Saturday, May 12, 2007

Governors Agree

Bush has screwed us:
As wildfires, floods and tornadoes batter the nation, the readiness of the National Guard to deal with those disasters, as well as potential terrorist assaults, is so depleted by deployments to foreign wars and equipment shortfalls that Congress is considering moves to curtail the president's powers over the Guard and require the Defense Department to analyze how prepared the country is for domestic emergencies.

The debate over the state of the National Guard has been intensifying for several years, but a powerful tornado in Kansas early this month has spun the topic back into the spotlight.

When the small farming community of Greensburg was effectively wiped off the map, leaving 11 people in the area dead and miles of rubble to be searched and cleared, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was direct in her explanation for why the response had not been faster: The policies of the federal government, she said, had left the Kansas National Guard understaffed and underequipped.
The bitter exchange represented a familiar debate to governors across the U.S., many of whom have long feared and predicted that a catastrophic event could find their National Guard units woefully hard-pressed to react to mass casualties or chaos after four years of war in Iraq.


Holding the Line in MA

A good bit of news in the fight against homophobic bigotry:
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley says that a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is likely unconstitutional and if it gets to voters and is approved her office will work with gay rights groups to challenge it in court.

Coakley, a Democrat, made the announcement in a speech to the Massachusetts Lesbian & Gay Bar Association.

"If that battle is necessary, you have my support," she said to thunderous applause.

Coakley said that she has asked the civil rights division in her office to begin preparing legal arguments if the measure is approved by the Legislature to go to voters next year.



More death
U.S. and Iraqi troops searched house-to-house and combed fields with their bare hands Saturday after American troops and their Iraqi interpreter came under attack in the notorious "triangle of death" south of Baghdad, leaving five dead and three missing.


Giuliani Knows His Base

You gotta love the GOP. They are true to their class:
Last weekend Deb and Jerry VonSprecken of Olin received a call from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s campaign office asking them if they would be interested in holding a campaign rally on May 4, after she had donated to his campaign.

“We thought it would be an honor and agreed,” said Jerry.

The campaign office continued to contact the VonSpreckens throughout last weekend and were told a security check would be needed. The couple passed the security check and began putting plans in place.

“We started making phone calls. We got the sheriff and fire department and Olin school was going to let out early. We were also expecting kids from the Anamosa school,” Jerry explained. “Deb even went around and personally invited people.”

On Tuesday Deb received a call from Giuliani’s Des Monies office and was asked to call New York.

“They wanted to know our assets,” she revealed, and added that she and Jerry have a modest 80 acre farm and raise cattle.

Later she received a call from Tony Delgado at the Des Monies location.

“Tony said, ‘I’m sorry, you aren’t worth a million dollars and he is campaigning on the Death Tax right now.’ then he said they weren’t going to be able to come,” Deb continued.

The Death Tax is a federal version of the Iowa Inheritance Tax.


Friday, May 11, 2007

"Lordly Hauteur Central"

...or perhaps not. In any case, by popular demand: Tista! (Or, as he is known around the house, Tistabug.)

You don't see me here. I am not in this bag, behaving in an undignified manner.

Damn. There goes my plausible deniability.


Baby Steps

Well, for whatever it's worth, we managed to get the Bushies to back down on at least this one egregious injustice:
The Bush administration said on Friday it no longer seeks to limit the number of meetings between Guantanamo prisoners and their lawyers, a proposal that had been strongly criticized by civil liberties and legal groups.



More wages of freedom in Iraq:
Suicide truck bombers struck police checkpoints on two bridges in a Shi'ite area south of Baghdad on Friday, killing 22 people and wounding 60, police said.



Coulter's voting fraud cleared up by an "unsolicited" intervention by an FBI agent?

Something's wrong here

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter has been cleared of allegations that she falsified her Palm Beach County voter's registration and voted illegally — this, after a high-level FBI agent made unsolicited phone calls to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to vouch for Coulter.

The caller wasn't just any G-man. According to PBSO documents, he was Supervisory Special Agent Jim Fitzgerald, of the FBI Academy's Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, Va. — the closest reality gets to the serial-killer catchers on CBS' Criminal Minds.

So why would an FBI profiler who went after the Unabomber take time from his busy day to even think about a municipal election snafu?

Fitzgerald is mum. But when the bureau heard about this from Page Two, it immediately launched an internal review of the agent's involvement.

"We're looking into it," bureau spokeswoman Ann Todd said.

She declined to say whether Fitzgerald acted on his personal behalf or as an FBI agent or on someone else's orders.

County Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson, meanwhile, decried what he called "FBI intrusion." He referred the Coulter case to PBSO after poll worker Jim Whited originally reported the incident.

"This doesn't bode well in terms of the public's impression that celebrities receive preferential treatment," Anderson said. "I'm curious about how anyone can justify the FBI's intrusion."


Bush Is a Drag

And McCain can't form a coherent thought:
Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Thursday he believes President Bush's low approval ratings are hurting the GOP yet won't affect the party's 2008 nominee.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Curing Koala Chlamydia

Opossums, it seems, are helpful creatures:

The discovery of genetic similarities in the immune systems of humans and opossums could help with the care of premature babies, researchers say.

It could also lead to breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of facial tumours threatening Tasmanian Devils with extinction and chlamydia in koalas.


Heartland Values

Another example
of the glory of Texas and the power of the free market:
A Texas woman has been indicted on charges she allegedly sold her 15-year-old daughter for $US3000 ($3600) to a man accused of child sex crimes.



They've made it clear. They want us out.

Let's get out

Radical Shiite politicians pressed Thursday for legislation demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops and a freeze on the number of foreign forces already in the country - even as the U.S. Congress debates the fate of the troubled mission.

The proposed Iraqi legislation, drafted by the parliamentary bloc loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, was signed by 144 members of the 275-member house, according to parliamentary officials.

The Sadrist bloc, which holds 30 parliamentary seats and sees the U.S.-led forces as an occupying army, has pushed similar bills before, but this would be the first time it persuaded a majority of lawmakers to sign on.

The measure has not yet been introduced in parliament and was unlikely to be passed in its present form. But the signatures reflected growing disenchantment among the lawmakers over U.S. involvement in Iraq and the government's failure to curb the violence in the country.


More News of the Obvious

Why have so many of us known this for so many years, while those who are in power and who should be in the know, haven't:
Richard Holbrooke, a former senior U.S. diplomat and a possible Democratic secretary of state, on Thursday described Iraq as a "civil war raging out of control" and a foreign policy crisis worse than Vietnam.


Great Moments in South African Justice

This is really not one of them:

Non-consensual, penile penetration of a woman whether it be anal or vaginal, constitutes rape, the Constitutional Court ruled today.

However it refused to find that non-consensual anal penetration of a man was rape, holding that this was the function of the legislators and not the court.

"It can hardly be said that non-consensual, anal penetration of males is less degrading, humiliating and traumatic (than that of females)..." Justice Bess Nkabinde found in a majority judgment.

"That this is so does not mean that it is unconstitutional to have a definition which is gender-specific.

"Focusing on anal penetration of females should not be seen as being disrespectful to male bodily integrity or insensitive to the trauma suffered by male victims of anal violation, especially boys of the age of the complainant in this case."

The challenge was brought by Fanuel Sitakeni Masiya, 44, who was charged with raping a nine-year-old girl on March 16 2004.


Winning Hearts and Minds, Cont'd

This is the way to do it
Angered that a beloved member of his squad had been killed in an explosion, a U.S. Marine urinated on one of the 24 dead Iraqi civilians killed by his unit in Haditha, the Marine testified on Wednesday.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bye Bye Blair

He's out:
Tony Blair will today return to Durham's Trimdon Labour Club, and the room where he launched his Labour leadership campaign on June 11 1994, to announce that he is standing down as party leader, before finally endorsing Gordon Brown as his successor tomorrow.
Mr Blair will not quit as prime minister until the beginning of July, giving the party seven weeks to conduct its contests for leader and deputy leader.


Kulongoski Gets It Right

Good news from Oregon:
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed two major LGBT civil rights bills Wednesday at a ceremony in front of the legislature. One bill would allow same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples unable to marry to form legally recognized partnerships. The other amends the state's non-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation.

More than 200 people - many of them same-sex couples with their children - cheered as Kulongoski put his name to the two bills.

"[These are] bills that are actually transformational [and show that Oregon is a land of equal opportunity for all our citizens," the governor declared.


Ratzi, Again, Needs to Shut Up

Just obnoxious
Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion.


Ship Sinking

Rats fleeing:

The Bush administration is facing growing difficulties in filling a rising number of high-level vacancies following a recent spate of senior departures.

In the last 10 days alone Mr Bush has lost four senior officials and more resignations are expected to follow. “I wouldn’t describe this as disintegration,” said one senior official. “But there are worrying large gaps opening up and it is very hard to recruit high-quality people from outside.”


Stranger Than Fiction


The West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra chose an unusual composer to headline its London performance Friday: Borat's real-life brother.

Erran Baron Cohen, the brother of the actor Sacha Baron Cohen, composed the 16-minute piece, Zere, which is debuted at St. James's Church in central London.

The irony of working with a Kazakh orchestra was not lost on Baron Cohen, a trumpeter who also composed the score to his brother's movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. In the smash comedy last year, Sacha Baron Cohen portrays a backward Kazakh television journalist.


A Twisted Mess

There are just so many things wrong with this situation in Australia, it's hard to know where to begin:

A MAN seeking asylum on the grounds that he would be persecuted as a bisexual Christian in Pakistan was denied refugee status because authorities ruled he was bisexual only as a result of being locked up with other men.

Giles Short, the Refugee Review Tribunal member who made the decision, said in his finding: "the applicant was not in fact bisexual … [his relationship] was simply the product of the situation where only partners of the same sex were available and said nothing about his sexual orientation."

He said this was the case in many relationships in prisons and detention centres.

In evidence to the tribunal, Ali Humayun said he and his partner had discussed marriage. But Mr Short dismissed this as "a contrived attempt to make their relationship appear more serious".

His findings were upheld by the Federal Magistrates Court on February 19, which said the decision on Mr Humayun's sexuality had been a "finding of fact".

Mr Humayun came to Australia in 2000 to study information technology and has spent more than two years in Villawood Detention Centre. He said he began his first same-sex relationship before entering the centre. At the time of his tribunal hearing, he identified as bisexual, but now said he was gay.

Mr Humayun says he is the only openly gay detainee at Villawood - his partner has been granted asylum. He says he is persecuted daily by detainees, but fears worse in Pakistan. "I'm worried for my life if I am deported home," he said. "The men in my family, they are really fundamentalist types. Muslims. My lifestyle is totally in contrast to what they believe."

Pakistani civil law punishes gay sex with jail terms of between two years and life. Under Islamic law, homosexuals can face 100 lashes or death by stoning.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Clinton Still Doing More Than Bush

Bush has the power of the federal government, and wields it only in the stupidest of ways. Clinton, meanwhile, is doing actual good, saving rather than destroying lives:
Former President Bill Clinton announced agreements with drug companies Tuesday to lower the price in the developing world of AIDS drugs resistant to initial treatments and to make a once-a-day AIDS pill available for less than $1 a day.

The drugs to battle so-called "second-line" anti-retrovirals are needed by patients who develop a resistance to first-line treatment and currently cost 10 times as much, Clinton said. Nearly half a million patients will require these drugs by 2010.

Clinton's foundation negotiated agreements with generic drug makers Cipla Ltd. and Matrix Laboratories Ltd. that he said would generate an average savings of 25 percent in low-income countries and 50 percent in middle-income countries.

Clinton also announced a reduced price for a once-daily first-line AIDS pill that combines the drugs tenofovir, lamivudine and efavirenz.

He said the new price of $339 per patient per year would be 45 percent lower than the current rate available to low-income countries and 67 percent less than the price available to many middle-income countries


American Rehabilitation

Our penal system at work:
Prosecutors issued arrest warrants Tuesday for eight former prison employees accused of abusing inmates, including forcing some to clean toilets with their tongues.


The Surge Goes On

35,000 more:
The Pentagon has notified more than 35,000 Army soldiers to be prepared to deploy to Iraq beginning this fall, a move that would allow commanders to maintain the ongoing buildup of troops through the end of the year if needed.


Holding the Line in Alaska

Common sense and decency prevail, for now:
A proposed constitutional amendment that would prevent the same-sex domestic partners of state workers from receiving health benefits failed in the House, but supporters say it is not dead.

The House voted 22 - 14 against passing the measure. It's chief sponsor John Coghill (R) immediately asked for reconsideration. To reopen it for another vote, Coghill would need 27 votes in the House and 14 votes in the Senate.


Broadcasting from the Closet

Dude has issues:
A Fort Lauderdale Airport worker who admitted to being the person responsible for using the airport's loudspeaker system to issue what is described as a homophobic message has now been fired and the Broward Sheriff's office says no charges will be laid.

Jethro Monestime, 23, a luggage attendant employed by Superior Aircraft Services, admitted to his bosses Monday that he was behind the playing of a taped recitation of a verse from Leviticus condemning homosexuality.



Okay, Wolfowitz, will you please go now?
A World Bank committee investigating accusations of nepotism against bank president Paul Wolfowitz has found he "clearly" breached rules, a European source said on Tuesday.

"The committee concluded clearly that Mr Wolfowitz did not respect the rules," the source, with knowledge of the situation and speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Wolfowitz, whose two years at the helm of the bank charged with fighting global poverty have been marked by controversy, is fighting allegations that he improperly orchestrated a substantial promotion and pay raise for his companion, Shaha Riza, a fellow bank employee.

US President George W. Bush's administration on Tuesday renewed its support for Wolfowitz, but said it would stay out of any discussions on his future at the institution.


Failing New Orleans, Again

I'm sick and tired of being unsurprised by news like this:
Almost a year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declared that it had restored New Orleans' levees and floodwalls to pre-Hurricane Katrina strength.

But the system is actually riddled with flaws, and a storm even weaker than Katrina could breach the levees if it hit this year, say leading experts who have investigated the system.


16 More

A car bomb tore through a busy market in the Shiite holy city of Kufa on Tuesday, killing at least 16 people and wounding 70 in an attack sure to further enflame tensions between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite populations.
The chance that an Iraqi child will live beyond age 5 has plummeted faster than anywhere else in the world since 1990, according to a report released Tuesday, which placed the country last in its child survival rankings.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Gay Parents Just As Good

It's sad that some people are so homophobic that they'd take the time to try to hide this study. Come on, Canada! You're supposed to be the sane ones around here:
A study prepared for the Canadian government shows children do as well, perhaps better, when reared by same-sex parents as they do by opposite-sex couples.

The study has just now become public even though it was commissioned by the government in 2003 leading to accusations that the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper attempted to burry the research.

When the study was ordered the Liberals were in power and courts across the country were beginning to strike down federal restrictions limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

The Liberals went on to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005. The party was defeated the following year by the Tories who promised to revisit the vote.

The study on child rearing was not complete until after the Conservatives came to power.


Yet Another Hypocrite

While making money off his book decrying the lies that led us into the war, Tenet is also making money by working for corporations servicing the war:
If you go by the book jacket of his new memoir, "At the Center of the Storm," George Tenet is enjoying the life of a retired government servant teaching at Georgetown University, where he was appointed to the faculty in 2004. The former CIA director played up the academic image when he kicked off the recent media blitz for his new book by doing an interview for CBS's "60 Minutes" from his spacious, book-lined office at the university. His academic salary, and the reported $4 million advance he received from publisher HarperCollins, should provide the former CIA director with more than enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his days and leave a substantial fortune to his children.

But those monies are hardly Tenet's entire income. While the swirl of publicity around his book has focused on his long debated role in allowing flawed intelligence to launch the war in Iraq, nobody is talking about his lucrative connection to that conflict ever since he resigned from the CIA in June 2004. In fact, Tenet has been earning substantial income by working for corporations that provide the U.S. government with technology, equipment and personnel used for the war in Iraq as well as the broader war on terror.

When Tenet hit the talk-show circuit last week to defend his stewardship of the CIA and his role in the run-up to the war, he did not mention that he is a director and advisor to four corporations that earn millions of dollars in revenue from contracts with U.S. intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense. Nor is it ever mentioned in his book. But according to public records, Tenet has received at least $2.3 million from those corporations in stock and other compensation. Meanwhile, one of the CIA's largest contractors gave Tenet access to a highly secured room where he could work on classified material for his book.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

"Elite" Squad Benched

Police Chief William Bratton said Sunday that up to 60 members of an elite squad that swarmed into a park and fired rubber bullets during a May Day immigration rally are no longer on the street.


"Comfortable Housing Program"

Another lovely Chinese Communist euphemism:
In a massive campaign that recalls the socialist engineering of an earlier era, the Chinese government has relocated some 250,000 Tibetans - nearly one-tenth of the population - from scattered rural hamlets to new "socialist villages," ordering them to build new housing largely at their own expense and without their consent.

The government calls the year-old project the "comfortable housing program," and its stated aim is to present a more modern face for this ancient region, which China has controlled since 1950.


Habeas Schmabeas

The war on the Constitution continues, and the bastards might not win this round:
The Bush administration this February won a court victory denying habeas corpus to alien detainees. Now, it is trying to deny the detainees the effective assistance of counsel.

None of this should come as a surprise. Ever since President George W. Bush declared his “war on terror” in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he has claimed unlimited and unlimitable power under the commander-in-chief provisions of Article II of the Constitution. Since then, government lawyers have persisted in trying to prevent any judicial scrutiny of the president’s actions in conducting this “war.”

Until recently, these efforts had mostly failed. In February, however, a 2-1 panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 provision that denies the courts any meaningful supervision over the aliens detained as “enemy combatants” by the military at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere was not an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

With the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari on April 2, the government strategy has apparently succeeded, at least for the moment.

But this could change. Although in the past, Congress has collaborated with the Bush administration in restricting detainee rights, a new Democratic Congress may be more willing to stand up to the president. And at the Supreme Court, two key justices, even while denying certiorari last month, may have signaled their commitment to habeas rights for detainees in the future.


56 More

12 of us. 44 of them.
A roadside explosion outside the Iraqi capital on Sunday killed six American soldiers and a civilian journalist, the military said, among 12 U.S. troop deaths reported on a day when two car bombs killed at least 44 Iraqis at a Baghdad market and a police headquarters.


Don't Re-Ask, Don't Re-Tell?

An interesting case

On his wedding night in July 2004, then-Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason Knight finally accepted a truth he had fought against for years: he was gay.

Almost immediately, he moved to get his marriage annulled. He apologized to the woman he’d married. And when it came time to explain his changing circumstances to the Navy, he left nothing out. Under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, he was quickly discharged from the service.

But now — whether through a clerical oversight or what some claim is an unwritten change in policy to keep more gay servicemembers in the ranks at a time of war — Jason Knight is back on active duty.

Since promoted to petty officer second class, Knight is finishing a scheduled one-year tour in Kuwait with Naval Customs Battalion Bravo. And, already kicked out of the Navy once, he sees no need to hide his sexual orientation.

“I thought it was a joke at first,” he said, remembering the day he received his recall orders. “It was the ultimate kick in the ass. But then I thought, there isn’t much they can do to me they haven’t done the first time.”

It was comments by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that spurred Knight to come out publicly a second time. In defending the military’s policy, Pace called homosexual acts immoral and contrary to military values.

“Though I respect [Pace] as a leader, it made me so mad,” Knight said.


The Bastard Wins

Looks like the right wing has taken France:
France was heading for a Right-wing revolution after Nicolas Sarkozy was elected France’s new president by a clear majority, according to preliminary exit polls released by Swiss media.