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The Gross National Debt

Sunday, November 09, 2008

(Cross-posted at Raising Kaine)

Update [2008-11-9 17:1:19 by RenaRF]: A commenter objected to the connotation of "Shock & Awe" in the title. But frankly, I couldn't think of a better title to characterize what went on here in VA. Thankfully, BobzCat gave me the perfect title: "Barack & Awe*. Diary titled edited with grateful attribution. :)

I've been planning a diary about what happened in Virginia for the last week. Finally, I have time to sit down and share my stories as well as some interesting analysis.

What happened in Virginia was an electoral version of shock and awe. It was nothing short of spectacular - and I was fortunate enough to witness it and participate in it on the ground for Barack Obama.

More over the fold.

First, many here know that I was very involved on the ground for Webb's Senate victory in 2006, along with other Kossacks. We wrote about it extensively - begged for money, begged for remote phone-bankers, and begged for local ground-level volunteers. We got all of that. This community absolutely responded and was an integral part of Webb's win over the disgusting George Allen, Jr. What people may have forgotten, however, is how very NARROW the margin of victory was for Jim Webb. He won by 0.39%. That's less than one half of one percent. It was close - too close.

So this cycle, building on the idea that nothing motivates quite like success (which we experienced in 2006), many of us got started early for Barack Obama. There were several phases of the ground game and canvass effort here in Virginia, and we were greatly helped by the existence of 50 or more offices across the state. The first two phases started during the primaries and picked up on June when it was clear that Obama would win the Democratic nomination. These were voter identification, where you knock on the doors of voters who affiliation you can't identify in an effort to fully identify lean and strong Obama voters, and voter registration, where you manned tables and/or knocked doors in Democratic areas to ensure registration of your voters. Sometimes, these two activities were done in a single canvass. Sometimes they were functionally separate. The voter ID and registration phases ended in the first week of October, and left the final month of the campaign for concerted get-out-the-vote efforts.

Every weekend that I was in town, I showed up to canvass. I chose, primarily, the Arlington and Alexandria areas, but I was also sent to Loudoun and down to Prince William. So be it. But let me fast-forward and talk specifically about the final, intense push from Saturday November 1 through the final voting on Tuesday November 4.

First - and people don't realize this - from July to poll closing on election day, every Northern Virginia office - in the city, suburbs, and exurbs - was packed. Those of us who had been at the canvass for a while knew that if we were to actually secure a canvass packet, we had to show up fully an hour before the canvass was scheduled to start and lay claim to a packet on the basis of hyper-punctuality. So complete was the volunteer saturation that they literally ran out of walk lists for the number of people who showed up. I saw this consistently throughout the offices where I worked.

Saturday and Sunday were no different. On Saturday, I did a North Arlington canvass and then went out and did a McLean canvass. Now - North Arlington is notoriously Democratic and deep blue regardless of the relative income level of the neighborhood. The canvass was primarily get-out-the-vote, but there was some holdover identification where previous efforts simply hadn't yielded a result. The voters who I spoke to in North Arlington were almost exclusively Obama voters and were vocally committed to waiting as long as it would take to vote on election day. The McLean canvass was weirder. I was in a high high dollar neighborhood. I'd say the homes in this particular area were in the neighborhood of $2M-$3M. So large were these lots that I literally had to drive to each house on the list. I didn't get a lot of people home - only four of the houses on my list had someone who answered the door. One voter - a 27 year old man - was definitely voting for McCain. That's not unusual in this particular area of Fairfax County. I chalked it up to money trying to protect money (sad but true). BUT - the other three houses not only contained families of Obama voters - they were families who had also voted early in-person absentee and went solidly for the entire Democratic ticket.

It was after that McLean canvass that I started to get super excited. Sunday saw me doing Alexandria. I particularly loved this canvass because I was able to take along a first-time volunteer who wanted to tag along with someone who knew how to canvass. Our first neighborhood was in Alexandria around the Masonic Temple (if you're familiar with the area, the masonic Temple is a well-known landmark). On our way over, I had a chance to speak with my new volunteer, Nico. Nico isn't a US citizen. He's here on a work visa finishing an advanced degree in astro-physics. I asked him why he felt the need to volunteer. His answer (which I'll paraphrase) was really interesting.

NICO: "I didn't have a strong opinion until the Republican Convention. When I watched McCain, I thought, 'this guy is crazy'. He scared me. What America does affects the rest of the world. In France, if we go along with whatever America has decided to do, we send people to war. And if we don't go along with it, we deal with the scorn of America. I figured I should do what I could to help Obama because I believe that he'll be good for the rest of the world."

Amen. About three doors into our canvass, after getting positive results, Nico was on fire. He was totally all about knocking on doors and talking to voters. It was really, really excellent. When we got back to the organizing location to fill in our tally sheet and turn in our packet, Nico pulled me aside and said, "We're doing another one, yes?". Yes. Ha. :) So off we went to the Del Rey area of Alexandria to get out that vote.

Monday was, without exception, one of the most awesome mobilizations I have ever seen. The goal was simple: place a door hanger on every single door across the state of Virginia where we had identified a lean or strong Obama voter. The door hangers gave the date of the election, provided some basic voting rights information, provided a number to call if the voter needed a ride or had other questions, and were stamped with the voter's specific polling location. Four shifts were scheduled to get it done. By the end of the second shift, every single door hanger had been distributed in Northern Virginia. Every. Single. One. The volunteer turnout was so massive that it was just done.


I wrote a diary earlier in the week about an "emergency" canvass we did late Monday - I won't go into the details here as you can read about it if you desire - but it made the day feel completely worthwhile and made the excitement build that much more.

I got up at 5:30 on election day. I brushed my teeth, threw on sweats, and rolled out to my polling location for the 6am open. It took me until almost 7am to actually cast my vote. I have NEVER seen the number of people I saw in line to vote in my 12 years of voting at this particular location. So although I was tired (Monday had been a late night - I went to a rally in Alexandria where they had a Jumbotron for us to watch Obama's Manassas rally), seeing the lines let me know that the final get-out-the-vote effort was critical.

I headed to Arlington. They were overwhelmed with volunteers. They asked if I would travel, and I told them I would (of course). They sent me to Dale City, in Prince William County. From there, they sent me out to canvass a predominantly Democratic area of medium-to-low income voters who don't always turn out. I did both a Pass 1 and Pass 2 canvass. A LOT of people were home. And of those people, about 75% had already voted and had voted for Obama. I could feel this victory.

After the canvass, I went quickly home - I phonebanked to other parts of Virginia via the web site, then changed my clothes and headed to the McLean Hilton, where Warner's victory party was to be held. It was actually a nail-biter, because Virginia didn't get called for Obama until about 11pm EST. When you looked at the results, McCain looked to be wildly ahead. I had my laptop and wireless card on me, so I pulled up the Virginia results site and saw that virtually NONE of the Democratic counties and cities had reported. I felt better, but we were all totally on edge. When Virginia fell, the whole election fell shortly thereafter.


So here's what's interesting about Virginia's numbers.

First, let's look at counties and cities that were won by Kerry in 2004 and also won by Obama in 2008 (2008 VA Presidential results can be found here. 2004 Presidential results can be found here - just use the drop-down box to select a particular city or county):

Look at how dramatically Obama improved over Kerry's numbers and how it came totally at the expense of John McCain. A M A Z I N G.

But here's one that's even more amazing. I pared down my list to those counties/cities that McCain picked up over 2004 vs. those Obama picked up over 2004. LOOK at this (Sorry - I intended to edit out Arlington in the second chart and now that it's a JPG, I can't remove it):

Obama picked up NINETEEN counties and cities over Kerry in 2004. NINETEEN. There were only EIGHT cities or counties - two of which are above - where Obama lost ground compared to Kerry's 2004 margin, win or lose. So what I'm saying is - even where Obama lost in a particular city or county, he did so by gaining over Kerry's 2004 performance at the expense of John McCain.

Obama won Virginia, at the end of the day, by 6.25% (link). Kerry lost Virginia to Bush by 8.2% (link). That's a 14.45% swing in four years.

The shock and awe, of course, started with the candidate himself. But really - credit is due to the impressive nature of the organization in Virginia and the selfless, repeated efforts by thousands of volunteers who showed up again and again.

Personal closing note: I really had intended to write this diary on Wednesday. Unfortunately, at 10:30am on Wednesday, I found out that I am likely to be laid off next week. My whole group is being dissolved. So, if you can spare some good thoughts, karma, prayers, whatever - I'd surely appreciate it!

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You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:48 PM 616 comments
Saturday, February 02, 2008

This speaks for itself.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:33 PM 113 comments
Friday, November 23, 2007

(Originally posted at Daily Kos.)

Humpback Swimming Underwater - Image © Greenpeace

(Some images are used with permission of Greenpeace - many thanks to Rick Gentry for his gracious response to my request. Those images bear the Greenpeace copyright in accordance with their terms. Other images are taken from Wikipedia Commons, a freely licensed media repository.)

I have to say - I was very lucky growing up in that I got to travel to a lot of wonderful places and do things that many people don't do in their lifetimes.

One of the most indelible and wonderful memories I have was a trip my family and I took to Hawaii when I was about 14 or 15 years old. We went in February, and the highlight of the trip was a charter excursion we took to "swim" with the humpback whales.

Much, much more after the fold.My Humpback Whale Story

My mother was in high-tech sales - I've mentioned that in other diaries on other subjects in the past. She was very successful. One thing that any professional salesperson reading this knows is that successful salespeople and sales managers who meet or exceed their revenue quotas typically receive what is referred to as a "Club Trip". Essentially, the top and over-quota performers and their spouses are treated to a trip somewhere beautiful and warm at the expense of the company to thank them for their success and to bring them all together in mutual celebration.

One year the trip was to Maui in Hawaii. I don't know if it was because my parents didn't want to leave me alone (well-founded concerns on that front!) or that they really wanted to provide me the experience - I suspect it was a little of both - but they paid the extra airfare and room charges to ensure that I was included. That was how I came to go to Hawaii and to be included on this wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience of whale watching.

Breaching Humpback Whale

February is the perfect time to be in the South Pacific if you want even a chance of seeing the humpback whale. We rose early on that day and donned our bathing suits and headed for the boat. Once on board, we were told that we would be sailing for quite some time to get us in the proximity of the whale migration channels. We went really far out into the ocean. I remember feeling some measure of trepidation because by the time we got to where we would drop anchor and wait, we couldn't see land. At all. We were a speck on the vastness of the Pacific, bobbing gently in the swells on a near-perfect Hawaiian day.

The plan was to don our snorkel gear and fling ourselves into the ocean. We were given parameters - how far we could go, how to ensure we utilized the buddy system (which was mandatory), etc. I remember to this day some 25 years later feeling breathlessly nervous at the moment just before I eased myself into the water. While the South Pacific's waters are crystal clear, we were so far out and in such deep water that the ocean bottom was fathomless. As I slid into the water and felt the ocean close around me, I swam away from the boat towards the whale lanes the crew had indicated were our best opportunity for spotting the humpback. I stayed near to my parents, of course, but there was an overwhelming sense of smallness that surrounded me as the boat became smaller as our distance from it increased.

Breaching Humpback Whale

We were out there, paddling around with our fins and snorkel gear, looking down into the water and out towards where we hoped we would spot a whale. It seemed as though an eon had passed as we furtively scanned the underwater landscape. The charter company made no assertion that we would absolutely see a whale - only that they would put us in proximity should whales be present on that day and at that time. Honestly, I think we had given up the idea that we were going to see a whale when, behind us, we heard people calling excitedly. We turned and used our fins to propel us to the spot. By looking slightly downward and out across the underwater horizon, we saw it: a mother humpback with her calf. Make no mistake - we were at some distance - the deal was not that you swam up to a humpback whale and fed it or pet it or anything - but even away from the whale you could see its sheer size. I already felt small, and seeing this giant creature made me feel even smaller. Yet there was no sense of vulnerability on my part. I can't describe it. Looking at that mother and her calf, I felt two things at once: the first was an overwhelming sense of peace, and the second was a connection to the fact that I was in the presence of intelligence.

She tolerated our presence - patiently. We stayed as long as we possible could until she and her calf swam off. There was a vague sense of emptiness upon her departure, but also a keen sense of satisfaction and connectedness - to her, to the ocean, to the earth. To everything.

Once we were back on the boat, removing our snorkel gear and getting ready to head back, the crew again verbally alerted us to something going on off the bow of the boat. We all moved forward and looked out to the ocean horizon. We were treated to a humpback - maybe the same one, maybe not - "breaching". It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Japan is breaking a moratorium on hunting the Humpback for the first time since 1963.

From an article in Time magazine:

Under a loophole in the 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban against commercial whaling, Japan has continued to kill hundreds of whales every year for scientific research. Once a whale is killed, scientists collect data from the animal's remains on its age, birthing rate and diet; the meat is then packaged and sold. Japan maintains that the research is essential for managing the whale population. "Minke or humpback, we see whales as a marine resource," says Moronuki [Ed. note - Moronuki is a spokesman for the Japan Fisheries Agency. The fact that "moron" is in his name seems quite fitting.]. Still, most observers have long been skeptical of any benefits from the project. "I haven't met one person, pro-whalers or not, outside of the Fisheries Agency payroll who believe that these researches are useful," says Greenpeace Australia Pacific's CEO Steve Shallhorn. Tensions have been heating up in recent hunts. In February, a member of Japan's whaling fleet was killed in a ship fire following a series of confrontations with vessels from Sea Shepherd. Both Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd say that they are prepared to "chase, block, and harass" any attempts by the whaling fleet to harpoon humpbacks.

You don't have to have been fortunate enough to have seen an actual humpback whale in the wild to appreciate the beauty and intelligence of this creature. Killing them for any purpose is barbaric and it MUST be stopped.

What YOU Can Do.

Greenpeace Takes Action: Sign reads "Bush, Fukuda - End Whaling" - Image © Greenpeace

- Use Greenpeace's site to contact your elected officials. Greenpeace really has this down. If you follow the link, you can input your zip code, provide your contact information, and then either use the letter they provide or edit it to include your personal comments and thoughts. Click "send" and it's away, no harm no fuss.

- Send an eCard to your friends and family. Let them know about the renewed Japanese whaling and ask for their help in ending it.

- Create your own Greenpeace fundraising page. This is a simple 2-step process where you provide your information, customize your page (if desired), and launch it. Send your fundraising link to people in your address book and help raise awareness and money to save the whales.

The Great Whale Trail - Image © Greenpeace

- Make a simple donation to Greenpeace. Greenpeace is actively working to stop the Japanese whale hunts. In many cases, Greenpeace vessels and crew physically put themselves and their vessels in the path of the whaling ships and save whales literally one at a time. Won't you help them do this critical work?

I have created a personal fundraising page to help save the whales from Japanese whaling efforts. I would love, if you decide to make a donation, if you did so through my page.

PLEASE help save these beautiful and intelligent creatures from the caprice of mankind. Any combination of the above suggested actions will go a long way towards helping to end the slaughter. I thank you for your time.

Image © Greenpeace

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You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 12:47 PM 56 comments
Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it. I can't explain it - but it connects to me. Enjoy.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 5:49 PM 11 comments
Sunday, November 04, 2007

(Cross-posted from Daily Kos)

I'm serious. Before I get into it, let me say - if you don't know me (I've had almost zero time to write the past six months), I'll introduce myself. I'm RenaRF, and I first came to Daily Kos immediately following the 2004 Presidential election. If you're doing the math, that means I've been here in varying active capacities for three years. I would like to think that I would not be categorized as a Markos fawner. I don't crawl up his ass, and I frankly don't agree with him on a variety of different things.

Last night Markos was a panelist on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. I watched the whole show, and I'm telling you - every member of this community should give him a round of applause. More after the click.

Bear with me and my thought process for a bit. If you follow this Archive.org link, you'll see what Daily Kos looked like in August of 2002. Note particularly that of the 12 entries on what was then the "front page" of Daily Kos, the most comments any one post received was three. Three! Anyone can visit Daily Kos' "About" page to learn how and why it came into being. This excerpt sums it up pretty nicely:

Markos Moulitsas -- a.k.a. "kos" -- created Daily Kos on May 26, 2002, in those dark days when an oppressive and war-crazed administration suppressed all dissent as unpatriotic and treasonous. As a veteran, Moulitsas was offended that the freedoms he pledged his life for were so carelessly being tossed aside by the reckless and destructive Republican administration.

Now fast-forward 5 years and a handful of months and Markos is a panelist on Bill Maher's HBO show. What started as a personal outlet has grown to a bonafide movement that inches forward in influence with every single post and comment.

Last night's Maher show was rife with people I would consider luminaries. Maher's lead-off, post-monologue interview was with Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson. His mid-panel via satellite interview was with Jeremy Scahill, investigative journalist and author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. His panelists were Markos, Alison Stewart (host of NPR's Bryant Park Project and frequent guest host of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann), and comedian Martin Short. I think my only wish would have been that one of the more odious Republicans would have been on the panel - THAT would have been extra-fun - but all-in-all, this was quite a lineup and Markos had a key seat at the table.

In case you're wondering, Markos has been on Real Time before. It was on August 25, 2006 (Mr Met wrote a brief diary with many comments about it), and Markos was an interviewed guest as opposed to a panelist (the wonderful Al Rodgers kindly posted the video of Markos' appearance in this comment). I thought he did well in that appearance. But being chosen as a panelist is, to my mind, a far greater honor than simply being interviewed.

So let me turn to last night's show with some selected parts that I have transcribed from my DVR.

Topic #1 - Hillary Clinton, MSM CW, Debate Talk

Now - In the diary comments last night I saw a lot of outrage about whether or not, specifically, Maher and Markos were "carrying water" for Hillary Clinton. I don't believe they were. The central point that Maher made was simply that the media has turned on Hillary Clinton presumably as a result of the latest debate and that he (Maher) didn't think her performance was "that awful". That's hardly tantamount to "carrying water" for her. Here's a bit of the discussion:

MARKOS: I know [referring to stumbling in the debate]. There's a couple of things. One is that, clearly she didn't do as bad as people say she did. But, she did poorer than before. She was a machine the first few debates. She was perfect. So now she's a little less perfect...

STEWART: She let them see her sweat. That was the for the first time you've seen Hillary Clinton actually sweat a little bit. Especially in the last two minutes, and also in the middle. She really raised her voice. She'd gotten really good about modulating her voice - remember when she used to give her speeches and then she was like [raises voice], "I will tell you exactly what I think" - And so she clearly... [unintelligible] ...and then it came down and then through the debate [raises voice] she started talking to you like this again. And by the end, I was in first grade again.

MARKOS: But clearly it's nowhere near as bad, and I think the media wants a horse race at this point. They spent a year [crosstalk], they spent - what - the last two years...

MAHER: They have to change the story. It was getting boring.

MARKOS: It really was getting boring.

So all you water-carrying criers - come on. The essential point of this exchange was a knock on the MEDIA - NOT a pimping of Hillary Clinton.

Topic #2 - Immigration

I found this highly interesting, Markos notwithstanding (e.g., it was Maher's comments that caught my attention the most):

MAHER: ...but it's really part of the bigger issue, which is immigration. The Republicans have once again been able to creat a boogeyman out of complete cloth. It's astounding the way they're able to do this. They did it with Iraq. Nothing had changed with Iraq - when we went to war with Iraq - nothing. It was still Saddam Hussein with that corrupt regime. Ok - now they did it with immigration, and I read a poll this week that said independents - who the Democrat[s] need to get elected - for them, the #1 issue in this country is our broken borders. They've been listening to Lou Dobbs. And the Democrats could lose on this issue - this completely non-issue, because once again, nothing changed. Yes, there's 12 million immigrants doing jobs in this country.

MARKOS: I think that poll's completely bunk. Every - I mean, I swim in polls. It's my job. And every poll I've seen shows that independents and Democrats are almost eerily aligned on the issue. The poll actually asks for "unprotected borders". Who the hell is for unprotected borders? Nobody is. I mean...

This was where everyone jumped in and Markos got more or less drowned out. His point, and I thought it was a good one, was that the polls are skewed because of the nature of the question asked. Very few people will answer "yes" if asked if they support unprotected borders. The larger issue, for me, was the idea that immigration, while clearly something the US needs to address from a broad policy perspective, is not the issue Republicans are making it out to be. I hadn't considered that we're essentially being set up. Again. But I digress.

Topic #3 - General Stupidity of the Electorate, Mike Huckabee

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this exchange. Bear with me. Markos wrapped it expertly.

MAHER: Listen. Mike Huckabee, the Republican candidate says the reason we have to import so many illegals in our workforce - he said it might be that for the last 35 years we have aborted more than a million people. Hm. You see, there's your connection. Those people we aborted would have all been fruit pickers.

SHORT: It's a lovely thought. He's quite the thinker.


MAHER: He's [Huckabee] lost the weight. He's also the one who doesn't believe in evolution...

MARKOS: This is perfect, though. Here's a guy who's really obsessed with abortion - you know, trying to tie it in to the border issue which is red meat for his base - but once these kids are born, they don't care. They don't give a damn. And so they veto healthcare for children but, before they're born, they care so much.

STEWART: But this shouldn't be a shocker about Mike Huckabee. He's so affable...

MAHER: I'm not saying this to attack Mike Huckabee, and he is a nice guy. What I'm saying is that it could work on the stupidity in this country. That's what worries me - is people actually hear that and go "Oh there you go. That's the problem. Our fruit would get picked if we hadn't aborted those people. Makes sense to me because I live in idiocracy."

SHORT: But that has worked. If we fight them... if we fight them over there we won't have to fight them here. That worked.

MARKOS: 24% still approve of George Bush. So you've got a quarter of the public that's going to be pretty stupid no matter what we do.

Hah. Perfect.

Topic #4 - Why Democrats Can't/Don't use Statewide Wedge Issues As Republicans Do

this was interesting because this was where Markos nailed Maher (rightfully). Relevant parts below:

MAHER: So why can't the Democrats do what the Republicans do - which is get on the ballot in states - initiatives that get their people out to vote. In 2004, famously, gay marriage got their crowd out there and while they were in the voting booth, of course they voted for George Bush. Why can't the Democrats figure out that same strategy. You know. Like here in blue state crazy California - I mean, if we had a - something on the ballot that said you get free ecstasy and that the government would pay for it and send it in your mailbox, I mean, people would come out and vote for that.


MAHER: Even - what about a draft. You know, that would get young people - I mean the young people are all for the Democrats but they don't show up because they're asleep in a ditch on voting day.

MARKOS: You know, to be fair, last election cycle the youth vote actually came out in record numbers. And we've seen that for the last two cycles. They're getting to the point where they're actually matching the general population in voting trends. The draft wouldn't work. The draft is a Federal issue - it's not a state issue...

MAHER: No, you could draft for the state National Guard.

MARKOS: It's actually still a Federal issue. So but what you have is - you have Democrats that are doing minimum wage...

MAHER: [squinting and shaking his head at Markos] He's shooting down my premise. Mr. Reader [makes finger quotes].

MARKOS: We're not going to need ballot initatives to win this next election. If we can't point to what Republicans have done to this country in eight years and win, then we don't deserve to win this election.


STEWART: I mean, what could be a wedge issue [this directed to Markos]. This is your world, you swim in polls...

MARKOS: I mean, right now, healthcare for children apparently a wedge issue. I mean, I can't believe it that they would veto this, but apparently, taking care of children is a wedge issue. Now you have the Republicans, their philosophy is, government doesn't work. So how can you possibly have a government that works if you're a Republican, because you would invalidate your own ideology. That's why Bush puts people like horse lawyers in charge of FEMA. Because you can't possibly work or...

MAHER: [laughing] Horse lawyers. That was a lawyer for a horse, wasn't it.


There was then general discussion about the media, how they handle the debates, and how it affects frontrunners and challengers. It was an interesting discussion, but there wasn't really anything I wanted to highlight from this segment. From there Maher went into his usual mid-panel schtick (this week it was Rummy's "snowflake memos", both real and manufactured) and his interview with Jeremy Scahill. Then it was back to the panel.

Topic #5 - Iraq. Lower death numbers. The surge.

Let me point out - Maher, to me, played devil's advocate for this part of the panel discussion, as he sometimes does. He set the stage by giving the latest numbers that are being touted about the two months worth of lower US troop deaths.

MAHER. Look - I'm just going to be Fox News here for a second because I've got a panel of liberals. So what I saw all on the news this week is that things in Iraq are turning around. Fallujah, apparently, is a paradise. It's more secure than my own studio. Less than half the attacks than there were a year ago now. Iraqi deaths are down by two-thirds. Lowest US death count in over a year, only 29 this month - I mean it's 29, it's horrible, but by comparison - maybe - this thing is burning itself out. Is it possible that something good could now be coming out of Iraq?

MARKOS: Well actually this month - I mean this year so far is going to far outpace any year before it in the number of Iraqi deaths, in the number of American deaths. So...

MAHER: I'm talking about the last few months.


MARKOS: [Regarding Fallujah] That was an ABC news report and two years ago, ABC News filed that exact same report. We've heard "mission accomplished" too many times.

STEWART: The Washington Post also reported on it.

MARKOS: Yeah. It's - there is - when you flood the zone...

MAHER: You're not rooting against victory, are you?

MARKOS: Of course not. When you flood a zone with troops you're going to get...

MAHER: More important...

MARKOS: Fallujah's been ethnically cleansed. You don't have the sectarian violence there that you used to have when actual people of different colors and different religions used to live there. And you have a case of whack-a-mole - you put troops in Fallujah, they all run somewhere else. They're all sitting back because we can't sustain this. Now when we went into the surge, the reason we did the surge wasn't to pacify Fallujah. It was for the Iraqi government to create space for reconciliation and the passage of this oil law and sort of the factions in the Iraqi government coming together and finding a solution for their country. That hasn't happened.

STEWART: Two things - I want to follow-up on something that you said [indicating Markos] and follow something you said [indicating Maher]. I've been a journalist for 16 years so...

SHORT: Anything I said? [laughter] [Short snuggles and kisses up to her with some crosstalk]

STEWART: Just to correct that you're talking to three liberals here, I'm a journalist and I try to be objective about things - hi boss -

MAHER: I do. That's why I'm asking the question.

STEWART: But just to follow up on the point you mentioned [turned towards Markos] - I think it's an interesting one and an important one when you talk about the idea of - if you're talking about the surge - and you say, ok, yes it did work, what happens when there's no more surge. And that means, is everybody going to stay. So we have to stay to make it continue to work. And are we preapred for that.

What I found interesting about this exchange was that Stewart turned her entire focus and attention to Markos. She did that numerous times throughout Maher's show. Short did as well.

Topic #6 - Iraq. Cost of the war. Post-9/11 Panic

MAHER: But even if it was a giant victory tomorrow, I read in the paper this week, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost in 10 years 2.4 trillion dollars. Which is on top of $100 billion dollars a year, so far, that we're spending on homeland security.


MAHER: It seems to me that we panicked after 9/11. I mean, it was a bad thing 9/11. No one denies that. We should have had a response. It should have cost You know, we're again down this torture path because we're trying to...


There are those who have said that the plan of the terrorists - they know they can't actually bring America down - but by scaring us with that attack, they could get us to bring ourselves down. We would get into this endless economic debacle and bleed ourselves dry. And it does seem like that is happening.

MARKOS: Man, I wish you would have said something about this after 9/11.

[Note: above said with complete sarcasm]

MAHER: [laughing] I get what you'e saying.

MARKOS: That's a perfect example of that panic! You couldn't even say what you said without repercussions. That's the reason people like me exist in this media and landscape now. People like bloggers - because nobody else could say the things that a lot of people are thinking. And logic led them to say that. And so I started my little site at the time because nobody else was saying that and it grew because people said "Finally somebody's saying this" and they can't fire me.

H/T Daily Kos. Just one additional excerpt from this segment and I'll wrap, continuing where I left off:

MAHER: So why can't you get your liberal troops to stand up and put the pressure on - for example - the Democratic Congress which today, again, caved in on this Mukasey guy.

[My note: Generally I love Maher, but that above shows that he doesn't read Daily Kos at all - the "troops" were doing everything they could]

MAHER: ...He's the guy that George Bush is trying to ge tto be the new Attorney General, and he will not say whether waterboarding is torture. And trust me - I've been waterboarded - it's torture.

SHORT: George Bush had threatened not to have an Attorney General. And how detrimental would it be [addressing Markos] for the country not to have an Attorney General.

MARKOS: Nothing. It'd be nothing.

STEWART: You think nothing?

MARKOS: We have an acting Attorney General.

STEWART: You think with that many people that are in temporary appointee positions...

MARKOS: Sure - why not? It can't be anything worse than...

STEWART: It could be a lot worse.

MARKOS: In what way?

STEWART: ...If you think about the differences between the kinds of Attorney Generals we've had, then you have someone who's an interim who is - who is somebody the President clearly thinks he's comfortable with - wouldn't you rather have somebody that the Congress has - at least that goes through Committee and goes through a vote? Rather than this temporary person who's in there?

MARKOS: ...To have somebody else that Bush is comfortable with. You know...

STEWART: But at least there's other people weighing in on it.

MARKOS: But they don't have a voice. They cave.

I thought Markos did really well in that segment. I understood his point - what the difference? Whether the person is a nominee or an interim, clearly s/he is somebody Bush is "comfortable with". And if the Democratic Congress caves, it doesn't matter a whit. It wasn't a contest, necessarily, between Markos and Stewart - but she and her 16 years of journalistic experience (and I like her) didn't win that point against Markos and his 5-year old blog.

Whew! That was a LOT of transcription - about two hours worth for that small amount. With that, I've highlighted what stood out for me. So...

In Conclusion

Listen. Markos it but one of a host of notable, intelligent, prominent figures in the Netroots and what I consider the "new" media. As I was driving home from the store today, thinking about this diary, it occurred to me that much of the RoA (Rest of America) still considers blogging an uber-geeky, basement-of-the-science-building, outlier and slightly weird thing to do. But then it occurred to me - 15 years ago that's what people thought about email. 10 years ago (roughly), that's what they thought about going online.

I think that Markos' appearance last night went a long way towards legitimizing, to the RoA, what we already know to be legitimate: that we are ALL a part of the "new" media and that we continue to help to shape what we hope will be "new" politics in America. I feel like Markos, on that show, helped the entire Netroots take a step forward in perception and legitimacy.

And for that, he certainly has MY applause. Are you standing up yet?

Update [2007-11-3 15:30:30 by RenaRF]: Miss Laura links to a video clip in today's Midday Open Thread.

Update [2007-11-3 15:43:42 by RenaRF]: VelvetElvis has posted a comment with a link to the Maher show's Torrent. If you're a torrent type, you can get it there. If you're not, you can Google Bittorrent and download stuff to be able to access it.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 12:49 PM 14 comments
Tuesday, October 16, 2007

(Cross-posted from Daily Kos)

CNN ran a "Developing" news story on the growing situation between the United States and ally Turkey. It appears that the US military has officially warned its own military officers and troops to plan for alternate routes that do not include the air base at Incirlik, Turkey.

Transcript and a little bit of my own two cents below the fold.

This is a live transcription from Barbara Starr's Pentagon reporting:

B. STARR: Well, Don, at this hour, in fact, a top General here in the Pentagon is meeting with reporters in the briefing room, taking questions about the latest developments in Turkey.  Lt. General Carter Ham, the Director of Operations on the Joint staff - struggling to explain a bit about how involved or not involved the US military plans to get in this situation, especially in that border region where Kurdish PKK rebels launching out of Northern Iraq are attacking into Turkey and Turkey is becoming extremely concerned, returning artillery shell fire back across the border.  The US military is simply trying to stay out of the way.

Look - if that situation wasn't enough, we have the second situation in Turkey - this business of a Congressional resolution declaring as genocide the killing of Armenians by Turks during WWI.  As a result of that problem, the Turks are threatening to cut off access to the critical airbase at Incirlik, Turkey.  What is the latest there today?  Well, the US military has very quietly confirmed they have issued a warning order to troops - to US troops - to be prepared to look at alternative air routes into Iraq without having to go into Turkey.  About 70%, Don, of US military cargo into Iraq goes through Turkey or Turkish airspace.  If Incirlik is cut off, the US has to be ready with other options.

And now indeed, a warning order has gone out to be so-called "prepared to execute other options".  We're talking about looking for aircraft, fuel, cruise lines, air supply routes out of Europe.  It will be much more expensive and much more time intensive for the war.

I have to say - I really think that the resolution against Turkey at this time was really, really stupid.  I agree with Philip Geraldi at HuffPo:

From the Turkish point of view, the United States is completely hypocritical. The United States became a great power through its genocide of the red Indians and is hardly in a good position to point the finger at others. It currently is fighting a self-declared and self-defined global war on terrorism in which it claims the right to attack terrorists anytime and anywhere.


Embroiled in Iraq without any easy way out and heavily dependent on the supply line passing through southern Turkey, Washington has much more to lose than to gain by turning Ankara into an enemy.

It's the passage I bolded from my live transcription of Barbara Starr's reporting on CNN and the one from HuffPo that bothers me the most, though.  The White House is on record loudly decrying the resolution in advance of its passage.  In that respect, Pelosi et al have given Bush cover.  More dangerously, however, is the idea that IF Ankara severs ties with the US and doesn't allow us to fly over Turkey's airspace nor use Insurlic air base, Bush can credibly blame the Democratic Congress for cost increases and time increases.  And while Turkey should rightly have considered the Bush Administration and the former Republican Congress hypocritical, they had no reason to think so of the new Democratic Congress - that is, until they gave them a gold-plated reason.

Yes - I KNOW that that's ridiculous in light of how badly GWB and his entire Administration has bungled Iraq - but think about it - at a bare minimum, it gives him some measure of political cover or at least a bonafide distraction from legitimate criticism aimed in his direction.

In my opinion, this whole thing was stupid and totally avoidable.  What were they thinking??

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 12:51 PM 6 comments
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ok. I realize that many serious writers on Daily Kos are writing about many serious things. Democrats and the 2008 elections, the Iraq War, the Libby trial, etc. and so forth. And I read those diaries and invariably learn something from those diaries. So much so, in fact, that I don't really even try to write about those subjects given that I have no particular expertise, only opinion, and that is best relegated to comments and not to my writings.

What I write about is largely observational. I see or do something that strikes me of particular interest and I write it up. Yesterday, feeling pretty lazy, I was looking for something to watch, and utilized my digital cable's "On-Demand" feature. As I poked around with what HBO had to offer on-demand, I landed on Alexandra Pelosi's Friends of God, a documentary about the present-day evangelical Christian movement. Believe me - there's plenty in this documentary to write about. But I'm going to focus on one specific area: Answers in Genesis (AiG).


Picture an auditorium full of cute, bright-faced, wide-eyed children ranging in age from about four to twelve. They are watching whatever is going on the stage with rapt attention. I mean, they are riveted. Here's what they're listening to:

INSTRUCTOR: Well boys and girls - put your hand up if you've heard of the word "evolution".

[Cut to cute scrubbed kids holding up their hands]

INSTRUCTOR: Oh boy. I think just about everyone had their hands up. Hands down. Put your hands up if you've heard that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.

[Another cut - cute scrubbed kids holding up their hands]

INSTRUCTOR: Dear oh dear. Hands down. Put your hands up if you've heard that people came from ape-like creatures or something like that.

[Yet another shot of scrubbed kids holding up their hands]

INSTRUCTOR: You know, I think just about everybody in the world has heard those things. And I want to tell you right from the start here that I don't believe that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. And I certainly don't believe that you came from ape-like creatures or any thing like that. I mean, did you grandfather look like this?

[Cut to picture of big screen of an ape-like creature with human features under which is written in big letters, GRANDFATHER? Children laugh wildly]

INSTRUCTOR: I don't think so. Did your grandmother look like that?

[Cut to picture now of same ape-like creature with more feminine eyes, wearing rouge and lipstick under which is written, GRANDMOTHER? Children laugh wildly]

INSTRUCTOR: No. Not at all. Boys and girls, I don't believe you come from ape-like creatures and I don't believe that millions of years (sic). I believe that what the Bible says is true. That God created the world, he created everything in six days, just a few thousand years ago. We don't believe in evolution. Evolution is the idea that some people have to explain life without God! No, I believe what the Bible says, actually, that God created everything and we're going to talk about that.

[Children now paying wide-eyed attention]

Aha!! So that explains this guy's irrational departure from all things scientific - evolution is (GASP) a way to explain things WITHOUT GOD!! It's an attack, I tell you - an assault on Christianity!! The INSTRUCTOR is Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis (AiG). Pelosi's documentary lets us first know in a caption at the bottom of the screen that Ham speaks to 10s of thousands of children each year. A later caption also informs us that nearly 54 million people over the age of 18 do not believe in evolution. After Ham's portion of this is over, we cut to a pretty adult woman lamenting that "most people think Christians are ignorant". She then goes on to explain how the Bible and Noah's Ark just makes more sense, and that it's easier to explain to her children. So was the stork - just sayin'.

Then we get to Buddy Davis, who runs an AiG Workshop. He's an outdoorsy looking guy, with a bad Indiana Jones had and trim salt-and-pepper beard. He wears a guitar on a strap around his neck as he holds a microphone:

DAVIS: Boys and girls, I believe that the Bible is the history book of the Universe. What do I think - that the Bible is what?

CHILDREN: The history book of the Universe.

DAVIS: The Bible's the history book of the Universe. If you believe that man and dinosaurs did live together like it says in Genesis, then how come you can't find the word "dinosaur" in the Bible? Hey, if I look in the Bible, can I find the word "jet airplane"? [editor's note, by RenaRF] two words, but hey - accuracy is clearly a guidepost and not a rule with these guys.


DAVIS: No. It's a brand new word. Can I look in the Bible boys and girls, and can I find the word "computer"?


DAVIS: No. It's a brand new word and the word "dinosaur" is a brand new word, too.

Ok - so if the full-on smear of science directed at young children isn't enough to curl your hair if it's straight, straighten it if it's curly, or grow it if you don't have any, we move to this great song Mr. Davis has to share with the children. You have to picture this guy - hat, beard, guitar, microphone, in front of a multi-purpose room full of children. The children are standing, clapping hoe-down style, singing along. On the screen behind him are pictures of Biblical-looking people leading dinosaurs strapped into harnesses pulling ox-carts. I'm not making this up. And then the pictures go to sauropods. And here's the song, ala something you'd hear on the Barney show:

Let's look at the Bible.
Let's look in the Book of Job.
Turn to chapter 40
In verse 15, we're told
Of a mighty creature
That Job must have known
In the jungle of the reeds and ferns
Behemoth made his home

Behemoth is a DINOSAUR
"He eateth grass as an ox"
"His tail's like a cedar tree"
"His bones are strong as bars of iron"
"He's cheif in the ways of God"
A mighty sauropod?

OMFG. Well, I guess so. And monkeys could fly out of my ass in about 30 seconds, but it's not very likely.

I am NOT a Biblical scholar. At all. I had never heard of the Behemoth before watching this documentary. So I googled Job 40:15. The issue is the "cedar tree" reference. The verses in question, from the King James Bible:

40:15 Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.
40:16 Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly.
40:17 He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.
40:18 His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron.
40:19 He is the chief of the ways of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him.

So the Barney-inspired Behemoth-is-a-dinosaur song is automatically dishonest, because the verse it sites is different than what the verse says in the Bible. Although the difference is subtle, "His tail's like a cedar tree" is far and away different than "He moveth his tail like a cedar tree". And the cedar tree reference folks, is the crux of the issue for Creationists: because how could it be anything BUT a dinosaur when known animals of the time period discussed by science did NOT have tails "like a cedar tree"? Oy.

Here's what wikipedia has to say about the Great Behemoth Controversy:

In the book of Job, both Behemoth and Leviathan are listed alongside a number of mundane animals, such as goats, eagles, and hawks, leading many Christian scholars to surmise that Behemoth and Leviathan may also be mundane creatures. Suggested animals include the water buffalo and the elephant, but the most common suggestion is the hippopotamus.


Although the animal's tail "moves like a cedar" (40:17), an unlikely description for any of these animals, "tail' could be a euphemism for an elephant's trunk. Moreover, some suggest that "tail" is a euphemism for male genitalia. Support for this is based on another meaning of the Hebrew word "move" which means "extend" and on the second part of verse 17 describing the sinew around its "stones" (the Vulgate uses the word "testiculorum"].

[editor's note, by RenaRF] Clearly AiG isn't going to discuss the concept of a PENIS like a cedar tree. Perish the thought.

Others disagree, pointing to the fact that Behemoth is called "chief of the ways of God" (40:19), indicating that it is not a mere animal.

[editor's note, by RenaRF] As if the Bible is full of vague, fantastical references without explanation. Perish that thought, too.

Another proposal is that the Behemoth is a dinosaur. Some sort of sauropod is usually proposed since large sauropods had tails "like a cedar". Adherents to this viewpoint hold that it is more consistent with the literal application of the text. However, critics usually point out that according to paleontology, sauropods, unlike Behemoth, were tree-browsers that became extinct 65 million years ago, predating the appearance and rise of people or grasses. Additionally, opponents of this theory argue that the text is probably allegory at best.

But who needs, science, right? If the Bible makes some vague reference to a "Behemoth" and no animals of the time had cedar tree-like tails, it MUST be a dinosaur! Watson, get my pen. I have to write this down in verse.

I wish I had a constructive point on which to end this diary. Suffice it to say that groups like AiG are out there actively training children to discount science. Tens of thousands of them, according to the documentary. And these kids are being trained (brainwashed?) at a young age. Many will undoubtedly carry this crippled, dogmatic view of the Bible as an absolute reference forward with them as they mature. And in that, their path as Christians will be crippled as will their path as informed human beings and members of society.

We surely haven't seen the last of the evolution "debate". In fact, I would guess that what we've seen thus far is only the first warning rumblings of a Bizarro-world fight yet to be waged in the future.

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You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 10:06 AM 74 comments
Friday, February 09, 2007

This was originally posted at Daily Kos where it got almost 700 comments, some of them hilarious.

I almost couldn't believe my ears this morning as I got dressed for work. I go about my morning routine with CNN's American Morning on in the background. I don't usually focus too heavily on what they're talking about unless it's hard news, but a brief mention of a story this morning caught my attention and left me literally disgusted.

If you would be so kind as to follow me, you can bear witness to the Great Vagina Controversy of 2007.

Here's the blurb from CNN's American Morning. They were doing a teaser for the 9am show, CNN Newsroom, hosted by Heidi Collins (transcript):
S. O'BRIEN: "CNN NEWSROOM" just a couple of minutes away. Heidi Collins is at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead this morning.

Good morning.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Soledad. And good morning to you, everybody.

That's right, we have these stories coming up in the "NEWSROOM" today. Good grief, first winter wouldn't start and now it won't stop. You've heard Chad talking about it, some spots in upstate New York buried under six feet of snow.

And the fight over Nigeria's oil riches. Our Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange face to face with masked rebels. A dangerous and amazing piece of reporting that you've got to see. We'll show you that.

And sign of the times -- a critically acclaimed play causing a little southern discomfort, so the producers have changed the name of "The Vagina Monologues."

Tony Harris is with me in the "NEWSROOM" of the hour right here on CNN.


S. O'BRIEN: Oh, my gosh.

M. O'BRIEN: "The Hoohaa Monologues?"

COLLINS: You got it. Some people were offended, you know.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. I can see why. That's very interesting.

M. O'BRIEN: "Hoohaa" kind of bothers me.

COLLINS: No, I mean, they were offended by the original name.

S. O'BRIEN: No, no I get you on all fronts.

M. O'BRIEN: But you know, some people might have a "Hoohaa" problem. Who knows.

COLLINS: I'm done.

S. O'BRIEN: As am I. We're done.
Ok. So what we get from the teaser is that the critically acclaimed Vagina Monologues is sparking controversy somewhere in the South. So much so that a person was utterly offended by the title on a marquis in front of the theater and called the theater to complain. And with that, the title Vagina Monologues was changed to HOOHAA Monologues. I'm not making this up.

I googled and found that the southern state in question is Florida. From a short article covering the story:
Atlantic Theatres in Atlantic Beach, Florida, received a complaint from a woman who'd seen the advertised title as she drove past with her niece. She said that it had made her niece ask her what a vagina was.

The theatre's Bryce Pfanenstiel commented: 'I'm on the phone and asked “What did you tell her?” She's like, “I'm offended I had to answer the question.”
FYI, the link above will take you to a picture of the "new" marquis on the theater, post-rabid psycho complaint. I wasn't too far off in my memory-based transcription. Now, a few things leap to mind. First, the Vagina Monologues is a critically acclaimed play. I found a great little write-up in the BG News Online (Bowling Green State University) which had this to say:

The author, Eve Ensler, designed the play to be a rather creative way to express women's issues to the rest of the world. The results of the play have been tremendous on all women. Participants and viewers everywhere describe the Monologues as empowering and a step forward for women.


One reason [that the play is so powerful] is that the Monologues are specifically an all-women production. This particular facet of the play ensures that there is no influence from a cultural patriarchy, as well as demonstrates women's more-than-capable ability to produce theatre.

In a culture where sexuality is shunned, it is often difficult, sometimes impossible to find information about your own body.


Despite the Western view of human beings, we are not clouds of consciousness simply floating about. We are human beings with bodies. And if it is taboo to talk about vaginas, then how exactly are women supposed to learn about themselves? How are they to relate to one another as women with bodies?


The amount of money donated to charity as a direct result of "The Vagina Monologues" is hard to argue against. With every dollar earned a step is made to help women in the most dire of circumstances.
But clearly, in Atlantic Beach Florida, Vaginas are the embodiment (hah) of evil.

Another thing that struck me specifically was the fact that the niece in question (from the complaint the theater received) can obviously read. If she can read, why the FUCK doesn't she know what a vagina is and that she has one??!! There is something fundamentally wrong with keeping a young woman who is obviously mature enough from know the appropriate anatomical name for the parts of her body. Does her family have euphamisms for ears? How about for eyes? Is not "vagina" the most approrpriate term for, well, a VAGINA??? Why is it that this girl should walk around thinking that it's called a "HOOHAA"?? I'm sure it has something to do with the fabulous "PEEPEE" to represent a penis, but the logic is escaping me at the moment.

So here you go, folks. Forward what follows to everyone you know who has a girl in their lives, from The Free Dictionary:
va·gi·na (v-jn)
n. pl. va·gi·nas or va·gi·nae (-n)
1. Anatomy
a. The passage leading from the opening of the vulva to the cervix of the uterus in female mammals.
b. A similar part in some invertebrates.
2. Botany A sheathlike structure, such as the leaf of a grass that surrounds a stem.
Ooooh... dirty, dirty BAD vaginas!! Of this we must not speak, especially to girls who actually have them!! And with that, I give you the HOOHAA MONOLOGUES, coming soon to a draconian theater near you in a neighborhood that wants you to grow up repressed, confused, and subliminally convinced that you are, in fact, dirty and disgusting.

Update [2007-2-8 11:55:6 by RenaRF]: First, I removed my memory-based transcription of the piece on CNN Newsroom because the article and link I found references the specific language. No need to confuse everyone.

Second, I strong encourage everyone to write a polite note to the Atlantic Theater. You can access their email by clicking this link. I would suggest a note encouraging the theater not to play into a destructive trend towards keeping girls and women ignorant about their bodies. I would reinforce that "vagina" is absolutely the most apporpriate anatomical term, and question why it needed to be removed.

Update [2007-2-8 15:16:58 by RenaRF]: Ok. Brusek posted this email reply from the theater in the comments:

I think we are being misunderstood. "Hoohaa" was meant to be tongue in cheek. Having a 9 year old daughter and coming from a medical background I was furious that a woman would actually complain about having to explain to her niece what a vagina was after the child read it herself. My daughter knows the anatomically correct term but calls uses hoohaa. Yes, we know what free speech is and we are glad to be putting Vagina back up today. I am female and I support VAGINA!!!

Kim (assistant manager)
-------------- Original message --------------
From: info@atlantictheatres.com

Tom Fallon

Managing Director
I believe them, and BRAVO. I will say, though, that the woman who called initially was NOT made-up. I have also seen in the comments that many of the V-Day showings of Vagina Monologues are being protested. Yes, protested - across the country. Peruse the comments a bit. So, I'm glad that CNN aired the story and I'm glad that the theater, along with virtually everyone here, sees how ridiculous it is to object to the word "vagina".

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You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 7:54 AM 10 comments
Tuesday, February 06, 2007

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and ePluribus Media)

I have an hour or so to post this diary so forgive me any misspellings in my haste to get this done and posted.

I generally watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann at 8pm on weeknights. Last night, however, I was out running errands at that time. MSNBC is not included in my Sirius Radio news coverage, so I was stuck listening to CNN's Paula Zahn Now (which I usually dislike). I heard an interview that almost made me drive off the road as I was traveling from point A to point B.

The subject was the cervical cancer vaccine. The arguments against this vaccine constitute some of the most egregious dreck I have ever heard. Follow me.

I had to wait until today after some morning meetings for the transcript to be available. Let's start there.

Now, if there were a vaccine that would protect your child from a kind of cancer that kills thousands of people every year, chances are, you would make sure your child gets it.

But the next story we're bringing out in the open is not that simple, because it involves sex, parents' rights, and women's health. The governor of Texas has just signed an order to require girls in sixth grade to get the vaccine for HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer. And 18 other states are considering doing the same thing.

Ed Lavandera has story tonight from Dallas.


JULIANNE JACOBS, STUDENT: You should do it before you're sexually active.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Julianne Jacobs is ahead of the class, one of the first young girls in Texas to receive a vaccine against the human papillomavirus. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer.

The federal government says, the recently approved vaccine can prevent most types of cervical cancer. Julianne's parents have told her it's not a free pass to start having sex.

JACOBS: And, because, you know, that vaccine doesn't guarantee -- guarantee safety. It can still -- you can still get past it, and you could get that disease, even if you have the vaccination.

LAVANDERA: But, when Texas Governor Rick Perry signed an executive order, making it mandatory starting in September of 2008 for sixth-grade girls to receive the vaccine, many parents were angry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government should let parents make their own decisions for things like this.

Oh yes? I beg to differ. The school district where I live requires the following:

- A physical examination prior to registration
- DPT, DTaP, Td, DT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus)
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis)
- OPV, IPV (polio)
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- Hepatitis B
- Varicella (chicken pox)
- HIB (Haemophilus influenzae type B)
- PCV (Pneumococcal 7-valent conjugate)
- Tuberculosis screening

All of the above represent an attempt by the state to safeguard students from communicable diseases that are a danger to the public health and welfare. Should a parent be able to decide that their child receive or not receive a vaccination and place another child at risk in so doing? I don't think so.


LAVANDERA: Dawn Richardson is lobbying Texas lawmakers against making the vaccine mandatory, and also has a daughter of her own.

DAWN RICHARDSON, LOBBYIST AND PARENT: There's no proof that this vaccine is going to affect the rates of cervical cancer, because the vaccine is being administered to 11-year-old girls. It's only been tested for four years.

LAVANDERA: The FDA says, the vaccine is safe and effective, requiring three shots over a six-month period. But some critics worry that making the vaccine mandatory will promote premarital sex, instead of abstinence.

PETER SPRIGG, VICE PRESIDENT FOR POLICY, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: We feel it's very important that people not be told that this is a vaccine that will make it safe to have sex.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Governor Perry is a staunch conservative. And he says this idea protects life and promotes women's health. And he says parents will ultimately be allowed to decide whether or not their daughters get this vaccine. They can apply to opt out of if they object to it for religious or moral reasons.

(voice-over): The Republican governor is receiving support from unlikely places, Planned Parenthood and even many Democrats, who see this strictly as a public health issue.

BINGO. It's the sex, stupid!! So even though researchers are working hard to develop a vaccine to prevent or lessen the instances of HIV contraction, kids shouldn't be able to have it because (GASP!!) it's promoting SEX!!! (cue fire and brimstone)

Now get a load of the discussion with the panel of experts:

ZAHN: There are 10,000 cases of cervical cancel -- cancer, that is, every year, 4,000 deaths.

Out in the open tonight: the controversy over requiring sixth- grade girls to get the HPV vaccine to prevent the sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer.

Texas has just started requiring the shots -- 18 other states also considering it.

Let's go back to tonight's "Out in the Open," panel, Clarence Page, with his mike on -- yes -- Tara Wall [RNC mouthpiece], Rachel Maddow.

ZAHN: So, Clarence, should this be mandatory...

PAGE: I think...

ZAHN: ... and made mandatory by state government?

PAGE: You know, what troubles me is making it mandatory before the public is adequately educated, because I saw what happened with Roe vs. Wade, which I personally support as a decision.

But I saw the backlash, which we're still feeling politically across the country, because it was imposed on the country. This is a very personal thing. Whenever government gets into something as personal as, say, 12-year-olds, like -- like, my 12-year-old niece, mandating that she has got to get a shot that many people think is connected to sexual promiscuity -- I don't think it is.

ZAHN: Sure.

I don't know what I think about Page's argument. Frankly, if the fundamentalist MINORITY in the US weren't screaming bloody murder about protecting women from CANCER for Christ's sake, there wouldn't be an education issue (as Page put it).

PAGE: But so many people think that, we obviously need a lot of public educating out there. So, it troubles me to do it do it too quickly.

ZAHN: But, even with public education...


ZAHN: ... there is a strong view that you're promoting promiscuity. There are people think, since this vaccine has been around only for four years, that it really won't convincingly reduce rates of cervical cancer. So, what difference is it going to make if there's a time lag before you make it mandatory?

MADDOW: It's -- well, here's the thing.

If we were talking about a vaccine for any other kind of cancer, as a person in your previous segment described, we would be singing hallelujah right now. But the fact that this is a disease that is spread by sexual contact, human papillomavirus, which leads to cervical cancer, all of a sudden, we get hysterical and lose the ability to think reasonably about this.


MADDOW: Once you bring up sex, we lose all public health rationality about this.

And, so, I think that, really, what you need to consider is whether or not this going to be treated as a public health and safety issue, or whether this is going to be another thing about which we have a hysterical sex conversation involving teenagers, because we can't -- we have that debate.

THANK YOU Rachel Maddow. If you would like to thank her as well, you can use this form. Maddow nets it out - it's all about dirty nasty SEX and a vaccine somehow giving carte blanche to young women to have it.

ZAHN: But you know it will be a little bit of both of them.


WALL: Listen -- listen, you talk not having the buy-in, and the public not having the buy-in of the legislature. The governor did this on his won [sic].

The governor, whom I respect -- and, actually, he's my governor. I voted for him. But he's wrong.


ZAHN: He's a conservative governor. He is your governor.

WALL: He is. He has been a very good conservative governor.

But he's wrong on this issue. As my mother says, a person can be sincere, but they can be sincerely wrong.


MADDOW: How can a vaccine for cancer be wrong?

And here we go.

WALL: There's -- there's no -- there's no -- there was no parental -- you're usurping parental rights. You're usurping the legislature.


WALL: Make it an opt-in, as opposed to an opt-out. There is an opt-out provision, of course.

I'm not a legal expert - but I found this article that talks generally about the legal basis for mandatory vaccines and it states pretty clearly that the process and procedure is ALWAYS to opt-out, NOT opt-in. What a ridiculous argument on Wall's behalf, that flies in the face of how every other religious or moral issue with a vaccine is handled.

ZAHN: Sure.

WALL: But why not make it an opt-in, as opposed to an opt-out.

See above. See the law. See a bunch of cases. But most importantly, see a shrink - because that's the only thing that's going to help you explain why you don't want to protect women from contracting cancer.

MADDOW: Would you do that for measles? Would you do that for rubella? Would you do that for polio? Would you do that for...


WALL: This has to do with a very sensitive...


MADDOW: With sex.

WALL: Absolutely -- issue...

MADDOW: Right.

WALL: ... that is a family issue, that parents need to discuss with their children amongst themselves, and not to have the government impose upon them.

MADDOW: How has that been working so far?


WALL: That's not for the government to decide.


ZAHN: If you want to see how it's working so far, I want you all to look at the screen right now...

Here's where it gets good. Facts are a bitch, aren't they?

ZAHN: ... because this is a staggering statistic.

This is the incidence of HPV hitting young kids in this 14- to 19-year-old age group. We know that about a third of kids that are 13 to 16 are sexually active.

So, do you think parents have their heads in the sand?


PAGE: Well, of course, yes. Parents do have their head in the sands about sex and drugs. We know that.

But there's also the question about, do parents who want to take responsibility for their kids, should they be entitled to have opt-out or opt-in choices? I think that is really what at issue here.


PAGE: You talk about rubella and several other contagious diseases which you can catch without having sex, I mean, there's a reason to want to control a contagion that travels in the air, and -- and to mandate that.

Point of fact: Hepititis B is not transmitted in the air yet is mandated in (I think) 35 states.

MADDOW: But look at that figure.


PAGE: When you're talking about something that is more personal -- well, look at the figures...

MADDOW: This is -- it's endemic.


MADDOW: If you're a teenager having sex, basically, you're going to get HPV.


PAGE: Just to play devil's advocate, which I'm very good at...

WALL: But what if you're not having sex?


WALL: What if you're not having sex?


WALL: There are plenty of teenagers out there who -- who -- who have had discussion with their parents who choose to remain abstinent or virgins until they're married, until... (CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But you know what the manufacturers...


ZAHN: Hang on one second. The manufacturers of the vaccine say, that's a good thing...

Oooh!! Here come those pesky facts again.


ZAHN: ... because they said that the vaccine is more effective when you're inoculated before you start having sex.


WALL: Well, the other factor is -- and my mother is a nurse as well. And some of the issues that are being raised is how new this is. It hasn't been tested and tried. It needs to be given some time.

The other portion, again, opt-in, not make an opt-out. Let parents decide. This is the government assuming parents don't know what's best for their children. I think that's a little bit elitist.

Ah... So it ISN'T about sex? It's about the relative newness of the drug itself and the safety of the drug? I thought it was about family decisions and the distinction between opting in and opting out... Silly me.

The fundamentalist Christian groups who oppose this vaccine are essentially making this argument: If you weren't having sex, you wouldn't contract HPV and possibly contract and die from cervical cancer. And if you ARE having sex and get HPV and contract cervical cancer, you deserve to die.

How's that for values? Jesus weeps.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 12:38 PM 5 comments
Monday, February 05, 2007

All right - I apologize in advance for the brevity of this diary but my GOD - Tony Snow's press briefing just literally made me wish I could jump through the television and strangle him.

There's only a short part that made me ridiculously angry, and I'll transcribe it after the flip.

From White House Press Briefing, January 29, 2007 (live transcription):

HELEN THOMAS: What did the President think of the March on Washington?

SNOW: I don't really think he thought a lot about it. It's nice to see Jane Fonda in front of the camera again.

[Murmurs in the press room at this]

SNOW: Uh... There were a number of people who were here making statements - that's perfectly appropriate. This is a vigorous Democracy.

HELEN THOMAS: You said something earlier this morning, though. Would you like to repeat that?

SNOW: Well that uh... It's simply that there were predictions of a larger audience than showed up for the protest. [shrugs, raises eyebrows]

HELEN THOMAS: Have you really counted heads?

SNOW: No. Did you? Did you see 100,000?

HELEN THOMAS: I do think they had a good turnout.

SNOW: Well you know, I didn't go there, Helen. I'm not going to characterize...

HELEN THOMAS: But with a statement like that...

SNOW: Well, because it's pretty clear from the press accounts that nobody attached six figures to the number that appeared.

Where do I start?

First - what kind of bullying-by-innuendo tactic WAS IT to bring up Jane Fonda like that? I don't even have a word to describe how ridiculous and disgusting it is to write off /every single participant/ in that peace march by boiling your first comment down to what he said about Fonda. What a fucking asshole.

I'm going to make the assumption that Snow made some remarks either off-handedly or in a gaggle to the effect that the crowds were "smaller than expected". First, I'd like to know: WTF does that have to do with anything? If the crowd /was/ smaller than 100K, does that make the crowd "small"? Is 99,000 small? Is there some reason that differing predictions and reports of turnout completely obscures the total repudiation of Bush's Iraq war and policy? What a joke.

And finally, Snow must not consider The LA Times a member of the press:

WASHINGTON — About 100,000 antiwar protesters from around the country converged Saturday on the National Mall, galvanized by opposition to President Bush's plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq.

They just mentioned six figures right there.

So I'd like you guys to do something, and it won't take long. Send a leetle note to Tony "Fucking Asshole" Snow. Tell him the following:

1. Your attempt to distract from the horrendously failing wildly unpopular Iraq war by bringing up Jane Fonda was ridiculous.
2. How many people is enough people to make a protest march "significant" in your book? Is that number, in fact, /always/ higher than the number that turns out?
3. Do you consider Fox News the only real "press source" in the country? What about The Los Angeles Times?

Thank you, Tony, for giving a big middle finger to the 60%+ of Americans who think your boss and therefore you, by extraction, suck. Good luck going back to a career in broadcasting.

Send to:

That email address is going to have to do because cowardly Tony doesn't seem to have a dedicated press email address.


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posted by RenaRF at 10:06 PM 3 comments

I have kind of a heavy job. I guess I should say that it's not so much heavy as it is incredibly busy. I wear multiple hats in my job which means that there's always something that needs to be getting done that does not, in fact, always get done. My home life is pretty similar - in addition to outside-of-work pursuits (in politics and music), I run the house - finances, upkeep, maintenance, decisions, you name it. It's certainly not a unique situation and it's one I imagine the vast majority of people reading live as well.

So when I decide to take and dedicate and entire weekend day to something that doesn't involve getting the myriad other somethings done, I have a good reason. That's why I spent my day at the Washington DC Peace March yesterday. But who knew that the message we were trying to send had already been received therefore making it entirely unnecessary to be there at all? I could have been doing laundry and paying the bills. Who knew. I'll elaborate after the fold.

Being at the march all day I was unable to watch the coverage of it. I was so bone tired (along with about 59 other Kossacks) when I got home that I had only enough energy to post a diary with the pictures from the march and some minimal commentary. I hung with the comments and then called it quits for the night when my brain finally hit the wall.

So it was with great anticipation this morning that I woke up and turned on the news. I wanted to see their video coverage of the march and the throngs of people that turned out and took to the streets demanding the end of the war (aside, great photos from The Washington Post can be found at this link). In fairness, CNN did cover it, though with a little less zeal and exposure than I would have liked. And then they followed the coverage with this comment from President Bush (delivered via a spokesperson and linked via North Jersey Media Group:

Bush says the troop increase is needed to secure Baghdad so the nascent Iraqi government has breathing room to function. He reaffirmed his commitment to the strategy in a phone conversation Saturday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"He understands that Americans want to see a conclusion to the war in Iraq, and the new strategy is designed to do just that," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

So you see, he understands the need for a conclusion and, by extraction, acknowledges American citizens' desires to bring the troops home, and his new surge strategy of sending MORE troops is designed to do just that, to conclude the war and somehow lead to fewer troops.

I get it - it's like the theory that you have to spend money, even money you don't have, to make money. Who knew?

I would have definitely stayed home and paid attention to other life priorities if I'd realized the excellent brillance of this surge thing, a plan that essentially made the efforts of 100,000+ marchers entirely unnecessary. Who knows - I may have even had time to sit down and do nothing. I sure wish he would have been this clear in his magnificent strategic thinking before I gave up a day to take to the streets.

Someone should really tell the good news to Carlos Arredondo. You may not remember him, but back in 2004, upon receiving the news that his son, a Marine, had been killed in Najaf, he locked himself into the Marine van that carried news of his son's death and set it on fire.

"This is his scream that his child is dead. The war needs to stop," Melida Arredondo, who had rushed home from work when she heard the news, said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Arredondo suffered severe burns in the 2004 incident. By all appearances from a Google search, Arrodondo has turned up at virtually every single major anti-war protest since his recovery, including yesterday's march (photo of Arrodondo is available at the Washington Post Gallery link provided earlier). I'm sure when he finds out that Bush agrees with him totally and that surging is necessary to bring everyone home, despite the obvious contradiction in logic, he would be relieved that he can finally lay down his cross.

2nd photo courtesy of carneasadaburrito. Thank you!

So I guess I've learned my lesson. Our President has it all under control. He understands. He gets "it". He's the decider, and he's decided that he's heard the American people and the countless Carlos Arrondondo's in this country and that sending more troops to allow for fewer and fewer troops is the way to go.

So I sure regret taking to the streets yesterday.

Note: The 1st photo is courtesy of photographer Martin Fuchs. It can be found in its original context here. Martin has graciously granted me permission to use this photo. His excellent work can be found at Journal of a Photographer.

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posted by RenaRF at 10:05 PM 10 comments

I had originally planned to simply post these pictures to the comments of Timroff's diary, but there are too many pictures and too many comments in that diary already. So I'm going to take a crack at this myself.

For those who had been previously living under a rock and have only now just surfaced and your first news is what you see here on Daily Kos, there was a Peace March today in Washington DC. Many, many sister demonstrations were planned across the country, but the big one was in Washington.

After the fold, my pictures (and be warned - there are about 38 of them) and some commentary on the day.

First, I did this march's photo journal differently than I did the last one. The '05 march pictures were kind of navel-gazey in that most of the pictures were of fellow bloggers. Since we had so many people with so many cameras covering the Blogger's pre-event and marching, I decided to focus on random things that caught my eye among the throngs of people who attended.

As you know from Timroff's diary, we all met up at Starbuck's close to the rally area an hour before the rally was to begin. I got there at about 9:15 and bloggers were already in attendance. My last accurate headcount put our total, at the start of the actual marching, at aminimun of 58. Pretty damned impressive. I'll note also that in our group were folks from Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Albama, and Iowa, in addition to the local DC/MD/VA attendees. Some rode 24 hours on buses to get there for this - truly putting their mouths, bodies and especially their feet where their principles were. I was proud to be associated with Daily Kos when I saw how committed many of these folks were.

So to the photos, in no particular order. I'll do individual pictures or groups of related pictures preceeded by a little bit of contextual commentary.

Washington DC Peace March, January 27th, 2007

A couple of children on the march caught my eye. The first young girl had obviously hand-made her own sign, and I had her show me both sides. She's our future leadership, and therefore the future looks bright. I find it sad, though, that even a child knows what our President and his administration don't seem to realize:

I was impressed with these two young boys, who had obviously gone out and gotten rocks that they had written "Peace" on in marker. They were selling these for $1 a piece, with proceeds to be donated back to the march organizers. I bought one.

Some of the signs were incredibly creative:

Some just made me feel encouraged about the future:

You can't tell from the picture, but the peace sign was covered in glitter and it shone brillantly in the sunshine:

Some signs were more than just signs - they were paper-puppets and headgear:

These signs told about where the carrier was from. I saw many signs from many states across the country.

I came across these guys who clearly have a high opinion of Jim Webb:

I liked this lady and her friend. It reminded me of the real lives living in worry about the welfare of a loved one in pursuit of a senseless, immoral war:

My favorite display in the whole march was the "Backbone". It was literally a backbone, many feet long. On it was written "impeach, indict, convict". It took many people to carry the backbone, and it was carried high over their (and our) heads:

The anarchists were out in force. They marched before the march actually began, changing "the streets belong to us". They were marching on streets that had not yet been closed. I saw them much, much later doing the same on Constitution Avenue long after the march had concluded and streets had been re-opened:

This many really stuck with me. He walked slowly, with a cane, but he walked:

There were these people who had this bicycle decked out with drums and percussion instruments who went around and grooved for peace during the rally:

There were a few others that I liked as well:

And here are the last ones, just general crowd shots as we made our way through:

And there, folks, you have it. Timroff was correct - it was really difficult to get going once the march actually started. I've heard the estimates of attendance, and I can't say how many were there - but we ringed the Capitol. We were /packed/ in with each other, all marching, all speaking out against the war.

Oh... and the counter-demonstrators were so ridiculous as to be insignificant. There were about 40 of them (I'm being generous) who were fenced off way back from the march route carrying signs like "Saddam was bad" and "I support our troops".

As if we don't. As if we didn't stand and march for six straight hours /because/ we support them.

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posted by RenaRF at 10:02 PM 17 comments