Too real for "reality": When the reality-TV show "Wife Swap" featured a liberal family from Minneapolis' boho-lesbian Powderhorn Park neighborhood and a pro-Bush, ultra-Christian Kentucky family (on gender roles in the family, the wife said that thanks to Eve's apple-munching in Eden, she "condemned herself and her kind to be under the heel of man.”), some of the best parts never made it to TV. Like when the Minneapolis mom found a high-powered crossbow within easy reach in the basement. Or when she plastered her pro-Bush partner's pickup with peace magnets. Or when a fight between her and her "husband" ended up with a kicked door and a Minneapolis woman in a Kentucky hotel. Fun stuff. But what if reality TV delves into actual life and death issues?

Last week, I caught the last few minutes of "The Contender," a reality show about boxing. After boxer Najai Turpin left Contender headquarters, hangdog after having lost his bout, Sugar Ray Leonard appeared on screen to announce Turpin's unexpected death. Never did Leonard mention that Turpin's passing involved a self-inflicted bullet-wound. Apparently men beating each other til bloody is "reality," but a suicide, in the realm of dishonest TV programming, isn't.
Peace for Terri: After 15 years of being kept alive in a persistent vegetative state, Terri Schiavo passed away today. Hopefully, the media will let her family grieve privately, and radical Christians in the Republican party will redirect their sanctity-of-life battle toward, say, the death penalty or the toll of the Iraq war on children (more children are starving or malnourished in Iraq today than were under Saddam Hussein). Probably not, considering that the lawyer for Michael Schiavo received death threats for his work on the case. "The most challenging aspect of this case, from a spiritual point of view, has been dealing with these forces of such hatred and negativity," George Felos said in an interview last year. "I cannot imagine what would motivate somebody to call up and say, 'We have put your name on a death warrant and if Terri Schiavo dies, you are next."'


Montage-a-Google: This is a fun little visual search engine. Just type in a search word--ear, in this case--and get a tiled graphical presentation of results, all clickable to the origin webpages. Try it out.


Byrnecasting: Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has launched an internet radio station that broadcasts his favorite music. Recently on his playlist: Cat Power, Biz Markie, Gilberto Gil, Juana Molina, Pietra Montecorvino, and Outkast. More from Xeni Jardin.
Rebranding RFID: Don't worry, civil libertarians. The US government won't be using RFID tags (that's radio frequency identification tags or tiny computer chips that can be used to track one's whereabouts) to keep track of you. However, it's likely they'll instead use "proximity chips," "contactless chips" or "contactless integrated circuits." The re-branded chips, which may go in national ID cards or passports, have raised the hackles of privacy experts who fear the government will use them to track your next trip to Cuba or a visit to the local anarchist bookstore. Since the chips will also contain all the same info as a passport (name, date, place of birth, etc.), there's an even scarier possibility, according to RFIDkills.com:
In a dangerous world where Americans are targeted by thieves, kidnappers and terrorists, the RFID-chipped US passport will turn tourists into targets, and American business travelers will transmit their identities to kidnappers wherever they go, thanks to the US State Department.

Close up, the information broadcast from the RFID chip can be read by anyone with an inexpensive electronic reader.  Farther away, the RFID chip can be activated enough to identify the passport holder as an American.


Mark McKinnon: PR Man extraordinaire. I love it when Bush's spinmeisters remind us of additional reasons to dislike the man. In a story on why W's approval ratings dropped seven points in a single week (two possible reasons: his early silence on the school slayings in northern Minnesota and his backing away from the Schiavo case), Bush strategist Mark McKinnon says he doubts there's a connection between approval ratings and the Schiavo case, adding that slipping approval numbers were "more due to rising gas prices, rising interest rates and some recent economic uncertainty." Oh yeah. Forgot about those.
No family photos: When 1st Lt. Kenneth Michael Ballard came home from Iraq last fall, his mother wanted to photograph his arrival. The Pentagon wouldn't allow it because Karen Meredith's son, a fourth-generation soldier, was arriving home dead, a sniper's bullet in his head. The military's strict rules that prohibit the photographing of returning coffins apparently even apply to grieving families who want a personal memento of their tragedy. "It's bad enough that they won't let the country see the pictures of the caskets, but a grieving mother?" asked Meredith. "It's unforgiveable after what I lost." Bluntly insensitive DoD spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Venable said that a hearse arriving at a funeral is essentially the same as a plane touching down on American soil carrying fallen soldiers: "It's a tarmac, not a parade ground." Ballard is one of 1,528 American soldiers killed in Iraq so far.
Axis of Evil: Venezuela? Venezuela is reportedly setting up a million-person "Popular Reserve" to defend against an attack from the US. Sound far-fetched? Not if you consider the US' long track record of aiding coups of democratic leaders in the region, remarking with great alarm at the "instability" of the country and its leader, and America's history of military interventions there. And, don't forget, Venezuela is the fifth largest oil producer in the world (president Hugo Chavez has said he's expecting Bush to say WMDs have been found in Venezuela, and he promises, ""If there is any [US] aggression, there will be no oil.)"
Block the bias: Want to protect innocent ears in your home from the false news of Fox? Use a Fox Blocker, a simple metal gadget that allegedly filters Fox News Channel from your TV. It's creator, a former Republican, writes on his website:
The FOXBlocker is a wonderful way of telling the advertisers at FOX News that you are no longer interested in being exposed to right wing propaganda.

With every order placed, FOXBlocker.com will send an e-mail in your name to the TOP 10 advertisers at FOX News letting them know that yet another subscriber has opted out of FOX News.


Gay marriage ban's unexpected side effect: Ohio's new constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is already having an effect on straight couples: it prohibits them from filing domestic violence charges. In a case where a man beat up his live-in girlfriend over a pack of cigarettes, what could've been a felony assault charge under the state's 25-year-old domestic violence law was reduced to a misdemeanor assault charge. The difference? The felony charge comes with a maximum 18 month jail sentence, compared to a six month maximum sentence for the misdemeanor.
If Easter, just a few days away, is Christ's "triumph over death" (his resurrection involved no feeding tubes, no human intervention) and if death is the "ultimate mystery," our chance to meet God face to face, why are so-called Christians working so hard to keep Terri Schiavo in suspended animation between life and death? Let her go.


Iraqi orphans fund:
"Stop that car!" someone shouted out, seemingly simultaneously with someone firing what sounded like warning shots -- a staccato, measured burst. The car continued coming. And then, perhaps less than a second later, a cacophony of fire, shots rattling off in a chaotic, overlapping din. The car entered the intersection on its momentum and still shots were penetrating it and slicing it. Finally, the shooting stopped, the car drifted listlessly, clearly no longer being steered, and came to a rest on a curb. Soldiers began to approach it warily.

The sound of children crying came from the car. I walked up to the car and a teenaged girl with her head covered emerged from the back, wailing and gesturing wildly. After her came a boy, tumbling onto the ground from the seat, already leaving a pool of blood.

"Civilians!" someone shouted, and soldiers ran up. More children -- it ended up being six all told -- started emerging, crying, their faces mottled with blood in long streaks.
This experience, witnessed by Getty photographer Chris Hondros, describes an incident in January where US soldiers in Iraq left nine children orphaned, killing their unarmed, civilian parents. Now, as Boing Boing points out, a fund has been started specifically to help these children. Learn more, and how to donate, here.
A catholic (and Catholic) perspective on Schiavo: The Terri Schiavo case is about one thing only, says Rev. John Paris, a Boston College bioethicist and Catholic priest: "The power of the Christian right. This case has nothing to do with the legal issues involving a feeding tube." Versed in laws of both church and state, Paris says it has very little to do with what "radical right-to-lifers" say it does:
The sanctity of life? This has nothing to do with the sanctity of life. The Roman Catholic Church has a consistent 400-year-old tradition that I'm sure you are familiar with. It says nobody is obliged to undergo extraordinary means to preserve life.

This is Holy Week, this is when the Catholic community is saying, "We understand that life is not an absolute good and death is not an absolute defeat." The whole story of Easter is about the triumph of eternal life over death. Catholics have never believed that biological life is an end in and of itself. We've been created as a gift from God and are ultimately destined to go back to God. And we've been destined in this life to be involved in relationships. And when the capacity for that life is exhausted, there is no obligation to make officious efforts to sustain it.
Read his interview at Salon.com.

A schism? Paris' viewpoint may suggest that doctinal Catholics don't buy into the Bush extremists' point of view on the Schiavo case (although a New York Times piece claims the opposite). A CBS poll says that 68% of white American evangelicals say Bush and Congress should butt out (compared to 82% of the general public), and black evangelicals are none too thrilled either. And an increasing number of conservatives think Bush's incursion into states'-rights territory is anything but conservative. Are cracks forming in the once iron-clad conservative/Christian right alliance?
Cliff Notes of the Jeff Gannon Story:
Fake name. Fake reporter. Fake news agency. And now this ...

Fake Marine.

Not much true about this fella, is there?
Auctioning off Social Security on eBay! Thanks to Billionaires for Bush.
Products we can live without: In a banner week for new-product development—Beer without aftertaste? Bust-boosting bubblegum?—the most curious may come from Peru: former president, Alberto Fujimori (who was run out of town in 2000 under allegations of torture and corruption), wants to "quench the thirst of popular discontent." With what? His soon-to-be-released line of Fuji-Cola, of course. (Via AgendaInc.)

And: NowToronto ponders whether American Apparel's sweatshop-free values outweigh its kiddie-porn advertising aesthetic.
More on fascist crowd control: "Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was so deeply troubled by the chaos of people walking around central Rome that he enacted strict rules governing pedestrians," writes Project for Public Spaces' Jay Walljasper in a column I mentioned yesterday. "Everyone on... Via del Corso was commanded to walk in one direction on the east side of the street, and the opposite direction on the west side... Romans living under the bootheel of Mussolini's fascist regime refused to accept this infringement of their right to walk the way they want to walk... So why has no one in Winnipeg... torn out the sidewalk blockades at Portage and Main, one of the most celebrated intersections in Canadian history? Why don't folks in Seattle... revolt against the police department's longstanding policy of issuing jaywalking tickets to innocent souls simply crossing the street?"

If you visit Empire North's website, you'd get the impression crowds in public spaces are rebelling--violently--at such restrictions. "As the urban battlefield grows more complex and intense, new ways of managing and controlling crowds are needed," the page reads.

Its solution?

The ID-Sniper, a trademarked rifle described thusly:
It is used to implant a GPS-microchip in the body of a human being, using a high powered sniper rifle as the long distance injector. The microchip will enter the body and stay there, causing no internal damage, and only a very small amount of physical pain to the target. It will feel like a mosquito-bite lasting a fraction of a second. At the same time a digital camcorder with a zoom-lense fitted within the scope will take a high-resolution picture of the target. This picture will be stored on a memory card for later image-analysis.
OK, it's not real. Copenhagen-based artist Jakob Boeskov created the site and the product, which was so convincing it was featured at China's first police weapons fair.
Watching America: Will Pitt points out a great resource, Watching America, that offers translations of news about the US by non-American sources:
WatchingAmerica reflects global opinion about the United States, helping Americans and non-Americans alike understand what the world thinks of current issues that involve the U.S. This is done by providing news and views about the United States published in other countries. It is not our purpose to find favorable or unfavorable news and commentary, but to reflect as accurately as possible how others perceive the richest and most powerful country in the world. WatchingAmerica makes available in English articles written about the U.S. by foreigners, often for foreign audiences, and often in other languages. Since WatchingAmerica offers its own translations, regular users of our site will be able to enjoy articles that are not available in English anywhere else. We are a unique window into world opinion. In addition, by integrating the latest translation technology into the site, visitors are able to surf all of the content of foreign-language news outlets at the push of a button - in English.


Power to the pedestrians: "Civic-engagement" guru Reggie Prim, writing on a beta blog by the Walker Art Center Education and Community Programs department, has this interesting offering:
I've been hearing the term Fascist bandied about quite a bit lately. But, I had not connected the word to the growing debate about urban public spaces. Columnist Jay Walljasper doesn't seem to have the same problem. In his latest column on the Project for Public Spaces website, he let's it rip on control-freak urban pedestrian crowd control schemes. Linking the desire to control pedestrians at the expense of cars to fascistic tendencies, Walljasper asserts that, it's high time that we stand up to planners and politicians who don't yet understand that it's pedestrians that bring life to a community, and it's cars who suck all the life out.
More at ECPblog.
A moral pornucopia: When Janet Jackson's bejeweled boob made an abrupt appearance at the 2004 Super Bowl, "moral values" guardians like Tom Delay, Joe Lieberman, and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) shrieked the loudest. Aware that Fortune 500 companies use seedy low-profile subsidiaries to expand profits, Wilson exploded at Viacom president Mel Karmazin during decency hearings on Nipplegate. Her voice reportedly cracking and eyes filling with tears, she said: "You knew what you were doing. You knew that shock and indecency creates a buzz that moves market share and lines your pockets." But according to a new report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), shock and indecency also moves political campaigns.

An ardent anti-porn crusader, Wilson has accepted $47,000 in contributions from smut-related industries in the last two election cycles—and she’s not alone. CREW’s report spotlights the top 15 anti-porn Congresspeople—13 Republicans and 2 Democrats—who received at least ten grand from companies profiting from adult entertainment. These contributions come from hotels (an industry that makes $190 million a year in pay-per-view adult entertainment sales), cable and satellite companies (corporations that rake in $1 billion annually on pay-per-view and video-on-demand programming with adult content), phone companies and internet providers (AT&T alone made $20 million a month on broadband porn offerings in 2002). CREW's executive director suggests a new prize, the "Forked Tongue Awards," for people like Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican who received $17,000 in donations from an industry he equates with cocaine peddlers, and John McCain, who positioned himself as the anti-porn candidate in the 2000 presidential election but went on to collect $46,000 from smut-related companies. That prominent conservative Republicans who tsk-tsk the widespread availability of naughty content raked in the most—DeLay ($24,000), Charles Pickering ($52,000), Fred Upton of Michigan ($56,500)—begs an obvious question: when will American voters stop rewarding "moral values" hypocrites? Or, better yet, when will they stop rewarding cynics: these Congresspeople seem convinced that voters won't make the connection, just as the veil between major corporations’ smily-face public images and their backdoor profit centers will never be torn down by the media, the companies, or, least of all, politicos themselves, who are most likely to benefit.


"I love my family. I love my race," says a headline accompanying a photo of a tow-headed boy on the website for National Vanguard, a magazine run by "white pride" group National Alliance (in 1989, the magazine celebrated the 100th anniversary of Hitler's birth, citing him as "the greatest man of our era"). Browsing topics of their news posts--anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism, anti-black--it's easy to see why the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the neo-Nazi group "the most important hate group in America."

Pretty fringe stuff, right? Not according to Google News, which includes the site on its pages. Google News is known for its entirely computerized (and therefore ideologicaly independent) method of randomly generating headlines. But as Google Blogoscoped writes, while the results are algorhythmically selected, their sources aren't: "Google News... still pick their sources manually; a human editor at Google, not a computer, selected National Vanguard as Google News source." A taste of the news you might Google up:
Race-mixing egalitarian George Harrison, known as the “Quiet Beatle,” died in Los Angeles on November 29, 2001, after battling lung cancer and a brain tumor. He spent the last miserable weeks of his life in the company of parasitic Jew Gilbert Lederman (pictured), who exploited the dying man with the kind of gall that only a Jew could muster.
(Via Waxy.)
Kidnapping Terri: "Oh, for the days when people just died. When a loved one who could no longer take soup from a spoon was known to have finished living." Those days are long gone, says a Star Tribune editorial on the "strange political kidnapping" of Terri Schiavo. It concludes:
...Terri and Michael Schiavo were swept into an absurd political drama in which facts seem to play no role. Never mind that Michael Schiavo's every act has been in keeping with law and common medical practice. Somehow, this particular Florida case had all the makings of right-wing infotainment. Once the production played its way through Florida's Legislature and court system, the feds took the stage.

And so it is that House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, has seen fit to call Michael Schiavo's attempt to honor his wife's wishes "an act of medical terrorism" and of "homicide" -- a characterization so vile it may qualify as slander. President Bush was so determined to "save Terri" that he winged his way back from vacation to sign a law tossing her destiny into the federal courts.

It's a silly obstructionist game, and if American liberty means anything, it will soon end. Federal court is the wrong place for reviewing state policy, and in any case this controversy raises no unresolved matter. But forget protocol: Thanks to Washington's bosses, the private business of a Florida man and his vegetative wife is headed for a trip through the federal court system. For Terri and Michael Schiavo, it's likely to be a victory tour: In ruling after ruling, the nation's courts have emphasized that individuals, not government, should make decisions about personal medical matters. How can the champions of "small government" -- the very authors of this vulgar, tyrannical escapade -- possibly disagree?
GOP talking points: Talking points on the Schiavo story, rumored to have originated in Sen. Rick Santorum's office, are now online at DC InsideScoop.
Erring on the side of life: Tom Tomorrow makes what should be an obvious point: Bush is a bit disengenuous when he says of Terri Schiavo's case, "This is a complex case with serious issues, but in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wisest to always err on the side of life." Like this err:
Republican presidential nominee Governor George W. Bush, who has had more executions during his five-year tenure in Austin than any other governor in the nation since capital punishment was reinstated, has made his support for executing mentally retarded inmates clear. In 1995, the newly minted governor rejected a clemency plea from lawyers for Mario Marquez, a mentally retarded adult whose verbal and reasoning skills were comparable to those of a 7-year-old child.

Since then, Governor Bush has upheld his position, refusing to take mental capacity into account when reviewing last-minute pleas. The Texas Board of Paroles, the only body in the state with the authority to grant full-out clemency, voted unanimously to refuse Cruz's requests.
And this err:
In his five years as governor of Texas, the state has executed 131 prisoners -- far more than any other state. Mr. Bush has lately granted a stay of execution for the first time, for a DNA test.

In answer to questions about that record, Governor Bush has repeatedly said that he has no qualms. "I'm confident," he said last February, "that every person that has been put to death in Texas under my watch has been guilty of the crime charged, and has had full access to the courts."

That defense of the record ignores many notorious examples of unfairness in Texas death penalty cases. Lawyers have been under the influence of cocaine during the trial, or been drunk or asleep. One court dismissed a complaint about a lawyer who slept through a trial with the comment that courts are not "obligated to either constantly monitor trial counsel's wakefulness or endeavor to wake counsel should he fall asleep."

"A blow to the rule of law": A New York Times editorial today posits:
[S]upporters of Ms. Schiavo's parents, particularly members of the religious right, leaned heavily on Congress and the White House to step in. They did so yesterday with the new law, which gives "any parent of Theresa Marie Schiavo" standing to sue in federal court to keep her alive.

This narrow focus is offensive. The founders believed in a nation in which, as Justice Robert Jackson once wrote, we would "submit ourselves to rulers only if under rules." There is no place in such a system for a special law creating rights for only one family. The White House insists that the law will not be a precedent. But that means that the right to bring such claims in federal court is reserved for people with enough political pull to get a law passed that names them in the text.

The Bush administration and the current Congressional leadership like to wax eloquent about states' rights. But they dropped those principles in their rush to stampede over the Florida courts and Legislature. The new law doesn't miss a chance to trample on the state's autonomy and dignity.


The Postmoral Art of Tom DeLay: Don forwards an interesting essay by Crispin Sartwell that unwinds the "Escher-like" corruption of Tom DeLay. Some snippets:
That's why all art lovers admire Tom DeLay, the spearhead of postmoralist art. Tom DeLay not only peddles influence proudly and continuously, but when caught, he raises his defense fund by peddling more influence to the same people to whom he's being accused of peddling his influence...


...DeLay's true artistry gleams forth here, as everywhere in his oeuvre. Those faced with judging DeLay are paying him for the privilege of exonerating him. In fact, they will pay him for the privilege of exonerating him of the very corruption constituted by those payments themselves. Their payment is a dereliction; their exoneration of him on the charge of accepting such payments is a dereliction; the mere existence of Congress -- to say nothing of its actual composition -- begins to emerge as a dereliction as it is illuminated by DeLay's quasi-divine effulgence.
Terri Schiavo: A case of situational sanctity? One thing that's true about the mainstream media's macabre coverage of the Terri Schiavo case is that everyone in America should draw up a living will, lest--like Schiavo--you become a game piece in Republican political maneuvering exercises. Watching footage of the vegetative Schiavo, the "sanctity of life" argument touted by Tom DeLay and others rings false as I see this poor woman's image broadcast on TV, her wasted body and permanently wrecked brain put on display for political gain. And while it fits with the GOP's "red meat" strategy--a bait-and-switch, where hot-button issues like flag-burning, abortion rights, and gay marriage distract religious conservatives from economic injustices promoted by the party--it again demonstrates Republicans' unnuanced and inconsistent moral rhetoric. A few things to consider:

- What about the "sanctity of marriage"? That ardently argued mantra from the gay marriage debate is shitcanned without a second thought in favor of letting Congress run roughshod over Michael Schiavo's rights as lawful guardian of his wife.

- The Texas Futile Care Law, signed by then-Gov. George W. Bush, gives hospitals the right to turn off life support if a patient can't pay or there's no hope for revival, regardless of the family's wishes. Now Congress is stepping in, with Bush's approval, to override state law?

- Will this "sanctity of life" thing start applying to Iraqi civilians? Death Row inmates? Afghanis held in Guantanamo? Or is it "situational sanctity"?

Talking points reportedy distributed to Congressional Republicans states that the "pro-life base will be excited" by the Schiavo case, and that it's a "great political issue -- this is a tough issue for Democrats." Sure is. And it's got us talking about the life of one person who's been irreversibly brain damaged for 15 years--one person whose wishes to not be kept alive through extreme measures were conveyed to her husband--instead of the lives of millions affected by the Iraq war, Social Security restructuring, tort reform, gutted healthcare, and dismantled environmental protections, not to mention the slow death caused by withering government funding for social programs for the poor. Where's the morality in that?


The Face of Maori Resistance

Tame Iti has a face you won't easily forget—it's entirely covered with a Maori tattoo called a moko—but other sides of him are just as striking. This 53-year old New Zealand activist and artist has made headlines for his bold demonstrations for tino rangatiratanga—self-determination for the Maori—including one incident on Waitangi Day in 1995, when he bared his tattooed buttocks to Governor General Cath Tizard in a scathing Maori insult called whakapohane. Ever since he was a teenager, Iti has been on the front lines of the struggle to resist "Pakeha imperialism," expose racism against indigenous people, and win back whanako—lands stolen by the Crown. And in that time, he's protested the Vietnam war and helped found one of the biggest anti-apartheid movements outside South Africa. He's hosted radio shows on underground and mainstream stations in both English and Maori, created paintings and visual art installations and, using his DJ pseudonym Dr. Tutu, recently collaborated on a CD that combines Maori chant and instrumentation with electronica and politically charged lyrics. All while holding down a day job as a social worker with battered women and those dealing with substance abuse.

"Thirty or 40 years ago they were reckoning we're a dying people, a dying culture, a dying language. But we proved them wrong."

With such a diverse curriculum vitae, it's no surprise that his activism has taken on creative and controversial dimensions. His legendary protests include a childhood rejection of the principal's dictum that only English be spoken on school grounds (his belief that "if you didn't speak Maori, you weren't a Maori" earned him countless trips to the blackboard to write "I will not speak Maori") and an incident where he threw his body in the path of a speeding jetboat to protest races down a sacred river. One famous demonstration in the 1970s feels more like conceptual art than civil disobedience: Iti constructed a Tuhoe Embassy on the Parliament grounds—a borrowed tent pitched under the statue of Prime Minister Dick Seddon—to raise awareness of his people's cause. When confronted by police, he announced that he was the new Maori ambassador from Tuhoe, for which he was jailed overnight. But Iti's tactics don't always involve the extra-legal: on January 15, Iti and other Maori leaders went to court, continuing a process begun in the '70s to gain back ancestral lands occupied by Maori for 1,000 years.

New Zealand's most visible activist, Iti admits the 10 or so hours spent in the tattoo artist's chair were extremely painful. But it was worth it to literally—and indelibly—embody values he aims to see survive and thrive. Today, once-rare mokos are common on the streets of Wellington and Auckland, and Maori is now the official second language of Aotearoa (the indigenous name for the country dubbed New Zealand by the Dutch). Tame Iti insists that the marking indicates a cultural renaissance that's anything but skin-deep. "Thirty or 40 years ago they were reckoning we're a dying people, a dying culture, a dying language," he says, "but we proved them wrong."

A writer's cut of a piece I wrote for the current print edition of the excellent Dutch magazine Ode.
Wetterling for Senate: The Wetterling name first registered for me my freshman year in college, when a young boy with that last name was abducted--never to be found--just outside the town where I went to college. Jacob's mom went on to become a national leader in programs for children's safety. In 2004, Patty Wetterling lost in her bid for a seat in the House of Representatives to heavily funded Republican and mudslinging rightwinger Mark Kennedy. Now Patty's considering running for the Senate seat to be vacated by progressive Democrat Mark Dayton, and guess who her likely challenger is? Mark Kennedy. The Republican's term is only a few months old and he's already pondering his next social climb? Wetterling is an honorable, competent, multi-talented leader, and I encourage you to support her candidacy financially--early and often. You can bet her opponent will be bankrolled--as he was last time around--by the national GOP and its deep-pocketed corporate pals.


Two years later... Two years into it, the Iraq War has cost us dearly: 1,519 US dead, maybe 100,000 Iraqis liberated (from their lives), all at a cost of $157,000,000,000 and counting. How are you going to celebrate tomorrow's two-year anniversary?

Bush is doing so by nominating chickenhawk, Project for a New American Century founding member, and Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz--in a brazen screw-you to the world--as head of the World Bank. But perhaps you'd prefer to attend one of the hundreds of war vigils being held across the country (visit Sojourners or United for Peace and Justice to find one near you).

Why Wolfowitz? The New York Times writes, " Even those who supported the goals of the invasion must remember Mr. Wolfowitz's scathing contempt for estimates that the occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of troops, and his serene conviction that American soldiers would be greeted with flowers." But beyond his hand in orchestrating the Iraq quagmire, Wolfowitz isn't really qualitifed (on NPR this morning, I heard Bush saying his qualifications are that he heads the Pentagon, which--like the World Bank--is a big organization). The organization is, after all, about funding projects for impoverished countries. Salon's Farhad Manjoo puts it well:
During all of the posts he's held in his professional life -- in academia, at the State Department during the Reagan years, and the Defense Department during the first and second Bush administrations -- it's hard to find a single instance in which Wolfowitz has put international development anywhere on his list of global priorities. Sachs has worked on international development issues for more than two decades, and he knows pretty much everybody in the field. Wolfowitz, he says, "is not known in this field as having any role." Search Wolfowitz's official biography on the Defense Department Web site for words like "development" or "poverty" or "malaria" or "AIDS" or "debt" or "economic policy" and you come up with nothing. The document suggests that Wolfowitz has spent more time thinking about how to position naval ships than how to deploy bed nets to nations afflicted with malaria.
Manjoo goes on to quote Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist who heads the U.N. Millennium Project, who says the World Bank doesn't deal with "amateur-hour" issues: "We presumably wouldn't nominate Wolfowitz to be surgeon general. We wouldn't send him to the Supreme Court to argue a case. He's a defense specialist. This is not a qualification to be the head of the World Bank."

File under: brass cojones: A British MP got booted from the House of Commons yesterday for calling for Tony Blair's impeachment--or, rather, for refusing to withdraw his comment that "There is compelling evidence that the prime minister misled this house in taking us to war. Isn't it high time we held him to account?" Afterwards, he--Adam Price--said:
Most people now believe that the prime minister deliberately deceived parliament and the people. He even deceived members of his own cabinet in taking us to war two years ago. But the rules of the game in Westminster mean we cannot say what most of us think. The prime minister misled us and MPs must be able to debate the issue.

We will not let Tony Blair's lies and deceit be forgotten. 100,000 people have died in the course of this conflict. We must take a stand. I will not be gagged and parliament should not allow itself to be silenced.
For more: Antiwar.com has a great set of links on Wolfowitz, the pullout of troops by Italy and others, abuse of detainess, and possible next targets.
Is church branding kosher? Years ago as an advertising copywriter, I penned a line for a local Methodist Church to encourge Sunday attendance. "Invoke God's name here before you do it on the golf course," it read. So I knew churches advertised, but today many congregations are going a step further to full-blown branding. According to Brand Channel, there's even an agency dedicated to church branding, and it's guided by biblical principles, according to its founder, who cites 1 Corinthians 9: "I become all things to all people. When I'm with the Jews, I'll talk as a Jew. When I'm with the Gentiles, I'll talk as a Gentile." Read more here.


From Harry Frankfurt: As there's a minor buzz about Frankfurt's note to me, I should print his recent note in full. To reiterate, I think the professor's essay is great (buy the book). And I appreciate the primer on copyright I've gotten from many sources. He writes:
Dear Mr. Schmelzer,

I've looked at your site, and I have no objection to the excerpt from  my essay that is presented there.  I apologize for any suggestion that  you might have done something improper.  Indeed, I am grateful to you  for the honor that your attention to my work does me.

Harry Frankfurt
More on BS from Sivacracy: Siva, far more eloquent than I on the topic, blogs about "fair use" and "On Bullshit." He writes that perhaps "Professor Frankfurt should include copyright abuse among the list of 'bullshit' claims flying around our culture these days," and he proposes a plan:
How about this? If you have a blog out there, copy and paste the exact text that got Paul in trouble. Post in on your blog. See what happens.

Better yet, someone at Princeton should scour Professor Frankfurt's body of work for his use of quotes from copyrighted material. Could he really have made a career without quoting?
And he concludes:
In my critical judgement, this essay should not be a book. It should be an essay posted on the Web. Criticism in a free society: That's what fair use is all about. That's also what calling bullshit bullshit is all about.

See the connection?
And: Princeton's Ed Felten, commenting at Copyfight's link to Siva's story, says that perhaps Frankfurt thought I created the page linked at the bottom of my blog entry that contained the full essay. I didn't. That page, which used to look like this, no longer contains the full text.
Oh my God: Bush just nominated Wolfowitz to head the World Bank.
Bullshit and copyright: In late February, I blogged a 131-word excerpt of Princeton philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt's essay "On Bullshit." It's a great essay, but I quoted the dullest part, just the set-up, to encourage reader's to go to his site to view the whole thing. Written in 1985 as a relatively overlooked essay, it's gained relevance of late, and the Princeton press is now making it into a book. This morning, Frankfurt wrote me the following email:
Dear Mr.Smelzer:

It has come to my attention that you have placed a copy of my essay "On Bullshit" on your website. I appreciate the compliment.  As you may know, however, the essay has recently been published as a book by the Princeton University Press. The management of the Press and I are concernedthat your use of my essay may interfere with sales of the book. In any case, it constitutes a clear infringement of my copyright.  I must ask you, therefore, to remove the essay from your websiteas soon as possible.

Harry Frankfurt
I'm glad the essay is getting mileage, and I respect the author's and press' right to make a buck (or just under nine, as it's priced on Amazon). But, really. Has Frankfurt never quoted another author in his scholarly work? Or does his work--or any other academic's--spring fully formed from his skull, independent of previous writings and publicly shared thought? My understanding of copyright is that the founders created it to balance the rights of authors to make a living with the need of society to make cultural products available so others can build on and improve them.That's why the law allows for "fair use" in general and selected quotation in particular.

But I'm no expert, so I asked NYU's Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of Copyrights and Copywrongs, among others, to weigh in. Succinctly put, "He's full of Bullshit." According to both the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style and Sec. 107 of USC Title 17, says Siva, my excerpt is fair use and, therefore, fair game.

But beyond that: won't the minimal publicity I've given the essay actually help Frankfurt gain a few more cents in royalties? And if it doesn't, how bad of a dent could I put in his precious profits, considering my site gets, literally, 50-some hits a day. And, finally, isn't this kind of petty letter a web meme in the making, a way to draw attention away from his scholarship and toward his apparent moneygrubbing? I have no beef with Frankfurt--except for his misspelling of my name (where's my grading pen?)--but I'm curious what his reply to me will be.


Gettin' weird with the words: The American Dialect Society has published results from its 2004 Words of the Year vote. Among the list: "hillbilly armor," "lawn mullet" (a yard neatly mowed in front but unmowed in the back), and--joyous of all--"santorum." Named after gay-bashing Republican Senator Rick Santorum, it now refers to a "frothy mix" of... well, you can figure that out for yourself. (Via Kuro5hin.)
Gettin' weird in the wild: I usually don't go for "news of the weird"-style postings (for that, go to Ananova's Quirkies or Chuck Shepherd himself), but this one is so odd: the Guardian writes about the discovery of the first case of homosexual necrophilia in a mallard. And in the "unfortunate headline" category, the Guardian runs a story entitled "Farting fish fingered," about the discovery of flatulent herrings.
Be nice to the president, willya? From Cursor:
A Memphis coffee shop owner says he was contacted in advance of President Bush's to the city last Friday by someone claiming to be a "special agent," who said he was "calling businesses to tell them not to put up any ... signs in their windows that were negative toward President Bush." He's scheduled to be on Air America Monday.


Brand America selling like the opposite of hotcakes: With all the anti-Americanism out there, it seemed like a good idea to hire a hotshot PR maven to "rebrand American foreign policy." But Charlotte Beers' campaign has been a flop ("The US can't be sold as a brand, like Cheerios,'' wrote the WSJ editorial board)--or perhaps glossy marketing materials aren't effective at whitewashing Bush's crappy policies. Maybe Beers--and Bush--failed, but the notion of "nation-branding" is pretty hot, as the Boston Globe reports. Full story here.


I love my pet, but... Apparently you can sell anything with pictures of cute dogs and cats. A company called PetRefresh has come out with about the dumbest product ever--bottled water for pets. OK, it's not dumb--some pets could probably use vitamin-enriched H20--but it does seem a bit decadent. For $1.49 for a 20-ounce bottle your dog can drink water purified through a "special filtration process" that takes out the chemcials found in tap water but keeps in minerals your pet needs to stay healthy. Puh-lease. But apparently it's a cash cow. Several companies are doing the same thing, from K9 Water's chicken-flavored "Toilet Water" to PetRefresh fish-flavored water that, like all its products, begins fittingly with river water. (Via Stay Free!)

Ironic marketing: McDonald's, seeking to rebut critics who say their fatty food is contributing to an American obesity epidemic, has launched a new campaign promoting healthful activities. One commercial--running on TV--urges, "Maybe you should spend less time with your TV." (Curious: how come multibillion-dollar McDonald's can buy spots telling people to turn off the TV, but Adbusters can't do the same for TV Turnoff Week? Hmm.)

TV Turnoff gets literal: TV-Turnoff Week, April 25 through May 1, becomes less than symbolic this year through a partnership with TV-B-Gone, a tiny remote control that can turn off television sets anywhere, even in public spaces.
Bush gets Baracked: Illinois Senator Barack Obama refuted Bush's inane assertion that African Americans could reap greater rewards, due to shorter life expectancies, from a Social Security overhaul. Excerpts of said spanking:
It is puzzling to me that we are even having this debate about whether Social Security is good or not for African Americans. I frankly found the statement that the president made somewhat offensive.

[While it’s true that white men outlive their black counterparts on average,] the notion that we would cynically use those disparities as a rationale for dismantling Social Security as opposed to talking about how are we going to close the health disparities gap that exists, and make sure that African-American life expectancy is as long as the rest of this nation … is stunning to me.
(Moral) Bankruptcy Bill: Hypocrisy was on the docket this week as so-called moral-values Republicans ran roughshod over the poor and the struggling, the foreign and the Islamic, and just about any semblance of justice or ethics. Top of mind is the passage in the Senate--with little opposition from Democrats--of a bankruptcy bill backed by the credit card industry. Sen. Edward Kennedy called it "a bonanza for the credit card companies, which made $30 billion in profits last year, and a nightmare for the poorest of the poor and the weakest of the weak." A recurring theme, apparently:

* Like his commander-in-chief's "widespread" use of fabricated news, Schwarzeneggar was accused of trying to pass of paid PR as news and thus breaking the law prohibiting government-funded propaganda.

* The army revealed that it had tortured to death Afghan prisoners in its custody, chaining them to the ceiling and kicking and beating them until dead and that children were among those held at Abu Ghraib.

* The US dropped out of International Court of Justice, a body it helped found to ensure detained foreigners can seek help from their embassies, because it could prevent the US from executing foreign nationals on American death row.

* The trade deficit jumped up in January to $58.3 billion, only exceeded in US history by November's figure of $59.4 billion, prompting yet another tumble by the dollar and the stock market.

* In true Christian fashion, the Bush administration wants to ease its budgetary woes not by raising taxes on those who can afford it but by slashing nutrion and food-stamp programs for the poor and cutting subsidies to farmers.

* And, locally, Minnesota's no-new-taxes Republican governor is pushing for state-run gambling, insisting on a partnership with state tribes that would open a public-private casino in the Twin Cities.
Weird science: This is pretty amazing. A 2-year old boy whose dad ran over his head with an SUV is going to live and probably have a full recovery. Doctors removed four three-inch pieces of the boy's skull to relieve pressure, and to store the pieces until the swelling goes down, they found an unusual sterile environment: under the skin in the boy's abdomen. Earlier: In 2002, one child per week was killed in his own driveway, 60 % of them by SUVs or light trucks. Read more at "SUV = Son Under Vehicle?"


Japanese psychiatric images: The Japanese Gallery of Psychiatric Art offers an amazing trip--pun intended--through drug advertisements (and therefore through design and art trends) of the 1950s to today. The motifs run from ominous photos of the chronically distressed to Magritte-style surrealism in the '70s to imagery reminiscent of Arp, Man Ray, Dali, and cutesy anime. (Via Metafilter.)


Wag the dog: Saddam capture faked! Get this:
A former U.S. Marine who participated in capturing ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the public version of his capture was fabricated.

Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.

"I was among the 20-man unit, including eight of Arab descent, who searched for Saddam for three days in the area of Dour near Tikrit, and we found him in a modest home in a small village and not in a hole as announced," Abou Rabeh said.

"We captured him after fierce resistance during which a Marine of Sudanese origin was killed," he said.

He said Saddam himself fired at them with a gun from the window of a room on the second floor. Then they shouted at him in Arabic: "You have to surrender. ... There is no point in resisting."

"Later on, a military production team fabricated the film of Saddam's capture in a hole, which was in fact a deserted well," Abou Rabeh said.
And the rightwingers wonder why the rest of us might be a tad leery of a government-run Pentagon TV station (In a March 8 commentary entitled "Group Against the Troops," Sinclair's Mark Hyman called Working Assets "a group from the lunatic fringe" for wanting Pentagon TV off the Dish satellite network; email me if you'd like a pdf of the commentary.). (Via Peek.)
Radiation check: CNET publishes a comparative list of the "specific absorption rate" of cellphones; that is, the amount of radiofrequency energy that is emitted and absorbed by your body. While they point out they're not making claims about phone safety, pro or con, it's a little freaky considering how many SARs are coursing in during a phonecall. Nokia, my brand but not my model, leads the list with 7 of the top 10 radiation-emitting phones, while the least sperm-fryingest phone is the Siemens S40 (aptly named, as it turns out). For more on the health effects of cellphones, read this entry at How Stuff Works. (Via Digg.)


McMorality: In his new book Branded Nation, James Twitchell (author of Lead Us Into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism) takes on branded spaces, and in an excellent excerpt he zeroes in on the megachurch phenomenon--"church as gated community"--one-stop spiritual shopping where you can hole up with like-minded individuals, meet your consumption and relational needs, and never have to rub elbows (that is, have your faith tested in the cauldron of community) with the "wrong kind of people." One church he mentions hosts a McDonalds, while others have ATM machines, a climbing wall, a planned trout pond where Dad and Junior can bond, and food courts, coffeeshops and video arcades galore. Such luxury almost makes one forget exactly who's supposed to inherit the earth. (Hint: rhymes with "eek!"). He describes one church: "So at Southeast Christian in Louisville, Kentucky, churchgoers speak of a 22,000-person family, and visitors are regaled with often loopy statistics such as the automated coffeepot that serves five thousand cups an hour. Southeast's size has spawned the invention of the Greenlee Communion Dispensing Machine, which can fill forty communion cups in two seconds." What's next? Outsourcing confession to India?

"If people are shopping for faith, the megachurch fills up the shelves," writes Twitchell. "And since you can't generate brand loyalty on the basis of faith, you essentially do it on the basis of add-ons, on the basis of value added to affiliation, on the basis of providing convenient community." Following up that theme, Rob Walker describes Aurelio Barreto's conversion experience. "[H]e found Jesus; he shared the news about Christ with anyone who would listen. Eventually, however, he found another way to spread the word, which he says will be far more effective: retail."

The Sin the Republicans Forgot: While most rightwing Republicans can spot immorality a mile away--especially that of the sexual variety--one bona fide sin that doesn't seem to enter their collective consciousness is usury, charging a fee for lending money. Republicans in the Senate are working eagerly to ensure that credit card companies can expand profits and debt-strapped citizens have a harder time declaring bankruptcy. The measure before Congress--which would cut out protections for families and the elderly--operates under the presumption that bankruptcies have skyrocketed in recent years not because of a turbulent economy but because of chronic overspenders. How, then, to account for the 16,000 US soldiers who filed for court protection from their creditors? Or the fact that half of all personal bankruptcies are blamed on overwhelming medical expenditures and debilitating illness? The bill before Congress has been pushed by the credit card industry for eight years, and if it were not for Bill Clinton refusing to sign a version passed by the House and Senate on grounds it was unfair, it would be on the books now. But the momentum seems to be in the rightwingers favor this time around (you know Bush won't weigh in on the injustice of the proposal). Paul Krugman sums it up nicely:
Warren Buffett recently made headlines by saying America is more likely to turn into a 'sharecroppers' society' than an 'ownership society.' But I think the right term is a 'debt peonage' society - after the system, prevalent in the post-Civil War South, in which debtors were forced to work for their creditors. The bankruptcy bill won't get us back to those bad old days all by itself, but it's a significant step in that direction.


In the Army, is ethics a mental illness? Internal army files released on Friday suggest that abuse of detainees was widespread in Iraq. Among the contents is a case where an intelligence officer reported to his superiors that he'd seen an escalation of abuse in his unit's Samarra detention facility in April 2003. The Washington Post reports:
The soldier complained that he had had to resuscitate abused detainees and urged the unit's withdrawal. He told investigators that the unit's commander, an Army captain, responded by giving him "30 seconds to withdraw my request or he was going to send me forcibly to go see a psychiatrist." The soldier added: "I told him I was not going to withdraw my request and at that time he confiscated my weapon and informed me he was withdrawing my security clearance and was placing me under 24-hour surveillance."

A witness in his unit told investigators that the captain later pressured a military doctor -- who had found the soldier stable -- into doing another emergency evaluation, saying: "I don't care what you saw or heard, he is imbalanced, and I want him out of here."

The next day, after the doctor did another evaluation, the soldier was evacuated from Iraq in restraints on a stretcher to a military hospital in Germany, despite having been given no official diagnosis, according to the documents. A military doctor in Germany ruled he was in stable mental health, according to the documents, but sent him back to the United States for what the soldier recalls the doctor describing as his "safety."
Herokillers: The US gunned down an Italian secret service agent, Nicola Calipari, just after he'd helped free journalist Giuliana Sgrena from Iraqi captors who held her for over a month. The US claims it was an accident--firing on the car, injuring Sgrena, and killing Calipari, who shielded the journalist from bullets--but Sgrena isn't so sure. She told Sky Italia TV that perhaps she was targeted because the US oppposed the policy of negotiating with kidnappers. She also wrote for a left-wing paper, Il Manifesto, which was critical of the war. More from The Guardian.


Agent Orange victims seek justice: A lawsuit filed last week seeks damages from the American companies that supplied the military with Agent Orange. As many as four million Vietnamese have experienced a lifetime of respiratory and reproductive problems as a result of contamination from the toxic defoliant. The suit, which could cost 30 chemical companies (including Dow and genetic engineering giant Monsanto) billions in damages, could open the way for future suits related to depleted uranium and other virtually untested weapons, writes The Independent's Andrew Buncombe. Some $300 million has been paid to US troops who fought in Vietnam, but the Vietnamese citizens affected by the poison haven't seen a cent. Agent Orange contains the deadliest known form of dioxin, TCDD, which causes cancer in lab rats and birth defects in humans.

According to the plaintiff's lawyer, Jonathan Moore, "The companies ... knew Agent Orange contained high levels of dioxin and did not care because ... they figured the only people getting sprayed were the enemy." Monsanto's Jill Montgomery told CorpWatch, "We are sympathetic with people who believe they have been injured and understand their concern to find the cause, but reliable scientific evidence indicates that Agent Orange is not the cause of serious long-term health effects."

And: Why won't the US mainstream press report this story? And why is Bush's Justice Department trying to get the case thrown out of court? (Answer: it's a "threat to the president's power to wage war and an effort at a 'breathtaking expansion' of the powers of federal courts," writes the New York Times.)

Why Wendell matters

"In the 1970s, [poet-essayist Wendell Berry] made new-guard environmentalism look aged by marrying it with traditional agrarian sentiment. Then he made 'conservatives' look like reckless futurists by pointing to the threat that unchecked market growth and technological expansion pose to both community values and ecological well-being. In a nation ostensibly locked into a well-defined political divide, he represents an American voice that avoids easy classification." If you've been reading Eyeteeth for awhile, you'll expect the occasional surfacing of a Berry poem or essay. And as another poem cycled to the top of the self-turning compost pile that is my desk recently, I realized Berry truly is "the" poet for these times. As Mark Engler wrote in the essay quoted above, Berry's independent path--neither modern, postmodern, nor traditionalist, not really left or right, his NYU-meets-Henry County, Kentucky pedigree--presents a third way in these polarized times. No one can make issues of community, responsibility, and environment resonate so deeply. But beyond these content areas, his spiritual work is what ends up being a balm when I'm agitated about the world or my circumstances within it: it's a Christian perspective, I suppose, that doesn't bonk you on the head, a Buddhist perspective that seems perfectly at home here in the US of A.
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill -- more of each
than you have -- inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

--Wendell Berry


What would Jesus wear? Evan at AlterNet's Peek wonders if the Prince of Peace would opt for this silicone bracelet or the one available at the "Official Red State Store" that's embossed with images of guns, flags, and fetuses. An excellent followup to Evan's recent post on the Westboro Baptist Church's website, entitled God Hates Fags. (Don't miss the Christlike report that "Matthew Shepard has been in hell for 2336 days.")
Calling Condi to the mat: Cory at BoingBoing points out a scathing open letter to Condoleeza Rice by Canada's former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axeworthy:
I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we've had eight years of balanced or surplus financial accounts. If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defence.

Sure, that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children.


US seeks "excruciating pain" in new weapon: With the Bush administration's virtual endorsement of torture as an intelligence-gathering strategy, should the US government be developing weapons that can cause "excruciating pain" in targets up to two kilometers away? So-called Pulsed Energy Projectiles (PEPs) "fire a laser pulse that generates a burst of expanding plasma when it hits something solid, like a person," potentially knocking them off their feet. (Via Cursor.)

Immigrant lockdown: According to TalkLeft, the department of Homeland Security is making 1700 immigrants who are applying for residency to wear electronic monitoring bracelets. While none of them has been accused of a crime, each of them, it appears, will be forced to wear the tracking devices day and night, just like convicted sex offenders. (Via Peek.)

Who's the terrorist? The ACLU. At least that's what Bill O'Reilly says. Leave it to the rightwingers to group law-abiding immigrants with convicted rapists, a civil-liberties group with the folks who toppled the World Trade Center.


Rummy's day in court: Representing eight men detained and tortured by US personnel, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First are suing Donald Rumsfeld for his role in the abuses, charging him witih violating the Constitution and international laws that prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment. The suit seeks compensation for the victims. Rear Admiral John D. Hutson (Ret. USN), co-counsel for Human Rights First, says that "One of the greatest strengths of the U.S. military throughout our history has been strong civilian leadership at the top of the chain of command. Unfortunately, Secretary Rumsfeld has failed to live up to that tradition. In the end, that imperils our troops and undermines the war effort. It is critical that we return to another military tradition: accountability."

Earlier: In January, it was revealed that Rumsfeld had set up a secret paramilitary intelligence operation within the defense department--and with virtually no Congressional oversight.

And: Tell Bush to remove Rumsfeld.
Brownshirts vs. Tuxedos: A straight-A lesbian highschooler in Florida won't be appearing in her yearbook this year because she's wearing a tuxedo in the photo. According to the principal, and county officials who are backing him up, a tuxedo is "boy's clothes" and not permissible garb for the school publication. The yearbook's editor was canned for refusing to pull the photo, and the girl's mother says "This is not to be treated as a gay rights issue. Rather it's a human rights issue." Says Craig Bowman, executive director of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, "Many court opinions state that gender-based dress codes violate students' rights. Unless it's clearly vulgar dress or offensive in some way, courts are more often sympathetic to the rights of the student."


Mapping the mourning: Coinciding with Iraq's "deadliest day" --some 115 people killed by a suicide bomber--the US military death toll is teetering at the 1,500 mark after a month where 58 American servicepeople died, including three more right here in Minnesota. Who's sustaining the fatalities? Check out the map at Iraq Coalition Casualites. (Via Alternet's Peek.)
Land of plenty? While child poverty has declined slightly in the US, we still have one of the highest rates of relative child poverty, second only to Mexico. According to a new UNICEF report, between 40 and 50 million children in the world's wealthiest countries live in poverty--that is, their families have incomes below 50% of the national median.
The American Left: Add Tabare Vazquez to the list that already includes Brazil's Silvio de Lula, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Argentina's Nestor Kirchner. Vazquez was sworn in as the first left-wing president in Uruguay's history, joining five other American nations who've recently shifted power to the left.

Are we next?

Probably not. A new Harris poll finds that most Americans--that's United Statesians--are clueless about the definitions of left and right: 37% of those polled think liberals oppose gun control, 27% think righties support affirmative actions, and 29% think liberals "oppose moral values."
Repent and desist: Remember the Church Sign Generator? A retired lawyer didn't get the joke when his nephew created a sign at the free site and sent a cease-and-desist letter to the site's creator:
I am shocked. My nephew, ____ ____ of Toronto, CANADA, sent me a photo of a sign indicating that my wife,_______, and, ________ OF ____, pray at the First BAPTIST Church. NEEDLESS TO SAY, THE SIGN IS UNAUTHORIZED, AND DAMAGING TO US AND WE DEMAND THAT IT BE REMOVED FORTHWITH.

I AM A RETIRED LAWYER AND PAST President of ________ Synagogue of TORONTO. Both my wife and I are of the Jewish faith and members of several synagogues in Toronto.

We consider your publically, unauthorized, prominentally displayed sign to be extemely damaging to us and request you take immediate steps to mitigate damages and an apology be issued. I anticipate your response, at once.