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Gathering Storm: Miss California Trying to Redefine Traditional Breasts for the Rest of Us

Monday, May 04, 2009

By Brian Normoyle
The Huffington Post


Miss California Carrie Prejean ostensibly lost the coveted first prize of the Miss USA Pageant due to an honest, but clumsily delivered, response to a question about same-sex marriage equality. Thanks, however, to the juvenile grandstanding and self-aggrandizing douchebaggery of Perez Hilton, she earned a seemingly more lustrous and lucrative crown: spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). NOM, of course, is the political organization made infamous by the countless parodies of its "Gathering Storm" ad, in which one desperate-for-any-work actor warned America in barely perceptible English that a "storm is coming" in the form of full civil equality for gay and lesbian Americans.

Prejean, for her part, has vowed "to do whatever it takes to protect marriage" and the newly crowned Queen of "Opposite Marriage" appears in NOM's latest ad entitled, "No Offense." She also reminded the nation at a NOM-sponsored press conference this week that her contemptibly ill-informed comments at the Miss America contest was "not about being politically correct, but about being 'Biblically correct.'"

Oops! Heaven, we have a problem.

A recent revelation -- and not of the Biblical variety -- surfaced this week that the prodigal princess had breast augmentation surgery, approved and funded by the Miss California Organization, just weeks before the Miss USA pageant. One has to wonder how the beauty queen has the credibility and moral standing to speak out against "unnatural" and "un-Biblical" marriage with the same breath that is weighted down by "unnatural" and "un-Biblical" implants filtered through $10,000 worth of "unnatural" capped teeth....(Click for remainder.)

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Why Virginia Foxx's Non-Apology For Smearing Matthew Shepard Isn't Enough

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Former MI6 Chief Says Britain Was 'Dragged' Into Iraq War


(Photo: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire)

Britain was "dragged into a war in Iraq which was always against out better judgment" the former deputy head of MI6 has claimed, in a remark that will reignite the debate over political interference in the war.

By Duncan Gardham
The Telegraph


The comments, made by Nigel Inkster, who was deputy director of MI6 at the time, make clear there were reservations over the war at a very senior level within the Secret Intelligence Service.

MI6 was blamed for the failure of intelligence that took Britain to war after helping produce a dossier in which Tony Blair claimed that Iraq was ready to use weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

The dossier, said to have been "sexed up" by Downing Street, also mentioned controversial intelligence that Saddam Hussain was seeking uranium from Niger.

In a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research, Mr Inkster blamed weakness at the Foreign Office for allowing Britain to get dragged into a war over which officials had serious doubts.

"The Foreign Office no longer does foreign policy," Mr Inkster said. "It acts as a platform for a multiplicity of UK departments and the lack of a clearly articulated sense of our strategic location in the world explains how we got dragged into a war with Iraq which was always against our better judgment."

His views on Iraq, expressed for the first time in public, may also explain why he was passed over as the head of MI6 in favour of Sir John Scarlett, who took responsibility for the dossier during the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly.

Sir John, the current director of MI6, was head of the Joint Intelligence Committee at the start of the war and was criticised for being too close to Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, and Alastair Campbell, his spin doctor....(Click for remainder.)

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The Catholic Bishops Are Cranky, but American Catholics Aren't Listening

By Joe Sudbay
AMERICAblog


The Catholic Bishops are still bitching about Notre Dame inviting Obama to its graduation. Because, in the warped world of the American Catholic hierarchy, that's a big issue. But, the bishops are out of touch with their parishioners:
Polls show Catholics giving high job approval ratings to Obama, and Catholic attitudes about abortion and stem-cell research largely mirror the public's.

"I think the bishops who believe abortion is the ultimate litmus test look at the polls and realize Catholics are not listening to them," said the Rev. Mark Massa, co-director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University. "They're playing a very dangerous game because they do not have the moral authority they had before the sex abuse crisis, and they're trying to find a toehold and get heard."

So far, the Notre Dame saga doesn't seem to be resonating. Only about half of Catholics surveyed by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life from April 23 to 27 had heard about the controversy.
Of course it isn't resonating. The Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals often border on the absurd in terms of their outspoken priorities. A speech by the presdident at Notre Dame doesn't bother most Catholics. It's not a real issue.

Sounds like the Catholic bishops are spending too much time listening to Rush....(Click for original.)

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Regarding Miss California, At Least Anita Bryant Could Sing

By Michael Rowe
The Huffington Post


When contemplating the white trash Lollapalooza that is the strange tale of Carrie Prejean, this year's Miss California and first runner-up to the Miss U.S.A. 2009 crown, vs. the Coming Storm of Gay Marriage, it's best to acknowledge the bikini-waxed elephant in the room, which is that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) considers a bleached blonde 21-year-old girl with artificially augmented breasts who's apparently never had a serious long-term relationship in her life to be the ideal spokesmodel for their cause.

There, we've said it. Never mind the easy metaphors, all of which are too obvious. Instead, let's bite right into the Velveeta-stuffed center.

Cue the circus music and send in the clowns.

Only in America would the notion of a nearly-naked fundamentalist Christian beauty queen tossing her processed hair and parading brand new pageant-bought plastic breasts across a Las Vegas stage in front of millions of television viewers with all the modesty of a blue ribbon heifer at a county livestock fair (the same fundamentalist Christian beauty queen who later tells a television reporter that God was whispering in her ear as she answered a celebrity-worshipping Internet gossip columnist's question about gay marriage) be treated as anything other than an occasion for high comedy and mirth.

Were these times any other than the politically charged times they are, the subsequent media firestorm set off by Miss Prejean's carryings-on would be similarly laughable. But since these are the only times we have, it's worth noting that there's been a metallic aftertaste of self-serving manipulation to this story from the beginning. Furthermore, there's more than enough of that cynical opportunism to go around, and it encompasses everyone, from Miss Prejean herself, to Perez Hilton, the Internet gossip columnist who asked her the question in the first place, to the organizers of NOM, to the pastor at Miss Prejean's "home" megachurch, and, of course, the media who are covering a story that has legs in every sense of the term....(Click for remainder.)

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Standing Up to Miss California

By Rabbi Denise Eger
The Huffington Post


The National Organization for Marriage is acting like if Miss California cannot be Miss USA, then she will be the new Queen Esther. But Carrie Prejean is neither one.

We know Miss USA types but, as a rabbi, to show how wrong this allusion is, I must tell you about Queen Esther. She is a brave biblical figure from thousands of years ago. Orphaned and raised by her uncle, she rose against all odds, to be the king of Persia's favored wife in a time when Persians despised Jews.

At risk of her own life she came out to the king to expose a plot against all Jews. Even her uncle asked her to risk her own life because she was born and raised to the status of queen "for such a time as this." Because of her bravery, she and all her people were spared from becoming the victims of a grab for power.

So in today's real life story, who is Queen Esther? Who are the victims?

Carrie Prejean and the National Organization for Marriage feel they are the victims because of the outcry when Carrie came out and said, "In my country and in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman - no offense to anyone out there..."

But offence IS taken when these beliefs are the backbone of anti-gay legislation. Offense IS taken when victimization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is ongoing....(Click for remainder.)

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UAE "Torture" Scandal and Cover-Up Sparks Outrage in US

By Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com


As more videotapes emerge documenting the torture inflicted on numerous victims by Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a prince of the United Arab Emirates, the controversy is beginning to jeopardize the UAE's relationship with the United States, a country that absolutely loathes torture and demands real accountability for those who do it:
"I have more than two hours of video footage showing Sheikh Issa's involvement in the torture of more than 25 people," wrote Texas-based lawyer Anthony Buzbee in a letter obtained by the Observer.

The news of more torture videos involving Issa is another huge blow to the international image of the UAE . . . . The fresh revelations about Issa's actions will add further doubt to a pending nuclear energy deal between the UAE and the US.  The deal, signed in the final days of George W Bush, is seen as vital for the UAE.  It will see the US share nuclear energy expertise, fuel and technology in return for a promise to abide by non-proliferation agreements. But the deal needs to be recertified by the Obama administration and there is growing outrage in America over the tapes. Congressman James McGovern, a senior Democrat, has demanded that Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, investigate the matter and find out why US officials initially appeared to play down its significance.

The U.S. is a very tolerant nation, but the one thing we simply cannot abide is when a government fails adequately to investigate allegations of torture on the part of key officials and fails to hold them accountable.  That's where we draw the line....(Click for remainder.)

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Mortgaging the White House

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
The Smirking Chimp


Finally, here we are at the end of this week of a hundred days. As everyone in the western world probably knows by now, this benchmark for assessing presidencies goes back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who arrived at the White House in the depths of the Great Depression.

In his first hundred days, FDR came out swinging. He shut down the banks, threw the money lenders from the temple, cranked out so much legislation so fast he would shout to his secretary, Grace Tully, "Grace, take a law!" Will Rogers said Congress didn't pass bills anymore; it just waved as they went by.

President Obama's been busy, but contrary to many of the pundits, he's no FDR. Our new president got his political education in the world of Chicago ward politics, and seems to have adopted a strategy from the machine of that city's longtime boss, the late Richard J. Daley, father of the current mayor there. "Don't make no waves," one of Daley's henchmen advised, "don't back no losers."

Your opinion of Obama's first 100 days depends of course on your own vantage point. But we'd argue that as part of his bending over backwards to support the banks and avoid the losers, he has blundered mightily in his choice of economic advisers.

Last week, at a hearing of the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) monitoring the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tried to correct AFL-CIO General Counsel Damon Silvers. "I've practiced law and you've been a banker," Silvers said. Never, Geithner replied, "I've only been in public service."...(Click for remainder.)

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Chris Matthews Falsely Equates a "Publicly Financed [Health Care] Option" With "Single Payer"

By Media Matters

On the May 3 edition of his NBC-syndicated television show, Chris Matthews falsely suggested that a "publicly financed" health care option is the same as a single-payer plan. Discussing President Obama's strategy for passing health care legislation, Newsweek senior Washington correspondent Howard Fineman said that "the centrist Democrats in the Senate" are "coming out with their manifesto, which is going to say absolutely no to the publicly financed option." Matthews interjected, "[s]ingle payer." In fact, a single-payer system is a government-run health care system. President Obama has said he supports a "public plan" as one of many insurance options available in the health care market, and has explicitly rejected a single-payer system.

As Media Matters for America has documented, the Obama administration has proposed "[e]stablish[ing] a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage" [emphasis added]. In his closing remarks at the March 5 White House Forum on Health Reform, Obama said that "[t]he thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices, and it helps give -- keep the private sector honest, because there's some competition out there."

Moreover, when asked during a March 26 online town hall discussion, "Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources," Obama replied, "I actually want a universal health care system," adding that instead of adopting a "single-payer system" like England and Canada, "what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps."...(Click for remainder.)

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Gay Math

(Photo: Mike Groll/AP)

Running the marriage numbers is Albany.

By Sean Kennedy
New York Magazine


“You can get married in Davenport but not in Manhattan!” says Marty Rouse, the Human Rights Campaign’s national field director. It’s an improbable predicament: Who’d ever guess we’d be playing catch-up to the Midwest? But, the setback in California aside, the great gay race to the altar is on: Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont have all made it official; New Hampshire and Maine are on the cusp; and the next logical state in line is New York. Governor Paterson has introduced marriage-equality legislation, and a State Assembly committee brought the bill to the floor, where it should easily pass. (In 2007, it made it through with an 85-61 vote, which included both Republicans and Democrats.) But the State Senate is far more resistant.

Here’s the arithmetic as it currently stands: The Democrats have a 32-30 majority, but seven of them have said (or hinted) that they oppose the bill (including Senator Rubén Díaz Sr., who actually held an anti-gay-marriage rally in the Bronx last week). Only one Republican, Senator James S. Alesi of Rochester, is on the record supporting the measure, which puts it at least six votes short of victory. (Because of Paterson’s elevation, there’s no extra lieutenant-governor vote to break a tie.)

So who might those votes come from? Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, suggests four of the seven Democrats in the “nay” camp are actually movable: Senators George Onorato of Astoria, William T. Stachowski of Buffalo, David J. Valesky of Oneida, and Shirley L. Huntley of Jamaica. In 2007, Van Capelle says, Democratic Assembly members like Joe Lentol opposed the bill initially but ended up voting for it. “So we know that when we do the work that needs to be done, which includes giving the facts and telling our stories, people can change their minds.”

If those four come around, only two Republicans will be needed to pass the measure—though lobbyists hope for more. “Nobody wants to be the one person to change the vote,” said Marriage Equality New York head Ron Zacchi. The current legislative session ends June 22, so there’s still time for persuading. Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has said already he won’t let the measure hit the floor unless the votes are there....(Click for remainder.)

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Republicans: The Indulgent Parents

By Dana Houle
Daily Kos


You've seen them. Maybe it's a friend or a sibling. Someone you see out in public. Maybe, even, you've pondered the past and recognize it might have been your parents, or maybe even you: indulgent parents. Parents who never set limits, never enforce boundaries. Parents who never tell their children no. And you know what happens. Their kids usually grow up to be monsters, or face a tough transition to adulthood, because they think everything should be handed to them on a silver platter. They can't understand why the world doesn't roll over for them the way their parents did. They often become embittered and disillusioned, and sometimes even nihilistic. And their parents often experience shame and regret, and feel like they've become hostage to the monsters they helped create.

In American politics, the spoiled children struggling to deal with a reality they don't like and didn't expect are those voters who make up the rightwing of the Republican base. The indulgent parents of American politics are the leaders, elected officials and apparatchiks of the Republican party. 

It wasn't always so. The Republican party wasn't always hostile to progress, tolerance and good governance. After WWII, it still contained some retrograde elements who wanted to go back to 1928 and wipe out an expansive role for the federal government. But most top Republicans at least tried to live in reality and be responsible about governance. That began to change, however, after their landslide loss in 1964. The Goldwater insurgency marked the beginning of a long-term takeover of the GOP by the rightwing ultras who viewed the world through an unyielding ideological prism.

Initially, the main wedge employed by the newer, meaner Republican party was race. In 1960, just before the election, John Kennedy reached out to Coretta Scott King to offer his support in getting her husband released from jail, and subsequently earned the endorsement of Martin Luther King, Sr. Nevertheless, Richard Nixon still won a third of the Black vote. By the end of that decade, however, Nixon had embraced the Southern Strategy which began the break up of the Democrats' "Solid South." Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, MS—where murdered civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were buried in 1964—and talked about states rights. Republicans not only didn't compete for Black votes, they often race-baited for the votes of angry Whites. Racist appeals were often crucial to Republican successes, especially in the south and in White suburban areas ringing predominately Black cities like Detroit....(Click for remainder.)

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My Ass

By Mr. Fish
LA Weekly



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A Torturous Decision

Sure, Cheney and friends could be prosecuted for torture-related offenses. But could they be convicted?

Illustration by André Carrilho
By Jeffrey Rosen
New York Magazine


While repeatedly stressing that he wants to look forward, President Obama two weeks ago left the door ajar for looking back. Under pressure from pundits and fellow Democrats, he charged his attorney general, Eric Holder, with determining whether laws were broken in formulating and administering the Bush administration’s interrogation policies. Much as many involved in the debate say that it’s not about politics, the political lines about whether to prosecute are fairly clear. As a legal matter, however, the situation is much murkier. If Holder decides to prosecute—and his boss would surely rather he didn’t—he had better be close to certain that he can win. But if he decides not to, his legal and constitutional reasoning has to be airtight enough to keep the sound of those calling for prosecution to a dull roar. In other words, not an easy job.

Does he have a case? That depends. Of the possible prosecutions, those against the Bush lawyers who authorized torture—John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury—are probably the most difficult. The lawyers could be charged for conspiring to violate the federal anti-torture statute, which has an eight-year statute of limitations. Passed in 1994, the law defines torture and sets out a range of harsh punishments—from twenty years to the death penalty if the torture results in death—for those who commit acts of torture outside the United States. The charge would be that the Bush lawyers conspired to violate the anti-torture law when they said waterboarding wasn’t the kind of intentional infliction of “severe physical or mental pain or suffering” that the law forbids. But to prove the charge, a prosecutor would have to establish that the lawyers knew the advice they were giving was wrong but gave it anyway because they were determined to justify torture by any means necessary. “The lawyers are pretty hard to prosecute unless you regard their legal advice as a sham,” says Stephen Saltzburg of the George Washington University Law School. “For better or worse, the people who wrote the opinions are true believers—they actually believe the advice they gave, which means the advice may have been unreasonable, but it’s not criminal.”...(Click for remainder.)

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Obama Faces Backlash Over Resettlement Plan For Some Gitmo Detainees

By William Fisher
The Public Record


The probability that some Guantanamo detainees will soon be released into the U.S. will place the administration of President Barack Obama in the eye of a major political hurricane.

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have expressed strong opposition to the administration’s reported plan to allow some of the 17 Chinese Uighurs to resettle in the U.S. as part of Obama’s pledge to shut down the controversial prison within a year.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has confirmed the plan for the first time, though he added that a final decision had not been made. He said he understood that almost any administration move on Guantanamo was likely to be controversial. Seven has been reported the number of Uighurs the administration wants to release into the U.S.

Gates told a Senate appropriations subcommittee last week, "I fully expect to have 535 pieces of legislation before this is over saying, 'Not in my district, not in my state.'" He was referring to the number of senators and members of the House.

But Gates said the Uighurs would face persecution if they were returned to China, as Beijing has demanded. He added, "It's difficult for the State Department to make the argument to other countries they should take these people that we have deemed in this case not to be dangerous if we won't take any of them ourselves," he said.

There are currently 17 Uighurs who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo for years since they were arrested in Pakistan in 2002. While these Muslim men have been declared to pose no threat to U.S. security and have been cleared for release, they remain at the notorious prison because no other countries have come forth to offer them asylum. A U.S. appeals court has ruled that admission to the U.S. is a matter of immigration law over which regular U.S. courts have no jurisdiction. That decision has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is now considering the matter....(Click for remainder.)

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Proposals Would Transform College Aid

Obama Plan to Expand Federal Control of Lending Includes Creating Entitlement

By Shailagh Murray
The Washington Post


President Obama's health-care goals may be garnering attention, but his higher-education proposals are no less ambitious.

If adopted, they could transform the financial aid landscape for millions of students while expanding federal authority to a degree that even Democrats concede is controversial.

At stake is a plan to expand the Pell Grant program, making it an entitlement akin to Medicare and Social Security. Key to the effort is a consolidation of student lending that would give the U.S. Department of Education a near monopoly over the practice -- a proposal that has mobilized the private loan industry, which lent $55.3 billion to 6.4 million students in the 2007-2008 school year.

Obama outlined his initiatives, which also include incentives for colleges to cut costs and to raise graduation rates, in the fiscal 2010 budget that Congress approved Wednesday, and Democratic leaders said they hope to make them law by October.

The aim is to improve access to post-secondary school for those who need it most: lower-income students for whom college or vocational training can be the decisive factor in their economic future. The president has said he wants the United States to lead the world by 2010 in the proportion of college graduates, a position the country had long held; it now ranks seventh for the 25 to 34 age group. He has also called for every American to attend a post-secondary institution....(Click for remainder.)

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