Saturday, January 08, 2005

Hearts, Minds, Oops, Etc.

This is why an occupying force cannot be seen as a saving intervention:
The United States military acknowledged dropping a 225-kilogram bomb on the wrong house outside the northern city of Mosul on Saturday, killing five people. But the man who owned the house said the bomb killed 14 people — including seven children.


So Much for the Manly Facade

I'm gettin' all weepy again. Thank you, KJ, and Rosie, and Carmel, and Amy, and Harper, for the Powells gift certificate. As soon as we get all of our stuff moved out, and the house raised, and the asbestos removed, and the stuff moved back in, I am adding a load of books to my all-too-sparse library!

In all truth and seriousness, let me tell you all that you are the reason why I consider Austin to be a home. I've lived all around, and only considered New Orleans a place where I belonged, before coming here and finding you folks. Given my rather minimalist approach to verbal expression and emotional revelation, I suspect this may not always have been clear, but I value you all more than you know.


More Unpersons

The Bushies are working hard to find candidates for their new gulag system:
After raids in recent months that captured hundreds of insurgents in Iraq, the United States has significantly increased the number of prisoners it says are foreign fighters, a group the Bush administration contends are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, American officials said.

A Pentagon official said Friday that the United States was now holding 325 foreign fighters in Iraq, a number that the official said had increased by 140 since Nov. 7, just before the invasion of Falluja. Many of the non-Iraqis were captured in or around that city.

Many of them are suspected of links to Al Qaeda or the related terror networks supporting the insurgency in Iraq, senior Bush administration officials said this week.

Some of the non-Iraqis who were involved in the insurgency there could be transferred out of the country for indefinite detention elsewhere, the officials said, as they have been deemed by the Justice Department not to be entitled to protections of the Geneva Conventions.

Meanwhile, we're being investigated by the Germans. How things can change, in a mere six decades, nicht wahr?


I Am a Fanboy

I admit it. Fan status is something I am generally too lazy to attain, and even when not, I'm too snobbish to embrace.

And yet, I heart Johnny Depp:

Johnny Depp wants his next role to be in a dress. Depp who did high camp in Pirates of the Caribbean is making it known he wants a guest shot on the hit British sitcom "Little Britain".

The series is made up of a gaggle of eccentric characters including "the only gay in the village" and "the most unbelievable transvestite in the UK."


Welcome to the New Amerika, Kids

All your clothing are belong to us:
Ten students between the ages of 11 and 12 were strip-searched as officials at their charter school tried to find a missing $10 bill.

Seven girls and three boys at the Mainland Preparatory Academy were searched down to their underwear Thursday after one of the girls reported the money missing, said Principal Wilma Green. The money was not found.

"It's not illegal," La Marque Police Chief Richard Price said. "We don't see it as a criminal offense." But he said an investigation was underway.

The search angered at least one parent, who filed a complaint with police and pulled her four children out of the school.

"I have never signed a consent to let my kids be strip-searched -- never," said Shelli Owens, the mother of a 12-year-old boy who was searched.

Green said the school has conducted such searches in the past without calling parents.

"Never had a complaint," she said. "I can't say if it happened again I wouldn't do the same thing."


Friday, January 07, 2005

We Recruit!

No, not the army. And not the Lesbian Avengers. Rather, apparently, it's all us devious queer types, and we are targeting high schools. Right:
A Bay Area Christian conservative has begun to gather names for a ballot initiative to limit sex education in California public schools.

The measure has received approval from the Secretary of State's office and Attorney General Bill Lockyer's staff has carefully worded the petition to include only a ban on sex ed in kindergarten through sixth grade and for daily parental permission slips for older students.

The man behind it, Tony Andrade, says fears "homosexuals are using high schools as a recruiting ground".

Andrade was behind the to recall of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003.

In his promotion for the new initiative he links classroom discussions of homosexuality and domestic partnership with bestiality, pedophilia and necrophilia.

What is wrong with these people, that they cannot make a distinction between being gay and being a necrophiliac? Or a pedophile?

They are the true perverts, in their own warped understanding.


More Virgina Lunacy

First it was homophobic license plates. Now it's the criminalization of women who miscarry. Madness:
HB1677, “Report of Fetal Death by mother, penalty”

It sounds preposterous to talk about criminalizing women who suffer miscarriages, but one Virginia legislator is proposing just that. HB1677, “Report of Fetal Death by mother, penalty” is a bill introduced by John A. Cosgrove (R) of Chesapeake. Cosgrove’s bill requires any woman who experiences “fetal death” without a doctor’s assistance to report this to the local law-enforcement agency within twelve hours of the miscarriage. Failure to do so is punishable as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.



That's how I'm feeling today, and I really can't even figure out what the point of this blog is, anyway, so unless my mood changes dramatically, posting will be light, for the day at least...


The War on Terra

The right is gearing up to tear huge new chunks out of Mother Nature:
For the first time in three decades, critics of the Endangered Species Act are building momentum to rewrite the law implemented to save America's threatened flora and fauna, from the star cactus to the grizzly bear.

Weakening the law has been a priority for Republican Western governors, and a second Bush term provides critics of the act a prime opportunity to push the U.S. Congress for changes that would help open up vast stretches of wilderness for development.


More Propaganda

They did the same thing to sell their Medicare scam. When are they going to cut this shit out?
Shortly before last year's Super Bowl, local news stations across the country aired a story by Mike Morris describing plans for a new White House ad campaign on the dangers of drug abuse.

What viewers did not know was that Morris is not a journalist and his ''report" was produced by the government, actions which constituted illegal ''covert propaganda," according to an investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

In the second ruling of its kind, the investigative arm of Congress this week scolded the Bush administration for distributing phony prepackaged news reports that include a ''suggested live intro" for anchors to read, interviews with Washington officials, and a closing that mimics a typical broadcast news sign-off.

Although television stations knew the materials were produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there was nothing in the two-minute, prepackaged reports that would indicate to viewers that they came from the government or that Morris, a former journalist, was working under contract for the government.

''You think you are getting a news story but what you are getting is a paid announcement," said Susan Poling, managing associate general counsel at the Government Accountability Office. ''What is objectionable about these is the fact the viewer has no idea their tax dollars are being used to write and produce this video segment."


Texas Justice

Nice to have it made plain exactly how much women and men are valued in this fine state:
A man sentenced to just four months in prison for killing his wife, after a
jury concluded he acted in a blind fury, drew a 15-year term for wounding her


Drawing It Out

Every time the Reservists try to get out, they pull them back in. Do they think they can do this indefinitely?
Stretched thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is considering a National Guard and Reserve policy shift that could result in part-timers’ being called to active duty multiple times for up to two years each time, a senior Army general said Thursday.

The officer, who discussed the matter with a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity because the matter has not been fully settled inside the Defense Department, said the Army would probably ask Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to change the policy in the next several months.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Coals to Newcastle

Seems that way, when the United States is importing arms:
The United States is planning to buy hundreds of millions of bullets from Taiwan in the first such deal as its supplies are running low after wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a report said Thursday.

Citing Taiwanese military sources, the United Evening News said Washington had made the request to acquire some 300 million 5.56-millimeter bullets for rifles for an estimated two billion Taiwan dollars (62.5 million US).


Again, Thank You

Thank you, Barbara Boxer. The objection to the Ohio electoral vote was just entered, halting the count, embarrassing the president, and calling the nation's attention to the egregious voting irregularities that went on in that state (among many others).

You are beyond fabulous, Senator.


Still Stonewalling

Even as the hearings are going on, providing some amusing, and many nauseating, moments, the White House is standing by their man:
The White House refused Thursday to provide senators additional documents on attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales' involvement in the decision to allow aggressive interrogations of terrorism detainees, setting up a confrontation with Democrats looking into his role in the now-repudiated policies.


Boxer Is In

Thank goodness we finally have a Senator with some spine. It's about time our broken-down voting system had some harsh light thrown upon it:

Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., signed a challenge mounted by House Democrats to Ohio's 20 electoral votes, which put Bush over the top. By law, a challenge signed by members of the House and Senate requires both chambers to meet separately for up to two hours to consider it. Lawmakers are allowed to speak for no more than five minutes each.

While Bush's victory is not in jeopardy, the Democratic challenge will force Congress to interrupt tallying the Electoral College (news - web sites) vote that was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EST Thursday. It would be only the second time since 1877 that the House and Senate were forced into separate meetings to consider electoral votes



A Man of Principles

Sure, he may be a bit fuzzy on the morality of torture, but it would appear that he's quite clear about the evils of non-het sexuality:

Senate Democrats want answers from the man nominated by President Bush to be Attorney General. Senate confirmation hearings for White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales will begin Thursday amid allegations Gonzales secretly helped write the Federal Marriage Amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

The American Civil Liberties Union said on Wednesday that Gonzales' White House office undertook the legal thinking behind Bush's decision to support the amendment and helped formulate the legal framework for it and for the president’s "faith-based initiative" which would allow faith groups to circumvent local laws which prevent discrimination against gay and lesbian workers.

In discussing the administration’s consideration of the Federal Marriage Amendment, Bush announced in August 2003 that he had assigned "lawyers" to examine the different legislative approaches to banning same-sex marriage. "Although President Bush did not identify Gonzales as one of the assigned lawyers, the Senate Judiciary Committee ought to explore Gonzales’s role on the issue," the ACLU said in a statement Wednesday.

"Gonzales, who may have been responsible for the legal vetting of the different amendatory approaches, should make clear his position on the Musgrave-Allard amendments, which would bar all marriage rights for same-sex couples, and would likely ban civil unions," the ACLU said.



I recall reading somewhere one of those year's-end lists of words that need to be retired once and for all. Interestingly, the word "blog" made the list.

I, however, would much prefer never to have to hear the word "rendition" again:
An Australian terror suspect says U.S. authorities sent him to Egypt in late 2001 where he was tortured for six months before being transferred to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, The Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing newly released court documents.

In a petition seeking to keep the United States from returning him to Egypt, Mamdouh Habib alleges that while under Egyptian detention he was hung by his arms from hooks, repeatedly shocked, nearly drowned and brutally beaten, the newspaper said.

The Egyptian-born Habib contends that U.S. and international law prohibit sending him back in the petition filed in November in U.S. District Court in Washington. It was made public on Wednesday after a judge ruled that it did not contain classified information, the Post said.

According to the newspaper, Habib's case is only the second to describe the secret Central Intelligence Agency practice of "rendition" and the first to challenge the legality of the practice.

Under the practice, the CIA has turned over suspected terrorists to be interrogated in some countries that are known to torture prisoners, the newspaper said.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Winning Hearts and Minds, Part ?

It goes on and on:
An Iraqi civilian has testified that US soldiers forced him and his cousin to jump into the River Tigris and laughed as his relative was swept to his death.

"He was calling my name, said: 'Help me! Help me!'" Marwan Fadel Hassoun told a military trial in Texas.


Fundies Everywhere

Well this sounds familiar, doesn't it?

A leading Muslim cleric says that the tsunamis which devastated South Asia and killed more than 150-thousand people were Allah's punishment for allowing gays into the affected countries.

"These great tragedies and collective punishments that are wiping out villages, towns, cities and even entire countries, are Allah's punishments of the people of these countries, even if they are Muslims," Sheik Fawzan Al-Fawzan told Saudi television in an interview translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

"We know that at these resorts, which unfortunately exist in Islamic and other countries in South Asia, and especially at Christmas, fornication and sexual perversion of all kinds are rampant," the Institute, which monitors television news in the region, quoted Al-Fawzan as saying.

"The fact that it happened at this particular time is a sign from Allah. It happened at Christmas, when fornicators and corrupt people from all over the world come to commit fornication and sexual perversion. That's when this tragedy took place, striking them all and destroyed everything. It turned the land into wasteland, where only the cries of the ravens are heard. I say this is a great sign and punishment on which Muslims should reflect.

"All that's left for us to do is to ask for forgiveness We must atone for our sins, and for the acts of the stupid people among us and improve our condition. We must fight fornication, homosexuality, usury, fight the corruption on the face of the earth, and the disregard of the lives of protected people."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Their fundamentalists have a great deal more in common with our government than they do with the left, however much the wingers yowl the contrary.


Guilty as Charged

The homophobe is admitting it:

A Kentucky man accused of beating a good Samaritan into a coma with a baseball bat pleaded guilty Wednesday to assault and endangerment.

Matthew Ashcraft, 19, was attacked after he came to the defense of a gay man who was being beaten outside a Newport bar last June.

Ashcraft, who is a member of the Ohio National Guard and is not gay, was with two gay friends on their way to Woolly's, an LGBT friendly bar in Newport last June. As they approached the club they saw Leon Hughes being harassed outside.

When Ashcraft intervened, the man who was assaulting Hughes left, then returned with a baseball bat and beat Ashcraft unconscious Commonwealth Attorney Anthony Bracke said.


Failing and Failing

It's maddening to watch what these murderous morons are doing. When is a volunteer not a volunteer? Rather often, it would seem:

The Army Reserve, whose part-time soldiers serve in combat and support roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, is so hampered by misguided Army policies and practices that it is "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force," the Reserve's most senior general says.

"The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you of the Army Reserve's inability under current policies, procedures and practices ... to meet mission requirements associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom," Helmly wrote, using the military's names for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"The Army Reserve is additionally in grave danger of being unable to meet other operational requirements," including those in classified contingency plans for other potential wars or national emergencies, "and is rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force," Helmly wrote.

The Army Reserve's ability to regenerate its recently deployed forces is "eroding daily," he added, in part because Reserve troops who finish tours in Iraq and Afghanistan are required to leave substantial amounts of their equipment for other forces and for contractors.

Helmly also referred to a practice, not previously disclosed, of requiring each Reserve soldier who receives a mobilization order with less than 30 days notice to sign a "volunteer statement." From his brief description of the practice it appears that this is done to reduce the number of reported cases of short-notice, involuntary mobilizations.

He also criticized the practice of offering Reserve soldiers an extra $1,000 a month if they volunteer to be mobilized a second time. This confuses "volunteers" with "mercenaries," he said.


Art With a Purpose


And the Winner Is...

Jon Stewart! Thank you, Jon, for helping this dick out the door. And thank you, Jonathan Klein:

CNN said goodbye to pundit Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, and with him likely the "Crossfire" program that has been the granddaddy of high-volume political debate shows on cable television.

CNN will probably fold "Crossfire" into its other programming, perhaps as an occasional segment on the daytime show "Inside Politics," said Jonathan Klein, who was appointed in late November as chief executive of CNN's U.S. network.

Klein on Wednesday told Carlson, one of the four "Crossfire" hosts, that CNN would not be offering him a new contract. Carlson has reportedly been talking with MSNBC about a prime-time opening replacing Deborah Norville.

Carlson did not immediately return a call to his cell phone for comment.

The bow-tied wearing conservative pundit got into a public tussle last fall with comic Jon Stewart, who has been critical of cable political programs that devolve into shoutfests.

"I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp," Klein told The Associated Press.

He said all of the cable networks, including CNN, have overdosed on programming devoted to arguing over issues. Klein said he wants more substantive programming that is still compelling.

"I doubt that when the president sits down with his advisers they scream at him to bring him up to date on all of the issues," he said. "I don't know why we don't treat the audience with the same respect."


Justice Proceeds in Chile

Pinochet's getting his due, slowly but surely:
Former dictator Augusto Pinochet was placed under house arrest on Wednesday after Chile's top court ruled that murder and kidnapping charges against him can go forward.


Ugly Americans

Can't these people get anything right? It's truly embarrassing that any Democrats ever put any of their hopes on this man:
The scene was Phuket town hall, which has become the polyglot headquarters of the huge international operation to recover bodies and support the survivors of last week's tsunami.
The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, came close to damaging his reputation as the Bush administration's leading diplomat when he walked into the room, strolled to the US desk, shook the hands of the people working there and then walked straight back out again. It was only when he was downstairs that an aide suggested he "might like" to meet the volunteers from some of the other countries, too. Reminded that he is part of an international relief mission, Mr Powell promptly turned on his heels once again and marched back up the stairs to belatedly press some non-American flesh.


Gonzales: Just Kidding About That Whole Torture Thing

The very fact that this is even a question should disqualify him from the start:
Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales plans to promise to abide by the government's non-torture policies and international treaties if he is confirmed by the Senate, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Farewell, ANWR

And fuck you, indigenous people. After all, that's the American way:
A bigger Republican majority in the Senate is likely to pass a national energy plan and back drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge to open up energy sources at home, the outgoing U.S. Energy Secretary said Tuesday.

"With the new composition of the Senate I believe it is feasible and likely that both ANWR and an energy policy will be passed," Spencer Abraham told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with Russia's top nuclear official.



We are:

IRAQ’S rapidly swelling insurgency numbers 200,000 fighters and active supporters and outnumbers the United States-led coalition forces, the head of the country’s intelligence service said yesterday.

The number is far higher than the US military has so far admitted and paints a much grimmer picture of the challenge facing the Iraqi authorities and their British and American backers as elections loom in four weeks.

“I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people,” General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, director of Iraq’s new intelligence services, said.



It ain't all about North Korea and Iran, as much as Bush would like you to think so. Let's nucularize the Middle East!

The U.N. atomic watchdog agency has found evidence of secret nuclear experiments in Egypt that could be used in weapons programs, diplomats said Tuesday.

The diplomats told The Associated Press that most of the work was carried out in the 1980s and 1990s but said the International Atomic Energy Agency also was looking at evidence suggesting some work was performed as recently as a year ago.

Egypt's government rejected claims it is or has been pursuing a weapons program, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

"A few months ago we denied these kinds of claims and we do so again," Egyptian government spokesman Magdy Rady said. "Nothing about our nuclear program is secret and there is nothing that is not known to the IAEA."

But one of the diplomats said the Egyptians "tried to produce various components of uranium" without declaring it to the IAEA, as they were bound to under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The products included several pounds of uranium metal and uranium tetrafluoride -- a precursor to uranium hexafluoride gas, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.


Arrest That Deity

Isn't it against the law to plot the murder of Supreme Court Justices?

On the January 3 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, Reverend Pat Robertson, host and Christian Coalition of America founder, made predictions for the New Year based on what he said God told him during a recent prayer retreat. Robertson said that God told him: "I will remove judges from the Supreme Court quickly, and their successors will refuse to sanction the attacks on religious faith." Robertson also said that he "heard it from the Lord" that President Bush will have Social Security and tax reform passed and that Muslims will turn to Jesus Christ.
All snark aside, Robertson actually meant that God will make liberal judges decide to resign. But it certainly sounds like God's got a hit out, on first reading.


Why Do Religious Leaders Hate America?

Haven't they learned that whatever Bush and his cronies do is by definition Godly and right?

In an open letter to Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales, 225 religous leaders from a variety of faiths have joined together to demand that Gonzales denounce all torture. The signers represent Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh leaders from across the United States. Also represented are Latino religious leaders, some of whom are evangelical Christians, like Gonzales. The letter will be released at a press conference today.


Didn't We "Liberate" Them a Long Time Ago?

It seems some people just don't understand how great we've made things for them:
Kuwaiti military personnel detained last week for plotting attacks against U.S. troops had planned to strike during joint exercises, a security source said Tuesday.

Security sources said Monday Kuwait was interrogating up to eight Kuwaiti soldiers and senior officers, along with several non-Kuwaitis, over suspected links to the plot in a country which is a staunch U.S. ally.

Several weeks earlier, the United States had warned Americans living in the tiny Gulf state that militants were possibly preparing attacks.

"The group had intentions to attack foreign forces during training with the Kuwaiti army," the source said. "They are now being interrogated by military intelligence."


The GOP's Priorities

This interview with Jeanne Phillips, the chairwoman of Bush's Inaugural Committee, shows just how much the administration cares about the troops. Or, at least, about the symbolism of supporting the troops:
I hear one of the balls will be reserved for troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Yes, the Commander-in-Chief Ball. That is new. It will be about 2,000 servicemen and their guests. And that should be a really fun event for them.

As an alternative way of honoring them, did you or the president ever discuss canceling the nine balls and using the $40 million inaugural budget to purchase better equipment for the troops?

I think we felt like we would have a traditional set of events and we would focus on honoring the people who are serving our country right now -- not just the people in the armed forces, but also the community volunteers, the firemen, the policemen, the teachers, the people who serve at, you know, the -- well, it's called the StewPot in Dallas, people who work with the homeless.

How do any of them benefit from the inaugural balls?

I'm not sure that they do benefit from them.

Then how, exactly, are you honoring them?

Honoring service is what our theme is about.

Oy. How brazen and callous can they be?


Hazardous to Your Health

More proof that, if you work with the present Iraqi government, you probably don't need to spend much time planning your retirement:
Baghdad's Governor Ali al-Haidari was assassinated by the gunmen in the north-western district of Hurriyah, Baghdad city neighbourhood, on Tuesday. Three masked gunmen stepped out of the vehicles that blocked the street and opened fire on Al-Haidari’s armoured BMW and Governor's convoy.


Over Ten Thousand Soldiers Wounded

The Pentagon's latest figures have been released:
The number of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq (news - web sites) since the start of the war in March 2003 has surpassed 10,000, the Pentagon (news - web sites) said Tuesday in a delayed update of its casualty data.



It truly boggles my mind how very twisted and warped some people's minds are, as a result of their festering hatred and bile. Nauseating, how these people revel in death and suffering:
The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which RAW STORY previously revealed had thanked God for the tsunami and any gay Swedes who were killed while vacationing there has now lauded God for killing Americans in the tsunami, as well as Americans killed by jetliners on Sept. 11.

Known for picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the young college student brutally murdered in Wyoming in 1998, the Church—which is largely made up of relatives of consummate homophobe Fred Phelps—released the following statement regarding Americans and the tsunami Jan. 1. The document was released on their website.

"God sent Tsunami [sic] last week to execute vengeance upon another 3,000," Phelps writes, referring to the original approximately 3,000 killed on Sept. 11, "carcasses swallowed up in Asian jungles, and concerning each of whom it may be said: 'He shall be buried with the burial of an ass.' Jer. 22:19.'"


Another Blow

Equal protection clause? What's that?

States have to respect the laws and contracts of other states? Nah:
The Internal Revenue Service is warning same-sex couples that they cannot file joint income tax returns even if they were legally married in Massachusetts or Canada.

The IRS says it is basing its denial of joint filings on Federal DOMA which restricts marriage to opposite-sex couples.

The warning follows a court ruling in Minnesota where a federal judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit that was filed by a gay couple.

Jack Baker and L. Michael McConnell claimed they deserved a tax refund because they were legally married and should be granted married taxpayer status.


Oh My God

Is this not the very height of nonsense?
The state [Virginia] is one of what is expected to be up to a dozen states to take up the issue following voter approval in 11 states last November of similar amendments.

But, the legislature will also look at a measure that would put the marriage issue on license plates. The bill calls for traditional marriage to be displayed on car licenses. If passed the plates would have interlocking gold wedding bands superimposed over a red heart over the legend "Traditional Marriage."

Homophobic license plates. What will these geniuses think of next?


Tsunami Blogs

I know there are more out there than the two I've come across (they were mentioned in Die Zeit), but this is a start. Chiens Sans Frontiers is blogging text messages from several people who are in Sri Lanka - apparently, when all other communications fail, text messaging continues to work. The message today, a text message from Morquendi, that caught my eye...

[Sole survivors have begun committing suicide. Several cases today.]

Words fail.

The Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog (aka SEA-EAT) is blogging on relief efforts, donations, and other forms of assistance.

There is a list of aid organizations here, in case you haven't yet made your donations.

And on a more positive note, donations have been generous enough that Doctors Without Borders notes this:

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has received an extraordinary outpouring of support for the people of South Asia and we are extremely grateful. As you know, it is very important to MSF that we use your contribution as you intend it to be used. This is why we want to let you know that at this time, MSF estimates that we have received sufficient funds for our currently foreseen emergency response in South Asia.

That is good news indeed. Let's keep up the donations.


Monday, January 03, 2005

Crazy Ass-Backwards Vietnam

What a nightmarish parade of murderous buffoonery. And you can quote me on that:
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, is reviewing a proposal to add hundreds of American military advisers to work directly with Iraqi units, whose disappointing performance could jeopardize the long-term American exit strategy from Iraq, senior military officials said Monday.


Opaque Government

Truly, isn't that the heart and soul of democracy?
Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales' confirmation hearing this week may become more contentious because the White House has refused to provide copies of his memos on the questioning of terror suspects.


If That Is the Case, Then, Why Bother?

That's my question to the Bush administration, expending energy to oppose an Ohio challenge when they could be, oh, I don't know, acting on their "mandate." If it's that bad, then let it fail, right?:
President Bush (news - web sites)'s re-election campaign asked the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday to throw out a challenge of the election in this swing state, saying the case resembles "a poorly drafted script for a late night conspiracy-theory movie."


Can Ya Say "Flip-Flop"?

Also known as "knowing when you're guilty/beat":
House Republicans suddenly reversed course Monday, deciding to retain a tough standard for lawmaker discipline and reinstating a rule that would force Majority Leader Tom DeLay to step aside if indicted by a Texas grand jury.

The surprise dual decisions were made by Speaker Dennis Hastert and by DeLay who asked GOP colleagues to undo the extreme act of loyalty they handed him in November. Then, Republicans changed a party rule, so DeLay could have retained his leadership post if indicted by the grand jury in Austin that charged three of the Texas Republican's associates.

Or it could be some huge GOP machination. Who knows?


More Good News About AIDS

One day, all these findings will come together. I've never had much faith in that, until these past few weeks. But there's something going on:
Researchers have developed a method of coaxing HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, out of hiding so it can be attacked.

HIV can become dormant and virtually undetectable to avoid destruction by highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), a treatment that uses a combination of anti-HIV drugs.

HAART can keep HIV under control. But the virus still lurks in the body and, given the chance, can replicate and attack the immune system.

Researchers at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia found that an immune cell protein called interleukin-7 is more effective than other previously-tested agents in persuading HIV to show itself and make it vulnerable to anti-HIV drugs and the body's immune system.

If further tests prove this method is effective, it could help in the development of improved treatment for HIV infection.


A Good Soldier

Will the right wingers support this particular Guardsman in his actions?

The trial of a Kentucky man charged in the baseball bat beating of an Ohio National Guardsman will begin this week in Newport.

Matthew Ashcraft, 19, was attacked after he came to the defense of a gay man who was being beaten outside a Newport bar last June.

Ashcraft, who is not gay, was with two gay friends on their way to Woolly's, an LGBT friendly bar. As they approached the club they saw Leon Hughes being harassed outside.

When Ashcraft intervened, the man who was assaulting Hughes left, then returned with a baseball bat and beat Ashcraft unconscious prosecutors said.

Ashcraft was struck on the back of his skull with the bat. As he slumped to the ground witnesses shielded Ashcraft from receiving more blows by putting their own bodies at risk until police arrived. Ashcraft was rushed to University Hospital in Cincinnati July 1, where he was treated for skull fractures, cranial bleeding and a blood clot on his brain.


Well, When You Put It Like That...

Angrygirl has done our homework for us, and come up with twenty fascinating facts about voting in America.


Schoolyard Politics

This is the DeLay effect. Not only are they trying to rewrite the ethics rules to help out, now they're contemplating mudslinging.

Way to address the issues, Republicans:
A group of House Republican lawmakers, stewing over a Democratic ethics complaint filed against Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), is pressing for the GOP to file a reciprocal complaint against Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for violating campaign-finance law.

That would shatter what’s left of the ethics truce party leaders forged in the late ’90s and could lead Republicans and Democrats to remilitarize the ethics battlefield with tit-for-tat complaints.


No Credit

Thanks to DeLay, Congress is likely to divest itself of even the barest appearance of honor:
"A member . . . officer or employee of the House shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House."

-- Code of Official Conduct, Rule XXIII, Clause 1.

OF ALL THE ethical rules governing the conduct of House members, this is perhaps the most critical. It has been used to discipline members for taking bribes, fixing parking tickets and having sex with House pages. It formed the basis for reprimanding former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Perhaps most pertinent, it was the rule cited by the House ethics committee earlier this year in its serial admonishments of Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for hosting a golf fundraiser for energy lobbyists on the eve of House consideration of the energy bill; offering to endorse the political campaign of a lawmaker's son in exchange for the member's vote on the prescription drug bill; and enlisting Federal Aviation Administration officials to hunt down fleeing Texas lawmakers who were foiling his redistricting plans for his home state.

No wonder House leaders want to eviscerate it.

Doing their customary end run around the ethics committee, House leaders are proposing to rewrite the provision as part of an overhaul of House rules for the incoming Congress. A draft circulated Wednesday to Republican members says the rule will be changed so that it won't apply if a lawmaker has otherwise followed "applicable laws, regulations and rules." Under the new rule, this catch-all provision -- which has caught some pretty egregious conduct in the past -- would be riddled with holes. No matter how slimy a lawmaker's behavior, it couldn't be deemed an ethical violation unless the ethics committee could cite a specific subparagraph of a specific regulation that was breached.


Worst-Phrased Headline Today

The award goes to the Chicago Sun-Times, for this clunker:
New stem cell research may save lives while preserving life

Um, okay...


The Big Guns

If even the AARP cannot stop Bush's Social Security scam, then nothing can. I'm glad to see they're getting into the fight early:
The AARP will launch a $5 million, two-week print campaign on Jan. 4 to oppose President George W. Bush's proposal to establish private Social Security accounts, according to the lobbying group for Americans 50 and older.

The work, which will appear in more than 50 newspapers including The New York Times and USA Today, was created by the AARP's current lead agency, GSD&M, an Omnicom Group shop in Austin, Texas. Ads proclaim that the Bush plan would, in fact, cause "Social Insecurity."


It Begins

The dangerous, scary poisoning of America has begun! Lesbians married in Massachusetts are fighting for their rights--the horror!
A Rhode Island court has been asked to determine if the Tiverton School District is required to extend health care coverage to the spouse of a lesbian teacher who was married in Massachusetts.

Cheryl McCullough married Joyce Boivin in June in Massachusetts where same-sex marriage is legal. McCullough, 60, and Boivin, 54, live in Swansea, Mass. McCullough, who worked for 27 years as a health teacher and guidance counselor at Tiverton High School, applied for health insurance shortly after the couple was married.

Although same-sex marriage is not legal in Rhode Island it is not banned either. The law is silent on a definition of what constitutes a married couple.

The labor contract between the teachers' union and the school system recognizes a marriage as long as it's valid in the state in which was performed.


Speaking Too Soon

I may have done so, in being proud of my home state for demonstrating a modicum of common sense when it comes to gay foster parents a few days ago. Arkansas is likely going to remain true to form:
Some Arkansas legislators say they're willing if a rewrite of state law is all that's needed to allow a board to restore a state ban on gay foster parents.

The state plans to appeal Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy Fox's ruling Wednesday that struck down the 1999 ban. (story) The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the regulation banning gays from serving as foster parents and prohibiting the placement of foster children in any home with a gay member under its roof.

But, whatever the outcome of the state's planned appeal, restoring the ban may be as simple as having the Legislature rewrite the powers of a foster-care review board to include authority over morality, Kathy L. Hall, the state's lead lawyer in the case, said.

Sen. Gilbert Baker, R-Conway, predicted that would happen during the regular legislative session that convenes Jan. 10.

"We need to do all we can to make sure these children are well cared-for and protected. A traditional family setting would be the situation I would prefer," he said.



Ohio Electors Are Illegitimate

It truly is astonishing to watch story after story of voting "irregularities" come out... while no one does anything about it. We sit back and watch the massive malfunction of our democracy as though it were a train wreck on prime time TV.

And it's very good to see Conyers, and others, stepping up and calling bullshit:
Representative John Conyers, ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, will object to the counting of the Ohio Electors from the 2004 Presidential election when Congress convenes to ratify those votes on January 6th. In a letter dispatched to every Senator, which will be officially published by his office shortly, Conyers declares that he will be joined in this by several other members of the House. Rep. Conyers is taking this dramatic step because he believes the allegations and evidence of election tampering and fraud render the current slate of Ohio Electors illegitimate.

"As you know," writes Rep. Conyers in his letter, "on January 6, 2005, at 1:00 P.M, the electoral votes for the election of the president are to be opened and counted in a joint session of Congress. I and a number of House Members are planning to object to the counting of the Ohio votes, due to numerous unexplained irregularities in the Ohio presidential vote, many of which appear to violate both federal and state law."

The letter goes on to ask the Senators who receive this letter to join Conyers in objecting to the Ohio Electors. "I am hoping that you will consider joining us in this important effort," writes Conyers, "to debate and highlight the problems in Ohio which disenfranchised innumerable voters. I will shortly forward you a draft report itemizing and analyzing the many irregularities we have come across as part of our hearings and investigation into the Ohio presidential election."

There are expected to be high level meetings with high ranking Democratic officials next week to coordinate a concerted lobbying effort to convince Senators to challenge the vote. The Green Party and David Cobb, as has been true all along, will be centrally involved in this process, as will Rev. Jesse Jackson.


Freedom Smack

Not to say "I told you so" or anything, but this is exactly the sort of Catch-22 that some of us on the left saw coming years in advance, as we watched the way that the Bush administration chose to prosecute the war in Afghanistan:
With a bumper poppy harvest expected in Afghanistan in the new year, a debate has erupted within the Bush administration on whether the United States should push for the crop's destruction despite the objections of the Afghan government.

Some U.S. officials advocate aerial spraying to reduce the opium crop, warning that if harvested, it could flood the West with heroin, fill the coffers of Taliban fighters and fund terrorist activity in Afghanistan and beyond. They estimate the haul could earn Afghan warlords up to $7 billion, up from a record $2.2 billion in 2004.

With the January planting season approaching, the State Department is asking Congress to earmark nearly $780 million in aid to Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer, for a counter-narcotics effort that would include $152 million for aerial eradication.

Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declared a "jihad" against the drug trade, he has vetoed aerial spraying. And his stance is supported by some U.S. officials, who warn that attempts at mass crop eradication in spring, during the campaign season for parliamentary elections scheduled for April, will alienate rural voters. Instead, they argue for a delay in crop eradication but a vigorous crackdown on drug traffickers.

The dispute underscores a vexing dilemma for the United States. Having ousted the Taliban from power, the Bush administration now finds that its three main policy objectives in the strategically important country — counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and political stability — appear to be contradictory.


Shirley Chisholm, RIP

I have to admit I knew next to nothing about her until her death, but hers was a remarkable life:
She died near Daytona Beach, Florida.

Chisholm was remembered as a staunch advocate for women and minorities and served seven terms in the House. She also ran for president in 1972.

Raised in Brooklyn, Chisholm was elected to Congress in 1968 and often criticized Congress for being too cliquish and unresponsive. She ascended to a place on the prized Education and Labor Committee and she was its third ranking member when she left.

Chisholm was also an Assemblywoman from 1964 to 1968 before besting James Farmer, the former national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, to gain the House seat.


Sunday, January 02, 2005

Anti-Gay Catholics, At It Again

The phrase "get a life" springs to mind:
A group of parents and parishioners has accused the Roman Catholic diocese of Orange County of violating church doctrine by allowing a gay couple to enroll their children in a Catholic school.

The group has demanded that St. John the Baptist School in Costa Mesa accept only families that pledge to abide by Catholic teachings. That would likely bar the men's two adopted boys from attending the school's kindergarten because of church opposition to relationships and adoption by same-sex couples.


The "Democracy" We Are Fighting For

Let's just put aside the absurdity of pretending you can have free and fair elections in a nation that is under military occupation and suffering daily strikes from the US military and from suicide bombers.

They don't even know who exactly is running:
Can you just imagine what our history books are going to look like 20 years from now?

"The first democratic elections were held in Iraq on January 29, 2005 under the ever-watchful collective eye of the occupation forces, headed by the United States of America. Troops in tanks watched as swarms of warm, fuzzy Iraqis headed for the ballot boxes to select one of the American-approved candidates..."

It won't look good.

There are several problems. The first is the fact that, technically, we don't know the candidates. We know the principal heads of the lists but we don't know who exactly will be running. It really is confusing. They aren't making the lists public because they are afraid the candidates will be assassinated.

And Riverbendblog goes on to wonder:
Yet another issue is the fact that on all the voting cards, the gender of the voter, regardless of sex, is labeled "male". Now, call me insane, but I found this slightly disturbing. Why was that done? Was it some sort of a mistake? Why is the sex on the card anyway? What difference does it make? There are some theories about this. Some are saying that many of the more religiously inclined families won't want their womenfolk voting so it might be permissible for the head of the family to take the women's ID and her ballot and do the voting for her. Another theory is that this 'mistake' will make things easier for people making fake IDs to vote in place of females.

Aren't we supposed to be there to "free" Iraqi women from oppressive Islam? Or something?



More evidence that the "War on Terror" is meant to be an actual war-without-end:
The United States is preparing to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely without trial, replacing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp with permanent prisons in the Cuban enclave and elsewhere, it was reported yesterday.

The new prisons are intended for captives the Pentagon and the CIA suspect of terrorist links but do not wish to set free or put on trial for lack of hard evidence.

The plans have emerged at a time when the US is under increasing scrutiny for the interrogation methods used on the roughly 550 "enemy combatants" at the Guantanamo Bay base, who do not have the same rights as traditional prisoners of war.

A leaked Red Cross report described the techniques used as "tantamount to torture".


Happy New Year

From the "The More Things Change..." Department:
A suicide car bomber hit a bus carrying Iraqi National Guards on Sunday, killing at least 23 people, in an attack obviously against Iraqi cooperation with US forces to secure the Jan. 30 elections.



After extensive travels and equally extensive travails, I've made it home (despite, may I add, all the best efforts of Delta Airlines to prevent me from making it--although perhaps I shouldn't say that, since, although I am home, they still have my luggage. Typical.)

And it is good to be home. It would have been better if the Flood Repair Fairies had visited in my absence, but alas, no.

However, I cannot begin to express the feeling of returning home and finding a veritable stack of boxes containing books from my wish list.

And so, thank you Mary, and Catherine, and Vicki, and Danielle, and michael, and two others whose invoices were torn in such a way as to obscure your names.

I continue to be amazed at your generosity--although, from what I know of you from online interactions, not terribly surprised. But utterly grateful.

Thank you all, and I wish you--wish us--a good, happy, and productive 2005.