Saturday, December 10, 2005

These Shoes Are Made for Crossing

This story is rather old, but I just ran across it, and am very impressed:
Declarations of emergency in US border states like Arizona and New Mexico have kicked the immigration debate into high gear.

Artist Judi Werthein has walked smack into the middle of this controversy.

She is hoping to leave her footprint with a special "crossing trainer" she has designed to help illegal immigrants negotiate the sometimes deadly terrain they encounter when crossing the border from Mexico to the US.

Migrants waiting for dark to hop the border fence from Tijuana into San Diego start calling out their shoe sizes when they see the boxes in Werthein's arms.
They call the act of crossing the "brinco" - literally "jump" in Spanish. And that is the inspiration for Werthein's crossing shoes, called Brincos.

The trainers are adorned with unusual items.

"The shoe includes a compass, a flashlight because people cross at night, and inside is included also some Tylenol painkillers because many people get injured during crossing," Werthein says.
A map - printed on the shoe's removable insole - shows the most popular illegal routes from Tijuana into San Diego.



I've mentioned this before, and now the evidence is accumulating. Bush's vanity war is going to destroy many more lives than are actually lost on the battlefield:
Army researchers saw alcohol misuse rise from 13 percent among soldiers to 21 percent one year after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, underscoring the continuing stress of deployment for some troops.

In post-deployment reassessment data completed in July, researchers also saw soldiers with anger and aggression issues increase from 11 percent to 22 percent after deployment. Those planning to divorce their spouse rose from 9 percent to 15 percent after time spent in the combat zone.

And that’s just the start of the problems, according to military family support groups.
“At the end of the day, wounded servicemembers have wounded families,” said Joyce Wessel Raezer, government relations director for the National Military Family Association.


Insult + Injury

Yet more evidence of exactly how this administration views American soldiers:
Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag -- greeted by a color guard.

But in reality, many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners -- stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo.


Information Wars

If you've been paying attention, this will come as no surprise:
The 1,200-strong psychological operations unit based at Fort Bragg turns out what its officers call "truthful messages" to support the United States government's objectives, though its commander acknowledges that those stories are one-sided and their American sponsorship is hidden.

"We call our stuff information and the enemy's propaganda," said Col. Jack N. Summe, then the commander of the Fourth Psychological Operations Group, during a tour in June. Even in the Pentagon, "some public affairs professionals see us unfavorably," and inaccurately, he said, as "lying, dirty tricksters."
Hoping to counter anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, the Bush administration has been conducting an information war that is extensive, costly and often hidden, according to documents and interviews with contractors, government officials and military personnel.

The campaign was begun by the White House, which set up a secret panel soon after the Sept. 11 attacks to coordinate information operations by the Pentagon, other government agencies and private contractors.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Bush Is a Pathetic, Petulant Child

It is extremely disturbing to think that such a being wields such power. I mean, it's not as though Bush was ever going to sign on anyway, so why all the stupid fuss? All it achieved is to prove, once again, that Clinton is a bigger man than Bush could ever dream of being.

Nauseating to think that global issues are nothing more to Bush than ego games:
Bush-administration officials privately threatened organizers of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, telling them that any chance there might’ve been for the United States to sign on to the Kyoto global-warming protocol would be scuttled if they allowed Bill Clinton to speak at the gathering today in Montreal, according to a source involved with the negotiations who spoke to New York Magazine on condition of anonymity.

Bush officials informed organizers of their intention to pull out of the new Kyoto deal late Thursday afternoon, soon after news leaked that Clinton was scheduled to speak, the source said.

The threat set in motion a flurry of frantic back-channel negotiations between conference organizers and aides to Bush and Clinton that lasted into the night on Thursday, and at one point Clinton flatly told his advisers that he was going to pull out and not deliver the speech, the source said.

“It’s just astounding,” the source told New York Magazine. “It came through loud and clear from the Bush people—they wouldn’t sign the deal if Clinton were allowed to speak.” Clinton spokesman Jay Carson confirmed the behind the dustup took place and that the former president had decided not to go out of fear of harming the negotiations, but Carson declined to comment further.

On Friday afternoon, Clinton did end up speaking at the conference, a global audience of diplomats, environmentalists, and others who were in the final hours of a two-week gathering devoted to discussing the future of the protocol, the existing emissions-controls agreement.


Friday Catblogging!


Murderous Environmentalist Nuns

Why do I not quite believe Sales's version of events? Perhaps because he shot her SIX times? Perhaps because she was 73 years old?
The man accused of killing American nun and rain forest defender Dorothy Stang told a jury Friday that he acted in self-defense after mistaking her Bible for a gun. Rayfran das Neves Sales is accused of killing Stang, 73, with six shots from a .38-caliber revolver on Feb. 12 on a muddy road deep in the heart of the Amazon rain forest.

Sales testified he and Stang had an argument over who owned the land he was working, and that Stang threatened to "finish him off" with the help of some 150 people living on a sustainable development reserve she was trying to establish.

"She said, 'The weapon I have is this,' and reached into her bag," Sales said. "I didn't know what she was going to pull out of her bag so I shot her."

Prosecutors allege that rancher Vitalmiro Moura offered Sales and co-defendant Clodoaldo Carlos Batista $25,000 to kill the nun, who spent the last 30 years of her life defending poor settlers in the rain forest. The prosecution contends that she was reading her Bible when she was shot at close range.


Witch Hunt

Honestly, anyone who gets this worked up about two girls kissing has serious issues:
A lesbian teen who was expelled in April for kissing another girl is suing her private school to ensure other students never have to experience what she went through.
In addition to asking for a pro-rated tuition refund plus $1 million in damages, the suit seeks an injunction on the "sexual immorality" clause in the school's code of conduct so that other students will not "suffer the unexpected harassment and humiliation that Jessica Bradley did."
The suit claims that Jessica was expelled after school officials questioned her and other students about her kissing a girl at a sleepover and her relationship with another female student "off-campus and in private."

By bringing other students into the discussions, the suit claims, rumors and gossip about Jessica spread around the school community and beyond, exposing the 15-year-old to "public ridicule."
While acknowledging that the private institution is immune from most equal protection claims, Clark says that because the school's code of conduct fails to define "sexual immorality," there was no way for Jessica to know that she might face expulsion.

"We want an injunction saying that you can't secretly ban gay students. If you're going to do that, then you have to come out and say it in plain English," Clark told "Right now, the code doesn't tell you anything about what sexual immorality is, aside from a few vague Biblical references."

"What Jessica did is not expressly forbidden in Scripture and a legal contract cannot be based upon vague principles of divine revelation," Clark said.


This Is the War on Christmas


See Paris Hilton in all her seductive splendor, striking a provocative pose for passing motorists and spreading hot Christmas cheer in a chilly Rhode Island winter.

Blown-up images of Hilton and strings of pink Christmas lights adorn the front lawn of a home in a middle-class neighborhood of this city, part of a head-turning holiday display that pays homage to the famed hotel heiress.

The over-the-top pictorial is the work of Joe Moretti, a 38-year-old designer who was arrested last year for trespassing on Martha Stewart's property in Maine.

Passersby get an eyeful of Hilton sporting a tiny pink top hiding little of her chest, or wearing knee-high boots and a sultry pout or holding a finger to her lips. Even Hilton's faithful Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, is celebrated in a colorful portrait.


Charges Likely in London Shooting

One wonders, in light of this, how the Florida shooting will play out:
The chair of the commission investigating the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes today said it was "likely" its findings would be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr De Menezes, a Brazilian national, was shot seven times in the head by armed police officers at Stockwell underground station, in south London, who thought he was a suicide bomber.

The handing over of the report from the Independent Police Complaints Commission could lead to criminal charges being brought against the officers.

Asked whether the report would be handed over, Nick Hardwick, the IPCC chair, said: "I think that is likely."


Bolivia's Indigenous, Socialist Candidate

To my chagrin, this is the first I have ever heard of this man, who appears to be one more instance of the turn of South America toward socialism (a strange vindication of Lenin years after the fall of the Soviet Union?):
Wracked by unrest, uncertainty, external interference, the IMF and a corrupt elite, Bolivia faces an election on December 18 that could see the ascension of Latin America's first wholly indigenous leader.

Barring mishaps, Evo Morales, a former coca farmer and union chief turned leader of the Movement to Socialism (MAS), seems certain to win the biggest share of the vote. It is a prospect that has the US scrambling to label him a narco-terrorist and pawn of Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. For many on the left, Mr Morales is the poster boy of anti-globalisation, an iconic figure who will chart an independent course for Bolivia, setting an example to others.
Coca is at the centre of Bolivia's election campaign. Mr Morales, 46, comes from a mining family, but when the mining sector collapsed at the end of the 1970s his family, like many others, moved from the high plains in the east near La Paz and turned to agriculture in the lower, central lands. Coca was the most lucrative crop, a plant revered for its curative properties and role in indigenous rituals; but then the US cracked down on drugs, coca growers became criminals and the sector collapsed. Today a limited amount of coca is grown in Bolivia.

"I want to make an alliance with the US, with others, a real alliance against drug trafficking, but not against the cocaleros [coca growers]," Mr Morales says, sitting in his campaign headquarters at La Paz. "Zero cocaine, but not zero coca."
"For the US," he continues, "the war on drugs is an excuse to better control other countries. In Latin America it is narco-terrorism. In Iraq, preventative wars and weapons of mass destruction. And what do they really want? To control the oil."

Bolivia suffers from what one analyst terms the "resource curse": it has oil. And natural gas. It used to have silver, but the Spanish took that to finance their empire.


Florida Shooting Ever More Suspicious

Surprise. The marshalls seem to have been lying:
At least one passenger aboard American Airlines Flight 924 maintains the federal air marshals were a little too quick on the draw when they shot and killed Rigoberto Alpizar as he frantically attempted to run off the airplane shortly before take-off.

"I don't think they needed to use deadly force with the guy," says John McAlhany, a 44-year-old construction worker from Sebastian, Fla. "He was getting off the plane." McAlhany also maintains that Alpizar never mentioned having a bomb.

"I never heard the word 'bomb' on the plane," McAlhany told TIME in a telephone interview. "I never heard the word bomb until the FBI asked me did you hear the word bomb. That is ridiculous." Even the authorities didn't come out and say bomb, McAlhany says. "They asked, 'Did you hear anything about the b-word?'" he says. "That's what they called it."

When the incident began McAlhany was in seat 24C, in the middle of the plane. "[Alpizar] was in the back," McAlhany says, "a few seats from the back bathroom. He sat down." Then, McAlhany says, "I heard an argument with his wife. He was saying 'I have to get off the plane.' She said, 'Calm down.'"

Alpizar took off running down the aisle, with his wife close behind him. "She was running behind him saying, 'He's sick. He's sick. He's ill. He's got a disorder," McAlhany recalls. "I don't know if she said bipolar disorder [as one witness has alleged]. She was trying to explain to the marshals that he was ill. He just wanted to get off the plane."


Ya Think?

Hm. The admission that access was denied to the Red Cross might increase suspicion of secret prisons? Shocking!
The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody.

The state department's top legal adviser, John Bellinger, made the admission but gave no details about where such prisoners were held.

Correspondents say the revelation is likely to increase suspicion that the CIA has been operating secret prisons outside international oversight.
He stated that the group International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had access to "absolutely everybody" at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which holds suspects detained during the US war on terror.

Until now the US administration has been careful in its language, says the BBC's state department correspondent Jonathan Beale.

War crimes, anyone?


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dykes on Bikes!

This may not seem like much, but it is a major victory. Seizing the power to define oneself in whatever terms one chooses is essential to seizing additional political and representational powers:
San Francisco lesbian bikers have won a major battle with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

For more than a year the San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent has been trying to trademark the name 'Dykes on Bikes'.

The non-profit group is a fixture at San Francisco gay pride celebrations. It says it decided to obtain a trademark for 'Dykes on Bikes' to protect the non-commercial use of the name and its meaning to the LGBT community from private commercial use.

'The Trademark Office twice rejected the group’s application on the ground that the word 'dyke' is disparaging to lesbians.


In Case You Need More to Worry About...

We're all gonna die!!! (In 2036.)
In Egyptian myth, Apophis was the ancient spirit of evil and destruction, a demon that was determined to plunge the world into eternal darkness.

A fitting name, astronomers reasoned, for a menace now hurtling towards Earth from outerspace. Scientists are monitoring the progress of a 390-metre wide asteroid discovered last year that is potentially on a collision course with the planet, and are imploring governments to decide on a strategy for dealing with it.

Nasa has estimated that an impact from Apophis, which has an outside chance of hitting the Earth in 2036, would release more than 100,000 times the energy released in the nuclear blast over Hiroshima. Thousands of square kilometres would be directly affected by the blast but the whole of the Earth would see the effects of the dust released into the atmosphere.


Brooks Sums It Up

Conservatism in a nutshell:
(When conservatism was a movement of ideas, it attracted oddballs; now that it's a movement with power, it attracts sleazeballs.)


Mike Wallace

He's all kinds of indignant these days:
Q. President George W. Bush has declined to be interviewed by you. What would you ask him if you had the chance?

A. What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel. You knew very little about the military. . . . The governor of Texas doesn't have the kind of power that some governors have. . . . Why do you think they nominated you? . . . Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up?


More Fun in Kansas

Just lovely:
Kansas City, Kan., resident Lorenzo Rubio is upset that his son, Zach, was suspended from the Turner School District's Endeaver School for two days.

He is even more upset that the reason Zach was suspended was not for fighting or causing trouble, but for speaking Spanish at lunchtime with his friends.

"My son called me on Monday and said he had been suspended for speaking Spanish," Rubio said. "I could not believe it. I went to the school and spoke to Mrs. (Jennifer) Watts and asked her if this was school policy. She told me, 'no,' but said 'We are not in Mexico, we are not in Germany.'"

Via Redneck Mother.


Behold the Power of Cheese

I don't think even Wallace of "Wallace & Gromit" would go this far:
In an unusual case of mistaken identity, a woman who thought a block of white cheese was cocaine is charged with trying to hire a hit man to rob and kill four men. The woman also was mistaken about the hit man. He turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Jessica Sandy Booth, 18, was arrested over the weekend and remains in jail with bond set at $1 million on four charges of attempted murder and four counts of soliciting a murder.

According to police, Booth was in the Memphis home of the four intended victims last week when she mistook a block of queso fresco cheese for cocaine — inspiring the idea to hire someone to break into the home, take the drugs, and kill the men.

An informant described the plot to police, who arranged a meeting between Booth and the undercover officer.

The undercover officer gave Booth some nonfunctioning handguns, bought ammunition for her because she was too young, and the two proceeded to the home under police surveillance.

Booth told the officer that any children inside the house old enough to testify would have to be killed, police said.


Raising Stupid Racism to an Art Form

Some people just have an indomitable will to be the most offensive morons they can possibly be:
Twenty San Francisco police officers are being suspended from duty after the discovery of homophobic racist videos produced by the officers.

The tapes featured uniformed officers parodying stereotypes of gays, transsexuals, Asians, Blacks and women.

The videos came to light when one was discovered on an officer's Web site. That officer was immediately suspended and the others connected with the tapes are expected to be placed on suspension Thursday.

"In the past several hours it has come to our attention that members of the San Francisco Police Department have engaged in gross misconduct while on duty," said a joint statement released Wednesday night by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief Heather Fong.


The Bullies Win

This is disheartening. Instead of hushing the whole thing up, any institution truly dedicated to education would use this incident as the phenomenal teaching moment it could be:
A University of Kansas professor who drew criticism for e-mails he wrote deriding Christian fundamentalists over creationism resigned Wednesday as chairman of the Department of Religious Studies.

Paul Mirecki stepped aside on the recommendation of his colleagues, according to Barbara Romzek, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"This allows the department to focus on what's most important — teaching, research and service — and to minimize the distractions of the last couple of weeks," Romzek said in a statement after receiving Mirecki's resignation.
On Monday, Mirecki was treated at a Lawrence hospital for head injuries after he said he was beaten by two men on a country road. He said the men referred to the creationism course. Law enforcement officials were investigating.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005





The Deficit Solution

Bush has it all figured out. Just force old and disabled people to pay back their student loans. We've got to pay for pointless wars somehow:
America's seniors and disabled cannot escape debts from old student loans, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, freeing the government to pursue Social Security benefits as part of an effort to collect billions in delinquent loans.

The Bush administration had argued that the ability to withhold Social Security benefits is an important tool in the pursuit of $5.7 billion in student loan debt that is over 10 years old. Overall, outstanding loans total about $33 billion.


The Rat's Only Priority

Social justice? Not so much.

It's the gays:
The Vatican's top man in America has asked Boston Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley to step in and stop allowing Catholic Charities of Boston to place adoptive children with same-sex couples.
Peter Meade, the chair of Catholic Charities also declined to comment.

Meade has been under fire since it became known earlier this year that a handful of children had been placed with gay and lesbian couples.

At the time Catholic Charities said that because it accepts money from the state it could not discriminate.



I feel sorry for everyone involved in this incident:
An agitated passenger who claimed to have a bomb in his backpack was shot and killed by a federal air marshal Wednesday after he bolted frantically from a jetliner that was boarding for takeoff, officials said. No bomb was found.

It was the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks that an air marshal had shot at anyone, Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Doyle said. Another federal official said there was no apparent link to terrorism.

According to a witness, the passenger ran down the aisle of the Boeing 757, flailing his arms, while his wife tried to explain that he was mentally ill and had not taken his medication.

The passenger, identified as Rigoberto Alpizar, "uttered threatening words that included a sentence to the effect that he had a bomb," said James E. Bauer, agent in charge of the Federal Air Marshals field office in Miami. He was confronted by air marshals but ran off the aircraft.

Doyle said the marshals went after him and ordered him to get down on the ground, but he did not comply and was shot when he apparently reached into the bag.


Incompetence, Long Term

Brown should have been fired long ago:

FEMA's top official was told more than a year before Hurricane Katrina that the agency's emergency response teams were unprepared for a major disaster and were operating under outdated plans, documents show.
An 11-page memo to Michael Brown, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, from June 2004 described teams of national response managers that were not prepared and were getting "zero funding for training, exercise or team equipment."

Those responders "provide the only practical, expeditious option for the (FEMA) director to field a cohesive team of his best people to handle the next big one," wrote William Carwile, one of FEMA's federal coordinating officers.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Hilarious. This is one screwed-up country:
A Christmas tree decorated by elementary school students has been removed from Oklahoma's Capitol after complaints by a lawmaker.

Each Christmas, Gov. Brad Henry asks Oklahoma schools to decorate a tree. That tree is put on display in the Capitol, and the governor picks one as his favorite.

Westwood Elementary's tree came dressed for the season, complete with snowmen, stars and Santa Claus. But it didn't deliver Christmas joy to everyone, reported KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City.

Students at the Oklahoma City school added state lottery tickets as ornaments. Teachers went to various convenience stores and got used lottery tickets, which were cut out into various holiday-centric shapes.

One state representative took offense.

"I certainly think it inappropriately twists the meaning and the spirit of Christmas," said Rep. Randy Terrill, a lottery opponent.

According to Oklahoma City Public Schools spokeswoman Sherry Fair, the "lotto tree," as it's being called, was the result of classroom discussion about the lottery and its impact on education.

"They had been learning about the lottery and how it was going to benefit education," Fair said.


Divorce Is Good for You

Or, rather, it is better than staying in a hostile relationship:
Being in an unhappy marriage may be hard on the body as well as the heart.

A new study shows couples that often argue may take longer to heal from simple wounds than those in less hostile relationships.


Heartland Values

Amazing. This is what reason is up against: Brutal idiocy.
A professor whose planned course on creationism and intelligent design was canceled after he sent e-mails deriding Christian conservatives was hospitalized Monday after what appeared to be a roadside beating.

University of Kansas religious studies professor Paul Mirecki said that the two men who beat him made references to the class that was to be offered for the first time this spring.


Monday, December 05, 2005


Ugh. Now they are claiming the right to deny insemination to all unmarried couples. And using this "right" to do an end-run around gay rights protections. Of course, the fact that gay marriage is illegal in California is completely irrelevant, right?
A state appeals court has ruled that two fertility doctors had the right to refuse to artificially inseminate a lesbian based on her marital status because it would have violated their religious beliefs.

Friday's ruling reversed a lower court decision that Drs. Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton could not use religion as a defense against a lawsuit filed by Guadalupe Benitez.

The panel found that the doctors were within their rights because they based their decision on Benitez's unmarried status and that discrimination based on marital status is not prohibited by state law.


Capitalism v. New Orleans

Just appalling. If we were more committed to democracy and social justice than to capitalism and profit in this nation, such behavior would raise the very real threat that BellSouth would have its articles of incorporation revoked and be dissolved as an economic entity:
Hours after New Orleans officials announced Tuesday that they would deploy a city-owned, wireless Internet network in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, regional phone giant BellSouth Corp. withdrew an offer to donate one of its damaged buildings that would have housed new police headquarters, city officials said yesterday.

According to the officials, the head of BellSouth's Louisiana operations, Bill Oliver, angrily rescinded the offer of the building in a conversation with New Orleans homeland security director Terry Ebbert, who oversees the roughly 1,650-member police force.

City officials said BellSouth was upset about the plan to bring high-speed Internet access for free to homes and businesses to help stimulate resettlement and relocation to the devastated city.
The police have been scattered in hotels, precinct stations and other makeshift locations since the headquarters was ruined in the hurricane and had been preparing to move to the building after months of discussions with the phone company, city officials said.

The building suffered basement flooding and needs some repairs but has 250,000 usable square feet of space.


DeLay Going to Trial

At long last. I am relieved that it survived the barrage of motions to dismiss, and more than pleased that this means that he cannot return to power:
A Texas judge declined to dismiss money-laundering charges against Representative Tom DeLay, paving the way for a criminal trial and preventing the lawmaker from reclaiming his post as U.S. House majority leader for now.
Today's ruling may mean the end of DeLay's tenure as the No. 2 House Republican.