Thursday, November 24, 2005


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Winter Solstice, or whatever it is we're calling it these days.

It's no great secret that Christmas has been commercialized in recent years. I started seeing Christmas ads on TV about three weeks ago, and thousands of Americans who work in the retail sector will have their Thanksgiving pre-empted today, because their employers want them stationed at their cash registers to get a jump on the holiday buying season. I think this sorry tradition started last year, and I'm sure it's not going away.

Well, never mind the commercialization. We apparently now have the politicization of Christmas. The ACLU'ers stand on one side, trying to stamp out any observation of the holiday that's not done in secret. Area schools, including the one where I teach, received a letter a few months ago from a local Jewish activist group practically warning us not to even use the word Christmas under a veiled threat of legal action. And buried in this morning's Post-Dipatch was a story that the Ladue School District has been warned by Americans for the Separation of Church and State to cease and desist from its 25-year tradition of gathering food and clothes for the Salvation Army, which is a Christian organization.

Then there's this bunch of activists on the right, outraged that Christmas has nothing to do with the birth of Christ for most Americans. UPS was accused of not allowing drivers to wish customers "Merry Christmas," which UPS denies ever having done. Likewise, Target, the main target (excuse the bad pun) of retail boycotts, denies ever having banned the expression from its stores.

"I don't know where they're coming from. We have no such policy on Christmas. You can see it in our stores," a Target spokeswoman told the San Francisco Chronicle.

This year, the Alliance Defense Fund, sort of an ACLU for evangelical Christians, is bragging on its website that it has sent out 6,000 letters to schools warning teachers and administrators that they'd better not trample anyone's civil rights over the holidays. As if we teachers are sitting around trying to figure out how to brainwash and instill secular humanist values into our captive audiences. Usually we just want our students to sit down and shut up long enough so that we can teach them to read and cipher a little math.

Not to be outdone, Jerry Falwell is on the warpath with his Liberty Counsel. Their big success is that they forced the city of Boston to call its big city hall tree display a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree. To call it a holiday tree is silly, indeed. But it's really no more silly than the school where I teach calling its Halloween party a "fall party" because some fundamentalist parents, outraged that we would recognize the Devil's holiday.

For better or worse, few of us celebrate Christmas as a meaningful religious observance. For most of us it's a time to show goodwill toward others and to share special times with family and friends, not to mention participate in a big bacchanal with too much food and drink and a frenzy of gift giving that often surpasses the obscene. I'm a Christian, a Sunday school teacher, and a faithful Sunday regular at a Methodist church, but I admit that Christmas has little religious significance to me. In fact, the whole season has taken on such a separate and secular life of its own that I've chosen to divorce Christmas from Christ; to do otherwise, I think, would be a disservice to Jesus. I choose to observe my faith in more meaningful ways at other times. I know a growing number of Christians are likewise giving up this charade that what they do on Dec. 25 has much of anything to do with their faith.

The point of this is to say that Christmas is a secular, although meaningful, holiday for most Americans. Certainly, it's no threat to the religious freedom of those who choose not to participate. I'm sure that the vast majority of most of us who do celebrate Christmas would like to do so in peace and be left out of this ridiculous tangent of the culture wars.

Seen on a bumper sticker

"We can bomb the world into pieces, but we can't bomb the world into peace."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


If we really are one nation under God, then let's act like it

Ever feel as I do that in spite of all the feverish insistence from our conservative leadership that they are taking a stand for Christian values, that they've in truth led our nation down a terribly immoral, un-Christian path? I mean, these are the folks who apparently believe that torture is OK as a standard operating procedure, that some people should receive no legal rights, that pre-emptive war is good diplomacy, that world peace is a stupid idea for effeminate types, that the wealthy should be served first and everyone else last, and that the legal, ethical and moral considerations of campaign finance are highly situational and flexible.

If you agree with me, then you'll agree with Jimmy Carter, who has to say about the loss of our great nation's moral high ground over the past few years. Click here to read what he has to say.

By the way, here's something President Carter said about war quite a few years ago that's stuck with me:
"War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children."
And I certainly don't believe the war in Iraq qualifies even as a necessary evil.

Today's mail

We haven't looked at the mail recently, so today I reached in and pulled out a letter from a conservative, who disagreed with my posting about attacks on John Murtha.

O.k., lets call the comments from Libs in the past few days for what they are STRAW MAN POLITICS. I've noticed lately, how adept libs are in consistently using the straw man strategy. Of course, I guess I shouldn't be surprised - when you don't evidence to stand on, then you need to invent a stance for your opposition that you can attack and knock down.

Yes, there are comments from bloggers attacking John Murtha, and a freshman congresswoman read a note from a Marine who said that cowards turn but Marines never quit. (which I expect was actually meant to convey the message to Murtha that he is NOT a coward, and shouldn't be retreating) However, there is no ATTACK against Murtha. We conservatives don't think he's turned into the great satan, and we don't think he was or is a coward. In fact, we respect him, and thank him for his service (something you never seem to hear liberals doing). But we do think he is wrong, and a good number of Democrates think he is wrong.

But, hey, this isn't about the war for libs, its about politics. Win at any cost. And more importantly, give to the Democratic party (who's creating this Straw Man) at any cost.

I'm not sure what a straw man attack is, but it sure doesn't sound very positive.

And darn, we finally have a conservative who's on to us liberals. Here we thoght we had pulled the wool over America's eyes, but it only takes one conservative and our deceit unravels. Yes, you have us figured out. We don't really think the war in Iraq was a grievous error. We don't really believe in economic and social justice. We don't really believe in good government and sound policy. We wish only to attack President Bush because he is a Republican and not a Democrat. We only believe in our blessed party as an end in itself.

If only we could have maintained the high level of decorum, fairness, diplomacy, statesmanship and restraint conservatives showed during the Clinton years.

Monday, November 21, 2005


You mean this damn war's not over yet?

Since we're talking about the war in Iraq, I thought I would throw out some odds and ends about the war in Iraq.

Let's begin with a few quotes:

They can't say they weren't warned.
"The possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace in Iraq is real and serious.... [Without an 'overwhelming' effort to prepare for the U.S. occupation of Iraq] the United States may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making."
-Army War College report, February 2003, about a month before the invasion began.

Bush White House logic and WMD
"I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."
-Ari Fleischer, July 2003

So much for the 9/11 connection
"We urge you to turn your Administration's attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater. We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf."
-Letter from Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, then private sector think-tankers, in a letter to President Clinton, Jan. 26, 1998, more than 3 1/2 years before the 9/11 bombings.

And now for some links
Ever wonder how much this war is costing us? Click here to see a running tab. Also you can find out what else we could do with that kind of money. How many teachers could we hire? How many hungry people could we feed?

So what is this Downing Street Memo, anyway? Well it's a huge embarassment to the Bush Administration, not to mention Tony Blair. Click here to find out what it is, what it says, and why it's important.

So what do Americans think of this war? Read the polls results here from all major organizations over the past couple of weeks. Of course the sentiment of most Americans means little to a president who says, "I'm not conducting diplomacy by focus group."

Here's a nice fact-check sheet that compares Bush administration claims against the facts on such issues as the WMD, cost of war, Saddam's connection to al-Qaeda.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Slander and character assassination

John Murtha was apparently a stand-up guy as far as right-wingers are concerned, as long as he supported their war in Iraq. Now that he's changed his mind, however, Murtha has magically become the lowest form of scum imaginable. It's a lesson learned for anyone who disagrees with the far-right fringe that dominates our White House: Disagree with us and we'll do everything we can to destroy you.

"The US cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home," Murtha had the gall to say.

Let's look at some of the things various right-wing bloggers and pundtis have said about the Pennsylvania congressman:

"Murtha joins the likes of traitor Clayton Lonetree, the Marine security guard who gave top-secret intelligence to the Soviets, and traitor Robert Garwood, the Marine who went over to the enemy during the Vietnam War and was involved in holding and abusing US prisoners of war in North Vietnam while wearing the uniform of the enemy."
- Denver talk show host Bob Newman, who hosts the "Anger-Management Hour" and "Gunny Bob" shows.

"(Murtha) would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans."
-House Speaker Dennis Hastert

"John Murtha of Pennsylvania claimed that our troops were the real problem in Iraq."
-Blogger Mary Mostert, writing on The Conservative Voice website.

"(Democrats) know that, despite the Old Media’s characterization, Americans overwhelmingly support this War"
- Blogger Gregory Borse, apparently unaware of last weeks Gallup poll showing 54 percent of Americans believe we never should have invaded Iraq, writing on ChronWatch.

"Murtha is a net drain on the nation, a leech drawing pay at the expense of taxpayers."
- From a blogger known as The Tin Ear.

"The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists."
-White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

"He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message that, 'Cowards cut and run, Marines never do.'"
- U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, relaying a message from a Marine colonel. Schmidt, unaware that Murtha served as a Marine, herself later asked that her comments be stricken from the Congressional Record.

It's OK to disagree with Murtha. It's not OK to call him a coward, a hater of American troops or terrorist sympathizer. If you agree that these personal attacks on him in response to his opposition to White House policy are outrageous and grossly uncivil, you can express your views here.


Bring our troops home.

Until a few days ago, I was one of those fence-straddlers on the war in Iraq. I was a skeptic from the beginning, gravely susupicious that we might really be getting into something far beyond our abilities. That skepticism soon gave way to a firm belief that invading Iraq was a patently foolish idea. And within six months of the invasion, I was taken by the unwavering belief that the Bush administration's incompetent handling of the war has turned a questionable endeavor into an outright fiasco.

Still, I said, it would be a mistake to back out now. Stay the course, I said, echoing Bush. Let's see if we turn this into something good. At least let's hang in there until, say, June 2006, then we can see if we've accomplished anything.

What was I thinking? For pity's sake, let's pull our troops out as soon as we can safely do so, and be done with this insanity.

Our troops walk the streets of Bagdhad like targets in a video game and drive the highways of Iraq, praying they don't drive over a landmine. We have 2,000 dead and counting, not to mention the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead. And for what? Yes, Saddam is gone, and Iraqis have conducted elections, both undeniably good things. But where does this end? Does the Bush administration even know, or have they backed themselves into a corner with no way out? I suspect the Pentagon is down to fighting an LBJ/Nixon style of warfare: Just do enough to not lose.

Looking back on why we went over there in the first place, 20/20 hindsight can easily read the lies perpetrated on the American public. No, I don't mean to say that Bush and cronies actually fabricated evidence or intelligence; it does appear that everything out of their mouths has been factual. But it's a textbook case on how one can be completely factual and still tell a big, stinking lie.

We know that Saddam wasn't involved in planning of 9/11 in any way. We know his relationship with al-Qaeda was never more than casual, the same way our president's father once had a casual relationship with Saddam, himself. To link Saddam to 9/11 was to tell a big lie.

We know that Saddam hadn't possessed any WMD for a long time. We know that the Bush administration's evidence of this alleged possession often relied on information that intelligence officials repeatedly warned was not proof of any WMD possession or manufacture. To present this information as proof was to tell a big lie. (And if it's true, as Bush claims, that a war - A WAR! - was started based on an honest mistake using bad intelligence, then he is guilty of some of the grossest incompetence imaginable in the annals of the Aemrican presidency.)

We have strong evidence that President Bush was hellbent on war with Iraq from even before his first day in the White House. For him to suggest that our war in Iraq was part of the war on terror was to tell a big lie. Our president's father and President Clinton both fully realized that Saddam was a terrible man, and they recieved the same faulty intelligence. On many occasions both presidents debated the wisdom of invading Iraq, and both repeatedly decided that such an invasion would be a grave mistake.

And how can we ever forget all that's happened since the Bush administration's big lie started a war? The torture and abuse at Abu Graib and Guantanamo that possibly continues at secret prisons around the world (Do you really believe we're not torturing anyone?). The total and complete denial of any rights whatsoever to prisoners based almost unilaterally on executive decision. The poor outfitting and equipping of our troops. The revelation last week that this shining beacon of democracy we're building in the Middle East has been running a secret detention/torture center. The building and ongoing insurgency movement in Iraq that wasn't present there before the war but which now threatens the stability of the entire region and provides Osama with the greatest gift he could ever wish to receive from President Bush. The Bush White House's incompentent miscalculations of how hard it would be to win this war (Remember the expressions "cake walk" and "mission accomplished?")

And that's not all.

There's the neglect and inattention to our troops in Afghanistan, where the real terrorists were - until now. The insane notion, discredited in London and Madrid, that fighting them over there will keep us safe over here. The growing hatred and resentment of the rest of the world, even in industrialized, Western nations, toward the U.S. The perverse belief by some that treating our troops as expendible cannon fodder in an unwinnable situation equates with our support for them. The foolish notion that an unwavering commitment to a disastrously unsuccessful strategy will eventually win the war. The 60 percent of Americans who say we never should have done this.

For the love of God, let's put a stop to this insanity and bring our troops home.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Soak the middle class and poor! Part II

Did you ever really question where the heart of the GOP lies? Did you ever really doubt that Republicans are the party of, by and for the rich? Yeah, you probably did, as have I at times.

Therefore, we should thank the GOP for its performance in the wee hours of this morning as the unsuspecting slumbered under the illusion that $50 billion in spending cuts for the middle class and poor had been summarily defeated the previous evening. But with their stealth victory, Congressional Republicans have now stripped bare any pretense that they ever really give a rat's behind about any of us little people, beyond our votes they could buy cheaply in exchange for meaningless platitudes about family values. With Senate Republicans voting in concert to enact $60 billion in tax cuts for those with large stock portfolios, Hastert, Blunt and Co. have made a bold, brave and unflinching stand for the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans and the Fortune 500. Indeed, these guys are no hypocrites, and I personally appreciate their frank honesty.

For the record, not a single Democrat voted for either measure.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, using information from the Congressional Budget Office, has made the following projections related to what henceforth should be called the Friday Morning Massacre:

*Cuts to Medicaid will total more than $30 billion when carried out over 10 years, resulting in higher out-of-pocket costs for the poor. In some cases, those expenses could push more than 100,000 people off the Medicaid rolls.

*States are no longer required to provide comprehensive preventive care and treatment to children living just above the poverty line.

*More than 220,000 people will lose food stamps. Some are Americans who live just above the poverty line, but whose disposable incomes are diminished by high housing costs and other considerations. Many others are legal residents from other countries whose eligibility will be pushed back from five years after arriving in America to seven years.

*Child care subsidies will be eliminated for 330,000 children of low-income working parents participating in "workfare" programs.

*Funding cuts to child support collection efforts will result in an estimated $24 billion in uncollected child support payments.

* Cuts in foster care benefits will affect an unspecified number of children living with grandparents and other relatives. (Let's not forget, Missourians, that our Boy Governor and son of the new Senate majority leader already took an ax to foster care payments here in the Show-Me State.)

Read more about it here

For those of you unmoved by these attacks on our nation's most vulnerable, don't forget the bloodletting of federal student loan expenditures rendered under these cuts or the more than $1 billion in cuts to the Centers for Disease Control, rural health care and flu pandemic prevention measures.

In the meantime, House Speaker Dennis Hastert quickly postponed the vote on its own $56 billion capital gains tax cut that was scheduled for today, lest slumbering Americans linked it to the Friday Morning Massacre. Republicans want us to believe that these spending cuts are an effort to restrain the recent trend in reckless spending, although I'm sure they hope we don't remember that they themselves are responsible for this binge. Instead these spending cuts are merely to offset further tax cuts for their wealthy friends who fund their campaigns. As far as these tax cuts go, 53 percent of them will go to the .2 percent of Americans who earn $1 million or more each year, according to the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.

But hey, Republicans tell us, these aren't really spending cuts. They're merely cuts on future spending increases. Hopefully, 200,000 former food stamp recipients can chew on this piece of wisdom come meal time. As for what else they might have to eat, that's now their problem.

The last refuge of a scoundrel

Bush and Cheney are charging full speed ahead in their attempts to discredit and villify anyone who might second-guess the war in Iraq. We saw this with John Murtha, whose calls to end the war, has left right-wing bloggers and pundits seething with rage. You know the Right's ongoing pathetic attempts to paint anyone who might question the war as unpatriotic, unsupportive of our troops and an aide to terrorists. Apparently, 60 percent of Americans disagree. In light of all this, I thought I would close with a few quotes:

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else."
- Teddy Roosevelt

"The Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them.... To question your government is not unpatriotic - to not question your government is unpatriotic."
- Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Charges of hypocrisy from those in glass houses

The Right's pulp mill, ever industrious in cranking out manifestos that preach to the choir, has produced this week's must-read tome: Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy by Peter Schweizer. Right-wingers are breathless with praise for this book, which they believe proves forevermore that liberalism is bankrupt, and anybody who takes a stand for social or economic justice or for preserving the planet for future generations is full of crap. That is, unless he or she lives in a cave after first giving away all earthly possessions to the poor, downtrodden masses.

From Schweizer, we learn terribly scandalous nuggets. For example, did you know Michael Moore owns stock in Halliburton? Barbra Streisand lives in a house made of wood! Noam Chomsky has accepted grants from the Pentagon! Cornel West lives among white folks! Al Franken has no black folks working on his staff! Gasp! Horrors! Where will all this madness end?

Obviously these are cheap shots from those who drive gas-guzzling SUVs, tear down historic homes to build mcmansions, care not a whit about the environment, think little about social justice and generally live shallow, materialistic, self-centered lives. They don't like others pointing out their own faults, and books like Schweizer's give them license to feel it's OK to live this way. Hey, at least I'm not a hypocrite, they say.

I certainly try to live my life asking the question, What if everyone behaved this way? It's not easy, and I'm sure some smug little person like Schweizer could come along and find all sorts of inconsistencies. I hate Wal-Mart and try not to give them any of my money, but I shop there on occasion; I especially like their 88-cent music downloads. I try to recycle, but on a few occasions, all those newspapers and magazines I read went into the trash. I consider myself a tree-hugger, but I've used Roundup on my lawn and as a teacher, I go through lots and lots of paper. I even once lived in a house of wood. I strongly believe in rescuing the St. Louis Public Schools but if I had children I wouldn't for one minute have them enrolled there, at least not for now. I frequently criticize all those manufacturing jobs lost to Mexico and China, yet I drive a Honda. Still, all in all, I'd like to think that I'm mostly successful in living as a responsible citizen.

The world is a sticky place, and life is hard. Most liberals want to live lives of reasonable comofort, just like anyone else. We find ourselves making compromises at times. I know that conservatives do too.

I hear all this talk from people who preach morality and responsibility, then I look at some of these preachers. There's thrice-divorced Rush Limbaugh, addicted to OxyContin, a drug as bad as crack or methamphetamine. There's the gambling-addicted Book of Virtues editor Bill Bennett. Don't forget Ralph Reed, who has placed so-called Christian values at the forefront of the national agenda, but has greedily raked in millions in consulting and lobbying fees and can claim the dishonor of Jack Abramoff's friendship. Don't forget Tom Delay, whose heart bled over Terri Schiavo, but whose heart also appears blackened by greed and corruption. Then there's the Bush administration, which suggests that anyone who opposes the war in Iraq is unpatriotic, but thinks nothing of exposing a CIA operative's cover for cynical political opportunism.

Barbra Streisand's wood house is nothing compared to some right-wingers' glass houses.

Just say Oink!

Normally, I think Parade magazine is a rag, but I really enjoyed this weekend's edition with a cover story on wasteful government spending, no doubt a bipartisan blight on the public trust. The author asks how we can balk at rebuilding along the Gulf Coast when we think nothing about the $150 million we spend on things like that bridge to nowhere in Alaska.

If you can't find Parade in your local paper, you can read about it here if you don't mind waiting a week or so.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


And more from the land of chain e-mails

Who writes these things anyway?

I picture workshops, or more likely boiler room operations, filled with little gnomes, laboring around the clock to weave cautionary stories of gang-banging motorists who drive with their highbeams to entice would-be initiation victims and tales of kidnappers/child molesters who operate out of Wal-Mart restrooms, secreting away their boy victims by disguising them as girls. When said gnomes have a few spare moments, I suppose they doctor those photos to make it look like John Kerry and Jane Fonda really are standing alongside each other at the podium.

While some cater to the fantasies of liberals, most seem to play into the dreams of right-wingers, eager to send these dispatches on as some sort of proof that once and for all, their vision of the world has been proven right. See, they say, that World War II vet has a "bullshit protector" over his ear as he listens to Ted Kennedy speak. That just proves these left-wing faggot Bolsheviks really are bad people. And with a quick click of the mouse, people spread these missives out to friends and family, accepting them as gospel and never questioning their veracity.

I bring this up a couple of days after I received one of these e-mails from someone claiming to be an emergency management director in North Dakota. Apparently, folks up there recently weathered a bad blizzard, and this director asserts in his e-mail that North Dakotans would never think of accepting help from the federal government. I went on to provide links to press releases from the governor of North Dakota, as well as FEMA, outlining how Uncle Sam had indeed spent taxpayers' money on aiding North Dakotans after disasters. In one instance, I mistakenly said that people in Grand Forks had received $51 million after a 1997 flood. Actually, Grand Forks received more than $1 billion(!) from Washington following the flood.

Anyway, I received another of these chain e-mails yesterday. This time, the alleged author was comedian George Carlin. In this dispatch, "Carlin" gives seven rules for people caught in hurricanes. One rule lambastes folks who build expensive homes on the beach and expect taxpayers to rebuild after they are washed away by the tidal surge. The other six rules have a common theme, that is, You n*****s in New Orleans need to get off your lazy asses. It's a common right-wing rant we've been hearing since Katrina and Rita, a sort of veiled racism no doubt directed at New Orleans' underclass, and it makes me question why conservatives could ever seriously wonder why black folks steadfastly refuse to vote for their candidates.

Well, like most of these e-mails, this one turns out to be a scam, also. George Carlin writes the following on his own web site:

Floating around the Internet these days, posted and e-mailed back and forth, are a number of writings attributed to me, and I want people to know they're not mine. Don't blame me.
Some are essay-length, some are just short lists of one and two-line jokes, but if they're flyin' around the Internet, they're probably not mine.

Occasionally, a couple of jokes on a long list might have come from me, but not often. And because most of this stuff is really lame, it's embarrassing to see my name on it.

And that's the problem. I want people to know that I take care with my writing, and try to keep my standards high. But most of this "humor" on the Internet is just plain stupid. I guess hard-core fans who follow my stuff closely would be able to spot the fake stuff, because the tone of voice is so different. But a casual fan has no way of knowing, and it bothers me that some people might believe I'd actually be capable of writing some of this stuff.

Just so you know that this response is on the level, here's a link to his website where I lifted it.

Honestly, folks, did you really think that if George Carlin has something to say, he's just going to float an e-mail through cyberspace? I mean, really, this being America, Carlin's going to put it in a book and sell it to you for $24.99 at Borders.

A good rule of thumb with these chain e-mails is to ignore them. Most of them are fakes, and really are variations on urban legends and myths that have floated around for decades. The story of gang-bangers flashing their brights predates the web by several years at least. Other e-mails are just plain fraud, completely fabricated stories and doctored photos. Some of these stories and photos are real, however, so here's how to find out whether they're on the level or not. Check out The folks at Snopes are in the business of confirming and debunking these stories, and they're considered to be a highly credible source of information. If you get a chain e-mail, you can probably find it referenced on their site.

Here's their page on George Carlin's seven rules. Here's their page on the North Dakota blizzard.
Snopes is lots of fun to look at. And at the very least, if you plan to send out this junk, at least consult them and make sure the facts are true.

By the way, you know that veteran I told you about photographed with the bullshit protector over his ear? According to Snopes, the photo is indeed real, but the man wasn't listening to Ted Kennedy. He was listening to President Bush, who was speaking on the war in Iraq. You can view the photo here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


The latest news from Fargo

A conservative family member sent me one of those apocryphal chain e-mails this morning, allegedly written by an emergency manager in North Dakota. Folks in the Peace Garden State apparently stand tough and self-sufficient in times of trouble, not like those wusses we've come to know in Louisiana and Mississippi with the temerity to expect our government to lend them a hand when everything around them is blown away.

This self-perceived John Wayne in North Dakota writes the following:

Up here in the Northern Plains we just recovered from a Historic event --- may I even say a "Weather Event" of "Biblical Proportions" --- with a historic blizzard of up to 24" inches of snow and winds to 50 MPH that broke trees in half, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed all roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10's of thousands.

FYI:George Bush did not come....FEMA staged nothing....No one howled for the government...No one even uttered an expletive on TV...Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.....No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House....No one looted....Phil Cantori of the Weather Channel did not come....And Geraldo Rivera did not move in.

Nope, we just melted snow for water, sent out caravans to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars, fired up wood stoves, broke out coal oil lanterns or Aladdin lamps, and put on an extra layer of clothes because up here it is 'work or die'. We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that trades votes for 'sittin at home' checks.

Even though a Category "5" blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early...we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves. "In my many travels, I have noticed that once one gets north of about 48 degrees North Latitude, 90% most of the world’s social problems evaporate."

First of all, where have I been? I'm not sure I've heard of any terrible blizzards in North Dakota. Perhaps it's the Oct. 5 blizzard you can read about here. By the looks of that photo showing a guy in Minot clearing his driveway, doesn't look to have quite the wallop of Hurricane Katrina. But maybe it was, and perhaps the point of this alleged emergency manager is that you didn't hear about it because North Dakotans are too self-reliant and rugged to whine that it took President Bush four days to send help.

Then again, we can read about how North Dakotans have been quite glad in recent years to accept federal aid from Uncle Sam. Read about it here and here and here. When Grand Forks simultaneously flooded and burned in 1997, $51 million was spent to rebuild the city and make it safer from future flooding. And why shouldn't they take the money? Americans, even in North Dakota, fully expect their government to come to the rescue when they cannot help themselves after catastrophes like Katrina and Rita. Entire towns along the Gulf Coast were obliterated from creation. Are those people whiners for expecting some help?

So are we to assume from this e-mail that those on the Right think that assisting individuals whose homes and communities have been wiped out in a community is the work of an intrusive and evil big government? If so, I'm not sure the rest of America agrees, and perhaps that explains why Bush's latest approval rating stands at 35%.

Speaking of Bush (and his friend Cheney)

"Everything they touch turns to crud."
-Columnist Paul Krugman

Read more here.

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