Patriot Act fails on House floor — but it will be back

From Raw Story:

By Daniel Tencer
Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

A plan that would have seen the House of Representatives extend controversial provisions of the Patriot Act with little debate failed Tuesday night, as a group of Republicans joined a majority of Democrats in voting no.

The House voted 277 to 148 for the Patriot Act extension — 23 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass it under a procedure that allows bills that aren’t controversial to pass quickly.

But it appears the bill was controversial enough to convince some two dozen tea party-backed Republican freshmen to join a majority of Democrats in voting against it, The Hill reported.

The measure is now expected to return to the House floor for a regular vote that would require a simple majority to pass. If House members vote then as they did Tuesday, the extension will pass easily.

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Scientology Examined by the New Yorker

From Daisy Dead Air:

Linked with permission

By Daisy Dead Air

February 8, 2011

“When we need somebody haunted we investigate. When we investigate we do so noisily always.” – L. Ron Hubbard, MANUAL OF JUSTICE, 1959

I first met Scientologists when they showed up (uninvited) at various and sundry Yippie events, particularly Smoke-Ins, throughout the 70s. They seemed to think they could convert pot-smokers. This is possibly because the only time their theology makes any real sense is when you are stoned out of your mind. We regarded them as just another kooky 70s cult, like the Moonies, who would usually show up wherever and whenever the Church of Scientology did. It’s like they were competing for the same members.

The Scientologists used to set up shop in a little booth (always smiling smiling smiling in a spooky, eager-beaver fashion), with those little tin-can things for “auditing”–called an E-meter. You see the E-meter, you know who it is.

A band of Yippies trooped up to them at one such local event, rudely pawing the sacred E-meter and peppering them with dumb questions. Finally, one Yippie put one tin can to his ear as the second Yippie started bellowing into it: “What?! What?! Play some BLACK SABBATH!”… causing onlookers to guffaw appreciably. Rather than becoming merely grim and humorless (as Christians might) or rolling their eyes and telling us all to GROW UP (as right-wingers would), the Scientologists suddenly appeared completely furious and could barely contain their anger. One became red-faced and livid: “Back off!” he hissed at the Black Sabbath fan, who seemed shocked and put the tin can down, appropriately backing off. “Those people are crazy,” he whispered to me later. “You can feel the insanity vibe, just radiating off them,” he said. Wow, really?

Some years later, I would walk by the same E-meter audit-set-up in downtown Columbus, Ohio (in front of the State House, no less), accompanied by some bright yellow balloons. My daughter, about three years old at the time, pointed at the gaily-colored balloons and wanted one. Pointing at the auditing cans (flanked by numerous copies of the tell-tale book Dianetics), I replied, “You don’t want those balloons, hon, those are Scientologist Balloons!” –chortling at my own wit. Then I saw a business-suited-woman standing near the booth, and felt embarrassed she had heard me. I felt sheepish and giggled (exactly as I might act in front of a nun), but the Scientologist (auditing-Thetan, in this case) wasn’t amused. She gave me the most hateful, evil look I have ever witnessed–and this includes nasty looks from right-wing maniacs and Reaganoids I have protested against over the decades. It was a glowering, focused, scary look. Damn, these people mean business, I thought. And from that point onward, I was very interested in the Church of Scientology. Rather like The Visitors who come in peace… well, sure they do.

Scientology-founder L. Ron Hubbard once wrote an amazing horror novel titled FEAR, which can scare the beJesus right out of you. After reading it and having a few nightmares, I realized that a man who could write like this could easily get to the bottom of an unruly or confused psyche and turn it upside down in record time. (I could not even bear to put the novel down, and I knew it was by L. Ron Hubbard.) FEAR’s level of restrained paranoia/freak-out is incredible; the dramatic tension is not fully resolved until the last pages. Any religion started by this guy is going to be BLOODY HEAVY indeed, I thought.

And now, we have a famous Scientology-defector they can’t eliminate, drive crazy or simply ignore: movie director Paul Haggis, who has gone public. He reached the second-highest level in the Church, Operating Thetan VII.

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The Apostate Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology

Scientology is one of the creepiest cults out there.  It used to bug the hell out of me how they were taking over all the property in Hollywood and removing it from the tax rolls.

From The New Yorker:

by Lawrence Wright

February 14, 2011

On August 19, 2009, Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International, received a letter from the film director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. “For ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego,” Haggis wrote. Before the 2008 elections, a staff member at Scientology’s San Diego church had signed its name to an online petition supporting Proposition 8, which asserted that the State of California should sanction marriage only “between a man and a woman.” The proposition passed. As Haggis saw it, the San Diego church’s “public sponsorship of Proposition 8, which succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California—rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state—is a stain on the integrity of our organization and a stain on us personally. Our public association with that hate-filled legislation shames us.” Haggis wrote, “Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.” He concluded, “I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.”

Haggis was prominent in both Scientology and Hollywood, two communities that often converge. Although he is less famous than certain other Scientologists, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, he had been in the organization for nearly thirty-five years. Haggis wrote the screenplay for “Million Dollar Baby,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004, and he wrote and directed “Crash,” which won Best Picture the next year—the only time in Academy history that that has happened.

Davis, too, is part of Hollywood society; his mother is Anne Archer, who starred in “Fatal Attraction” and “Patriot Games,” among other films. Before becoming Scientology’s spokesperson, Davis was a senior vice-president of the church’s Celebrity Centre International network.

In previous correspondence with Davis, Haggis had demanded that the church publicly renounce Proposition 8. “I feel strongly about this for a number of reasons,” he wrote. “You and I both know there has been a hidden anti-gay sentiment in the church for a long time. I have been shocked on too many occasions to hear Scientologists make derogatory remarks about gay people, and then quote L.R.H. in their defense.” The initials stand for L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, whose extensive writings and lectures form the church’s scripture. Haggis related a story about Katy, the youngest of three daughters from his first marriage, who lost the friendship of a fellow-Scientologist after revealing that she was gay. The friend began warning others, “Katy is ‘1.1.’ ” The number refers to a sliding Tone Scale of emotional states that Hubbard published in a 1951 book, “The Science of Survival.” A person classified “1.1” was, Hubbard said, “Covertly Hostile”—“the most dangerous and wicked level”—and he noted that people in this state engaged in such things as casual sex, sadism, and homosexual activity. Hubbard’s Tone Scale, Haggis wrote, equated “homosexuality with being a pervert.” (Such remarks don’t appear in recent editions of the book.)

Was the Clean Air Act Intended to Cover CO2?

From Science Insider:

by Eli Kintisch

7 February 2011

Yes, said five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, when they ruled that greenhouse gases qualified under the Clean Air Act’s definition of a “pollutant.” Under the Constitution, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of Congress’s intent in passing legislation, so politicians on both sides of the aisle figured that issue was settled. Unless, that is, Congress were to amend the Clean Air Act to rule out certain gases from regulation.

As expected, the new political tide on climate change has brought a raft of legislative proposals to do just that. A key pair: a finalized bill by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and a “discussion draft” by the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-I) and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

The lawmakers and their allies know the 2007 decision means Congress must pass legislation if it wants to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop its march toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions. That hasn’t stopped them from seeking to “clarify,” as Upton put it this week, that “the Clean Air Act was not written by Congress to address climate change.” It’s a common argument among critics of President Barack Obama’s EPA’s moves on climate.

Congress explicitly allowed for evolving atmospheric science in the Clean Air Act when it overhauled existing air quality law in 1970 and amended that bill subsequently. And discussion of the nascent science of climate change is part of the congressional record in the original version of the law and its updates. Still, the question of whether CO2 is pollution is now at the fore of the debate about whether to amend the act again.

The Clean Air Act named six known pollutants, including lead and soot. But it also set up a process called the “endangerment finding” that EPA would use to decide whether additional pollutants should be regulated under the act or adjust its standards for allowable pollution.

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Scientology and Prop H8

Homophobia and misogyny are to many religions what racism is to the KKK and anti-Semitism is to Nazism.

All across the nation, the ultra right wing Christian fanatics have been waging a war against women as well as LGBT/TQ folks.  Whether bombing women’s health centers, murdering doctors, or denying LGBT/TQ people equality of rights and opportunity this campaign of hate has been waged based on these people hearing commands from magical invisible people in the sky.

When Prop H8 passed it was because a whole range of churches used and abused their tax exempt status to wage an un-American war of hatred and bigotry against a minatory population.

The black Churches were part of this campaign.

The Evangelicals were part of this campaign.

The Catholics were part of this campaign.

The Mormons and the Scientologists  too.

Well perhaps we should tax them all.  Then they can be legitimately political for profit organizations and their property taxes will be spent on the common good.


Sweden – Film – “The Regretters” – Reveals the aftermath of sex reassignment surgery when you’ve made the wrong choice…

From The Concordian:

There, and back again: Regretters reveals the aftermath of sex reassignment surgery
What happens when you’ve made the wrong choice

By Corey Pool
Staff writer

Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Fagin (right) and Johansson narrate their way through the different stages of their procedures.

In a black room, dimly lit and fit with only two chairs and a projector, Orlando Fagin and Mikael Johansson sit down to discuss their journeys through a gauntlet of gender bending operations.

“Do you have to be either a man or a woman? Can’t you just be you?” asks Fagin. He and Johansson are the two subjects of the Swedish documentary film Regretters. Both are transsexual, and have either completed, or are in the process of completing a male to female, and back to male transformation. “I don’t know who I am,” says Fagin. “Sounds complicated,” responds Johansson. Fagin replies, “No, it isn’t, believe me.”

Fagin, who underwent one of the first successful sex reassignment surgeries, spent 11 years as a woman, married to a man. Once it was revealed that Fagin was a transsexual, his marriage collapsed. Johansson, who always felt he had more feminine qualities, decided to have the operation late in life. Post operation, Johansson admits he felt immediate regret, and spent the next eight years trying to come to terms with his decision, and planning its reversal.

The whole movie takes place in one room where Fagin and Johansson sit and talk about their lives while going through old slide photos of themselves at different stages of their procedures. Johansson, reserved, modest, and caught regretfully between his transition back to becoming a male, contrasts with Fagin, a self-assured exhibitionist, flamboyant and openly proud of his sometimes unidentifiable gender. Their differences make for an insightful discussion, peppered with moments of lament, reflection and the occasional whip of Fagin’s sense of humour. “My new dick is bigger,” he says, smiling. “I guess I got an added bonus!”

“Identity, and the search for identity, is far more complex than you might think,” explained Marcus Lindeen, playwright, journalist and director of the film. “It is certainly not so black and white.” Regretters is Lindeen’s debut documentary film, an adaptation of his play of the same name. The film is a conversation through which we are told the story of two people and their journey through their lives, questioning gender, identity, and attempting to come to terms with who they are, and what has brought them to where they are now. “This is a very respectful portrait of two human beings,” said Lindeen.

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Pawlenty’s Homophobia in Action: Wants to Defund DADT Repeal

From Alternet:

February 8, 2011

The fight over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came to a satisfying end in December, when Congress repealed the discriminatory policy with bipartisan support. And yet, some dead-enders just can’t let it go. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) is arguably the most ridiculous.

It’s bad enough on Capitol Hill. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel, has vowed to fight to bring DADT back, and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) is looking for ways to prevent implementation.

But Pawlenty, the all-but-announced GOP presidential candidate, is apparently trying to distinguish himself from his rivals through homophobia. In January, the former governor announced he would “support reinstating” the repealed, discriminatory policy. Yesterday, Pawlenty went even further, when pressed by Igor Volsky at an event in Iowa.

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Tell Your Representative to Reject the PATRIOT Act Sneak Attack Before Tuesday’s Vote!

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

February 7th, 2011

Tell your Congressperson to vote NO on the USA PATRIOT Act in tomorrow’s vote! The PATRIOT reauthorization bill being fast-tracked to the House floor contains NO reforms to the law, and will be voted upon with NO debate and NO opportunity for amendments to add oversight and accountability. Help stop this sneak attack on your civil liberties: there are only hours left to visit our Action Center and tell your Representative to vote “NO” on H.R. 514, the PATRIOT extension bill.

In late 2009, when PATRIOT reauthorization was originally being considered by Congress, many important PATRIOT reform measures were proposed and debated, and a bill filled with powerful new checks and balances was reported favorably out of the House Judiciary Committee. But, as Congress ran up against the renewal deadline, it decided that there was not enough time to fully consider those reforms. So, in February 2010, Congress instead extended the “sunsetting” sections of the law until the end of this February, with a promise to fully consider the issues before the next deadline.

But Congress is breaking its promise to consider reforms to the PATRIOT Act. In a legislative sneak attack, the new Republican leadership in the House is trying push Representatives to rubber-stamp another PATRIOT renewal. The House leaders just announced on Friday that they’ll be “suspending the rules” so that a bill introduced by Rep. Sensenbrenner to extend the expiring PATRIOT provisions until December 8, 2011 will go to the House floor for a vote TOMORROW, without any debate and without any opportunity for anyone to offer amendments to improve the bill.

In particular, the bill would renew the following dangerously unchecked PATRIOT powers:

• The government’s power under PATRIOT Section 215 to obtain secret court orders for Internet, phone and business records of people who are not suspected of terrorism or spying;
• The government’s “lone wolf wiretapping” power, allowing it to get court orders authorizing secret foreign intelligence wiretaps against individuals who have no connection to any foreign power or terrorist group; and
• The government’s power to obtain blank-check “roving” wiretap orders that can be used to tap any phone number, email account or other communications facility that the government believes is being used by its target.

These provisions should not be renewed, and certainly not without any debate or any new checks and balances to prevent abuse and protect civil liberties. So please act now to tell your Representatives that they should vote NO to the PATRIOT Act in tomorrow’s vote!

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One in seven Americans on food stamps

From World Socialist Web Site:

By Tom Eley
8 February 2011
A record one in seven Americans relied on government food stamps to help feed themselves in 2010, according to the latest data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Last year 43.6 million people turned to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—a 67 percent increase over the 26 million who received food stamps in 2007, the year before the economic crisis erupted. All but 14 states saw double-digit percentage increases in food stamp use in 2010. Nearly half of all SNAP recipients are children.

Sharp increases in food stamp use took place across the country. The Rocky Mountain state of Idaho saw the sharpest increase, at 28 percent. Other states that saw increases in food stamp use of 20 percent or above include: Nevada (27 percent); Delaware (25.4 percent); Utah (24.9 percent); Florida (23.2 percent); Maryland (22.1 percent); New Jersey (22 percent); Texas (21.6 percent); and Rhode Island (21.4 percent).

There are nine states plus the District of Columbia in which about one fifth of the population (18.4 percent to 23 percent) relied on food stamps in 2010. They include Mississippi, Tennessee, New Mexico, Oregon, Louisiana, Michigan, West Virginia, Kentucky, and South Carolina.

A separate survey of USDA data by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), released in January, found that in 22 large urban areas food stamp participation rates increased by an average of 18.6 percent from May 2009 to May 2010.

The average monthly benefit through SNAP, which now allows purchases of food through debit cards rather than with coupons or “stamps,” is woefully inadequate: $154 for a household of four. Advocates say that most SNAP recipients exhaust their benefits within days of the start of the month.

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Everyday Brits Are in Revolt Against Wealthy Tax Cheats — Can We Do That Here?

From Alternet:–_can_we_do_that_here/

What if the financial crash of 2008 were followed by a Tea Party of a different kind — one that stood up to the wealthy criminals who caused the crisis.

By Johann Hari

February 5, 2011

Imagine a parallel universe where the Great Crash of 2008 was followed by a Tea Party of a very different kind. Enraged citizens gather in every city, week after week—to demand the government finally regulate the behavior of corporations and the super rich, and force them to start paying taxes. The protesters shut down the shops and offices of the companies that have most aggressively ripped off the country. The swelling movement is made up of everyone from teenagers to pensioners. They surround branches of the banks that caused this crash and force them to close, with banners saying, You Caused This Crisis. Now YOU Pay.

As people see their fellow citizens acting in self-defense, these tax-the-rich protests spread to even the most conservative parts of the country. It becomes the most-discussed subject on Twitter. Even right-wing media outlets, sensing a startling effect on the public mood, begin to praise the uprising, and dig up damning facts on the tax dodgers.

Instead of the fake populism of the Tea Party, there is a movement based on real populism. It shows that there is an alternative to making the poor and the middle class pay for a crisis caused by the rich. It shifts the national conversation. Instead of letting the government cut our services and increase our taxes, the people demand that it cut the endless and lavish aid for the rich and make them pay the massive sums they dodge in taxes.

This may sound like a fantasy—but it has all happened. The name of this parallel universe is Britain. As recently as this past fall, people here were asking the same questions liberal Americans have been glumly contemplating: Why is everyone being so passive? Why are we letting ourselves be ripped off? Why are people staying in their homes watching their flat-screens while our politicians strip away services so they can fatten the super rich even more?

And then twelve ordinary citizens—a nurse, a firefighter, a student, a TV researcher and others—met in a pub in London one night and realized they were asking the wrong questions. “We had spent all this energy asking why it wasn’t happening,” says Tom Philips, a 23-year-old nurse who was there that night, “and then we suddenly said, That’s what everybody else is saying too. Why don’t we just do it? Why don’t we just start? If we do it, maybe everybody will stop asking why it isn’t happening and join in. It’s a bit like that Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. We thought, If you build it, they will come.”

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Huge Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Cuts Proposed

From Time Goes By:

07 February 2011

Since former Senator Alan Simpson holds no position in government (he has been out of office since 1997, and the catfood commission he co-chaired shut down in December without producing an official report), it’s hard to know why CNN host Candy Crowley found in necessary to book him on her State of the Union program Sunday where he was allowed to reiterate his now-habitual attack on old people:

“I’m waiting for the politician to get up and say, ‘There’s only one way to do this: You dig into the big four – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and defense.’”

Perhaps Simpson was as out of pocket last week as I was during my trip to Astoria and, like me, missed reports of newly proposed legislation that would surely satisfy his lust to impoverish elders and the disabled.

Catching up on my reading after that broadcast, I discovered The Commitment to American Prosperity Act (CAP), legislation co-sponsored by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Bob Corker (R-TN), which takes a meat ax approach to government spending that would require automatic, simultaneous cuts to the entire federal budget if Congress does not cap spending at 20.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product from its current level of 24.7 percent of GDP.

The bill removes historical exemptions for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and such other programs as food stamps, the Veterans Administration and unemployment compensation. In fact, the single exemption from cuts would be interest on debt.

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