Saturday, July 31, 2004

GOP Rallies: Open to Loyal Partisans Named Herby

Odd doings in New Mexico:
Political campaigns are always eager to keep hecklers out of their pep rallies, but the Republican National Committee took that desire to a new level last week, requiring supporters to sign an oath of loyalty before receiving tickets to Saturday's New Mexico rally featuring Vice President Cheney.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on Friday that people seeking tickets to the Cheney event who could not be identified as GOP partisans -- contributors or volunteers -- were told they could not receive tickets unless they signed an endorsement form saying "I, (full name) . . . do herby (sic) endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States." The form warns that signers "are consenting to use and release of your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush."


Terrorism Bad; Heroin Okay

This story just goes to show you how far the neoconservatives have driven the nation away from traditional conservative values; even the war on drugs just isn't what it used to be:

Earlier this year the US State Department's senior narcotics official, Robert Charles, accused Britain of squeamishness during a hearing entitled, 'Afghanistan: are British counter-narcotics efforts going wobbly?' British diplomats were reported to be furious.

But even moderate voices within the US embassy in Kabul have spelled out the gulf between its priorities and those of Britain.

The MPs' report last week confirmed that efforts to develop alternative livelihoods for the poppy farmers had yet to produce results. The area under poppy cultivation was forecast to grow to between 90,000 and 120,000 hectares this year, increasing the dependence of farmers on the crop and funding the defiance of central government by regional warlords.

The role of the military - currently at full stretch hunting Osama bin Laden - has been a bone of contention. The American official, who since giving this interview has left the embassy, continued: 'I was struck in our discussions with minister Rammell that the tick list of points from him had not changed one iota from a year ago, and the number one tick list point is always that coalition forces must be more aggressive and we need, in essence, a military solution by going after drugs labs.

'Our military is absolutely apoplectic at the thought of getting anywhere near any of these issues. They don't want to be dragged into a drug war like they were in South America and they don't want to do anything that will make their job harder. There's no question if you could go after the drug trade right now, in any way, shape or form, it's going to cause ripples. If we said fine, we're just going to give away money and attack drugs labs, you don't think that wouldn't cause instability?'


Willing Stooges

Juan Cole has posted a very convincing narrative detailing Osama bin Laden's strategy, how he implemented it, and how the Bush administration played along so perfectly it probably surprised even him.


The Bush Administration: All about Not Playing Well with Others

Now the EPA, more grossly politicized than ever before since Bush took power, doesn't need anyone's stinkin' input:

The Environmental Protection Agency will no longer have to consult with wildlife agencies before deciding whether pesticides are likely to harm threatened or endangered species, according to rules issued by the Bush administration yesterday.

Under current regulations, the EPA must get written approval from the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service before ruling that a new pesticide would not "adversely affect" imperiled plants and animals. Bush officials said the new rules would streamline the process by entrusting EPA scientists with the job of deciding how pest controls affect endangered species.


Nader for America

His bold new vision to save America from corporate corruption?

Scamming the homeless for political gain:

Ralph Nader's presidential campaign this week abruptly abandoned the Center City office that housed its efforts to get on the Pennsylvania ballot, leaving behind a mess of accusations and a damaged building.

The office, on the 1500 block of Chestnut Street, was emptied Thursday after a raucous scene the night before.

Police were called as dozens of homeless people lined up to collect money they said they were owed for circulating petitions on the candidate's behalf.

Many of the circulators were never paid, according to outreach workers and interviews with several men who had collected signatures.

"A lot of us were scammed," said Ed Seip, 52, who said he collected more than 200 signatures for Nader.


Postmodern Reconstructionism

The media machine has been working for decades now to make the realities of warfare less and less real to Americans, so that our memories of the first Gulf War primarily involve a "smart bomb" going down a chimney, and our impressions of this Gulf War are only beginning to include images of coffins coming home (and still haven't begun to include the thirteen thousand or so Iraqi civilian casualties and likely never will).

But the latest contributor to the unreality of war, also contributing substantially to the surreality of war, is...the reality show:
Like its forerunners in the west such as Changing Rooms and House Invaders, Labour and Materials has caught the imagination of Iraqis who have been captivated by the stories of families whose houses - and lives - have been reduced to dust by the war and its aftermath.

In the Iraqi version - the ultimate in the genre - there is no brooding over floating shelves, click-flooring and spurious items of art work. Its aim is more ambitious: total reconstruction.

"It's not just about rebuilding the house, we are also helping the families to rebuild mentally," said Ali Hanoon, the director of the show, which is broadcast in weekly 15-minute episodes on al-Sharqiya, the country's first private satellite TV channel. "We chart the changes in the family during the building. With every wall that goes up, or roof that is repaired, their lives also regain structure."


Deranged Old Man Calls on Army of Pedophiles to Berate Evil Feminists

The Pope will call on leaders of the Roman Catholic church today to attack feminist ideologies which assert that men and women are fundamentally the same.

The Vatican is concerned that this belief is eroding what it regards as women's maternal vocation. But a paper on the subject which is due to be published today - the Vatican's third major pronouncement on women's role in the quarter century of John Paul's papacy - has drawn scornful criticism from feminists and academics.

According to a leaked extract, the document accuses feminists of "blurring the biological difference between man and woman".



Lies about the Convention

Given the incredible level of hope and optimism expressed by the Democrats at their convention, and given the truly amazing level of oratorical skill on display, how else could the SCLM address it, other than outright deceit?

For example, there's Jonah Goldberg, called in to cover the convention for USA Today once they realized that Ann Coulter had all the insight and literary skill of a rabid, leprous armadillo:
Goldberg grossly distorted a poll of convention delegates in an effort to make them appear "far to the left of the mainstream." Goldberg claimed that "5 out of 6 say the war on terrorism and national security aren't that important." This, of course, is absurd. Nearly everybody thinks national security is important. But that isn't what the poll asked. Delegates were asked which single issue they "think will be the most important campaign issue in your state?"

Goldberg's distortion was triply dishonest:

The poll didn't assess which campaign issues delegates thought were "important;" it asked which single issue they thought will be the "most important."

The poll didn't ask for the delegates' personal value judgments but, rather, for their political assessment of which issue would be most important campaign issue among voters in their state.

"National security" wasn't even one of the choices presented in the poll, which did, however, include "terrorism," "war," and "Iraq."

Then, there's CNN's Bill Schneider, who opted to yank the pro-lifers' chains:
CNN senior analyst Bill Schneider (a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, although CNN doesn't share that information with its viewers) also distorted the delegate poll, claiming that 75 percent of convention delegates favor "abortion on demand." Schneider based his claim on a question in which only one of three choices did not involve drastic new restrictions on abortions – unsurprising, then, that most delegates chose that option. But it was certainly not an indication that they "endorse abortion on demand."

And, my favorite, Robert Novak, who chose to do away with all pretense of journalism, and just say what was on his twisted, reptilian mind:
CNN Crossfire host Robert Novak didn't waste any time on little things like "issues" in his rush to portray Democrats as outlandish fiends: He cut straight to the point, referring to Democratic delegates as "flesh-eating people."

The consensus: Democrats are evil zombie creatures who hope that crazed outsiders invade America, killing most of us and forcing the rest to have abortions, in order that Democrats can finally, finally, sate their unnatural cravings for sweet human flesh.

That sounds about right.


Another Educator Killed, for Working with Americans

The plague of assassinations of those who collaborate with American troops, and of educators in general, continues:
Gunmen killed the head of a state-run teacher's institute as he left a
mosque after prayers, police said Saturday, an attack in apparent retribution
for his refusal to stop working for Iraqi authorities.

Militants had previously warned Ismail al-Kilabi, the head of the
Mahmoudiyah Teachers Institute, 20 miles south of Baghdad, to quit his job after
the transfer of power from U.S. occupation forces to the interim government,
police Lt. Ala'a Hussein said.

Iraqi militants have increasingly targeted police and other Iraqi
officials they deem collaborators with coalition forces as part of their
15-month-old insurgency.


Friday, July 30, 2004

Saying No to Workers

That Pataki can do this even as reports come in that real wages have dropped by 9% since 2000 is just appalling.
Saying that hiking the minimum wage would put New York at a "distinct
competitive disadvantage," Gov. George Pataki vetoed a measure yesterday that
would have raised the hourly rate to $7.15 by 2007.


Sex Police at Work

My friend Rosie has alerted me to a shining example of the law and order brought to us by the sorts of judges Bush appoints and will keep appointing for four more years if we don't get him OUT.

If conservatives had any sort of sexual imagination, they'd realize just how many things this law can apply to:

A federal appeals court Wednesday upheld a 1998 Alabama law banning the
sale of sex toys in the state, ruling the Constitution doesn't include a right
to sexual privacy.

In a 2-1 decision overturning a lower court, a
three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state
has a right to police the sale of devices that can be sexually stimulating.


The Bush Economy
Even a quick glance at some headlines tells the story quite clearly:

White House Forecasts Record Budget Deficit

Economy Cools Amid Shopping Slowdown

Ex-Enron Exec Pleads Guilty to Securities Fraud

Audit on Iraq Contracts Finds Fraud, Other Abuses

This is your nation on crony capitalism...

Enough of this.  I'm in San Francisco, and I am leaving such depressing thoughts behind as I go to the Rogue Brewing Company Pub here in town, where they have the best burgers in the known universe, made from Kobe beef.  Just doing my part to stimulate the economy.


Thursday, July 29, 2004

Asia Continues to Heat Up
As Bush focuses with "laser-like" stupidity on Iraq, North Korea issues demands that the US leave the peninsula and threatens war.  And now, China follows suit with regard to Taiwan.  Um, shouldn't someone be doing something about this?
China may attack Taiwan if the island's President Chen Shui-bian pushes ahead with a plan for a new constitution by 2008, the China Daily on Friday quoted a top Taiwan affairs official as saying.


Lowering the Crime Rate in America
That's apparently the latest justification for the war in Iraq; we sent our carjackers over there to make America safer!
A military jury found a soldier guilty of armed robbery Thursday for taking an Iraqi sheik's sport utility vehicle at gunpoint, but concluded he did not deserve prison.

The panel also convicted Sgt. 1st Class James Williams of willful dereliction of duty for allowing his soldiers to consume alcohol in Iraq.

Williams, 37, of rural Westmoreland County, Va., maintains he helped take the SUV only because his lieutenant ordered him to procure a vehicle and because he did not think it was a criminal act, but the prosecution alleged he was simply after a "sweet ride."


The wonder that is Texas:
Texans living on "Jap Road" decided the best way to remove the racial slur from the country lane would be to rename it "Boondocks Road" after a defunct catfish restaurant, officials say.


The First Refugee?
A fifteen-year-old Iraqi girl is seeking asylum in the United States because of persecution suffered by her family for working with American forces.  Considering the attrition rate just among high officials working with us, her case can hardly be deemed out of the ordinary:
A 15-year-old Iraqi girl who came to America for medical treatment is seeking political asylum, claiming persecution at home because her family cooperated with the U.S. military.

The petition, under review by the Center for Immigration Services, seeks reprieve for the girl and her mother, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation against other family members still in Baghdad. Several of them have been shot at and one was killed, according to the petition.

The case, which is expected to be decided Tuesday, is believed to be among the first U.S. instances of an Iraqi seeking political asylum. A victory could open the door for other Iraqis in the United States who claim persecution for reasons other than race, religion or political opinion.

"Here, it's just their association with the U.S. military that's causing the problems," said Jeff Sullivan, a Washington lawyer at Foley & Lardner who is representing the mother and daughter. "Something has to be done."

posted by rorschach @ 11:12 PM  


Bush: The Pro-Drug Choice
This comment is almost too perfect to be believed.  It reminds me of the scene in Roger and Me in which the rich, old white woman states that poor people are lazy and then turns to knock a golf ball down the course at her country club (which in turn reminds me of W's infamous "now watch this drive").

How out of touch with reality is the Bush administration?
A campaign worker for President Bush said on Thursday American workers unhappy with low-quality jobs should find new ones -- or pop a Prozac to make themselves feel better.

"Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy -- or go on Prozac?" said Susan Sheybani, an assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt.

The comment was apparently directed to a colleague who was transferring a phone call from a reporter asking about job quality, and who overheard the remark.

posted by rorschach @ 11:03 PM  


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Vacation Time
Tomorrow I head out to San Francisco for a few days of relaxation, so blogging will be light at best until Tuesday.

The way things are going, it's entirely plausible that the site may pass 20,000 visits over the weekend, though it is not probable.  If it does, thanks in advance to all my readers!

posted by rorschach @ 11:30 PM  


Saudi Force May Enter Iraq Soon
Powell is in talks to bring in a Muslim force to replace some American troops:
In talks with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Saudi Arabia today proposed the creation of an Islamic force to help stabilize Iraq and potentially someday replace at least some of the U.S.-led military coalition, according to senior Arab diplomats here.

At a joint press conference with Powell, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal confirmed that the proposal is now on the table but refused to provide specifics until further discussions with Powell over a working dinner.

posted by rorschach @ 2:29 PM  


Korean War II?
Given that we are hopelessly bogged down in Iraq, and even there we are relying far too heavily on reservists, this is very, very bad news:
North Korea urged the United Nations yesterday to dissolve the UN Command on the tense peninsula and press for the withdrawal of US troops based in South Korea.

In a rare letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, North Korea's representative at the Korean War truce village called on the United Nations to dissolve the 50-year-old UN Command.

"It is our view that a war in Korea is almost unavoidable as long as the US hostile policy toward the DPRK goes on," said the 1,100-word letter, which the official KCNA news agency said was written by Colonel-General Ri Chan-bok. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

posted by rorschach @ 1:39 PM  


Oil prices are higher than they have been since 1983.  Well, at least we can rest assured that the CEOs can still afford it.

posted by rorschach @ 1:31 PM  


Rewarding Incompetence
Let's just go ahead and flush all our tax revenues down the toilet and be done with it.  Halliburton loses millions of dollars worth of government property in Iraq, so what do we do?


Halliburton Co.'s engineering unit KBR was awarded a contract worth up to $500 million to provide private sector construction and related services to the U.S. Navy and other defense department agencies, the company said on Tuesday.

Under the contract, KBR could be asked to provide program planning and other services as well as personnel, equipment, materials and labor as needed by the Navy.

posted by rorschach @ 10:08 AM  


Freedom from Intellectuals
Another way in which Iraq is becoming a neoconservative's idea of utopia: They're killing off the professors:
Even after the ‘transfer of authority’ the U.S. Government remains in de facto military occupation of Iraq. The idea that the escalation of violence can be put to an end by the ‘interim’ government, while 140,000 U.S troops remain in control of major Iraqi cities like Mosul and Baghdad, is far from the reality on the ground.

Overlooked by the U.S. Press is the escalating assassination of Iraqi academics, intellectuals, and lecturers. More than 250 college professors since April 30, 2003, according to the Iraqi Union of University Lecturers, have been the targets of assassination. Among the 250 professors assassinated to date include: Muhammad al-Rawi, President of Baghdad University (July 27, 2003); Dr. Abdul Latif al-Mayah a Professor of Political Science at Baghdad's Mustansiriya University (late January 2003); Dr. Nafa Aboud, a Professor of Arabic Literature at the University of Baghdad; Dr Sabri al-Bayati; a Geographer at the University of Baghdad; Dr. Falah al-Dulaimi, Assistant Dean of College at Mustansariya University; Dr. Hissam Sharif, Department of History of the University of Baghdad; and Professor Wajih Mahjoub of the College of Physical Education.

posted by rorschach @ 8:37 AM  


Rich, Getting Richer
What's that about two Americas?
The CEO's at the nation's largest companies saw their raises more than doubled in 2003 as the median raise handed out by S&P 500 companies to their top executives was 22.18 percent, according to a study by The Corporate Library.

The watchdog group said that stock options and awards of restricted stock drove the larger pay hikes. But most elements of the pay -- base salary, annual bonuses, restricted stock, long-term incentive payout, value realized from stock options and total compensation -- showed increases. The only type of compensation not to show a gain was the value of stock option grants during the year.

"This double-digit rise in pay shows that calls for pay restraint appear to be being ignored," said the statement from the group.

posted by rorschach @ 7:37 AM  


US Government: Conspirator
The first lawsuit opened up by the Supreme Court's ruling has been filed:
The parents of an American jailed without charges in Saudi Arabia are suing the United States in what lawyers say is the first lawsuit filed on behalf of a U.S. citizen detained in a third country at the U.S. government's request.

The parents claim his being held in Saudi Arabia is a deliberate attempt to keep him out of U.S. courts and in the hands of jailers who could abuse or torture him for information.

The family's lawyers cite last month's Supreme Court rulings that alleged enemy combatants held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can take their claims to U.S. courts.

Ahmed Abu Ali was arrested 13 months ago in Saudi Arabia as part of an American anti-terrorism investigation. The U.S. government ordered the arrest and has refused to say when or if Abu Ali would be charged or released, the family alleged in a suit to be filed Wednesday in federal court in Washington.

The family wants an American judge to order Abu Ali returned to the United States, where he might face charges as part of an alleged terrorism training ring in Virginia. The suit names Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell and others and cites the Supreme Court rulings last month that outlined legal rights for citizens and non-citizens detained in the war on terrorism.

"Although petitioner Ahmed Abu Ali presently is physically confined in Saudi Arabia, (the U.S. government) directed and conspired with Saudi co-conspirators to carry out his arrest and indefinite detention in that country without due process protections and in violation of other statutory and constitutional standards," lawyers for Abu Ali's family wrote.

posted by rorschach @ 6:55 AM  


Our "Success" in Afghanistan
Things are so good there now that humanitarian groups are pulling out:
The relief agency Medecins Sans Frontieres said Wednesday it is pulling out of Afghanistan, discouraged about a fruitless investigation into the slayings of five of its workers and fearful of new attacks.

The Nobel prize-winning group's decision to withdraw was the most dramatic example yet of how deteriorating security has crippled the delivery of badly needed aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was ousted more than two years ago. MSF had already suspended most of its work after the June killings and recalled all foreign staff to Kabul, the capital.

"Today's context is rendering independent humanitarian aid for the Afghan people all but impossible," the international group said in a statement.

posted by rorschach @ 6:47 AM  


More Death in Iraq
A suicide car bomb exploded outside a police recruiting centre in central Baquba today, killing 68 Iraqis.

The attack, which killed 21 people inside a passing bus, was the deadliest bombing in Iraq since the United States transferred sovereignty to an interim government June 28.

The bombing came amid an intense surge in violence: 35 insurgents and seven Iraqi police were killed in clashes south-east of Baghdad, a US soldier was killed in a bomb attack and a police officer was assassinated.


posted by rorschach @ 6:45 AM  


Bush's Latest Target
Guess who?  That's right!  Cancer patients!

Compassionate conservativism indeed:

Cancer doctors and patients' advocates said a Bush administration proposal to cut Medicare payments to cancer doctors could force a dramatic change in care, with patients forced to get treatment in hospitals, sometimes far from their homes, rather than in physicians' offices.

"A patient of mine in rural Illinois may have to drive another 50 miles," said Dr. Edward Braud, an oncologist who was interviewed by telephone from his clinic in rural Jacksonville, Ill.

The White House detailed its proposal on cuts in payments for drugs to treat cancer and chronic lung ailments yesterday, saying taxpayers had been paying the physicians up to twice what they should for certain medications.

The proposed changes would save the government $530 million and Medicare beneficiaries $270 million next year, said Mark McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicare spent $10.5 billion last year on prescription medicines administered in physicians' offices and clinics.

Cancer specialists said they relied on the higher drug payments to cover chemotherapy-related services that Medicare did not fully fund. If the proposed cuts take effect, physicians might lose money and stop offering cancer care, said Deborah Kamin, senior director for cancer policy and clinical affairs at the American Society of Clinical Oncologists.

posted by rorschach @ 6:15 AM  


Fahrenheit 9/11
Opening today in Germany and Crawford, TX.  I wonder where it'll receive the warmer welcome...


posted by rorschach @ 5:54 AM  


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Common Sense
Despite the shrill warnings of Tom Ridge and, just today, of Cheney himself, the actual motivations of al-Qaeda are not quite so focused on disrupting America's elections:

In fact, while Al-Qaeda is constantly trying to prepare massive acts of horror on US soil, replacing the Bush administration is not likely to be one of its objectives. Broadly, there are two possible goals for Al-Qaeda as an organization.

First, Al-Qaeda aims not so much to change US policy on specific issues, but to rally Muslims worldwide against the United States to create a sense of a clash of civilizations and to isolate Washington in the international community. Ultimately, it would hope to create a puritanical Islamic order in the Muslim world. This is the most plausible of the two objectives, and is one believed by the Bush administration.

Second, Al-Qaeda seeks to change US foreign policy on issues that many Muslims care about, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, the presence of US troops in the Persian Gulf region and support for authoritarian governments in the Middle East. This objective has been put forth in a book by an anonymous CIA official and, if true, it would mean that current policy must be reassessed.

posted by rorschach @ 10:31 PM  


Anti-Gay Lawyer Atoning for His Sins
Welcome to the side of right:
Nearly three decades ago Ellis Rubin was one of the most vehement anti-gay lawyers in the country serving as the attorney for the right wing group that overturned Miami-Dade's gay rights ordinance.  Today, Rubin joined The Equality Campaign as its Senior Legal Counsel.

Over the past year Rubin has had an epiphany.  He is representing, at his own expense, dozens of same-sex couples in suits throughout Florida and last week launched the first legal challenge against the federal Defense of Marriage Act. (story) Rubin calls it his "atonement" for years of working with anti-gay groups.

posted by rorschach @ 8:49 PM  


Republicans Proud of Record Deficit
Amazing, but true:
The White House is expected to project soon a record federal budget deficit of about $420 billion for 2004, which could give ammunition to both sides of the election-year debate over tax and spending policies.

Congressional sources said on Tuesday the White House review of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, was likely to project a deficit about $50 billion greater than 2003. But the new figure would be nearly $100 billion less than forecast five months ago.

A congressional aide who spoke on condition of anonymity said the $420 billion figure is "what people are talking about" on Capitol Hill. Others gave a similar figure, which would be a record in dollar terms.

White House budget office spokesman Chad Kolton declined to discuss specific projections but said the office had not yet briefed anyone at the Capitol on details of the review.

Republicans have said privately that they would view a better-than-expected projection as a sign of progress toward President Bush's goal of cutting the deficit in half in five years.

But the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry ridiculed the prospect of portraying a $420 billion deficit projection as good news.

"It takes a lot of chutzpah," said Gene Sperling, a former economic aide to former Democratic President Bill Clinton and now an adviser to Kerry.

"There was supposed to be a $400 billion surplus this year," Sperling said, referring to Clinton-era projections. "That is an $800 billion deterioration and they are trying to brag about it."

posted by rorschach @ 3:50 PM  


$60 Million for Police Officers
No, not here in the states, as you know.  The $60 million is to pay off the utterly corrupt police force in Iraq so that they won't turn hostile.

Things are going so well:
The Intelligence Service has its own secret prison. Criminals wear uniforms and collect police salaries. Senior security officials hand out jobs to family members. Investigators charged with being watchdogs over the police say they have little or no power. They report to the interior minister rather than to justice itself. The police arrest the innocent, beat them, and imprison them without charge; and in at least one case, police shot dead an innocent bystander.

This is not Saddam Hussein's corrupt police state. This is the new Iraq run by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the man the international community is hoping will shepherd Iraqi democracy into being early next year. There are so many corrupt, violent and useless police officers in the new Iraqi police force that, according to a senior American adviser to the Iraqi police, the U.S. government is about to pay off 30,000 police officers at a cost of $60 million to the American taxpayer.
[Senior police advisor] Waddington has also received reports of police commanders outside Baghdad, where oversight is harder to conduct, hiring their friends and family members so that their local police stations are essentially becoming well-armed tribal fortresses.

There is "going to be a need to rein in some of these guys," he said.Beyond rogue operations in the provinces, the roughly 120,000-strong police force is packed with illiterate, criminal, physically out of shape and absentee officers, he said. Hence the $60-million budget, which is coming from the more than $18 billion appropriated by Congress to help rebuild Iraq, to buy out about 30,000 bad cops.

Within the past two weeks, Waddington said, a committee has been set up consisting of Iraqis and members of the coalition to decide which officers will be given a buyout package. The point of paying off the useless or corrupt officers, he said, is to prevent them from turning hostile to the Iraqi government and coalition forces. "To make them go away," he said.

posted by rorschach @ 2:45 PM  


1,002nd Post!
I was going to celebrate at one thousand, of course, but I forgot to keep track, and one meaningless milestone is as good as another, nicht wahr?

posted by rorschach @ 2:17 PM  


Cheney Mouths Off
The sheer contrast between the honed oratory I saw coming from Carter and Clinton last night and the absurd pabulum spewing forth from Cheney's twisted mouth is astounding:
Flanked by American flags and howitzers, Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday defended the war in Iraq and a policy of preemptive attack against criticism from Democrats at their national convention.

With President Bush staying out of the political fray at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, Cheney was on the West Coast to rally fellow Republicans for the November election and counter charges by Democrats meeting in Boston.

"Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness," Cheney said at Camp Pendleton on the Southern California coast.

Cheney said Americans were safer and he stood by prewar characterizations of Iraq as a threat despite the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and new warnings by Cheney and other administration officials that another major terrorist attack may be coming.

posted by rorschach @ 1:17 PM  


Terrorists in Texas?
The US Government is going after a major Muslim charity in Dallas:
A major American Muslim charity and seven of its officers were charged Tuesday with providing millions of dollars in support to Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization blamed for dozens of suicide bomber attacks in Israel.

The 42-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Dallas, alleges that the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development provided more than $12.4 million to individuals and organizations linked to Hamas from 1995 to 2001. The U.S. government froze the charity's assets in December 2001.

The indictment names the foundation along with its president, Shukri Abu Baker; chairman, Ghassan Elashi; executive director, Haitham Maghawri; and four others. The charges include conspiracy, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, tax evasion and money laundering.

Five of the seven defendants were arrested while two of them, Maghawri and Akram Mishal, are not in the United States and are considered to be fugitives, the attorney general said.
"To those who exploit good hearts to secretly fund violence and murder, this prosecution sends a clear message: There is no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance terrorist attacks," Attorney General John Ashcroft said at a news conference to announce charges.

posted by rorschach @ 12:31 PM  


The Presbyterian Church is set to begin divesting from corporations doing business in Israel/Palestine; an interesting return of a tactic used a few decades back you-know-where:

The 216th General Assembly approved several measures opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine Friday, including a call for the corporate witness office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to begin gathering data to support a selective divestment of holdings in multinational corporations doing business in Israel/Palestine.Divestment is one of the strategies that U.S. churches used in the 1970s and '80s in a successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.

Link via Critical Montages.

posted by rorschach @ 11:26 AM  


Boozing Cyborgs
That appears to be the next step in human evolution:
A tiny microchip injected under the skin of a few night-clubbers in Spain is about to revolutionize the world as we know it.

Called the Verichip, the device, the size of a grain of rice, is injected into the upper right arm of revelers at the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona. It allows club goers to pay for drinks with the wave of their hand.
At the night club, the tiny capsule can be detected by a reader used by waitresses. It gives servers access to the patron's payment information and instantly processes a transaction.

The technology also allows the club to easily identify VIP members and those who have access to special rooms.

posted by rorschach @ 11:04 AM  


Iran Is Forging Ahead
There really only one lesson to be learned from the different treatment accorded Iraq and North Korea by the Bush administration, and Iran apparently has learned it:
Iran has broken the seals on nuclear equipment monitored by United Nations inspectors and is once again building and testing machines that could make fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Teheran's move, revealed to The Daily Telegraph yesterday by western sources, breaks a deal with European countries under which Iran suspended "all uranium enrichment activity".

It will also exacerbate fears that the regional power is determined to make an atomic bomb within a few years.

posted by rorschach @ 10:57 AM  


Stem Cell Schism
It's bad enough that the son of the fallen God-king is going to speak at the Democratic Convention; now, Nancy Reagan seems to be saying, "Screw you guys, I'm staying home":
GOP officials don't seem too bothered by the fact that presidential son Ron Reagan will address the Democratic convention tonight. They're clearly more troubled, however, by the fact that Reagan's mother, Nancy, apparently won't be speaking at theirs. It's no secret that Mrs. Reagan is dismayed by George W. Bush's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, which holds enormous promise for future disease cures. Researchers admit the near-term potential of stem cells for Alzheimer's patients like Ronald Reagan is quite limited, but Mrs. Reagan doesn't seem to care: "I do not expect her at our convention," Republican chairman Ed Gillespie admitted in a press briefing here this morning.

posted by rorschach @ 10:48 AM  


It's Just As Clinton Said Last Night
Republicans are making the streets less safe:
Many cities with budget shortfalls are cutting their police forces and closing innovative law enforcement units that helped reduce crime in the 1990's, police chiefs and city officials say.

Nowhere is this more true than here in the Midwest. This year, Cleveland has laid off 250 police officers, 15 percent of its total force. Pittsburgh has lost one-quarter of its police officers over the last three years, and Saginaw, Mich., has lost almost a third in that time.

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has let go 1,200 deputies in the last two years, leading it to close several jails and release a number of inmates early. In Houston, the police chief laid off 190 jail guards in July and assigned their duties to existing police officers.

In Cleveland, detectives have been assigned to patrol duties, specialized units like the gang and auto theft squads have been eliminated, and ministations spread around poor neighborhoods have been closed and the community police officers who worked at them have returned to patrol cars.

posted by rorschach @ 9:50 AM  


Another Battle in the Long War
A married gay man is fighting to get a passport:
A man who married his partner of 23 years after gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts is having trouble getting a new passport.

Donald Henneberger, formerly Donald Smith, recently received a letter from the National Passport Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, denying his request for a name change on his passport. The center said it would not recognize a marriage license for a same-sex couple as proof of a name change.

The center addressed the letter to "Mr. Henneberger."

Henneberger married his partner Arthur Henneberger in May, when same-sex marriages became legal in the Bay State. On the marriage license, the couple checked a box that automatically changes the last names of the partners to whatever they request.

The letter from the National Passport Center cites the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which states a marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and a spouse can only refer to a person of the opposite sex.

Donald Henneberger said he had no trouble with the Social Security Administration, another federal agency, when he requested a card in his new name.

posted by rorschach @ 9:27 AM  


Democrats No Longer Pro-Death Penalty
Thanks to John Kerry himself:
The Democratic party platform that will be adopted this week includes one particularly significant change from the platforms adopted by the party conventions of 1992, 1996 and 2000. During the platform-writing process, the drafting committee quietly removed the section of the document that endorsed capital punishment. Thus, for the first time since the 1980s, Democrats will not be campaigning on a pro-death penalty program.

Why the change?

Simply put, on the question of execution, John Kerry is a very different Democrat from Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Clinton and Gore, while surely aware that capital punishment is an ineffective and racially and economically biased vehicle for fighting crime, were willing to embrace it as a political tool. When he was running for the presidency in 1992, then Governor Clinton even rushed back to Arkansas during the 1992 campaign to oversee the execution of a mentally-retarded inmate.

With Clinton and Gore steering the party's policies, Democratic platforms explicitly and frequently endorsed capital punishment.

But Clinton and Gore are no longer at the helm. And, as of tonight, the party will no longer be on record as supporting the death penalty. Asked about the removal of the pro-capital punishment language, U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the chair of the committee that drafted the document, explained that, "It's a reflection of John Kerry."

Kerry, who is often accused by his Republican critics of flip-flopping, is made of firmer stuff than most politicians when it comes to the issue of capital punishment. He opposes executions in virtually all cases -- making an exception only after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when he said he would consider supporting capital punishment, in limited cases, for foreign terrorists.
Kerry opposes the execution of juveniles, supports greater access to DNA testing for death row inmates and argues that studies "reveal serious questions, racial bias, and deep disparities in the way the death penalty is applied." Kerry was a cosponsor of the National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2001 and of the National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2003.

"I know something about killing," Kerry says, referencing his service in Vietnam as a swift-boat commander. "I don't like killing. That's just a personal belief I have."

posted by rorschach @ 6:46 AM  


Protecting Our Terrorists
They've been captured, and they have been designated a terrorist organization by the United States.  But, the thing is, their attacks are against Iran, so the rules change a bit:
A 16-month review by the United States has found no basis to charge members of an Iranian opposition group in Iraq with violations of American law, though the group is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States government, according to senior American officials.

The case of the group, the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, or Mujahedeen Khalq, whose camp was bombed by the United States military in April 2003, has been watched closely as an important test of the Bush administration's policy toward terrorism and toward Iran.

About 3,800 members of the group are being held in de facto American custody in Camp Ashraf, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. The group remains on the United States terrorist list, though it is not known to have directed any terrorist acts toward the United States for 25 years.

But it does stage attacks against Iran, which has demanded that the Iraqi government either prosecute its members or deport them to Iran.

But senior American officials said extensive interviews by officials of the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had not come up with any basis to bring charges against any members of the group. In a July 21 memorandum, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the deputy commanding general in Iraq, said its members had been designated "protected persons" by the United States military, providing them new rights.
Oh, and someone should inform our many hundreds of detainees of this radical new policy:
"A member of a terrorist organization is not necessarily a terrorist," a senior American official said. "To take action against somebody, you have to demonstrate that they have done something."

posted by rorschach @ 6:41 AM  


Restoring Fairness in Cincinnati
Since 1993, Cincinnati has been the only city to have a ban on passing laws dealing with sexual orientation.  Time to come back to the real world, Cincinnati:
LGBT Activists trying to repeal a 1993 charter amendment that made Cincinnati the only U.S. city to ban enactment or enforcement of laws based on sexual orientation said on Monday that they are ready to go to City Hall to put the issue on the ballot.

A group calling itself Citizens to Restore Fairness wants to give voters the opportunity on Nov. 2 to repeal the amendment.

posted by rorschach @ 6:22 AM  


Voting on Hate in Oregon
The anti-gay movement has gotten the state amendment onto the ballot:

Voters will decide in November if the state constitution should be amended to block same-sex marriage Oregon's secretary of state announced Monday.

A conservative citizens group collected enough signatures to force the issue onto the ballot.
The Defense of Marriage Coalition submitted 204,360 valid signatures, twice the number required to an initiative to voters.

The ballot title of Initiative 150 will read: Amends Constitution: Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or legally recognized as marriage."

Oregon voters have defeated anti-gay rights ballot measures in 1992, 1994 and 2000. A fourth one passed in 1988, but was overturned later in the courts.

posted by rorschach @ 5:58 AM  


Monday, July 26, 2004

ACLU Takes on Punch-Card Voting
It's still used in Ohio, despite all the problems in Florida a few years back.  And guess what?  It's mostly used in black areas of the state:

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state of Ohio over its punch card ballot system, saying it is antiquated and could adversely affect a close election.

The ACLU also argues that the system violates the voting rights of Ohio blacks because it is error-prone and is widely used in counties with large black populations.

Ohio is one of a handful of states that still use punch card ballots.

Ohio state lawyers are expected to argue that there is not enough time to replace it with electronic voting technology before the November election.

Punch card ballots became notorious in the 2000 presidential election, when disagreements over them sparked a five-week legal fight between Republican candidate Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore.

posted by rorschach @ 5:07 PM  


Recruitment Down
As I said earlier, recruitment may be up among Islamic radicals, but it's not up here in the states.  The guard is not meeting recruitment needs.  Is anyone surprised?
The U.S. Army is lagging about 12 percent behind its recruiting goal for the Army National Guard amid the Pentagon's heavy reliance on such troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said on Monday.

Amid predictions by critics that the difficult duty in Iraq and Afghanistan may harm the all-volunteer U.S. military's ability to attract and keep troops, Gen. Peter Shoomaker, Army chief of staff, told a Pentagon briefing he was watching the situation closely.
That's the same General Shoomaker who said this very recently.

posted by rorschach @ 4:35 PM  


"Black Conservative Groups"
Joshua Holland delves into the group that was supposed to rebut the NAACP about Bush, and learns some rather surprising facts:
"Black Conservative to Rebut NAACP Leader's Remarks in C-SPAN Interview," read the press release from Project 21, an organization of conservative African-Americans.

I had read in Reuters that Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, had called groups like Project 21 "make-believe black organizations," and a "collection of black hustlers" who have adopted a conservative agenda in return for "a few bucks a head."

So I tuned into C-SPAN with interest to hear what a leading voice in the black conservative movement had to say. But then a funny thing happened: The African-American spokesperson for Project 21 caught a flat on the way to the studio, and the group's director had to fill in. And he was white.
Project 21 is a subsidiary of the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), which, according to the liberal watchdog, was formed in the 1980s to support Reagan's military interventions in Central America. NCPPR's leadership – president, vice president, executive director – are all white. Amy Ridenour, former Deputy Director of the College Republican National Committee and the organization's president, also sits on the board of Black America's PAC, an organization that claims to be nonpartisan but whose IRS filings state that its mission is to elect Republicans.

NCPPR's directors are also all white. In fact, one of them – Jack Abramoff – is so white that he's actually a high-powered GOP lobbyist and Bush 'Pioneer' who, according to the Washington Post, is the target of multiple investigations into alleged funny-money payments from Indian gambling concerns (along with the $45 million in fees they collected from them, Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon convinced the tribes to donate large sums to conservative organizations run by Scanlon, which then funneled the money back to Abramoff, according to the Post).

In the 1990s, NCPPR got into the business of denying that climate change warnings were based on sound science. If the connection between black conservative outreach work and environmental skepticism doesn't seem clear, that's because it's not. But it's logical considering that ExxonMobil donated $30,000 to NCPPR for "educational activities" and $15,000 for general support in 2002, and last year they hiked their operating support to $25,000 and kicked in another $30,000 for NCPPR's 'EnviroTruth' website, according to company financial records.

Project 21 also received funding from R.J. Reynolds and "has lobbied in support of tobacco industry interests, opposing FDA regulation of the industry, excise taxes and other government policies to reduce tobacco use," according to the Center for Media and Democracy. Almasi denied that Project 21 received tobacco industry money, but said he was not sufficiently aware of the details of NCPPR's fundraising to say whether the parent organization had.
Tell us again, President Bush, whom should we trust to represent the interests of minorities?

posted by rorschach @ 3:58 PM  


Why Are They So Very Odd?
I'm talking about animal rights advocates.  No other advocacy group tends to have such bizarre tactics, that I can recall.  Here are two stories in the news today.

Pressure mounted on the British government on Monday to crack down on animal rights activists after a U.S. doctor who advises a leading protest group said the use of violence to save animals' lives was justified.

Jerry Vlasak, an advisor to campaign group SPEAK that wants to stop research on animals at Oxford University, has kicked up a political storm with his comments that scientists say are akin to terrorism and warrant him being barred from Britain.
On Thursday, at the busy downtown Boise intersection of Eighth and Main, there was a very public display of affection  staged by PETA people -- you know,  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Bethany Walker, clad in only a bikini, and Ravi Chand, decked out in just boxers, hugged and kissed in an inflatable bed right on the sidewalk.

They said they want to send the message that vegetarians make better lovers.

posted by rorschach @ 2:33 PM  


Guess Who's Coming to the Convention?
And guess who's not.  Margaret Cho gets an uninvitation from the Dems in the wake of Whoopi's Bush jokes (the horror!); meanwhile, D. L. Hughley is welcomed:
The guests included Danny Glover and Ben Affleck, two of the smartest celebrity progressives, along with a somewhat reactionary comedian, D.L. Hughley, who went out of his way to buy into the terrorist fears, and also wanted the audience to be clear that whatever the gays is fighting for, it is not civil rights, and that civil rights are the province of blacks.
Link via AmericaBlog

posted by rorschach @ 1:50 PM  


Most Americans Support Safe-Sex Education
Bush's continuing position that "abstinence education" is the proper path has long been proven wrong by research into the effectiveness of such "training."

And now a new poll shows that Americans have more common sense than GWB.  Unfortunately, he's in charge of funding:
A majority in the poll, 55 percent, said teaching safe sex should be the focus of efforts to prevent AIDS, rather than promoting abstinence, backed by 40 percent.

The United States provides financial help to developing countries that support President Bush's insistence that abstinence - rather than condoms - should be the main way to prevent the disease.

posted by rorschach @ 12:52 PM  


Armed with Dead Presidents
What do you do when you are out of bullets in a war zone?  Start bribing:
Cash has become the US military's first line of defence in parts of Iraq, with soldiers distributing money to buy goodwill and counter their enemies' offers of money to Iraqis to attack Americans.

Even patrol leaders now carry envelopes of cash to spend in their areas. The money comes from brigade commanders, who get $US50,000 ($A70,000) to $US100,000 a month to distribute for local rehabilitation and emergency welfare projects through the Commanders Emergency Response Program.

There are few restrictions on the expenditure, and officers acknowledge they consider the money another weapon.

The targets are the restless legions of unemployed Iraqis, many of them former soldiers, policemen and low-level members of the Baath Party.

They were put out of work when US administrator Paul Bremer ordered a de-Baathification of Iraq. US soldiers say those men are vulnerable to entreaties to attack Americans for money.

"I have met two guys now who say: 'I don't love you and I don't hate you. But somebody's offered me $US200 to set up a mortar or a (roadside bomb), and there's a bonus if we kill you'," said Lieutenant-Colonel Randall Potterf, the civil affairs officer for the army's 1st Infantry Division.

posted by rorschach @ 9:45 AM  


A Record-Setting President
He's done so much for this country.  The corrections-related sector of our economy has never seen such a boom:
A record 6.9 million adults were incarcerated or on probation or parole last year, nearly 131,000 more than in 2002, according to a Justice Department study.

Put another way, about 3.2 percent of the adult U.S. population, or 1 in 32 adults, were incarcerated or on probation or parole at the end of last year.

posted by rorschach @ 9:06 AM  


Could Gay Marriage Cost Bush Florida?
It seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it?  But a new poll shows that Bush's focus on gay marriage, which of course is an attempt to stir up the culture wars and pander to his base, is alienating moderate voters, even in Florida:

A new survey of voters in Florida, the nation's largest swing state, and one of the most important battlegrounds for control of the White House, shows that voters are not rallying to the President's anti-gay campaign.

Only 2 percent of likely Florida voters named same-sex marriage as an important issue in the election, according to a poll for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Florida Times-Union that was released on Sunday.

Bush, who has made a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage a campaign issue, appears to be losing many of the moderate, independent voters of Florida who could make a decisive difference in a close election.

The poll also showed that John Kerry has taken a slight lead in the state.

posted by rorschach @ 8:26 AM  


Retire Safire
His knee-jerk conservativism is absurd enough, but that, of course, is by no means an affliction particular to him.

However, I just do not understand how this man manages to keep his gig writing about the English language every week for the NYT Magazine.  Let's just set aside the fact that these columns are usually unbearably trite and "cute."

The man wrote this today:
Deeply rooted policy differences and personality clashes that provided all the excitement of lusty, newsworthy Democratic conventions past - and that surely exist today - have been submerged in the fervent desire of the Outs to Get Back In. The driving ideology is In-ism.

"In-ism"?  With that word, which to my ear resonates with some of the worst 1950s-era "sociological" hackery (remember "momism," anyone?), he should be out on his ear.

posted by rorschach @ 8:07 AM  


Hence, the Name

The House ethics committee has postponed a decision on whether to begin an investigation of Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for another 45 days, Democratic and GOP sources said late Thursday.

Reps. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) and Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the panel’s chairman and ranking member, respectively, now have until early September to decide if their panel will take up a complaint against DeLay that was filed by Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas).

On Thursday, DeLay filed a lengthy response to Bell’s complaint — a massive filing that one GOP insider described as a call for the ethics panel to dismiss Bell’s “invalid, illegitimate and politically motivated” complaint.

posted by rorschach @ 8:03 AM  


Spiralling Downward
The situation in the Sudan looks to be getting progressively worse:

The international aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres yesterday warned that Sudan had reached a new crisis, with the UN food program able to provide only about half the food needed to prevent mass starvation.

Dr Rowan Gillies, the agency's Australian-born international president, said that unless there was a "massive response" from the UN and aid agencies "a lot of people who are alive today might not be alive in three months".
And these people aren't helping matters any:

Meanwhile a group calling itself Mohammed's army called on Muslims to prepare to fight Western forces sent on any mission to western Sudan.
In its warning of action against western forces, the previously unknown group said in a statement obtained by Reuters: "We have seen and heard of the American and British interference in Darfur and there is no doubt that this is a crusader war that bears no relation to the citizens of Darfur."

"We call upon you to speedily head towards Darfur and dig deep into the ground mass graves prepared for the crusader army," it added.

posted by rorschach @ 7:59 AM  


Texas Is Number One
When it comes to dropping kids from insurance programs, that is!

Some 145,000 poor children were dropped from a U.S. federal-state health insurance plan in the second half of 2003, with more than half the cuts made by Texas, a health-care research foundation said on Friday.

"The drop in (the) State Children's Health Insurance Program is a major setback when millions of uninsured children are eligible but not yet enrolled," said Diane Rowland, executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

Net enrollment in the program, which mainly benefits working families, fell last year for the first time since it was launched in 1998, the Washington, D.C.-based Kaiser Commission said in a report.

posted by rorschach @ 6:38 AM  


Fahrenheit Tops $100 Million
And it has yet to come out on DVD:

Michael Moore’s scathing indictment of the Bush White House passed the 100 million dollar mark this weekend, breaking yet another record for documentary filmmaking.

F 9/11 is the widest realease of a documentary, as well as the first to win the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes. Now, too, it is the first documentary in history to pass 100 million dollars in ticket sales. Needless to say, it is the highest grossing documentary of all time.

The amount of sales this movie has seen indicate how tired the American people are of getting their news from talking heads who ask softball questions and don’t do their homework and check their facts.

posted by rorschach @ 6:35 AM  


The Ultimate Sacrifice
Lawmakers decided to--gasp!--give up some of their vacation time in order to take action on the 9-11 report:

Key congressional committees will begin crafting new laws this week aiming to create a national intelligence director and counterterrorism center, initiatives proposed by the commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

The quick reaction to the commission's final report represents a surprising turnaround by congressional leaders, who late last week said there would be no time this year to approve the recommendations. But on Friday, House and Senate committees were directed to give up some of their August vacations and start work immediately so that legislation can be drafted by the end of September.

posted by rorschach @ 6:22 AM  


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Keeping an Eye on the Churches
With the Republicans asking for parish directories and right-wing Christians like Falwell openly endorsing Bush, it's more important than ever to make sure that tax-exempt religious organizations toe the line.  And some volunteers are stepping up:

A recent Sunday found Tina Kolm changing her morning routine. Instead of attending a Unitarian Universalist service, she was at the Lenexa Christian Center, paying close attention to a conservative minister's sermon about the importance of amending the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage.

Kolm is one of about 100 volunteers for the Mainstream Coalition, a group monitoring the political activities of local pastors and churches. The coalition, based in suburban Kansas City, says it wants to make sure clergy adhere to federal tax guidelines restricting political activity by nonprofit groups, and it's taking such efforts to a new level.

The 47-year-old Kolm, from Prairie Village, said keeping church and state separate is important to her. She doesn't want a few religious denominations defining marriage -- or setting other social policy -- for everyone.

This needs to be going on nationwide.

posted by rorschach @ 4:45 PM  


America Is Still in the Torture Business
The School of the Americas continues to receive funding:

Remember how congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle deplored the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib as "un-American"? Last Thursday, however, the House quietly passed a renewed appropriation that keeps open the U.S.'s most infamous torture-teaching institution, known as the School of the Americas (SOA), where the illegal physical and psychological abuse of prisoners of the kind the world condemned at Abu Ghraib and worse has been routinely taught for years.

A relic of the Cold War, the SOA was originally set up to train military, police and intelligence officers of U.S. allies south of the border in the fight against insurgencies Washington labeled "Communist." In reality, the SOA's graduates have been the shock troops of political repression, propping up a string of dictatorial and repressive regimes favored by the Pentagon.
Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) has spearheaded opposition in the House to SOA-WHINSEC, but his amendment to the Foreign Operations appropriation killing money for the school (which had 128 co-sponsors) was withdrawn at the eleventh hour last week after a bipartisan agreement limited the number of amendments that could come to the House floor. The last chance for killing the school's money this year now rests with the Senate – but when we called Senators Boxer and Feinstein, past SOA critics, to ask them what they planned to do, the response was a deafening silence from their offices. In light of SOA Watch's extensive lobbying, our elected representatives can't claim they don't know of the school's record on torture. So this episode calls to mind Mark Twain's observation that "there is no distinct, native American criminal class – except Congress."

posted by rorschach @ 1:48 PM