Saturday, August 14, 2004

Working for Democracy

It would not surprise me if the Republicans came out in favor of a property requirement to vote; meanwhile, expanding the vote among the have-nots (rather than the haves and the have-mores that form Bush's "base") continues:
Having no home and no money should not exclude someone from voting, according to two national groups that are trying to register thousands of homeless people to vote in the presidential election.

"The message that the poor and homeless are voting is part of a bigger strategy to get the issues of the poor heard," said Donald Whitehead, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

On July 22, his group and the National Low Income Housing Coalition registered roughly 1,150 homeless people nationwide in a one-day drive in 16 states and the District of Columbia. They also worked with local shelters to train volunteers and educate communities about voting rights. They are hoping to register 25,000 poor and homeless people to vote in November.

Karl Marx wrote off the "lumpenproletariat" as a political force, and I'm glad to see these organizations are ignoring that mistake.


Loud Guns, Silent Knives

While our ears are filled with the din of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush administration is busy going about the business of gutting governmental protections. This legacy may well rival the invasion in its harmful consequences:
April 21 was an unusually violent day in Iraq; 68 people died in a car bombing in Basra, among them 23 children. As the news went from bad to worse, President Bush took a tough line, vowing to a group of journalists, "We're not going to cut and run while I'm in the Oval Office."

On the same day, deep within the turgid pages of the Federal Register, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a regulation that would forbid the public release of some data relating to unsafe motor vehicles, saying that publicizing the information would cause "substantial competitive harm" to manufacturers.

As soon as the rule was published, consumer groups yelped in complaint, while the government responded that it was trying to balance the interests of consumers with the competitive needs of business. But hardly anyone else noticed, and that was hardly an isolated case.
Health rules, environmental regulations, energy initiatives, worker-safety standards and product-safety disclosure policies have been modified in ways that often please business and industry leaders while dismaying interest groups representing consumers, workers, drivers, medical patients, the elderly and many others.


Kristof Sums It Up

Continuing to analyze the (unnervingly high) likelihood of a nuclear attack on an American city in the not-too-distant future, Kristof hits upon the ultimate origin of Bush's national security strategy:
So what should we be doing? First, it's paramount that we secure uranium and plutonium around the world. That's the idea behind the U.S.-Russian joint program to secure 600 metric tons of Russian nuclear materials. But after 12 years, only 135 tons have been given comprehensive upgrades. Some 340 tons haven't even been touched.

The Nunn-Lugar program to safeguard the material is one of the best schemes we have to protect ourselves, and it's bipartisan, championed above all by Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican. Yet President Bush has, incredibly, at various times even proposed cutting funds for it. He seems bored by this security effort, perhaps because it doesn't involve blowing anything up


Friday, August 13, 2004

So Much for Plan A

Scaring the pants off the American people isn't working any more:

A new study reveals a surprising twist on the conventional wisdom about November's presidential election: While political pundits seem to agree that news of terrorist threats and other dangers from abroad is good news for President Bush's re-election bid, the opposite might be true.

Michigan State University political science professors Darren W. Davis and Brian D. Silver say their study found that the more worried people are about the possibility of another terrorist attack, the more likely they are to vote for John Kerry. The research will be presented at a meeting of political scientists in Chicago next month.

Link via The Left End of the Dial.


Another Victory

In Louisiana, the proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriages has been booted off the ballot as unconstitutional:
A New Orleans judge ruled Friday that a proposed amendment banning same-sex
marriage and forbidding the recognition of civil unions cannot be placed on the September 18 ballot. The Forum for Equality and three individual plaintiffs argued that the question was unconstitutional.

The Louisiana Constitution requires that any law have a single aim. John Rawls, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told the court that because the proposed amendment would remove the right of marriage, prevent civil unions, and deny any "legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals," the measure violated the Constitutional provision.

Louisiana's Constitution also gives people an absolute right to make contracts and to own property. The amendment would violate that right by invalidating contracts between gay or lesbian partners, Rawls said.

"If an amendment is clearly unconstitutional, every taxpayer and every voter has the right to prevent money from being spent to mess up the ballot," he said.


What a Mess

The McGreevey story is getting more and more unpleasant with each passing day:
An attorney for former New Jersey state employee Golan Cipel said Gov. James McGreevey made repeated sexual advances toward Cipel and is now conducting a "smear campaign" against him.

But lawyer Allen Lowy said "only time will tell" whether Cipel sues McGreevey. Cipel wasn't at Friday's news conference.

McGreevey announced Thursday he would step down, effective in November, after revealing he had an extramarital affair with a man. He said the aftermath of the affair threatened to undermine his "ability to govern" and that it was "wrong, foolish and inexcusable."

Two sources close to the governor have identified Cipel, an Israeli poet, as the man referred to in McGreevey's resignation speech. One source said Cipel threatened McGreevey with a sexual harassment suit unless he was paid millions of dollars. A law enforcement source said the FBI is investigating.

Lowy contends McGreevey aides offered Cipel money to avoid a possible lawsuit.

McGreevey appointed Cipel to head the state's homeland security department despite his lack of experience. Later, Cipel became a special aide to McGreevey.


Perfect Timing

Just as the Bush administration sees fit to give Border Patrol agents deportation authority, this report comes out:
A confidential report conducted by the United Nations in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security has found that airport inspectors with the power to summarily deport illegal immigrants have sometimes intimidated and handcuffed travelers fleeing persecution, discouraged some from seeking political asylum and often lacked an understanding of asylum law.

Homeland Security officials say they have responded to the problems identified in the report, which was completed late last year and obtained this week by The New York Times. But the study highlights the challenges facing the department as it grants Border Patrol agents sweeping new powers to deport illegal immigrants from the borders with Mexico and Canada without providing them the opportunity to make their case before an immigration judge.


The Bush Economy

It is, literally, hard to believe how bad it is:
The U.S. trade gap in June was so shockingly wide that many economists almost doubted the numbers on Friday.

But if it's confirmed, the trade gap offered a fairly grim warning about global economic growth, along with the outlook for U.S. inflation and interest rates.

Oil prices set fresh new highs on Friday, underpinned by fresh evidence of strong Chinese demand, worries about sabotage in Iraq and fears of unrest in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez faces a referendum this weekend on his presidency.

News of an explosion at BP's Whiting, Indiana refinery also helped push U.S. light crude above $46 a barrel, a new all-time record high on the New York Mercantile Exchange.



Much attention needs to be given to the case of Hamdi. The government tosses a man in jail for years. This man manages, miraculously, to force the government to hold hearings as to why he's being held. And then the government begins "negotiating" a release...without hearings. Sound odd to you? Perhaps extraconstitutional? That's because it bloody well is:
The Bush Administration is negotiating to release Yaser Esam Hamdi, whose case led to the Supreme Court ruling that Americans held in the US as "enemy combatants" must be able to contest their detention.

Hamdi, a US citizen who was born in Louisiana and raised in Saudi Arabia, was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 as a suspected Taliban fighter. He has been held in a US military jail for more than two years. He would be sent back to Saudi Arabia, a Justice Department official said.

In rejecting the Bush Administration's arguments, the Supreme Court ruled on June 28 that Hamdi should get a fair opportunity to rebut the government's case for detaining him. It sent the case back to a federal judge in Virginia. In court papers filed with the judge, government lawyers and Hamdi's lawyers said that since the ruling they had been negotiating his release.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

Good News

From New York:
The New York State Senate Thursday approved guaranteeing same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners the same rights as spouses and next-of-kin when taking care of loved ones in hospitals, nursing homes and health-care facilities.

And from California:
Even in defeat, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom declared victory Thursday after the state Supreme Court ruled that he had no right to authorize the marriages of nearly 4,000 gay and lesbian couples at City Hall.

With the confidence and defiance that catapulted Newsom into national prominence only weeks into his new term when he approved same-sex marriages, the mayor said his fight has put a human face on discrimination for the world to see.

"Now we have these 4,000 couples to tell their stories. We have their immediate family, their extended family, their grandparents, their sons, their daughters, their cousins, aunts and uncles," Newsom told a City Hall room packed with reporters. "So, I'm not in any way discouraged. I'm frankly more resolved."


Najaf Melting Down

Is there any chance this will end up as any sort of victory?
Sixteen of Najaf's 30-member provincial council resigned today in protest at the US-led assault on the central Iraqi city.

"We have decided to resign due to what has befallen Najaf and all of Iraq from the hasty US invasion and bombardment of Najaf," the council said in a statement received by AFP.

The US military backed by Iraqi forces closed in on the heart of Najaf today to isolate militiamen loyal to Moqtada Sadr and pounded their positions in the city and raided the radical cleric's home.


Sovereignty Means Being Sovereign

No Aura provides a bit more insight on Native American sovereignty than our president is able to give.


Deconstructing "Reconstruction"

Christian Parenti has a long piece in The Nation pointing out what is and what is not being done in Iraq now. Read the whole thing, but here's a sample:
In the past seventeen months, US taxpayers have set aside a total of $24 billion to rebuild Iraq. Most of that sum has not been spent, though billions of dollars of poorly accounted for Iraqi oil revenues have been expended, or at least allocated to foreign (mostly American) contractors.

Humanitarians see reconstruction as a moral obligation: a form of reparations for two US-led wars and thirteen years of brutal sanctions. From a military standpoint, reconstruction is central to the US counterinsurgency effort. The occupation's star officers, like Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, readily acknowledge that a broken economy means more violence. But seen up close, reconstruction in Iraq looks less like a mission of mercy or a sophisticated pacification program and more like a criminal racket.


A Special Thank You to the GOP

I'm not being sarcastic. I truly am grateful to the Republicans for lightening the mood of this most bitter campaign season by sending Keyes to Illinois to be beaten senseless by Obama.

Josh Marshall reports the latest:
Obama says he'll debate Keyes two or three times, not six.

To which Keyes responded: "So let's see. Before I came on the scene, Barack Obama thought of himself as if he was in the same class as Lincoln and Douglas in the critical drama of American life. And now he realizes that he's not in that class. Well, I think that the state of Illinois remains in that class. . . . And I think that it is a disservice to the people of this state to allow him to cower in timidity, and before the real historic challenge that is before us in this campaign."

Obama replied, pretty cleverly I thought, that the six debate offer was "a special for in-state residents."

And then Keyes with this marvelous piece of ridiculousness: "OK. So a guy from out of state steps into the ring, and Barack Obama wants to get out of the ring. I don't know, because you see when he goes into the Senate of the United States, if he should get there, he's not going to find one person from out of state standing there. He's going to find 98 people from out of state. . . . If he's not ready for me, he's not ready for the Senate of the United States."


Cheap Laughs

That appears to be the Bush/Cheney tactic of choice for this campaign:
Cheney, addressing a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio, delivered a lengthy denunciation of Kerry's national security posture while extolling the leadership of President Bush.

"Senator Kerry has also said that if he were in charge, he would fight a more sensitive war on terror," Cheney said to laughter from the audience, which included many veterans.

Cheney went on to praise Bush's manly yet masculine "blundering moron" strategy.



A setback for social justice in California:
California's Supreme Court annulled more than 4,000 gay marriages in San Francisco on Thursday, finding the city acted improperly in granting marriage licenses earlier this year in defiance of state law.

The mayor of the liberal city ignited a passionate nationwide debate in February by allowing 4,037 same-sex couples to wed over a four-week period before the California high court halted them as it reviewed the city's actions.


A Bit Late for This

I'm sorry, but "my bad" just doesn't cut it. There were plenty of anti-war voices to which the media could have listened. They just chose to play along with power, and they are therefore complicitous in the thousands and thousands of deaths that have resulted:
Editors at The Washington Post have acknowledged that they underplayed stories questioning President George Bush's claims of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in the months before the US invasion of Iraq.

In a story published in yesterday's issue, the Post media critic Howard Kurtz wrote that editors resisted stories that questioned whether Mr Bush had evidence that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

The assistant managing editor Bob Woodward said in the story: "We did our job but we didn't do enough, and I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder. We should have warned readers we had information that the basis for this was shakier" than many believed.

The Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks told Kurtz: "There was an attitude among editors: 'Look, we're going to war; why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?"'

The executive editor, Leonard Downie, said: "We were so focused on trying to figure out what the Administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn't be a good idea to go to war and were questioning the Administration's rationale."

That's a great excuse. We were too busy transcribing, we didn't have time to investigate anything! And remember, when we all took to the streets to protest this war, polls showed that a majority of Americans opposed invading Iraq.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Crowd Control

Apparently, the Bush people have gotten things back in hand following that embarrassing "sovereignty" episode when the Boy King was confronted with his own ridiculousness.

In Arizona today:
The president roamed a square about the size of a boxing ring inside an aircraft manufacturer. One jet was left on the plant's floor, its nose pointing straight at Bush. Bush joked that he and McCain, both former fighter pilots, would take the plane out for a spin.

The event allowed fervent Bush backers to ask the president questions. But in keeping with Bush's custom, most of the event was devoted to a speech by Bush and then to testimonials from people hand-picked by the White House extolling the virtues of his policies.

The queries put to Bush in the question-and-answer session were never hard-hitting, and were often not questions at all.

Samples questions on Wednesday:

Can I take a picture with you?

Can I introduce you to my wife and mother in law?

I want you to know that I'm praying for you.


Michael Moore, Serving America

Porter Goss is in trouble; the transcript of the outtake I posted earlier today has hit Reuters:

U.S. Congressman Porter Goss, President Bush's nominee for CIA director, could be his own worst enemy when it comes to making the case that he deserves to lead the U.S. intelligence agency.

"I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified," the Florida Republican told documentary-maker Michael Moore's production company during the filming of the anti-Bush movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."

A day after Bush picked Goss for the top U.S. spy job, Moore on Wednesday released an excerpt from a March 3 interview in which the 65-year-old former House of Representatives intelligence chief recounts his lack of qualifications for employment as a modern CIA staffer.

"I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably," Goss is quoted in an interview transcript.

"And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day: 'Dad you got to get better on your computer.' Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have."

What was it that Bush had to say about this guy just a day or two ago? Oh yeah:

"He's the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation's history," Bush said of Goss, who had served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee for the last seven years. "He is well prepared for this mission."



In the great tradition of VVAW, we now have Iraq Veterans Against the War. Their mission:

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is a group of veterans from Operation
Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are committed to saving lives
and ending the violence in Iraq by an immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces. We also believe that the governments that sponsored these wars are indebted to the men and women that were forced to fight them and must give their Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen the benefits that are owed to them upon their return home.

We welcome all active duty, reservist, and recent veterans into our ranks. To join the IVAW please send email to

If you'd like to donate to their cause, click here.

Link via Critical Montages.


This Must End

How did we let this happen? The United States has become a full-blown police state, holding people for years in a shadow prison system outside of any hope of justice.

Only monsters would do this:
In his cell in Guantanamo Bay, Mamdouh Habib broke down in tears when he heard his four-year-old daughter, Hajer, talk for the first time.

For 30 minutes yesterday, the Sydney man spoke by phone to his wife and four children - the first call he has been allowed to make to them since he was taken into US custody as a suspected terrorist in October 2001.

The call confirmed reports from other detainees that "he has been subject to sleep deprivation, beatings and other abuses", according to Mr Habib's Australian lawyer, Stephen Hopper.

Mr Habib's wife, Maha, said her husband told her he "couldn't take it any more" and that he did not believe he would see his family again. "I'll probably see you in heaven," he said. One of his sons had replied: "Don't talk like that."

The call was closely monitored by American military officers and Mrs Habib was warned not to speak Arabic nor talk about the conditions of her husband's detention. She said their conversation was cut off at one point when he began comparing his detention to a Sylvester Stallone movie the couple had seen together, Lock Up, which showed the actor being tortured in prison, deprived of sleep and beaten.

"It's very distressing, very upsetting," Mrs Habib said.

Hajer, their youngest child, had told her father she loved him and asked: "When are you going to come home?"

"His voice changed, and we could tell he was crying," Mrs Habib said. But she said it had taken "five minutes to actually get him to believe it was us". Mr Habib would not accept it was her until she told him where they had spent their wedding night. "How will I know it's you?" he had asked when he first heard his wife's voice. He also wanted reassurance that his family was still in Australia.


"I Couldn't Get a Job with the CIA Today"

Those words come straight from the mouth of Porter Goss, the man Bush has decided should now lead the CIA. Blogger Matt Gunn has gained access to a transcript of outtakes from Fahrenheit 9/11, the film that keeps on giving:
INTERVIEWER: [Y]ou come from intelligence. This is what you did, this is what you know.

REP. GOSS: Uh, that was, uh, 35 years ago.


REP. GOSS: It is true I was in CIA from approximately the late 50’s to approximately the early 70’s. And it's true I was a case officer, clandestine services officer and yes, I do understand the core mission of the business. I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably. And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day, 'Dad you got to get better on your computer.’ Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have.

– Rep. Porter Goss, March 3, 2004, Washington, DC


Will Bush Try to Take Down Chavez?

Who knows how many of the specific allegations in this story are true, but I find it very hard to believe that Bush will let a victory for Chavez simply pass without any sort of action:
Venezuela state-owned news agency VENPRES is quoting an El Mundo de Madrid (Spain) report that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is set to put a contingency plan in motion in the (likely) event that President Hugo Chavez Frias wins next weekend's Recall Referendum.

The Madrid newspaper says that the White House strategy is to avoid a regional expansion of the President Hugo Chavez Frias 'Bolivarian Revolution' which is seen by Washington D.C. as a direct step into the kind of socialism espoused by many European nations and envisaged in the United States if John Kerry wrests control of the White House from the Bush 2 administration this coming fall.

El Mundo says the CIA plan appears to concede a Chavez Frias victory next weekend "for good or bad" and that Langley spooks are already working on a strategy to "neutralize" Chavez Frias by fair means or foul.

CIA under secretary for southern hemispherical affairs, William Spencer, has been drafted to Santiago de Chile to analyze the "Venezuelan situation" with CIA country directors from Colombia, Ecuador, Brasil and Peru. Spencer is reportedly convinced that Chavez Frias intends (no matter how fanciful) to create two centers of "revolutionary focus" in South America in preparation to overthrow Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez and Bolivia's Head of State, Carlos Mesa.

Spencer espouses the theory that Chavez Frias will then forge onwards using a domino effect to include the overthrow of Peru's Alejandro Toledo, using multiple corruption scandals there as a pretext for invasion. Washington apparently sees Chavez Frias' progress as a "corrosive action" in a continuing Bolivarian Revolution which will expand easily into countries such as Ecuador where indigenous political are already reacting strongly to Washington's ideas of neo-liberalism.

The CIA contingency plan against President Hugo Chavez Frias seemingly also includes Argentina and Brazil in the Venezuelan leader's dastardly designs against US Homeland Security ... inciting South American nations further into "contagious anti-USA prejudices..."According to the Madrid newspaper it is no coincidence that the US CIA delegates have gathered in Chile which is considered by Langley and Crawford (Texas) as the "last bastion of democracy and pro-US economic policies in South America."


More Abuse

It just goes on and on:
American authorities have reportedly launched an inquiry into allegations of sexual and physical abuse by US Marines against 35 villagers in central Afghanistan.

The allegations were aired on Wednesday night in an SBS Dateline report by Australian journalist Carmela Baranowska, who was feared kidnapped by the Taliban in late June during her trip to the conflict-torn country.

In the report, former prisoners alleged US Marines used the tactic of sexual humiliation which Ms Baranowska described as similar to that which occurred at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
In the television report, 27-year-old Afghani villager Wali Mohammad described in graphic detail his alleged abuse by a group of 20 Americans soldiers.

"They fingered us, beat us and humiliated us," he said.

"There were youngsters as well. They took off my clothes ... fingering the anus is against Islam.

"They were all laughing and mocking."


Nuclear Blackmail

Iran looks to be getting seriously out of hand, today testing a missile that could reach Israel, and simultaneously doing this:
Iran has issued an extraordinary list of demands to Britain and other European countries, telling them to provide advanced nuclear technology, conventional weapons and a security guarantee against nuclear attack by Israel.

Tehran's request, said by British officials to have "gone down very badly", raises the stakes in the crisis over Iran's nuclear program, which Britain and the US believe is aimed at making an atomic bomb.
The EU-3 is still debating over how to respond, but British officials said the Iranian letter was "extremely surprising, given the delicate state of process". Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, will have to decide whether to adopt a more confrontational policy.

The US is demanding that the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which meets next month, refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. US officials are also openly discussing "covert" means of disrupting the Iranian nuclear program, while Israel has openly threatened military action.

Thank goodness we have a democratic Iraq providing stability to the region.


Vermont v. FDA
Vermont will become the first state to sue the federal Food and Drug
Administration for rejecting a plan to import prescription drugs from Canada,
the state's governor and attorney general said Tuesday.



"Pit Bulls of Democracy"

Ashcroft loses in his attempt to erase history:
Following howls of protest from libraries across the nation, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has rescinded a controversial order demanding that libraries destroy copies of a federal statute and accompanying regulations and documents.

The mandate in question was sent to libraries designated by Washington as official depositories, where federal statutes, regulations and other documents are routinely shipped in order to make them available to the general public.

“You don’t want to mess with the public documents librarians. They are the pit bulls of democracy,” said Patricia Ianuzzi, director of the Moffitt and Doe Libraries at UC Berkeley—the latter a designated federal depository.


Texas Schools Are Criminal

That point is actually being debated now in Texas courts, as they try to figure out what to do about a system that hurts both homeowners and schoolchildren.

Heaven forbid anyone utter the words "state income tax" during these proceedings:
The state's school finance system went on trial this week as lawyers for more than 300 districts argued that the system's dependence on local property taxes was flawed and unconstitutional.

The school districts say the system, which caps property tax rates, amounts to an unconstitutional statewide property tax and still does not provide enough money to educate the 4.3 million students in Texas adequately.


Judges? Who Needs Judges?

What a nightmare. Anyone who has crossed the border, or even driven near it, knows that handing deportation authority to agents will inevitably mean increased abuse of power:
Citing concerns about terrorists crossing the nation's borders, the Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday that it planned to give border patrol agents sweeping new powers to deport illegal aliens from the frontiers with Mexico and Canada without providing them the opportunity to make their case before an immigration judge.

The move, which will take effect this month, represents a broad expansion of the authority of the thousands of law enforcement agents who patrol the nation's borders. Until now, border patrol agents typically delivered undocumented immigrants to the custody of the immigration courts, where judges determined whether they should be deported or remain in the United States.


Over Half Full

Look at the bright side. Halliburton managed to keep track of a whole 57 percent of the money from the Pentagon! And 57 is, after all, a D-. If you round up.

That's what I call supporting our troops.
Pentagon auditors have concluded that Halliburton Co. failed to adequately account for more than $1.8 billion of work in Iraq and Kuwait, said a newspaper citing a Pentagon report.

The amount represents 43 percent of the $4.18 billion that Houston-based Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root unit has billed the Pentagon to feed and house troops in the region, the Wall Street Journal reported.

| Falls

Jerry Falwell must hardly have time to pray anymore, he's spending so much time making sure no nasty, mean websites mock him:
A federal judge has ruled that a gay activist must stop using a variation of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's name in the address for a Web site critical of the conservative television evangelist.

In a ruling publicly released Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton in Alexandria said the domain name for the site,, was "nearly identical" to the registered trademark "Jerry Falwell" name and was likely to be confusing to Web surfers.
Last year, an Illinois man gave up the domain names jerry and jerry after Falwell threatened to sue him in federal court. Those domain names now link to Jerry Falwell Ministries' Web site.

Meanwhile, no word yet on when Falwell's tax-exempt status will be revoked because of his blatant political activities, including an open endorsement of Bush:
Falwell will conduct seminars later this month to train conservative pastors on what some critics call methods of circumventing federal tax laws to use their pulpits to encourage congregations to vote against gay positive politicians this November. (story)

Complaints have already been filed against Falwell accusing him of violating campaign finance laws by endorsing President Bush and soliciting funds for a conservative political action committee on his ministries' Web site. (story)


Oh, Bloody Hell

For those of you wondering just how deranged Bush is likely to become should he win a second term and no longer have to worry about re-election, here's a taste:
President Bush said on Tuesday that abolishing the U.S. income tax system and replacing it with a national sales tax was an idea worth considering.

"It's an interesting idea," Bush told an "Ask President Bush" campaign forum here. "You know, I'm not exactly sure how big the national sales tax is going to have to be, but it's the kind of interesting idea that we ought to explore seriously."


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

An Alien Notion

What is it about Americans that we have such a hard time conceiving of fairly straightforward economic injustices to the extent that we actually wind up doing something about them? Part of it, of course, has to do with big business's concerted and highly successful efforts after World War II to use nascent globalization along with rabid anti-communism to lay waste to unions. Add to that the tenacious belief fostered by the right that one's economic fate is somewhat always one's own fault, and we have the present situation, in which social issues such as abortion or gay marriage or drug legalization generate energetic protests, while skyrocketing corporate profits and sinking pay rates for the average American do not.

Granted, the social issues are battles that must be fought; I just find it rather odd that grotesque capitalist exploitation, affecting very nearly all Americans, continues, comparatively unmarked and unchecked.

You just don't see this sort of connect-the-dots protest in America, not as often as you should:
Commonwealth Bank of Australia staff will protest in Sydney today for better pay, conditions and staffing levels as the bank recorded a 28 per cent profit rise to $2.5 billion.

Staff will stand outside a number of metropolitan Sydney branches asking the public and bank customers to sign a petition calling for the bank to acknowledge and address staff concerns.

Finance Sector Union national assistant secretary Sharron Caddie said CBA management had failed to listen to staff as to how CBA workplaces could be improved.

"The bank is clearly not listening to staff so maybe they will listen to members of the general community," Ms Caddie said.

About 3,500 bank employees voted on July 22 to conduct a series of rolling stoppages up until and including today when the bank was scheduled to announce its profit.

"So by the end of today every part of the bank will have been pulled out for half a day at some point," Ms Caddie said.



Is it finally beginning?
Deputy Governor of Basra Salam Uda al-Maliki has said he is to announce the separation of some Iraqi southern governorates from the central government in Baghdad.

Informed sources told Aljazeera that al-Maliki said the breakaway province would include Basra, Misan and Dhi Qar governorates.

He also wants to shut Basra's port, and effectively stop oil exports.

Judging by that last sentence, this deputy governor doesn't look to be lasting very long even if he does presently have the power to attempt such a move, which seems dubious. But the desires to carve up the battered remains of Iraq neither start nor end with him:
For some time there has been talk in Iraq that a plan exists to break the country into three states; Kurdish in the north, Arab Sunni Muslim in the centre, and Arab Shia Muslim in the south.

Dr Dhafir al-Ani, the Iraqi political analyst and former politics professor at Baghdad University, says he would not be surprised if the old rumour proves to be true.

"Nothing would shock me, we heard of the break-up scenario a long time ago, and it seems that the atmosphere in Iraq nowadays is suitable to carry out any pending agendas."


Perpetual War

Judging by Bush's ridicule of Kerry for even wanting to have any sort of exit plan for Iraq, and by his subsequent remarks, it would appear that Bush wants American soldiers to remain in Iraq forever:
Kerry also said Monday that he hoped to begin reducing the number of U.S. forces in Iraq within six months of taking office if he is elected. "It is an appropriate goal to have," he said, but added that achieving it would depend on broader international assistance, better stability within Iraq and other related factors.

Bush said Tuesday he opposed Kerry's proposal.

"What we don't want is to cut short the mission. We don't want politics to decide the mission," Bush said at a question-and-answer session with supporters in Niceville, Fla.

"The key is not to set artificial timelines" that would, Bush said, signal to the enemy, "'Gosh, all we've got to do is wait them out."


Al-Qaeda Plotting to Defeat Nader

The dastardly terrorists have been plotting attacks on the US designed to influence the elections in order to help Kerry win. Or, perhaps, to help Bush win.

Either way, they are dastardly!
Agence France-Presse reports on Tuesday that Pakistani intelligence officials say they have uncovered evidence which shows Al Qaeda was plotting a series of attacks in order to influence the 2004 US presidential elections.
And Time magazine on Monday quoted a top Homeland Security official as saying that intelligence agencies have "... a number of times picked up information that Al Qaeda wants to attack us before the election, and some of the communications attribute that desire to Osama Bin Laden.

But security experts and political commentators have been split over whom AlQaeda wants to win the 2004 US presidential elections: US President George Bush or his Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry.


Turning Hospitals into the INS

Another brilliant idea from the Republicans, sure to increase sickness and death throughout the country:
The federal government is offering $1 billion to hospitals that provide emergency care to undocumented immigrants. But to get the money, hospitals would have to ask patients about their immigration status, a prospect that alarms hospitals and advocates for immigrants.

When Congress decided to provide the money last year, state officials and hospital executives saw it as a breakthrough. For years, they had argued that the federal government was responsible for immigration policy and should cover the costs of medical care for illegal immigrants because it had created the problem. These costs weigh heavily on border states like Texas, Arizona and California and on states like New York and Illinois, with large numbers of such immigrants.

The largest allocations are going to California, $72 million a year; Texas, $48 million; Arizona, $42 million; New York, $12 million; Illinois, $10 million; and Florida, $9 million.

But federal health officials, under guidelines developed in the last couple of weeks, said hospitals had to ask questions about immigration status to make sure the money would be used as Congress intended, for "emergency health services furnished to undocumented aliens."Hospital executives and immigrant rights groups said the questioning would deter undocumented immigrants from seeking hospital care when they need it, and some hospitals said compliance might cost them more than they would receive in federal aid.

Marcela G. Urrutia, an analyst at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group, said: "We are extremely concerned about this requirement. It will deter Latino communities from seeking emergency care. That could lead to serious public health problems, including the spread of communicable diseases.''


They've Got to Be Kidding

Bush is now proposing Porter Goss as the new head of the CIA. For those unfamiliar with him, here's an article from October detailing his reaction to the egregious outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent:
Rep. Porter Goss said Thursday that the uproar over allegations that White House officials purposely identified a covert CIA agent appears largely political and doesn't yet merit an investigation by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, which he chairs.
"Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation," Goss said.


Let Me Get This Straight...

The US government is willing to expose a mole inside al-Qaeda for the sake of an "orange alert," thereby permitting several suspects connected with bin Laden to escape arrest, but won't help the German government convict a man actually connected to the 9-11 attacks?

Washington has barred German judges access to al Qaeda captives in the retrial of the only September 11 suspect ever convicted, a Hamburg court has heard, throwing the case into doubt.

Mounir El Motassadeq, 30, is charged with plotting the 2001 attacks with Mohamed Atta and others, and membership of a terrorist organisation.

His first conviction was overturned because judges had no access to a key al Qaeda figure in U.S. custody.

In a letter to the German embassy in Washington, read out in court on Tuesday, U.S. authorities said they had to protect the sources and methods of the security services.


Al-Qaeda Alive and Well

Don't believe Bush's claims that his actions have done anything substantive to harm the organization:
A new generation of al Qaeda operatives appears to be filling a vacuum created when leaders were killed or captured, the New York Times said on Tuesday, citing interviews with two senior intelligence officials.

Using computer records, e-mail addresses and other documents seized on computers after the arrest of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan in Pakistan last month, intelligence analysts are finding that lower-ranking members and recent recruits are filling al Qaeda's upper ranks, the newspaper said.

The operatives include "some who have been around and some who have stepped up," the newspaper said, citing an unnamed official.

The development, the newspaper said, presents a more complex picture of al Qaeda's status than President Bush presents on the campaign trail, where has claimed that much of al Qaeda's leadership has been killed or captured.

Among other things, it suggests that the organization has retained some of its centralized command and communications structure, using computer experts to relay encrypted messages.


Monday, August 09, 2004

Bush Honest, Again

This sort of candor is starting to pop up with rather surprising frequency. Is Bush tired of lying, at long last?
US President George W. Bush today said there was no point in taxing the rich because they just dodged their tax bill anyway.

"Real rich people figure out how to dodge taxes," he said during a campaign stop in suburban Washington.


The War on AIDS

The Bush administration apparently deems it important enough that it required the appointment of a paranoid homophobic nutjob to lead it, as AmericiaBlog reports:

"The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power. ... That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That's a gay agenda.'" - Tom Cobun, republican US Senate candidate from Oklahama, Oklahoma Gazette>

Putting aside for a moment the possibility that Coburn was simply doing his best imitation of Hitler ranting about the Jews, take a good look at this man. He's the Republican Senate candidate from Oklahoma. He's also the man George W. Bush picked to head his presidential AIDS commission. Yes, this anti-gay nutjob was picked by our fearless leader to help decimate the government's attack on the AIDS epidemic.


Creating 292 New Jobs by the End of February!

The new Bush administration economic policy is, apparently, to throw immigrant workers into volcanoes:

The volcano on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat had been slumbering for centuries when it awoke in 1995. Amid the banana groves and breadfruit trees of their tourist paradise, the islanders hoped that its eruptions would soon subside. Instead, within two years, 7,000 people - roughly two-thirds of the population - had to flee escalating explosions of rock, ash and toxic gas. Most went to other Caribbean islands or to Britain, which colonized Montserrat in the 17th century and still governs it. Fewer than 300 ended up in the United States, mostly living with relatives in New York and Boston. Since it was unsafe to send them back after their visitors' visas expired, the United States granted the Montserratians "temporary protected status," renewed year by year so they could legally stay and work until the worst was over.

Now, in a startling twist that reflects a major change in immigration politics, the Department of Homeland Security is ordering the 292 Montserratians to leave by the end of February - not because it is safe to go home again, but because it is not going to be safe anytime soon.

"The volcanic activity causing the environmental disaster in Montserrat is not likely to cease in the foreseeable future," Homeland Security officials explained in a June 25 notice ending Montserratians' temporary protected status effective Feb. 27, 2005. "Therefore it no longer constitutes a temporary disruption of living conditions that temporarily prevents Montserrat from adequately handling the return of its nationals."


The Pro-Black Lung Party

Do these people care about anyone? Anyone not in the top 1%, I mean?
In 1997, as a top executive of a Utah mining company, David Lauriski proposed a measure that could allow some operators to let coal-dust levels rise substantially in mines. The plan went nowhere in the government.

Last year, it found enthusiastic backing from one government official - Mr. Lauriski himself. Now head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, he revived the proposal despite objections by union officials and health experts that it could put miners at greater risk of black-lung disease.
The president has also made good on a 2000 campaign pledge to ease environmental restrictions that industry officials said were threatening jobs in coal country. That promise led many West Virginia miners, who traditionally voted Democratic, to join coal operators in supporting Mr. Bush. It helped him win the state's five electoral votes, ultimately the margin of victory.

Safety and environmental regulations often shift with control of the White House, but the Bush administration's approach to coal mining has been a particularly potent example of the blend of politics and policy.

In addition to Mr. Lauriski, who spent 30 years in the coal industry, Mr. Bush tapped a handful of other industry executives and lobbyists to help oversee safety and environmental regulations.

In all, the mine safety agency has rescinded more than a half-dozen proposals intended to make coal miners' jobs safer, including steps to limit miners' exposure to toxic chemicals. One rule pushed by the agency would make it easier for companies to use diesel generators underground, which miners say could increase the risk of fire.


A Bad Day for a Bad Administration

Their shameless political maneuverings have come back to haunt them, as people are finally attacking them for their intelligence screw-ups.

First of all, there is the brand-new outing of the al-Qaeda mole in the service of their "orange alert":

A U.S. senator asked the White House to explain how and why the name of an al Qaeda informant was leaked to the press, amid concerns it had hurt the war on terror, a letter from the lawmaker showed on Monday.

A Pakistani intelligence source said on Friday that U.S. officials confirmed the name of captured al Qaeda suspect Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan while he was still cooperating with Pakistani authorities as part of a sting operation against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

It is not clear who originally disclosed Khan's name, which first appeared in The New York Times last Monday and was then confirmed by U.S. officials.

His unmasking triggered criticism across the political spectrum, as well as speculation about the motives behind the leak. Security and terrorism are top issues for both parties in this year's U.S. presidential elections.

``I respectfully request an explanation ... of who leaked this Mr. Khan's name, for what reason it was leaked, and whether ... reports that this leak compromised future intelligence activity are accurate,'' Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, wrote in a letter to White House domestic security adviser Frances Townsend on Aug. 8.

And there's that other outing. Remember that one? Valerie Plame?
A federal judge in Washington held a reporter for Time magazine in contempt today and ordered him jailed for refusing to name the government officials who disclosed the identity of a C.I.A. agent to him. The magazine was also held in contempt and ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 a day.

The judge, Thomas F. Hogan, suspended both sanctions while Time and its reporter, Matthew Cooper, pursued an appeal.


Another Reason to Hate Lawyers

First, a trial lawyer has the nerve to run as a vice-presidential candidate against GFY Cheney. And now all lawyers are banding together to oppose our glorious leader:
The American Bar Association on Monday condemned the torture of prisoners held by U.S. forces and urged the Bush Administration to "comply fully" with the U.S. Constitution and international laws that forbid such abuse.

The resolution passed by the ABA's policy-making body also urges the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to prepare a full account of detention and interrogation practices carried out by the United States. The ABA wants the commission to make those findings and recommendations public.

"The use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by U.S. personnel in the interrogation of prisoners captured in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts has brought shame on the nation and undermined our standing in the world," a report accompanying the resolution said.

The ABA, the nation's largest group of lawyers, has previously taken strong stands against some of the Bush Administration's anti-terrorism policies, particularly those that deprive detainees and enemy combatants of legal rights.


They Were Just Celebrating Their Freedom

That explanation makes about as much sense as Limbaugh's repeated references to fraternity hazing in regard to the Abu Ghraib atrocities. And anyone who knows much about U.S. foreign policy, say in Central America, knows that our government does have a tendency to employ proxy torturers:
A United States senator has sought an investigation into reports that US soldiers were ordered to abandon an effort to prevent Iraqi jailers from abusing prisoners.

Soldiers from the Oregon National Guard reportedly tried to stop Iraqi jailers from abusing the prisoners but were ordered to leave.

The guardsmen saw dozens of Iraqi prisoners being abused on June 29, Iraq's first day as a sovereign nation after the US-led invasion last year, the newspaper The Oregonian reported.

In a letter to the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said the incident suggested that "the policy of the US is that we will no longer engage in torture, but we will turn a blind eye as it is committed by others".


Europeans to Help America with Elections

I am very glad to hear that some outside parties will be here to bear witness to whatever happens in November, but the very fact that they are necessary reveals just what a sorry state American democracy is in:
A team of international observers will monitor the presidential election in November, according to the U.S. State Department.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was invited to monitor the election by the State Department. The observers will come from the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

It will be the first time such a team has been present for a U.S. presidential election.


Nuclear Fear

Apparently, the Bush administration is basing its nuclear power plant safety guidelines on The Simpsons:

On June 16, the commission charged with investigating the events of September 11 announced that Al Qaeda's early attack plans had included "unidentified nuclear power plants." You might think the Bush Administration would respond by doing all it could to prevent a terrorist-triggered disaster at these plants.

Think again. The Bush Administration is actually relaxing the fire safeguards there.

Instead of insisting that the plants have heat-protected mechanical systems in place that will shut down reactors automatically in case of fire, which is the current standard, the Bush Administration would actually let the power companies rely on workers to run through the plants and try to turn off the reactors by hand while parts of the facilities are engulfed in flames.

"The result could be catastrophic," says a March 3 letter from Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), to Nils J. Diaz, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). "This would assign reactor personnel the duty of rushing directly to the shutdown equipment located throughout the reactor complex to shut down the reactors manually, and would potentially take place in station areas affected by smoke, fire, and radiation and possibly under attack by terrorists."


Sunday, August 08, 2004

I Wish I Was in New Orleans

Sometimes my spiritual hometown does me proud. This is one of those times, if only because that's where the court happens to be:
A proposed amendment that would lock a same-sex marriage ban into Louisiana's constitution was challenged in state court Friday on grounds it was illegally approved by the Legislature and should be kept off the Sept. 18 ballot.


Poor Little Christians

We all know, having been told ad nauseum, what a bedraggled and beleagured minority Christians are in this vast atheist republic of ours.

Thank heavens someone is looking out for them, and for their right to circumvent the grotesquely secularist laws of this nation:
Beset by civil liberties groups questioning his ministry's tax-exempt status for backing President Bush, the Rev. Jerry Falwell is planning a seminar to train conservative pastors "not to be intimidated by left-wing thugs."

The pastor's weekly "Falwell Confidential" newsletter invites conservative clergy to a "Politics and the Pulpit" conference Sept. 26-29 at Liberty University in Lynchburg. Falwell is Liberty's founder and president.

"Because this is an election year and because of the controversy over the right of churches to be involved in moral and social issues, we will have constitutional attorneys there to explain to pastors what they may and may not do," Falwell told The Associated Press.

The Campaign Legal Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have alleged in complaints filed with federal agencies that Falwell improperly engaged in politics by endorsing Bush's re-election in a newsletter published on his Web site,

Churches that go too far in advocating for or against a political party or candidate jeopardize their Internal Revenue Service religious tax exemption.

Falwell said that he wants more evangelical ministers to stand up to liberals and civil libertarians who threaten such actions against them.

"Their purpose is to intimidate conservative churches with scare tactics. Once every four years, Americans United writes a letter to evangelical pastors telling them if they speak out in any way or distribute voter guides, their tax-exempt status will be in danger," Falwell said in a telephone interview from Decatur, Ala., where he was preaching Wednesday evening.


Chalabi(s): Criminal(s)

If anyone is surprised by this, then they ain't been paying attention:
The Iraqi interim government has issued an arrest warrant for former Washington favourite Ahmad Chalabi, a judge has said. The former governing council member is wanted for alleged money laundering.

Another warrant has been issued for Salem Chalabi, the head of Iraq's special tribunal, on murder charges, Iraq's chief investigating judge has said.


New Heights

Bob Harris of Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World reports that September is slated to be, of all things... "National Preparedness Month."

I should have titled this post "New Depths":
I haven't seen any news stories about it, but I just got tipped by a guy who works in Washington, and this GSA page confirms: September is about to become "National Preparedness Month."

Heck, this Red Cross page flatly states that Tom Ridge will make the official announcement on September 9th.

What won't they do?


Will Cheney Be Called?

The defense attorneys would like to hear from him:
The pretrial hearing for a soldier photographed with naked Iraqi prisoners recessed Saturday without a ruling on whether Vice President Dick Cheney and other high-ranking administration officials must testify -- and without the photos being accepted into evidence.

Military judge Col. Denise Arn recessed the Article 32 hearing for Pfc. Lynndie England until she reviews defense requests to call dozens of witnesses, including Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and top Army generals.


This Be the Verse

May I just present this poetic offering on the occasion of the wedding of George P. Bush, and also recommend its sentiment to all Bush offspring:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

--Philip Larkin


Prozac Nation

Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that the only reason studies in the US have not found similar results is that such studies have not been conducted?
Britons could unwittingly be swallowing traces of anti-depressant Prozac and other drugs in drinking water, according to a report released today.

Environmentalists have labelled the situation “hidden mass medication of the unsuspecting public” after the study states pharmaceutical residues can travel through the sewage system and end up in the “aquatic environment”.

The levels of any such residue is unknown, and the Environment Agency has called on the drugs industry to prove its products are unlikely to cause significant harm to the environment.

According to the study by Norman Baker MP, Liberal Democrat shadow environment secretary, Prozac has been found by the EA to be “both toxic and persistent” and “a substance that could be of potential concern”.



Very American in style:
Iraq yesterday reinstated its suspended capital punishment law for people guilty of murder, endangering national security and distributing drugs, the government announced.

And, of course, this:
Iraq's interim government on Saturday ordered Qatar-based al-Jazeera Satellite TV channel to close its office in Baghdad for one month.