Saturday, December 11, 2004

Wish List

As many of you know, my house was flooded a couple weeks back, ruining not only the hardwood floors, but also a lot of my books.

The list of lost titles can be found here, should you be interested.


Historical Irony

Apparently, we are in the process of making Iraq safe for the Communists:

The communists, Iraq's oldest political party, have submitted a list of 257 candidates drawn from across ethnic and faith groups for the January elections and joined under the banner, Union of the People, newspapers said today.

"The Union of the People list includes personalities of all faiths and all communities," party secretary Hamid Majid Mussa told the daily Al-Madaa, without saying who would head the new group.

But he said one of those on the list is the Culture Minister Mufid, al-Jazairi, who represents the communists in the interim government.


"Working on It"

Why on earth anyone believes anything these people say anymore is beyond me. They lie as readily as they breathe:

A former Tennessee soldier says he told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the lack of armor for National Guard vehicles in September 2003.

Brandon Sandrell of Maury County says he raised the issue with Rumsfeld at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where Sandrell was recovering from shrapnel wounds after a bomb exploded beneath a Humvee in Iraq.

The former guardsman says Rumsfeld personally thanked him for his service and asked him what the troops were lacking in Iraq.Sandrell says he told Rumsfeld that soldiers needed up-armored Humvees. He says the secretary replied that he was working on it.


A Victory

A victory in a fight should never have had to be fought, but such is the way of this administration:

The U.S. Supreme Court sided Friday with a New Mexico church that wants to use hallucinogenic tea as part of its Christmas services, despite government objections that the tea is illegal and potentially dangerous.

The high court lifted a temporary stay issued last week against using the hoasca tea while it decides whether the Brazil-based O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal is permitted to make it a permanent part of its services.

The legal battle began after federal agents seized 30 gallons of the tea in a 1999 raid on the Santa Fe home of the church's U.S. president, Jeffrey Bronfman.


Ah, Texas

I work a stone's throw from where this happened. I am oh so very proud:
Texas Department of Public Safety trooper has been placed on probation for telling two gay men who were kissing at the state Capitol that "homosexual conduct" was illegal in Texas.


Regime of Torture

That is the new, and all too accurate, description of the US:
Fresh allegations about a regime of torture and humiliation inflicted on detainees by their American captors at Guantánamo Bay have been made by a Briton still held there, according to Foreign Office documents seen by the Guardian.

The claims by Martin Mubanga, from London, are the latest to surface from the prison where the US holds 550 Muslim men it claims are terrorists in conditions that have sparked worldwide condemnation.

Mr Mubanga, 31, alleges that only months ago he was kept shackled for so long that he wet himself, and then was forced to clean up his own urine. He claims to have been threatened, that an interrogator stood on his hair, and that he was subjected to extremes of temperature rising to 36C (97F). He was kept chained to the floor by his feet for an hour during a welfare visit from a British government official.

Mr Mubanga is one of four Britons still in Guantánamo, held without charge or trial. His allegations follow revelations that FBI agents recently raised concerns about ill treatment they witnessed of prisoners.


Friday, December 10, 2004

An Arm and a Leg

Only halfway metaphorical:
Specialist Robert Loria of Middletown lost his arm in Iraq, but instead of a farewell paycheck from the U.S. Army he got a bill for nearly $1,800.

On Friday a platoon of New York lawmakers came to his rescue.

Loria found himself stuck in Fort Hood Texas this week when Army officials claimed he owed them money for travel expenses to a hospital and lost equipment.


Hail Louisville

Great news from Kentucky. Remember, common sense abides in every state, no matter how red:
Louisville city council has rejected a campaign that vilified gays and passed a civil rights ordinance that includes a ban on discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Following an often heated two-hour debate Metro Council voted 19-6 to pass the measure.


UCC Fighting Back

The networks find inclusiveness too offensive. In fact, as the Church is arguing, censorship is:
The United Church of Christ filed two interventions Thursday calling on the Federal Communications Commission to deny license renewals to two Miami television stations that wouldn't air an ad showing the denomination supportive of same-sex relationships.

NBC and CBS rejected the ad saying they will not airing commercials that advocate one side of a political issue.



As Rumsfeld struggles to explain why our soldiers are ill-equipped, morale plummets:
WHILE insurgents draw on deep wells of fury to expand their ranks in Iraq, the US military is fighting desertion, recruitment shortfalls and legal challenges from its own troops.

The irritation among the rank and file became all too clear this week when a soldier stood up in a televised session with Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, to ask why the world’s richest army was having to hunt for scrap metal to protect its vehicles.

The same night, interviews with three soldiers who are seeking refugee status in Canada, where they have become minor celebrities, dominated prime time television. They are among more the than 5,000 troops that CBS’s 60 Minutes reported on Wednesday had deserted since the war began.

Many experts say that America’s 1.4 million active-duty troops and 865,000 part-timers are stretched to the point where President Bush may see other foreign policy goals blunted.

The bleed from the US military is heaviest among parttimers, who have been dragged en masse out of civilian life to serve their country with unprecedented sacrifice. For the first time in a decade, the Army National Guard missed its recruitment target this year. Instead of signing up 56,000 people, it found 51,000.

“This is something that the President and the country should be worried about,” said Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defence under Ronald Reagan and now a military analyst who opposes the war.

Vietnam, anyone?



Stolen from This Space for Rent.


Just a Game

That's what the global AIDS crisis is to the Bush administration. Remember that every time you hear about this nightmare. The supposed $15 billion initiative to fight AIDS was a lie. The money has not been provided, and the Bush administration has insisted that what funds have been made available must go to Big Pharma and to bullshit "abstinence education" programs. And people are dying:
The HIV/Aids pandemic is the worst catastrophe in history and is blighting childhood across the developing world, especially sub-Saharan Africa, the United Nations said yesterday.

Advances in children's survival, health and education are being reversed by a "triple whammy" of Aids, conflict and poverty, according to the UN children's agency, Unicef.

The disease is driving the destruction of basic services for 1bn children and violating their right to grow and develop, said Carol Bellamy, the organisation's executive director.

"We believe Aids is the worst catastrophe ever to hit the world," she told the Guardian. "It is just ripping up systems, be it health or education. Our children's childhood is being robbed from them."

Researchers also found that

· Of the 15m children orphaned by Aids, 80% are African
One in six (90m) children are severely hungry

· One in seven (270m) have no healthcare at all

· Nearly half of the 3.6m people killed in war since 1990 have been children.

"Unless action is taken, swiftly and decisively, to stem the tidal wave of infection and loss, it is estimated that by 2010 over 18m African children will have lost one or both parents to HIV/Aids," said Ms Bellamy.



I must say, this is what I like to hear:
Liberal powerhouse MoveOn has a message for the "professional election losers" who run the Democratic Party: "We bought it, we own it, we're going to take it back."

A scathing e-mail from the head of MoveOn's political action committee to the group's supporters on Thursday targets outgoing Democratic National Committee (news - web sites) chairman Terry McAuliffe as a tool of corporate donors who alienated both traditional and progressive Democrats.

"For years, the party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base," said the e-mail from MoveOn PAC's Eli Pariser. "But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers."

Under McAuliffe's leadership, the message said, the party coddled the same corporate donors that fund Republicans to bring in money at the expense of vision and integrity.

"In the last year, grass-roots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive," the message continued. "Now it's our party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back."


Thursday, December 09, 2004

You Can't Take It Back

This, to me, is the ultimate argument against the death penalty. Even if you truly believe in an eye for an eye, or even if you think that some people are so far gone that they have to be destroyed for society's sake, then you still have to admit that human knowledge is fallible.

We get things wrong. In fact, we do it all the time. And no matter how much the system is refined, there's always the chance that our limitations will lead to mistakes.

And you can't take it back once you kill someone:
Strapped to a gurney in Texas' death chamber earlier this year, just moments from his execution for setting a fire that killed his three daughters, Cameron Todd Willingham declared his innocence one last time.

"I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit," Willingham said angrily. "I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do."

While Texas authorities dismissed his protests, a Tribune investigation of his case shows that Willingham was prosecuted and convicted based primarily on arson theories that have since been repudiated by scientific advances. According to four fire experts consulted by the Tribune, the original investigation was flawed and it is even possible the fire was accidental.
"There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire," said Hurst, a Cambridge University-educated chemist who has investigated scores of fires in his career. "It was just a fire."

Ryland, chief of the Effie Fire Department and a former fire instructor at Louisiana State University, said that, in his workshop, he tried to re-create the conditions the original fire investigators described.

When he could not, he said, it "made me sick to think this guy was executed based on this investigation. ... They executed this guy and they've just got no idea--at least not scientifically--if he set the fire, or if the fire was even intentionally set."

Even Edward Cheever, one of the state deputy fire marshals who had assisted in the original investigation of the 1991 fire, acknowledged that Hurst's criticism was valid.

"At the time of the Corsicana fire, we were still testifying to things that aren't accurate today," he said. "They were true then, but they aren't now.

"Hurst," he added, "was pretty much right on. ... We know now not to make those same assumptions."


Canada Still Way Ahead of Us

Their Supreme Court has cleared the way, though there's still quite a struggle ahead:
In a landmark opinion, Canada's supreme court said yesterday that proposed legislation allowing gay marriage is constitutional, but the government cannot force religious officials to perform unions against their beliefs.

The Liberal government had sought the court's opinion, which is strictly advisory. The legislation to allow gay marriage must still pass with a majority of the House of Commons. Judges in six provinces and one territory have already allowed same-sex marriage.

The prime minister, Paul Martin, said his government would introduce a bill shortly after Christmas. The federal Conservatives and even some Liberal lawmakers were expected to wage a bitter battle against the bill.



With the Republicans waging incessant war on all forms of social justice, this is a shame and a waste.

The argument about whether or not the struggle endured by African Americans to attain civil rights is the same as that presently being waged by the LGBT community is one with which I have little patience. And to see a pro-bigotry march organized by African Americans just makes me very tired:

The nation's only national black LGBT civil rights group is condemning plans by a black minister to lead an anti-gay march this weekend in Atlanta.

The National Black Justice Coalition issued a statement today against the pastor the New Birth Church -- the Reverend Eddie Long -- to hold the march on Saturday.

The march is being planned to oppose the right of gays and lesbians to marry.

New Birth is one of the biggest black churches in America.

The march is scheduled to start at the King Center in Atlanta at 9:45 a-m and travel to Turner Field.

"To march from the King Center against the rights of gays is a slap in the face to the legacy of Dr. King," said NBJC Board president Keith Boykin.

Boykin also noted that one of King's closest advisers, Bayard Rustin, was an openly gay man.

"Dr. King said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," added Boykin, "but Bishop Long seems to think that injustice against gays and lesbians is perfectly fine."


Falling Short

I have to say, thus far the twenty-first century just isn't measuring up to what I had hoped it would be:

More than 1 billion children suffer from poverty, war, and HIV/AIDS, the United Nations Children's Fund says.

A new UNICEF report, released yesterday, said one in three children in developing countries lives without adequate shelter, one in five has no access to clean water, and one in seven lacks access to health services.

The report demonstrates that gains in reducing child deaths in the 1980s and '90s have stalled over the past 10 years.


More News from Canada

The Marine seeking asylum is telling his tale:
A former U.S. Marine in Iraq, testifying yesterday at a hearing for an American military deserter seeking asylum in Canada, said several men in his unit were "psychopaths" who enjoyed killing unarmed Iraqi civilians who posed no threat.

Jimmy Massey, a staff sergeant who was in the Marines for 12 years and served three months in Iraq before being honorably discharged with post-traumatic stress syndrome, made the allegations before Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board on the final day of an asylum hearing for Army Pfc. Jeremy Hinzman, 26.

Hinzman fled Fort Bragg, N.C., to Canada weeks before his 82nd Airborne Division was to be deployed to Iraq. He had served three years in the Army but applied for conscientious-objector status before his unit was sent to Afghanistan in 2002.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Calling Rummy on His Nonsense

Christopher Dodd is stepping up and speaking out:

A Democratic senator isn't satisfied with the answer Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave to a U-S soldier in Kuwait today.

The soldier complained that he and his comrades had to dig through landfills for scrap metal and other material to reinforce their vehicles.

Rumsfeld responded, "You go to war with the Army you have."

That's not good enough for Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut -- who's written a letter to Rumsfeld, saying that his answer was "utterly unacceptable."

Dodd says it's up to the government to provide safety equipment for soldiers in battle. He said, "Our troops go to war with the Army that our nation's leaders provide."



You would think that the Bush administration might have more important things to worry about than this. But I guess destroying the separation of church and state is pretty high on their list of priorities:
The Bush administration, saying that religion ``has played a defining role'' in the nation's history, urged the U.S. Supreme Court to permit Ten Commandments displays in courthouses.



It would appear that No Capital is officially part of the vast left-wing media machine now, according to the geniuses at ratherbiased and Little Green Fascists. My post on the Marine seeking asylum in Canada in order to avoid committing war crimes garnered some measure of attention:

The owner of, Martin Kelley, said he got an interesting phone call yesterday from a CBS News publicist for—you guessed it—Dan Rather's 60 Minutes Wednesday, the same program that carried the infamous bogus memos.

"Yesterday I got a call from a publicist for CBS News’s 60 Minutes. They’re running a story tonight on 'Deserters,' U.S. military personnel who have fled to Canada rather than serve in Iraq. She was requesting that I talk up the program on Nonviolence. In nine years of publishing the peace site, I can’t remember ever getting a call from a publicist before. I’ve talked to reporters from major news networks and papers, and I’ve talked a booking agent or two to arranging appearances on radio shows, but never a publicist."

"So now CBS News publicists are courting bloggers. That’s great: hey, if y’all want to buy me that new Treo Smartphone or a gift certificate to Gohn Bros I’ll say Dan Rather is hotter than an armadillo sunning himself between the yellow lines on the interstate"

Despite this, Kelley still agrees with the message of the 60 Minutes report and complied with the publicist's request to talk up the program: "CBS News Covers New Conscientious Objectors"

Other liberal/anti-war bloggers who have talked about the upcoming story in preparation for tonight's broadcast include No Capital, Daily War News, Bankrupt Artist v.3

These blogs link to the same CBS News story that Kelley linked to after being contacted.


Lean Times

I'm sure America's actions and inactions have nothing to with this. It's just fate:
For the first time in nine years, the estimated number of people going hungry around the world has increased, reversing a promising trend and raising new questions about global inequities.

Despite an overall increase in the world's wealth, the United Nations' food and agriculture agency says in a report to be released Wednesday that after a slow but steady decrease, the number of chronically hungry people rose to nearly 852 million in its latest survey, an increase of 18 million since 2000. At least five million children are now dying from hunger every year.

"The world in aggregate is getting wealthier and producing more than enough food,'' said Hartwig de Haen, the assistant director general in the economic and social department at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations who helped write the report.

"The problem is the access of people to jobs, to resources, to land and to money to buy food,'' Mr. de Haen said in an interview from Rome.

It's a Marie Antoinette moment.


Military Officially Pro-Sodomy

Well, that's exaggerating things a bit, but the decision in this case goes quite a long way toward allowing gays in the military and getting rid of the absurd "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" idiocy:
In a case that could have broad implications for 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' a military appeals court has overturned the conviction of a soldier for consensual sodomy.

Although the case involved a male Army specialist who was convicted of engaging in oral sex with a female civilian in a military barracks, the appeals court cited last year's Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down the Texas anti-gay sodomy statute.

The military court's ruling was made public today and is believed to be the first time that a military court has upheld the right of consenting adults to engage in oral sex in private.

“The Army court’s decision is an encouraging, and important, first step in recognizing service members’ privacy rights,” said C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Private, consensual conduct in the bedroom has no impact on the battlefield.”


Saying No to War Crimes

It will be very interesting to see what Canada will decide:
A former US Marine said his unit killed more than 30 innocent Iraqi civilians in just two days, in graphic testimony to a Canadian tribunal probing an asylum claim by a US army deserter.

Marine Sergeant Jimmy Massey appeared as a witness to bolster claims by fugitive paratrooper Jeremy Hinzman that he walked out on the 82nd Airborne Division to avoid being ordered to commit war crimes in Iraq (news - web sites).

Hinzman, 26, claims he would face persecution if sent home to the United States, in a politically charged case which could set a precedent for at least two other US deserters seeking asylum in Canada.

Massey told Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) that men under his command in the 3rd battalion, Seventh Marines, killed "30 plus" civilians within 48 hours while on checkpoint duty in Baghdad.

"I do know that we killed innocent civilians," Massey told the tribunal, relating the chaotic days after the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Massey said that in some incidents, Iraqi civilians were killed by between 200 and 500 rounds pumped into four separate cars which each failed to respond to a single warning shot and respond to hand signals, at a Baghdad checkpoint.


An Interesting Twist

One of the things about fighting for equality is that once you achieve it, you are equally likely to be shafted:
Many of Massachusetts' largest employers are dropping health benefits for unmarried gay couples.

The firms say that since Massachusetts became the only state to legalize same-sex marriage seven months ago, gays no longer should receive special treatment in the form of health benefits that are not made available to unmarried heterosexual couples.

Some employers say that with health care premiums rising at double-digit rates every year, providing health benefits to any employee is an issue, let alone to their partners.


Torture in Iraq? You Must Be Crazy!

That's the Army's position, anyway:
On June 15, 2003, Sgt. Frank "Greg" Ford, a counterintelligence agent in the California National Guard's 223rd Military Intelligence (M.I.) Battalion stationed in Samarra, Iraq, told his commanding officer, Capt. Victor Artiga, that he had witnessed five incidents of torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at his base, and requested a formal investigation. Thirty-six hours later, Ford, a 49-year-old with over 30 years of military service in the Coast Guard, Army and Navy, was ordered by U.S. Army medical personnel to lie down on a gurney, was then strapped down, loaded onto a military plane and medevac'd to a military medical center outside the country.

Although no "medevac" order appears to have been written, in violation of Army policy, Ford was clearly shipped out because of a diagnosis that he was suffering from combat stress. After Ford raised the torture allegations, Artiga immediately said Ford was "delusional" and ordered a psychiatric examination, according to Ford. But that examination, carried out by an Army psychiatrist, diagnosed him as "completely normal."

A witness, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Marciello, claims that Artiga became enraged when he read the initial medical report finding nothing wrong with Ford and intimidated the psychiatrist into changing it. According to Marciello, Artiga angrily told the psychiatrist that it was a "C.I. [counterintelligence] or M.I. matter" and insisted that she had to change her report and get Ford out of Iraq.


Hell, No

They won't go. And with good reason:
It's an offense punishable by death during wartime. It's been committed by 5500 soldiers since the war with Iraq began.

The men, who have violated military orders and oaths, tell 60 Minutes Wednesday that it isn't cowardice, but rather the nature of the war in Iraq, that turned them into American deserters.

American soldiers currently living in Canada tell Correspondent Scott Pelley why they made the decision to desert their units, in a report to be broadcast on Dec. 8, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

One soldier, Pfc. Dan Felushko, 24, tells Pelley, "I didn't want...'Died deluded in Iraq' over my gravestone."

It was Felushko's responsibility to go with the Marines to Kuwait in January 2003. Instead, Felushko slipped out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and deployed himself to Canada.

"I was a warrior...I always have been," Felushko tells Pelley. "I've always felt...that if there are people who can't defend themselves, it's my responsibility to do that."

"As we're sitting here, something just short of 1100 Americans have died. What do you say to their families about the choice you made?" asks Pelley.

"I honor their dead. ...Maybe they think that my presence dishonors their dead, but they made a choice the same as I made a choice, and my big problem is that, if they made that choice for anything other than they believed in it, then that's wrong," says Felushko. "The government has to be held responsible for those deaths, because they didn't give them an option."


Rummy Speaks to Troops

And says, "Well, you're pretty much fucked."
Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question. "We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.
Rumsfeld replied that troops should make the best of the conditions they face and said the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible.

And, the defense chief added, armor is not always a savior in the kind of combat U.S. troops face in Iraq, where the insurgents' weapon of choice is the roadside bomb, or improvised explosive device that has killed and maimed hundreds, if not thousands, of American troops since the summer of 2003.

"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up," Rumsfeld said.



Okay, he is the fucking President, right? The most powerful man in the world and so on? And he acknowledges that things are bad for Iraq veterans, which they are, but his answer is to call for volunteer actions?

Can't he use his power for good, for once?
Bush, who frequently has spoken in the past tense of victories achieved, talked of "eventually" stabilizing Iraq and commented almost wistfully about defeating the enemy in the future. He also said returning troops need more help than they are getting, a particularly poignant theme at this sprawling base, which has been hit harder than most -- 269 Marines killed in action in Iraq and thousands more wounded.

After declaring, "We should be doing more," Bush issued an urgent plea for Americans to support the troops with volunteer efforts and to give them the kind of welcome home that, he noted, returning Vietnam veterans were denied a generation ago.

"The time of war is a time of sacrifice, especially for our military families,'' the president said after describing some voluntary programs to assist the troops. "I urge every American to find some way to thank our military and to help out the military family down the street.''


On to Appeal

The trial court punted:
A New York trial court judge issued a decision Tuesday finding that the New York constitution allows the state to continue to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union said it wouldappeal the decision.

"Basically, the judge said that the critical questions of whether all people have a fundamental right to marry or whether the government is justified in excluding same-sex couples from marriage, should be decided by a higher court," said James Esseks, Litigation Director for the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.

"It's not terribly surprising that a lower court judge would rule this way. Trial judges in Oregon andWashington as well as other courts in New York have said that constitutional guarantees of equality don't allow same-sex couples to be excluded from marrying. But virtually all of the judges have acknowledged that this is an issue for state high courts."


Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Sounds like Vietnam, just a tad:
U.S. military prosecutors alleged Monday that American soldiers shot to death two unarmed Iraqi men in their homes, then tried to cover up their crimes by claiming that the Iraqis had reached for guns.

In a makeshift courtroom here, the prosecutors and other soldiers described in chilling detail how the two accused servicemen casually executed the Iraqis in August even though the civilians posed no immediate danger.
Soldiers approached a small, one-story home and found a family sleeping on blankets in the courtyard because of the summer heat, several soldiers from the unit testified Monday.

Soldiers detained the family — a father, mother, daughter, son and baby — in the courtyard while they searched the home.

Soldiers found a revolver and an AK-47 rifle. Because of the lack of security in Iraq, it is not uncommon for Iraqi families to keep guns in their homes. The law permits each household to have one weapon for protection.

At least one soldier testified that he suspected that the occupants had used the weapons to attack U.S. troops.

After the weapons were found, Williams, who was the squad leader, and May motioned for the father to follow them inside, soldiers testified.

Once inside, Williams and May stood in front of the Iraqi.

"You know what you have to do," Williams told May, according to military attorneys' account of the incident.

"Can I shoot him?" May asked Williams. "Shoot him," Williams replied, according to military attorneys.

May fired two shots.

"I shot him in the head twice, took a picture of him, and walked outside," May told a military investigator, Special Agent James Suprynowicz, in a sworn statement several weeks later. It was read in court Monday.

After the shooting, May bragged about the incident to fellow soldiers, prosecutors alleged.

"Spc. May was pretty hyped up," testified Spc. Joshua R. Sickels, a member of the battalion. "He was excited. He said he'd never shot someone that close up before."


A Dismal Sign of Things to Come

They've been used and abused. Now they've been thrown away.

U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era.

"When we already have people from Iraq on the streets, my God," said Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. "I have talked to enough (shelters) to know we are getting them. It is happening and this nation is not prepared for that."

"I drove off in my truck. I packed my stuff. I lived out of my truck for a while," Seabees Petty Officer Luis Arellano, 34, said in a telephone interview from a homeless shelter near March Air Force Base in California run by U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans.

Arellano said he lived out of his truck on and off for three months after returning from Iraq in September 2003. "One day you have a home and the next day you are on the streets," he said.

In Iraq, shrapnel nearly severed his left thumb. He still has trouble moving it and shrapnel "still comes out once in a while," Arellano said. He is left handed.

Arellano said he felt pushed out of the military too quickly after getting back from Iraq without medical attention he needed for his hand -- and as he would later learn, his mind.

"It was more of a rush. They put us in a warehouse for a while. They treated us like cattle," Arellano said about how the military treated him on his return to the United States.

"It is all about numbers. Instead of getting quality care, they were trying to get everybody demobilized during a certain time frame. If you had a problem, they said, 'Let the (Department of Veterans Affairs) take care of it.'"


No Capitalists

Via the ever-assiduous Simbaud comes a heart-warming tale of taking it to The Man:
Courtesy of our distinguished colleague Jerome Doolittle at Bad Attitudes: Our Quote of the Day comes from Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), speaking last Tuesday at the annual American Banker awards dinner:
"At the level of pay that those of you who run banks get, why the hell do you need bonuses to do the right thing?"

Undeterred by the deafening silence that greeted that remark, Mr. Frank, the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, added: "Do we really have to bribe you to do your jobs? I don't get it. Think what you are telling the average worker, that you who are the most important people in the system and at the top, your salary isn't enough, you need to be given an extra incentive to do your jobs right."

He went on to warn the financial heavyweights - who had gathered to see James L. Dimon, president and chief operating officer of J. P. Morgan Chase, be named banker of the year - to show restraint in pressing for further deregulation.
"Needless to say," the article adds drily, Rep. Frank did not receive a standing ovation.


SUV Mentality

They really can drive over anything, apparently:
A woman ran over two teenage brothers after they accidentally hit her sport utility vehicle with a golf ball they were bouncing in a parking lot, officials said. One of the boys suffered life-threatening injuries.

The 14- and 16-year-old boys were bouncing the golf ball in a shopping center parking lot Sunday afternoon when it went astray and struck the SUV driven by 47-year-old Kathy Feaganes Allen, sheriff's Deputy Greg Suchy said.

No damage was done, and the boys apologized and began to walk away, Suchy said. Allen started to drive away, but suddenly made a U-turn, ran over a median and struck the teens before knocking over a light pole, Suchy said.

"I tried to run. I blacked out. I woke up bleeding," Justin Marshman, 16, told The Florida Times-Union.

She then allegedly went after a third brother, but did not hit him. A witness said that after the SUV came to rest, Allen got out of the car and smoked a cigarette with the boys lying on the ground in pain.

"She charged them. This was the most deliberate act," witness Russell McPhee said. "After she ran them down, she got out of the car and lit a cigarette like a movie star."


American Omerta

This is what America has become. A nation of thugs:
U.S. special forces accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq threatened Defense Intelligence Agency personnel who saw the mistreatment and once confiscated photos of a prisoner who had been punched in the face, according to U.S. government memos released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The special forces also monitored e-mails sent by defense personnel and ordered them "not to talk to anyone" in the United States about what they saw, said one memo written by the Defense Intelligence Agency chief, who complained to his Pentagon bosses about the harassment.

Prisoners arriving at a detention center in Baghdad had "burn marks on their backs" as well as bruises and some complained of kidney pain, according to the June 25, 2004 memo.


The Bush Economy

Amazingly, he still has his job. Hundreds of thousands of us, not so lucky:
Hit by rising health care and energy costs, employers announced more than 100,000 job cuts in November, capping the first three-month stretch above that level since early 2002, an outplacement firm said Tuesday.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said companies announced 104,530 job cuts in November, up 5.1 percent from a year earlier and 2.6 percent from October.

The September through November totals mark the first time that announced job cuts have topped 100,000 for three or more straight months since January to April of 2002, the firm said.


Talking Torture in Britain

He nails it:
The first British lawyer to visit Guantánamo Bay is tonight expected to describe what he found there and outline allegations of torture made by a British detainee.

Clive Stafford Smith, a human rights lawyer, represents two of the four Britons still detained at the US military facility in Cuba.

One of those he represents, Moazzam Begg, 36, from Birmingham, claimed in a letter made public in October that he had been subjected to "vindictive torture" and death threats by the US authorities.

Ahead of a press conference later in London, Mr Stafford Smith said: "Britons are being tortured at Guantánamo and I am appalled that Prime Minister Tony Blair repeatedly uses information extracted under torture to support his contention that my British client Moazzam Begg is a threat to security."

He went on: "It is bizarre and very sad that in 2004 America wants to debate whether torture is a good thing. How many thumbscrews does it take to convince people that torture may get confessions, but does not elicit the truth?"


Why We Need Gay Marriage to Be Legal

This story tells it all:
A four year old West Virginia boy is in danger of losing his second mom following the death of his birth mother.

The state supreme Court this spring will consider to uphold a lower court ruling that gave custody of the child to his maternal grandparents, or to the partner of his birthmother, the only other parent he has ever known.

After falling in love and committing to each other, Tina Burch and Christina Smarr decided to have a child together.

The couple agreed that Smarr would carry their child. On December 25, 1999, Smarr gave birth to Zachary. The couple raised Zachary together as a family until Smarr was tragically killed in an automobile accident on June 1, 2002.

Following Smarr’s death, her parents, Paul and Janet Smarr, sought to take custody of Zachary. The trial court sided with Burch and awarded her primary custody, with visitation rights to the grandparents. The court found Burch to be Zachary’s “psychological parent” – one who, while not related to a child biologically or through adoption, has functioned as a parent in every way. West Virginia appeals courts have recognized psychological parents in the past, but never involving gay couples.

There should be no question. There should be no court battle. This child should remain with his mother. Period.

The only way to ensure this? Legal marriage.


Good News from Louisiana

The people of Louisiana may have voted to ban gay marriage, but their governor, at least, has a little common decency:
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco has signed an Executive Order prohibiting employment discrimination against gay and lesbian state government employees. The Order also requires any business contracting with the state to have a non-discrimination policy covering their lesbian and gay workers.

The order is almost identical to the one signed by Governor Edwin Edwards at the beginning of his last term, but also includes harassment.

Blanco's spokesperson Denise Bottcher said the governor felt it was important for her to re-establish state policy regarding equal treatment in the workplace.

"It's restating her feeling's about the need to treat all people with fairness in the workplace, particularly in state government," Bottcher said.


Iraq Deteriorating

How long before this Negative Nancy is purged?
A classified cable sent by the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Baghdad has warned that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and may not rebound any time soon, according to government officials.

The cable, sent late last month as the officer ended a yearlong tour, presented a bleak assessment on matters of politics, economics and security, the officials said. They said its basic conclusions had been echoed in briefings presented by a senior C.I.A. official who recently visited Iraq.


Monday, December 06, 2004

Just in Time for the Election

But I'm sure Rummy's timetable is not at all politically motivated:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that he expected American troops to withdraw from Iraq within four years, but he cautioned that any final decision hinged on the progress that Iraq's civilian government and security forces make by then.

Asked by reporters traveling with him whether United States forces would be out of Iraq by the end of his term, Mr. Rumsfeld paused to ask whether that meant a second four-term term. When told yes, he then said, "I would certainly expect that to be the case and hope that to be the case."

Mr. Rumsfeld quickly noted that President Bush has repeatedly said American forces would stay as long as needed in Iraq. But Mr. Rumsfeld's answer offered intriguing clues into his thinking on two crucial subjects: the duration of American troops in Iraq and how long he will stay in his job.


The Many Uses of Terror

Ukraine's government has learned its lessons well from the past few years:

Ukraine's embattled government is ready to stage faked terrorist attacks to destabilise the country and discredit the opposition ahead of a rerun of the presidential vote, a senior government source has told The Independent.

The official, who works for the government of the Moscow-backed candidate and current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, said: "One of the plans is to blow up a pipeline and blame it on opposition supporters. Ukraine is the key transit country for Russian gas supplies to the West."


Only Criminals Seek Immunity

Case in point:
The US government is quietly threatening to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid aimed at combating terrorism, resolving conflicts, and building democracy unless countries agree to shield Americans from prosecution at the UN permanent war crimes tribunal.

An amendment to the 3,000-page budget bill before the House of Representatives would punish countries, even close allies in the war on terrorism, that have joined the International Criminal Court and have declined to promise they would not send American citizens to the court without US permission.

Since 2002, the US government has withheld military aid from countries that refused to sign such a bilateral agreement. But the new amendment in this year's budget bill goes a step further, revoking other nonmilitary assistance to governments. The amendment targets an economic support fund designed to foster democracy and human rights around the world, as well as promote the rule of law in Muslim countries to bolster counterterrorism efforts.


This Has Got to Stop

It disgusts me to be a citizen of this country.

This letter, keep in mind, details events occurring two years ago. Imagine enduring this sort of treatment every day for the last two years, and having no hope of freedom from this torture:
FBI (news - web sites) agents witnessed "highly aggressive" interrogations and mistreatment of terror suspects at the U.S. prison camp in Cuba starting in 2002 — more than a year before the prison abuse scandal broke in Iraq (news - web sites) — according to a letter a senior Justice Department (news - web sites) official sent to the Army's top criminal investigator.

In the letter obtained by The Associated Press, the FBI official suggested the Pentagon (news - web sites) didn't act on FBI complaints about the incidents, including a female interrogator grabbing a detainee's genitals and bending back his thumbs, another where a prisoner was gagged with duct tape and a third where a dog was used to intimidate a detainee who later was thrown into isolation and showed signs of "extreme psychological trauma."
None of the three 2002 cases cited were detailed in any of 5,000 documents received by the New York-based American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) under two Freedom of Information Act requests, said Anthony Romero, the union's executive director.

"Despite the government's statements, there seems to be increasingly little doubt that torture is occurring at Guantanamo," said Romero.

He said the information in the FBI letter "raises questions about the government's willingness to be forthcoming in these legal proceedings and shows that even the FBI has been uncomfortable with some of the tactics used at Guantanamo."

One of the documents the ACLU received was a letter from an FBI agent to Harrington and dated May 10. It underscored the friction between the FBI and the military, mentioning conversations that were "somewhat heated" over interrogation methods.

"In my weekly meetings with the Department of Justice (news - web sites) we often discussed techniques and how they were not effective or producing intelligence that was reliable," according to the exchange, which was heavily redacted to remove references to dates and names.

"I finally voiced my opinion ...," the FBI agent says. "It still did not prevent them from continuing the ... methods."

Three of the four incidents mentioned in the letter obtained by the AP occurred under the watch of Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who ran the Guantanamo camp from October 2002 to March 2004, and left to run Abu Ghraib prison. Last month, Miller was reassigned to the Pentagon, with responsibility for housing and other support operations.

According to the letter, in late 2002 an FBI agent observed an interrogation where Sgt. Lacey whispered in the ear of a handcuffed and shackled detainee, caressed him and applied lotion to his arms. This occurred during Ramadan, Islam's holy month when contact with females is considered particularly offensive to a Muslim man.

Later, the detainee appeared to grimace in pain, and the FBI agent asked a Marine who was present why. "The Marine said (the interrogator) had grabbed the detainee's thumbs and bent them backward and indicated that she also grabbed his genitals. The Marine also implied that her treatment of that detainee was less harsh than her treatment of others by indicating that he had seen her treatment of other detainees result in detainees curling into a fetal position on the floor and crying in pain," Harrington wrote.

In September or October of 2002, FBI agents saw a dog used "in an aggressive manner to intimidate a detainee," the letter said.

About a month later, agents saw the same detainee "after he had been subjected to intense isolation for over three months ... totally isolated in a cell that was always flooded with light. By late November, the detainee was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma ... talking to nonexistent people, reported hearing voices (and) crouching in a corner of the cell covered with a sheet," the letter said.

In October 2002, another FBI agent saw a detainee "gagged with duct tape that covered much of his head" because he would not stop chanting from the Quran.


Whistleblower Claims He Wrote Vote-Rigging Software

At the behest of a GOP Congressman.

If this is true, it's explosive:
In stunning revelations set to rock the vote from Tallahassee to Capitol Hill -- and perhaps even a bit further up Pennsylvania Avenue -- a Florida computer programmer has now made remarkable claims in a detailed sworn affidavit, signed this morning and obtained exclusively by The BRAD BLOG!

Affidavit in .PDF format - (Generously hosted by Raw Story!)

The programmer claims that he designed and built a "vote rigging" software program at the behest of then Florida Congressman, now U.S. Congressman,Republican Tom Feeney of Florida's 24th Congressional District.Clint Curtis, 46, claims that he built the software for Feeney in 2000 while working at a sofware design and engineering company in Oviedo, Florida (Feeney's home district).

Curtis, in his affidavit, says that as technical advisor and programmer at Yang Enterprises, Inc. (YEI) he was present at company meetings where Feeney was present "on at least a dozen occasions".
Curtis says that Feeney "was very specific in the design and specifications required for this program.""He detailed, in his own words, that; (a) the program needed to be touch-screen capable (b) the user should be able to trigger the program without any additional equipment (c) the programming to accomplish this needed to stay hidden even if the source code was inspected."

Though there was no problem with the first two requirements, Curtis explained to the Congressman that it would be "virtually impossible to hide such code written to change the voting results if anyone is able to review the uncompiled source code"

Nonetheless, he was asked at the meeting by Mrs. Yang to build the prototype anyway.Curtis, "a life-long Republican" at the time, claims that it was his initial belief that Feeney's interest was in trying to stop Democrats from using "such a program to steal an election". Curtis had assumed that Feeney, "wanted to be able to detect and prevent that if it occurred."

Upon delivery of the software design and documentation on CD to Mrs. Yang, Curtis again explained to her that it would be impossible to hide routines created to manipulate the vote if anybody would be able to inspect the precompiled source code.

Mrs. Yang then told him, "You don’t understand, in order to get the contract we have to hide the manipulation in the source code. This program is needed to control the vote in South Florida." [emphasis in affidavit]


Corporate Responsibility

Wow. I am quite simply amazed by this. Speechless, almost.

To think that I actually want our government to behave more like a massive corporation, for a change!
The Ford Motor Company Monday announced a massive HIV/AIDS program at its operations throughout the world. The company has had an innovative education program in South Africa since 1999 at its assembly plant in Pretoria. It will now be expanded to Ford operations in some of the most high-risk regions of the world, including China, India, Russia and Thailand.

"Our efforts to address HIV/AIDS in South Africa provided the company with a blueprint that includes confidential HIV/AIDS testing, education and counseling, easier access to antiretroviral drugs, adopting culturally-sensitive practices, working with suppliers on similar programs and annually reporting on our progress," Dr. Greg Stone, Ford's director of Occupational Health and Safety told a news conference this afternoon at the company's Dearborn headquarters.

"These are the services we are initiating at our facilities in high-priority locations, starting with basic employee education."

According to UN data, nearly 5 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2003, the greatest number in any one year since the beginning of the epidemic. At the global level, the number of people living with HIV continues to grow - from 35 million in 2001 to 38 million in 2003.

"To date, HIV/AIDS has not had a detectable economic impact on the company overall," said Stone. "We believe taking a proactive approach to the pandemic contributed to this."Ford President Nick Scheele said the company views the initiative as both good business and a moral imperative.

"We must address this humanitarian and health crisis together and acknowledge that even one death from HIV/AIDS is too many," Scheele said.


Match Made in Media Hell

Fox News has reached an agreement to become the primary news provider to radio giant Clear Channel Communications Inc.

The pact stands to greatly boost the radio presence of Fox News, which rolled out its service last year, as it looks to compete with the much more entrenched CBS Radio, a unit of Viacom Inc., and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC Radio.

Under the terms of the five-year deal, which starts next year, as many as 172 of Clear Channel's news and talk stations could eventually carry Fox's radio service, which includes news updates of up to five minutes per hour and syndicated talk shows by some of its cable news personalities, including Alan Colmes.

The Clear Channel partnership will give Fox News's nascent radio unit close to 300 stations, including 37 in the top 40 markets. There are options in the deal that could increase the number of Clear Channel stations affiliated with Fox News over time. Fox News said that if all options are exercised, its service could have more than 500 affiliates by mid-2005.


Universal Health Care NOW!

What the opposition did when Clinton attempted to get this rolling way back when was appalling. That Clinton's failure continues to make this issue untouchable is depressing. Those who oppose universal health care are callously contributing to needless death:
IN Washington, the phrase "universal coverage" is rarely mentioned as the way to provide health insurance for the 45 million uninsured Americans. It evokes memories of the Clinton administration's sobering failure to forge a national health care plan. Yet among health care experts there is a surprising consensus that the United States must inevitably adopt some kind of universal coverage.

"Politically, it's like the electrified third rail on the subway - no one wants to touch it," said Margaret O'Kane, president of the National Committee on Quality Assurance, an independent group that seeks to improve the quality of health care.
Whatever their differences, they do agree that moving toward universal coverage would surely save lives and maybe dollars as well. A report this year by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences found that the uninsured are sick more often than the insured and likely to die younger, resulting in an estimated 18,000 additional deaths a year.

The uninsured receive medical care, but often when it is most expensive - acute care at hospitals after emergencies instead of regular checkups and other preventive care. And the uninsured pay only 35 percent of their own medical bills, according to the Institute of Medicine report. Most of the rest is paid by taxpayers through subsidies to hospitals and clinics.


FDA: Sold Out

It's infuriating enough that the EPA tends nowadays to be so pro-business and to show so little concern for, well, the environment. But now it seems the FDA is beholden to the needs of Big Pharma's profits, rather than the health and safety of Americans:
When federal drug officials suspected in 1992 that a popular allergy pill might cause heart problems, they turned to their own scientists. Their trial confirmed the danger, and the drug was pulled from the market.

Eight years later, similar worries surrounded the arthritis pill Vioxx. But by then, the Food and Drug Administration had shifted gears, slashing its laboratories and network of independent drug safety experts in favor of hiring more people to approve drugs, changes that arose under an unusual agreement that has left the agency increasingly reliant on and bound by drug company money. Discovering Vioxx's dangers would take four more years.

That delay has led to a firestorm of criticism. Members of Congress, an internal F.D.A. whistleblower and prominent medical journals have said the agency is incapable of uncovering the perils of drugs that have been approved and are in wide distribution. Some have accused it of being cozy with drug makers.

Dozens of former and current F.D.A. officials, outside scientists and advocates for patients say the agency's efforts to monitor the ill effects of drugs that are on the market are a shadow of what they should be because the White House and Congress forced a marriage between the agency and industry years ago for the rich dowry that industry offered.


Stop-Loss Lawsuit

How long before the right-wing bloggers safe in front of their computers decry these men as traitorous and un-American?
The eight soldiers come from places scattered across the country, from this small town an hour northwest of Little Rock to cities in Arizona, New Jersey and New York. In Iraq and Kuwait, where they all work now, most of them hold different jobs in different units, miles apart. Most have never met.

But the eight share a bond of anger: each says he has been prevented from coming home for good by an Army policy that has barred thousands of soldiers from leaving Iraq this year even though the terms of enlistment they signed up for have run out. And each of these eight soldiers has separately taken the extraordinary step of seeking legal help, through late-night Internet searches and e-mail inquiries from their camps in the conflict zone, or through rounds of phone calls by an equally frustrated wife or mother back home.

With legal support from the Center for Constitutional Rights, a liberal-leaning public interest group, lawyers for the eight men say they will file a lawsuit on Monday in federal court in Washington challenging the Army policy known as stop-loss.


Taliban Threatens Violence Tomorrow

I doubt there's any way they can touch the actual inauguration ceremony, but who knows? At any rate, there will be attacks:
The Taliban threatened Monday to launch attacks during the swearing in of Afghan President Hamid Karzai while the U.S. military said every precaution was being taken to protect a ceremony to be attended by top U.S. officials.
Cheney will be the most senior U.S. official to visit Afghanistan (news - web sites) since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001 for failing to give up al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Mullah Dadullah, the most senior Taliban military commander and a member of the movement's 10-man leadership council, warned people they should stay away from government and military installations throughout Afghanistan during the inauguration.

"We do not want to harm innocent people," he said, adding that Taliban guerrillas had been given orders: "If you get a chance, disrupt the ceremony."

He said guerrillas all over the country had been asked to be prepared to launch attacks to remind foreigners that Islamist fighters opposed their occupation of Afghanistan.


Slamming Bush's Dollar

Somehow, this brings to mind that first little bit of blood that incites a feeding frenzy:
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad urged countries and companies Monday to curb their reliance on the U.S. dollar and increase their holdings in the euro and the yen.

"Euros, pounds and yen would be safer to keep than (the) U.S. dollar," Mahathir said in a speech to an East Asian conference of government officials and business leaders. "I would urge countries and businesses to switch to euro and yen (holdings) or buy gold."

Mahathir said the move would help countries from being hurt too much by oil price increases, which were considerably higher when measured in U.S. dollars compared to the other currencies. "

The U.S. dollar no longer reflects the true value or wealth of nations," he said.

Mahathir, who retired in October 2003, did not say whether he believed his country should alter its currency peg, which was imposed in 1998 amid the Asian economic crisis. The Malaysian ringgit is currently pegged at 3.8 to the U.S. dollar.

Mahathir also slammed U.S. President George Bush, saying he was "not likely to know the true causes of the U.S. dollar depreciation and the apparent rise in the price of oil."

"Bush is not likely to link it with the huge deficits of the U.S. or the spendthrift ways of his government," said the Malaysian leader, who had opposed Bush's re-election for a second term.

"At best, he would be in denial," Mahathir added. "We cannot expect Bush to do anything to restore the correct value of the U.S. dollar. Nor would he be able to correct oil prices."



Personally, I think that the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy has always been ridiculous; now, it's finally being challenged on constitutional grounds:
The Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is being challenged by 12 gays who have been separated from the military because of their homosexuality.

They planned to file a federal lawsuit Monday in Boston that would cite last year's landmark Supreme Court ruling that overturned state laws making gay sex a crime as ground for overturning the policy.

Personally, of course, the right to join the military is about the last one for which I would fight, with this disgusting war that we have going on right now. But that's just me.


Still Fighting in California

I think it is great that this assemblyman is bucking the trend toward bigotry:

Five weeks after voters in 11 states banned same-sex marriages and the issue was cited as a factor in John Kerry's defeat, a California lawmaker plans to reintroduce today a bill to make them legal.

Assemblyman Mark Leno's "Marriage License Nondiscrimination Act" would amend a section of California's family code that defines marriage as "a personal relationship arising out of a civil contract between a man and woman" to read "between two persons."

Despite the setbacks from the Nov. 2 election, Leno, D-San Francisco, said he was not worried his measure faces even greater hurdles in the upcoming legislative session than it encountered during the last.

"We proceed from a position of strength," he said over the weekend. "We are confident we will have the votes to get it off the (Assembly) floor."

Meanwhile, they're heading to court in New Jersey:
The effort to get same-sex marriage legalized in New Jersey resumes Tuesday when an appeals court hears arguments on behalf of gay couples who sued the state because they want to wed.

The Appellate Division is likely to be just a legal stop for the case on the way to the state Supreme Court, which is widely expected to eventually decide the issue.


US Consulate Attacked

Strange how we hear so little about the situation in Saudi Arabia, given that such things are happening:
At least seven people are reported to have died after gunmen stormed the US consulate in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

The Saudi interior ministry said three gunmen were killed and two more arrested as security forces gained control of the compound.

Officials said four Saudi troops were killed in the fighting.

In a statement, the ministry said the gunmen threw explosives at the main gate of the consulate from a car and then entered the compound.


Sunday, December 05, 2004


I still don't like the idea of a pro-lifer serving as the Democrats' spokesperson, but I have to admit, I like what he said today:
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday had harsh words for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

When asked to comment on Thomas as a possible replacement for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Reid told NBC's "Meet the Press": "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court.

"I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice."


Civil War

I have said this before, but the argument that we have to stay in Iraq to prevent civil war from breaking out is less convincing every day, given that the situation looks quite a bit like civil war right now:

Common wisdom holds that if American troops withdraw anytime soon, Iraq will descend into civil war, as Lebanon did in the late 1970's. But that ignores a question posed by events of recent weeks:

Has a civil war already begun?

Iraq is no Lebanon yet. But evidence is building that it is at least in the early stages of ethnic and sectarian warfare.

Armed Iraqi groups have mounted ever more deadly and spectacular assaults on fellow Iraqis, in bids to assert political and territorial dominance. This fighting is generally defined by ethnic and religious divisions: rebellious Sunni Arabs clashing with Shiite Arabs and Kurds. On Friday, in Baghdad, mortar attacks on a police station and the suicide car bombing of a Shiite mosque left at least 27 dead.

Some academic and military analysts say the battle lines have been hardened by the American policy of limiting the power of the minority Sunni Arabs, who dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein's rule and make up most of the rebellion. The Americans have handed the bulk of authority to the Shiites, who represent a majority of Iraqis, and a lesser share to the Kurds, who are about a fifth of the population. This has increased the influence of the two major groups that were brutally suppressed by Mr. Hussein, and raised Sunni fears about sharing power with them as a minority.


Fallujah Work Camp

Democracy? Still a pipe dream. And I'll just avoid the readily available allusion to "Arbeit Macht Frei":
The US military is drawing up plans to keep insurgents from regaining control of this battle-scarred city, but returning residents may find that the measures make Fallujah look more like a police state than the democracy they have been promised.

Under the plans, troops would funnel Fallujans to so-called citizen processing centers on the outskirts of the city to compile a database of their identities through DNA testing and retina scans. Residents would receive badges displaying their home addresses that they must wear at all times. Buses would ferry them into the city, where cars, the deadliest tool of suicide bombers, would be banned.

Marine commanders working in unheated, war-damaged downtown buildings are hammering out the details of their paradoxical task: Bring back the 300,000 residents in

time for January elections without letting in insurgents, even though many Fallujans were among the fighters who ruled the city until the US assault drove them out in November, and many others cooperated with fighters out of conviction or fear.

One idea that has stirred debate among Marine officers would require all men to work, for pay, in military-style battalions. Depending on their skills, they would be assigned jobs in construction, waterworks, or rubble-clearing platoons.

"You have to say, 'Here are the rules,' and you are firm and fair. That radiates stability," said Lieutenant Colonel Dave Bellon, intelligence officer for the First Regimental Combat Team, the Marine regiment that took the western half of Fallujah during the US assault and expects to be based downtown for some time.

Bellon asserted that previous attempts to win trust from Iraqis suspicious of US intentions had telegraphed weakness by asking, " 'What are your needs? What are your emotional needs?' All this Oprah [stuff]," he said. "They want to figure out who the dominant tribe is and say, 'I'm with you.' We need to be the benevolent, dominant tribe.