Saturday, February 25, 2006

Yet More Cats!



Just lovely:
ORLANDO, Fla. - Fist fights broke out and police made more than a dozen arrests at a neo-Nazi rally and march Saturday through a predominantly black neighborhood.


Sad, Pathetic Bigotry

What more can one say?
The Eagleswood School District will meet Monday to hear a parent's demand that a transgendered substitute teacher be either fired or parents allowed to have their children taught by someone else.

Lily B. McBeth became a substitute teacher after retiring from her job as a medical marketing executive. At age 70 she says she knows something about kids. Before transitioning last year she fathered and raised three of her own.

The school district says that her teaching record is among the best in the state.
But none of that is good enough for parent Mark Schnepp.

Schnepp has two children attending school in district. He says that the idea of someone who had a sex change teaching his children is an affront to his convictions.

"It violates my religious beliefs," the 39-year-old told the Asbury Park Press.


They've Got Nothin'

Our supposed training of the Iraqis comes to naught:
The only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded to a level requiring them to fight with American troops backing them up, the Pentagon said Friday.

The battalion, made up of 700 to 800 Iraqi Army soldiers, has repeatedly been offered by the U.S. as an example of the growing independence of the Iraqi military.

The competence of the Iraqi military has been cited as a key factor in when U.S. troops will be able to return home.


Permanent War

We've succeeded in creating it, it would seem:

Iraq's defence minister says a civil war will never end if it erupts as violence escalates across Iraq since the destruction of a Shia shrine on Wednesday.

Speaking at a joint news conference on Saturday afternoon, Saadun al-Dulaimi also said Iraq would not hesitate to dispatch tanks to the streets to end violence and impose security.

"We are ready to fill the streets with armoured vehicles," he told a news conference televised live to the nation on state television.



I worked briefly at the Verdi Mart, and I have to say that it's as good a place as any to get the lowdown on the state of New Orleans:
Hurricane Katrina and the ongoing governmental abdication of responsibility for helping the residents of this stricken city has left the remaining populace angry and weary even as it has geared up for the giant party it is expected to host Tuesday. "The fact that underage suburban tourists can puke on Bourbon Street without fear of going to jail doesn't mean that things are all right with New Orleans," said Terry Fredericks, a cook at one of the French Quarter's all-night eateries, Verdi Mart.

With three quarters of the city literally in ruins, sporadic electricity, postal service and traffic lights, and only the most limited public transportation available, the few residents who've been able to return to New Orleans bristle whenever bromides are delivered about things being back to normal.




Friday, February 24, 2006

R.I.P. George Wheeler

The many volunteers who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War are, in my opinion (Miriam here) among the great heroes of the 20th century. Their numbers are being rapidly depleted, and another one has passed, and it seems fitting to mark his passing here. (He passed away on 11. February, but I only just now got the obit on the SCW list I'm on.)

George Wheeler, a carpenter from south London, was one of the 2,000 or so volunteers from Britain who defied their government and secretly crossed the Pyrenees to fight on the side of the Republic during the Spanish Civil War....

Like his father, Wheeler was a member of the Labour Party, but through friends in the Communist Party, the driving force behind recruitment to the International Brigades, he made contact with the London-based clandestine organisation helping them to travel to Spain. The British government was enforcing the 1870 Foreign Enlistment Act to prevent volunteers going to Spain, so Wheeler, like others, had to pretend to be travelling to France for the weekend. It was May 1938 when he set off from Victoria Station for Paris and on to Spain with two other recruits. They were Kevin Rebecchi, from Melbourne, Australia, who was to die in Spain, and Liverpool docker Jack Jones, who became one of the great postwar union leaders in Britain.

What impresses and awes me about the Spanish Civil War International Brigaders is that they volunteered to fight for freedom -- often, like Wheeler, contravening the orders of their own government -- for a country they had never seen. They arrived in Spain for the first time ever already prepared to die for the freedom of the Spanish Republic. It is a courage and conviction that is awe-inspiring; leftists of all stripes (for a time, at least) came together and fought for the liberty of Spain. They lost the battle, but, with Franco's death in 1975 and more completely with the Spanish republic's honoring of the IB volunteers in 1996, they won the war. And perhaps more importantly, they reminded -- and continue to remind -- us that international solidarity is not mere words. Theirs is a lasting, inspiring example that those of us on the left should be more aware of, and do more honor to. As La Pasionaria (Dolores Ibárruri) put it:

You are the heroic example of democracy's solidarity and universality in the face of the vile and accommodating spirit of those who interpret democratic principles with their eyes on hoards of wealth or corporate shares which they want to safeguard from all risk.

Sound familiar? As a propos now as it was in 1938.

Thank you, George Wheeler, and thank you, International Brigades.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sheer Coincidence

Weird that the nation that served as a staging ground for some of the 9/11 attackers, and that now is set to have one of its corporations run six US ports, gave so much cash to help with the Katrina recovery (and what's being done with that cash, by the way?):
Weeks before one of its companies sought US approval for its ports deal, the United Arab Emirates contributed US$100 million to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, officials confirmed Thursday.

The Bush administration said the money it received from the United Arab Emirates was nearly four times as much as it received from all other countries combined. Other countries, including some in the Middle East, also pledged large contributions but have not yet sent the money.


Another Casualty

Seriously screwed up:
Army officials have recommended a court-martial for a Purple Heart recipient accused of stabbing his young wife 71 times with knives and a meat cleaver.

Spc. Brandon Bare, 19, of Wilkesboro, N.C., was charged with premeditated murder and indecent acts related to the mutilation of his wife's remains.
Witnesses testified that Bare had enrolled in treatment programs for anger management and combat stress after his return from Iraq. He had said he was having trouble controlling his anger and didn't like his wife going out and partying, said Michael Collins, a nurse and case manager at Madigan Army Medical Center.

A day before his wife was found dead in the couple's kitchen, Bare told his rear detachment commander Capt. Mickey Traugutt that he was taking a new prescription that made it hard to get up and that he had missed a treatment.


Good Capitalists

Plus, they are pro-recycling!
The owner of a New Jersey biomedical company and three other men have been indicted for alleging plotting to carve up cadavers from New York funeral homes and selling the bone and skin for transplants, authorities said Thursday.



Just vile:
Six men have been arrested in connection with the murder of a teenager, stoned to death because she was a lesbian.

Two weeks ago Zoliswa Nkonyana, 19, was reportedly stabbed and stoned to death by a mob of young people in Khayelitsha.

The suspects arrested in the case are between the ages of 17 an 19. They will appear in court on today to hear murder charges read against them.

As gays and lesbians become more visible in South African townships, they are increasingly becoming targets of homophobia, according to rights activists.

"I have recorded 50 rape cases, dating back 10 years, involving black lesbians in townships," Zanele Muholi, a community relations officer with the NGO, Forum for the Empowerment of Women said.

Nkonyana was a member of a lesbian soccer club.

She was with a 17-year-old lesbian friend when another woman began taunting them, saying they "wanted to get raped".

They told the woman they were lesbians and to leave them alone.

The woman left and then returned with about 20 teens who began beating them, said Nkonyana's friend, who was too terrified to be named.

The friend managed to run away. Nkonyana ran towards her house but the mob threw bricks at her until she was lying on the ground.

They continued to throw bricks until she was dead.


Well, Um, You Guys Had the Holocaust!

Karen Hughes gets a tad defensive with Der Spiegel over the Abu Ghraib photos:
Those pictures are disgusting and, frankly, I'm embarrassed, as an American, to think that people around the world associate those pictures with our country. Those pictures are old and represent crimes for which many people have already been punished, including one who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in prison. We don't want to be defined by those pictures, any more than the people of Germany would want your country to be defined by pictures of crimes.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

South Dakota Is the First to Go

Hello, Gilead:
South Dakota became the first U.S. state to pass a law banning abortion in virtually all cases, with the intention of forcing the Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 decision legalizing the procedure.

The law, which would punish doctors who perform the operation with a five-year prison term and a $5,000 fine, awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Michael Rounds and people on both sides of the issue say he is unlikely to veto it.

"My understanding is we are the first state to truly defy Roe v. Wade," the 1973 high court ruling that granted a constitutional right to abortion, said Kate Looby of Planned Parenthood's South Dakota chapter.


Civil War Advances

This is very, very bad:

Insurgents detonated bombs inside one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, destroying its golden dome and triggering more than 90 reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques. The president warned that extremists were pushing the country toward civil war.

With the gleaming dome of the 1,200-year-old Askariya shrine reduced to rubble, leaders on both sides called for calm and many Shiites lashed out at the United States as partly to blame. But the string of back-and-forth attacks seemed to push Iraq closer to all-out civil war than at any point in the three years since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein.


This Is Bush's "I'm Participating" Face

US President George W. Bush participates in a discussion on energy initiatives at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Bush acknowledged sending "mixed signals" on energy policy by firing, then rehiring, employees at a laboratory that studies renewable energy sources.


Where's My Bodyguards? This Here's a Turrist!

US President George W. Bush (R) poses with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


Hillary: Complete Disappointment

The LGBT community of New York gets it right:
The head of New York State's largest LGBT civil rights organization is calling for an end to financial support by gays of Hillary Rodham Clinton's re-election campaign because of her refusal to support same-sex marriage.

The call was made by Alan Van Capelle, Pride Agenda's executive director in a confidential memo to the group's board members. The memo was obtained by a New York political blog, the Politicker.

Pride Agenda confirmed the contents of the leaked memo for Wednesday but refused to comment further.

Van Capelle's memo calls the New York senator "a complete disappointment." It cites her support for the Defense of Marriage Act, although she opposes a federal amendment to ban same-sex marriage and has said she supports civil unions.


Rot, Murderer

He's staying in jail for a long, long time:
A federal judge has refused to grant a review to the case of Russell Henderson, one of two men convicted in the slaying of Matthew Shepard.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

An Onslaught of Cats with a Gratuitous Rose

plus a cameo by sleeping rorschach's arm...


The End of the End of History

Fukuyama cuts and runs:

NEOCONSERVATISM has failed the United States and needs to be replaced by a more realistic foreign policy agenda, according to one of its prime architects.

Francis Fukuyama, who wrote the best-selling book The End of History and was a member of the neoconservative project, now says that, both as a political symbol and a body of thought, it has "evolved into something I can no longer support". He says it should be discarded on to history's pile of discredited ideologies.


Going further, he says the movements' advocates are Leninists who "believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practised by the United States".


Killing Detainees

Almost a hundred deaths in US custody. Over a third of them homicides:
Almost 100 prisoners have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, according to US group Human Rights First.

The details were first aired on BBC television's Newsnight programme.

Of the 98 deaths, at least 34 were suspected or confirmed homicides, the programme said.


Bikers v. Deranged Christians

Anyone who runs interference on the Phelps clan is good in my book:
Wearing vests covered in military patches, a band of motorcyclists rolls around the country from one soldier's funeral to another, cheering respectfully to overshadow jeers from church protesters.They call themselves the Patriot Guard Riders, and they are more than 5,000 strong, forming to counter anti-gay protests held by the Rev. Fred Phelps at military funerals.

Phelps believes American deaths in Iraq are divine punishment for a country that he says harbors homosexuals. His protesters carry signs thanking God for so-called IEDs -- explosives that are a major killer of soldiers in Iraq.

The bikers shield the families of dead soldiers from the protesters, and overshadow the jeers with patriotic chants and a sea of red, white and blue flags.

"The most important thing we can do is let families know that the nation cares," said Don Woodrick, the group's Kentucky captain. "When a total stranger gets on a motorcycle in the middle of winter and drives 300 miles to hold a flag, that makes a powerful statement."


Potemkin Village

Yet another pathetic display of incompetent politics and incoherent governance:
The Energy Department said it has come up with $5 million to immediately restore jobs cut at a renewable energy laboratory President George W. Bush will visit on Tuesday, avoiding a potentially embarrassing moment as the president promotes his energy plan.


So Long, Sucker

Perhaps there was something innate, due to his gender, that prevented him from succeeding as Harvard's president:
Lawrence H. Summers is resigning as president of Harvard University at the end of the academic year, the school announced on its Web site Tuesday.

Summers' resignation ends the briefest tenure of any Harvard president since 1862, when Cornelius Felton died after two years in office.

The announcement comes a week before an expected no-confidence vote by the Harvard faculty, who have criticized Summers leadership style and comments about women in science.

"I have reluctantly concluded that the rifts between me and segments of the Arts and Sciences faculty make it infeasible for me to advance the agenda of renewal that I see as crucial to Harvard's future," Summers wrote in a letter posted on Harvard's Web site. "I believe, therefore, that it is best for the University to have new leadership."

Last year, Summers suggested that innate gender differences between the sexes might explain the few women in science and math.


Defending Religious Freedom, Again

How many times is this case going to have to come up before people just get it through their heads to mind their own business?
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a small congregation in New Mexico may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God.

Justices, in their first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, moved decisively to keep the government out of a church's religious practice. Federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the hoasca tea of the Brazil-based church, Roberts wrote in the decision.

The tea, which contains an illegal drug known as DMT, is considered sacred to members of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal, which has a blend of Christian beliefs and South American traditions. Members believe they can understand God only by drinking the tea, which is consumed twice a month at four-hour ceremonies.


It Begins

Already, the Supremes are set to hear arguments about "partial-birth" abortions, which don't actually exist in any medical sense:
The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will consider the constitutionality of banning a type of late-term abortion, teeing up a contentious issue for a newly-constituted court already in a state of flux over privacy rights.

The Bush administration has pressed the high court to reinstate the federal law, passed in 2003 but never put in effect because it was struck down by judges in California, Nebraska and New York.

The outcome will likely rest with the two men that President Bush has recently installed on the court. Justices had been split 5-4 in 2000 in striking down a state law, barring what critics call partial birth abortion because it lacked an exception to protect the health of the mother.


PreDawn Catblogging


Monday, February 20, 2006

Mission Almost Accomplished!

Hallelujah! All this worry about oil has been pointless, as new technologies will free us from oil-dependence any day now! Thank you Bush!
Saying the nation is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that would "startle" most Americans, President Bush on Monday outlined his energy proposals to help wean the country off foreign oil.
Bush is focusing on energy at a time when Americans are paying high power bills to heat their homes this winter and have only recently seen a decrease in gasoline prices.

One of Bush's proposals would expand research into smaller, longer-lasting batteries for electric-gas hybrid cars, including plug-ins. He highlighted that initiative with a visit Monday to the battery center at Milwaukee-based auto-parts supplier Johnson Controls Inc.

During his trip, Bush is also focusing on a proposal to increase investment in development of clean electric power sources, and proposals to speed the development of biofuels such as "cellulosic" ethanol made from wood chips or sawgrass.


Torture Okay, Government in the Clear

Just grand:

A federal judge has tossed out a civil rights lawsuit filed by a Syrian-born Canadian man who claimed U.S. counterterrorism officials deported him so he could be tortured in Syria.

Maher Arar had sued the officials in 2004 in what was believed to be the first case challenging extraordinary rendition - the policy of transferring foreign terror suspects to third countries without court approval.

U.S. District Judge David G. Trager rejected arguments that Arar was protected by the Torture Victim Prevention Act, which allows U.S. courts to assess damages for human rights abuses committed abroad.

Arar maintains that once imprisoned in Damascus, he was tortured into making false confessions of terrorist activity. Arar said he was held for more than a year in a dark, damp cell, then was released without ever being charged.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

War on Oil

Not so much a war for oil at this point, really:
Iraq has lost over USD 6 billion throughout 2005 due to sabotage operations against its oil sector facilities, a senior official told KUNA on Saturday.


The Thin Yellow Line

Another bold anti-terrorist initiative:
The war on terror has a new front line — the school bus line. Financed by the Homeland Security Department, school bus drivers are being trained to watch for potential terrorists, people who may be casing their routes or plotting to blow up their buses.


Walkin' to New Orleans

A brilliant idea, tying the waste of the needless war in Iraq to the government's abandonment of New Orleans in its time of dire need:
As we enter the fourth year of this illegal, unjust, and unnecessary war, Veterans For Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Gold Star Families for Peace, along with Katrina survivor organizations in the region, are organizing a 135-mile, 5-day march from Mobile, AL to New Orleans, LA.


We Still Love Willie

Fresh off of releasing a song about gay cowboys, Willie's helping to raise the spirits of soldiers wounded in Iraq:
Willie Nelson warmed up for a concert by playing a long freebie gig for soldiers injured in Iraq.

For the second straight year, Nelson squeezed in a show at Brooke Army Medical Center on Friday while he and his band were in San Antonio to play at the city's annual rodeo.

"I have a lot of respect for the military," said Nelson, 72, an Air Force veteran. "I like to show them that I support them every chance I get. ... We get as much out of it as (the soldiers)."


Elected Leader of Venezuela Is Threat to Democracy

Once again, the United States proves that it is for democracy as long as it results in leaders whom we like. That is, leaders who don't mind having the resources of their nations stripped and sent to the US, with US corporations profiting all the while.

Chavez doesn't quite fit this twisted vision, so we're ramping up the rhetoric:
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is one of the biggest dangers facing Latin America, Washington has said.

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said Mr Chavez was trying to influence others away from democracy, and called for a united front against him.

President Chavez responded by accusing the US of aggression, saying "world opinion is with Venezuela".


Temporal Distortion

Of all the places to situate a spaceport, the UAE is among the oddest choices. Of course, we are apparently handing over control of six of America's ports to them, so what the hell:
A day after Space Adventures announced it was in a venture to develop rocket ships for suborbital flights, the company said Friday it plans to build a $265 million spaceport in the United Arab Emirates.


Poetic Find

Such discoveries are always cause for rejoicing:
Twenty years after his death, the British poet Philip Larkin has spoken again in a set of tapes stashed in an attic.

Larkin's informal recital of nearly 30 poems more than doubles the number of his known recordings. "It's particularly promising that these have got him reading some of his earliest verse," says Wendy Cole of the Philip Larkin Society.

I will be particularly pleased if, among these poems, he read this one, which I love:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.


Tyranny: Requiring Students to Learn

The horror. Students have no constitutional right to refuse to unlearn hatred:
Students have no religious or free speech right to opt-out of school training aimed at stopping anti-gay harassment in Boyd County schools, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning said "there is simply no basis for an opt-out" by three students who skipped mandatory sessions at Boyd County schools because the training did not endorse any viewpoint or require a student to disavow their religious beliefs.


American Military Behaving Illegally

Shocking, I know, that our military would display such arrogance:
THE American military have been operating flights across Europe using a call sign assigned to a civilian airline that they have no legal right to use.

Not only is the call sign bogus — according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) — so, it appears, are some of the aircraft details the Americans have filed with the air traffic control authorities.

In at least one case, a plane identified with the CIA practice of “extraordinary rendition” — transporting terrorist suspects — left a US air base just after the arrival of an aircraft using the bogus call sign.


Making the World Safer

A more effective nuclear arsenal in the hands of Pakistan makes me feel so much better:

Pakistan has successfully test-fired a short-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile.

A military statement on Sunday said the Hatf-II/Abdali ground-to-ground missile had a range of 200km and could carry "nuclear and other types of warheads".