
April 12, 2005

Paint the last month black. It?s been an orgy of mourning; a cornucopia of death. We?ve had Terri Schiavo, Pope John Paul, Prince Rainier, and Charles and Camilla?s wedding ? which felt as grim as any funeral. All brought to us in no-longer-living color. If nothing else, the media have outed themselves as the ultimate necrophiliacs. I expect CNN and Forest Lawn to announce a sponsorship agreement any day now.

The pope?s interminable interment was the magenta-colored cherry on the death sundae. The TV coverage was so over-the-top and utterly uncritical, it was as if John Paul had been, well, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Or, at least, Jim Caviezel.

Now, I?m certainly not suggesting that the last week should have been spent trashing the late pontiff. His many achievements ? taking on communism, embracing the Third World, speaking out for the poor, and standing up against war ? surely deserved recognition and praise. But you?d think the wall-to-wall coverage would have included some serious discussion of the two tragic failures of his reign: his woeful mishandling of the church?s child molestation scandal, and how his archaic position on condoms contributed to the deaths of millions of people, especially in Africa.

The molestation outrage is a black mark that can?t be whitewashed.

Over 11,000 children were sexually abused and close to $1 billion in settlement money has been paid out, but the pope did not go much beyond decrying ?the sins of some of our brothers.? He never met with any victims, he never offered practical solutions to dealing with the problem, he never addressed the decades-long cover-up of the abuse. He even rejected a ?zero tolerance? policy calling for the immediate removal of molester-priests, concerned that it was too harsh.

Too harsh?! This is a man who wouldn?t allow a priest to become a bishop unless he was unequivocally opposed to masturbation, premarital sex and condoms. So, in his perversion pecking order, you had to be dead-set against ?self-love? but when it came to buggering little kids, there was some wiggle room.

And let?s not forget that the Pope appointed Cardinal Bernard Law, who was one of the architects of the sex scandal cover-up, and who even faced potential criminal prosecution for his role in the concealment. But instead of making an example out of Law, the pope gave him a cushy sinecure in the Vatican. Adding insult to the grievous injury suffered by the abuse victims, Law was one of the nine cardinals specially chosen to preside over the pope?s funeral masses. It is a disgrace ? and an indication of how detached the Vatican became under this pope.

The other stain on the pope?s legacy is his tireless opposition to the use of condoms ? even in places like Africa, where AIDS killed 2.3 million people last year alone, and where the disease has driven life expectancy below 40 years in many countries.

But even in the face of that kind of suffering, he fought tooth and nail against condoms. Any time a church official even suggested that people infected with HIV should use condoms, they were either removed from office or censured by the Vatican. We were told again and again last week about how committed John Paul was to promoting a culture of life. I guess the 20 million people who have died from AIDS are the exception that proves the rule.

On the other hand, the pope?s passing might have saved the political skin of one of his culture-of-life cohorts, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. If you have a series of looming ethics scandals about to come crashing down on your head, having the media focused 24/7 on something else is a very lucky break indeed. But, in the end, it?s going to take a huge celebrity dying every three days for the next few months to keep The Hammer from going down.

The presence of DeLay at the pope?s funeral in Rome, along with President Bush, the First Lady, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Bush Sr., was a stark reminder of our perverted priorities. The pope dies and it?s Must Holy See TV; 1,547 American soldiers die in Iraq and President Bush and Laura have yet to attend a single one of their funerals. Not a single one. Maybe the president only goes to funerals of people whose death he wasn?t involved in.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 11:22 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 13 April 2005 12:33 PM EDT
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Dumb and Dumber Procreate
Read it and weep, folks.

They're finally admitting what we've all known for months. Bit Bit is getting a little brother or sister. May God help us all.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 8:22 AM EDT
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