Saturday, February 24, 2007

Dissent in the Ranks

It seems that the top brass might react very, very badly to Bush, should he decide to go completely insane and attack Iran:

SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.

The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not “be right to take military action against Iran”.


America: Working and Poor

I posted yesterday about the increase in severe poverty in America. Here's another aspect of the class warfare being waged against the working class:

If you want to find the people behind the country's big jump in food stamps, you have to go to work.

That's where they are.

The number of American households bringing in a paycheck and collecting food stamps has risen from 19 percent to 29 percent in recent years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


At Long Last

Yet one more reason to be thankful that the Dems retook Congress in 2006:

Anti-gay bias has flared up in Hollywood and pro basketball recently, and soon the topic will be thrust dramatically into a new forum - a reshaped Congress likely to pass the first major federal gay-rights bills.

Wary conservative leaders, as well as gay-rights advocates, share a belief that at least two measures will win approval this year: a hate-crimes bill that would cover offenses motivated by anti-gay bias, and a measure that would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.



Gramsci loves the camera. Zora is not so sure.


Friday, February 23, 2007

America: Severely Poor

Quite simply a travesty, as CEOs rake in record salaries.

No denying it, this is class warfare, and the working class is losing:
The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005.


They're Back and They're Angry

Well, they never really went far, but now they are re-armed:
Rearmed with new guns the Taliban on Friday vowed this would be the deadliest year for foreign soldiers in Afghanistan since the Islamists were toppled in 2001.

"This year will prove to be the bloodiest for the foreign troops. It is not just a threat, we will prove it," senior commander Mullah Dadullah told Reuters by satellite phone.
"The Taliban's war preparations are going on in caves and in mountains. Our 6,000 fighters are ready for attacks on foreign troops after the change in weather and as it becomes warmer."


Raising the Level of Discourse

Mitt Romney displays the depth of his thought on the pressing social issue of gay marriage:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said that traditional marriage is essential for education in the U.S. to improve, and he recited a schoolyard ditty to underscore his point to gathering of Republican women.

"First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage," the presidential hopeful told a crowd of about 175 people gathered at a private club.


Screw the Vets

It's all the rage these days in the Army:

The Army is deliberately shortchanging troops on their disability retirement ratings to hold down costs, according to veterans’ advocates, lawyers and service members.

“These people are being systematically underrated,” said Ron Smith, deputy general counsel for Disabled American Veterans. “It’s a bureaucratic game to preserve the budget, and it’s having an adverse affect on service members.”

The numbers of people approved for permanent or temporary disability retirement in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have stayed relatively stable since 2001.

But in the Army — in the midst of a war — the number of soldiers approved for permanent disability retirement has plunged by more than two-thirds, from 642 in 2001 to 209 in 2005, according to a Government Accountability Office report last year. That decline has come even as the war in Iraq has intensified and the total number of soldiers wounded or injured there has soared above 15,000.


US Un-Intelligence

My first reaction, of course, is "What are we spending all the money on if our agencies consistently produce crap intelligence?"

But then, when the Bush administration is so adamantly opposed to paying attention to any inconvenient facts, one can hardly blame the agencies. Bush will pick and choose to his heart's content, every time:
Much of the intelligence on Iran's nuclear facilities provided to UN inspectors by American spy agencies has turned out to be unfounded, according to diplomatic sources in Vienna.

The claims, reminiscent of the intelligence fiasco surrounding the Iraq war, coincided with a sharp increase in international tension as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran was defying a UN security council ultimatum to freeze its nuclear programme.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Atheists v. Bush

Oh, but this court battle will be very interesting to watch.

Go, Annie Laurie Gaylor!
Annie Laurie Gaylor speaks with a soft voice, but her message catches attention: Keep God out of government.

Gaylor has helped transform the Freedom From Religion Foundation from obscurity into the nation's largest group of atheists and agnostics, with a fast-rising membership and increasing legal clout.

Next week, the group started by Gaylor and her mother in the 1970s to take on the religious right will fight its most high-profile battle when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on its lawsuit against President Bush's faith-based initiative.

The court will decide whether taxpayers can sue over federal funding that the foundation believes promotes religion. It could be a major ruling for groups that fight to keep church and state separate.

"What's at stake is the right to challenge the establishment of religion by the government," Gaylor said.


Fighting for His Right to Party

The legal argument is sound, but the situation is still hilarious:
The lawyer for a former Baptist church leader who had spoken out against homosexuality said Thursday the minister has a constitutional right to solicit sex from an undercover policeman.

The Rev. Lonnie W. Latham had supported a resolution calling on gays and lesbians to reject their "sinful, destructive lifestyle" before his Jan. 3, 2006, arrest outside the Habana Inn in Oklahoma City.

Authorities say he asked the undercover policeman to come up to his hotel for oral sex.

His attorney, Mack Martin, filed a motion to have the misdemeanor lewdness charge thrown out, saying the Supreme Court ruled in the 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas that it was not illegal for consenting adults to engage in private homosexual acts.

"Now, my client's being prosecuted basically for having offered to engage in such an act, which basically makes it a crime to ask someone to do something that's legal," Martin said.

Both sides agree there was no offer of money, but prosecutor Scott Rowland said there is a "legitimate governmental interest" in regulating offers of acts of lewdness.


100 Years

A U.S. soldier who pleaded guilty to raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her family was sentenced to 100 years in a military prison, the U.S. Army said on Thursday.

Under terms of his plea agreement, Cortez agreed to testify against the three others still facing prosecution in the case.

During the court-martial, a sometimes emotional Cortez recounted how he and his companions drank whiskey, played cards and plotted to attack the family at Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, in March 2006. The group poured kerosene on the girl's body and lit her on fire in an attempt to cover up the crime.

Cortez testified that Spc. James Barker, who also pleaded guilty in the case, and a since-discharged soldier, Pvt. Steven Green, chose the family to attack because there was only one man in the house and it was an "easy target."

Once at the house, Green, the suspected ringleader, took the girl's mother, father and little sister into a bedroom, Cortez said, while he and Barker took the teenager, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, to the living room, where they took turns raping her.



While the Bushies spin and spin (read, "lie about") the British pullout as somehow being a marker of success, the truth is plain for all to see:
Britain's decision to pull 1,600 troops out of Iraq by spring, touted by U.S. and British leaders as a turning point in Iraqi sovereignty, was widely seen yesterday as an admission that the British military can no longer sustain simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The British military is approaching "operational failure," warned Lord Charles Guthrie, former chief of the defense staff.



Here's hoping
(against hope, I admit) that this bill passes:
Congressman Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) announced Thursday he will reintroduce a bill next week to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" the law preventing gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

A similar bill died last year when the last session of Congress ended.

Meehan said that more than 120 Members of Congress from both parties have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, called the Military Readiness Enhancement Act.

Since the ban on gays serving openly was implemented a decade ago more than 11,000 men and women have been dismissed under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" according to the Government Accountability Office.

Among them were more than two dozen Arabic translators, dropped by the Defense Department since the war in Iraq began because they were openly gay.

Additionally, a study conducted last year for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network concluded that the U.S. military could attract as many as 41,000 new recruits if gays and lesbians in the military were able to be open about their sexual orientation.

As well, a Zogby poll taken in October showed three-out-of-four members of the military who are serving in Iraq or recently returned home don't care if someone in their unit is gay.


Stupid Ain't Just for Texas Universities

Note to NYU's Republicans
: Most, if not all, illegal immigrants tend not to wear tags identifying themselves as such.
A contest called "Find the Illegal Immigrant" - a mock hunt for a student posing as just that - is being met with widespread protest on campus and receiving local and national media coverage.

The event, sponsored by NYU's College Republicans, is planned for today in Washington Square Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The student posing as the illegal immigrant will wear a name tag saying so. Other students will try to find him or her, playing the part of border patrol agents and wearing nametags that say "INS," referring to the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.

College Republicans president and CAS junior Sarah Chambers said the contest is intended to bring attention to the issue of illegal immigration.


Our Educational System at Work

Fear the Scary Muslims 101.
A national Muslim advocacy group has rebuked the Wake County Public School system for allowing a Christian evangelist to speak at Enloe High School and distribute pamphlets denouncing Islam.

The Council on American Islamic Relations said the school system will have created a "discriminatory, hostile learning environment," violating federal civil rights law, if it does not investigate the incident and apologize to students.

The complaint stems from a guest appearance last week in several classes by Kamil Solomon, a Raleigh-based Christian evangelist, who urged students to shun Muslims.

"When you bring in somebody to distribute hate-filled literature without an opportunity for rebuttal, you have a disturbing situation," said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the national council, known as CAIR. "These students are obliged to be in the classroom and listen to this speaker who is presented as an authority figure by the teacher."

'Don't marry a Muslim'

Solomon's appearance Friday in teacher Robert Escamilla's social studies classes at Enloe, a magnet school for gifted and talented students, shocked many who took the pamphlets home and showed them to their parents, students said. One pamphlet, comparing Jesus with Muhammad, says the Muslim prophet "enslaved people, abused women and taught Muslims to terrorize non-Muslims and force them into Islam."

"He basically told us Muslims were bad and we should convert to Christianity," said Alyssa Kaszycki, 14, of Cary, who heard Solomon during a freshman seminar class. "He told all the girls we should never marry a Muslim man because they would take away our freedom and beat us."


Solar Revolution?

Could solar power outstrip carbon fuels in the very near future? This story is not one I've run across before, and I hope it is not unduly optimistic:

Within five years, solar power will be cheap enough to compete with carbon-generated electricity, even in Britain, Scandinavia or upper Siberia. In a decade, the cost may have fallen so dramatically that solar cells could undercut oil, gas, coal and nuclear power by up to half. Technology is leaping ahead of a stale political debate about fossil fuels.

Anil Sethi, the chief executive of the Swiss start-up company Flisom, says he looks forward to the day - not so far off - when entire cities in America and Europe generate their heating, lighting and air-conditioning needs from solar films on buildings with enough left over to feed a surplus back into the grid.

The secret? Mr Sethi lovingly cradles a piece of dark polymer foil, as thin a sheet of paper. It is 200 times lighter than the normal glass-based solar materials, which require expensive substrates and roof support. Indeed, it is so light it can be stuck to the sides of buildings.

Rather than being manufactured laboriously piece by piece, it can be mass-produced in cheap rolls like packaging - in any colour.

The "tipping point" will arrive when the capital cost of solar power falls below $1 (51p) per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power. We are not there yet. The best options today vary from $3 to $4 per watt - down from $100 in the late 1970s.

Mr Sethi believes his product will cut the cost to 80 cents per watt within five years, and 50 cents in a decade.

It is based on a CIGS (CuInGaSe2) semiconductor compound that absorbs light by freeing electrons. This is then embedded on the polymer base. It will be ready commercially in late 2009.

"It'll even work on a cold, grey, cloudy day in England, which still produces 25pc to 30pc of the optimal light level. That is enough, if you cover half the roof," he said.

"We don't need subsidies, we just need governments to get out of the way and do no harm. They've spent $170bn subsidising nuclear power over the last thirty years," he said.


Simply Astonishing

This is just flat-out insanity. Florida prosecutors want the right to falsify court records! What country is this, again?

Florida's prosecutors are floating a proposal to the Legislature to give them the power to secretly falsify public court records -- with a judge's approval -- for undercover law enforcement purposes.

Spurred by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, the draft bill would limit the authority to manufacture and plant fake documents in court files to 180 days. But it also provides for an unlimited number of 30-day extensions.


The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida opposes the idea.

''The fundamental problem is that it so goes against our notion of the way our justice system ought to work,'' said ACLU legislative director Randall Marshall. ``How would we ever be able to trust anything in the judicial record knowing that something could be intentionally falsified with a judicial seal of approval?''

Tallahassee Public Defender Nancy Daniels said the proposal undermines constitutional protections for those charged with crimes.

''Even if this is temporary, what if someone testifies during that time and we never get to know they had a criminal conviction? We can't properly cross-examine to develop their motives for giving testimony,'' Daniels said.


No More Slings and Arrows for Them

The Danes are heading home
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday that his country will withdraw its 460-member contingent from southern Iraq by August and transfer security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Infuriating, Stupid, Crazy President

Oddly, I'm not referring to Bush this time:
From the pockets of his billowing white robe, Gambia's president pulls out a plastic container, closes his eyes in prayer and rubs a green herbal paste into the ribcage of his patient. He then orders the thin man to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas.

"Whatever you do there are bound to be sceptics, but I can tell you my method is foolproof," Yahya Jammeh says, surrounded by his bodyguards inside his presidential compound as he prepares to treat more patients. "Mine is not an argument, mine is a proof. It's a declaration. I can cure Aids and I will."

In a continent suffering from the world's worst Aids epidemic, claims of miracle cures like those of Mr Jammeh are alarming public health workers already struggling against the corrosive effect of faith healers dispensing herbal remedies from thatched huts.

The biggest concern to experts is that Mr Jammeh requires his patients to cease their anti-retroviral drugs, a dangerous move since doing so can weaken the body's immune system, making the patient prone to infection, said Antonio Filipe, the local head of the World Health Organisation in Senegal.


Dirty War

In one sense:
Insurgents exploded a truck carrying chlorine gas canisters Wednesday — the second such "dirty" chemical attack in two days — while a U.S. official said ground fire apparently forced the downing of a Black Hawk helicopter. All nine aboard the aircraft were rescued.

The attacks offer a sweeping narrative on evolving tactics by Sunni insurgents who have proved remarkably adaptable.
And in another:
A gunman, clutching an AK-47, bobs his head around the corner of an alleyway close to a school.

Once. Twice. On the third occasion a child, a boy seven or eight years old, is thrust out in front of him. The gunman holds him firmly by the arm and steps out for instant into full view of the Bradley's gunner to get a proper look, then yanks the boy back and disappears.

"That is really dirty," says Specialist Chris Jankow, in the back of the Bradley, with a mixture of contempt, anger and frustration. "They know exactly what our rules of engagement are. They know we can't fire back."

A few minutes and a few hundred metres later the performance is repeated. A woman and three small children emerge uncertainly from behind a building, little more than a shack. They stare at the approaching armour. After a few seconds they retreat from view; then the process is repeated. The third time they emerge, a fighter is crouching behind them with a rocket-propelled grenade aimed at Jankow's Bradley. The group disappears.

There is a long pause, a moment of excruciating moral conflict for the soldiers and for the gunner in particular.

Not to shoot would be to imperil their own lives or those of their colleagues, both American and Iraqi. To shoot would be to risk killing civilians who have been shoved in front of their guns to shield insurgent fighters.


Britain's Pull-Out Is a "Success" According to White House

How about we make it a super-duper success by pulling our troops out too?

The Guardian said, meanwhile, that Britain will withdraw all of its troops from Iraq by the end of 2008, beginning this summer with about a thousand troops, citing unidentified officials. (Read the full Guardian report here.)

While a spokesman for Blair's Downing Street office declined to confirm or deny any of the reports, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe confirmed that Blair told US President George W. Bush Tuesday of his plans for troop withdrawal.

"We view this as a success," Johndroe said, suggesting the British move was a sign of increasing stabilization in Iraq.


Well Done, RI

Rhode Island will recognize Massachusetts gay marriages:
The state of Rhode Island should recognize the gay marriages of state employees performed in Massachusetts and extend the same benefits, Attorney General Patrick Lynch said in a letter to a state department.
”Rhode Island will recognize same sex marriages lawfully performed in Massachusetts as marriages in Rhode Island,” Lynch said in a letter dated Tuesday and released Wednesday.


Japan's "Endearing" Military

I don't know about you, but I find this profoundly disturbing:
Perky cartoon character Prince Pickles -- with saucer eyes, big dimples and tiny, booted feet -- poses in front of tanks, rappels from helicopters and shakes hands with smiling Iraqis.

The cutesy icon hardly calls to mind the Japanese military that conquered and pillaged its way across Asia in the first half of the 20th century, and that is just the way the country's leaders want it.

As Japan sheds its postwar pacifism and gears up to take a higher military profile in the world, it is enlisting cadres of cute characters and adorable mascots to put a gentle, harmless sheen to its Self-Defense Forces deployments.

"Prince Pickles is our image character because he's very endearing, which is what Japan's military stands for," said Defense Ministry official Shotaro Yanagi. "He's our mascot and appears in our pamphlets and stationery."

Such characters have long been used in Japan to win hearts and minds and to soften the image of authority.


Collateral Damage

Gay civil unions fall in Italy, along with the government:
The teetering government of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi (pictured) fell Wednesday likely spelling doom for legislation that would create civil partnerships for same-sex couples.

President Giorgio Napolitano accepted Prodi's resignation as Prime Minister after the government lost a key vote in the Senate on foreign policy, including Italy‘s military mission in Afghanistan.

The vote did not constitute a non confidence motion but earlier Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said that the government should resign if it did not win the foreign policy vote.


An Odd Twist

A new affidavit alleges that a high-ranking FBI official was guiding our own home-grown terrorist, McVeigh:
Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols says a high-ranking FBI official "apparently" was directing Timothy McVeigh in the plot to blow up a government building and might have changed the original target of the attack, according to a new affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Utah.

The official and other conspirators are being protected by the federal government "in a cover-up to escape its responsibility for the loss of life in Oklahoma," Nichols claims in a Feb. 9 affidavit.

Documents that supposedly help back up his allegations have been sealed to protect information in them, such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah had no comment on the allegations. The FBI and Justice Department in Washington, D.C., also declined comment.

Nichols does not say what motive the government would have to be involved in the bombing.

The affidavit was filed in a lawsuit brought by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue, who believes his brother's death in a federal prison was linked to the Oklahoma City bombing. The suit, which seeks documents from the FBI under the federal Freedom of Information Act, alleges that authorities mistook Kenneth Trentadue for a bombing conspirator and that guards killed him in an interrogation that got out of hand.



Read Riverbendblog for all the details about the vile rape of an Iraqi woman, and the vile ways in which it has been played for political gain.

The link I provided is to but one of her posts on this issue. Scroll down for more.


Red Ken and Hugo Make a Deal

Venezuelan oil for the red buses of London:

London's socialist mayor signed an agreement Tuesday with Venezuela's state-owned oil company to provide discounted oil for the city's iconic red buses, praising the idea as the brainstorm of the country's leftist leader, Hugo Chavez.

Ken Livingstone - a committed socialist known locally as "Red Ken" - met with Chavez last year at City Hall to discuss the deal to provide cheap oil to London in exchange for advice on urban planning in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.


Surging Backwards

Britain is packing its bags:
The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, will tell the House of Commons in just a few hours' time that Britain will withdraw a significant number of its troops from Iraq within weeks, with the whole contingent possibly out by the end of next year.

With around 7,000 troops in Iraq, Britain has the second largest foreign force in the country after the United States.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Humble Suggestion

"Conscientious objector" is a term dealing with war. It means a person who refuses to practice war.

If Catholics want to declare themselves "conscientious objectors," then they should refuse to practice medicine or work as pharmacists.

So, yes, go ahead and object. Get other jobs that you are willing to perform:
The Vatican is launching a drive to make sure that Roman Catholic consciences correctly reflect Church teaching as it encourages the faithful to make their voice heard on moral issues such as abortion.

Catholic scholars, theologians, professors and others who explore morality issues will meet at the Vatican on Friday and Saturday to discuss how Catholics should follow their conscience, and if the situation calls for it, declare themselves to be conscientious objectors, especially doctors, nurses, pharmacists, judges or administrators.


Money for Terrorists, Republicans

Now, isn't this interesting?
A New York man accused of trying to help terrorists in Afghanistan has donated some $15,000 to the House Republicans' campaign committee over three years.

Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari pleaded not guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to charges that include terrorism financing, material support of terrorism and money laundering.

From April 2002 until August 2004, the man also known as "Michael Mixon" gave donations ranging from $500 to $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to Federal Election Commission reports and two campaign donor tracking Web sites, and

The NRCC did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday about whether it would return the donations.

In the federal indictment, the government said Alishtari, 53, of Ardsley, N.Y., accepted an unspecified amount of money to transfer $152,000 to Pakistan and Afghanistan to support an Afghanistan terrorist training camp. He also stands accused of causing the transfer of about $25,000 from a bank account in New York to an account in Montreal, money the government says was to be used to provide material support to terrorists.

Also, the indictment says, Alishtari schemed to defraud investors by obtaining millions of dollars in a loan investment scheme that he called the "Flat Electronic Data Interchange" and that promised high guaranteed rates of return.


Bush Is Petty and Craven

Yet more evidence

Every theater-style seat in the White House briefing room, now closed for renovation, had a brass plaque inscribed with the name of a news organization. Only one, in the middle of the front row, had a name: “HELEN THOMAS,” it said. The unique assigned seat between the chairs for CBS News and ABC News was reserved for the legendary United Press International correspondent who is now a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

The press corps is scheduled to move from temporary facilities back into the spiffed-up, rewired briefing room in May or June. Thomas, who has been questioning presidents and press secretaries for 46 years, plans to be there. But her front-row seat won’t be. Plans call for her to be moved to the second row to make room for a cable news channel – a sign of Washington’s changing pecking order, and of the new ways that Americans get their news.



The federal government is full of crap when it comes to terror statistics:
Federal prosecutors counted immigration violations, marriage fraud and drug trafficking among anti-terror cases in the four years after 9/11 even though no evidence linked them to terror activity, a Justice Department audit said Tuesday.

Overall, nearly all of the terrorism-related statistics on investigations, referrals and cases examined by department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine were either diminished or inflated. Only two of 26 sets of department data reported between 2001 and 2005 were accurate, the audit found.


Take That, Governor Goodhair

It's always nice to see Perry getting smacked down, especially when his delusions of grandeur are particularly apparent:
A judge today blocked Gov. Rick Perry's executive order fast-tracking the permitting process for proposed coal-fired power plants and ordered that state hearing administrators reconsider environmentalists' request for a delay.

Plaintiffs' attorneys argued that Perry's fast-track executive order, issued in October 2005, was illegal and unconstitutional. They said the Texas governorship is intentionally weak under the state Constitution and that Perry's order interferes with the legislative branch.

"The governor is doing something that he has no power to do," said attorney David Kahne, representing Citizens Organizing for Resources and Environment, known as CORE, along with other plaintiffs.


Once Again...

So long, habeas corpus, nice knowin' ya:
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that foreign-born prisoners seized as potential terrorists and held in Guantanamo Bay may not challenge their detention in U.S. courts, a key victory for President Bush's anti-terrorism plan.


"Increasing Defiance"

More grand news:
Car bombs killed at least 11 people in Baghdad on Tuesday as militants show increasing defiance to a major security operation in the capital.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Australian-Style Surge

Somehow, I doubt it'll really cause us to "turn the corner":

JOHN HOWARD has turned up the political heat over Iraq by committing 50 to 70 more troops to the conflict in the lead-up to this week's visit to Sydney by the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney.

The Prime Minister said the troops would not be involved in combat but would help train Iraqis to manage their own security.



A float depicting U.S. President George W. Bush being spanked by the Statue Of Liberty passes by during the Rose Monday carnival parade in Mainz, western Germany, on Monday, Feb. 19, 2007.


Another Ghoulish Fight

Once more, the British Musuem seeks to gain from grave-robbing, and aboriginal Tasmanians are fighting back:
A Tasmanian aboriginal group is suing Britain's Museum of Natural History to keep it from conducting tests on bones, teeth and skulls taken from the island, saying Monday that the experiments would desecrate the corpses.

Tasmanians were almost completely exterminated after the 19th-century arrival of white settlers to their island. Out of a population of 4,000, only 200 remained in the 1830s, and the last full-blooded Tasmanian died in 1876. Those who remain today are of mixed descent.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, which has been awarded custody of the remains, said any tests on the bones would defile the remains of victims of genocide.

"They would never dare to do these experiments to the human remains of Jews or Roma or Scots or Manx Islanders," the center's lawyer, Michael Mansell, said in a statement. "They intend to mutilate our ancestors without our consent."

The museum said would meet with the aboriginal group, but that it would continue to fight the suit, which goes to court on Thursday.


"The Natural History Museum's tests were 'genetic prospecting' which would desecrate the spiritual beliefs of the community from whom the skulls and bones were taken by grave robbery," Mansell said.

Aboriginals believe a soul is in torment unless the body rests in its native land.

The museum has acknowledged that the remains, drawn from 17 individuals, were either looted or taken coercively, but said the aboriginal demands should be weighed against the scientific value of the bones.


Well Done, New Jersey

A fine way to celebrate Presidents' Day:
New Jersey became the third state to permit civil unions for same-sex couples at midnight Monday and while LGBT civil rights activists called the new law a step in the right direction are vowing to continue the fight for marriage.

Despite the Presidents Day holiday some county clerks offices will be open today for couples to get licenses. Offices in Asbury Park and Lambertville, which have large gay communities, opened at midnight.


Supporting the Anti-Gay Death Squads

One more beneficial side effect of Bush's nasty little war:
The leader of an exiled Iraqi LGBT rights group has told a London conference on Homophobia that that militias blamed for the murders of hundreds of gay men and women are sanctioned by the government and the US-led coalition is doing little to stop the killings.

Ali Hili said that the Badr and Sadr militias - the armed wings of the two main Shia parties that control the government of Iraq - are routinely rounding up men and women, primarily in Baghdad, suspected of being gay. The men and women are never heard from again.


Hili told the conference that the US-British coalition bears at least some responsibility by refusing to admit gay Iraqis as refugees.

"The West, which caused much the current chaos in Iraq, should be giving refuge to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iraqis," said Hili.

"Right now, the US and Britain are turning down asylum claims by Iraqi LGBTs."

Last month Iraq's government strongly criticized a U.N. report on human rights that put its civilian death toll in 2006 at 34,452, saying it is "superficial" because it included people such as homosexuals.


New Cold War

Russia is none too fond of the expanding American military presence, and who can blame them? Just one more bit of American arrogance:
In a statement reflecting the growing distrust between Moscow and the West, a top Russian general on Monday warned that Poland and the Czech Republic risk being targeted by Russian missiles if they agree to host U.S. missile defense bases.

The stark threat, by missile forces chief Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, was one of the most bellicose comments yet by Russian officials on the issue, which 10 days ago led President Vladimir Putin to warn of a "new Cold War" in a speech in Munich that shocked Western governments.

"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a step ... the Strategic Missile Forces will be capable of targeting these facilities if a relevant decision is made," Solovtsov told reporters in Moscow, asserting the U.S. plan could upset strategic balance of power in the region.


Moderate, My Ass

Can the MSM please stop calling McCain a "moderate" Republican now?


Republican presidential candidate John McCain, looking to improve his standing with the party's conservative voters, said Sunday the court decision that legalized abortion should be overturned.

"I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned," the Arizona senator told about 800 people in South Carolina, one of the early voting states.

McCain also vowed that if elected, he would appoint judges who "strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States and do not legislate from the bench."


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Let Them Eat Lead

Another example of the government looking out for our children:
In 2005, when government scientists tested 60 soft, vinyl lunch boxes, they found that one in five contained amounts of lead that medical experts consider unsafe — and several had more than 10 times hazardous levels.

But that's not what they told the public.

Instead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a statement that they found "no instances of hazardous levels." And they refused to release their actual test results, citing regulations that protect manufacturers from having their information released to the public.

That data was not made public until The Associated Press received a box of about 1,500 pages of lab reports, in-house e-mails and other records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed a year ago.

The documents describe two types of tests. One involves cutting a chunk of vinyl off the bag, dissolving it and then analyzing how much lead is in the solution; the second test involves swiping the surface of a bag and then determining how much lead has rubbed off.

The results of the first type of test, looking for the actual lead content of the vinyl, showed that 20 percent of the bags had more than 600 parts per million of lead — the federal safe level for paint and other products. The highest level was 9,600 ppm, more than 16 times the federal standard.

But the CPSC did not use those results.


So Much for the "Clampdown"

Massive retaliation:
Militants struck back Sunday in their first major blow against a U.S.-led security clampdown in Baghdad with car bombings that killed at least 63 people, left scores injured and sent a grim message to officials boasting that extremist factions were on the run.



Crooks & Liars asks the burning question:

[FozNews] network is working with the Nevada Democratic Party and the Western Majority Project to host the debate, "which is expected to attract the top Democratic contenders for President," the press release says. It will air live on FNC and FNR on Aug. 14 in Reno.

One question: WHY?!?!?!?! Why on Earth would Democratic candidates agree to go on a channel that admits they are the propaganda wing for the White House? This really IS letting the other side frame the debate.

Can you imagine what kinds of questions Obama, Clinton, Edwards and the others would have to field? Who will they get to moderate: Sean Hannity or Brit Hume?


Education Is No Place for Ideas

So says some Arizona lawmakers, in a particularly boneheaded bit of legislation:

A proposed state law would prohibit any instructor in a public school or college from advocating or opposing a political candidate or one side of a social, political or cultural issue that is part of a partisan debate.

A group of Arizona lawmakers concluded Thursday that classrooms should not be forums for schoolteachers and college professors to espouse political opinions.


Problem Solved!

I'm sure this extra thousand will be the decisive extra thousand:
The Pentagon announced it is accelerating the deployment of a division headquarters to Iraq by about three months, adding another 1,000 troops to a "surge" in forces.