Saturday, March 31, 2007

Global Warming to Hit the Poorest Hardest

No surprise there:
The world’s richest countries, which have contributed by far the most to the atmospheric changes linked to global warming, are already spending billions of dollars to limit their own risks from its worst consequences, like drought and rising seas.

But despite longstanding treaty commitments to help poor countries deal with warming, these industrial powers are spending just tens of millions of dollars on ways to limit climate and coastal hazards in the world’s most vulnerable regions — most of them close to the equator and overwhelmingly poor.

Next Friday, a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that since 1990 has been assessing global warming, will underline this growing climate divide, according to scientists involved in writing it — with wealthy nations far from the equator not only experiencing fewer effects but also better able to withstand them.


rorschach, B.A., M.A., M.I.S., Ph.D.

The defense is over and it went very well.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Party of Hope

That's the Dems, these days. Restoring hope by shoring up domestic spending. Relying on hope that of a victory in 2008 so that we can fund it:
The House Thursday narrowly passed a $2.9 trillion Democratic budget blueprint predicting a big surplus in five years but relying on the expiration of tax cuts to do so

The 216-210 vote sets up negotiations with the Senate, which last week passed a budget blueprint with similarly large spending increases for education, defense, homeland security and veterans programs.

The measure comes in response to Democratic complaints that Bush has shortchanged domestic programs funded each year by appropriations bills — including education, health research and grants to local governments — while awarding deficit-boosting tax cuts tilted toward the affluent.

Democrats said the $2.9 trillion plan for next year would point the way to a surplus after years of red ink under Bush and a GOP-controlled Congress. Republicans said that $153 billion surplus in 2012 would appear only if tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 expire in four years — amounting to the "largest tax increase in American history."

The future of the Bush tax cuts will likely be decided after the 2008 presidential election.


The Cumberland Three

Soulforce continues its good work, getting in the faces of bigots:
Another day, another college campus, and more arrests as the Soulforce Equality Ride continues its journey across America protesting against schools that bar or restrict LGBT students.

Three riders were arrested Wednesday at the University of Cumberlands, a small Baptist institution in Williamsburg, Kentucky.

Soulforce in a statement said the three were on a public sidewalk near the entrance to the school when they were arrested. Twenty-two riders were taking part in the protest, walkiing up and down in front of the college, on the street, singing songs and attempting to engage students in conversations about homosexuality.

Police had told the riders that they had to keep moving. Soulforce maintains the arrests violated an agreement they had with police.


Not a Civil War, Cont'd

It's not a civil war. John McCain told me so:
A series of deadly bomb attacks has killed more than 100 people in Shia areas of Baghdad and the town of Khalis, to the north of the capital.


The Invisible Hand Gives Chinese Workers the Finger

Welcome to capitalism
Labor officials in China's southern province of Guangdong said Thursday they are investigating reports that fast-food chains such as McDonald's and KFC pay their part-time workers less than the minimum wage of about $1 an hour.

The claims first surfaced in a report by the local newspaper New Express Daily, which said its reporters, posing as job applicants, found that McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut were paying part-time staff as much as 40 percent less than the minimum wage for Guangdong, which is 97 cents per hour.

The New Express Daily report said McDonald's was paying part-timers only 52 cents an hour, while it said part-timers at KFC earned 61 cents and at Pizza Hut 65 cents.

The report also accused the restaurants of demanding part-time employees work the hours of full-time staff but failing to pay them any full-time staff benefits.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Not a Civil War!

No, really. It's not. Quit being alarmist.
Shiite militants and police enraged by deadly truck bombings went on a shooting rampage against Sunnis in a northwestern Iraqi city Wednesday, killing as many as 70 men execution-style and prompting fears that sectarian violence was spreading outside the capital.


More Intimidation

They continue to scramble to cover their asses, don't they? Threaten the attorneys, threaten an FBI agent...

Whatever it takes:
An FBI agent was warned to keep quiet about the dismissal of a U.S. attorney after he told a newspaper her firing would hurt the agency's ongoing investigations and speculated politics was involved, a U.S. Senate panel heard on Tuesday.

FBI Director Robert Mueller defended the handling of the incident, saying: "I do not believe it's appropriate for our special agents in charge to comment to the media on personnel decisions that are made by the Department of Justice."

"I profoundly disagree," replied Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record), a California Democrat, who told the panel of the warning to the agent. "He (the agent) was simply saying that it would affect cases that were ongoing. And I think he's entitled to his opinion."


It's Not As If We Needed the Money...

for, like, decent health care facilities and such.

No harm, no foul, right?
The Department of Veterans Affairs backdated a key document and violated other rules as it pushed through a $100 million computer security contract that resulted in inflated prices and duplicate payments, according to a previously undisclosed report.

In the end, the contract turned into "an open checkbook" for various VA expenses, and the agency today can't detail the whereabouts of some $35 million in equipment purchased under the contract, the report by the VA's inspector general said.

Indeed, the agency blew through the contract's funds so quickly that the VA was temporarily left without proper defenses against computer hackers and was forced into a higher "CYBERCON" alert level.

As it responds to concerns about the treatment of veterans served by its health care and disability programs, the VA's internal auditor has said in recent months that the agency has another significant problem: the way it contracts for millions of dollars in supplies and personnel.


Arab Lesbians Meet in Public in Israel

Arab lesbians quietly defied Islamist protesters and a social taboo to gather at a rare public event Wednesday in a northern Israeli city.

Many of the attendees said they were sad that the only place safe enough to hold a conference for gay Arab women was in a Jewish area of Haifa, which has a mixed Arab-Jewish population. Israel's Jewish majority is generally tolerant of homosexuality

"This conference is being held, somehow, in exile, even though it's our country," said Yussef Abu Warda, a playwright.

Driven deep underground for the most part, only 10 to 20 Arab lesbians attended the conference, organizers said. Most blended in with Israeli lesbians and heterosexual Arab female supporters without making their presence known.

"We'd like all women to come out of the closet - that's our role. We work for them," said Samira, 31, a conference organizer who came with her Jewish Israeli girlfriend. Samira agreed to be identified only by her first name for fear of reprisals.


We're Number Seven!

More evidence of Bush's bold leadership in the 21st century:
European countries and Singapore have surpassed the United States in their ability to exploit information and communication technology, according to a new survey.

The United States, which topped the World Economic Forum's "networked readiness index" in 2006, slipped to seventh. The study, out Wednesday, largely blamed increased political and corporate interference in the judicial system.

The index, which measures the range of factors that affect a country's ability to harness information technologies for economic competitiveness and development, also cited the United States' low rate of mobile telephone usage, a lack of government leadership in information technology and the low quality of math and science education.


Post-Katrina Red-Lining

Even as New Orleans undergoes ominous, radical racial transformations during the rebuilding, St. Bernard Parish demonstrates a stubborn will to remain the same white backwater it has long been:
The long-sought stability and security are no longer apparent on Bill Schmidt's Pecan Drive, which, like almost every other street in the parish, took many feet of water during Hurricane Katrina. Of the forty brick ranch houses on the block, most are still lifeless shells, five have been cleared entirely down to the concrete slab and a few have white FEMA trailers parked out front.

Schmidt, afraid that his neighborhood would re-emerge transformed after Hurricane Katrina, proposed an ordinance to the Parish Council that would prevent people from renting their homes to people unrelated by blood. In late September 2006 the Parish Council took this up and the proposal became law. Schmidt's block, like a thousand others in St. Bernard Parish, was protected from change even while it was suspended in devastation.

Anger at the ordinance was immediate in this region where race and its complexities provide the subtext and backdrop for nearly every nuance of public life. The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center sued, pointing out that 93 percent of St. Bernard Parish property owners were white and that the ordinance effectively discriminated in the same manner that was found unconstitutional in Shelley v. Kramer five decades earlier, even if the reality of race was hidden in the language of blood. Its brief argued, "St. Bernard Parish seeks to perpetuate segregation by preserving the parish as an overwhelmingly all-white enclave."


Hell Is for Children

And for reactionary popes, apparently:

Hell is a place where sinners really do burn in an everlasting fire, and not just a religious symbol designed to galvanise the faithful, the Pope has said.

Addressing a parish gathering in a northern suburb of Rome, Benedict XVI said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to “admit blame and promise to sin no more”, they risked “eternal damnation — the Inferno”.

Hell “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more”, he said.



In so many ways, this "first conviction" out of Gitmo proves what we've been saying all along. The subversion of the American system of justice by the Bushes is a disgusting travesty and must be stopped. Here's just a sample, but you should read the entire account of how Hicks was led to plead guilty:
David Hicks, the Australian man that has been held in Guantánamo for five years, (the last year or so in solitary confinement) agreed to plead guilty yesterday. There are a few things you should know about his plea. First, and most importantly, Hicks is pleading guilty to a crime that did not exist on the books until September of 2006.

All of the original charges (the serious ones) were dropped against Hicks because the military had no evidence against him. Mr. Hicks was confined at Guantánamo until a new law could be passed that he could then be charged with. Never mind the fact that our constitution prohibits ex post facto (retroactive) laws, I mean that is why we are holding him at Guantánamo right?


More Iraq Prison Abuse

The conditions in these vastly overcrowded facilities must be horrendous:
Hundreds of Iraqis detained in the Baghdad security crackdown have been crammed into two detention centers run by the Defense Ministry that were designed to hold only dozens of people, a government monitoring group said Tuesday.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sewage Tsunami

This incident ranks pretty high on the list of least savory disasters:

At least four Palestinians drowned in a "sewage tsunami" when a water treatment reservoir burst, flooding a village in the northern Gaza Strip.

The deluge, triggered by the collapse of a septic system aid organisations had long warned was dangerously overburdened, submerged dozens of homes in the Bedouin farming village of Umm al-Nasr beneath a cesspool of foul-smelling effluent.

Two adults and two toddlers died in the flood.

At least 15 people were injured and scores more were still missing, according to Palestinian medics.

Village children clung to wooden doors floating on the putrid waters and rescuers paddled through the village in makeshift boats in search of victims.

Frantic goats and cows were also pulled to safety.

Village mayor Ziad Abu Thabet said 70 per cent of the village's mostly ramshackle homes had been buried in raw sewage.


Senate Sets Deadline

And now we'll get another pissy display from Bush, I suppose:
The likelihood of a showdown between the White House and the Democrat-controlled Congress edged closer yesterday when the Senate passed a bill setting a deadline for the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq.

Should the non-binding resolution be implemented, the last active US troops will leave Iraq on March 31 2008, five years and 11 days after the US-led invasion. The resolution calls for troop withdrawals to begin within 120 days.

"This war is not worth the spilling of another drop of American blood," the Senate majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid, said. It was a moment, he added, to "send a message to President Bush that the time has come to find a new way forward in this intractable war".


McCain: Pro-Passionate Lesbian Marriage

Now this is funny:

Someone on Presidential hopeful John McCain’s staff is going to be in trouble today. They used a well known template to create his Myspace page. The template was designed by Newsvine Founder and CEO Mike Davidson (original template is here). Davidson gave the template code away to anyone who wanted to use it, but asked that he be given credit when it was used, and told users to host their own image files.

McCain’s staff used his template, but didn’t give Davidson credit. Worse, he says, they use images that are on his server, meaning he has to pay for the bandwidth used from page views on McCain’s site.

Davidson decided to play a small prank on the campaign this morning as retribution. Since he’s in control of some of the images on the site, he replaced one that shows contact information with a statement:

Today I announce that I have reversed my position and come out in full support of gay marriage…particularly marriage between two passionate females.



I'm not alleging that there's necessarily anything illegal or immoral about this, but still...

Vilsack drops out. Vilsack endorses Clinton. Clinton helps pay Vilsack's debt.

Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton has agreed to help one-time candidate Tom Vilsack, who endorsed her on Monday, as he seeks to retire a campaign debt of more than $400,000.

Clinton will contact her supporters and ask them to donate money to the former Iowa governor, Clinton spokesman Mark Daley said Tuesday. Vilsack and his wife, Christie, endorsed Clinton in her bid for the Democratic nomination at an Iowa news conference on Monday.

Daley said there was no connection between the fundraising and the endorsement.

"There was no quid pro quo," Daley said. "They have a long history and if she could be helpful she wants to be helpful."


Why Am I Not Surprised?

Goodling, she of the 5th Amendment, is a graduate of...

Pat Robertson's law school:
Monica Goodling, the Department of Justice official who said Monday that she'll invoke the Fifth Amendment rather than talk to lawmakers, is a frequent figure in department e-mails released so far as part of the congressional investigation into the firings and hirings of U.S. attorneys.

Goodling, 33, is a 1995 graduate Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., an institution that describes itself as "committed to embracing an evangelical spirit."

She received her law degree at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Regent, founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, says its mission is "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world."

E-mails show that Goodling was involved in planning the dismissals and in later efforts to limit the negative reaction. As the Justice Department's liaison to the White House, she could shed light on the extent of White House involvement in the dismissals.


Shocking News!

Okay, not so much "shocking" as "entirely unsurprising":
Bush administration officials throughout the government have engaged in White House-directed efforts to stifle, delay or dampen the release of climate change research that casts the White House or its policies in a bad light, says a new report that purports to be the most comprehensive assessment to date of the subject.

Researchers for the non-profit watchdog Government Accountability Project reviewed thousands of e-mails, memos and other documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests and from government whistle-blowers and conducted dozens of interviews with public affairs staff, scientists, reporters and others.

The group says it has identified hundreds of instances where White House-appointed officials interfered with government scientists' efforts to convey their research findings to the public, at the behest of top administration officials.


Our American Media

The rest of the world sees a cover about al-Qaeda's resurgence in Afghanistan.

We get the Bible:
This week, Time's cover story is an essay arguing in favor of teaching the Bible in schools, which can be boiled down to this: "Of course the Bible should be taught in schools. Duh. It's religion that shouldn't be." On the cover of its international edition is a story that is less easily boiled down: "The Truth About Talibanistan," about the resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (and also, Pakistan), and how it's "the next battleground of the war on terrorism." The story is in the U.S. edition of the magazine but not on the American cover, presumably because Rick Stengel & co. think the Bible will do better newsstand (even though it is a singularly unattractive cover).


War on the Poor

A very Bush-era cure for the problem of homelessness.

Starve the bums out:
Cities are cracking down on charities that feed the homeless, adopting rules that restrict food giveaways to certain locations, require charities to get permits or limit the number of free meals they can provide.

Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas and Wilmington, N.C., began enforcing such laws last year. Some are being challenged.

Last November, a federal judge blocked the Las Vegas law banning food giveaways to the poor in city parks. In Dallas, two ministries are suing, arguing that the law violates religious freedom.

"Going after the volunteers is new," says Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless. "They think that by not feeding people, it will make the homeless people leave."


Monday, March 26, 2007

Bad News for the IRR

1,800 more to be sent to Iraq involuntarily for a year:
The Marine Corps is recalling 1,800 reservists to active duty, citing a shortage of volunteers to fill some jobs in Iraq.

Members of the branch's Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) will get letters this week notifying them of plans to mobilize them involuntarily for a year, said Lt. Col. Jeff Riehl of Marine manpower and reserve affairs.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week approved the action, under which reservists would report for duty in October and deploy to Iraq early next year, Riehl said.

From the 1,800 called, officials hope to get 1,200 Marines for aviation maintenance, logistics support, combat arms and several other skills needed for the early 2008 rotation into Iraq.

The ready reserves are service members who have left active duty but still have time remaining on their eight-year military obligations. Generally, Marines enlist for four years, then serve another four either in the regular Reserves, where they are paid and train periodically, or in the IRR, in which they do not drill but can be involuntarily recalled.


Goodling Lawyers Up

A senior Justice Department official plans to take the 5th:
Monica Goodling, a senior Justice Department official involved in the firings of federal prosecutors, will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings, citing Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, her lawyer said Monday.


Gonzales Implicated in TYC Sex Scandal

His troubles just keep on piling up these days:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, both already under siege for other matters, are now being accused of failing to prosecute officers of the Texas Youth Commission after a Texas Ranger investigation documented that guards and administrators were sexually abusing the institution's minor boy inmates.

Among the charges in the Texas Ranger report were that administrators would rouse boys from their sleep for the purpose of conducting all-night sex parties.


In the Texas Youth Commission scandal, Texas Ranger official Burzynski received a July 28, 2005, letter from Bill Baumann, assistant U.S. attorney in Sutton's office, declining prosecution on the argument that under 18 U.S.C. Section 242, the government would have to demonstrate that the boys subjected to sexual abuse sustained "bodily injury." Baumann wrote that, "As you know, our interviews of the victims revealed that none sustained 'bodily injury.'"

Baumann's letter continued, adding a definition of the phrase "bodily injury," as follows: "Federal courts have interpreted this phrase to include physical pain. None of the victims have claimed to have felt physical pain during the course of the sexual assaults which they described."


Welcome to Pace's Army

Interesting new recruitment tactics:
-- U.S. Army recruiter Sgt. Marcia Ramode, using her military email address to respond to Jersey City resident Corey Andrew, after Ramode learned Andrew was gay.
And this is just once of the many racist, homophobic e-mails she sent. More are here.


Lesbian Fighting Against Right to Adopt

It's a nasty situation:
Sara Wheeler's life has become a contradiction.

Once a proud lesbian, she's now a pariah in the gay community.

Once in a committed relationship with a female partner, she's rethinking her sexuality.

And now she's doing something she once would have considered unthinkable -- arguing that gays don't have the legal right to adopt children.


Shame Pole Calls Exxon On Their Crap

The Alaskan village of Cordova yesterday - the 18th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster - unveiled a shame pole as a reminder that Exxon has failed to keep its promises to "make you whole again." The article has a picture of part of the pole, but I'd love to see the whole thing.
[Artist] Webber's Tlingit ancestors carved such poles to embarrass rich people who owed society, but such poles are rare today, he said.

The Exxon pole won't get money out of the company, but it will remind people what happened, said Webber, 46. The pole's images of the spill are rife with apocalyptic symbolism and the epic court battle it spawned. It was unveiled at a public ceremony in Cordova on the spill's 18th anniversary Saturday.

Topping the totem is the upside-down face of former longtime Exxon CEO Lee Raymond, sporting a Pinocchio-like nose.

"So kids can figure out he's a liar," said Webber Friday afternoon by phone, as he brushed a sealing coat over the recently painted pole.

I gotta say, I really love this tradition of ridicule poles of rich people who owe society.


Sunday, March 25, 2007


This Bush
can't even get an honorary degree!
The university's Alumni Association's Board of Directors passed a resolution Saturday to make Bush an honorary alumnus. The move came on the heels of a 38-28 Faculty Senate vote on Thursday to deny Bush an honorary degree.
In deciding not to give Bush an honorary degree, some faculty members cited concerns about Bush's educational record in respect to the university.

Hat tip to chicago dyke.


Common Sense

Thank you, Governor Strickland. And here's hoping this move does indeed come to serve as a national model:
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed budget strips funding for programs that focus on teaching schoolchildren abstinence from sex until they're married.

The removal of $1 million in state aid to abstinence-only education marks a shift in state support for programs that advocates say serve as a national model.

The administration says it also has no plans to apply for federal money for the programs after the current funding ends Sept. 30.

"Quite frankly, I don't believe abstinence-only education programs work in the long run," Strickland told the Dayton Daily News. "There is some evidence that they may delay the onset of sexual activity, but over the long term there's not data there that show they prevent, in a statistical sense, sexual activity outside of marriage."


Trans City Manager Fired

Being born the wrong sex apparently implies managerial incompetence:
City commissioners early Saturday finalized the firing of a city manager who is seeking a sex-change operation, despite pleas from dozens of impassioned supporters to save his job.



From the recent anniversary: