Friday, April 20, 2007


We Are Getting Tired of Prying Your Guns out of Your Cold Dead Hands

Elayne Boosler at HuffPo

If 33 people were killed by apples instead of guns at Virginia Tech, there wouldn't be an apple left on the shelves or in the homes of this country until apples could be made safe. Screw your "constitutional right" to have an apple, there is something called the "greater good", and the good of the country takes precedence over your "interpretation" of any amendment in the now defunct anyway constitution. Just ask the spinach growers, and the people who love to yell "fire" in a crowded theater. And why do you always forget the words, "well regulated militia"?

2500 Children Left Behind

If 2500 children under the age of 17 were felled by apples instead of guns every year in America, there wouldn't be a congressman or senator left serving who took one penny from the National Apple Association. The shame and admonishment would be too great. And if there were even incremental steps to take to make apples safer, and even they were fought tooth and nail by your blood money National Apple Association, claiming the straw man of the "slippery slope" to "regulation", America might better see you for the mercenary and shameful organization you truly are.

We are getting tired of prying your guns out of your cold dead hands.

Here's a news flash for you gun waving "real Americans": It's not about guns. It's about money. Follow the money. The NRA raises hundreds of millions of dollars by convincing you they are fighting for your "rights". Wake up. It's a business. Just like any other business, except with the help of their bought off representatives, they are the only UNREGULATED consumer product in America. What do they sell? FEAR. Fear, fake patriotism, and fake bravado, just like their commander in chief, President Custer. You're being played.

With their hundreds of millions of dollars raised on the blood of murdered Americans, they pay themselves, they keep their product manufacturers flush, and they buy their government officials. They exist to convince you you need their product. And when sales slow, they target new markets. They market fear to women, then sell them "feminine little purse guns". They market to children. The cartoon character Joe Camel is banned, but sure shootin' Eddie Eagle is alive and well to shit again on Friday. (He teaches children "gun safety", meaning, he teaches children to use guns.)

We're Number One!!

The number of children under the age of 17 shot by guns in America every year is greater than the gun-related deaths of children in all the industrialized nations of the world COMBINED.

Here is the population of Japan: 127,463,611.

Here is the number of children killed by guns in Japan every year: 0.

A 2001 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found that in homicides among intimate partners, women are murdered more with guns than with all other means COMBINED.

In 2004, guns were most commonly used by males to murder their female partners.

A 2003 study found women living with a gun in the home were almost three times more likely to be murdered than women with no gun in the home.

"If we ban handguns only criminals will have guns." Well then let's not have any laws in America at all. No drug laws, no traffic laws, no laws at all, right? Duh.

"Cars kill people!!" Yes, cars kill people when something goes wrong. Guns are MADE to kill people. Handguns have one purpose, to kill people.

Stage Rule: If There is a Gun on the Wall in Act I, It Will Go Off in Act II.

Bush's Unmitigated Gall

I watched President Custer speak at the Virginia Tech memorial yesterday. How dare he "express condolences". How DARE he. Here is how his administration helped kill 33 people at Virginia Tech:

Passage of gun industry immunity bill. That's right, you can sue every industry in America, except gun manufacturers and dealers. Your family gets murdered by a madman? Tough.

Refusal to aid in renewal of federal assault weapons ban, even though the law had already been eviscerated by the gun industry. Get it? INDUSTRY.

Fighting background checks. The Virginia shooter had been committed to a mental institution. In Virginia that means you can't buy a gun. Oh yeah? Thank goodness the gun shop owner who sold it to him can't be sued.

The president does not support the police when citizens can have assault weapons.

The president does not support the police when citizens can have armor piercing bullets.

The president helps the terrorists when anyone can have a shoulder rocket launcher that can take a plane out of the sky. And I'm taking my shoes off at the airport?

The president helps the terrorists when he supports a ban on release of federal crime tracing data necessary to identify patterns in illegal gun trafficking.

The president helps the terrorists when he requires the ATF to immediately destroy gun sales records previously allowed to be kept for 90 days under Brady Bill background check.

We Found the WMD. They Are Here.


Guns are for cowards. You can kill from a distance. You are detached, removed. You don't get your hands dirty. You don't feel the life draining out of another human being in an eye to eye struggle, face to face, with your hands squeezing or beating soft, human, flesh, one on one. We had just as many disturbed, sick citizens in America in the last century as we do in this. The difference now is access to weapons of mass destruction. Anyone can have a gun. Anyone. It did not used to be like this. It's easy to kill now.

The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight

"Two Secret Service officers were injured yesterday after a gun held by another Secret Service officer accidentally fired inside the White House gate. The officers received wounds to face and leg."

"Vice President Cheney shoots hunting companion in the face."

So really, what chance do thousands of children a year have?

3,300 Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last four years. 120,000 Americans have been shot to death in America in the last four years. Where is the outrage? If we can elect a new congress based on its commitment to end the war overseas, we can elect a congress committed to end the war here at home. End both wars.

Here's the Punchline

Today the supreme court overturned thirty years of supreme court precedent, and overturned the findings of six federal courts, to declare war on women, their health, their privacy, and their lives, by upholding a ban on dilation and curettage abortion that contains NO exception to preserve the health or SAVE THE LIFE of the woman. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, writing for the four dissenting justices, called the decision "alarming".

Wait for it...

President Custer - "Today's decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America. This affirms the progress my administration has made to defend the "sanctity of life".


Republican "Culture of Violence" continues with Right Wingers Advocating Violence over Reason. Blame Victims of VT shooting for "passivity."

Anne Coulter

Vester: You say you'd rather not talk to liberals at all?
Coulter: I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days.

“My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”

“We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens's creme brulee.”

“We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

"I think we ought to nuke North Korea right now just to give the rest of the world a warning.”

Glenn Beck

“I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out -- is this wrong?"

Bill O’Reilly

– On the possibility of further violence in the Middle East “I want – Let them kill each other, you know?”

On MSNBC, Michael Graham joined blame-the-victims chorus: A "story of people just freezing"


On the April 19 edition of MSNBC Live, Boston radio host Michael Graham told NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory that "the entire story" of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech "is a story of people just freezing, of just letting him [the gunman] have their way, except for that one brave professor who put himself in between the gunman and his students." Graham stated:

GRAHAM: And there's going to be a disturbing conversation coming up, David Gregory, about what -- how is it possible for 200 people to encounter a lone gunman, in one classroom 25 to 1, and yet the entire story is a story of people just freezing, of just letting him have their way, except for that one brave professor who put himself in between the gunman and his students. He sticks out in this story. And I think that's a conversation we're going to have in the future.

Gregory did not respond to Graham's assertion.

Media Matters for America has documented several examples of media figures faulting the victims at Virginia Tech:

In the April 19 edition of his daily program notes, Boortz endorsed Steyn's column, but added:

Mark Steyn has it right. We have produced a culture of passivity. Some listeners brought up a very good point yesterday in that self defense is absolutely not allowed in today's government schools. Almost all of those Virginia Tech students went through a government school system where a person who uses physical force in self defense on school grounds is punished at the same level as the aggressor. In this we teach our children that there is something wrong with acting to defend yourself. This lesson can be carried into adulthood. It's a valid point, one that I wish I could have made in a more appropriate manner yesterday. I failed, and for that I apologize.

On MSNBC, Graham failed to note reports that students and faculty did, in fact, act against the gunman. The New York Times reported:

Then, with gunshots ringing down the hall, Mr. [Derek] O'Dell, who had been shot in the arm, and other students shut the classroom door and pushed themselves against it to prevent the gunman from getting back in.

A few minutes later, the gunman tried to force his way back inside the classroom, where Mr. [Trey] Perkins was using his jacket and sweatshirt to stanch the wounds of bleeding students. Mr. Cho [Cho Seung-Hui, the gunman] managed to open the door a crack, but the students pushed back hard enough to stop him.

"I sprinted on top of the desk to the door, because the aisle was clogged with people, and I used my foot as a wedge against the door," recalled Mr. O'Dell. "It was almost like you had to fight for your life. If you didn't, you died."

Mr. Perkins said he was struck at how Mr. O'Dell managed to help hold back the gunman, given his injury.

"It was just amazing to me that he was still up and leaning against the door," he said. "Derek was able to hold him off while I was helping other people."


Mr. O'Dell said others helped him block Mr. Cho from re-entering. "Trey and Erin helped keep the door closed," he recalled, referring to another student. "One helped while the other went to the window and yelled for help. There was also another student who was shot in the hand who helped keep the door closed."

The Washington Post reported on a computer class composed of a "small group of 10":

One student, Zach Petkowicz, was near the lectern "cowering behind it," he would later say, when he realized that the door was vulnerable. There was a heavy rectangular table in the class, and he and two other students pushed it against the door. No sooner had they fixed it in place than someone pushed hard from the outside. It was the gunman. He forced it open about six inches, but no farther. Petkowicz and his classmates pushed back, not letting up. The gunman fired two shots through the door. One hit the lectern and sent wood scraps and metal flying. Neither hit any of the students. They could hear a clip dropping, the distinct, awful sound of reloading. And, again, the gunman moved on.

Moreover, The Washington Post reported that there were at least two professors -- not one, as Graham stated -- who lost their lives while trying to protect students.

The Post reported:

Granata, a military veteran, was in his office on the third floor. He walked out and across the hall to a classroom, where 20 frightened students were wondering what to do. He directed them into his office, where he ushered them to safety -- in close quarters but behind the locked doors. Then, aware that other students might be in danger on the second floor, he and another professor, Wally Grant, went downstairs to investigate, Slota said.

Cho spotted them and shot them both. Grant was wounded but survived; Granata was killed. If the students in the classroom had tried to run out, they would have confronted the killer, too, Slota said.

"All those in that class, they all made it," Slota said. "They were locked up until the police came. [Granata] couldn't sit around and do nothing. He had to help out, find out what was going on."

The Post also noted:

Room 204, Professor [Liviu] Librescu's class, seems to have been the gunman's last stop on the second floor. The teacher and his dozen students had heard too much, though they had not seen anything yet. They had heard a girl's piercing scream in the hallway. They had heard the pops and more pops. By the time the gunman reached the room, many of the students were on the window ledge. There was grass below, not concrete, and even some shrubs. The old professor was at the door, which would not lock, pushing against it, when the gunman pushed from the other side. Some of the students jumped, others prepared to jump until Librescu could hold the door no longer and the gunman forced his way inside.

Matt Webster, a 23-year-old engineering student from Smithfield, Va., was one of four students inside when the gunman appeared. "He was decked out like he was going to war," Webster recalled. "Black vest, extra ammunition clips, everything." Again, his look was blank, just a stare, no expression, as he started shooting. The first shot hit Librescu in the head, killing him.

From the 8 a.m. ET hour of the April 19 edition of MSNBC Live:

GREGORY: Is there something that we should take away from all of this? If it wasn't on a college campus -- I don't mean just the gun debate, I mean this terrible rampage -- if it weren't on a college campus, you would especially say, "Look, I mean, what are you going to do? There's wackos out there. There's people who are so disturbed that this is going to happen." But there's something about being in a closed society, that is a college campus, this is where we send our kids, where they're supposed to be safe -- what should we be talking about out of all this?

GRAHAM: I think there are three things. In Boston, where I live and work, we have an incident like this every six months. It's just spread out over six months. Seventy-five people murdered last year, and local law enforcement very slow to react to it. Second year in a row of murders that high. And yet that every-six-month-Virginia Tech death toll gets basically ignored. It's just, "Oh, it's just another shooting on a Friday night in Dorchester or Roxbury," and that's one lesson.

The other lesson, I think, though -- and this is the hard one, particularly for those of us in the media because, you know, I get on the air and scream and yell and rant and say, "Oh, we've got to do something today." There are some things in the world that aren't fixable. You can't fix the fact that there are broken people. And to try -- whether it's implementing draconian gun laws or screening every future college student for, you know, any unusual behavior -- there is no free -- there is no filter in a free society that can filter out people like this.

What we need to do is, I think, focus on what we can do when we are confronted by situations like this. And there's going to be a disturbing conversation coming up, David Gregory, about what -- how is it possible for 200 people to encounter a lone gunman, in one classroom 25 to 1, and yet the entire story is a story of people just freezing, of just letting him have their way, except for that one brave professor who put himself in between the gunman and his students. He sticks out in this story. And I think that's a conversation we're going to have in the future.

GREGORY: All right, we're going to take a quick break here. Michael Graham, radio talk-show host out of Boston, joining us. Twelve minutes to the hour. We're coming right back. Don't go away.

— K.H.


Pundits Blame Video Games for VT Massacre. I blame Toby Keith, and the Republican "Culture of Violence" who solve problems with violence over reason.

Justice will be served
And the battle will rage
This big dog will fight
When you rattle his cage
And you’ll be sorry that you messed with
The U.S. of A.
`Cause we`ll put a boot in your ass
It`s the American way

-- Courtesy of the Red White and Blue Toby Keith

Were video games to blame for massacre?
Pundits rushed to judge industry, gamers in the wake of shooting
By Winda Benedetti
MSNBC contributor
Updated: 10:37 a.m. ET April 20, 2007

The shooting on the Virginia Tech campus was only hours old, police hadn't even identified the gunman, and yet already the perpetrator had been fingered and was in the midst of being skewered in the media.

Video games. They were to blame for the dozens dead and wounded. They were behind the bloodiest massacre in U.S. history.

Or so Jack Thompson told Fox News and, in the days that followed, would continue to tell anyone who'd listen.

"These are real lives. These are real people that are in the ground now because of this game. I have no doubt about it," said Thompson, a Florida attorney and fervent critic the of video game industry.

The game he's talking about is "Counter-Strike," a massively popular team-based tactical shooting game that puts players in the heavily-armed boots of either a counter-terrorist or terrorist.

But whether Cho Seung-Hui, the student who opened fire Monday, was an avid player of video games and whether he was a fan of "Counter-Strike" in particular remains, even now, uncertain at best.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the school shootings and the finger-pointing that followed, game players and industry advocates say they're outraged that the brutal acts of a deeply disturbed and depressed loner with a history of mental illness would be blamed so quickly on video and computer games. They say this is perhaps the most flagrant case of anti-game crusaders using a tragedy to promote their own personal causes.

"It's so sad. These massacre chasers — they're worse than ambulance chasers — they're waiting for these things to happen so they can jump on their soap box," said Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association.

"It disgusts me," said Isaiah Triforce Johnson, a long-time gamer and founder of a New York-based gaming advocacy group that, in response to the accusations, is now planning what is the first ever gamer-driven peace rally.

‘Mental masturbation’
When Jack Thompson gets worked up, he refers to gamers as "knuckleheads." He calls video games "mental masturbation."

When he's talking about himself and his crusade against violent games, he calls himself an "educator." He likes to use the word "pioneer."

Certainly Thompson has made a name for himself. After all, he knows a thing or two about publicity. He's spent no small bit of time in front of a camera.

On those rare occasions when a student opens fire on a school campus, Thompson is frequently the first and the loudest to declare games responsible. In recent years he's blamed games such as "Counter-Strike," "Doom" and "Grand Theft Auto III" for school shootings in Littleton, Colo., Red Lake, Minn. and Paducah, Ky.

He's blamed them for shootings beyond school grounds as well. In an attempt to hold game developers and publishers responsible for these spasms of violence, Thompson has launched several unsuccessful lawsuits.

But in the hours after the Virginia Tech massacre, Thompson wasn't the only one rushing to make a connection between the shootings and video games. Police were still struggling to piece together the nightmare that had unfolded on campus that morning when Dr. Phil McGraw appeared on Larry King Live and took aim at the usual suspect.

"The problem is we are programming these people as a society," he said. "You cannot tell me — common sense tells you that if these kids are playing video games, where they're on a mass killing spree in a video game, it's glamorized on the big screen, it's become part of the fiber of our society. You take that and mix it with a psychopath, a sociopath or someone suffering from mental illness and add in a dose of rage, the suggestibility is too high. And we're going to have to start dealing with that."

Meanwhile, by Tuesday, the Washington Post had posted a story on its website stating that several youths who knew Cho said that in high school he'd been a fan of violent video games, especially "Counter-Strike."

But a short time later, the newspaper removed that paragraph from the story without explanation. Meanwhile, authorities released a search warrant listing the items found in Cho's dorm room. Not a single video game, console or gaming gadget was on the list, though a computer was confiscated. And in an interview with Chris Matthews of "Hardball," Cho's university suite-mate said he had never seen Cho play video games.

None of this seems to matter to Thompson.

"This is not rocket science. When a kid who has never killed anyone in his life goes on a rampage and looks like the Terminator, he's a video gamer," he told

And in a letter sent to Bill Gates Wednesday, he wrote: "Mr. Gates, your company is potentially legally liable (for) the harm done at Virginia Tech. Your game, a killing simulator, according to the news that used to be in the Post, trained him to enjoy killing and how to kill."

(Microsoft did not create "Counter Strike" but did publish a version of it for the Xbox. The company's representatives declined to comment on Thompson's letter. is a Microsoft-NBC Universal joint venture.)

While Thompson concedes that there are many elements that must have driven Cho to commit such a brutal act, he insists that without video games Cho wouldn't have had the skills to do what he did.

"He might have killed somebody but he wouldn't have killed 32 if he hadn't rehearsed it and trained himself like a warrior on virtual reality. It can't be done. It just doesn't happen."

Kids these days
Dr. Karen Sternheimer, a sociologist at the University of Southern Calfornia and author of the book " Kids These Days: Facts and Fictions About Today's Youth," disagrees. She believes that it didn't require much skill for Cho to shoot as many people as he did. After all, eye witness accounts indicate many of the victims were shot at point-blank range.

And for all of Thompson's claims that violent video games are the cause of school shootings, Sternheimer points out that before this week's Virginia Tech massacre, the most deadly school shooting in history took place at the University of Texas in Austin… in 1966. Not even "Pong" had been invented at that time.

"One thing that people often don't realize is that in the years since video game sales have really exploded, not only have youth violence rates decreased but violence rates in the U.S. have declined precipitously," she added.

Meanwhile, Sternheimer says the rush to blame video games in these situations is disingenuous for yet another reason. Although it remains unclear whether Cho played games, it seems nobody will be surprised if it turns out he did. After all, what 23-year-old man living in America hasn't played video games?

"Especially if you're talking about young males, the odds are pretty good that any young male in any context will have played video games at some point," Sternheimer says.

"I think in our search to find some kind of answer as to why this happened, the video game explanation seems easy," she says. "It seems like there's an easy answer to preventing this from happening again and that feels good on some level."

The blame game
Jason Della Rocca agrees. "Everyone wants a simple solution for a massively complex problem. We want to get on with our lives."

As the leader of an organization that represents video game creators from all over the world, Della Rocca knows the routine all too well.

Someone opens fire on a school campus. Someone blames video games. His phone starts ringing. People start asking him questions like, "So how bad are these games anyway?"

Of course, he also knows that this is far from the first time in history that a young form of pop culture has been blamed for any number of society's ills. Rock and roll was the bad guy in the 1950s. Jazz was the bad guy in the 1930s. Movies, paintings, comic books, works of literature…they've all been there.

Still, Della Rocca believes that people like Thompson are "essentially feeding off the fears of those who don't understand games."

For those who didn't grow up playing video games, the appeal of a game like "Counter-Strike" can be hard to comprehend. It can be difficult to understand that the game promotes communication and team work. It can be hard fathom how players who love to run around gunning down their virtual enemies do not have even the slightest desire to shoot a person in real life.

"It's the thing they don't understand," Della Rocca says. "It's a thing that's scary."

Fed up with the scapegoating and lack of understanding, gamer groups have begun to get increasingly organized in their attempts to change public perception of their favorite hobby.

Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association, says there's more than 30 million gamers in the U.S. alone. He says the ECA, a non-profit membership organization, was created last year specifically to represent the needs and interests of those who play computer and video games.

Meanwhile, the members of Empire Arcadia — a grassroots group dedicated to supporting the gaming community and culture — have been so incensed by the recent attempts to blame video games for the Virginia Tech shootings that they've begun planning a rally in New York City with the assistance of the ECA.

"There we will protest, mourn and show how real gamers play video games peacefully and responsibly," organizer Isaiah Triforce Johnson wrote on the group's Web site. "This demonstration is to show that gamers will not take the blame of this tragic matter but we will do what we can to help put an end to terrible events like this."

Johnson says that, ultimately, he hopes the rally — scheduled for May 5th — will help people better understand video game enthusiasts like him.

"We are normal people," he says. "We just play games."

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Bowling for Virginia Tech.

April 16th, 2007 7:04 pm
"A Tragedy... of Monumental Proportions."

By John Nichols / The Nation

There will be plenty of "rapid responses" to the gun rampage on the Virginia Tech campus, which has claimed the lives of as many as 31 students -- making it the deadliest school shooting incident in the history of the United States.

Do not doubt that the National Rifle Association is preparing its "this-had-nothing-to-do-with-guns" press release. The group has no compunctions about living up to its reputation for being beyond shame -- or education -- when it comes to peddling its spin on days when it would be better to simply remain silent. But the NRA will not be alone in responding in a self-serving manner. Many groups on all sides of issues related to guns and violence in America will be busy making their points, just as many in the media will look for one dimensional "explanations" for what the university's president, Charles Steger, has correctly described as "a tragedy... of monumental proportions."

"The university is shocked and indeed horrified," explained Steger, after it became clear that what had happened on his campus Monday was worse than the carnage at Columbine High School in 1999 or at the University of Texas in 1966.

The trouble with shock and horror is that it does not often translate into contemplation, let alone serious reflection on the state of a nation in which such an incident can occur -- and, more troublingly, in which no one can suggest that the killings were unimaginable.

The first question, appropriately, is: Why did this happen?

The second question, equally appropriately, is: What should we do about it?

There is is a simple answer to Question No. 1: America is a violent country.

Unfortunately, simple answers lead to simplistic responses. If America can do nothing about its violent streak, the NRA will argue, it is silly to place limits on gun ownership. Better to arm everyone, the argument goes. Or better to allow the "concealed carry" of weapons. Or, well, you get the point -- anything to avoid taking a piece out of the profits of the corporations that manufacture and sell deadly weapons.

By the same token, the notion that banning those weapons will end the violence has become a a tougher sell. Shocking and horrible rampages occur in countries with stricter gun laws than the U.S. No, they do not happen as frequently. But they do happen.

Conversely, in some countries where gun ownership is relatively high, incidents like at Virginia Tech are far less common.

We ought to wrestle with these contradictions and complexities.

But where to begin?

Here is a modest proposal: Instead of adopting a particular line, rent Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine."

Of course, there are those who will not be able to see beyond their rage at Moore to recognize the value of this particular film.

Moore's 2002 film remains the best popular exploration of violence and the gun culture in America. And, despite what the film maker's critics would have you believe, it is a remarkably nuanced assessment of the zeitgeist.

Moore's purpose was to offer an explanation for why the Columbine massacre occurred and to examine the broader question of why the U.S. has higher rates of violent crimes than other developed nations.

Moore certainly does not let apologists for the gun industry off the hook. But he does not stop there. "Bowling for Columbine" explores the role that America's mad foreign policies and obscene expenditures on weapons of mass destruction might play in fostering a culture of violence. Most significantly, Moore takes a serious look at the way in which American media, with its obsessive crime coverage, creates a climate of fear in this country -- a climate that actually ends up encouraging violence.

After the movie came out, Mary Corliss wrote in Film Comment: "Moore makes the mind swim with the atrocities and poignancies on display. 'Bowling for Columbine' should be mandatory viewing."

That was true in 2002. It is ever more true today.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


The Politics of the Matter

by mcjoan

Today, abortion became one of the key issues for the 2008 election, at the local, state, and national level. The Court's decision to uphold the so-called partial birth abortion ban means that a standard medical procedure, intact dilation and extraction, has been banned by this government. Not because it presents the potential to harm America's women, not because it is inherently dangerous medically, but because a group of men who don't like it have the power to ban it.

What's more, today's decision gives the green light to states to begin chipping away at Roe, imposing more and more stringent restrictions.

As Ginsburg wrote in her dissent:

"Today's decision is alarming," Ginsburg wrote for the minority. "It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists....And, for the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman's health."

She added: "Retreating from prior rulings that abortion restrictions cannot be imposed absent an exception safeguarding a woman's health, the Court upholds an Act that surely would not survive under the close scrutiny that previously attended state-decreed limitations on a woman's reproductive choices."

That medical considerations were not paramount in the the decision is also made clear by Ginsburg:

One wonders how long a line that saves no fetus will hold in the face of the Court's "moral concerns." . . . The Court's hostility to the right Casey and Roe secured is not concealed. Throughout, the opinion refers to obstetrician-gynecologists not by the title of their medical specialties, but by the pejorative label "abortion doctors."

Jack Balkin also notes that:

Justice Kennedy invokes what has become the new rhetoric of abortion opponents-- the notion that women often regret abortions and that they are deceived by doctors into having them. This new (post Casey) line of argument arose in the mid 90s when abortion opponents realized that arguing primarily about the status of the fetus would not convince a majority of the public. Instead pro-life advocates sought to argue that abortion hurts women as well as fetuses. The new anti-abortion rhetoric attempts to demonstrate that few women in their right minds, who really understand what abortion involved, would defy their natural love for their children and consent to an abortion, much less seek to procure one. It tries to perform a rhetorical jujitsu move on the idea of choice, by suggesting-- without any empirical evidence, that women don't really choose abortions, and that to have an abortion is actually a violation of their "true" choices.

Justice Kennedy's adoption of the rhetoric and techniques of the extremes in the GOP is particularly disturbing. This is the point that we have reached in our republic--the highest court of the land is practicing the same divisive politics as the worst of the practitioners in the GOP.

This decision throws basic abortion rights into question, which in turn brings the right to choose to the forefront of 2008, when Democrats again are going to have to make supporting the right to choose a litmus test, and where we're going to have to fight hard in the primaries for truly progressive candidates who will make protecting the right to make our own medical decisions paramount.

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Our benevolent Surveillance State

by Glenn Greenwald

The expansion of the Surveillance State is endless. Buried within an ABC report on the Virginia Tech shootings is this paragraph (h/t reader DT):
Some news accounts have suggested that Cho had a history of antidepressant use, but senior federal officials tell ABC News that they can find no record of such medication in the government's files. This does not completely rule out prescription drug use, including samples from a physician, drugs obtained through illegal Internet sources, or a gap in the federal database, but the sources say theirs is a reasonably complete search.
Is there any good reason whatsoever why the federal government should be maintaining "files" which contain information about the pharmaceutical products which all Americans are consuming? The noxious idea has taken root in our country -- even before the Bush presidency, though certainly greatly bolstered during it -- that one of the functions of the federal government is to track the private lives of American citizens and maintain dossiers on what we do.

If that sounds hyperbolic, just review the disclosures over the course of recent years concerning what data bases the Federal Government has created and maintained and the vast amounts of data they contain -- everything from every domestic telephone call we make and receive to the content of our international calls to "risk assessment" records based on our travel activities to all sorts of information obtained by the FBI's use of NSLs. And none of that includes, obviously, the as-yet-undisclosed surveillance programs undertaken by the most secretive administration in history.

It is true that much (though not all) of this data is already scattered in the hands of various private corporations and insurance companies. But, for multiple and self-evident reasons, it presents a fundamentally different type and level of threat when it is all consolidated and centralized in the hands of the federal government. Amazingly, it is the political movement that spent all of the 1990s stridently warning of the dangers of federal government power -- The Black Helicopters And Janet Reno Are Coming -- which has brought us this Surveillance State and continues to cheer on its infinite expansion.

The federal government data base which contains all of our controlled substance prescriptions, for instance, was mandated by a law -- The National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act -- passed in 2005 by the Republican-controlled Congress (though with full bipartisan support) and signed into law by the "conservative" Leader. That law appropriates funds to each state to create and maintain these data bases which are, apparently, accessible to federal agencies, federal law enforcement officials, and almost certainly thousands of other state and federal employees (as well as, most likely, employees of private companies).

Along these lines, the Department of Homeland Security last month promulgated proposed regulations for enforcement of the so-called Real ID Act of 2005 (.pdf). Those regulations require that every state issue technologically compatible Driver's Licenses which enable, in essence, uniform and nationwide tracking of all sorts of private information about every individual. Just as the Prescription Drug Tracking Law is "justified" by the Drug War, these national ID cards are justified by the War on Terrorism. As the Homeland Security Department explains:

The 9/11 Commission endorsed the REAL ID requirements, noting that: "For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons . . . All but one of the 9/11 hijackers acquired some form of identification document, some by fraud. Acquisition of these forms of identification would have assisted them in boarding commercial flights, renting cars, and other necessary activities."
EPIC notes that "the deadline for public comment [on the DHS regulations] is May 8, 2007" -- and from what I understand, more public comments are needed from people who have strong views about these regulations. EPIC explains why these regulations are so disturbing:
The requirement for non-REAL ID-compliant DL/ID to have explicit "invalid for federal purposes" designations, turns this "voluntary" card into a mandatory national ID card. Anyone with a non-REAL ID-compliant card would be instantly suspicious. Compliant cards would be necessary for federal purposes such as entering courthouses, air travel or receiving federal benefits, such as Medicaid or Social Security. It would be easy for insurance companies, credit card companies, even video stores, to demand a REAL ID-compliant DL/ID in order to receive services.
That the "conservative" movement is ushering in measures such as a federal law mandating that every state create National ID cards is ironic on multiple levels. But as Wired's Ryan Singel notes, numerous states -- the latest being Montana (after Idaho, Arkansas and Maine) -- have enacted laws refusing to comply with these requirements on the ground that they infringe on the privacy of the citizens of that state and/or on the ground that the law violates federalism principles by taking over areas (i.e., regulating driver's licenses) traditionally preserved for the states. For those reasons, many other states, particularly in the Mountain West and even the Deep South, are on their way to enacting similar laws refusing to comply.

It is simply no longer news when the "conservative" movement violates every "small-government" and states' rights principle it pretended to embrace ("conservatives" Andy McCarthy, David Frum, and John Yoo tonight are appearing at an event to argue for this Orwellian proposition: "Better More Surveillance than Another 9/11"). Apparently, we need to empower the federal government to maintain comprehensive dossiers on all Americans, otherwise our freedoms might be at risk from The Terrorists.

It is hardly worth pointing out that the idea of the Federal Government engaging in massive surveillance of innocent American citizens is about as far away from the core beliefs of the American Founders as one can get. Anyone who does not realize that is likely beyond the realm of persuasion.

But the only people who would think that it is fine to have the Federal Government compiling dossiers like this are those who place blind faith in our Leaders not to abuse their power. But that is the ethos that is the exact opposite of the one on which the country was founded, but which has come to dominate so much of our political culture.

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157 Dead in Baghdad. 60 U.S. Troops Killed so far in April.

Bombs Kill 157, Wound Dozens in Baghdad
SINAN SALAHEDDIN | AP | April 18, 2007

BAGHDAD — Four large bombs exploded across Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 157 people and wounding scores as violence climbed toward levels seen before the U.S.-Iraqi campaign to pacify the capital began two months ago.

In the deadliest of the attacks, a parked car bomb detonated in a crowd of workers at the Sadriyah market in a mostly Shiite area of central Baghdad, killing at least 82 people and wounding 94, said Raad Muhsin, an official at Al-Kindi Hospital where the victims were taken.

A police official confirmed the toll, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

The attack was one of four bombings in Baghdad on Wednesday afternoon, which killed at least 157 people in total, officials said.

To the west of the city, U.S. troops killed five suspected insurgents and captured 30 others in a raid in Anbar province, a day after police uncovered 17 decomposing corpses beneath two school yards in the provincial capital.

Iraqi troops took charge of security Wednesday in the southern province of Maysan, a region that borders Iran and the fourth province to come under full Iraqi security control since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

In one of the Baghdad attacks, a suicide car bomber crashed into an Iraqi police checkpoint at an entrance to Sadr City, the capital's biggest Shiite Muslim neighborhood and a stronghold for the militia led by radical anti-U.S. cleric Muqtade al-Sadr.

The explosion killed at least 30 people, including five Iraqi security officers, and wounded 45, police said.

Black smoke billowed from a jumble of at least eight incinerated vehicles that were in a jam of cars stopped at the checkpoint. Bystanders scrambled over twisted metal to drag victims from the smoldering wreckage as Iraqi guards staggered around stunned.

About an hour later, a parked car bomb detonated at the Sadriyah market in a mostly Shiite area of central Baghdad, killing 82 civilians and injuring 94, police and hospital officials said. Several cars were set afire at the market, where a car bombing in February killed 137 people.

Earlier, a parked car exploded near a private hospital in the central neighborhood of Karradah, killing 11 people and wounding 13, police said. The blast damaged the Abdul-Majid hospital and other nearby buildings.

The fourth explosion was from a bomb left on a minibus in the northwestern Risafi area, killing four people and wounding six others, police said.

Also in Baghdad, four policemen were killed Wednesday afternoon when gunmen ambushed their patrol south of the city center, police said. Six pedestrians were wounded in the gunfire.

U.S. officials had cited a slight decrease in sectarian killings in Baghdad since the U.S.-Iraqi crackdown was launched Feb. 14. But the past week has seen several spectacular attacks on the capital, including a suicide bombing inside parliament and a powerful blast that collapsed a landmark bridge across the Tigris River.

"We've seen both inspiring progress and too much evidence that we still face many grave challenges," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman, told reporters Wednesday. "We've always said securing Baghdad would not be easy."

A ceremony was held in Maysan's provincial capital of Amarah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, and was attended by senior Iraqi and coalition officials including Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie and the British commander in southern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Jonathan Shaw.

Al-Rubaie said that in order for a timetable to be set for the withdrawal of foreign troops, Iraqi forces and local authorities have to be ready to take over. He was apparently referring to calls by some Sunni Arab groups and al-Sadr's Shiite followers to set a timetable for a pullout.

"We should work to create these circumstances in all provinces, in order to revert security to Iraqis and end the foreign presence," said al-Rubaie, who represented Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the commander in chief of Iraq's armed forces.

Al-Maliki was supposed to attend the ceremony but his trip was canceled without explanation.

The U.S. raid took place early Wednesday near Karmah, a town northeast of Fallujah, which lies 40 miles west of Baghdad.

The U.S. raid took place early Wednesday near Karmah, a town northeast of Fallujah in Anbar, a vast province west of Baghdad.

American forces raided a group of buildings suspected of being used by militants and found explosives inside one of them, the military said in a statement. A helicopter was called in and dropped precision-guided bombs on the buildings, it said.

The soldiers came under fire and shot back, killing five Iraqis and wounding four others, the statement said. The wounded were taken to a military hospital and remained in U.S. custody. Twenty-six other people were detained as well, the military said.

The bodies found a day earlier at school yards in Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, were discovered after students and teachers returned to the schools a week ago and noticed an increasingly putrid odor and stray dogs digging in the area, police Maj. Laith al-Dulaimi said.

Ramadi had been a stronghold of Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida fighters until recently, when U.S. forces in the region and the Iraqi government successfully negotiated with many local tribal leaders to split them off from the more militant insurgent groups.

The U.S. military also reported that a suspected insurgent was killed and eight captured in two raids north of Baghdad on Wednesday. Some of the suspects were believed linked to al-Qaida in Iraq and to a militant cell that has used chlorine in car bombings, the statement said.

Separate, U.S. officials announced that last week they found 3,000 gallons of nitric acid hidden in a warehouse in downtown Baghdad. U.S. forces discovered the acid, a key fertilizer component that can also be used in explosives, during a routine search Thursday, the military said.

In other violence, two brothers were killed and a policeman was hurt in a gunbattle in downtown Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said. The dead were believed to be civilians, caught in the crossfire as police fought unidentified gunmen.

Farther north, 32 mortar shells rained down on Iraqi army checkpoints in two neighborhoods of Mosul, 225 miles northwest of the capital, police said. Six soldiers, a policeman and a pedestrian were injured.

An Iraqi army officer and two soldiers were wounded at dawn in Tal Afar, 47 miles west of Mosul, when gunmen attacked their checkpoint, police said.

In the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, an investigative judge at the city's criminal court was wounded in a drive-by shooting, police said. Judge Ayad Ali Asaad, a Turkoman, was with his wife and a guard, and all three were wounded.


After Massacre at VT, world condemns U.S. "Gun Culture."

U.S. gun laws draw heat after massacre
By PAISLEY DODDSWed Apr 18, 2:33 AM ET

The Virginia Tech shootings sparked criticism of U.S. gun control laws around the world Tuesday. Editorials lashed out at the availability of weapons, and the leader of Australia — one of America's closest allies — declared that America's gun culture was costing lives.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said the government hoped Monday's shootings, allegedly carried out by a 23-year-old South Korean native, would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation."

While some focused blame only on the gunman, world opinion over U.S. gun laws was almost unanimous: Access to weapons increases the probability of shootings. There was no sympathy for the view that more guns would have saved lives by enabling students to shoot the assailant.

"We took action to limit the availability of guns and we showed a national resolve that the gun culture that is such a negative in the United States would never become a negative in our country," said Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who staked his political career on promoting tough gun laws after a gunman went on one of the world's deadliest killing sprees 11 years ago.

The tragedy in a Tasmanian tourist resort left 35 people dead. Afterward, Australia's gun laws were changed to prohibit automatic weapons and handguns and toughen licensing and storage restrictions.

Handguns are also banned in Britain — a prohibition that forces even the country's Olympic pistol shooting team from practicing on its own soil. In Sweden, civilians can acquire firearm permits only if they have a hunting license or are members of a shooting club and have no criminal record. In Italy, people must have a valid reason for wanting one. Firearms are forbidden for private Chinese citizens.

Still, leaders from Britain, Germany, Mexico, China, Afghanistan and France stopped short of criticizing President Bush or U.S. gun laws when they offered sympathies to the families of Monday's victims.

Editorials were less diplomatic.

"Only the names change — And the numbers," read a headline in the Times of London. "Why, we ask, do Americans continue to tolerate gun laws and a culture that seems to condemn thousands of innocents to death every year, when presumably, tougher restrictions, such as those in force in European countries, could at least reduce the number?"

The French daily Le Monde said the regularity of mass shootings across the Atlantic was a blotch on America's image.

"It would be unjust and especially false to reduce the United States to the image created, in a recurrent way, from the bursts of murderous fury that some isolated individuals succumb to. But acts like this are rare elsewhere, and tend to often disfigure the 'American dream.'"

Police started identifying the victims Tuesday. One was a Peruvian student identified as Daniel Perez Cueva, 21, according to his mother Betty Cuevas, who said her son was studying international relations.

Professors from India, Israel and Canada also were killed.

Liviu Librescu, 76, an engineering science and mathematics lecturer, tried to stop the gunman from entering his classroom by blocking the door before he was fatally shot, his son said Tuesday from Tel Aviv.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said. His father, a Holocaust survivor, immigrated to Israel from Romania, and was on sabbatical in Virginia.

Indian-born G.V. Loganathan, 51, a lecturer at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was also among the dead, his brother G.V. Palanivel told Indian media.

"We all feel like we have had an electric shock. We do not know what to do," Palanivel said.

Canadian Jocelyn Couture-Nowak, a French instructor, also died in the shootings, said her husband Jerzy Nowak, head of the university's horticulture department. "We're mourning," Nowak said.

The killings also hit a nerve for Virginia Tech alumni abroad.

"I think if this does prompt a serious and reflective debate on gun issues and gun law in the States, then some good may come from this woeful tragedy," said British Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, who graduated in 1982.

Britain's 46 homicides involving firearms last year was the lowest since the late 1980s. New York City, with 8 million people compared to 53 million in England and Wales, recorded 590 homicides last year.

"If the guns are harder to get a hold of, fewer people will do it," said Michael Dent, a 65-year-old construction worker in London. "You can't walk up to a supermarket or shop and buy a gun like in the States."

But even in Germany, where gun-control laws are strict, a teenager in 2002 shot and killed 12 teachers, a secretary, two students and a police officer at a high school. The shooter was a gun club member licensed to own weapons. The attack led Germany to raise the age for owning recreational firearms from 18 to 21.

"The instant I saw the pictures and heard the commentary, it immediately brought back our own experience," Gutenberg high school director Christiane Alt said of the Virginia Tech killings.

The Swedish daily Goteborgs-Posten said without access to weapons, the killings at Virginia Tech may have been prevented.

"What exactly triggered the massacre in Virginia is unclear, but the fundamental reason is often the perpetrator's psychological problems in combination with access to weapons," it wrote.

The shootings drew intense media coverage in China, in part because the school has a large Chinese student body.

"This incident reflects the problem of gun control in America," Yuan Peng, an American studies expert in China, was quoted as saying by state-run China Daily.

Only 7 percent of the more than 26,000 students at Virginia Tech are foreign, according to the school Web site. But Chinese make up nearly a third of that.

In Italy, there are three types of licenses for gun ownership: for personal safety, target practice and skeet shooting, and hunting. Authorization is granted by the police. To obtain a gun for personal safety, the owner must be an adult and have a "valid" reason.

Italy's leading daily Corriere della Sera's main story on the shootings was an opinion piece entitled "Guns at the Supermarket" — a critical view of the U.S. gun lobby and the ease with which guns can be purchased. State-run RAI radio also discussed at length what it said were lax standards for gun ownership in the United States.

"The latest attack on a U.S. campus will shake up America, maybe it will provoke more vigorous reactions than in the past, but it won't change the culture of a country that has the notion of self-defense imprinted on its DNA and which considers the right of having guns inalienable," Corriere wrote in its front-page story.

Several Italian graduate students at Virginia Tech recounted how they barricaded themselves inside a geology department building not far from the scene of the shooting.

In Mexico, radio commentators criticized the availability of firearms in the U.S. Others renewed Mexico's complaint that most guns in Mexico are smuggled in from the United States.

The killings led newspapers' front pages, with Mexico City's Dario Monitor reporting: "Terror returns to the U.S.: 32 assassinated on university campus." The tabloid Metro compared Mexico's death toll Monday from drug violence to the number of people killed at Virginia Tech, in a front-page headline that read: "U.S. 33, Mexico 20."

Monday, April 16, 2007


Fox News Viewers: Dumbest In America. I'm shocked by these findings. Shocked I Say!

Pew Survey Finds Most Knowledgeable Americans Watch 'Daily Show' and 'Colbert'-- and Visit Newspaper Sites

By E&P Staff

Published: April 15, 2007 11:30 PM ET
NEW YORK A new survey of 1,502 adults released Sunday by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that despite the mass appeal of the Internet and cable news since a previous poll in 1989, Americans' knowledge of national affairs has slipped a little. For example, only 69% know that Dick Cheney is vice president, while 74% could identify Dan Quayle in that post in 1989.

Other details are equally eye-opening. Pew judged the levels of knowledgeability (correct answers) among those surveyed and found that those who scored the highest were regular watchers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show and Colbert Report. They tied with regular readers of major newspapers in the top spot -- with 54% of them getting 2 out of 3 questions correct. Watchers of the Lehrer News Hour on PBS followed just behind.

Virtually bringing up the rear were regular watchers of Fox News. Only 1 in 3 could answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly. Fox topped only network morning show viewers.

Told that Shia was one group of Muslims struggling in Iraq, only 32% of the total sample could name "Sunni" as the other key group.

The percentage of those who knew their state's governor dropped to 2 in 3. Almost half know that Rep. Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House and 2 in 3 know that Condi Rice is secretary of state. But just 29% can identify Scooter Libby, 21% know Robert Gates and 15% can name Sen. Harry Reid.

But nearly 9 in 10 knew about President Bush's troop escalation in Iraq.

Men scored higher than women, and older Americans did better than younger, on average. Democrats and Republicans were about equally represented in the most knowledgeable group but there were more Republicans in the least aware group.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?

Scientists claim radiation from handsets are to blame for mysterious 'colony collapse' of bees

By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross

Published: 15 April 2007

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.

Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and north-west England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: "There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in the UK."

The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left".

No one knows why it is happening. Theories involving mites, pesticides, global warming and GM crops have been proposed, but all have drawbacks.

German research has long shown that bees' behaviour changes near power lines.

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.

Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: "I am convinced the possibility is real."

The case against handsets

Evidence of dangers to people from mobile phones is increasing. But proof is still lacking, largely because many of the biggest perils, such as cancer, take decades to show up.

Most research on cancer has so far proved inconclusive. But an official Finnish study found that people who used the phones for more than 10 years were 40 per cent more likely to get a brain tumour on the same side as they held the handset.

Equally alarming, blue-chip Swedish research revealed that radiation from mobile phones killed off brain cells, suggesting that today's teenagers could go senile in the prime of their lives.

Studies in India and the US have raised the possibility that men who use mobile phones heavily have reduced sperm counts. And, more prosaically, doctors have identified the condition of "text thumb", a form of RSI from constant texting.

Professor Sir William Stewart, who has headed two official inquiries, warned that children under eight should not use mobiles and made a series of safety recommendations, largely ignored by ministers.

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