this space intentionally left blank

October 2, 2006

Filed under: politics»issues»constitutional

The Myth of Church and State

How's this for a lead-in paragraph:

With little public attention or even notice, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act - H.R. 2679 - provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees. The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion.

In completely unrelated news, Jesus Camp opened at the E Street Cinema in DC this weekend, and has gotten fairly good reviews. It's a documentary examining a fundamentalist training camp where kids are trained to take back America for Christ through a series of disturbingly militant metaphors.

Also completely unrelated: When I was in high school, a Pentecostal fundamentalist actually exorcised me. We were waiting for rehearsal for Godspell, where I was going to play Judas of all people, and the conversation turned to evolution and then to religion. Naive as I was, I couldn't believe that someone actually wouldn't believe evolution, but I was a little more shocked when the girl told me that her faith gave her spiritual powers.

"Powers?" I said. "What kind of powers?" I don't remember if handling snakes was part of her answer, but I remember that there was something about healing, and then she noted that she could "see and cast out demons."

"Demons?" "Yes." "You really believe that?" "Yes."

So I told her to go and knock herself out with the casting, at which point she began speaking in tongues, grabbed me by the forehead, and shoved me back into the wall, then looked very proud of herself. I don't know if you've ever been around people who speak in tongues, but if you're not a part of that culture it's terrifying. It sounds silly, but it's not. Those who believe in these kinds of things are not kidding around. They have an agenda.

Just a few unrelated facts. Nothing to worry about here.

August 14, 2006

Filed under: politics»local

George Allen's America

George Allen, Virginia's elected senator and a well-known Confederate sympathizer, is an idiot. At a campaign event, he picked out an American of Indian descent (apparently the only person of color present), and mocked him with a word that is either A) nonsensical, B) a racist term for North Africans, or C) a species of monkey. Even with the benefit of a doubt, what could he have been thinking?

August 13, 2006

Filed under: politics»issues»defense

Red Alert

Travelers rejoice! The United States Threat Level, as maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, has been moved from Red to Orange for air travel. Passengers are no longer Severely Threatened, but may now take comfort in being Highly Threatened.

With all this Threat Level activity, I had to check my calendar to make sure we weren't at mid-term elections already.

Which is not to imply that the Department of Homeland Security has become simply a politicized bureau of fearmongering for the purposes of a Republican party desparately gripping the reins of power. (After Katrina, do I even have to imply that?) But in my personal observations, a funny fact has emerged: anxiety at terrorism seems to increase with distance from likely targets. John Rogers has noticed the same thing:

I am absolutely buffaloed by the people who insist I man up and take it in the teeth for the great Clash of Civilizations -- "Come ON, people, this is the EPIC LAST WAR!! You just don't have the stones to face that fact head-on!" -- who at the whiff of an actual terror plot will, with no apparent sense of irony, transform and run around shrieking, eyes rolling and Hello Kitty panties flashing like Japanese schoolgirls who have just realized that the call is coming from inside the house!

I may have shared too much there.

To be honest, it's not like I'm a brave man. I'm not. At all. It just, well, it doesn't take that much strength of will not to be scared. Who the hell am I supposed to be scared of? Joseph Padilla, dirty bomber who didn't actually know how to build a bomb, had no allies or supplies, and against whom the government case is so weak they're now shuffling him from court to court to avoid the public embarassment of a trial? The fuckwits who were going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches? Richard Reid, the Zeppo of suicide bombers? The great Canadian plot that had organized over the internet, was penetrated by the Mounties on day one, and we were told had a TRUCK FULL OF EXPLOSIVES ... which they had bought from the Mounties in a sting operation but hey let's skip right over that. Or how about the "compound" of Christian cultists in Florida who were planning on blowing up the Sears Tower with ... kung fu.

A while back, we had some people running around the DC metro area with sniper rifles, taking potshots at completely random people. At the time, I was still at GMU, which has an open campus. And yet, what could you do? Not go to gas stations? Freak out every time you saw a white van? There was really nothing a single individual could do to stop the snipers from killing them while they walked back from Home Depot, except stay in the house all day watching The View.

Needless to say, Barbara Walters and Star Jones didn't really see an increase in viewership.

There are signs here at the World Bank, explaining that--in the event of a chemical or biological weapon attack--the air filtration system can keep us safe for something like four hours. They do not explain, probably because it goes without saying, that not only are we the World Bank, a huge symbol of international globalization, but we are one block from the Bush White House. I am not filled with an incredible feeling of safety when I consider that fact, personally.

But I still come in to work. We all do.

Whereas out where my parents live, in a town of 220 people and a pair of chihuahuas, the volunteer fire department has actually used town funds to take anti-terrorism courses. A couple hundred people, two hours from DC, without even a stop light, and yet to listen to them, you'd think Osama Bin Laden himself was going to personally crash a plane into the Handy Mart. ("They hate us for our freedom and our easily accessible beef jerky.")

It does my heart good to see attitudes coming around on the Iraq war. Honestly. I am so happy to see that apparently storming into another country on a flimsy pretext and attempting forceful democratic reform was perhaps a losing proposition. It would have been nice if we'd learned that lesson before a couple thousand US soldiers and who knows how many Iraqis were killed, but let's try and look on the bright side. One of these sides must be brighter. Just keep turning it over until you find it.

But it would also be nice if we could get back to the root cause of that policy: the way the rest of the country freaks out every time that some Al-Qaeda wannabe manages to tie his shoes together. A foreign policy driven by fear and reactionary panic is not a good way to run a country. Maybe we could give cynicism a shot instead.

July 24, 2006

Filed under: politics»issues»economy»corporate

The Case for Breaking Up Wal-Mart

by Barry C. Lynn, reprinted at Alternet from Harpers. Found, as so often with these kinds of economics bits, via Mark Thoma.

June 29, 2006

Filed under: politics»blogs»linky

Move On

"Fear and stupidity are often confused with patriotism. I assert that there is a difference. But why should you believe me? I have watched many a subtitled film, and drunk many a Dago Red. I am obviously soft on self-emigration, and one to watch."

--Roy Edroso (alicublog)

April 23, 2006

Filed under: politics»issues»immigration

Keeping America Empty

For my own future reference: US English founder and virulent anti-immigrant crusader James Tanton profiled in In These Times.

April 10, 2006

Filed under: politics»issues»immigration

La Marcha

To non-NoVA residents, I apologize, because this image won't mean much. I hope that it's large enough for the few of you living near me to make it out. This is the Vienna/Fairfax metro station yesterday, around 4pm. As you probably know, immigration rallies took place around the country, and DC's was especially large, if the news counts are correct. What you're seeing in the picture is a line that stretches almost out to the parking garage from inside the station, I'd say at least a quarter mile long, and 3 to 4 people wide. It was pretty unbelievable in person.

March 23, 2006

Filed under: politics»wingnuts»domenech

Red America

In the last few days, the Washington Post introduced a dumb-as-a-brick conservative blogger, who garnered a real following around the Left side of the political blogs for such gems as his fandom of the movie Red Dawn. It was then discovered that said blogger, Ben Domenech (originally of, had a real history of plagiarism while he was at William and Mary. In the furor, Domenech resigned from the position (although I think it's more likely that the Post asked him to step down).

Now he's blaming his college editors (cut and pasted from

Virtually every other alleged instance of plagiarism that seen comes from a single semester.s worth of pieces that were printed under my name at my college paper, The Flat Hat, when I was 17.

In one instance, I have been accused me of passing off P.J. O'Rourke's writing as my own in a column for the paper. But the truth is that I had met P.J. at a Republican event and asked his permission to do a college-specific version of his classic piece on partying. He granted permission, the piece was cleared with my editors at the paper, and it ran as inspired by O.Rourke.s original.

My critics have also accused me of plagiarism in multiple movie reviews for the college paper. I once caught an editor at the paper inserting a line from The New Yorker (which I read) into my copy and protested. When that editor was promoted, I resigned. Before that, insertions had been routinely made in my copy, which I did not question. I did not even at that time read the publications from which I am now alleged to have lifted material. When these insertions were made, I assumed, like most disgruntled writers would, that they were unnecessary but legitimate editorial additions.

I hope she doesn't mind my saying this (and if you do, babe, let me know and I'll remove it), but Belle was one of the Flat Hat's editors at the time (correction: she was a writer that year, and an editor the next)--and she would never have condoned plagiarism by her writers. I also know several of her friends who edited the paper, and although they sometimes make me jealous with their skill, they leave no doubt that they really care about the writing they do. The idea that they inserted chunks of Salon articles and New Yorker reviews into Domenech's work is simply unthinkable.

This isn't about politics. It's about integrity.

March 21, 2006

Filed under: politics»wingnuts»davidicke

No Blood for Space Lizards

According to David Icke, both of my state's Senators are space lizards bent on drinking the blood of mankind. How does your state score?

Why yes, it is a kind of a slow day, why do you ask?

January 18, 2006

Filed under: politics»issues»immigration

Demographic Delta

Dave Neiwert has been serially presenting a research paper on the Minutemen this week (as of today, there's at least one more installment to go). You know the Minutemen: they're the New Militias, born when the old "militias" (read: scary, gun-toting rednecks) became widely known as too dumb even for self-respecting scary, gun-toting rednecks. Left without the laughable fantasy that Bill Clinton would send black-suited troops through the streets of rural America to confiscate their weapons and force their sons to marry homosexuals, a new organizing principle was needed. Illegal immigration fit enough of the paranoid/racist vibe, and supported the vigilante delusion of grandeur that some people use to confirm their manhood.

Hence, the Minutemen Project. A bunch of scary, gun-toting rednecks hanging out on the Mexican (and, in an instant of fleeting semi-rationality, Canadian) border. Promising that where the gov'mint has failed, they will keep us secure from brown people taking our high-paying yardwork and custodial jobs. I know I feel safer already.

I hear the questions now: Thomas, these Minutemen sound like just the thing for those empty Saturday afternoons that I've been spending watching taped American Idol episodes, listening to Toby Keith and cleaning my many semi-automatic weapons, but I live in Northern Virginia! The area has become increasingly friendly to its booming Hispanic population, and my blatantly racist legislation keeps failing. What can I do? It looks like my only other option is to harass day workers in Herndon, to no effect.

In all seriousness, what annoys me about the Herndon Minutemen is that they've taken the prototypical liberal immigration argument ("Why not go after the businesses that are breaking the law by hiring illegally?") and actually implemented it, albeit through thuggery and intimidation. When it was revealed that Wal-Mart had been systematically exploiting illegal laborers to lower costs, the chorus from the left was to prosecute Wal-Mart, not the workers, for breaking the law. But either way, let's face it, the poor slob with the mop and bucket still ends up out on the street trying to support his family.

And look: I've just got nothing against that guy. I don't see any reason that he should be hurt. Granted, that's easy for me to say, because I'm a knowledge worker who works for an international organization. He's not threatening my job--if he were capable of doing the work I do, he almost certainly wouldn't be here illegally. So talk is cheap.

At the same time, take someone who can be hurt by the day-laborer system: construction workers, maybe. Their unions are being undercut by the threat of cheap labor. The immigrants are also getting shafted, because they're being employed without benefits or fair wages. Leave the law unenforced and everyone loses, except for the employers. Enforce the law, and business maintains the status quo while the full burden falls on the illegal immigrant--and like I said, I've got nothing against that guy. I don't see why it has to be a zero-sum game. It's only made that way because we've created the artificial distinction of "citizen" and "illegal." Documented and undocumented. Mine and yours. Business can exploit that distinction, and in turn exploit their employees.

With regards to employment, remember the lump of labor fallacy, which mistakenly asserts that there is a fixed amount of labor available in any given economy. In the case of immigration, as Max Sawicky notes, increased immigration does not correlate to fewer available jobs. Those immigrants are also consumers, who will buy goods and require services, including housing (construction). There is no ceiling on the number of potential jobs. Clearly, it goes without saying that I'm in favor of very open borders. With that said...

Discussion question: why do we need citizenship anyway?

Future - Present - Past