Monday, December 25, 2006

Le parrain du soul est mort
James Brown is dead

What to say? The Godfather of Soul has left the planet. He changed the music. He brought honesty to pop music. He gave raw sex a raw soundtrack. Alongside Little Richard, he set the stage for every glam-rock, disco dude and out-there R&B act that ever came into existence. From George Clinton to Freddy Mercury, all must bow before that caped force of nature.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

What, me racist?

Proof of what your blogstress has been saying: We white folks are still in denial about our racial prejudice. Offenders of whom to be most wary: white liberals. Why? If in denial about our possession of this most fundamental of American traits, we can do more damage than all the Klansmen in Georgia. From the recent CNN/Opinion Research poll:

Almost half of black respondents -- 49 percent -- said racism is a "very serious" problem, while 18 percent of whites shared that view. Forty-eight percent of whites and 35 percent of blacks chose the description "somewhat serious."

Asked if they know someone they consider racist, 43 percent of whites and 48 percent of blacks said yes.

But just 13 percent of whites and 12 percent of blacks consider themselves racially biased.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The monster liberal


From the fabulous Frankie G. (your blogstress's partner in musical crimes), a.k.a. Frank Gilligan of Beltway Sewer Productions, comes word of this educational item, just in time for your holiday -- oh, pardonez-moi, mes amis, your cybertrix unintentionally there made war on somebody's sacred day -- Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Alban Arthuan, Saturnalia, etc. -- giving:

Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed

By Katharine DeBrecht

This full-color illustrated book is a fun way for parents to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. Written in simple text, readers can follow along with Tommy and Lou as they open a lemonade stand to earn money for a swing set. But when liberals start demanding that Tommy and Lou pay half their money in taxes, take down their picture of Jesus, and serve broccoli with every glass of lemonade, the young brothers experience the downside to living in Liberaland.

Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover, 54 pages. Full-color illustrations.
No, mes filles et garcons, this is not a joke (although your blogstress admits that it is pretty funny -- in a very scary sort of a way). As Frank writes: "Until our side plays like this, nothing will be accomplished."

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A river runs through Egypt
Mel Gibson's "unfortunate experience"

It came as no surprise to your blogstress when Mel Gibson, in the course of promoting his upcoming cinematic bloodfest, "Apocalypto," expressed sympathy for his fellow bigot, Michael Richards. What did surprise your cybertrix, however, was Gibson's demonstration of denial as to the nature of his own crime. One would have thought that some brilliant public-relations consultant would have drilled into the patron saint of the Catholic right the need to at least appear to take responsibility for whatever venom spews, via one's own brain, from one's own mouth.

In an AP report, Gibson says he doesn't expect his celebrated rant to affect box office on the movie:

The movie will stand on its own, regardless of any unfortunate experience I may have stumbled upon."
Stumbled upon? As in, I was just weaving my inebriated self home when I stumbled upon a torrent of anti-Semitic taunts flowing out of my mouth at a Jewish police officer, upon whom I had also stumbled.

More from the AP story, in case you missed it:
Are people refusing to work with him?

"No, people aren't like that," Gibson tells the magazine. "Those are just the headlines: Mel ostracized by Hollywood! Hollywood is what you make it. There is no great pooh-bah up there saying, `Go! You are condemned!'"

Gibson says he's not anti-Semitic.

"I never have been and never would be," he says. "But (the incident) hit this fear thing in me. My god, I made people afraid. … And it was a horrible feeling. That's when I said, `My god, I don't want to be that monster.'"

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Yosemite Sam bites the dust

John Bolton, that most undiplomatic diplomat who has been serving as acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations since his recess appointment last year, stepped down today when it became apparent that there was no way in hell that he could win confirmation in the lame-duck Senate.

Two men deserve special thanks for this outcome: Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), who lost his re-election bid, and Steve Clemons, author of The Washington Note. It was Clemons who brought turned the attention of denizens of the blogosphere to the perils of an Ambassador Bolton (who famously denied the exsistence of the United Nations)*, and who never dropped that ball. Chafee, whose committee vote made kept the Bolton nomination from reaching the Senate floor, deserves commendation for doing the right thing, even after his defeat by a Democrat. In fact, Chafee went so far to make that point that the outcome of the 2006 mid-term elections, as epitomized by his own loss, signaled the electorate's desire for the kind of change that the ouster of Bolton would represent.

* "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world and that is the United States when it suits our interest and we can get others to go along."

--John Bolton

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Friday, December 01, 2006

House intelligence

While your blogstress has always had mixed feelings about the well-versed but not-always-stalwart Jane Harman (Calif.), who has served, lo, these last few years as the ranking Democratic member on the House intelligence committee, you cybertrix hardly knows what to make of the naming of Silvestre Reyes (TX) by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lead the committee.

The muckraking Laura Rozen, your Webwench's colleague on TAPPED (the Weblog of The American Prospect Online) details a meeting with Manuchar Ghorbanifar of Iran-Contra fame in which the new committee chairman joined the tainted Republican Curt Weldon (Penn.) for a discussion of God-knows-what.

Pelosi's issue with Harman is reportedly that the Speaker's California colleague has not protested loudly enough against the Bush administration's assault on civil liberties. And your ecrivaine agrees, for the most part. On the other hand, Harman is smart and serious, and came across as impeccably credible in her outings on the Sunday chat shows.

Silvestre is an improvement over the man who was said by the media to be the Speaker's early favorite -- Alcee Hastings, who was impeached while serving as a federal judge after being charged with taking a bribe. He was later acquitted of the bribe charge by a federal jury.

This whole deal, however, reeks of bad politics. Here you have three people who represent the underrepresented contstituencies in national politics: a woman, a black man and a Latino. Yet you, the first female speaker, choose to throw the woman under a bus, and to limit your appointment to a choice between two men of minority backgrounds who appear to ethically challenged, when -- in your supreme role as Speaker -- you could have chosen a person from a minority background who does not appear to be ethically challenged. I must admit to being a bit befuddled by the Speaker's moves.

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Weird planetary alignment

It's as if the goddesses and their consorts were preventing your blogstress from issuing forth from the blogosphere, but all manner of confusion between the evil big-business domain-hocker Network Solutions, and another outfit which we'll call Hemp-Hed Hosting (not its real name) has led to your cybertrix's Weblog appearing only intermittently, between messages that declare the breakaway republic to be "under construction," or even better, to have an "expired" name.

At Network Solutions, customer service comes in the form of condescending young men in an East Asian country whose "help" generally requires about four phone calls to achieve any result. Meanwhile, over at Hemp-Hed, very nice, very mellow American geeks chat you up, knowing exactly what the problem is, but forget to put in the order for the fix. So, it takes about four calls to achieve any result, but at least the calls tend to be amusing.

Okay, well there's still the gig at TAPPED (The American Prospect Weblog) to feed your Webwench's blogging jones, n'est-ce pas? Well, wouldn'tcha know that technical woes at The Prospect site have seen TAPPED out of commission for the past couple of days. Maybe it's those funky aspects this week between Mercury and Neptune, and Mars and Saturn. Other suggestions will be entertained.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'll make it anywhere...

Your blogstress is pleased to announce that the New York Observer has at long last acknowledged the existence of your cybertrix -- something she knew those smart fellas over there would have to do sooner or later.

In this week's column, Ron Rosenbaum chronicles the fracas kicked up by your Webwench's manly colleague on TAPPED, Charles Pierce, in his critique of the Michael Richards meltdown, whereupon he said things that pissed off the ladies of that Weblog (Garance Franke-Ruta and yours truly). Your écrivaine regrets that she does come off as a bit humorless in the whole thing, but that's a small price to pay for having one's name turn up on the peach sheet.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Not a prejudiced bone in my body

Your blogstress seems to have kicked up a bit of dust with her assertion, on TAPPED (the Weblog of The American Prospect Online), that nearly all white Americans are racially prejudiced. (No, your cybertrix does not count herself out of this equation.)

It all began with a post by the very funny but somewhat sexist Charlie Pierce, who, commenting on the racist meltdown of "Seinfeld" alumn Michael Richards, asserted that the Seinfeld show always spouted prejudices but went on to compare the spouting of prejudice by the misogynist (and often funny) late comic Sam Kinison as preferable to that of the Seinfeld types, who suffered from some form of "maidenly vapors," according to Pierce. Oy vey, to quote a favorite editor of your net-tête's.

This did not amuse Garance Francke-Ruta, one of your Webwench's rare female colleagues at TAPPED, who took Pierce to task for his celebration of the misogynist Kinison, as well as the crappy "vapors" comment, in this post.

Piling on to pummel Pierce with her pocketbook was your écrivaine, who took the opportunity to comment, as well, on the Michael Richards hate speech, yielding her comment about the prejudices of those of the Caucasian persuasion, to which she belongs.

Well, there's a damn-near free-for-all taking place right now on TAPPED, and your blogstress urges her devotees to add their comments -- if they know what's good for them.

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NOW-NJ elects first African-American president
Maretta J. Short prevails in statewide contest


Maretta J. Short (second from left), the newly elected president of NOW-NJ, is the first African-American to hold the post. She is pictured here at the organization’s March Women Making History event, together with NOW activists Terry Fasano to her left and, to her right, Susan Waldman (holding grandson Joshua), Shirley Henderson and Barbara Foley. photo courtesy NOW-NJ

Your blogstress just couldn’t be more tickled to learn that Maretta J. Short, your Webwench’s college friend and nearly lifelong compatriot in la causa, has been elected president of New Jersey’s state-level National Organization for Women (NOW), which in the most densely populated state in the nation really means something. And she’s the first African-American to hold the post.

Maretta, who was nominated from the floor of NOW’s state convention, comes to the organization’s top statewide leadership post from her role as chapter president of the Women of Color & Allies, NOW-NJ’s Essex County chapter. She tells your cybertrix of a diverse roster of officers that were elected with her, including a transgendered person and two other African-Americans, as well as a contingent from the South Jersey Alice Paul chapter.

Back in the days when your écrivaine chased the religious right around the country, she would periodically sink into a pit of despair. In those moments, it was Maretta who commanded, “Keep the faith!” And she was clearly true to her own word.

After an hour of burning the phone lines between Essex and Hudson Counties (your blogstress having inhabited the latter), Retta invariably issued her signature sign-off: “Plant ya now; dig ya later.”

Congratulations, Maretta!

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Friday, November 17, 2006

De mean man needs to hear from you

Your blogstress would like to make the following announcement: she has never been demeaned by the distribution of family planning to her or anybody else. In fact, if you are giving out free condoms, she will gratefully accept them, as they're getting a bit pricey these days.

The impetus for your Webwench's declaration is found in the following lede paragraph from a Washington Post article by the most attractive Christopher Lee:

The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as "demeaning to women."
It's one thing, in an anti-choice administration, to choose a deputy assistant secretary for population affairs who opposes legalized abortion -- pretty awful, but intellectually consistent. But unless you believe affairs of population to be most beneficial in an expansive state, the president's appointment makes no damn sense. We're told it's about playing to his base. But I thought the base was evangelical Protestants, not right-wing, Latin-Mass Catholics, who comprise a pretty small minority.

Your blogstress suggests protesting in the tea-bag tradition by sending used condoms to the Department of Health and Human Services, attention Eric Keroack, deputy assistant secretary for population affairs. Add the note, Demean this!

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hoyer wins, and all that crap

Rep. John Murtha sure wasn't my pick for House Majority Leader, especially after Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the ridiculous assertion that she was going to run the squeakiest-clean operation ever. But, crap, ya gotta love Murtha for having brought the word "crap" to public political discourse with the force of something hitting the proverbial fan.

In his interview last night with MSNBC's Chris Matthews, Murtha used the scatalogical term some nine times, according to Matthews's count, when explaining the context for his deployment of the word as a description of the ethics rule changes proposed by his champion, the House speaker.

While Murtha's loss to Maryland's Steny Hoyer may have deprived your blogstress and her devotees the sort of fodder derived from a veritable font of excrement, the present outcome likely saved the Democrats a whole lotta agita.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Your extinguished host

Your blogstress received an alarming e-mail yesterday from her foxy friend, Glenn, informing her that a visit to the breakaway republic yielded only a message that AddieStan had expired! With the rise and fall of each breath conveyed by her bustier, your ecrivaine here asserts that she is indeed quite alive, merci beaucoup.

It had to do with your Webwench's turncoat friends at Network Solutions, who were once the holders of virtually all the domain names on the Web, and now seem to serve simply as condescending keepers of a waning business -- who do little to protect their subscribers from identity theft, at that.

Anyhoo, your cybertrix wil return later today to discuss the meaning of some of the post-election numbers now seeping out of the pollsters' haunts.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Evangelical vote: little change

The screen crawl last night on CNN quoted the AP reporting that "nearly a third of white evangelical Christians" had voted Democratic in Tuesday's mid-term elections, a fact that had Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, crowing last night on "The Daily Show."

Now, your blogstress thinks that's just great but, at the risk of letting the air out of some blue balloons, she takes this opportunity to remind her devotees that that's about the same percentage (68 percent) as voted Democratic in the 2002 mid-term election.

According to the New York Times piece linked above, efforts by religious left activists did have some effect though, in the same article, James L. Guth, a professor of political science at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, says that, in the words of reporter Laurie Goodstein, "[t]he religious voters who did switch from Republican to Democrat just mirrored the American electorate as a whole."

Despite the fact that Prof. Guth is the faculty advisor to Furman's College Republicans, your cybertrix is inclined to accept his assessment of the voter breakdown. It's still too early, of course, to know what really happened. More will be revealed...

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Majority Leader Harry Reid
The Senate goes Dem, too

NBC has just called the Virginia Senate race for Democrat-come-lately James Webb, meaning the Democrats will control the Senate -- just barely -- with 51 members. MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann suggested that a concession speech from Sen. Macacawitz (a.k.a., George Allen) may happen as soon as tomorrow. Apparently, given bad odds of his prevailing in a recount, Macacawitz advisors are arguing against calling a recount.

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For a veritable cornucopia of post-election wit and wisdom...

...visit TAPPED, the Web log of The American Prospect Online, where your blogstress dwells in the company of a group of very smart -- and mostly deliciously young -- men.

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Other people's agendas

In her first press conference since the Democrats won the majority in the House, presumed Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi smacked around Rep. John Conyers of Detroit, who has called for the impeachment of President Bush. Asked whether or not the Democrats would pursue impeachment, Pelosi said unequivocally, "Impeachment is off the table." Making a distinction between the Democrats at large and those who have called for impeachment, the prospective speaker suggested that "such actions" are the priorities of individuals, but "they are not our priorities."

Your blogstress is not advocating the immediate convening of impeachment hearings, but to take impeachment -- of a president who never deserved it more -- off the table is to deny the American people the ultimate mechanism of presidential accountability. I mean, who knows what next this clown will pull? (It won't just be your finger.)

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Statehood effort for D.C. news to Bush

When asked why he supports democracy for Iraq, but not for the District of Columbia, the president said "this is the first I'm hearing of" a bill pending before the House that would give statehood to D.C. and another congressional seat to Utah.

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Doing the punditry

Your blogstress could be mistaken, but she's quite sure that she just heard the leader of the free world say, in explaining some error he made in speech, "That's why I shouldn't do the punditry."

A quote, no doubt, that devotees may find more accurately stated via a search in the Google.

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Madam Speaker

Your blogstress here confesses that, given the 22 years that have passed since a woman last graced the presidential ticket of a major political party, she truly did not expect to live to see the day when a woman would become speaker of the House of Representatives. Reveling in the news of their landslide win of the House, Democrats are poised to elect Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to a post no Democrat has held for more than decade.

But the Dems' newfound grrrl power doesn't end there; as reported in Women's e-News (WeN), four women are poised to lead committees, even the powerful House intelligence committee, on which California's Rep. Jane Harman currently serves as ranking member. The Web site does note, however, Harman's ascension to be in doubt because of "her reportedly sour relationship with Pelosi."

Other likely female committee chairmen include Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), in line to lead the Rules Committee, Juanita Millender-McDonald (Calif.) of the House Administration Committee, and Nydia Velazquez (N.Y.) of the Small Business Committee.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dems may just get the Senate!

Projected so far:

Casey (Penn.)
Menendez (N.J.)
Cardin (Md.)
Whitehouse (R.I.)

Not a Dem anymore, but something like one:
Lieberman (Conn.)

*Projections from MSNBC

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Home-boy Menedez wins
Legacy of corruption trumps dynasty of presumption

It is with sigh of relief that your blogstress notes that one of her least favorite sons of Jersey has triumphed in the race for the Garden State's Senate seat. Yes, Bob Menendez, your Webwench's former congressman, has now won his place in that august body, despite his Hudson County roots and the whiff of corruption that the old money, in the form of scion Tom Kean, Jr., kept fanning back on him.

The source of your net-tête's distaste for the Hudson County honcho stems not, however, from any accusation of corruption, but rather personal experience. Back in the 1980s, some very bad people known as the contras were being armed by the United States in order to make war upon the Marxist government of Nicaragua -- which, for better or worse, was probably the most socially progressive the Nicaraguans had ever known. The contras' idea of making war on the Sandinistas, however was to actually rape and torture civilians, leading liberals such as yours truly to call for the end to funding of this despicable group.

A vote for contra funding was coming up, so being a good little liberal nerd, your cybertrix called her congressman to ask him not to give a yea to guns for murderers, and she later received a letter thanking her for advocating for funding for the contras, a measure ultimately supported by Rep. Menendez.

A friend who was then an operative in the Hudson County Democratic machine explained, "Oh, they just looked at your zip code and assumed you were a right-wing Cuban."

Hasta la vista, baby.

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Don't leave home without your camcorder
Voter suppression in Virginia and elsewhere needs documentation

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THIS VIDEO


It's really getting deep in Ol' Virginny, where Kay Steiger, your blogstress's colleague at TAPPED, the Web log of The American Prospect Online, was challenged when she tried to vote in the precinct in which she is registered. Check out Kay's story.

The Associated Press is reporting that the FBI is investigating the intimidating calls, like the one mentioned here earlier that was made to a voter by someone purporting to be from the Virginia Election Commission, who promised the voter that he would be arrested if he showed up at his polling place.

VideoTheVote.org is encouraging folks to record their experience at the polls, and then upload any video collected of anything shady.

CLICK HERE to check out their mini-documentary.
(It's just a few minutes long.)

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Like it's not scary enough to be black in Virginia...

Opponents of Democrats have apparently been trying to bully African-Americans into staying home today in the hope of reseating Senator Macacawitz (a.k.a., George Allen).

The campaign of Macacawitz's opponent, Jim Webb -- a mere sexist, but not a racist (hey, it's Virginia) -- has posted on its Web site a recording of a voice mail received by a black Virginia voter, promising him arrest if he showed at the polls:

www.webbforsenate.com/media/phone_message.wav

Its provenance, of course, remains uncertain.

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Keep your Webwench posted...

Send your cybertrix your observations of races in your home state. She wants all the dirt, of course -- the lowdown on the Republican robo-calls, the Republican voter suppression, the bribes, the offers of food and happy-ending massages. Don't leave your écrivaine in the dark (unless you plan to join her there).

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Happy Election Day!

Those of you who actually get to pull the lever in a race that is not a foregone conclusion today should consider yourself blessed. Your blogstress, on the other hand, is trying to find the wherewithal -- which she no doubt will -- to do her civic duty and arrive at her polling place in order to vote for a mayor whose election is already assured, and a congressional representative who has no vote, at least not in Congress. Such is the state of things in Your Nation's Capital.

For something more uplifing, listen (right now!) to your blogstress's friend and certified hottie, Hans Johnson, on The Young Turks radio show today, via Air America. And get out there and vote!

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Beating his own breast

According to Wolf Blitzer, speaking today on his CNN program "Late Edition," the Rev. Ted Haggard, just fired as pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church he founded in Colorado Springs, has declared himself "a liar and deceiver" who has "committed sexual immorality."

Haggard's story has changed several times since self-described "escort" Mike Jones alleged a sex-for-money relationship with Haggard, a prominent anti-gay activist, and religious-right adviser to President George W. Bush. First he denied knowing Jones, then he said he got a massage from Jones and bought meth from him, but did not have sex with him. Today's less specific admissions would seem to indicate otherwise.

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The lady doth protest
Elizabeth Dole on the Double-talk Express

Watching Elizabeth Dole, once an admirable figure, slide ever deeper into the pit of prevarication in her role as chair of the Republican National Senatorial Campaign Committee, is deeply discomfiting. Today on "Meet the Press," Dole called the Democratic candidate from Tennessee, Harold Ford, Jr., a supporter of gay marriage -- a charge that is (unfortunately) untrue. Then she called Ford's representation of himself as a moderate conservative -- which he clearly is -- "one of the greatest political frauds ever perpetrated."

How sad to see a political pioneer -- once an inspirational figure to a generation of women -- behave with such despicable dishonesty.

(Oh, yeah, and she also defended the racist "Harold, call me" ad run by Republican National Committee.)

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Spirit
Heartsick homophobe

A press release from our friends at Focus on the Family:

Dr. James Dobson 'Heartsick' Over Haggard Allegations

COLORADO SPRINGS, Nov. 3 /Christian Newswire/ -- Focus on the Family founder and Chairman James C. Dobson, Ph.D., issued the following statement today after learning the Rev. Ted Haggard had acknowledged some "indiscretions" involving accusations made against him by a gay prostitute in Denver:

"All of us at Focus on the Family are heartsick over the allegation, not yet confirmed, that Ted has had a private life with a homosexual for several years. We will await the outcome of this story, but the possibility that an illicit relationship has occurred is alarming to us and to millions of others.

"Ted has been my close friend and colleague for many years. He has been used mightily to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Colorado Springs and around the world. He will continue to be my friend, even if the worst allegations prove accurate. Nevertheless, sexual sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual, has serious consequences and we are extremely concerned for Ted, his family and his church.

"We ask that the Focus on the Family constituency and Christians everywhere pray for Ted and his loved ones. Our hearts go out to all of them. Perhaps the allegations are false and the circumstances are not as we have heard. Either way, the situation has grave implications for the Cause of Christ and we ask for the Lord's guidance and blessings in the days ahead."
Your blogstress obviously lacks any inside knowledge of the "Cause of Christ," but she does know this about Jesus of Nazareth: There is no record of him ever having said one thing, for or against, homosexuality. Perhaps the soldiers of the Cause will find solace in turning their attention to those things that Jesus actually did address: poverty and hypocrisy.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Finding out who his friends are
Rev. Ted Haggard poster boy of shame

Rev. Ted Haggard, the anti-gay, religious right leader who yesterday resigned the presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals under the cloud of allegations -- which blog afficionados read here first -- that he paid a male prostitute for sex, is about to learn who his friends are.

So far, Dr. James Dobson, king of the Focus on the Family media empire, is standing by his man, according to the Rocky Mountain News:

"Ted Haggard is a friend of mine, and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday's election," especially the marriage amendment vote [a Colorado ballot initiative to be voted on this Tuesday], Dobson said in a release.
With the marriage initiative at stake, it seems that Dobson was able to set aside his differences with Haggard with regard to global warming, which Haggard thinks evangelicals should battle.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, on the other hand, offers Haggard no solace, demeaning the troubled pastor last night on CNN, as quoted in The Guardian:
"He (Haggard) doesn't really lead the (evangelical) movement. ... He is the president of an association that is very loosely knit and I've never been a member of it."

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Answering Harold's call

While media polls show Harold Ford, Jr. trailing Republican Bob Corker in a Tennessee Senate race gone truly ugly (thanks to a racist ad financed by the Republican National Committee), the folks at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee beg to differ:

New polling data out this afternoon (Nov. 2) from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) shows Harold Ford Jr. leading Bob Corker by six points (46%-40%).  In addition, the survey shows that Corker’s support has dropped six points in just three days.  Hamilton Beattie & Staff conducted the survey among 600 likely voters statewide from October 31 to November 1. The margin of error was 4%.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Credit where credit is due

Your blogstress would like to remind fellow citizens of the blogosphere that when she reports something she has read on another's blog, she credits that blog, expecting nothing less in return. (Can you smell the leather?)

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Have mercy

Pity the beleaguered followers of the pooh-bahs of the religious right. No, your blogstress is not being snide or facetious; she truly does ask her reader to gently consider the fate of a people so betrayed by their leaders that they find themselves with no one to follow.

As if the Mark Foley scandal was not enough, or the Ralph Reed scandal, or the involvement of Dr. James Dobson in the Ralph Reed scandal, or the revelation by former White House staffer David Kuo of the administration's contempt for religious right leaders (known as "nuts" around the West Wing), today brings word of accusations against the president of the National Association of Evangelicals that he is gay, pays for sex and sniffs meth.

The accusations against Rev. Ted Haggard, pastor of the 14,000-member Life Ministries Church of Colorado Springs, aired last night, were made to a Denver television reporter by admitted "escort" Mike Jones, who claims Haggard as a "sexual business" client for the last three years. 9NEWS reporter Paula Woodward says she has been talking to Jones for the last two months.

Though not a household name in the reality-based community, Haggard is a member of the inner circle of religious leaders who advise the White House via weekly conference calls. Jeff Sharlet, in Harper's magazine, finds Haggard's power within the movement comparable to that of Dobson, who leads the vast Focus on the Family empire.

With two measures on the Colorado ballot next week regarding gay marriage, there's a heavy dose of politics in the Jones accusations. Haggard has promised an "independent investigation" by members of his church, and swears that he has been faithful to his wife. Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Anoushka

Sunday evening found your blogstress in the thrall of the amazing Anoushka Shankar, composer and sitar player extradordinaire -- and, yes, the daughter of Ravi Shankar. This weekend, the younger Shankar dazzled the audience, equal parts Indian and non-Indian, it seemed, at Washington, D.C.'s Lisner Audiorium.

Anoushka Shankar has taken a daring walk out to the edge of classical Indian music, mixing her sitar and other traditional instruments with piano, electric bass and rock-n-roll-with-a-world-music-twist stack of drums. The results were mixed but always riveting, and those pieces that thrilled were positively transcendent. One particularly astounding piece featured tabla player Tanmoy Bose and Ravichandra Kulur, a virtuoso on the traditional wooden flute trading percussive vocalizations in a a call-and-response mode. Imagine Bobby McFerrin gone South Asian. It was breathtaking.

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the evening was the sight of this jewel of a young woman seated, cross-legged in the center of a platform draped in hand-made red carpets, surrounded by some of the most masterful players in her genre. And make no mistake, she was in charge, and in the most charming way imaginable. Regardless of lineage, she has clearly earned her place. Her playing was hypnotic, sometimes Coltrane-fast and loaded with notes, sometimes languid and contemplative. She's 25 years old. Can't wait to see her at 40.

CLICK HERE FOR A THOROUGH REVIEW OF A VERMONT PERFORMANCE BY ANOUSHKA SHANKAR FROM THE SAME TOUR

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Happy Samhain!

Your blogstress wishes you and your family a blessed Samhain -- known in these parts as Halloween -- whether you celebrate in the old way (dancing around a fire) or the new way (dressing up as a cartoon character, begging for sweets). Either way, these are our days of the dead, our welcome to winter, our moment to disappear into the form of a different being.

It's also the eve of All Saint's Day, a co-option by the Roman Catholic Church of this ancient pagan festival, wherein we celebrate the pure ones who have gone on to the next world. The following day, All Souls Day, we try to pray any loved ones stuck in Purgatory out of that firey netherword.

And so it mote be...

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Compassion deficit

Today's New York Times offers a superb editorial on the efforts of the president and others in his party to exploit, for the purpose of rallying the party's base, the New Jersey court decision on civil unions for gay people:

If the last month has taught us anything about the Republican Party, it is that homophobia is campaign strategy, not conviction. Congressmen who trust their careers to gay staffers vote for laws to enshrine second-class citizenship for gays in the Constitution. Gay appointees and their partners are treated as married people at official ceremonies and social gatherings. Then whenever an election rolls around, the whole team pretends it’s on a mission to save America from gay marriage.
Add to this the revelations in David Kuo's book, Tempting Faith, of the demeaning way in which White House types were said to refer to the religious right, and the moral bankruptcy of the whole G.O.P. enterprise appears in full.

Your blogstress takes this occasion to saunter out on a limb with a guess that the Times's punchy, unsigned essay is the work of editorial page editor Gail Collins, who plans to step down from that post in January in order to write a book. The Times pooh-bahs assure us that she will return the following year as a columnist on the op-ed page.

And check out Kuo's blog, J-Walking. Fascinating.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

State of the civil union

Today your blogstress is very, very proud to be a native of the great State of New Jersey, given yesterday's decision by the state Supreme Court that gay and lesbian couples are entitled to the full rights and benefits of marriage. And despite the right-wing rending of garments, the decision appears to square with the sentiment of the New Jersey electorate, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll, as reported by The Record of Hackensack.

By more than 2-to-1, New Jersey voters favor conferring all marriage rights to same-sex couples through civil unions, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in June, a full 66 percent to 29 percent. Legalizing marriage is touchier: 49 percent support it, 44 percent oppose.
Some are disappointed that the court stopped short of calling for the same marriage license granted hetero couples to be conferred on same-sex betrothals, but your cybertrix is quite content with this ruling, in the hope that the court will next halt the granting of marriage licenses to heterosexual couples, as well. You see, mes amis, marriage is a religious institution in which the government has no business. The government's job is to enforce the law, including contracts. I say, civil unions for everyone. Leave it to the religious to decide if they will confer the blessing of marriage upon a couple.

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Embryonic consciousness

In response to your blogstress's exposé, at The American Prospect Online, of the cleverly named group, Feminists for Life, she received this thoughtful missive from an artist:

I hear your points but I also can't help but hear a differing point. I heard a lady ask a question, "Why am I not fit to live?" She was asking the question because, as a child conceived as the result of a rape, she had a question which is not so easy to answer.

The pro and anti forces couch the issue of abortion in terms far too conveniently simplistic.

--Joseph David Marshall
True enough that, in the sound-bite age, all arguments get reduced to their essences. However, with regard to the woman conceived through a rape, your pro-choice cyberscribe is not saying that the woman is not fit to live; rather, I'm saying that her mother's choice to carry to term the embryo yielded by the rape should remain the pregnant woman's choice.

The framing of the issue as whether or not the woman conceived through rape is "fit to live" is not only not the issue, but is a frame around the ego of an adult human. It is safe to say for any of us, I think, that if the embryos from which we developed as humans had been aborted, we probably would not miss never having existed as humans.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

October Surprise: A sermon on the mound

Tonight, World Series fans, you will get to view the latest in the paid political advertising entertainment served up for the mid-term election stem-cell wars of the Cardinals' home state. Watching, on YouTube, a fuzzy preview of the ad -- which was apparently thrown together in response to Michael J. Fox's latest star turn as an advocate for stem-cell research -- your blogstress felt the hand of Mother Church orchestrating this video confab of right-wing Roman Catholic sort-of celebrities. Now, your Webwench is not saying that she knows for a fact that Big Ma is behind this whole thing; that grail continues to elude her.

However, her ears pricked up at the mention of the name of Patricia Heaton, whose face graces the misleading Feminists for Life ad that has run on various political Web sites -- including that of The American Prospect Online, for which your cybertrix writes -- off and on for the last month. As your écrivaine reported for The Prospect's site last week, Feminists for Life is closely allied with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and even took funding from the bishops for its first ad campaign.

The television spot featuring Heaton makes a case against a Missouri ballot measure, Amendment 2, that would, according to a pro-amendment editorial in the Kansas City Star, "guarantee Missouri scientists the right to conduct all forms of stem-cell research permitted under federal law." The ad, which also features Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the Mel Gibson's Jew-baiting film, "Passion of the Christ" and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan, will air tonight during a World Series game in which Suppan is slated to pitch.

To learn more about the links between the bishops and the anti-stem-cell spot, check out your net-tête's post on TAPPED, the blog of The American Prospect Online.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hey, Faddah! Who you callin' a feminist?

Check out your blogstress's riff on the anti-reproductive rights group, Feminists for Life, today at The American Prospect Online. There you will learn of the group's deceptive ad campaign, aimed at young women, and its relationship to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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What say the church?
Foley's priestly nemesis tells some

Were any further evidence needed of the spiritual bankruptcy of 21-century America, one might look to the Mark Foley scandal, where the vicissitudes of secular politics -- a realm in which the Roman Catholic Church wields no small measure of power -- have rubbed up against the sanctimony of the church in a most unbecoming way, reviving a scandal of its own that church fathers likely thought they had put to bed with a flood of money paid out to the victims of sexually predatory priests.

Mr. Foley, you'll recall, sought to, at best, explain his sexual harassment of young men (or, at worst, to excuse it) by revealing, through his attorney, that in his teen years Foley himself had been molested by a Catholic priest. This week, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune tracked down a priest who admitted to having a sexual relationship with the young Foley who was, at the time, an altar boy. The church has yet to comment.

Most telling in the the Herald-Tribune's interview with Foley's former confessor is the priest's own sense of victimization by the scandal.

Father Mercieca said he taught Mr. Foley “some wrong things” related to sex, though he wouldn’t specify what he meant. He also said they were naked together in a sauna twice.

Father Mercieca said that, at the time, he considered his relationship with Mr. Foley innocent. But he now says he sees that his actions may have been inappropriate.

Father Mercieca said his encounter with Mr. Foley was an aberration, and that the Catholic Church never had to send him for counseling during his 38 years in the priesthood in Florida.

“I have been in many parishes, and I have never been” accused, he said.
He apparently did not say that he had never committed other such acts.
Father Mercieca said during his two years in Lake Worth, he ate dinners with Mr. Foley’s family and that Mr. Foley’s grandmother “was delighted to see me all the time.”

Father Mercieca said he is confused about why Mr. Foley has decided to come forward after almost 40 years.

“Why does he want to destroy me in my old age?” Father Mercieca said.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE WHOLE STORY FROM THE SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Ode to Susannah

If you've never heard of Susannah McCorkle, then David Hajdu's masterful review, in The New Republic, of a new McCorkle biography by Linda Dahl, might not sing to you. But then again, it just might:

I pictured McCorkle aging into a figure like Blossom Dearie, an odd bird revered after a long career as an endangered species.
Indeed, you might just love it for the sentences.

Alas, McCorkle was not to see old age, having thrown herself out of the window of her 16th-floor Manhattan apartment several years ago, after she lost her regular singing gig at the Algonquin. McCorkle was a singer who worked with jazz musicians, but you wouldn't exactly call her a jazz singer. And she wasn't exactly a typical caberet singer, either, possessed, as she occasionally was, with the bombast born of a rock 'n' roll past. But, wow, could she put over a song, as she teased her own emotional color out of every note she chose to sing -- sometimes a little flat.

I saw her perform twice -- once in some room in Manhattan whose name I can't remember, sitting next to a drunk who kept calling out, "Sing Curly Sue!" -- a pickled-brain reference to one of McCorkle's signature tunes, "The Legend of Pearly Sue," a charming feminist anthem by Gerry Mulligan. The lyric tells the story of a little girl who plays the trumpet and becomes president of the United States. I think she also goes into space. It was a great tune for McCorkle, who was a lot of things besides a talented performer. She was a writer of both fiction and non-fiction (winner of an O. Henry Award), and a linguist. That song had been the vehicle by which my dad turned me onto McCorkle, with a father's conceit that the protagonist's exploits somehow echoed those of his daughter (who, though not exactly famous herself, knew a couple of famous people).

The second time I saw McCorkle perform, it was at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., with my soon-to-be-ex-husband. The singer did a mystically melancholy set of Brazilian tunes in Portuguese, offering, as well, a brilliant imitation of João Gilberto singing a Cole Porter song in English. The seminal "Getz/Gilberto" record that brought bossa nova to the United States in the early 1960s had provided a large part of the soundtrack for my marriage, my husband having purloined the vinyl from his father's collection. McCorkle was the closer.

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Do you know Jack?

Yesterday Sen. Max Baucus, ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, issued a minority report on the use of right-wing, tax-exempt non-profit organizations to provide, in an apparently illegal fashion, services in exchange for donations -- a practice forbidden to exempt organizations by the tax code. Most delicious, aside from the report's exquisite timing, is the exploration of an axis of evil composed of Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff.

For background on this all-but-forgotten facet of the Abramoff scandal -- the one that shows the religious right and so-called secular, economic conservatives in cahoots with a sent-by-Central-Casting villain -- refer back to your blogstress's March post on the whole, ungodly mess.

More of your Webwench's wisdom on this seedy affair (not that she would have any expertise in seedy affairs) may be found at TAPPED, the blog of The American Prospect Online.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Media Pundit sees loophole in Bush pledge

This just in to your blogstress from a colleague in the blogosphere, heretofore unknown to your Webwench:

Bush says U.S. Won't Attack North Korea

That is the headline of an AP article that hit the wire just over an hour ago. It is currently the top headline on many news sites. Anyone who listened to the press conference, however, knows that the headline is misleading. From the AP article itself: Bush said the United States remains committed to diplomacy but also "reserves all options to defend our friends in the region."

Reserving all options does not sound like he has ruled out the possibility of a military response. What Bush actually said was that the U.S. "has no intention of attacking" North Korea. Where have we heard that phrase before? In 2002 Bush repeatedly claimed that he had "no intention of attacking Iraq."
CLICK HERE TO READ THE WHOLE POST

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Light a candle

North Korea has declared its conduct of a test of a nuclear weapon, and geologists report seismic activity in the region that suggests Pyongyang is telling the truth.

President Bush has called the test "a provocative act," which indeed it is -- leaving one to shudder at the thought of what response may be provoked. Let us not forget who we've got at the United Nations, representing U.S. interests. Yes, it's still John Bolton, the man who has expressed his contempt for that very institution. Pray that the gods of multilateralism hold out against the titans of go-it-aloneism. Your blogstress takes some comfort in the notion that the opportunities for Bush-friendly contractors seem somewhat minimal in an occupied North Korea.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stock up on denture-friendly munchies

From Reuters:

Marijuana may stave off Alzheimer's

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) -- Good news for aging hippies: Smoking pot may stave off Alzheimer's disease.

New research shows that the active ingredient in marijuana may prevent the progression of the disease by preserving levels of an important neurotransmitter that allows the brain to function.

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California found that marijuana's active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, can prevent the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from breaking down more effectively than commercially marketed drugs.
If I could only remember where I left the bong...

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Just another word for nothin' left to lose


President George W. Bush with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the Rose Garden at the White House, Friday, Sept. 29, 2006, following their meeting in the Oval Office. White House photo by Eric Draper.

This comment by our commander-in-chief caught your blogstress's delicate ear earlier this week, but being an easily distracted, prone-to-the-vapors sort of gal, your blogstress must concede that la tête de t'écrivaine was set spinning by the scandal, murder and mayhem that has besieged our benighted nation over the course of the last few days. What momentarily drew your Webwench's attention to the mystical realm of foreign policy was the president's description of Kazakhstan as "a free country." This he said with the dictator of that oil-rich Central Asian nation by his side -- Nursultan Nazarbayev, the dictator who has ruled the Kazakh people with an iron fist since before the republic gained independence in the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Thankfully, Ted Rall served up this thoughtful piece:

Bush Gives 15 Million Muslims More Reasons to Hate Us

SEATTLE--George W. Bush says lots of nice things about President Nursultan Nazarbayev. On September 29 he portrayed the leader of Kazakhstan, who came to Washington for a state luncheon, as a "steadfast partner in the international war on terrorism." Nazarbayev, according to Bush and U.S. state-controlled media, is leading a transition to democracy and liberalizing his nation's economy. He's been lauded for privatizing old Soviet-era state industries and inviting foreign companies to invest in the exploitation of what may be the world's largest untapped oil reserves. Kazakhstan, Bush says, "now is a free nation."
Of course, given the Mr. Bush's standards, Kazakhstan might just qualify as "a free nation," in much the same way as the U.S. is "a free nation."

Oh, sure, we have a bit more in the way of freedom than the Kazakh people. Note that President Nazarbayev apparently resorted to ballot-stuffing for his widely-discredited 2005 electoral victory. President Bush, on the other hand, had to repress the vote in one critical state -- Ohio -- in order to win re-election. (What Allah giveth Nazarbayev, the Lord taketh away from President Bush, with remarkably similar results.)

Should anything good come out of the Mark Foley scandal, it will hopefully be the repeal of the awful law passed last week by Congress that suspends the right of habeas corpus and shields the Bush administration from war crimes prosecutions. If the Dems get the House, that should be the first order of business, along with the immediate suspension of the NSA domestic spying program and the dreadful "compromise" Congress made with the White House -- the one that will make it impossible to know what the executive branch is up to when it peaks under the covers of American citizens.

CLICK HERE TO READ ALL OF RALL'S ESSAY

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Giving alcoholics a bad name?

Unlike many of her colleagues in the blogosphere, your blogstress does not find herself in a position to judge whether or not former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who has checked himself into a subtance-abuse rehabilitation facility, is actually an alcoholic. To make that determination, your cybertrix would have to take the former congressman's inventory, a practice strongly discouraged by the cult of powerlessness through which your Webwench became sober.

Yes, one imagines rehab to be a good place to hide from scandal, and it would be a pity if that were the raison seulement for which the teen-eyeing politician sought entry. However, either way, the 12 steps he is likely to learn in that facility, if taken to heart, could help with the management of that behavior, as well.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

En garde!

Normally a rather docile creature, content to drift from lingerie emporium to chocolatier, your blogstress today, alas, finds herself in a position that requires the unsheathing of her mighty sword of rhetorical wit. This crusade arises from a very poorly executed attack on your Webwench by one of the resident liberal wags of Fox News Channel, who has accused your cybertrix of writing things she never wrote -- a trick more typically used by right-wing commentators. Herewith, your écrivaine's rebuttal:

With (the Christian) God on her side, who needs facts?

I don't find it particularly surprising that a Fox News commentator would resort to a factually challenged and misleading retort to an essay on Pope Benedict XVI's recent geopolitical mischief in the Islamic world. I did, however, find it a bit alarming to see that modus operandi employed at The American Prospect Online, by Kirsten A. Powers.

In her commentary, Who Should Apologize? (which includes an ostensible rebuttal to my essay, Benedict the Bombthrower), Ms. Powers misrepresents my work as a defense of the violence perpetrated by some Muslims in the name of God, and accuses me of blaming the U.S. for the murderous and abusive actions of Islamic theocracies. Hers is a tactic more commonly used on the right: State that someone said something she clearly did not, then berate her for having supposedly said it.

An honest rebuttal would have taken on my interpretation of the pope's speech, which is what my piece was about.

TO READ THE REST, CLICK HERE.


A SHORTER VERSION APPEARS AT TAPPED, THE BLOG OF THE AMERICAN PROSPECT ONLINE.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Parallel universe

Who knew that, in the land of liberals, there lives a pundit with designs on becoming the Ann Coulter of the left. At least that's how it seems. At The American Prospect Online, one Kirsten Powers uses your blogstress's essay on the pope's dastardly comments about Islam to falsely accuse, by implication, your Webwench of justifiying the violence conducted against women and Christians by Islamists and their leaders. But at no point does Powers thoughtfully address the central premise of your the point made by your cybertrix: that the pope's remarks were irresponsible, and designed to provoke the response they got.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Gingrich Plan

Among the many unsettling things your blogstress heard tonight from disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was a call for the imposition of a literacy test for parole from prison. From the podium of tonight's gala at the Family Research Council Action PAC Washington Briefing, Newt also seemed to call for Congress to shut down the 9th Circuit federal court. (That would be that troublesome group of federal judges located in San Francisco.) More tomorrow.

Bon soir, mes amis.

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Bauer launches presidential campaign
(At least that's how it looks to your blogstress)

What won't your blogstress do for her devotees? Today, for instance, she has been at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, feeling the hate pouring off the rostrum of the Family Research Council Action PAC "Washington Briefing" gathering for "values voters." (Don't all voters have values? Otherwise, what would be the point in voting?)

While there was so much more hate to report on than your cybertrix has energy for at this late hour (imagine Ann Coulter, L. Brent Bozell and Gary Bauer speaking from the same podium on a single day), it was Bauer who took the cake in the category of hard-core demonizers of his opponents. Most interesting was Bauer's swipe at Senator John McCain (R-Az.) for his refusal to accept the White House version of a bill that would have created unconstitutional tribunals for so-called "enemy combatants" that also would have permitted some forms of the "inhumane and degrading treatment" forbidden by Article Three of the Geneva Conventions. [McCain, together with Senators John Warner (R-Va.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) yesterday announced a compromise bill negotiated with the White House.]

What makes this all so interesting is that, in the 2000 presidential campaign, Bauer permanently lost his spot as head of the Family Research Council (FRC) when, after dropping out of the race himself, he threw his support to John McCain. (Your blogstress actually broke this story.) The rest of the religious right had thrown in with George Bush, and during the South Carolina primary, religious right leaders ran a vicious campaign against McCain, insinuating that he was the father of a black child. (Misegenation is apparently still a sin in South Carolina.) (The "black" child actually turned out to be an orphaned Indian girl whom McCain and his wife adopted.)

Tonight Bauer delivered a speech to his faithful that wreaks of a coming presidential run, one that would put him up against McCain in the Republican primary. Given his long absence from FRC events, and his sudden rehabilitation, one suspects that he may have been recruited for this job. No, he won't win, and your net-tête figures that he suffers no delusions of victory. What he will do, quite convincingly, is push McCain, the self-styled "maverick" -- or whomever should win the G.O.P. primary -- far to the right. Two years out, and it's already looking ugly.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pressure mounts for arrest of CIA contractors
Identities revealed of men who abducted German

In the U.S., the top stories today focus on who's dissing us now at the big rectangle on the East River (a.k.a., the U.N.). In Germany, the top story also focuses on the U.S., but there the big news is the disclosure of the identities of three CIA contractors who abducted an apparently innocent man, Khaled el-Masri, from where he was staying in Macedonia, then beat him and shipped him to Afghanistan, where he languished in a secret prison for five months.

Because el-Masri is a German citizen, pressure is mounting on the German government to issue arrest warrants for the three, who, according to a European broadcaster, live in North Carolina. Spanish authorities are under similar pressure because the flight manned by the three originated on the Spanish island of Mallorca. According to Deutsche Welle:

[M]any journalists wonder why it is taking prosecutors [so long] to find out more about el-Masri's case. In an article on Thursday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung wondered why German legal authorities have been so hesitant about pursuing the issue.
 
"If the suspects involved were from Libya, then prosecutors would have ordered their arrest a long time ago," Green party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele told the paper.

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Between the devil and the Holy See

Did you think your blogstress had abandoned you, mes amis? Tsk, tsk; you should know by now that at times the work of a blogstress will demand her removal from the world -- yes, even her own blog in the virtual world we call cyberspace -- in order to prepare herself spiritually and sartorially for all that lies ahead. And so it has been that your Webwench has been hunkered down in the Oppo Factory, mitts deep in a box of bon-bons, nose buried in theology and history texts -- and fall fashion magazines.

The impetus for the history cramming was provided by those unfortunate comments about Islam uttered by the Holy Father from a podium in Germany. As for the fashion mags, well, your cybertrix hears that the pontiff does love Prada -- yes, the same Prada reportedly worn by the devil, whose identity, revealed this week by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is shared by a man named George W. Bush. In case you missed it, Latin America's socialist standard-bearer took some time out yesterday from skipping down the halls of the U.N. hand-in-hand with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give a speech to the General Assembly naming the leader of the free world as Lord of the Underworld. (Special thanks to Bassman Geoff Harper for delivering that info in real time to the breakaway republic.)

In the meantime, the Islamic world is a bit agitated, thanks to the utterances of Benedict XVI, who essentially used the words of a 14th century Christian monarch to denounce Islam as a religion founded on stolen ideas, save for its introduction of evil and inhumanity to the great religions of the world. Herewith, at The American Prospect Online, the result of your écrivaine's toil in the realms of substance and style.

CLICK HERE TO READ "BENEDICT THE BOMBTHOWER," BY ADELE M. STAN

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ann Richards has left the building

My last memory of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, who died yesterday, was of her needling fellow Democrats -- who wanted to avoid talking about gay rights and appear unified at the 2004 party fundraiser at which she payed host:

“We are so unified,” said emcee Ann Richards, the former Texas governor, “that before their wives got wind of it, Joe Lieberman and Al Sharpton were on their way to San Francisco for a marriage license.” True to form, Richards, all wise cracks and cotton-candy hair, once again proved herself to be a character who, had she not existed, would have to be invented by a playwright with a queer eye...
That quote is from your blogstress's coverage of that event for the Washington Blade.

For more of your Webwench's musings on the the late doyenne of Texas politics, go to TAPPED, the blog of The American Prospect Online.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More a protest than a clash?

NBC News

In response to your blogstress's musings on the great Clash of Civilizations published at The American Prospect Online on the 5th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, the mail is rolling in.

From the land of Tom DeLay (she notes with some irony), your cybertrix received this well-reasoned missive from a reader less cynical than she:

Dear Ms. Stan:

[Your blogstress loves it when they call her "Ms."]

I read your article at The American Prospect Online with interest, however, I do feel that we need to combat what I see as a fundamental misperception which is common in America and is actively promoted by the President and his minions.

In your fourth paragraph, your friend states “They hate our way of life…”

In the next paragraph you partially agree with her conclusion.

That is where I would disagree. If you want to know why we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, I think it would be wise to ask the people doing the attacking; after all, who knows their reasons better than themselves? For a one-page summary of their reasons, I would suggest there is no better source than the fatwa issued by Osama bin Laden on February 23, 1998.

I believe that as long as we believe that our enemies “hate our freedom” or “hate our way of life” there is no possibility of negotiating with them. After all, how can we negotiate away our “freedom” or our “way of life”?

Furthermore, we constantly refer to our enemies as “madmen” or “fanatics”. Once again, it immediately follows that you cannot deal rationally (negotiate) with madmen.

I believe that those who want this conflict [to perpetuate] want to frame it in such a way as to preclude the possibility of negotiation, and that their rhetoric is designed with that end in mind.

Mark Steele
Sugarland, Texas

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Monday, September 11, 2006

The 5th Anniversary of 9-11
Just who does he think he is?

So the president once again used the tragedy of the September 11th terrorist attacks to justify every lie he's told to the American people, every transgression of the U.S. Constitution his administration has executed and unleashing of unspeakable violence on a nation of Arabs who had nobly endured the tyranny of the despot who ruled them, and the cruelty of policies intended to starve the despot out of office. Non, mes amis, your blogstress is not surprised by what she heard tonight from the Oval Office, but she finds herself nonetheless enraged.

Vying for most audacious line in his speech is the president's quoting of Osama bin Laden's description of al Qaeda's offense against the West as "World War III." Mr. Bush failed to mention the use more recent use of that description by one Newt Gingrich, the disgraced former Speaker of the House. Also in competition, however, is the president's appropriation of Gingrich's "clash of civilizations" scenario, and the disgraced speaker's contention that, in Bush's words, the "war...will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious."

Once again, the president conflated the war in a Iraq with the U.S. response to al Qaeda's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, though, as Vice President Richard V. Cheney did, at last, yesterday on "Meet the Press," he did admit that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Yet, your blogstress's favorite line in the speech was neither of those mentioned above. It was this: "We look to the day when the nations of that region recognize their greatest resource is not the oil in the ground, but the talent and creativity of their people."

Hello? How 'bout: "We look to the day when America and all of the West recognized that the greatest resource of the Middle East is not the oil in the ground, but the talent, creativity and historical legacy of its people."

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The 5th Anniversary of 9-11
Despising dissent


As I write, President George W. Bush is addressing America on the subject of the attacks of September 11, 2001. He defined the enemy that committed those attacks as one that "hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent."

The same could be said of his own administration, no?

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The 5th Anniversary of 9-11
Clashing Civilizations

On this somber anniversary, your blogstress contemplates the ballyhooed clash of civilizations between the West and the Islamic world -- and concludes that the clash is real. Read it here, at The American Prospect Online.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

ABC to re-edit 9-11 mockumentary;
Scholastic pulls misleading classroom guide

The folks at Media Matters for America have apparently prevailed in their challenge to ABC's entertainment division for its politicization of the upcoming anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, prompting ABC to re-edit its docudrama, "The Path to 9/11," which depicts Clinton administration officials as dismissive of the threat posed by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Media Matters also won the day with Scholastic Inc., which produced and distributed accompanying classroom materials that were misleading and contained factual errors.

Great work, folks!

Now, can anybody explain why the reputation of 9-11 commissioner Tom Kean, who served as a consultant to the project, isn't marred by this? Obviously, coming so close to the November mid-term elections, the presentation would likely have, whether or not by design, the effect of shoring up the Republicans' fear-mongering message. Kean's son, Tom, Jr., is challenging Democrat Robert Menendez for the U.S. Senate seat vacated last year by Jon Corzine, who now governs the great home state of your blogstress. It's a very tight race in a state where Bush's approval ratings are in the dumpster.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Clinton slipped a Mickey

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Even as the indefatiguable Brian Ross of ABC News broke a blockbuster story revealing the Bush administration's flexible standards for evil-doers in its so-called "War on Terror," the ABC entertainment division appears poised to enter the political fray on the side of the Bushies -- and against former President Bill Clinton and the Democrats -- in its dramatized depiction of the events that led up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. That the docudrama, "The Path to 9/11," will air nationally less than two months before mid-term congressional elections in which national security issues will take center stage, shows the willingness of ABC honchos (note: ABC is owned by Disney) to throw in with the Republicans in a most blatant way.

If you have any doubt, mes amis, consider the fact that while Bill Clinton was denied a review copy of the mini-series, Rush Limbaugh and a handful of other right-wing commentators were visited by the review-copy fairy godmother.

Media Matters for America is doing a bang-up job on this story, covering the craven reporting of several newspapers about the miniseries, and breaking the story of an inaccurate and misleading study guide (PDF file), based on the ABC series, produced by Scholastic Inc., for distribution in schools. From Media Matters:

The ABC/Scholastic "Student Resource Sheet 1" omits key information, resulting in a distorted account of pre-Iraq war WMD capabilities; misleadingly suggests a tie between Iraq and 9-11; and minimizes the current role of coalition troops in the country.
Check out the "Take Action" feature on the Media Matters site to register your opposition to the show and the study guide. Oh, and your blogstress firmly advises that her devotees cancel those planned vacations to Disney World, Disneyland and -- Goddess forbid -- EuroDisney. (And you know what happens if you defy your cybertrix.)

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Spirit
St. Jude on the Night Train Express

St. Jude as he stands in the New Orleans Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Congo Square

On Rampart Street, just west of New Orleans's historic and sacred Congo Square, sits a sweet little Roman Catholic chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the image of the Blessed Mother Mary said to have appeared to a Mexican Indian on Tepeyac hill, just northwest of what is now Mexico City, in 1531. She is often referred to as the patroness of the Americas.

When Africans were brought as slaves to Louisiana in the early 1700s, they found it necessary to syncretize their native faith traditions with those of their European captors; it was the only way to keep their own traditions alive. This gumbo of West African and Roman Catholic practices gave birth to voudoun -- what we now call voodoo -- as well as the Brazilian tradition of candomblé, and the Latin American Santeria rituals.

As an icon, Our Lady of Guadalupe has a distinctly Mexican Indian appearance, right down to the anatomically-shaped halo that surrounds her goddess-like image. (Along the Gulf Coast of the 18th Century, Africans and American Indians formed a formidable alliance.)

A bit further along Rampart Street sits Congo Square, where Africans were periodically permitted to gather to play music. In the beginning the drum was the primary instrument, and it was with the drum that the essence of a particular spirit, or orisha, was called via the use of his or her particular rhythm. These are the rhythms that gave birth to all manner of American music, particularly jazz.

Back at the chapel, your blogstress found a setting unlike any she had ever known in a Catholic church. Over the altar hangs not a crucifix, but a beautiful, gold-embellished portrait of the Mexican Mother of God. The stations of the cross along the walls of the sanctuary reveal a brown-skinned Jesus. In the statuary grotto to the right of the altar, a more European depiction of the Blessed Mother, dressed in her customary blue and white robes, stands flanked by statues of two romanesque centurions. A small plaque notes the donation of the statues by the sheriff's department (apparently represented by the centurions).

In the grotto to the left, a forbidding statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, stands, tongue of fire sprouting from his head. (This refers to his presence at the Pentecost, when each of the apostles were blessed with tongues of fire by the Holy Ghost.) Surrounding the walls of each grotto are 7-foot-tall racks filled with 7-day candles in brightly colored glasses -- red, gold, green and blue. These are left by devotees who petition the intercession of either St. Jude or Our Lady on behalf of their loved ones. It looks like Mardi Gras.

In West African traditions, gifts are left for one's patron spirit on the eve of calling him or her forth. These are often food and drink, sometimes flowers.

On the day I met St. Jude in the chapel, he bore a half-dead bouquet still in its plastic wrapper, which read, "Flowers Make the Difference." More flowers were strewn at the foot of the statue, along with an unopened bottle of Night Train.

It is estimated that in New Orleans, at least 20 percent of the people practice some form of voodoo. At least, that was the case before the 200,000 people who have yet to come back left in search of shelter in the wake of the storm.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

School of Hard Knocks - literally

NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- On the line at McDonald's on Canal Street (it can't all be gumbo and jambalaya, y'all), your blogstress, wearing press tags, was approached by a woman in her 30s or 40s, who offered a piece of paper bearing the following message:

What is Esther's Haven House?

Esther's Haven House is a non-profit organization that provides emergency safe accomodations for battered women and children. These women are housed free of charge and given the tools to restore their lives. Temporary refuge, job placement assistance, security, access to healthcare, childcare assistance and referral to educational resources for children are all provided. Our ultimate goal is resettlement of the family in a new, safe environment. ALL FREE OF CHARGE. We help as many women as our resources allow.

If you want to help us help these families, please make a donation today!

Esther's Haven House • 1900 St. Claude Avenue

For More Information Contact:

Kiesha Keller
504-872-9460
PO Box 19021 NOLA 70119
www.esthershavenhouse.com
e-mail: esthershaven@netscape.net

It was Kiesha Keller who approached your Webwench, explaining, "Domestic violence has exploded in this city since Katrina."

Ms. Keller, herself, lost her home, in which she used to house the battered women to whom she tends. But she since found space in a new building, she said. During the day, she works cleaning the streets. Asked if she was a social worker, Ms. Keller replied with a laugh, "I'm a graduate from the school of hard knocks. I was a battered woman myself, and that's why I started this."

Your blogstress has no way of ascertaining the bona fides of Ms. Keller's outfit, but she surely seemed earnest enough. And mental health problems have reached epidemic proportions in areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina; up 45 percent, according to Catholic Charities.

At a gathering in Congo Square on Sunday, sponsored by Mercy Corps, at which musician and activist Cyril Neville and his lovely wife, Gaynielle performed, a beautiful angel of a child wearing a white dress, her many braids each adorned with a white satin ribbon, handed your blogstress a Mercy Corps pamphlet titled, Helping Children and Teens Cope with Hurrican Season: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers. Here's an excerpt:
Be a Model:

You first. To take care of children and teens, it is important that you nurture yourself. Take time for yourself with friends, faith, music and creative outlets. Try to eat right and excercise. Seek alone time and quietness. Taking just 10 minutes each day for YOU can really help! Talk about your feelings with people you trust; ask for help when you need it. Children often get worried when the adults around them are worried. If you can stay genuinely calm and positive, this will go a long way in reassuring your children. Taking care of yourself will help you be there for your children.

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Dr. John talks to your blogstress

NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- New Orleans legend Dr. John has a message for your blogstress's devotees, and for all Washington liberals. Check it out on TAPPED, the Weblog of The American Prospect Online.

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Audio-blogging from New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- In the coming days, your blogstress will be posting audio she gathered in New Orleans. In the meantime, your Webwench's devotees can satisfy their aural needs with the debut segement of Radio Free AddieStan.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO RADIO FREE ADDIESTAN

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Holdin' on

NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- Reginald Halsey is a nice-looking, compact man of some 50 years, perhaps -- dark-skinned with greying hair, his two front teeth rimmed in gold. His bus driver's uniform is pressed just so.

Your blogstress met Mr. Halsey on Monday, when he helmed the motor coach that followed a group of Democratic congressmen and congresswomen as they toured sites that offered clues to the state of things in the New Orleans area in the year that has passed since Hurricane Katrina had her way with the city.

After we traveled through the Ninth Ward -- the site of the worst flooding during Katrina -- and St. Bernard Parish, we found ourselves stopped at a light on the London Avenue Canal. "This here canal," he said quietly, to no one in particular, "is the one that took my house."

As we continued through his neighborhood in line with the bus full of congresspeople, Mr. Halsey became a tour guide of his own journey. We passed a number of boarded-up commercial establishments. "Taco Bell -- gone," he said. "Popeye's -- gone." We passed an empty lot. "My favorite grocery store -- gone."

Today, Mr. Halsey lives in FEMA trailer, but tomorrow, he has no idea where he'll hang his hat.

"It's my friend's trailer," he explained, "but his daughter just had her baby and she's coming out of the hospital and needs a place to live. So I've got to move out."

For reasons no one can explain, Mr. Halsey cannot get FEMA to provide him a trailer, even though his house is unihabitable and all of the required services -- electricity, sewers, etc. -- have been restored to his neighborhood. (As I noted in this post, FEMA will not place trailers in neighborhoods, such as the lower Ninth Ward, that have no public utilities.)

"This lady on my block, they gave her a trailer, and she's not even using it. It's just sitting there," he said.

He left his wife and children in Atlanta with relatives, Mr. Halsey did, in order to hold on to his job with Louisiana Coaches, Inc., a charter bus company. When, a year ago, the waters began to rise, Mr. Halsey was pressed into service, he said, to move, via motor coach, a group of immobile elders from a New Orleans nursing home to one in Amite, 75 miles north of the city. He put his family on that bus with the nursing-home patients, but when he arrived in Amite, there was no room at the inn, so to speak. None of his charges could walk, and there were not enough beds for them at the Amite facility. Waiting for the powers that be to find an alternative facility, Mr. Halsey and his family lived on his bus for four days, until word came to bring the elders to a nursing home in Crowley, another 140 miles west of Amite.

Today, Reginald C. Halsey is employed, homeless and missing his family.

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