GOP bill targets NY Times

House Republican leaders are expected to introduce a resolution today condemning The New York Times for publishing a story last week that exposed government monitoring of banking records.

The resolution is expected to condemn the leak and publication of classified documents, said one Republican aide with knowledge of the impending legislation.

The resolution comes as Republicans from the president on down condemn media organizations for reporting on the secret government program that tracked financial records overseas through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), an international banking cooperative.

Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), working independently from his leadership, began circulating a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) during a late series of votes yesterday asking his leaders to revoke the Times’s congressional press credentials.

The Standing Committee decides which organizations and reporters can be accredited, according to the rules of both the House and Senate press galleries. Members of that committee are elected by accredited members of those galleries.

“Under no circumstances would we revoke anyone’s credentials simply because a government official is unhappy with what that correspondent’s newspaper has written,” said Susan Milligan, a reporter for the Boston Globe, which is owned by the Times, who also serves the standing chairwoman of the Standing Committee of Correspondents. “The rules say nothing about the stories a newspaper chooses to pursue, or the reaction those stories provoke. The Times clearly meets our standards for credentials.”

The Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal all reported the existence of the program on their websites last Thursday.

President Bush criticized the reports during a press event Monday, calling the disclosure “disgraceful” and a “great harm” to national security. Vice President Dick Cheney, who voiced support for the program over the weekend, followed Bush’s criticism with harsh words of his own.

In an open letter responding to these criticisms, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller wrote that a free press was the key check on government’s abuse of power.

Translation:  Don’t report stories worth telling, newspapers! Only print stories about our pointless and childish attempts at vote-grabbing with non-issues like gay marriage and flag burning! Don’t tell people about our abuses of power, damnit! We might not win elections if people know what self-obsessed megalomanics we are!

Democrats vow to block pay raises until minimum wage increased

“We’re going to do anything it takes to stop the congressional pay raise this year, and we’re not going to settle for this year alone,” Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said at a Capitol news conference.

“They can play all the games the want,” Reid said derisively of the Republicans who control the chamber. “They can deal with gay marriage, estate tax, flag burning, all these issues and avoid issues like the prices of gasoline, sending your kid to college. But we’re going to do everything to stop the congressional pay raise.”

The minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. Democrats want to raise it to $7.25. During the past nine years, as Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to increase the minimum wage, members of Congress have voted to give themselves pay raises — technically “cost of living increases” — totaling $31,600, or more than $15 an hour for a 40-hour week, 52 weeks a year, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Wait, are they actually standing up for something?  Are they ACTUALLY not just towing the line or bowing before the Repiglican chickenhawks?

Someone pinch me! I must be dreaming! 

'End Times' Religious Groups Want Apocalypse Soon A taste:

"For thousands of years, prophets have predicted the end of the world. Today, various religious groups, using the latest technology, are trying to hasten it.

Their endgame is to speed the promised arrival of a messiah.

For some Christians this means laying the groundwork for Armageddon.

 With that goal in mind, mega-church pastors recently met in Inglewood to polish strategies for using global communications and aircraft to transport missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission: to make every person on Earth aware of Jesus' message. Doing so, they believe, will bring about the end, perhaps within two decades.

In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a far different vision. As mayor of Tehran in 2004, he spent millions on improvements to make the city more welcoming for the return of a Muslim messiah known as the Mahdi, according to a recent report by the American Foreign Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank.

To the majority of Shiites, the Mahdi was the last of the prophet Muhammad's true heirs, his 12 righteous descendants chosen by God to lead the faithful.

 Ahmadinejad hopes to welcome the Mahdi to Tehran within two years. Conversely, some Jewish groups in Jerusalem hope to clear the path for their own messiah by rebuilding a temple on a site now occupied by one of Islam's holiest shrines.

Artisans have re-created priestly robes of white linen, gem-studded breastplates, silver trumpets and solid-gold menorahs to be used in the Holy Temple — along with two 6½-ton marble cornerstones for the building's foundation.

Then there is Clyde Lott, a Mississippi revivalist preacher and cattle rancher. He is trying to raise a unique herd of red heifers to satisfy an obscure injunction in the Book of Numbers: the sacrifice of a blemish-free red heifer for purification rituals needed to pave the way for the messiah.

So far, only one of his cows has been verified by rabbis as worthy, meaning they failed to turn up even three white or black hairs on the animal's body.

Linking these efforts is a belief that modern technologies and global communications have made it possible to induce completion of God's plan within this generation.

Though there are myriad interpretations of how it will play out, the basic Christian apocalyptic countdown — as described by the Book of Revelation in the New Testament — is as follows:

Jews return to Israel after 2,000 years, the Holy Temple is rebuilt, billions of people perish during seven years of natural disasters and plagues, the antichrist arises and rules the world, the battle of Armageddon erupts in the vicinity of Israel, Jesus returns to defeat Satan's armies and preside over Judgment Day.

Generations of Christians have hoped for the Second Coming of Jesus, said UCLA historian Eugen Weber, author of the 1999 book "Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs Through the Ages."

"And it's always been an ultimately bloody hope, a slaughterhouse hope," he added with a sigh. "What we have now in this global age is a vaster and bloodier-than-ever Wagnerian version. But, then, we are a very imaginative race."

Apocalyptic movements are nothing new; even Christopher Columbus hoped to assist in the Great Commission by evangelizing New World inhabitants. Some religious scholars saw apocalyptic fever rise as the year 2000 approached, and they expected it to subside after the millennium arrived without a hitch.

It didn't. According to various polls, an estimated 40% of Americans believe that a sequence of events presaging the end times is already underway. Among the believers are pastors of some of the largest evangelical churches in America, who converged at Faith Central Bible Church in Inglewood in February to finalize plans to start 5 million new churches worldwide in 10 years.

"Jesus Christ commissioned his disciples to go to the ends of the Earth and tell everyone how they could achieve eternal life," said James Davis, president of the Global Pastors Network's "Billion Souls Initiative," one of an estimated 2,000 initiatives worldwide designed to boost the Christian population."

This is just the first page.

 So, explain to me again why I should be "tolerant" of these people and their INCREDIBLY stupid and dangerous beliefs?

Exactly how would people like this be of any use in the effort to save humankind – from itself?

Religion is a destructive force.  One needs no other proof than this.

I posted a few days ago about the drooling morons in SCOTUS who've decided that we haven't lost enough Democracy and decided to allow admission in court of evidence obtained in illegal police searches.

Because that pesky fourth amendment does protect Americans from illegal search and seizure. . .. oh wait . . .

Huff Po has a great post by Robert J. Elisberg on the subject.

"I am a believer in the method called originalism," said Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in a speech on October, 2004, "which, in a nutshell, says that you look at the text of the Constitution… and you give the text the meaning it had when it was adopted."The whimsy of his placing this view in an appropriate "nutshell" aside, it appears now that Justice Scalia's method is less "originalism" than it is self-interest.

Sorry, "self-interestism."

Last week, Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision, Hudson v. Michigan. The ruling allows that evidence found in an illegal police search is admissible in court. (Cries of "Holy Mother of God!!!!" may now begin.) Police no longer need to wait after announcing themselves before rushing into someone's home. The one saving grace is that a warrant must still be obtained – it just doesn't have to be used legally.

 As comedienne Anna Russell said in a famous routine, "I'm not making this up, you know!" In his decision, Scalia notes that the accused may still sue the police for the illegal search. Oh, okay, sure, that illegally-seized evidence probably put the person away, but the good news is, he may enjoy the court judgment upon release from prison in 15-20 years.

However one reacts to this ruling, the issue here is that while Justice Scalia likes to puff himself an "originalist," the reality is that this decision not only reverses the Bill of Rights, prohibiting unreasonable searches, but also English common law and the doctrine of "knock and announce," which for eight centuries has mandated that police must identify themselves and wait a reasonable time before entering someone's home.

Apparently, to Justice Scalia, "originalism" really means coming up with something original."

I asked: What happens when the cops burst into someone's home (hoping they have the right address) – with the blessing of the new dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks SCOTUS – and meet the business end of the civilian firearm?

Well, I found an answer. VIA Crooked Timber:

"The guts of it is that Cory Maye is a black man on death row for shooting a white police officer dead. The officer was part of a paramilitary no-knock drug raid which broke down the door of Maye’s apartment at 11:30pm, when he and his young daughter were sleeping.The building was a duplex and the officers had a warrant for Jamie Smith, the person who lived in the other half, and for “occupants unknown” in Maye’s half. It’s not clear that the officers expected anyone to be in that half of the duplex.

There’s no evidence that Maye had anything to do with Smith, and Maye did not have a criminal record.

When the officers broke in, Maye woke up, took his gun and ran to his daughter’s room. When Officer Ron Jones entered the room, Maye shot him. Jones later died.

There is disagreement about whether the officers announced they were the police as they broke in, and what the exact sequence of events was once they were in there. (I don’t think it’s in dispute that Maye really had no reason to expect the police would come breaking down his door at midnight.)

Jones was (1) first into the apartment but (2) not part of the SWAT team—he was invited along because he tipped off the Narcotics Task Force about the suspected dealer in the other half of the duplex. He was also (3) the son of a local police chief.

Mayes was tried, apparently was not well-represented, and was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death."

So much for "Innocent, good people have nothing to worry about."

Let's say it's the middle of the night, and someone (which may or may not be police) bursts into your home. These are the choices you have:

1. Arm yourself and, if you kill one, be sent to death row

2. Do nothing and hope that the people bursting in are actually the cops and not just criminals hoping to steal your crap and rape your family.

What's next? Do we get rid of that pesky Right To Bear Arms amendment to protect the illegally invading police? (Oh wait, that's legal now).

This forces me to ask, once again. Why do conservatives hate freedom, logic, sanity, decency and intelligence so much?

Top court upholds no-knock police search

So, um, what happens when they burst in and meet the business end of a civilian firearm? 

This is the new SCOTUS.  Dumb as a box of rocks.

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court made it easier Thursday for police to barge into homes and seize evidence without knocking or waiting, a sign of the court's new conservatism with Samuel Alito on board.

The court, on a 5-4 vote, said judges cannot throw out evidence collected by police who have search warrants but do not properly announce their arrival.

It was a significant rollback of earlier rulings protective of homeowners, even unsympathetic homeowners like Booker Hudson, who had a loaded gun next to him and cocaine rocks in his pocket when Detroit police entered his unlocked home in 1998 without knocking.

The court's five-member conservative majority, anchored by new Chief Justice John Roberts and Alito, said that police blunders should not result in "a get-out-of-jail-free card" for defendants.

Dissenting justices predicted that police will now feel free to ignore previous court rulings requiring officers with search warrants to knock and announce themselves to avoid running afoul of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches.

"The knock-and-announce rule is dead in the United States," said David Moran, a Wayne State University professor who represented Hudson. "There are going to be a lot more doors knocked down. There are going to be a lot more people terrified and humiliated."

Supporters said the ruling will help police do their jobs.

"People who are caught red-handed with evidence of guilt have one less weapon to get off," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

The case provides the clearest sign yet of the court without Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Hudson had lost his case in a Michigan appeals court. Justices agreed to hear his appeal last June, four days before O'Connor's surprise announcement that she was retiring.

O'Connor was still on the bench in January when his case was first argued, and she seemed ready to vote with Hudson. "Is there no policy of protecting the home owner a little bit and the sanctity of the home from this immediate entry?" she asked.

She retired before the case was decided, and a new argument was held this spring so that Alito could participate, apparently to break a 4-4 tie.

Four justices, including Alito and Roberts, would have given prosecutors a more sweeping victory but did not have the vote of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a moderate conservative.

Ronald Allen, a Northwestern University Law professor, said the ruling "suggests those four would be happy to consider overturning" a 1961 Supreme Court opinion that said evidence collected in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be used in trials. "It would be a significant change," he said.

Kennedy joined in most of the ruling but wrote to explain that he did not support ending the knock requirement. "It bears repeating that it is a serious matter if law enforcement officers violate the sanctity of the home by ignoring the requisites of lawful entry," he said.

Kennedy said that legislatures can intervene if police officers do not "act competently and lawfully." He also said that people whose homes are wrongly searched can file a civil rights lawsuit.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said that there are public-interest law firms and attorneys who specialize in civil rights grievances.

Detroit police acknowledge violating the knock-and-announce rule when they called out their presence at Hudson's door, failed to knock, then went inside three seconds to five seconds later. The court has endorsed longer waits, of 15 seconds to 20 seconds. Hudson was convicted of drug possession.

"Whether that preliminary misstep had occurred or not, the police would have executed the warrant they had obtained, and would have discovered the gun and drugs inside the house," Scalia wrote.

Four justices complained in the dissent that the decision erases more than 90 years of Supreme Court precedent.

"It weakens, perhaps destroys, much of the practical value of the Constitution's knock-and-announce protection," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for himself and Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Breyer said that while police departments can be sued, there is no evidence of anyone collecting much money in such cases.

The case is Hudson v. Michigan, 04-1360.

Hilarious post by Hartboy at Daily Kos

Every generation thinks the world is in a state of decline. You can ask anybody back to the times when man first started to talk, and they'll tell you the same thing. Our ancestors were upright, hard-working, decent folk, and our descendants all play their music too damn loud.

Nowadays, it's the same old song, whether you're complaining about dogs getting chauffeured rides to recording studios, or massages for babies.

One issue in particular seems to be raising a big fuss. I'm talking about gay marriage. Everyone from bums to politicians is weighing in with his opinion, and I don't get it. I mean, I just don't get it. The way I see it, marriage is already pretty gay.

hartboy's diary :: ::

Think about it. You have the ever-present disco music blaring. You dance with your mom. And what other time in your life do you tell your buddies, "Hey, I got a great idea. Let's all wear the same thing to this party, guys. We'll get dressed up, I mean really dressed up. Let's show up with matching tuxedos!"

It's not just the wedding reception itself that is pretty gay. While you're planning the whole shindig, and your bride-to-be is asking you the stupidest questions, like "Do you think the table settings should be burgundy or maroon?" you still have one ray of hope. One glimmering remnant of straightness to hold onto. I'm talking about the bachelor party.

So what do you do? What DO you do? Somehow, you even manage to gay that up.

 Let's be realistic. Strip clubs are fun every once in a while. But could you imagine anything more gay then a nudie bar? "Let's get a bunch of dudes together, go to a place that's filled with other dudes, and get sexually aroused. P.S., you're not allowed to touch any of the women there."

So the next time Senator Santorum asks you to help preserve the sanctity of marriage by not letting it be gay, ask him: Did you do the electric slide at your wedding? Did your best man get all drunk and tell you he loves you in front of everybody?

Admit it, Rick: Marriage is already pretty gay.

hat tip to Atheist Girl