Oh, boy — it’s a big news day around here. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Hope it’s not called a “holiday” tree
A Christmas tree that a pregnancy counseling organization provided to a women’s fitness center prompted three people to cancel their memberships because the tree is decorated with plastic figures meant to represent fetuses.
“This is insidious,” said Kelly Jones, one of the women who quit Body Boutique last week. “This is in my gym.”
Lorinda Hartzler, co-owner of Body Boutique, said that when Birthright of Lawrence asked about providing the tree it said it had no political agenda and wanted only to assist pregnant women in their decision-making process.
“It’s not like the babies are morbid,” Hartzler said of the tiny figures in the tree. “It’s not graphic at all.”
The tree had about a dozen blue and pink stockings, each stuffed with a plastic figure and attached card that labeled the dolls as being “between 11 and 12 weeks old.”
Coupons for Birthright videos, pamphlets and children’s clothes were also in the tree. Coupons included savings on a video titled “After the Choice,” another video showing abortion procedures and a brochure on emergency contraception known as the “morning-after pill.”
It’s about time
We all know this is going nowhere, but…
Ranking House Judiciary Democrat Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced a motion to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney for providing misleading information to Congress in advance of the Iraq war, failing to respond to written questions and potential violations of international law, RAW STORY has learned.
Facts are stupid things
One talent this administration has is the ability to stretch a fact so far that it eventually becomes a lie. Such as:
In his news conference yesterday, President Bush twice pointed to the same example to express his concern about the danger of newspaper leaks — Osama bin Laden’s phone.
“The fact that we were following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone made it into the press as the result of a leak,” the president said. “And guess what happened? Saddam — Osama bin Laden changed his behavior. He began to change how he communicated.”
Later, the president repeated the example and decried what he called “revealing sources, methods and what we use the information for” as helping “the enemy” change its behavior.
But the reality is more complicated.
The White House says the president was referring to a profile of the al Qaeda leader that appeared in the Washington Times on Aug. 21, 1998. In the 21st paragraph, the article stated: “He keeps in touch with the world via computers and satellite phones and has given occasional interviews to international news organizations.”
The information in the article does not appear to be based on any government leak and made no reference to government surveillance of bin Laden’s phone.
But the relatively minor bit of detail had a big impact on bin Laden. “He stopped using the satellite phone instantly,” wrote Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon in their book “The Age of Sacred Terror,” and thus “the United States lost its best chance to find him.”
J. Edgar Hoover is smiling happily in an elegant black strapless evening gown
According to new documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union, the FBI is using counterterrorism resources to monitor and infiltrate domestic political organizations that criticize business interests and government policies, despite a lack of evidence that the groups are engaging in or supporting violent action.
The ACLU said that the documents released today on Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) show the FBI expanding the definition of “domestic terrorism” to include citizens and groups that participate in lawful protests or civil disobedience.
.. The documents were obtained by the ACLU after the organization filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to discover whether the FBI’s partnerships with local law enforcement in Joint Terrorism Task Forces has resulted in increased surveillance of political and religious activity.
Among the documents released today were more than 100 pages of FBI files on PETA. Multiple documents indicate ongoing surveillance of PETA-related meetings and activities, including a “Vegan Community Project” event at the University of Indiana during which the group distributed vegetarian starter kits to students and faculty, an animal rights conference in Washington, DC that was open to the public, and a planned protest of Cindy Crawford’s decision to become a llama fur spokesperson.
… The documents released by the ACLU also include FBI observances on supposed Communist leanings of the Catholic Workers Group (CWG). In an e-mail to the counterterrorism unit, an unidentified official wrote, “the Catholic Workers advocated peace with a Christian and semi-communistic ideology.” In another document, an agent writes, “Based on the author’s interpretation of comments made by various CWG protestors, CWG also advocates a communist distribution of resources.”
Ah, just like the good old days.
He’s used to no daylight
It’s an audacious power play, even for Sen. Ted Stevens.
The wily and cantankerous Alaska Republican is trying to secure the mother of all pet projects for his state: oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Stevens has attached the provision to a popular defense spending bill and has put holiday plans of his Senate colleagues on hold as he dares Democratic and moderate Republican opponents to vote against it.
… Alaska drilling is the most controversial environmental issue before Congress, a far cry from the usual Native Alaskan and salmon subsidies. And Stevens has tucked it into a bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
… Stevens said that if the drilling provision falls, other non-defense programs in the bill would suffer, because royalty revenues from oil would fund low-income heating assistance and relief to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. “The real possibility is that unless we pass this bill, a lot of those people are not going to receive the assistance they should have,” Stevens said.
What an ass this man is.
And now Congress is in the dark, too
It was well past midnight yesterday, and the food outside the sumptuous Capitol suites of the House Republican leadership was piling up, a smorgasbord of Chinese dishes, piles of pizza, and cartons of Mrs. Fields cookies. House lawmakers casually dined as they waited for their final votes, knowing full well they still had a long night ahead of them.
Those votes — on a sweeping budget-cutting measure and a defense bill that also would open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling — did not come until practically the break of dawn. But that was nothing new for a House that has taken its most controversial votes in recent years under the cloak of darkness — well past the deadlines for the evening news or the morning paper.
The House voted at 6:07 a.m. yesterday to shave $39.7 billion from entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. At 5:04 a.m., lawmakers voted to open the Alaskan wilderness to oil exploration.
The House’s original version of the budget-cutting bill, which was significantly tougher, passed Nov. 18 at 1:41 a.m. On July 28, the Central American Free Trade Agreement — ardently opposed by labor unions, which had put excruciating pressure on industrial state lawmakers — squeaked through the House just past midnight. On March 21, a measure that thrust the federal government into the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case passed the House at 12:45 a.m.
… “Republican policy is so out of touch with mainstream Americans that they have to pass their legislation in the dead of night,” said Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
I swear — to God, amusingly enough — that these fundamentalist Christians are absolutely as insane as any other fundamentalist religious fruitcake in a third world country. And yet, they’re so clever. By creating a nonsensical, non-existent “war on Christmas” and claiming that Christians are persecuted in this country, they’re setting up another wedge issue for the upcoming election, the same way that they managed to threaten people with some “gay agenda” last time.
“A lot of soldiers in this battle are not going to have much to do but drink eggnog,” says Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who often debates Jerry Falwell and others on these kinds of issues. “We’re not out there trying to make this an unpleasant season.”
On the other hand: “People are so worried about offending the minority, they go ahead and offend the majority, who are Christians,” says Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association.
… despite some high-powered rhetoric — Fox News host John Gibson says in the subtitle of his book “The War on Christmas” that there is a “liberal plot to ban the sacred Christian holiday” — neither Gibson, nor anyone at the AFA, the Liberty Counsel, Lynn’s group or the ACLU, is aware of an attempt to halt religious observance of Christmas or to stop making it an official federal holiday. And the real irony, religious and academic scholars point out, is that Christmas is observed in one way or another by more Americans than at any point in the nation’s history; indeed, more than any nation at any time in history.
The very groups that produce so much hate speech themselves are now claiming to be the subject of hate crimes. Poor things. I have only one thing to say to them.