Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Herndon, the fear factor

In this controversy about the Day Labor Center in the town of Herndon, one could see the fear as a main component of the opposition. And an irrational fear at that.

The accusations thrown at those who oppose the site are that they are bigots, hypocritical, racists, anti-immigrants. And of course, some are. In the same way that some of the day laborers that now gather at the 7-Eleven are indeed rude, criminals, heavy-drinkers... and undocumented.

The key word is “some.”
The fear of Herndon's residents who oppose the site is that their home prices will go down, the area will become more insecure, there would be overcrowding, and tax payer money would go to the support of undocumented aliens.

They fear, in two words, the destruction of their American Dream. What they probably don't realize is that the laborers who gather at the 7-Eleven are in the same quest. They also have a dream or two they'd like to see come true. They already took a very long trip, and burned the bridges behind.

One of the groups have a website called “Save Herndon.” They exhibit pictures of the day laborers gathered in the 7-Eleven. The first picture is of a young Hispanic (he looks Hispanic, at least) male making an obscene gesture to the camera. The caption reads: This is a sure way to increase property value.

The rest at Herndon, the fear factor

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Venezuelan woman’s ordeal

From the Washington's Voz newspaper.

After four months of abduction, rape, and torture, came four years of a pilgrimage for justice in Venezuela 's judicial system, but Linda Loaiza is still recovering from the physical and emotional battering she suffered; and still waiting for the trial of her alleged tormentor.

In July of 2001, Loaiza was rescued by police in Caracas , Venezuela , from the apartment of Luis Carrera Almoina, the accused perpetrator. She had been repeatedly raped and tortured; she was found in a state of severe malnutrition, with her earlobes destroyed, a nipple cut out, cigarette burns all over her body, multiple cranial fractures, and bruises and cuts on her face and genital area.

The story continues HERE.

Come to us, you non-believers

From the Washington's Voz newspaper.

Ok, now we are in good shape! The President of the United States has given his blessing to those unbelievers who, regardless of that major shortcoming on their humanity, could still be considered good enough, and even as patriotic as those who worship.

Last week, in a press conference that in fact was trying to deal with a very different kind of unbeliever, those who don’t believe in his Social Security plans, Mr. Bush found time to anoint atheists with this patronizing statement: “If you choose not to worship, you’re equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship.”

Salve, Mark Twain!

I have several issues with patriotism, especially when it becomes a way to divide instead of a way to unite. We Hispanics have a long history of that, don’t we? But at any rate, where does the idea that patriotism is defined by worshiping come from?

That statement is just like this one: “Black people are as good as white people.” And it means: Whiteness defines Goodness, but Blacks are also accepted.

Where have we come to, that the President needs to “defend” non-worshipers and reassure them of their own patriotic fiber. In fact, we have lately seen our fair share of devoted worshipers -or so they call themselves- who have given more than one sign of very unpatriotic behavior, let alone very inhuman behavior.

By the way, the fact that non-believers may be in the minority does not mean they are three crazy people on the corner of some liberal woods. There are some 30 million Americans who declare having no religion, and they are, to use the presidential style, as protected by the Constitution as those who profess religious affiliation.

In fact, although it is getting tougher for the non-religious to get elected to office in the US, the Constitution expressly states that "No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust.” Worth remembering.

In the culture war we are immersed in now, since it looks like the real war in Iraq is not enough, the Right insists in appropriating religion.

It seems like the rest of us were just sheep without a pastor, needing some manipulative right-winger to try to push down our throats that States’ rights are good when they don’t interfere with the rights of the Right; that Terri Schiavo should have lived longer than those who can not afford to pay for feeding tubes in Texas; that being a good Christian is equal to being a good citizen, but that Tom De Lay, Enron folks and other Republican donors are exonerated due to matters of National interest.

But, if the Founding Fathers had wanted a Christian country, they would have made sure they expressed that as clearly as many other things in the Constitution. I can hear the clamor: yes, but they were Christians. Oh, yes, they were! It seems they also read that part of the Bible that says: do unto others....

They didn’t create a Christian country, not because they thought Christianity was so obvious that it needed no specific mention, but because they remembered that it was not much fun when religious views were persecuted and their parents had to get to America to maintain their freedom of religion.

And, I’m sorry, but it’s not just a matter of prepositions: freedom of religion does mean freedom from religion, in the public sphere, at least. Otherwise, it would mean one has to have some religion... and even the President gives those unbelievers his blessing to continue to be.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Terrorism is not terrorism, is not terrorism...

From the Washington's Voz newspaper.

The idea that terrorism is on the eye of the beholder is not new. It just became more evident after the September 11 attacks.

US was demanding, and for the most part receiving absolute condemnation of the abhorrent attacks; but soon enough it began to hear, from the rest of the world, an emphasis on context and root causes of terrorism. There were people in the US saying similar things, but those were termed traitors or worse.

There is a sad truth US government and many of its citizens have trouble coming to terms with: the rest of the world does not appreciate double standards. Does that mean other countries do not violate the rules? Of course they do. What bothers them is the US arrogance and presumption of perfection that never measures up to, speaking in military terms, the facts on the ground.

For instance, the US government denied a visa to Dora Maria Téllez, one of the best-known figures in recent Latin American history, who has frequently visited the US in the past, and who epitomized the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution that overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza.

Téllez, now a famous historian, was appointed as the Robert F Kennedy visiting professor in Latin American studies in the divinity department at Harvard.

The US told Téllez she is ineligible for the visa because she was involved in “terrorist acts,” which, as a professor of Harvard puts it, place her in the same category of George Washington: people fighting for freedom, and against 'bloody dictators'. Remember Saddam? But Téllez was doing that against US interests, and that's where US draws the line.

Coincidentally, this happens around the time when John Negroponte, also a famous figure very involved in the defense of the military regimes of Central America, in the 70s and 80s, was appointed by the President Bush to be the intelligence zar.

It's worth remembering that, under late President Ronald Reagan, US opposed the Sandinistas movement even after they had been elected in 1984, and kept supporting the contras and keeping alive a savage civil war, despite repeated condemnations and resolutions from the UN and many other international institutions. Remember when Bush said that Saddam did not obey UN resolutions?

In fact, the Iran-contras scandal that did not manage to stain the pristine image of Reagan, needs no introduction. It's certainly very ironic: in Iran and in Nicaragua US managed both times to opposed, and help bring down, democratically elected governments, only to later go to Iraq to help establish a democratically elected government, and took down a “bloody dictator.”

With Luis Posada Carriles, an anti Castro militant who has a nice history of violent conspiracy, US is presented with the opposite case. The documents of his link to the CIA and of being on the agency's payroll are now public. At the peek of his career, Posada killed, in his own words, “73 dogs,” and had those been actual dogs he would has been prosecuted for cruelty against animals, but these were 73 teenagers members of a fencing team, returning home to Cuba. Posada Carriles bombed their plane. No survivors.

Interestingly enough, the Bush administration wasn't sure what to do with this one: should he be considered a freedom fighter like... Osama? Or someone fighting against a dictator like... Téllez? Should innocent civilians be killed to make a point like Osama believes? Or should anyone who does that should be considered a terrorist and be brought to justice?

Again, terrorism seems to be on the eyes of the beholder, but in this hearts and minds crusade US has embarked, we better begin setting our record straight and making our glossary of terms public.

For instance, what's exactly the difference between innocent civilians and collateral damages?

Monday, August 01, 2005

The rule of mercenary law

From the Washington's Voz newspaper.

As the Senate prepares for the confirmation hearings of John G. Roberts Jr. for the Supreme Court, many questions surface, not just about the nominee's views, past, ideology and judicial philosophy, but about the essence of law and justice, and, shall we dare say, the U.S. judicial system in particular.

Is there any solid foundation for the law? Is there anything immutable about what justice is and what its basis are?

These issues may seem farfetched in the context of Supreme Court nomination and confirmation, but they are, indeed, what's behind the whole debate. The White House has denied disclosure of some of the nominee's records and has not committed to disclose even his tax returns. This allows one to believe that those non-disclosed documents may hinder the nominee's ability to be confirmed.

But what's more surprising here is the way pundits left and right have said that it would be unfair to judge Roberts' record, true feelings, judicial philosophy and food preferences by looking at his defense of the positions of the senior Bush administration or his tenure as lawyer for the Reagan administration, because those weren't his positions or views but those of his clients. So, essentially, he was or may have been defending some views with which he on a personal and professional level disagrees.

Certainly the over 60% of the American people that considers Roe vs. Wade settled law and want it to remain so, would very much expect and hope that Mr. Roberts would be so willing to ignore his personal views on the issue and respect the wishes of his client: the American people. But we have already seen Attorney General Alberto González paving the way to an overturn of the law, by explaining that the Supreme Court does not need to abide by precedent.

But, back to the generalities. It's surprising that we are so used to justice been made according to the amount of money one has to afford the best lawyer, that we don't even clinch when we hear about someone who may have defended positions in which he did not believe.

Or what's even worst, that he and his supporters are willing to say he did not support those positions just to get him confirmed. Notice, though, that they won't go into details as to which positions he wholeheartedly supported and which he “just worked there.”

Some are fighting for the right of pharmacists to not dispense some prescriptions drugs if they have moral objections to them, but it's all well and good to have a Supreme Court nominee who would defend the positions of his clients, even when they contradict his values and moral beliefs.

We have gone a bit too far giving money precedence over the law... How farther are we willing to go?

Friday, July 29, 2005

The factual problem with facts

From Washington's Voz
For some reason, probably due to the times we live, I have heard many times recently that one is entitled to his own opinion, but not her own facts. However, this seems to be a case in which repeating it doesn't make it true.

Just this past week the country has seen a few examples of people trying to create or hide facts in order to generate a suitable version of “reality” to justify their own opinions.

On Wednesday, President Bush went on prime time television to explain to the American people why Iraq is a disaster and what he plans to do to turn it around.

Not only he didn't do this, but he insisted on creating his own reality, in which Iraqis are still throwing flowers at us, and it's only our lack of faith what makes us delude into believing those are actually rocket propelled grenades.

It's now an established fact that Saddam Hussein didn't have anything to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, but why should something as stubborn as a mere fact interfere with the ability of Mr. Bush to use 9/11 yet again to justify the unjustifiable? Bush went on to mention the 9/11 tragedy five times, and to alude to it many more times.

A similar situation is now happening with Social security. There are statistics out there and they show something. But those statistics become vastly irrelevant for the politicians that try to create a separate universe where things go their way without opposition, and reality conforms to our preconceptions.

Critics of any proposal always say the other side is distorting the facts. But that's impossible, because the facts are, per their very nature, no subject to being distorted. You can have an interpretation of the facts as misleading as you feel inclined, but you can't change the facts.

O so you would think.
The Labor Department decided to hide and if possible disappear a study that contradicted the foregoing conclussions of the Administration that the Central American countries were models of compliance with the International Labor Organization standards.

The researchers went there, checked the facts on the ground and concluded that if those countries were in compliance they did not want to visit those who weren't.

Solution from the Bush Administration? Declaring the report biased and inaccurate, taking it out of the public eye for as long as possible, and moving forward with their CAFTA agreement based on the continuous and significant improvements in labor standards made by the Central American nations.

Should we mention the fixing of intelligence and the Downing Street memo on this breath?

So, the Bush administration has decided that they know better about everything, and they also have the Terminator's approach to some things: “take them to the people” ... but process them first.

One wonders if they have told the International Labor Rights Fund what the conclusion of the study should have been, before they came with that “disappointing” report.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Patience, he asked

From the Washington's Voz, the bilingual newspaper of Washington DC Metro Area.

Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who decided that principles were still worth going to jail for, was getting ready for her gourmet lunch in prison when President Bush urged Americans to be patient and “not to prejudge the outcome of the investigation based on media reports."

The president was referring to the investigation on the rol played by his top political advisor and, for many, the gray eminence behind Bush's political gains, Karl Rove, who sat quietly behind Mr. Bush as he spoke to reporters.

Sources have it that Rove is indeed involved in the leaking of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame, in what was generally seen as political revenge against her husband, Joseph Wilson, who was a fierce critic of the Iraq war and wrote a column showing that the case for war was exaggerated.

Miller is in jail for not revealing her sources, regardless of the fact that she didn't even write a story, when she perceived she was been used to further the administration's purposes. Matt Cooper has testified in front of the Grand Jury and has pointed to Rove, who had previously told White House press secretary that he had nothing to do with the issue.

The president had promised to give a one way ticket out of Washington to whomever in his administration was linked to the leaking of Plame's name. (Now, of course, Rove didn't say her name. He only said 'Wilson's wife,' and since polygamy isn't a crime, it could have been anyone in Wilson's harem.)

But, as Republicans are saying, this is mere politics. So, since the President asked for patience, let's use our time as quiet Americans to recall some unrelated facts, while we wait for the outcome of the investigation.

Wilson said the case for war was exaggerated. Time has proven him sadly correct. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no yellow cake being sold, no case for war. But Plame's career was over anyway. And latest numbers indicate that over 128,000 civilians have patiently died there, along with over 1,600 American soldiers. All of this in a supposedly altruistic quest to bring freedom of the press and the ability to preserve the confidentiality of the sources to Iraq.

That war in Iraq also would have helped fight terrorists there – yes, those terrorists that weren't there in the first place, but that the President, in absence of any other justification for an unjust and illegal war, keeps mentioning in the same sentence with September 11, 2001 – so we didn't have to fight them at home. I guess London is not home, is it?

Patience was dwindling when the pictures of more than 20 dead Iraqi children showed up on the screens. Probably the parents of those children do need some of that therapy Rove said liberals and Democrats wanted to provide for the September 11 attackers.

Rove is a man of action, not like those weak liberals that did not want to respond to the carnage of 9-11 with over two years of sustained carnage. And patience is required here too, since nobody knows when or how we may be able to extricate ourselves from that mess we created.

Who could teach us a thing or two about patience are the detainees in the Guantanamo prison camp. They have been there for two years now, many of them don't even know why, without access to lawyers, and without the quaint Geneva Conventions except “ where military necessity has allowed."

Patience, the President asked... and the public will quietly wait.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The “ethnic media”

From the Washington's Voz, the bilingual newspaper in the DC Metropolitan Area.

Now they call us “ethnic media.” They see that “ethnic media” as a ray of hope for the resuscitation of a sharp eye in the so called mainstream Media, which seems to be taken hard blows from every direction.

They call us “ethnic media” and they don't realize what they are saying. Are the New York Times or the Washington Post “ethnic media?” Is so CNN?

As Washington's Voz was at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, in Philadelphia, where the leaders of the Hispanic community were connecting to find ways to become each time more integrated into the American society -from which we could only be isolated in an artificial manner.

Calling us “ethnic media” brings to bear a myriad of implications: somehow Hispanics, Corean, Chinese, African Americans are ethnic groups, but Anglo-Saxon – i.e. whites – are the norm, they are not an ethnic group; also, it seems that mainstream media is made only by Anglo-Saxons: no Hispanics, no blacks.

When at the conference we were all trying to find out what makes us all just one people, in this case, the American people, we keep seem intended and unintended efforts to divide us.

It's very interesting how Raúl Yzaguirre always had the clear vision that this is not a matter of having a “Latino” institution but an American institution, because that's what we are.

Probably they find calling us “ethnic media” a good thing, innocuous, and well intentioned. We should feel honored. Probably they don't realize the mental racism hidden on that term. From a mere anthropological perspective, it brings back the myth of the bom sauvage, he who is different – and to some such as the Minute Man, the sauvage pure and simple.

It's important to remember they back then assume that a different system was the lack of system, and that different values meant absence of values. Now, probably they intent to be nice, but we don't really need niceties. Thank you very much. It's the mainstream media who needs some help when with all those resources and power, have let the big story slip right out of their hands.

But since there are tons of latinos, blacks, Asians and some Martians making what they call the mainstream media we are just as guilty.

They don't even has the excuse that we “look” different, because we are so mixed and so diverse that we look like everything and anything.

It's about time to stop talking about the “Hispanic contributions” because that implies that something existed previously to what the Hispanics has contributed. But history tells us that, indeed, we were here from the start, and before, so there was no American culture previously to the Hispanic incidence, let alone the African American incidence.

The discourse of contributions to a preexistent entity is deferential towards that entity, and is patronizing at best. The new separation of “ethnic media” vs. “media” is a new way of dividing us, and extricating us from a place to where we just belong. We are not guests here. We are building this country as much as anyone else. We are just the Media, and we are just Americans.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Marry Who You Choose in California -- For Now

This comes from Jim, one of my favorite bloggers at Teach The
Since we have taken up this issue of the MCPS sex-education curriculum, we have found that it is interwoven with other issues where a certain rightward-leaning element is determined to impose its own values on the rest of the country. That is really the issue here, in Montgomery County, where the holier-than-thous cannot stand the thought that our kids would learn, in the public schools, that anyone behaves outside the bounds of their own narrow proscriptions.

Personal freedom is under attack everywhere you look, it seems. Like, can you believe that anybody really feels the federal government needs to pick anybody's marriage partner for them? Wouldn't you think that here in America you could just fall in love with someone and marry them, without asking the government if they meet the official criterion?

Ah, so here's this judge in California, where the voters said they want the state to choose your marriage partner. The law gets appealed, the case goes to this judge -- Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer -- and he says, strangely enough:

"It appears," he wrote, "that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage . . . to opposite-sex partners."

Of course, the "family values" crowd is outraged that a judge would rule in favor of the outrageous freedom to choose your own marriage partner.

Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council, which is battling same-sex marriage in several states, blasted Kramer's decision as "judicial arrogance."

"You've got one judge that thinks they know better than the 60 percent of Californians that voted" for the 2000 ballot initiative, Perkins said. "It underscores the need to rein in these rascals in robes with a national marriage amendment." Calif. Judge Backs Same-Sex Marriage: Ban Ruled Unconstitutional; Appeal Likely

Now, this is a fascinating argument, that everyone should do what the majority does. Granted, most people are straight, some people are creeped out by two guys kissing or whatever. OK ... so what? Ya gotta make a law against it? According to these guys, yes.

Let me point out, it is a judge's job to interpret the law in terms of its constitutionality. The whole reason this process exists -- this important process we call "checks and balances" -- is just so that the majority doesn't impose its own preferences on the rest of us. In common conversation, the name for this is "freedom." I know it sounds weird these days, but people have something called "rights." In America, you don't have to do whatever the majority does. It's called "liberty," and we'd better take it back pronto.

Of course this story is not ended. Somebody is going to have to contest this. If you just let people marry whoever they want, uh, they might choose somebody "the majority" doesn't approve of, which would lead immediately to the downfall of our society, I'm sure.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Rabidly Self-Righteous

This time is Jim who says it right, and although I'm not one of them "on cowboy boots and all," I do agree with most of what he is saying.
I'm a blue blodded liberal, for sure, and I'm not going away from that at all. But Jim has his ways of saying what we want to hear. Here it goes, also on our lovely Teach The (is that name explicit enough?)

The post goes like this:

Wow, the Ex-Recall folks are going rabid, now that the pilot schools have been announced. Truth is irrelevant, they just wanna bite somebody.

On their blog, paranoia strikes deep. Here's from a blog post titled, "'Zealots' and 'Extremists' or The Intolerance of the Left":

As we have seen, right here in our own Montgomery County, the 'politics of deceit' mandates that people who speak up about the bias of the left (or the bias of the new curriculum or the bias of the CAC) must be silenced. Their most effective weapon is to brand people 'homophobes', ' zealots', 'religious extremists' and the like. We have seen this name calling happen already on PTA list servs, newsletters and on certain websites and blogs where 'supporters' of the new curriculum try to close down any chance for a rational dialogue in this way.

'Homophobes', ' zealots', 'religious extremists' and the like. Uh, yeah? And the part that's wrong is ... what? The part that I disagree with is the idea that saying these things is "our most effective weapon." No, I'd say "telling the truth" is our most effective weapon. And the truth is: yeah, we do see them as a bunch of radical extremists trying to impose their bizarre beliefs on the public school district. Homophobes, zealots, yeah, we see that. I don't have to say it nice, I prefer to say it straight.

Ex-Recall wants you to think they're under attack for "speak[ing] up about the bias of the left."

Well, I can only speak for myself. I'm just a blogger here, a kind of ordinary, kind of rednecky straight white guy, and I'll tell you -- I was kicked out of "The Left" years ago. I am not a "good liberal." Nice try, but that is not what this is about. I'm a freedom-loving red-blooded American, in cowboy boots, no less, and I don't like a bunch of holier-than-thou religious extremists telling me what my kids should be learning in a public school. It doesn't matter what I think about abortion, or affirmative action, or immigration, or welfare, or social security, or the war in Iraq, or anything else -- no, this isn't "The Left" speaking. I just don't want these radicals taking over the schools. See? It's not a "lefty" thing, it's an "American freedom" thing. Gay people have the right to be whatever nature made them and by giving them that right and the respect that goes with it, I take for myself the right to be whatever kind of person I am, warts and all. They don't have to explain themselves to me, and I'm not explaining me to anybody.

Liberty works that way: you give a little, you take a little. You put up with people, and they put up with you.

Ex-Recall's shrill press release calls David Fishback, the chairman of the citizens advisory committee that proposed the curriculum, a "gay activist." Doesn't it seem a little strange to be a straight "gay activist?" How would it sound if you called a white guy a "black activist?" No, that isn't "gay activism," the curriculum recommended by the committee is simply common sense.

The Ex-Recall people are extremists who have, for some reason I'll never understand, decided that gay people are going to be the downfall of our society. They have even found a couple of obscure quotes in the Bible, saying that homosexuality is just as bad as letting your meat touch your cheese, and so they think God backs 'em up on this. In the 1950s it was rock-n-roll, then it was Negroes, then it was hippies, then video games, and now it's gay people who are going to send us to hell in a handbasket, according to these guys.

So all of a sudden it's earth-shatteringly important to keep all of our kids in the dark about the very existence of homosexuality. If we talk about it in the schools we'll "normalize" it, they say, we'll "promote" it. Well, some kids are growing up in families (yes, families!) with gay parents; some kids are growing up gay themselves; some kids are growing up teasing gay people and hating them without ever thinking about it. The schools are teaching about sex and leaving this important subject out? Naw, it's time to talk about it. At least tell the kids what it is.

And look, here's "Bianca M.", representing the Ex-Recall group, telling some conservative web site that "We have recently obtained a copy of the new condom video in which the school system now wants to instruct children in anal sex."

Now, I saw the video, and I know it doesn't do that. It might mention anal sex, I can't even remember, it was so shocking. It would be appropriate to mention anal sex in a discussion of condoms, in a sex-education class for tenth-graders -- but "instructing children in anal sex?" "Bianca M.", that's a lie.

The interesting thing to me is, the holier-than-thou crowd wants to complain about AIDS but they don't want to mention anal sex, which is a common way the virus is spread. They think students should end up with the idea that AIDS is spread by ... being gay.

No, the virus is not spread by being gay, it's spread by the exchange of body fluids, especially into absorbing tissues like those in the rectum. Trust me, your kid will not be damaged by hearing that from a health teacher.

And lots of hetereosexual people engage in anal sex, too, y'know, since you brought up the subject, "Bianca." And lots of heterosexual people get AIDS.

And also, now that I think of it -- lesbian gay sex is probably the safest category of sexual behavior there is. The incidence of STIs is very low among lesbians. Doesn't this kind of spoil the idea that homosexuality is a "public health hazard?" Or, would it be OK with you, since it's not a "health risk," to teach about lesbianism, and not male homosexuality? My guess is, no, that would not be all right with you: two-mommy families would still be bad, even though the health risk is low. One sees the tip of the iceburg of hypocrisy, dontcha think?

I say, if certain sexually transmitted diseases are epidemic in the gay population, then let's address that. Let's get information out there about how to avoid those diseases, how to treat them, how to know if you've got them. Same for the straight population. Let's fight these problems by using our intelligence, not by closing our eyes to them.

Certainly you can't blame the worldwide AIDS epidemic on some middle school or high school sex-ed course. A lesson in a health class is not going to turn anybody gay, it's not going to make a modest student promiscuous, and it's not going to give anybody AIDS.

Let the self-righteous indulge in their convulsions of indignity. Let them accuse, let them distort and lie. In the long run, all that matters is whether the school board decides to keep the new curriculum or not. Let them file their lawsuits, let them try to recall the board -- hey, let them run for office if they think they won't be laughed out of the county. The piloting will proceed, and the question now is an empirical one -- does the curriculum succeed in teaching what it is supposed to teach?

Higher ground

Maryam, at the good site Teach The has said it so well that I'll just quote her right out:
As I mentioned in my previous post, the sex-ed discussions have provided our community with incredible opportunities—we've been given the opportunity to think more deeply about the many issues being raised, and to get clearer on what exactly we believe about tolerance, fairness, and justice. We have the opportunity to decide what kind of community we really want to live in, and how we want the many different faiths represented in our community to interact with our childrens' education.

Not all of us believe in God, but for those of us who do, that belief is often a primary force in determining perspectives on just about everything. It can be very difficult to separate a person's religious or spiritual beliefs from the more mundane aspects of life, because God is seen as a part of it all. Many of us believe that God is there when we are born, when we grow, when we learn and struggle, when we're happy and sad—many of us believe that God is there through everything we go through, and is as close to us as our breath. No relationship is more intimate, or more powerful in shaping who we are, and how we see the world.

And it can therefore be extremely difficult for any community to decide the right balance between respecting individual religious beliefs, and creating enough of a separation between them and our institutions to not infringe on the rights of others who believe differently.

Schools should not be in the business of telling any child what their religious beliefs should be. But, there are times, when the best scientific data available conflicts with specific religious how should schools handle that? We need to be sensitive to differences in beliefs in our community, and where possible, children should be given alternatives.

But the onus is not only on the schools, but also on religious people. I don't believe that my views about God should be given precedence over other peoples' views in a public institution. I can't limit myself to just thinking about my child, or the children of people who believe like me. As a member of any community, I have to also be concerned with people who aren't like me, and who don't think like me.

Regardless of whether God is seen as immanent or transcendant, the belief in God is about believing in a being higher than us, and more filled with all of the higher qualities of humanity—more love, more understanding, more forgiveness, more peacefulness. So those of us who see God as a reality are called to manifest more of those qualities, not less. We will never all agree on whether Jesus actually lived, or whether or not he's the messiah. The many faiths and denominations in our community will never agree on every aspect of theology.

Since we know we will never resolve all of our community's theological differences, we need to find a place where all people have the opportunity to come together, regardless of faith, denomination, or culture.

We need to find a common ground, and as Jim Wallis said "the common ground is always the higher ground."

The place where we all have a chance to come together is through an absolute and unwaivering commitment to valuing every human being in our midst.

We can argue all day about sexual orientation—what its origins are, and whether or not a gay person can change orientation. But regardless of what anyone believes about that, to view a human being only through the prism of sexuality, is to diminish that person based on one aspect of his or her existence. None of us are that small, and as a community, we can't be so small that we casually gloss over the reality of who our neighbors really are—and focus on nothing more than sexuality.

The belief in God invites us to a higher ground. Those of us who share that belief are asked to be bigger than squabbling with our neighbors. We're asked to listen more, learn more, and speak less. We're asked to connect more deeply with other people, and not to separate ourselves through the wall of judgment.

Judgment, closes doors.

We have a huge opportunity. Through learning about and discussing these issues, we have a chance to become a healthier, wiser, and stronger community.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

HIV/AIDS & U.S. Women Who Have Sex With Women (WSW)

Many of the materials presented by groups opposed to the revisions of the health and family life curriculum in Montgomery County Public Schools, and also presented in several of the abstinence-only programs around the country are infused with specific religious views, which include religious positions regarding homosexuality, as well as sex before marriage. Now I would only talk about those regarding homosexuality.

Many of those groups insist in the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. Here you have a quote from the Recall group, you can find this in the section of their website called: Faith Positions:

A homosexual orientation is usually not chosen and is a cause of suffering. Although this inclination is objectively disordered, it is not in itself sinful. Homosexual behavior, in contrast, is gravely sinful (Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9). Like all human actions, homosexual behavior is a choice, because we are not animals dominated by urges, but persons with free will. Like everyone else, homosexual persons are called to chastity, that is, the right ordering of their sexual desires.

Note that they say homosexual inclination is "objectively disordered." This statement contradicts the opinion of most medical and scientific associations, as you could see in Just the Facts About
Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel
, but that's not the point now.
These groups also insist in the inherent risk of homosexuality as a cause for disease, specifically HIV/AIDS, and they are against the scientific fact that is not being homosexual in itself what is a cause for disease, but that specific kinds of sex (such as unprotected anal sex) are riskier than others (that would apply to heterosexual anal sex too). From this it follows to them that homosexual sex is a risk factor.
Then it must be only homosexual sex among men, because in fact, homosexual sex among women has extremely lower risk (NOTE, PLEASE, THAT IT DOES NOT MEAN THERE IS NO RISK!) than heterosexual sex.
Is it that God's perceive homosexual sex between women as less sinful than between men?
Or is it that the level of risk has nothing to do with having homosexual or heterosexual sex, and a whole lot to do with having unsafe attitudes towards sex and life (being promiscuous, having unprotected sex, being unfaithful, using drugs, etc.)?
Homosexuality in itself does not lead to promiscuity (and the huge amount of adultery out there should send a signal on the issue). There are many couples that has been together for many years, and has much lower risk of contracting any STDs than many unfaithful married people.

So, how do you explain now the low incidence of HIV/AIDS transmission among lesbians? It has to do with the technicalities of lesbian sex, obviously. Therefore, it is not being homosexual what is risky.

Oh, did I forget to mention the source of this? Well, take a look at this Fact Sheet about women who have sex with women from the National Institutes of Health... That gay advocacy organization.

Female-to-female transmission of HIV appears to be a rare occurrence. However, case reports of female-to-female transmission of HIV and the well documented risk of female-to-male transmission of HIV indicate that vaginal secretions and menstrual blood are potentially infectious and that mucous membrane (e.g., oral, vaginal) exposure to these secretions have the potential to lead to HIV infection.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Cuba, Venezuela, US and Other Human Right Violators

It seems the US has decided to fault Cuba (again) and Venezuela on Human Rights violations. It's interesting that the current US administration had supported a coup d'etat against Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, and had to retract from it once the people of Venezuela decided that they prefer Chávez to the same old same old opposition. Chávez, then, had already won one election and one referendum, by now he had won four of those.

The last referendum was also a victory for Chávez, attested to by our own Jimmy Carter:

Finally, after three hours, we offered to the still irate opposition leaders our services in resolving any of their remaining doubts before we had to leave (after two more days). Having insisted all during election day on a 20 point defeat for Chavez, their pollster (Súmate) admitted before leaving that their data now showed only a five point defeat and that quick count data were still being received. Early the next morning, they reported that these results were reversed, with 55 percent supporting Chavez, but opposition leaders still were claiming massive fraud and a victory for their side. Final voting results, including the centers with manual ballots, showed 59-41 in favor of Chavez, with his victory in 22 of the 24 states.

Funny enough, US have had some weird experiences regarding elections lately, but we still keep that self righteousness that allows us to judge everybody's business from the top of sanctity we supposedly live in. (In fact, lately I have thought that US people may take some advise from Lebanon and Ukraine where people who really care for democracy stood their ground until justice and fairness were uphold... without the questionable help from a Supreme Court.)

Well, back to that US Report condemning Cuba and Venezuela. It's interesting that US faults Cuba and Venezuela, both countries with strain relations with US because they have no intention to bow to the master, however, there are many other human rights issues all over the world with governments with which US maintains very cordial relations (in fact, that has been historically the case: remember that picture of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam when a bunch of Kurd were still grasping for a breath of air after the gassing?).

But now I'm concerned with Cuba. Does the report refers to Guantánamo Bay, or to the rest of the island? In fact, there seems to be a lot of evidence of brutal human right violations on that naval base there. Even some overzealous women were overreaching in terms of their torture mechanism, which seems specially repulsive to me, as a woman, and as a tax payer. The right wing Administration is all for religion in the schools, virginity pledges and abstinence only education, but have no problem trafficking with sex, and breaking people's religious faith when it's in it's interest. I really don't know how they could be this cynical.

In fact, those women in uniform doing that should have been twice ashamed of themselves: there has been a continuous fight to create a place of respect and equality for women on the Armed Forces, and then they allow themselves to be used as meat to break detainees. Now the US army is playing in the pimp business. Could you tell me the MORAL difference between that and prostitution? Did they clear that with their pastors? I certainly prefer my daughters to have sex before marriage than to use sex to break people's faith.

The extent of the abuse, and the direct part taken by CIA personnel on it has many people there more than a bit concerned, as we have seen reported in the Within C.I.A., Worry of Prosecution for Conduct.

I guess at some point Americans will realize that they can not keep claiming a higher road, and passing judgment on others when their government routinely practices a double standard policy that creates enemies all the world over. When the Abu Graib pictures came out the first phrase uttered was: that's un-American. Why? What do we assume that America is in itself saint and pure? America does not exist. What exist are the people of America, therefore everything good that an American does is American, and so it is everything bad an American does. It's very easy to disown the “bad apples,” and claim the heroes.

Torture chicks gone wild

By Maureen Dowd

By the time House Republicans were finished with him, Bill Clinton must have thought of a thong as a torture device.

For the Bush administration, it actually is.

A former U.S. Army sergeant who worked as an Arabic interpreter at Gitmo has written a book pulling back the veil on the astounding ways that female interrogators used a toxic combination of sex and religion to try to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Cuba. It’s not merely disgusting. It’s beyond belief.

The Bush administration never worries about anything. But these missionaries and zealous protectors of values should be worried about the American soul. The president never mentions Osama, but he continues to use 9/11 as an excuse for American policies that bend the rules and play to our worst instincts.

“I have really struggled with this because the detainees, their families and much of the world will think this is a religious war based on some of the techniques used, even though it is not the case,” the former sergeant, Erik R. Saar, 29, told The Associated Press. The AP got a manuscript of his book, deemed classified pending a Pentagon review.

What good is it for President Bush to speak respectfully of Islam and claim Iraq is not a religious war if the Pentagon denigrates Islamic law — allowing its female interrogators to try to make Muslim men talk in late-night sessions featuring sexual touching, displays of fake menstrual blood, and parading in miniskirt, tight T-shirt, bra and thong underwear?

It’s like a bad porn movie, “The Geneva Monologues.” All S and no M.

The AP noted that “some Guantanamo prisoners who have been released say they were tormented by ‘prostitutes.’ ”

Saar writes about what he calls “disturbing” practices during his time in Gitmo from December 2002 to June 2003, including this anecdote related by Paisley Dodds, an AP reporter:

A female military interrogator who wanted to turn up the heat on a 21-year-old Saudi detainee who allegedly had taken flying lessons in Arizona before 9/11 removed her uniform top to expose a snug T-shirt. She began belittling the prisoner — who was praying with his eyes closed — as she touched her breasts, rubbed them against the Saudi’s back and commented on his apparent erection.

After the prisoner spat in her face, she left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner’s reliance on God. The linguist suggested she tell the prisoner that she was menstruating, touch him, and then shut off the water in his cell so he couldn’t wash.

“The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength,” Saar recounted, adding: “She then started to place her hands in her pants as she walked behind the detainee. As she circled around him he could see that she was taking her hand out of her pants. When it became visible the detainee saw what appeared to be red blood on her hand. She said, `Who sent you to Arizona?’ He then glared at her with a piercing look of hatred. She then wiped the red ink on his face. He shouted at the top of his lungs, spat at her and lunged forward,” breaking out of an ankle shackle.

“He began to cry like a baby,” the author wrote, adding that the interrogator’s parting shot was: “Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself.”

A female civilian contractor kept her “uniform” — a thong and miniskirt — on the back of the door of an interrogation room, the author says.

Who are these women? Who allows this to happen? Why don’t the officers who allow it get into trouble? Why do Rummy and Paul Wolfowitz still have their jobs?

The military did not deny the specifics, but said the prisoners were treated “humanely” and in a way consistent “with legal obligations prohibiting torture.” However the Bush White House is redefining torture these days, the point is this: Such behavior degrades the women who are doing it, the men they are doing it to, and the country they are doing it for.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to squeeze information out of detainees. But isn’t it simply more effective to throw them in isolation and try to build some sort of relationship?

I doubt that the thong tease works as well on inmates at Gitmo as it did on Bill Clinton in the Oval Office.

Maureen Dowd ( is a columnist for The New York Times.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Social Security, and insecurity

Today I'm on the security line… social security that is.

I was listening to Diane Rehm show in WAMU, and they were discussing the private accounts or partial privatization of Social Security. In fact, I would probably be ok with that, if you could prove me that it does not mean that if things don't go right for you, you won't be left on the dark. However, that does not seem to be the historical truth in the US.

I used to work as a social worker in Florida, with a case load full of elderly people living off Social Security, and if they were not living in poverty, I don't know what poverty is. Social Security as it is right now, hardly covers the basic needs of many. Therefore, how could it be that those private accounts will take care of that as handsomely as their proponents insist they will?
As always, all I have are questions.

1. The proponent of the private accounts, James Glassman, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and host of, insisted in saying that the system should have something for those who are "irresponsible," or even get "unlucky." This was just a second after Diane mentioned that the best estimates of the system imply that 80% of people would do well, but 20% would do worse. For Mr. Glassman, those 20% of the population are just "irresponsible" and a very small percentage may be unlucky. My question are: 1. there would be no space for "irresponsibility" since supposedly the system will ensure that everybody will only invest in "very secure" stocks and bonds, therefore, who are those 20% of irresponsible people? Could those be, in fact, the poorest of the society? Is someone making less than 7 dollars the hour and therefore investing a ridiculous amount in the stock market, irresponsible? He insisted in saying that people should take care of themselves, and I don't think anybody would disagree with that, except that now, it has been shown that increasing for instance the amount people could invest in things such as 401K and IRAs do not help the poorest people, because they hardly have any money to invest to begin with.

2. Compare this with the Prepaid College Plans, and the College Investment Trust Funds. The prepaid option implies you pay a certain amount, and you get the four years of education you paid for in advance. That's a state guarantee to you. Sort of like Social Security. However, in the trust funds you will reap the benefits, or the loses of whatever amount you put in. Reality now is: we invested in both in Virginia. We have the guarantee for the prepaid plan, but we have LOST money -literally, not just that the return has been small, but that we have put more money in than there is now in the account- in the trust fund. That's the reality of the market. Period. You may win big, you may lose big. That's why Social SECURITY exists. Because you need to guarantee the people that have worked all their lives and contributed to our society will have a decent retirement, and won't be left to the ups and downs of the market. We bear a common risk, and take a common responsibility. I understand that probably the States may not be able to guarantee their entire promises regarding the college plans, but then a solution will have to be implemented. Probably we will need to contribute more. Probably future investors in the plan will also have to contribute much more. Probably (much needed) caps to the ever increasing cost of higher education will have to be put in place. These are called adjustments, not doing away with the program. Of course, this is a minor problem compared with Social Security, because at the end of the day, college is only four years.

3. If I were to complain about the performance of the "very secure, and stable" blend of stocks and bonds in which the Trust Fund money have been invested I will receive the following answer: "past performance is not guarantee of future performance" and "the stock market, as we all know, took a dip in the late 90s." And that is, in fact, the truth. But that's why we could not put people's retirement in that kind of insecure security, because in fact, now, my daughter is about to go to college…and the money just is not there. We were very responsible, we put as much as we could there, and now it results that we would have been better off leaving the money in a savings account. I'm not complaining -well, maybe a little- because I knew the risks we were taking when we invested. All boils down to RISK.

4. Back to the late 90s. The stock market took a dip, the bubble burst, etc. and many people lost their 401k and their retirement investments. In fact, lets think just in the people that have worked on Enron all their lives and believed they'll have a very comfortable retirement after 30 years on the company. Many thought they had half a million dollars there waiting for them. (Of course, you don't put all your eggs in one basket, and all that, but that's not the point I'm making here.) Well, the company is no more, and they are now asking "you want paper or plastic?" Probably, the market could over a 40 years span actually be beneficial to you, but my question is: what happen to those who, at the time of their retirement, the market just goes down? How could one ask someone, less than 5 years after a market down turn that shook everybody's bank accounts, to just trust the knowledge of the market and put your retirement on its hands?

5. Entire companies are unable to deliver on their pension promises (well, the Bush administration will take care of that by helping the companies partake with those promises without major consequences) because the markets have not been what they expected. But now, we the people, and specially the poorest people should expect that, while the billions of United Airlines did not produce enough return on the investment, our 40 dollars per month will certainly make us millionaires by age 65. Who needs Social Security, anyway?

I make a salary that is way over the poverty level -although I have been down there, too-, and I requested to have 2% taken from it to go to my 401k, and I put another 1% on my IRA, plus 3% to my two daughters prepaid college plans. Well, there is no much left after I do that to take care of the over 10K day care cost, and the summer camps for the kids, so Mom can go to work. And, what is worst, what I'm putting in that 401K will only carry me through retirement if the stock market goes up so high that there is no bank capable to take care of Bill Gates' money. So, I wonder what can poorer people invest on their "private accounts."

I think probably the government should actually force people to save, by forcing them or creating enough incentives for them to contribute to IRAs accounts, and 401K, but don't tinker with the only cushion people have to fall back on. In fact, I would be ok with not taking any money from my SS after I retire if I make a sufficient amount of money to live comfortably without using my SS retirement. There is a price we all need to pay to live in a civilized society. I come from a poor country, and I have visited extensively other poorer countries. Poverty is not fun, and poverty is contagious. There is no such thing as living as a millionaire in a slump. If we don't stop poverty, we would be surprised how it comes back at us.

I'm amazed every time I take the kids to the doctor and pay the co pay and things like that. How uninsured people do? I just learned, for instance, that the orthodoncy to my daughter will cost $2,500 out of pocket -and we have health insurance-. Is orthodoncy in the luxury category?? People are already living without many things that are essential. I guess the next revolution, what Jefferson insisted that was necessary every now and then, will be over health care… and probably social security.

I must say that the other presenter at the show was Jacob Hacker, associate professor of political science at Yale University, fellow at the New America Foundation, and author of a forthcoming book entitled “The Great Risk Shift." He made much more sense, in fact.

Quick addition

How interesting, I was just talking about health care and the poor, and look what I just found:
Posted on Wed, Feb. 23, 2005
Pulling the plug on school clinics


Here inside this pale-pink portable room on the campus of Miami Beach's Fienberg-Fisher Elementary, the everyday pains of being an elementary school student are soothed away.

Nurses dispense medicine for earaches, headaches and the flu, treat those besieged by chickenpox, pinkeye and asthma and marvel at the self-diagnosis of a 6-year-old who tells a nurse practitioner that her stomach pain cannot be from a ruptured appendix. She doesn't have one.

But this and other school-based community health clinics, which serve the children of Miami-Dade and Broward counties' working poor, are in peril of closing.

Others have been quietly laying off employees and cutting back services or have already closed.

The clinic at Nautilus Middle School, also in Miami Beach, is set to close at the end of the month, Fienberg-Fisher in June. Six other clinics have closed in Miami-Dade since 2003, including the clinic at R.R Moton Elementary in Homestead run by the University of Miami School of Nursing.

''We had lines of students all day long,'' said Rosemary Hall, former director of the clinic at R.R. Moton. ``It was a great piece of healthcare that we had there. I don't know what they're doing now.''

Three of the six school-based health clinics in North Broward have closed in recent years: the Seagull School in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach's Ely High School Health Center and Charles Drew Family Resource Center.


At its meeting today, the Miami Beach Commission will discuss giving the clinics in its city enough aid to stay open through the end of the year, said Commissioner Matti Bower.

''Many of these children are from the lowest economic strata in our city -- a city that is believed to be very wealthy,'' Bower said. ``There has to be something we can all do to fix this.''

Ninety percent of the 680 students at Fienberg-Fisher use the clinic. Dozens more from an adjoining day-care center also are registered there.

''They know my child,'' said Cindy Ferraiudo, who watched as her daughter, Danielle Cespedes, 10, was examined by the clinic's nurse practitioner, Linda Washington-Brown.

''They can't do this to us and close this clinic. Too many kids who don't have medical coverage rely on this clinic,'' she said.


The clinics, though located on school campuses in both counties, are run primarily by community-based healthcare providers who all tap the same funding pool: federal and state grants; private donations and in-kind contributions from local hospitals. But with healthcare costs rising and grants not being renewed, providers say they have no choice but to close some facilities.

''We're facing a catastrophe,'' said Kathryn Abbate, executive director of the Miami Beach Community Health Center. The center has used a federal grant to fund much of the services provided at the clinics at Fienberg-Fisher, Nautilus and Miami Beach High since 1996.

The grants used to supplement the clinics at elementary and middle schools have expired. It costs $500,000 annually to operate the Miami Beach clinics in danger of closing, Abbate said.


The choices were grim, said Abbate: scale back services at the two health centers that serve thousands of patients at full service sites or close the school clinics.

''No one wants to close these clinics, but the reality is we have no money to do both,'' Abbate said.

Funding for these types of clinics is complex.

Miami-Dade and Broward schools do not have a dedicated line item in the state budget for healthcare in schools.

In a different era, a school nurse was part of every school's support staff. Today, funding for school health is so limited that even school nurses are rare: According to Miami-Dade school officials, there are 14 nurses spread among the district's 340 schools.

In Miami-Dade, 19 schools receive state funding to provide a social worker on site. Students at these schools also get access to primary healthcare via a medical van that visits as needed.

Another 24 schools -- down from 26 two years ago -- have what providers call a "mini doctor's office'' or full-service clinic on site in which a nurse practitioner can diagnose and dispense medication to students. Those are run by community-based organizations that get their funding from multiple sources.

An example: The John T. MacDonald Foundation at the University of Miami School of Medicine established a $6.5 million grant to provide full-service clinics at five schools in North Miami Beach.

More than half the 8,100 students in the five schools are registered at the clinics, said Patricia Stauffer, program administrator.


''I don't think people really understand the power of being there when kids really need you,'' said Stauffer. ``They're struggling. All of us are just wondering what the future might hold for us . . . but we're plugging along.''

Healthcare providers are lobbying for funding in the near future. But to do this they need to get legislation passed defining what their services would be.

State Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, has sponsored a bill to do that when the Legislature meets next month.

''There's a true need for this, no question about it,'' Wilson said.

Meanwhile, the work continues.


On Monday mornings, just minutes after the bell declares the start of a new school week, the nurse practitioner and medical assistant at Fienberg-Fisher prepare for their busiest day.

Dozens of kids with ailments stream in. Their parents rattle off the symptoms: fever, runny nose, stomach pains.

Eighty-two percent of the students who have used the clinic since August returned to class, said Fienberg-Fisher Principal Olga Figueras.

Closing a clinic as large as the one at Fienberg-Fisher would be devastating, said Wilma Steiner, the school district's instructional supervisor for health.

''We have found through the years that the most efficient and effective way to deliver health services is where the children are,'' Steiner said. ``It's a win-win all around.''

© 2005 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Friday, February 18, 2005

Bush's Barberini Faun

I would add a few lines to Dowd's column this time. In fact, I have been trying to make time to do a list of lies from the Bush Administration -I realize, though, that's a full time job-. What I don't get to understand is how they get away with this on regular basis. Just the Medicare legislation, the cost of which was hidden from the begining just to gain that one vote that help passing it -you remember the charade, don't you? The three hours of arm twisting to force that particular vote.-
If my recollection isn't wrong, the passing of that legislation was based on the promise that the cost wouldn't be more than the amount agreed upon.(I don't remember the exact number.) That cost has just duplicated.
If this were a business with the corporate world that Bush so loves, that obvious lie would result in the cancellation of the transaction, since one of the parties made a false statement from the begining. But now, we are just stuck with it.
I guess we would need to do some reviewing of the ways we do legislation in this country. How come we have to keep going with a legislation that went through riding on a lie? Well, yeah, but that would mean we would need to leave Iraq today.

Well, back to my friend Maureen Dowd and her latest Bush's Barberini Faun. It's so fun, that I'll steal it from the NYT and just past it here for your enjoyment:

I am very impressed with James Guckert, a k a Jeff Gannon.

How often does an enterprising young man, heralded in press reports as both a reporter and a contributor to such sites as,,, and, get to question the president of the United States?

Who knew that a hotmilitarystud wanting to meetlocalmen could so easily get to be face2face with the commander in chief?

It's hard to believe the White House could hit rock bottom on credibility again, but it has, in a bizarre maelstrom that plays like a dark comedy. How does it credential a man with a double life and a secret past?

"Jeff Gannon" was waved into the press room nearly every day for two years as the conservative correspondent for two political Web sites operated by a wealthy Texas Republican. Scott McClellan often called on the pseudoreporter for softball questions.

Howard Kurtz reported in The Washington Post yesterday that although Mr. Guckert had denied launching the provocative Web sites - one described him as " 'military, muscular, masculine and discrete' (sic)" - a Web designer in California said "that he had designed a gay escort site for Gannon and had posted naked pictures of Gannon at the client's request."

And The Wilmington News-Journal in Delaware reported that Mr. Guckert was delinquent in $20,700 in personal income tax from 1991 to 1994.

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

Mr. McClellan shrugged this off to Editor & Publisher magazine, oddly noting, "People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors."

I know the F.B.I. computers don't work, but this is ridiculous. After getting gobsmacked by the louche sagas of Mr. Guckert and Bernard Kerik, the White House vetters should consider adding someone with some blogging experience.

Does the Bush team love everything military so much that even a military-stud Web site is a recommendation?

Or maybe Gannon/Guckert's willingness to shill free for the White House, even on gay issues, was endearing. One of his stories mocked John Kerry's "pro-homosexual platform" with the headline "Kerry Could Become First Gay President."

With the Bushies, if you're their friend, anything goes. If you're their critic, nothing goes. They're waging a jihad against journalists - buying them off so they'll promote administration programs, trying to put them in jail for doing their jobs and replacing them with ringers.

At last month's press conference, Jeff Gannon asked Mr. Bush how he could work with Democrats "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality." But Bush officials have divorced themselves from reality.

They flipped TV's in the West Wing and Air Force One to Fox News. They paid conservative columnists handsomely to promote administration programs. Federal agencies distributed packaged "news" video releases with faux anchors so local news outlets would run them. As CNN reported, the Pentagon produces Web sites with "news" articles intended to influence opinion abroad and at home, but you have to look hard for the disclaimer: "Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense." The agencies spent a whopping $88 million spinning reality in 2004, splurging on P.R. contracts.

Even the Nixon White House didn't do anything this creepy. It's worse than hating the press. It's an attempt to reinvent it.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Forget Armor. All You Need Is Love

Please, enjoy this column from Frank Rich...I have nothing to add.
January 30, 2005
Forget Armor. All You Need Is Love

JAN. 30 is here at last, and the light is at the end of the tunnel, again. By my estimate, Iraq's election day is the fifth time that American troops have been almost on their way home from an about-to-be pacified Iraq. The four other incipient V-I days were the liberation of Baghdad (April 9, 2003), President Bush's declaration that "major combat operations have ended" (May 1, 2003), the arrest of Saddam Hussein (Dec. 14, 2003) and the handover of sovereignty to our puppet of choice, Ayad Allawi (June 28, 2004). And this isn't even counting the two "decisive" battles for our nouveau Tet, Falluja. Iraq is Vietnam on speed - the false endings of that tragic decade re-enacted and compressed in jump cuts, a quagmire retooled for the MTV attention span.

But in at least one way we are not back in Vietnam. Iraq hawks, like Vietnam hawks before them, often take the line that to criticize America's mission in Iraq is to attack the troops. That paradigm just doesn't hold. Americans, including those opposed to the war, love the troops (Lynndie England always excepted). Not even the most unhinged Bush hater is calling our all-volunteer army "baby killers." This time, paradoxically enough, it is often those who claim to love the troops the most - and who have the political power to help alleviate their sacrifice - who turn out to be the troops' false friends.

There was, for instance, according to the Los Angeles Times, "nary a mention" of the Iraq war or "the prices paid by American soldiers and their families" at the lavish Inauguration bash thrown for the grandees of the Christian right by the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition at Washington's Ritz-Carlton. This crowd cares about the troops much the way the Fifth Avenue swells in the 1936 Hollywood classic "My Man Godfrey" cared about the "forgotten men" of the Depression - as fashion ornaments and rhetorical conveniences. In that screwball comedy, a socialite on a scavenger hunt collects a genuine squatter from the shantytown along the East River. "All you have to do is go to the Waldorf-Ritz Hotel with me," she tells her recruit, "and I'll show you to a few people and then I'll send you right back."

In this same vein, television's ceremonial coverage of the Inauguration, much of which resembled the martial pageantry broadcast by state-owned networks in banana republics, made a dutiful show out of the White House's claim that the four-day bacchanal was a salute to the troops. The only commentator to rudely call attention to the disconnect between that fictional pretense and the reality was Judy Bachrach, a writer for Vanity Fair, who dared say on Fox News that the inaugural's military ball and prayer service would not keep troops "safe and warm" in their "flimsy" Humvees in Iraq. She was promptly given the hook. (The riveting three-minute clip, labeled "Fair and Balanced Inauguration," can be found at, where it has seized the "most popular" slot once owned by Jon Stewart's slapdown of Tucker Carlson.)

Alas, there were no Fox News cameras to capture what may have been the week's most surreal "salute" to the troops, the "Heroes Red, White and Blue Inaugural Ball" attended by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The event's celebrity stars included the Fox correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who had been booted from Iraq at the start of the war for compromising "operational security" by telling his viewers the position of the American troops he loves so much. He joked to the crowd that his deployment as an "overpaid" reporter was tantamount to that of an "underpaid hero" in battle. The attendees from Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, some of whose long-term care must be picked up by private foundations because of government stinginess, responded with "deafening silence," reported Roxanne Roberts of The Washington Post. Ms. Roberts understandably left the party after the night's big act: Nile Rodgers and Chic sang the lyrics "Clap your hands, hoo!" and "Dance to the beat" to "a group of soldiers missing hands and legs."

All the TV time eaten up by the Inaugural froufrou - including "the most boring parade in America," as one network news producer covering it described it to me - would have been better spent broadcasting a true tribute to the American troops in Iraq: a new documentary titled "Gunner Palace." This movie, which opens in theaters March 4, is currently on an advance tour through towns near military bases like Colorado Springs, Colo. (Fort Carson), Killeen, Tex. (Fort Hood) and Columbus, Ga. (Fort Benning). Its directors, Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, found that American troops in Iraq often see their lives as real-life approximations of "M*A*S*H," "Platoon," "Full Metal Jacket," and, given the many 21st-century teenagers among the troops, " 'Jackass' Goes to War." But their film's tone is original. This sweet yet utterly unsentimental movie synthesizes the contradictions of a war that is at once Vietnam redux and the un-Vietnam.

Watching "Gunner Palace" - the title refers to the 2-3 Field Artillery's headquarters, the gutted former Uday Hussein palace in Baghdad - you realize the American mission is probably doomed even as you admire the men and women who volunteered to execute it. Here, at last, are the promised scenes of our troops pursuing a humanitarian agenda. Delighted kids follow the soldiers like pied pipers; schools re-open; a fledgling local government council receives a genial and unobtrusive helping American hand. In one moving scene, Specialist James Moats tenderly cradles a tiny baby at an Iraqi orphanage while talking about the birth of his own first son back home: "I've seen pictures but I haven't got to hold him yet." He's not complaining, just explaining. He is living in the moment, offering his heart fully to the vulnerable infant in the crook of his arm.

These scenes are set against others in which the troops, many of them from small towns "that read like an atlas of forgotten America," have to make do with substandard support from their own government. "It'll probably slow down the shrapnel so that it stays in your body instead of going straight through," says one soldier as he tries to find humor in the frail scrap metal with which he must armor his vehicle. Eventually many of his peers, however proud to serve, are daunted by what they see around them: the futility of snuffing out a growing insurgency, the fecklessness of the Iraqi troops they earnestly try to train, the impracticality of bestowing democracy on a populace that often regards Americans either indifferently or as occupiers. When "The Ride of the Valkyries" is heard in "Gunner Palace," it does not signal a rip-roaring campaign as it did in "Apocalypse Now" but, fittingly for this war, a perilous but often fruitless door-to-door search for insurgents in an urban neighborhood.

It says much about the distance between the homefront and these troops that the Motion Picture Association of America this month blithely awarded "Gunner Palace" an "R" rating - which means that it cannot be seen without parental supervision by 16-year-old high-school kids soon to be targeted by military recruiters. (The filmmakers are appealing this verdict.) The reason for the "R" is not violence - there is virtually none on screen - but language, since some of the troops chronicle their Iraq experience by transposing it into occasionally scatological hip-hop verse.

The Bush administration's National Endowment for the Arts, eager to demonstrate that it, too, loves the troops, announced with much self-congratulatory fanfare that it will publish its own anthology of returning veterans' writings about their wartime experience ("Operation Homecoming") - by spring 2006. In "Gunner Palace," you can sample this art right now, unexpurgated - if you're over 16. Here's one freestyle lyric from Sgt. Nick Moncrief, a 24-year-old father of two: "I noticed that my face is aging so quickly/ Cuz I've seen more than your average man in his 50's." True, he does go on to use a four-letter word - to accentuate his evocation of metal ripping through skin and bones. The Traditional Values Coalition would no doubt lobby to shut down the endowment were it to disseminate such filth.

Another of the movie's soldiers, Robert Beatty, a 33-year-old Army lifer with three children back home, wonders whether Americans who "don't have any direct family members in the military" regard the war as anything other than "just entertainment" and guesses that they lost interest once "major combat" had given way to the far deadlier minor combat that followed. A Gallup poll last year showed that most Americans might fall into that group, since two-thirds of those surveyed had no relative, friend or co-worker serving in Iraq. Does that vast unconnected majority understand what's going on there? Sergeant Beatty gives his answer in one of the film's most poignant passages: "If you watch this, you're going to go get your popcorn out of the microwave and talk about what I say. You'll forget me by the end. ..."

The words land so hard because we are already forgetting, or at least turning our backs. In Washington the gears are shifting to all Social Security all the time. A fast growing plurality of the country wants troops withdrawn from Iraq, but being so detached from the war they are unlikely to make a stink about it. The civilian leaders who conceived this adventure are clever at maintaining the false illusion that the end is just around the corner anyway.

They do this by moving the goal posts for "mission accomplished" as frequently as they have changed the rationale for us entering this war in the first place. In the walk-up to the Inauguration, even Iraq's Election Day was quietly downsized in importance so a sixth V-I Day further off in the future could be substituted. Dick Cheney told Don Imus on Inauguration morning that "we can bring our boys home" and that "our mission is complete" once the Iraqis "can defend themselves." What that means, and when exactly that might be is, shall we say, unclear. President Bush and Prime Minister Allawi told the press in unison last September that there were "nearly 100,000 fully trained and equipped" Iraqi security forces ready to carry out that self-defense. Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month that there are 120,000. Time magazine says this week that the actual figure of fully trained ground soldiers is 14,000, but hey: in patriotism as it's been redefined for this war, loving the troops means never having to say you're sorry - or even having to say the word Iraq in an Inaugural address.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

So much for "values" and PFOX President

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

PFOX Leader Richard Cohen Expelled From American Counseling Association


This is a Devastating Blow For Outdated Pseudo-Science
That Tries To Turn Gay People Straight, Says Besen

NEW YORK (Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2005) – Author Wayne Besen today released a letter (copy posted for viewing, here) he uncovered from the American Counseling Association that "permanently expelled" reparative therapist Richard Cohen in 2003 for serious ethics violations. As the outspoken president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s ex-gay advisor, Cohen’s expulsion casts a dark shadow over the disreputable practice of trying to change sexual orientation.

"The Right wing should be ashamed for promoting the work of a therapist who has been officially rebuked for egregious ethical lapses," said Wayne Besen, author of Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. "That Cohen is the best the far right can find in support of their position that gay people can change underscores the quack-like pseudo-science that they rely on. It is time they end the charade that reparative therapy works."

According to the ACA’s letter: "Mr. Cohen was found in violation of the following code sections A.1.a; A.1.b; A.5.a; A.6.a; C.3.b, C.3.f, and has not elected to appeal the decision taken by the ACA Ethics Committee within allotted timelines." (Please see below for full explanation of violations)

The letter referred to Cohen’s violations which included inappropriate behavior such as fostering dependent counseling relationships, not promoting the welfare of clients, engaging in actions that sought to meet his personal needs at the expense of clients, exploiting the trust and dependency of clients, unethically soliciting testimonials from clients and promoting products to clients in a manner that is deceptive.

"It is no surprise that Richard Cohen violated the ACA ethics because reparative therapy itself lacks integrity and attempts to meet their agenda’s need, not the needs of client’s," said Joe Kort, psychotherapist and author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives. "Of particular note is that Cohen’s violations are self-serving as he is accused of violating standard ethics of protecting his client from dual relationships, marketing purposes, and testimonials."

Richard Cohen is the president of P-FOX, a group that recently placed an ex-gay billboard in Virginia ( and sponsored a controversial ad campaign in Washington DC’s subway system. His website is and he is a conference instructor for the National Association for the Research and Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH). Cohen is also the author of "Coming Out Straight", a book in which Dr. Laura Schlessinger wrote the forward.

"With intellect and care, he [Cohen] offers invaluable insight into the reason for same-sex attractions and, for those willing to brave it, he illuminates a challenging journey from isolation," wrote Dr. Laura in Cohen’s book.

Cohen has also been prominently features on Larry King Live, The Ricki Lake Show, The Salley Jessy Raphael Show and 20/20. Reparative therapy is rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization in America.

The Rules Violated By Cohen

ACA Code of Ethics

Section A: The Counseling Relationship

A.1. Client Welfare

Primary Responsibility. The primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients.

Positive Growth and Development. Counselors encourage client growth and development in ways that foster the clients' interest and welfare; counselors avoid fostering dependent counseling relationships.
A.5. Personal Needs and Values

Personal Needs. In the counseling relationship, counselors are aware of the intimacy and responsibilities inherent in the counseling relationship, maintain respect for clients, and avoid actions that seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients.
A.6. Dual Relationships

Avoid When Possible. Counselors are aware of their influential positions with respect to clients, and they avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of clients. Counselors make every effort to avoid dual relationships with clients that could impair professional judgment or increase the risk of harm to clients. (Examples of such relationships include, but are not limited to, familial, social, financial, business, or close personal relationships with clients.) When a dual relationship cannot be avoided, counselors take appropriate professional precautions such as informed consent, consultation, supervision, and documentation to ensure that judgment is not impaired and no exploitation occurs. (See F.1.b.)

C.3. Advertising and Soliciting Clients

Testimonials. Counselors who use testimonials do not solicit them from clients or other persons who, because of their particular circumstances, may be vulnerable to undue influence.

f. Promoting to Those Served. Counselors do not use counseling, teaching, training, or supervisory relationships to promote their products or training events in a manner that is deceptive or would exert undue influence on individuals who may be vulnerable. Counselors may adopt textbooks they have authored for instruction purposes.

Here you have a copy of the letter expelling Mr. Cohen.

Take me to your leaders...May be not!

Evolution...oh, no!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Religious Beliefs Underpin Opposition to Homosexuality

Here we have the report from The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: Religious Beliefs Underpin Opposition to Homosexuality. There is no surprise that it concludes that there is a direct connection between religion beliefs and rejection of homosexuality. But it is important to read the full report, to see the many nuances the report brings.

As we know, also, the African American religious community is very opposed to gay marriage and to gay rights in general. Darryl Fears from The Washington Post states so in an article:

A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that since 2000, black Protestants have become far less likely than other Protestant groups to believe that gays should have equal rights. Black Protestant support for gay rights dipped to a low of 40 percent this year, down from 65 percent in 1996 and 59 percent in 1992.

The Pew Report shows that:

Attitudes about gay marriage are closely linked to where a person lives ­ with opposition significantly higher in the South, and in rural areas of the country. But there is little racial divide over gay marriage. Both whites and blacks oppose gay marriage by roughly two-to-one ­ most Hispanics also oppose the idea, but by a smaller margin (51% to 36%).

We certainly know how people use those common grounds to carve association with the same people they despise and whose interests they oppose in every other issue. It's the same strategy as when they try to divide African Americans and Hispanics on the grounds of low paying jobs, minority scholarships and other crumbs while obscuring the huge list of similarities and things and extremely important things they have in common that would allow them to fight together, instead of against each other. The issue of homosexuality, as much as the emphasis on virginity, and the like are divide and conquer issues, and we should not let them play with us on that. And, as many of us have come to realize by digging into this issues, homophobia and racism often, too often, go hand in hand.

On something directly related to our issues in MCPS, -remember when someone asked about gay teachers in Einstein???- the report also gives some hope that common sense and love for freedom and equality is still holding a place on society:
In 1987, the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press found Americans divided over whether school boards should (51%) or should not (42%) be allowed to fire teachers based on their sexual preference. Today, Americans reject this idea by nearly two-to-one (62% to 33%). While significant differences remain across partisan, religious, and generational lines, all segments of American society have become less willing to allow this kind of explicit job discrimination, even in schools.

And, while you are in the Pew website, stop by the following Press Briefing, with many interesting views, but mainly one regarding the manipulation of numbers.
How the Faithful Voted: Political Alignments & the Religious Divide in Election 2004
In some ways you can argue that the strong pro-choicers and the strong pro-lifers are the most philosophically consistent people in the electorate, but an awful lot of Americans, even on an issue as philosophically and personally difficult as abortion, or in search of some other ground, the same is true on the gay marriage question: 25 percent said that gays and lesbians should be allowed to legally marry, 35 percent favored civil unions, 37 percent favored no legal recognition of homosexual relationships. Again, you can percentage these numbers whichever way you want, and I'm sure interest groups will do exactly that. On the one hand, 60 percent of Americans favor either marriage for gays or civil unions, or, alternatively, 72 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage. Both statements are true from these exit polls. So it suggests, I think, a certain subtlety out there in the electorate and a country, again, involved in a very serious argument with itself.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Administration Paid Commentator (

Administration Paid Commentator (

Administration Paid Commentator
Education Dept. Used Williams to Promote 'No Child' Law

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2005; Page A01

The Education Department paid commentator Armstrong Williams $241,000 to help promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind law on the air, an arrangement that Williams acknowledged yesterday involved "bad judgment" on his part.

In taking the money, funneled through the Ketchum Inc. public relations firm, Williams produced and aired a commercial on his syndicated television and radio shows featuring Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige, touted Bush's education policy, and urged other programs to interview Paige. He did not disclose the contract when talking about the law during cable television appearances or writing about it in his newspaper column.

Congressional Democrats immediately accused the administration of trying to bribe journalists. Williams's newspaper syndicate, Tribune Media Services, yesterday canceled his column. And one television network dropped his program pending an investigation.

Williams, one of the most prominent black conservatives in the media, said he understands "why some people think it's unethical." Asked if people would be justified in thinking he sold his opinions to the government for cash, he said: "It's fair for someone to make that assessment."

The Education Department contract, first reported yesterday by USA Today, increased criticism of the administration's aggressive approach to news management. The department already has paid Ketchum $700,000 to rate journalists on how positively or negatively they report on No Child Left Behind, and to produce a video release on the law that was used by some television stations as if it were real news. Other government agencies -- including the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- also have distributed such prepackaged videos, a practice that congressional auditors have described as illegal in some cases.

The Williams incident follows a series of other media embarrassments in the past 18 months involving such high-profile outlets as the New York Times, USA Today and CBS News that have further eroded the credibility of the news business.

Rep. George Miller (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, said the Williams contract "is propaganda, it's unethical, it's dangerous and it's illegal" and called it "worthy of Pravda." Committee Chairman John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed to join Miller in requesting an inspector general's investigation, a spokesman said.

Miller cited two Government Accountability Office opinions that the administration violated federal law with video news releases. In May, the GAO criticized the Department of Health and Human Services for using the technique to promote Medicare's new prescription drug benefit. This week, it criticized the Office of National Drug Control Policy for distributing similar reports with a contractor posing as a journalist, including a "suggested live intro" for anchors to read.

Miller, joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats, asked Bush in a letter to put an end to "covert propaganda."

In a separate letter, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked the president to recover the money paid to Williams. "We believe that the act of bribing journalists to bias their news in favor of government policies undermines the integrity of our democracy," they wrote.

The Education Department defended the contract, which Paige knew about in advance, as a minority outreach effort through Williams's syndicated program, "The Right Side."

"Our contract was for advertising," said department spokesman John Gibbons. "Our intent was to reach out to minority audiences. Armstrong went out and talked about it -- we didn't have anything to do with that."

But the contract also required Williams to "utilize his long term working relationship" with black producers to "encourage" them to "periodically address the No Child Left Behind Act."

"Our objective was to put out basic information to audiences. . . . We certainly had no intention to do it in an underhanded way," Gibbons added. He said the department stopped putting out video news releases after the first GAO report and has no other contract involving payments to journalists. Ketchum executives declined to comment.

Alex Jones, director of Harvard's Shorenstein media center, said he is "disgusted" by what he called "the worst kind of fakery and flackery" on Williams's part. "It's propaganda masquerading as news, paid by government, truly a recipe from hell," he said. "It would make any thinking person hearing any pundit speak want to say, 'Okay, how much did they pay you to say that?' " Jones said the contract also shows that "the Bush administration neither understands nor respects the idea of an independent media."

Williams, a onetime aide to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is the founder and chief executive of the Graham Williams Group, a public relations firm on Capitol Hill, and, according to his Web site, a "multi-media wonder." He frequently discusses politics on CNN and other networks and on his own radio show. "The Right Side," owned and hosted by Williams, is carried by the Lynchburg, Va.-based Liberty Channel, which is affiliated with Jerry Falwell; Sky Angel satellite network, a Christian organization; and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

His other show, "On Point" -- on which Williams interviewed Paige last year, as well as Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice -- is carried by TV One, a Silver Spring-based network aimed at African Americans. Williams said he had disclosed his contract to TV One, but chief executive Johnathon Rodgers said the network knew nothing about it and has taken the show off the air while it investigates.

"As a former journalist, I'm bothered by things like this -- people being in the pay of various political groups and pressing their messages without a declaration," Rodgers said.

As a longtime supporter of No Child Left Behind, Williams said, he was receptive in the summer of 2003 when Education Department and Ketchum officials approached him about buying an ad on "The Right Side" to promote the law. Although he "agonized" over the first of two six-month contracts, he said, the law "is something I believe in."

Williams said he aired the spot twice on each "Right Side" broadcast and disclosed the contract on that show. He said he successfully urged another black television personality, Steve Harvey, to twice interview Paige.

Williams has written several newspaper columns defending administration education policy. Last January, he wrote that the No Child Left Behind law "has provided more funds to poor children than any other education bill in this country's history." In May, he wrote that the law "holds entire schools accountable."

Chicago-based Tribune Media Services dropped Williams's column yesterday, saying he had violated his contract. "Accepting compensation in any form from an entity that serves as a subject of his weekly newspaper columns creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest," prompting readers to ask whether his opinions "have been purchased by a third party," a company statement said.

In October, Williams praised the law on CNN. He "didn't disclose to us that he was a paid spokesman, and we believe he should have," said CNN spokesman Matthew Furman. "We will obviously take that into serious consideration before booking Armstrong in the future."

Williams said he will not accept such government contracts again.

Spokesmen for other federal agencies acknowledged yesterday that they also have distributed prepackaged video news releases. Last March, the Census Bureau sent out a video release to trumpet Women's History Month. "Women are breaking the gender barrier in one field after another," contractor Karen Ryan, who produced and narrated the videos, said, citing a Census Bureau analysis. The story included comments by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and ended with the sign-off: "I'm Karen Ryan reporting."

Census officials said yesterday that they no longer distribute tapes that could be broadcast as complete news stories.

As recently as October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shipped a video package on the flu vaccine that mimics a real news report. Spokesman Tom Skinner said he expects broadcasters to use the information as components of their own stories.

Staff writer Ceci Connolly contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company