Monday, April 30, 2007

Lieberman: "Bloggers Have Added Another Dimension of Vituperation Toxicity" To Politics

Courtesy of Think Progress by way of the GTL
Sen. Joseph Lieberman said recently on C-Span2:

"And I do think there is a larger message here for our politics. I think the public is fed up. They feel that both the political parties, mostly because of the primaries, maybe because of attack ads, the kind of divisiveness of the cable news coverage of politics, talk radio, the bloggers have added another dimension of vituperation toxicity to it. The majority of people are sick of it. They think our political system is sick. I will just end with this warning that if the two major — the fastest growing political party in america is that no party. people are registering as an event is because they are fed up with — they don’t see them in the two major parties and they are sick of the kerri, the partisanship and on civility and i think if the two major parties wouldn’t hear this going into ‘08, there is a real chance of an independent third-party candidacy. and watch out if that happens."

And ya know what? He's right. I don't like him as he strikes me as smarmy. But he's 100% right in this case. Many bloggers, most of talk radio, and tons of talking heads have poisoned the process of rational political debate. And the political parties have been more than happy to spew vitriol in order to turn out the base. If that weren't the case there would have been no reason for Unity 08 to come into existence.

I've blogged about this before and not much has changed since then. We now have the ability to pick and choose our radio, TV, and opinion sources so that we can effectively never hear an opposing voice outside of the comments section of our favorite blog. And in order to drive up their readership, listeners, and viewers too many media sources cater to that fact.

So despite my feelings towards Mr. Lieberman today I have to say, "Way to go Joe."

Clip: Virginia Governor Closes Gun Loophole

Well, that is definitely a step in the right direction.

Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers

From the WaPo

A female freelance writer who blogged about the pornography industry was threatened with rape. A single mother who blogged about "the daily ins and outs of being a mom" was threatened by a cyber-stalker who claimed that she beat her son and that he had her under surveillance. Kathy Sierra, who won a large following by blogging about designing software that makes people happy, became a target of anonymous online attacks that included photos of her with a noose around her neck and a muzzle over her mouth.

As women gain visibility in the blogosphere, they are targets of sexual harassment and threats. Men are harassed too, and lack of civility is an abiding problem on the Web. But women, who make up about half the online community, are singled out in more starkly sexually threatening terms -- a trend that was first evident in chat rooms in the early 1990s and is now moving to the blogosphere, experts and bloggers said. more

This confirms something I figured out a decade ago, that the internet allows people to behave badly with no consequences. As internet usage has become more widely available across the globe the number of people the number of people that are inclined in that direction has increased. In fact one could probably argue quite successfully that the internet attracts the very worst of those as the media content they would be most interested in can be found easily, privately, and on demand 24/7.

Thats being said there are a few things that female bloggers can do to help prevent such threats and once they occur to assess the actual level of danger involved.

The article advises that one should have a code of conduct posted and then moderate any comments that don't adhere to that. I have a few additional ideas that may be of use.

1: I don't recommend that anyone gives out their whole name in a public forum (especially if you have an uncommon last name like me). Its easy to use someones IP address to locate the city and zip code of a site user and use that info to get your phone number and then your address. That doesn't work if you're blogging as an expert in an industry.

2: Always moderate and never respond to threats and for Pete's sake don't go posting on their blog afterwards or even visit it (unless you use a proxy server like

3: Asses the level of threat. Somebody half the world away isn't as much of a physical danger as someone in the same city. If your blog software doesn't provide user location data based on IPs then consider installing sitemeter which does track that info.

4: Report their threats to the local police, their web host, and their ISP. Such conduct is against the terms of service of most ISPs and hosting companies.

We can't stop this behaviour but we can all do something to discourage it. If I've overlooked anything feel free to make suggestions.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

McCain Seems to Have Gotten the Message

I recently posted that the direction McCain had been going had me worried. However from his recent TV appearances he seems to have gotten his ducks in a row and seems to be back to his old no BSing self. Which is the only way he stands a chance of winning in my opinion. Take for example this snippet of his recent interview on Fox:

WALLACE: How would you fight the War on Terror differently than it's being fought now?

J. MCCAIN: I would probably announce the closing of Guantanamo Bay. I would move those detainees to Fort Leavenworth. I would announce we will not torture anyone.

I would announce that climate change is a big issue, because we've got some image problems in the world. I think that we've got to understand — diplomatic, intelligence-wise.

Clearly, in the area of, quote, "propaganda," in the area of the war of ideas, we are not winning as much as — well, in some ways we are behind.

Al-Jazeera and others maybe, in the view of some — my view — may sometimes do a better job than we are.

At the end of the day, it's how people make up their minds as to whether they want to embrace our values, our standards, our ideals, or whether they want to go the path of radical Islamic extremism, which is an affront to everything we stand for and believe in.

WALLACE: Senator, you talked about torture. Former CIA Director Tenet now says that the intelligence that they got from harsh interrogation techniques against some of these big Al Qaida types, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the intelligence they got from them using, reportedly, things like water-boarding, extreme temperatures, was more valuable than all the other CIA and FBI programs.

Were you wrong? I mean, this is the CIA, former CIA director, saying this. Were you wrong to limit what CIA interrogators could do?

J. MCCAIN: A man I admire more than anyone else, General Jack Vessey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, battlefield commission, told me once — he said, "John, any intelligence information we might gain through the use of torture could never, ever counterbalance the image that it does — the damage that it does to our image in the world."

I agree with him. Look at the war in Algeria. Look, the fact is if you torture someone, they're going to tell you anything they think you want to know. It is an affront to everything we stand for and believe in.

It's interesting to me that every retired military officer, whether it be Colin Powell or whether it be former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — everybody who's been in war doesn't want to torture people and think that it's the wrong thing to do. And history shows that.

We cannot torture people and maintain our moral superiority in the world.

WALLACE: But when...

J. MCCAIN: And that's a fact.

WALLACE: But when George Tenet says...

J. MCCAIN: I don't care what George Tenet says. I know what's right. I know what's morally right as far as America's behavior.

WALLACE: But if I may, sir...

J. MCCAIN: Yes, sir.

WALLACE: ... when George Tenet says we saved live through some of these techniques...

J. MCCAIN: I don't accept it. I don't accept that fundamental thesis, because it's never worked throughout history.

And so again, I know this for a fact, and anyone who's had experience with this, I think, that's — well, the people I respect will tell you that if you inflect enough physical pain on someone, they will tell you anything they think you want to know in order to relieve that pain.

That's just a fundamental fact. And we've gotten a huge amount of misinformation as well as other information from these techniques.

In my opinion the only way McCain can win is to be unique not an older wiser version of W and thereby pull in enough swing voters to clinch it. The far right doesn't and isn't going to trust him and his major current hurdle is beating Giuliani in the primaries. Although he has one concrete advantage over Giuliani in that regard. There are no pictures of John McCain in drag.

Joe at TMV Needs Your Help

Joe Gandelman over at The Moderate Voice needs a little help. He moved the blog over to Wordpress Pro (1100$) just before a family member took ill. TMV is a great blog and a full time job for Joe so please take the time to visit and drop a buck or two in the tip jar over there.

In Anbar the Seeds of Hope are Sown

The NY Times is reporting that tribal and militia leaders have joined forces with the US military in rooting out Al Qaeda in Iraq. Why? Because as much as they may dislike us Al Qaeda has proven itself far worse. I am wondering if they aren't looking ahead to a time when the US isn't there and Al Qaeda finds itself with too much free time and ammo on its hands. How long till they start punishing/terrorizing the citizens and leaders wantonly for violations of Shariah law?

An insurgency can only be effective if it has the support of people in the area in which it operates. Al Qaeda has apparently lost that in Anbar.

Uneasy Alliance Is Taming One Insurgent Bastion

RAMADI, Iraq — Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.

“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.

At the same time, American and Iraqi forces have been conducting sweeps of insurgent strongholds, particularly in and around Ramadi, leaving behind a network of police stations and military garrisons, a strategy that is also being used in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, as part of its new security plan. full article

The article goes on to state that the alliance is fragile but holding. Should this plan work it may become a model for actually winning the peace across Iraq. Over at The Atlantic Andrew Sullivan sums it up quite nicely:

"What Anbar shows is that relative peace and stability will come only when Iraqis themselves, for reasons of their own, defend their own country from al Qaeda's poison. We can and should continue to help them in any way we can. But the more they take the lead in defending their own country the better. Even in Anbar, however, the "national" government remains a problem, since the Sunni tribes don't trust the Shiites in Baghdad (with good reason)."

"We will have precipitated a situation in which the real war here - within Islam, between mainstream Islam and al Qaeda - will finally be joined. We should do all we can to help from a distance, maybe even a small distance. But this is their fight not ours. We cannot win it; only they can. Our goal should not be our victory against al Qaeda; it should be their victory against al Qaeda."

Since we all know that the troops are going to be there at least as long as W is in office this tactic may be the best hope for seeing our forces pulled out in a reasonable time frame and our only hope of winning. So lets keep our fingers crossed.

They Like Me, They Really Like Me!

I'm happy to announce that Dyre Portents has been nominated for a Blogger's Choice Award (by me) in the categories of Best Political Blog and Worst Blog Ever (I'm often of two minds). I would just like to take this time to thank those (me) that appreciate the time and effort I (more often than not) put into this blog. And its nice to know that people (I) think so highly (and lowly) of my efforts.

However as Donklephant is also in the running I doubt I'll be winning. On the bright side you can vote for us both. So feel free to click the banner on the right and vote for somebody.

Rush Going the Way of Imus?

According to The Moderate Voice Mr. Limbaugh opted to play a song entitled "Barrack The Magic Negro". Having listened to it does tend to push the boundary of good taste. But judge for yourself and then drop by there for the Blog Roundup.

Of course in my opinion the odds of Rush "craploads of ad revenue" Limbaugh going the way of Imus are slim to none unless the sponsors start pulling out.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

U.N., Sudan Agree Darfur Force Urgent

The Associated Press
Friday, April 27, 2007; 12:07 AM

UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that he and Sudan's president have agreed on the need for a quick decision to deploy a new United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in the Darfur region.

Ban told The Associated Press in an interview that he spoke to President Omar al-Bashir by phone this week about getting U.N. troops and equipment into Darfur to beef up the 7,000-strong AU force. The peacekeepers have been unable to end the four-year conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes.

Al-Bashir agreed in November to a three-phase U.N. plan to strengthen the AU force. But he has since backed off the deployment of the third and final phase _ a 20,000-strong "hybrid" U.N.-AU force, saying he would only allow a larger African force with technical and logistical support from the United Nations. more

Thursday, April 26, 2007

This is Just Disturbing

Native American Women Face High Rape Rate, Report Says

One in three Native American women will be raped at some point in their lives, a rate that is more than double that for non-Indian women, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

The report, "Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA," noted a variety of reasons that rape is so prevalent on reservations, according to its authors.

In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled in Oliphant v. the Suquamish Indian Tribe that tribal governments have no criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. When a crime is committed, tribal police and their non-Indian counterparts must hash out whether the suspect is Indian or not.

"It is disgraceful that such abuse exists today," said Larry Cox, Amnesty International's executive director. "Without immediate action, an already abysmal and outrageous situation for women could spiral even further out of control."

The Bush administration is aware of law enforcement problems in Indian country, said Christopher B. Chaney, deputy director of the Office of Justice Services for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and has budgeted $16 million in extra funds to help tribal police agencies.

But most of the money is for drug enforcement, public awareness campaigns and corrections officers, not the increasing rape problem. About $5 million is slated to help police agencies fight other crimes.

"Domestic violence is up because of methamphetamine use on Indian lands," Chaney said. Rape, Chaney said, "was a problem long before methamphetamine, but methamphetamine is making it worse." full article

1 out of every 3?!?! Holy crap!

Imagine what the country would be like if that was the nationwide rate. That would literally mean that either everyone's Grandmother, Mother, or Sister would have or would be raped. But its not nationwide, its happening to the most crapped on subsection of the population in the history of this nation.

Of course if you stop to consider the national rate of 1 in 6 at current 2005 population projections then you end up with 24,350,528 plus the 300,000 for the NA population. Now thats scary.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

God Bless Those Pagans

Administration Yields on Wiccan Symbol

Pentacle to Be Permitted on Tombstones in U.S. Military Burial Grounds

Facing lawsuits by veterans and their families, the Bush administration relented yesterday and agreed to allow the Wiccan pentacle -- a five-pointed star inside a circle -- on tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery and other U.S. military burial grounds.

The Department of Veterans Affairs previously had given veterans a choice of 38 religious symbols, including numerous forms of the Christian cross, as well as the Jewish Star of David, the Muslim crescent, the Buddhist wheel and an atomic symbol for atheism.

But, for nearly a decade, the department had refused to act on requests for the pentacle, without a clear reason. VA spokesman Matt Burns said that approximately 10 applications were pending from adherents of Wicca, a blend of witchcraft and nature worship that is one of the country's fastest-growing religions. more

I for one am glad to see this happen for several reasons. First anyone who lays down their life for this country should be able to to have the symbol of their religion on their tombstone (even the very strange Church of the Sub-Genius whose symbol is this:)

Secondly Wiccans (and other Pagans that hold the same symbol sacred) are the only religious group that I know of that are frequently discriminated against when wearing their religious symbol openly. I know of numerous Pagans that were asked by their employer not to wear their pentacle openly at work and actually saw a lady go ballistic and demand that a cashier be fired for wearing hers in plain view.

Additionally the Wiccan faith has come under attack repeatedly by various members of the House of Representatives.
From Wikipedia

In 1999 a group of conservative Christian groups was formed on the initiative of representative Bob Barr, in response to Wiccan gatherings on military bases. The group asked US citizens not to enlist or re-enlist in the U.S. Army until the Army terminates the on-base freedoms of religion, speech and assembly for all Wiccan soldiers. The boycott has since become inactive. George W. Bush stated "I don't think witchcraft is a religion. I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made".

In September 1985 some conservative Christian legislators introduced three pieces of legislation designed to take away the rights of Wiccans. The first one was House Resolution (H.R.) 3389 introduced September 19 by congressman Robert S. Walker.

Senator Jesse Helms made an amendment, Amendment 705, in the House Resolution 3036, The Treasury, Postal, and General Government Appropriations Bill for 1986, specifying that organizations that promote "witchcraft" should not be given tax-exempt status.

After being ignored for a while it got attached to HR 3036 by an unanimous voice vote of the senators. Congressman Richard T. Schulze (R-Penn) introduced substantially the same amendment into the Tax Reform Bill of 1985. When the conference committee met on October 30, the Helms Amendment was thrown out since it was not considered germane to the bill. Following this Schulze withdrew his amendment from the Tax Reform Bill. Leaving only HR 3389, the Walker Bill. It managed to attract Joe Barton (R-Tex) who became a co-sponsor November 14. The Ways and Means Committee set aside the bill and quietly ignored it and it died with the close of the 99th session of Congress in December 1986.

Finally its a victory for religious freedom. This is America and you can worship Skippy the Mole Cricket if you want and no one can persecute you for it. Ridicule yes. Persecute No. That is one of the things that truly separates us from oh say Iran,the Taliban, or Al Qaeda.

Hat Tip to Midtopia for pointing me to the WaPo article.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

VA Tech Reflections

I was born in Roanoake VA, I have family that lives in Blacksburg, and odds are I have at least one distant cousin that goes to VA Tech. I started hunting, fishing, and target shooting in that neck of woods when I was eight. Hence it occurs to me that if such a catastrophe could happen there it could literally happen anywhere. And those that were affected by the violence that day have my sincerest condolences. And it is that spirit that I say the following:

Since that day partisans from both sides have called for stricter gun control laws, called for handguns to be allowed in schools, and conspiracy theorists have been wondering if it was a govt. black op. And to all of you I have this to say:

Shut up now.

Not one of the 32 people killed died so that you could advance your tired political ideals. None of them chose to die so that your party could advance its agenda. This isn't a political problem a
it's a human problem and in order to decrease the number of times massacres like this happen politicians, school administrators, campus security, law enforcement, corporations, and mental health professionals are going to have to work together.

To those voices on the left I say: You could have outlawed all guns and this could have still happened guns would be just as available as pot or meth currently is. They'd be smuggled in through the same routes as cocaine and illegal immigrants. And eventually some madman would have done something similar with home made pipe bombs.

To those on the right: Firearms being allowed on campuses might have prevented deaths but considering the low percentage of gun owners that have concealed carry licenses the odds of one of them being on campus in the right place at the right time are slim. Plus in the middle of a mass shooting a college student with a handgun looks just like a perp to a cop.

To those conspiracy theorists: You folks are hopeless and I'm not going to bother arguing with you.

What might be of use is the creation of a Danger to Self and/or Others database where campus security and mental health professionals could submit the name, DL, SSN, DoB of those that fall within those parameters to the authorities and that database could then be checked instantly by Federal Firearms License holders. And then a law could be passed that that FFL holders could be held liable in civil court and/or lose the license if anyone they sold a weapon to on that list committed an act of violence using that firearm.

Thats just one of many possible tools that could help reduce the odds of this happening agin. We'll never be able to totally stop madmen from killing people but we can at least try to think out of the political box for real solutions.

82-Year-Old Ex-Beauty Queen Stops Intruder by Shooting Out Tires

From the AP


Miss America 1944 has a talent that likely has never appeared on a beauty pageant stage: She fired a handgun to shoot out a vehicle's tires and stop an intruder.

Venus Ramey, 82, confronted a man on her farm in south-central Kentucky last week after she saw her dog run into a storage building where thieves had previously made off with old farm equipment.

Ramey said the man told her he would leave. "I said, 'Oh, no you won't,' and I shot their tires so they couldn't leave," Ramey said.

She had to balance on her walker as she pulled out a snub-nosed .38-caliber handgun.

"I didn't even think twice. I just went and did it," she said. "If they'd even dared come close to me, they'd be 6 feet under by now."

Ramey then flagged down a passing motorist, who called 911.

Curtis Parrish of Ohio was charged with misdemeanor trespassing, Deputy Dan Gilliam said. The man's hometown wasn't immediately available. Three other people were questioned but were not arrested.

After winning the pageant with her singing, dancing and comedic talents, Ramey sold war bonds and her picture was adorned on a B-17 that made missions over Germany in World War II, according to the Miss America Web site.

Ramey lived in Cincinnati for several years and was instrumental in helping rejuvenate Over-the-Rhine historic buildings. She returned to Kentucky in 1990 to live on her farm.

"I'm trying to live a quiet, peaceful life and stay out of trouble, and all it is, is one thing after another," she said.

She reminds me of my great grandma who at a similiar age thwarted a would be robber of her store by pointing a .357 at the tip of his nose from across the counter.