April 2008 Archives

The mendacity of global-warming deniers is something I've mentioned before (here, here, here, and here, for example), and there is a nascent outcry from the scientific community over the misrepresentation of their work and misuse of their good names. A widely-circulated list of "500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares" put out by the right-wing junk-science Heartland Institute turns out to be full of hot air (h/t: Plutonium Page at Daily Kos). DeSmogBlog emailed 122 of the allegedly skeptical scientists, 45 of whom have already responded with words like this:

"I have NO doubts ..the recent changes in global climate ARE man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there."

"I don't believe any of my work can be used to support any of the statements listed in the article."

"Please remove my name. What you have done is totally unethical!!"

"I am very shocked to see my name in the list... the inclusion of my name in such list without my permission or consensus has damaged my professional reputation as an atmospheric scientist.

"Please remove my name IMMEDIATELY from the following article and from the list which misrepresents my research."

I just love seeing shameless pseudo-scholars get bitch-slapped in public; I just want to get a bucket of popcorn and sit back to watch the fireworks begin...

As I mentioned a few days ago, tomorrow is atheists' answer to the National Day of Prayer: the National Day of Reason. Here are a few posts I've seen discussing the day:

John Loftus posts a list of suggestions at Debunking Christianity

NoGodBlog reports on a NYC blood drive

Rebecca at Skepchick offers prizes for blood donors

Stardust at God Is for Suckers! posts this AU press release that quotes Madison and Jefferson

vjack has a great post at Atheist Revolution featuring these classic words from Robert Ingersoll:

"Hands that help are better than lips that pray."

Let's get out there and do our part to help; the Pharisees of the Religious Right have the market cornered on showy displays of piety, so there's still plenty of work to be done.

update (11:28pm):
Frederick Clarkson gives us the history behind the Nation Day of Prayer at Talk 2 Action

Buffy plugs NDoR at Gaytheist Agenda

In an all-too-appropriate prelude to tomorrow's fifth anniversary of "mission accomplished," spin-zone host Bill O'Reilly claimed--on the air and with a straight face--that:

"We didn't invade Iraq."

This is why we liberals often call his channel "Faux News:" It's little more than unfair and imbalanced opinion packaged as real journalism.

I've long marveled at the Christianists' tendency to misrepresent any criticism of their agenda as "persecution" despite their religion's solid majority among both the American electorate and the governing class. Elizabeth Castelli's piece on "Persecution Complexes" has the best definition that I've seen of this tactic:

"...a broader and growing trend in political discourse as it emerges from certain branches of right-wing political Christianity [that] mobilizes the language of religious persecution to shut down political debate and critique by characterizing any position not in alignment with this politicized version of Christianity as an example of antireligious bigotry and persecution."

It's a long article, but Castelli does great work analyzing the Justice Sunday/"War on Christians"/Battle Cry mentality. Understanding the "massive movement that sees itself as victimized minority" is no less important now than it was at the height of the Religious Right's ability to set our national agenda. Now that their influence is waning--and their control of the levers of power is diminishing--they may become ever more desperate.

The BBC reported that the manufacturer of those "Free Tibet" flags is a factory in...China (h/t: Annika Carlson at Campus Progress):

The factory in Guangdong had been completing overseas orders for the flag of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Workers said they thought they were just making colourful flags and did not realise their meaning.


Thousands of flags had already been packed for shipping. Police believe that some may already have been sent overseas, and could appear in Hong Kong during the Olympic torch relay there this week.


Groves, Eric. The Anti-War Quote Book (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2008)

Eric Groves has put together a nice little book, featuring anti-war writings from Homer to the present and discussing the cost of war over the full course of human history. I appreciate the varied typography of the quotations and the overall design of the book, along with some photographs and several posters from Anti-War Posters, but the distressed/grunge look doesn't feel appropriate for some quotations.

Groves adequately identifies the quote's authors (name, years of birth and death, and brief description of their place in history), but managed to nonetheless trigger my pet peeve: He omits dates and published sources for the quotes themselves. Is it really so difficult to source a quote? Even something as brief as the book's--or speech's--title and year would be better than nothing. Particularly for authors whose lives spanned much of the twentieth century--such as Bertrand Russell--it would be helpful to know whether a particular quote was made in reference to a particular conflict, or to war in the abstract.

After finishing the book, I returned to Groves' words from the introduction:

"We cannot afford war any more.

The costs are too enormous. History's greatest philosophers, educators, politicians, scientists, artists, clergy, and soldiers have argued this point for more than four thousand years.

Will we listen?" (p. 7)

Sadly, after reading the breadth of his selected words from some of the brightest lights of civilization, one is tempted to conclude that we--or, at least, our governments--will not listen. It is to the optimists that we must turn, then, to alleviate our despair at our species' sporadic inhumanity toward each other. Thus, my Quote of the Day is from Anne Frank:

"I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too. I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again." (p. 151)

Jim Downey over at UTI found some unexpected secularism online, and quoted a commenter from elsewhere. These two sentences are the heart of the quote, each of which would make a great Demotivators-style poster:

Is it more righteous to live a moral life because you're a coward and fear Hell, or to live a righteous life because you feel it is the right thing to do? Pharisees need an external moral compass because they lack an internal moral compass.

Multicultural morality, as I mentioned in this post, can give an atheist's conscience a more solid foundation than that of a fundie bible-thumper. It does takes more effort, though, as does everything that isn't packaged and pre-assembled. Evaluating the sum of human wisdom is a work beyond any single lifetime, because learning is more time-intensive than mindless regurgitation.

Next Thursday (May 1st) is commonly known as the "National Day of Prayer," but NoGodBlog points out that it is also the date of the atheist BLOOD (Benefiting Lives of Others Donations) campaign. If you can't donate blood (and many people cannot do so, for various reasons) then do something else. As I mentioned last year, that day is also the National Day of Reason:

The goal of this effort is to celebrate reason - a concept all Americans can support - and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship.

The Day of Reason also exists to inspire the secular community to be visible and active on this day to set the right example for how to effect positive change. Local organizations might use "Day of Reason" to label their events, or they might choose labels such as Day of Action, Day of Service, or Rational Day of Care. The important message is to provide a positive, useful, constitutional alternative to the exclusionary National Day of Prayer.

If you're an out atheist, it might be a great opportunity to do some consciousness-raising work.

the atheist spot

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A new blog/news aggregator named The Atheist Spot (h/t: vjack at Atheist Revolution) is aiming to be the Digg/Furl/Technorati/whatever for the atheist community. It could be a very useful service, especially for those Netizens like myself whose RSS readers are already straining to keep up with the burgeoning atheist blogosphere.

Will Layman of PopMatters enthuses over disappearing "smooth jazz" radio stations, writings that "I come to bury smooth jazz, not to praise it... [...] ...its ongoing demise is a hopeful sign for our civilization." He defines the genre better than any other writer I've seen:

Smooth Jazz, then, can be understood as an embrace of clean edges, a rejection of the analog sensibility that sits at the root of all the great American music, whether Delta blues, improvised jazz, or rebellious rock 'n' roll. Smooth Jazz sought to be pleasant and shining and sweet and easy. Like soul music without the sex, like jazz without a pulse of urgency, like rock without the essential roll, Smooth Jazz was an answer without a question.

I would have called smooth jazz "crap without a toilet," but I'm glad to see this soulless pseudo-music finally getting flushed.


Brenner, Lenni. Jefferson & Madison on Separation of Church and State: Writings on Religion and Secularism (Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, 2004)

Reading 400 pages of any of the Founders' writings is the equivalent of several times the page count of nearly any contemporary writer, as this excellent collection of Jefferson's and Madison's writings proves. Although I have recently been spending more time on other things, I can't recall the last time it took three weeks to finish a single book. As always with the Founders, it was time well spent.

Brenner wisely chooses to present the writings--mostly letters--in chronological order, rather than trying to organize them thematically. Although the supplementary notes are generally good, they could have easily been more detailed; this could have been done without increasing the page count (or reducing the type size any further) by omitting The Jefferson Bible. Its inclusion was unnecessary, as it is readily available elsewhere (I recommend this edition from Beacon Press).

I don't mean to slight Madison, for his role in history is of the utmost importance, but most of the passages I noted while reading this book were Jefferson's. His words shine like beacons of reason across the centuries, and these two are no less appropriate in today's waning GOP era than during the end of the Federalist era in Jefferson's day:

"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolved, and the people recovering their true sight, restoring their government to its true principles." (p. 146, letter to John Taylor, 4 June 1798)

"...our fellow citizens have been led hood-winked from their principles, by a most extraordinary combination of circumstances. But the band is removed, and they now see for themselves." (p. 159, letter to John Dickinson, 6 March 1801)

Both Madison and Jefferson were highly critical of religious establishments and equally supportive of religious freedom, as even a casual student of history will already know. Madison referred to religious establishments as representing a "dishonorable principle and dangerous tendency," (p. 65, letter to Thomas Jefferson, 9 January 1785) and Jefferson derisively referred to the "loathsome combination of church and state" (p. 234, letter to Charles Clay, 29 January 1815).

Jefferson's antipathy toward the priesthood's Pauline and Platonic corruptions of what he called "primitive Christianity" may take some readers by surprise, as he repeatedly compared them to a "dunghill" surrounding the "diamonds" of Jesus' words (e.g., p. 211, letter to John Adams, 12 October 1813; p. 216, letter to John Adams, 24 January 1814; p. 247, letter to Francis Van der Kemp, 25 April 1816). Jefferson was perhaps most forthright with Adams, writing the following to his upon the disestablishment of the Congregational Church in Connecticut:

"I join you therefore in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a protestant popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character." (p. 259, letter to John Adams, 5 May 1817)

Concerned in his later years with not offending others with his unorthodox opinions, Jefferson wrote: "I take no part in controversies, religious or political. At the age of 80, tranquility is the greatest good of life, and the strongest of our desires that of dying in the good will of all mankind." (p. 367, letter to James Smith, 8 December 1822) My Quote of the Day is from Jefferson's final letter, wherein he declined to appear at a July 4th event which was to be his last day alive:

"May it [half a century of experience and prosperity] be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. [...] All eyes are opened, of opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, not a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God." (p. 390, letter to Roger Weightman, 24 June 1826)

I can't praise Jefferson and Madison highly enough, and Brenner has done very useful work in publishing this useful compendium of their words of wisdom on religion and secularism. As Brenner notes in the Scholar's Afterword:

The [political] hacks claim to represent patriotism. Every year July 4th rolls around and they pay lip service to Jefferson's ideals. They can still get away with it because the broad public has no awareness of what he and Madison really stood for. So, let us take Jefferson's Bible and Madison's Memoranda to the people. (p. 406)

The Thomas Jefferson Collection at the Library of Congress
The Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive at the University of Virginia
The Constitution Society has a text-only version of all 19 volumes of The Writings of Thomas Jefferson
The Avalon Project at Yale Law School has collections of papers from Jefferson, Madison, and some--but not all--other presidents.

happy Earth Day!

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This "Earthrise" photo from the Apollo 8 mission has long been one of my favorites, and it is especially appropriate today:


Happy Earth Day to you all!

update (4/24 @ 10:15am):
Here's a belated Quote of the Day, from Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin:

"The Earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space. As we got further and further away, it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man."

I hope that everyone who sees that photo is indeed changed, if only just a little bit, for the better...

This should come as a surprise to no one, but Bush's disapproval ratings are now the worst ever recorded in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll:

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing; 69% disapprove. The approval rating matches the low point of his presidency, and the disapproval sets a new high... [...] The previous record of 67% was reached by Harry Truman in January 1952, when the United States was enmeshed in the Korean War.

Only 272 days and 23 hours left...

The sign:

jonesville church sign

The quote:

"His name is so close to Osama I have a feeling he might be Islamic therefore he doesn't recognize Christ," Pastor Byrd said.

The commentary:

* Pastor Byrd is a dunce.

* Median household income in Jonesville fell 17% between 2000 and 2005, from $22,227 to $18,500. That's well below the median for South Carolina ($39,316) and for the US ($44,389). In other words, the economics being pushed by Bush, McCain, and the rest of the Republican Party has absolutely devastated this community.

* Many members of the Jonesville Church of God will vote for McCain because they are prejudiced against either blacks, Muslims, or both. The people who will do this are morons.

* This just confirms what Barack Obama has said about voters in places like Jonesville.

I have nothing to add.

FYI, this is what Obama said two weeks ago:

"...our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Byrd has indeed proven him right.

The NJ Star-Ledger quotes GOP gadfly Newt Gingrich making an interesting claim (h/t: ThinkProgress) during a debate yesterday at Drew University:

Senior Matthew Groch, of Salem, N.H., asked how the U.S. government could justify violating personal rights with domestic eavesdropping and the Patriot Act.

"If there's a threat, you have a right to defend society," Gingrich said. "People will give up all their liberties to avoid that level of threat."

Speak for yourself, Newt; I don't scare easily enough for Rovian tactics to have any effect, and I refuse to give up any of my liberties--let alone all of them--to conservative fear-mongers.

...and Jonathan Yeo has the picture to prove it (h/t: PZ Myers at Pharyngula):

Jonathan Yeo's collage

liberal values

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Chicago Fan's post at Slog about "Fully Living One's Beliefs" makes the all-too-pertinent observation that "liberal laws still allow conservatives to live out their values, while conservatives would not allow liberals to live out theirs:"

That is, in an America where abortion, divorce, cohabitation and premarital sex are legal, if you truly believe due to your deeply held religious principles that these things are wrong, you are free to live out your religious principles by not having cohabitating premarital sex that leads to an abortion. Liberal values allow conservatives to do as they please, to live out their religious beliefs. Conservatives do not return the favor. That's the fundamental divide. [emphasis in original]

The problem, of course, is that conservatives tend to demand conformity rather than accepting pluralism. Their disapproval of reproductive freedom means that abortion must be outlawed; their fear of diversity means that other races and religions must be demonized; their hatred of LGBT relations means that same-sex marriages must be unrecognized. The liberal viewpoints on these issues, on the other hand, do not demand that any woman aborts her fetus, that any Christian prays to Allah, or that any straight men marry each other. Ed Brayton's "Theocratic Quote of the Day" from Gary North demonstrates the wingnut demands quite well:

"...we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God." [emphases added]

"The Intellectual Schizophrenia of the New Christian Right" in Christianity and Civilization: The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, No. 1 (Spring 1982), p. 25

No one should be surprised at the revelation that disgraced former AG Alberto Gonzales is having trouble finding a job:

Mr. Gonzales, the former attorney general, who was forced to resign last year, has been unable to interest law firms in adding his name to their roster, Washington lawyers and his associates said in recent interviews.

He has, through friends, put out inquiries, they said, and has not found any takers. [...] He has had no full-time job since his resignation, and his principal income has come from giving a handful of talks at colleges and before private business groups.

Why would any respectable law firm want to hire a proven liar who is prone to memory lapses? Their interviewers probably preemptively discard his resume out of concern that Gonzales might waterboard his way into a job offer even if there are no openings.

Irvin Mayfield & Ellis Marsalis. Love Songs, Ballads and Standards (Basin Street Records, 2008)

One of New Orleans' young lions of the trumpet, Irvin Mayfield, has recorded a CD with pianist and jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis titled Love Songs, Ballads and Standards. (Long-time readers may recall that Mayfield played an astounding version of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" on the Higher Ground benefit CD, which I reviewed here.)

I had hoped this CD would be more like Wynton's first disc with his father Ellis, Standard Time Volume 3: The Resolution of Romance (2000), but Mayfield's effort is a more inconsistent one. Ten of the tracks on this disc are from a pair of dates in 2004, with the remaining four tracks from 2007. The song choices were largely good ones, although I question the need for two versions of Lennon/McCartney's "Yesterday." Mayfield's playing is respectable despite an occasional slight airiness, and his mute work is often gorgeous; the rollicking exuberance of "Mo' Betta Blues" vies with his use of a Harmon mute on "Don't Know Why" for the disc's best moment.

Mayfield's Love Songs, while not a masterpiece, is nonetheless a solid piece of work. As his playing matures, I'd like to hear more efforts from him in the same musical vein.

(Note: Mayfield is pictured playing the spectacularly decorated Elysian Trumpet, crafted by specialty trumpet maker Dave Monette. (Here is a video clip from The Oregonian of Monette discussing the horn, and Mayfield playing it. For more information on Monette trumpets, read Carl Vigeland's article "A New Horn" from The Atlantic here and here.)

Bush is holding a White House dinner in honor of the Pope tomorrow night, but Pope Palpatine Ratzinger won't be there. Perhaps Ratz is holding a secret meeting with Darth Cheney? (Psst: Make sure he's unarmed!)

Pope Palpatine

Seriously, though: How despicable is Bush that even the (former) Nazi Pope won't join him for dinner? (Yes, I know that Ratzinger was "only briefly a member of the Hitler Youth and not an enthusiastic one," but still...)

For bonus points, read Michelangelo Signorile's 1988 encounter with then-Cardinal Ratzinger. (It's hard to believe that his classic Queer in America, from which this anecdote was taken, is now fifteen years old.)

crayon art

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Artist/sculptor Pete Goldlust does some nice work, but his carved crayons are simply enchanting (h/t: Andrew Sullivan). While I appreciate the variety of his intricate carvings, my favorite is the homage to Brancusi's "Endless Column," entitled "Endless Crayon:"


Barack Obama has given an exclusive interview to The Advocate. Here is the centerpiece of the discussion:

If you were elected, what do you plan to do for the LGBT community -- what can you reasonably get done?

I reasonably can see "don't ask, don't tell" eliminated. I think that I can help usher through an Employment Non-Discrimination Act and sign it into law. [...]

The third thing I believe I can get done is in dealing with federal employees, making sure that their benefits, that their ability to transfer health or pension benefits the same way that opposite-sex couples do, is something that I'm interested in making happen and I think can be done with some opposition, some turbulence, but I think we can get that done.

And finally, an area that I'm very interested in is making sure that federal benefits are available to same-sex couples who have a civil union. I think as more states sign civil union bills into law the federal government should be helping to usher in a time when there's full equality in terms of what that means for federal benefits.

Even the accomplishment of all four of those goals would not constitute a perfect embodiment of "liberty and justice for all," but it would a good start.

The other main issue is how Obama has been criticized--and rightly so--for the Donnie McClurkin issue. Despite my favorable opinion of Obama, based largely on his open letter to the LGBT community, homophobia from his religious supporters is still a sticking point. Michelangelo Signorile comments:

On McClurkin, an issue that I think kept him from talking to the gay press, he still pushes this idea that you have to "reach out" to people, which begs the question of why we don't accept reaching out to racists or other bigots.

Obama did indeed say that "my campaign is premised on trying to reach as many constituencies as possible," but every candidate has some threshold beyond which a supporter/donor/voter is no longer acceptable. Where that line is drawn can tell us a great deal about what kind of person the candidate is, and what values they cherish. McCain, who called Pat Robertson and his ilk "agents of intolerance" during the 2000 campaign and then sucked up to them this time, has failed this test.

Obama's status is still somewhat undetermined, although this interview did follow up on this point somewhat. Despite Obama's imperfections, Andrew Sullivan makes an important observation:

More pertinent: look at his age. The sooner this country's leadership shifts generations, the more equality gay and lesbian people will have.

This article (h/t: Jason Kottke) analyzes the well-known "Red-Shirt Phenomenon" of crew deaths in the original Star Trek series.

I was so overwhelmed by the geekiness involved that I immediately forwarded the link to Wil Wheaton...

I saw this RawStory scoop (from an advance copy of Cliff Schecter's upcoming book The Real McCain) a few times late yesterday, and today it's all over the blogosphere:

In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain's hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain's face reddened, and he responded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt."

The use of profanity in the abstract isn't a problem, but McCain's dropping the c-bomb on his wife (especially over something as trivial as thinning hair) raises the issue of his temperament. If he can't--at a bare minimum--be civil in discussion with his wife, what kind of treatment can the rest of us expect?

McCain later claimed that, "if I lose my capacity for anger, then I shouldn't be president of the United States," but I'm more concerned about too much rage in the Oval Office than too little. (There's also the minor matter of attacking the right target, with which the current administration has had several problems. Would a McCain administration do any better?)


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The question everyone asks about "Lost" (h/t: New York magazine):

I'm not sure whether this quote is more of an albatross (from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) or a millstone (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2), but it should be hung around McCain's neck until election day:

"no one has supported President Bush on Iraq more than I have." (Mike Gallagher's radio talk show, courtesy of ThinkProgress)

An ad like this would do the trick:



too soon?

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Charlton Heston has died, and LOLTheist is already asking for submissions. Here's mine:

get off my lawn!

John Yoo's infamous "torture memo" was declassified earlier this week (81 pages, 6MB PDF), and the blogosphere is still awash in commentary. (I apologize for taking so long to write this, but I wanted to read the full memo before commenting.) Marty Lederman at Balkinization hit early with this preliminary analysis directly linking Yoo's opinion to torture:

It's no longer very hard to figure out just why, all of a sudden, as soon as Miller arrived in Iraq, everyone there just suddenly and magically came to think the Geneva Conventions, UCMJ, federal assault and torture statutes, etc., simply no longer applied -- that Iraq was a law-free zone and that the gloves had come off. [...] This memo is the source of the Nile for the abuse that occurred in Iraq in 2003.

Kevin Drum echoes that thought at Washington Monthly, rhetorically wondering: "what justification was there for classifying it in the first place?"

It wouldn't have been moot in 2003, and there was nothing in it that compromised national security either then or now. The only thing it compromised was the president's desire not to have to defend his own policies -- policies that led directly to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, among others.

Yoo's footnote number 10 on page 8, referring to a still-classified memo from Yoo to Gonzalez, claimed a Fourth Amendment exception for domestic military actions:

For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn't apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism. [...] ''Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations,'' the footnote states, referring to a document titled ''Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States.''

The administration later disavowed that view, but the ACLU is suing for the release of the cited AUMF memo. The end of this administration's hyper-secretive lawlessness can't come soon enough. There are mentions of the infamous "unitary executive" theory, and the claim that "a criminal statute should not be construed to apply to the properly authorized acts of the military during armed conflict:"

...if those laws were construed to apply to the properly-authorized conduct of military personnel, the most essential tasks to the conduct of war would become subject to prosecution. A soldier who shot an enemy combatant n the battlefield could become liable under the criminal laws for assault or murder; a pilot who bombed a military target in a city could be prosecuted for murder or destruction of property; a sailor who detained a suspected terrorist on the high seas might be subject to prosecution for kidnapping. (p. 14)

In the five years since this memo was written, those overblown conservative fears are no closer to becoming reality. What has become real, however, is the end result of their disregard for the "quaint" Geneva Conventions and other laws of warfare and their overriding concern for "properly-authorized conduct:" ghost detainees; sexual abuse, torture, and murder in custody; extraordinary rendition; extralegal prisons; and military kangaroo courts. Despite this, the administration's discredited arguments continue to be taken seriously among their allies in the mainstream media. Glenn Greenwald makes an important point in his commentary on this memo:

The fact that John Yoo is a Professor of Law at Berkeley and is treated as a respectable, serious expert by our media institutions, reflects the complete destruction over the last eight years of whatever moral authority the United States possessed. Comporting with long-held stereotypes of two-bit tyrannies, we're now a country that literally exempts our highest political officials from the rule of law, and have decided that there should be no consequences when they commit serious felonies.

Yoo equivocates somewhat in this exclusive interview with Esquire's John Richardson, but fails to wash the bloodstains from his hands. In this Vanity Fair article by Philippe Sands--whose book Torture Team comes out in May--relates a conversation he had with Douglas "fucking stupidest guy on the face of the Earth" Feith:

I asked Feith, just to be clear: Didn't the administration's approach mean that Geneva's constraints on interrogation couldn't be invoked by anyone at Guantánamo? "Oh yes, sure," he shot back. Was that the intended result?, I asked. "Absolutely," he replied. I asked again: Under the Geneva Conventions, no one at Guantánamo was entitled to any protection? "That's the point," Feith reiterated. As he saw it, either you were a detainee to whom Geneva didn't apply or you were a detainee to whom Geneva applied but whose rights you couldn't invoke.

The fruit of Yoo's tortured logic is in the minds and bodies destroyed (and lives ended) by our mistreatment and abuse of detainees, as well as the damage done to the rule of law and the international reputation of the United States. I fear that removing Bush's blot on our national escutcheon will be the work of not years, but of decades.

Ironic Quote of the Day:

"The Bush understanding simply took an amorphous concept--excruciating and agonizing mental pain--and gave it a more concrete form." (John Yoo, p. 52)

Only 289 days and 13 hours left...

Yes, it's time for some more well-deserved Bush-bashing, courtesy of History News Network. Here is what they found:

In an informal survey of 109 professional historians conducted over a three-week period through the History News Network, 98.2 percent assessed the presidency of Mr. Bush to be a failure while 1.8 percent classified it as a success.

Asked to rank the presidency of George W. Bush in comparison to those of the other 41 American presidents, more than 61 percent of the historians concluded that the current presidency is the worst in the nation's history. [emphasis added]

Only 291 days and 2 hours left...

Grimes, Henry. More Call (private issue, 2003)

After reading the cover article on the remarkable comeback of Henry Grimes in the final issue of Double Bassist magazine, I visited Grimes' website and looked over his discography. The CD More Call was described as "an hour-long bass solo," and--loving the sonority of the double-bass as much as I do--I couldn't resist buying it from him. (I have much less resistance to a $15 CD when I know that the money goes to the artist rather than being siphoned off into the executive suites of some rapacious media conglomerate.)

Recorded at the end of a five-day stint at Columbia University's WKCR, More Call doesn't disappoint by any means; Grimes' solo session is a great listen. Although I prefer his pizzicato to his arco technique, I'm not sure whether it's an issue of idiomatic appropriateness or just personal taste. That aside, I heartily recommend More Call to all lovers of jazz acoustic bass playing. Grimes expresses the joy of music-making from scroll to endpin, and shares it with all of us.


even better...

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In the comments on this FriendlyAtheist post (mentioned previously), August Berkshire has suggested that "National God Day" be celebrated on February 30th.

It's a brilliant idea, to which I can only say: Bravo!

Friendly Atheist lamented the Christian "joke" that April Fools' Day is really "National Atheists' Day" because atheists are fools, courtesy of--where else?--their Bible:

"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." (Psalms 14:1)

The ideal response may be to point out this contradictory Bible passage:

"But whomsoever shall say 'Thou fool' shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matthew 5:22)

update (11:25am):
I left the same retort at Ray Comfort's blog to let him know that the joke is on him, and--to his credit--he published my comment. Whether he or his readers will have any substantive response remains to be seen.

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