Saturday, March 11, 2006

Romney: Pro-Discrimination

Lovely tactic:
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has announced plans to file a bill exempting religious organizations from the state's nondiscrimination law in the wake of Friday's decision by the Catholic church to get out of the adoption business.


Fostering the Fear

It's the Cold War all over again, only now the evil leftists are to our south:
A Pomona College professor of Latin American history said Friday that he was questioned about his Venezuela connections by two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies working for a federal task force and called the quizzing an intrusion on his academic freedom.

The college's president weighed in as well, saying he feared the "chilling effect" such visits could have on academia.

Professor Miguel Tinker-Salas said the deputies entered his office without an appointment Tuesday during hours normally set aside for student conferences. He said the deputies were there for about 25 minutes and asked him about the Venezuelan community and his relationship with it. They also told him he was not the subject of an investigation.

"They cast the Venezuelan community as a threat," said Tinker-Salas, an outspoken critic of U.S. policy in Latin America who was born in Venezuela. "They asked me if the Venezuelan government had influenced me one way or another. I think they were fishing to see if I had any information they could use."


Packing It In?

I confess myself skeptical that I will ever see the closing of Guantanamo, but...
The US has asked the British government for advice in preparation for closing down the notorious prison camp at Guantanamo Bay by sending hundreds of alleged al-Qa'ida fighters back to their home countries, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.


Rumsfeld: Fear Profiteer

Donald Rumsfeld has made a killing out of bird flu. The US Defence Secretary has made more than $5m (£2.9m) in capital gains from selling shares in the biotechnology firm that discovered and developed Tamiflu, the drug being bought in massive amounts by Governments to treat a possible human pandemic of the disease.


Democracy's Death of a Thousand Cuts

If the people do not know what the government is doing, it cannot be a government of the people or by the people, much less for the people. And slowly but surely, our right to know is being whittled away:
States have steadily limited the public's access to government information since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a new Associated Press analysis of laws in all 50 states has found. Legislatures have passed more than 1,000 laws changing access to information, approving more than twice as many measures that restrict information as laws that open government books.

Some things your government doesn't have to tell you about:

• The safety plan at your child's school, if you live in Iowa.

• Medication errors at your grandparent's nursing home in North Carolina.

• Disciplinary actions against Indiana state employees.
"What we see nationwide is states really backing away from their open access laws," said Fred H. Cate, an Indiana University law professor who studies privacy and technology. Security threats are real — but some lawmakers are just "taking advantage of the public security tide," he said.


Cheney: Still As Diplomatically Savvy As Ever

Like a verbal shotgun to the face, Cheney said this at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee:
Over the past four years, other free nations have risen in the broader Middle East. … Across that region, the political dialogue has been transformed — and politicians, scholars, students, and men and women from every walk of life are talking about freedom, equal rights, and accountable institutions of government. One leader in Lebanon said: “When I saw the Iraqi people voting, it was the start of a new Arab world…The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”

This leader of whom he speaks? Walid Jumblatt, a virulent anti-semite.

Hold onto your hats and read some of the other things this leader in Lebanon has said:

– “We are all happy when U.S. soldiers are killed [in Iraq] week in and week out. The killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is legitimate and obligatory.” [Link]

– “The oil axis is present in most of the U.S. administration, beginning with its president, vice-president and top advisers, including (Condoleezza) Rice, who is oil-colored, while the axis of Jews is present with Paul Wolfowitz, the leading hawk who is inciting (America) to occupy and destroy Iraq.” [Link]

– “In November 2003, the United States revoked Jumblatt’s diplomatic visa for wishing out loud that Wolfowitz had been killed in a Baghdad rocket attack.” [Link]

Good job, Cheney.


Vernon Robinson Is Batshit Insane

Crooks and Liars has the video of Robinson's completely deranged campaign ad.

You have to see it to believe it.


Post Cutting Back

And the odds of any actual reporting being done drop just a little bit further:
The Washington Post Co. (WPO.N: Quote, Profile, Research) plans to cut 80 positions from the Washington Post's editorial staff as it grapples with a steady decline in circulation, a union representative said on Friday.
"It's always worrisome when you cut back at your core newsgathering operation," Weiss said. "There's going to be nothing to serve up to the radio station or the TV or the Web site if we don't have time and people to actually dig out the news and get it right and write our stories."


Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

He's dead, it seems:
Belgrade's B-92 radio said former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had been found dead on Saturday in his cell at The Hague, where he has been on trial for war crimes since 2002.

The station said it had heard the news from unofficial sources. Legal sources in Belgrade said they could not confirm the reports.


A Human Education

I have not heard of this movement before now and find it absolutely fascinating. More like this, please:
The School for Human Rights is one of nearly 150 "small" public schools that opened in New York City in the last three years under a national movement to raise student achievement by shrinking school sizes. Such schools often have specific themes. Although it's normal for schools to discuss human rights, one built around the concept is rare.

"We're not teaching the kids what to think, but to think," Principal Kevin Dotson said, adding that some topics require "scaffolding" first. "We don't just hit sixth graders with 'Let's talk about torture today!"'

The school strives to produce "socially engaged young adults committed to equity, dignity and social consciousness," according to its mission statement.

Human rights groups are closely watching it as they seek ways to influence educational curricula nationwide. Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Education Associates have helped plan the school.

Students tackle topics from colonialism to the United Nations. They may track census data on poverty in their neighborhoods as part of math class or read novels on genocide for literature credit.


Life on Enceladus?

With newly discovered signs of liquid water, a moon of Saturn joins the small, highly select group of places in the solar system that could plausibly support life.
Life requires at least three ingredients — water, heat and carbon-based molecules — and Enceladus may possess all three. As Cassini flew through the plumes of vapor and ice crystals rising into space from the eruptions, it also detected simple carbon-based molecules like methane and carbon dioxide, which suggest more complicated carbon molecules may lie on the moon's surface.


The Hardest Working Women in Radio

A very interesting idea. Any time that sex workers are able to organize, good things tend to result. I foresee a lot of good coming of this:
Prostitutes in the Brazilian city of Salvador are starting up their own radio station.

The Association of Prostitutes of Bahia state has won government permission for the project, enabling FM station Radio Zona to start broadcasting in the second half of the year, project coordinator Sandro Correia said on Thursday.

"We are not going to apologize for prostitution but we are going to struggle for the dignity of the profession," Correia told Reuters.

The aim was not to attract women to the business. The station will feature programs about the trade but will also discuss issues such as human rights, social questions, and sexual abuse, Correia said.

"The idea is that we have diverse programs that look at health issues, AIDS prevention, and racism, for example," he said.

Working girls and media professionals such as Correia will staff the station and will give prostitutes training in an alternative job. Funding will come from association funds, advertising and sponsorship.




Surreality TV

How's this for a postmodern moment?
Osama bin Laden's niece, an aspiring singer who posed for a sexy photo shoot in a men's magazine last year, has signed up for a reality television show about her life and her as-yet-unfulfilled "quest for stardom".
"Her story will bridge the gap that people feel exists between the cultures she has lived in," ReganMedia President Judith Regan said.

"She is also a young woman who falls in love, has her heart broken, worries about her looks, doesn't always listen to her mother, and hasn't spoken to her father in years," Regan said.
The statement did not say when the show would be aired or on what channel.


Congratulations, President Bachelet

Seen here with Evo Morales, Bachelet is Chile's first woman president, and is a socialist, and an agnostic, and (gasp!) a single mother:
Socialist single mother Michelle Bachelet will be sworn in on Friday as Chile's first woman president, ushering in a new era in the socially conservative country which is moving aggressively to shed the legacy of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.
An agnostic single mother of three, Bachelet might not have seemed an obvious choice for leadership in this socially conservative Roman Catholic country.

But the economic successes of the current administration evidently played a significant role in her election.

Bachelet has pledged to pursue the policies of President Lagos, a fellow socialist who won praise for his management of Latin America's star economy.

Bachelet, who has portrayed herself as an ordinary woman who understands the concerns of ordinary people, takes the helm of a country enjoying six per cent annual economic growth but the second-biggest gap between the rich and poor in Latin America.

Man, the United States is so damn backwards.


Separated by a Common Language

Censorship has a tendency to produce the strangest situations.

One of my favorite examples is the Catholic Church's decision that its list of forbidden books must include among its titles...the list of forbidden books, because people could use it as a reader's guide to evil.

Anyway. Enough of that little tangent.

This little brouhaha about a Tourism Australia ad strikes me as amusing and curious, simply because of the particular word that is raising objections. I mean, why not "hell"?
Tourism Minister Fran Bailey heads to Britain today to seek a reversal of the ban on Australia's latest advertising campaign.

The $80 million campaign features the theme: "So where the bloody hell are you?"

Britain's Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre has told Tourism Australia to edit out the word "bloody", but Ms Bailey is standing by the campaign.

"I will take the message to the British regulator that our ad is cheeky, friendly and very Australian," Ms Bailey said in a statement.



Mars, bitches! Seriously, though, this is very cool:
A US$450 million Nasa spacecraft achieved orbit around Mars today, successfully completing a make-or-break manoeuvre in its two-year mission to scour the red planet for evidence of life and landing spots for future astronauts.

Mission controllers at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena erupted in loud cheers when the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter signaled it had dropped into a perfect orbit around a planet that has defeated most of the probes sent there.

"We are in orbit around Mars," a Nasa commentator announced amid jubilation in the control room this morning NZ time.

The spacecraft, which left Earth in August on its 490 million kilometre journey, will spend the next six months using the drag of Mars' atmosphere to reel itself in from an elongated 35-hour loop to a nearly circular two-hour orbit.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Funding Theocracy

Bush is certainly sticking to his guns on this one:
The Bush administration channelled $2.15bn (£1.25bn) to faith-based charities last year, advancing its mission to increase the share of government aid money given to religious organisations.

The figure, contained in a White House report unveiled on Thursday, does not account for all of the grants awarded by an administration determined to increase the involvement of churches and religious organisations in social services provision.

The revelation deepened concerns among aid professionals and civil liberty groups about the quality of services offered by some of the religious groups - especially at a time when funds for social programmes are being cut. There are also charges that the Bush administration is underwriting proselytising campaigns by the Christian right.


Defending the Indefensible

I've seen the First Amendment cited in the service of some bizarre causes, but never so bizarre (and evil) as this:

The lawyer for an Iowa man convicted of intentionally exposing four sex partners to HIV has told the state Supreme Court that the law used to convict his client is unconstitutional because it hinders free speech.

The law "basically puts the onus on the defendant to disclose something about themselves" that is undesirable, Steve Japuntich said during oral arguments.

He told the court that the law violates the First Amendment.

"It is our position that compelled speech is a violation of a fundamental right," he said.
Japuntich 's reasoning was questioned by Justice Michael Streit.

Streit said that "we have compelled speech everywhere in society," using as an example a state requirement that consumers be warned when purchasing a used car.

"What's so bad about compelling a man who has HIV to tell his partner, 'Hey, I've got this disease'?"


Bong Hits 4 Jesus!

Yes, I daresay that this little stunt was pulled in the context of, ahem, "extracurricular activities":

An Alaska high school violated a student's free speech rights by suspending him after he unfurled a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" across the street from the school, a federal court ruled on Friday.

The appeals court said the banner was protected speech because it did not disrupt school activity and was displayed off school grounds during a non-curricular activity.

"Public schools are instrumentalities of government, and government is not entitled to suppress speech that undermines whatever missions it defines for itself," Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote in the court's opinion.

The court also cleared the way for Frederick to seek damages, saying Morse was aware of relevant case law and should have known her actions violated his rights.


Bush Takes after Cheney

His message to the American people: GFY!
Down in public opinion polls, President George W. Bush said on Friday he realizes he has made some unpopular decisions but that it "comes with the territory" and he will stand by his beliefs.

"I know some would like me to change, but you can't be a good decision-maker if you're trying to please people. You've got to stand on what you believe, that's what you've got to do, if you're going to make decisions that are solid and sound," he said.


A Fitting Start for the Equality Ride

Falwell lives up to his long and glorious reputation for unflinching bigotry and militant opposition to ideas that frighten him:
Twenty members of the Soulforce the Equality Ride were arrested Friday as they attempted to discuss LGBT civil rights with students at Liberty University.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the university's chancellor warned Wednesday that members of the non-denominational group were not welcome at the school. (story)

Campus police, on instructions from Falwell, were waiting Friday as the bus carrying the Equality riders stopped in front of the campus. As members, mostly young people, one by one read from a prepared statement and then stepped onto the grounds they were arrested and charged with trespassing.


One Good Axis Deserves a Triad

Nicely symmetrical:
In a television interview Friday night, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr described the United States, Israel and Britain as a "Triad of Evil".

Speaking on state-run Iraqiya television, the anti-American al-Sadr also said last month's attack on a Shiite shrine in the central city of Samarra was carried "in collusion with the occupiers and the Zionist Entity of Israel," meaning for the U.S. and Israel. Hundreds of Iraqis died in the subsequent sectarian violence, much of which Sunni Muslims said was the work of al-Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army.

The Triad of Evil reference was an obvious play on words U.S. President Bush used in his 2002 State of the Union address, when he labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea and "axis of evil."


South Dakota Anti-Choice Madness

When they're honest, the anti-choicers reveal just how deranged they really are. It seems as though cruelty and violence (and often bestiality) are fundamental to the sexual imaginations of many right wingers:
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.


Pro-Lifers at It Again

Proving once more that "life" ends at birth:
The Boston Archdiocese's Catholic Charities said Friday it would stop providing adoption services because state law allows gays and lesbians to adopt children.

The social services arm of the Roman Catholic archdiocese has provided adoption services for the state for about two decades, but said it would discontinue once it completes its current state contract. It said that the state law allowing gays to adopt runs counter to church teachings on homosexuality.



Rorschach is under the weather today, so I am filling in with a few cats.

I had some tomato soup yesterday, and I - as I have been trained to do - shared it with Tista, who loves it. Zora, as you may note, does not exactly get this whole tomato soup thing.

Gramsci, meanwhile, not only loves his earplugs, but has learned how to play fetch with Ror. Gramsci carries the earplug over in his mouth, drops it in Rorschach's hand, Ror throws, Grammy chases... lather, rinse, repeat. It is among the cutest kitty things I have ever seen.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

They're Global

It's not just American Catholics that are being victimized by priests. And it's not just Americans who are realizing that this abuse is going on:
The full extent of child abuse scandals threatening the Roman Catholic church in Ireland has emerged in a study by the archdiocese of Dublin which reveals that more than 100 of its priests have faced paedophile accusations since 1940.

The report, which constitutes the most serious admission by a senior cleric in the republic, has been published before a judicial committee of investigation is expected to begin taking evidence this month on the handling of complaints by the church. More than 350 children are said to have been sexually or physically abused in that period.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Equality Ride

An idea whose time is due:
Thirty-five young adults will begin a national journey for gay rights Thursday when they set off from Washington for a national ride that will take them to schools that ban the enrollment of LGBT students.

Organized by the non-denominational group Soulforce the Equality Ride was inspired by the Freedom Rides of the 1950s and 60s.

“We must cut off the suffering at its source. The source is religion-based oppression, and it has taken place for centuries,” says Jacob Reitan, Founder and Co-Director of the Soulforce Equality Ride.

Equality Riders will travel by bus across the country to engage students in conversation about LGBT bias on the Christian college campuses.


Still Stupid

No surprise there:
A Gallup report released today reveals that more than half of all Americans, rejecting evolution theory and scientific evidence, agree with the statement, "God created man exactly how Bible describes it."

Another 31% says that man did evolve, but "God guided." Only 12% back evolution and say "God had no part."

Gallup summarized it this way: "Surveys repeatedly show that a substantial portion of Americans do not believe that the theory of evolution best explains where life came from." They are "not so quick to agree with the preponderance of scientific evidence."


Proving His Point

Criticize Dear Leader at your own risk:
The father of a Colorado teacher who compared President Bush's State of the Union address to speeches made by Adolf Hitler said he and his family have received at least 12 death threats.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Progressive Spain

If the United States could be even one-tenth as concerned with its prisoners as is Spain, it would be a vast improvement:
Transsexuals convicted of crimes in Spain will soon be allowed to serve their sentences in either men's or women's prisons a Madrid newspaper reports.

The El Pais newspaper, quoting an unnamed government source, said that the government of Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero will bring in legislation abolishing regulations that required prisoners to be incarcerated according to their registered birth-sex.

Prisoners would have to show proof that they had been transitioning for at least one year.
The legislation would also require prison authorities and guards to address the prisoners in their transitioned sex and name.


Bush Slashes "Unnecessary Spending"

That'll show those greedy disabled kids who want to learn:
What kind of spending is unnecessary? In Bush’s view, programs that assist disabled children. The President’s budget will eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for schoolchildren with disabilities, denying them “access to medical services they need to fully participate in school and learn to their greatest abilities.” It cuts funding for medical equipment on buses, transportation to medical appointments, and the administrative costs of identifying children with special medical and learning needs.

If schools are no longer able to seek reimbursement for these services, costs will shift to districts and states already grappling with fiscal constraints. But those who will be most affected are the children and students with disabilities who have already been hurt by January’s drastic Medicaid cuts.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Bush's War on Science Continues

In the wake of Katrina, such negligence as this is downright criminal:
Budget cuts and poor management may be jeopardizing the future of our eyes in orbit - America's fleet of environmental satellites, vital tools for forecasting hurricanes, protecting water supplies and predicting global warming.

"The system of environmental satellites is at risk of collapse," said Richard A. Anthes, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. "Every year that goes by without the system being addressed is a problem."
Scientists warn that the consequences of neglecting Earth-observing satellites could have more than academic consequences. It is possible that when a big volcano starts rumbling in the Pacific Northwest, a swarm of tornadoes sweeps through Oklahoma or a massive hurricane bears down on New Orleans, the people in harm's way - and those responsible for their safety - will have a lot less information than they'd like about the impending threat.

"We may be losing something here, something that is good for all of us," said Francisco P.J. Valero, an atmospheric scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.


Bigotry Is Expensive

The Catholic Church is about to face the high cost of homophobia:
The decision by the state's Catholic bishops to seek to exclude gays and lesbians from adopting through Catholic social service agencies could imperil millions of dollars in donations from corporations and philanthropies that have their own nondiscrimination policies to abide by.

''It's definitely a concern," said Jeff Bellows, a spokesman for the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, which was the largest private donor to Catholic Charities of Boston last year with a gift of $1.2 million. ''We have an antidiscrimination policy in accordance with the law and to protect the freedom of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable."

If the bishops halt gay adoptions by Catholic Charities, the United Way board will seriously review continued funding, said Bellows. Like many of today's philanthropic groups, United Way requires affiliated agencies to sign pacts that they will be open to accepting everyone regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, among other factors.


Bush: Still an Offensive Dolt

With his usual ignorance and arrogance, Bush manages to taint a holy site. The Ugly American is alive and well:
Hindu priests who look after the memorial of Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi conducted a purification ceremony at the shrine after a visit from President Bush. But it wasn't the president who offended them, it was the sniffer-dogs who scoured the area ahead of his visit.
The dogs, flown in from the U.S., were part of the intense security surrounding the president, but the Hindu priests believe they tainted the site.

Letting dogs into the memorial also drew sharp protest from Hindu politicians and Gandhi's great grandson, Tushar Gandhi, who called the incident a "national shame," the Press Trust of India news agency reported.


The Investigation Spreads

This is one headache that will not simply go away; the Bushies will be plagued by it for quite some time to come:

A stunning investigation of bribery and corruption in Congress has spread to the CIA, ABC News has learned.

The CIA Inspector General has opened an investigation into the spy agency's executive director, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, and his connections to two defense contractors accused of bribing a member of Congress and Pentagon officials.


Condi on Crack

Firebrand director Spike Lee has found an unlikely new target for his latest spray: the secretary of state.

Says Lee: "I dislike Condoleezza Rice more than [President] Bush. The thing about it is that she's gotten a free ride from black people."

Oh no, he didn't.

"People say, 'She's so successful' and 'Look at her position as a black woman.' She is a black woman who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and said that she never experienced a day of racism in her life," Lee tells the April issue of Stuff magazine.

"Condi, stop smoking that crack!"

"I know you love your Ferragamo shoes, but come on. While people were drowning in New Orleans, she was going up and down Madison Ave. buying Ferragamo shoes. Then she went to see 'Spamalot.'"

You heard the man, Madame Secretary. Put down the crack pipe.