Saturday, January 29, 2005

Fighting the Leftist Academic Cabal

Thersites brings up the tale of a man and his quest to stop the evil, atheistic (and probably sodomitical) professors corrupting our youth daily:

Marion Sen. Larry A. Mumper’s "academic bill of rights for higher education" would prohibit instructors at public or private universities from "persistently" discussing controversial issues in class or from using their classes to push political, ideological, religious or anti-religious views.

Senate Bill 24 also would prohibit professors from discriminating against students based on their beliefs and keep universities from hiring, firing, promoting or giving tenure to instructors based on their beliefs.

Mumper, a Republican, said many professors undermine the values of their students because "80 percent or so of them (professors) are Democrats, liberals or socialists or card-carrying Communists" who attempt to indoctrinate students.

"These are young minds that haven’t had a chance to form their own opinions," Mumper said. "Our colleges and universities are still filled with some of the ’60s and ’70s profs that were the anti-American group. They’ve gotten control of how to give people tenure and so the colleges continue to move in this direction."
I am proud to say that my SO acquired for me a signed copy of Tom Tomorrow's cartoon on liberal academics (because I am one), on which he tells me to "keep up the good work."


The True Face of the Anti-Choicers

If you think outlawing abortion is their ultimate goal, then you aren't paying close enough attention.

Once again, Virginia leads the way in idiocy:

Republican State Senators, led by Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis, want to limit the rights of Virginia's families to use safe and effective means of birth control. (courtesy of Maura from DFV)

Maura points out that Delegate Dick Black (R-Loudon) believes that contraceptives are really
"baby pesticides" and that Delegate Bob Marshall (D-Manassas) wants to ban access to contraception for victims of statutory rape.

This fight is not only about the rights of women -- it is about the rights of families. Real
family values are values that allow Virginia's families to make responsible family planning decisions in private, without interference from Dick Black, Bob Marshall, or the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Link via Avedon Carol.


Bill Gates Is Jumping Ship

And you know, when the richest rat leaves the ship, there are problems:

Bill Gates, the world's richest person with a net worth of $46.6 billion, is betting against the U.S. dollar.

``I'm short the dollar,'' Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp., told Charlie Rose in an interview in front of an audience of about 200 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ``The ol' dollar, it's gonna go down.''

Gates's comments reflect the same view as his friend Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who has bet against the currency since 2002. Buffett said last week that the country's trade gap will probably further weaken the dollar, which fell 21 percent against a basket of six major currencies between January 2002 and the end of last year.

``It is a bit scary,'' Gates said. ``We're in uncharted territory when the world's reserve currency has so much outstanding debt.''


Exporting Hate

Honestly, could there be a more obnoxious neighbor than the United States?
American evangelists are urging Canadians to oppose same-sex marriage. The anti-gay groups are using Christian broadcasters to spread the message.

Earlier this week, James Dobson, chairman of the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, in a broadcast heard on 130 radio stations across Canada denounced the government of Prime Minister Paul Martin which will bring in a same-sex marriage bill next week.

"Your prime minister, Paul Martin, has recently done things to subvert the will of the people," Dobson said.

<>"It is clear here in the United States that the American people do not want same-sex marriage," Dobson continued. "I would hope that Canadians who also do not want same-sex marriage would be encouraged by what has happened down here."


Friday, January 28, 2005

We're the Killers

Given that knowledge, what ought we do?

Coalition troops and Iraqi security forces may be responsible for up to 60% of conflict-related civilian deaths in Iraq - far more than are killed by insurgents, confidential records obtained by the BBC's Panorama programme reveal.

Official figures, compiled by Iraq's Ministry of Health, break down deaths according to insurgent and coalition activity. They are usually available only to Iraqi cabinet ministers.

The data covers the period 1 July 2004 to 1 January 2005, and relates to all conflict-related civilian deaths and injuries recorded by Iraqi public hospitals. The figures exclude, where known, the deaths of insurgents.


The Past Is Now

Right now. I'm sick of the prohibition against likening this administration to the Nazis. If the simile fits...
"This so-called ill treatment and torture in detention centers, stories of which were spread everywhere among the people, and later by the prisoners who were freed … were not, as some assumed, inflicted methodically, but were excesses committed by individual prison guards, their deputies, and men who laid violent hands on the detainees."

Most people who hear this quote today assume it was uttered by a senior officer of the Bush administration. Instead, it comes from one of history's greatest mass murderers, Rudolf Hoess, the SS commandant at Auschwitz. Such a confusion demonstrates the depth of the United States' moral dilemma in its treatment of detainees in the war on terror.
(Thanks to Jochen.)


Readers' Request

Twist my arm, but here is the wish list of books I lost to the floods... if you happen to be feeling generous.

By the by: Rosie and KJ and Carmel and Amy and Harper, you beautiful people. I just spent almost exactly $75 at Powells, and somehow didn't feel the pain!


Red Crescent?

If the homophobes can win in my beloved New Orleans, then all is indeed lost:
The Louisiana Appeals Court will hear a suit challenging City of New Orleans ordinances that created a domestic partner registry and extended benefits to same-sex couples.

In 1997, the City of New Orleans extended health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. In 1999 the City Council, by a majority vote, created a domestic partner registry that allows couples to make a public commitment to care for and support each other.

The domestic partner benefits policy and the city's domestic partner registry almost immediately came under fire from conservatives. The suit was filed on their behalf by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Arizona-firm that is involved in a number of similar cases nationwide.

No offense, but I feel the need to say: Hey, Arizona, fuck off!


Complete with Ritualistic Deflorations, I Presume

Well, thank goodness. It's about bloody time that all those poor, oppressed straight folk stood up, and stood together, and declared that it's nobody's damn business if they want to fuck members of the opposite sex!
A University of Central Oklahoma student group is planning what it calls "Straight Pride Week" on campus.

Members of the College Republicans said despite objections from some, they have every right to celebrate.


Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Tale of Two Windows

At our home, before we were forced out by flood repairs:

And now, at the extended-stay hotel that we must now call home, for at least a couple of weeks:


Early Friday Catblogging

With our house looking like this:

and us staying in a hotel, there's no telling when I'll be posting tomorrow. So here's some catblogging. These pictures showcase Zora and Tista's ability to cope with moving and with hotel life:


Wal-Mart Not Entirely Evil

One thing about the amorality of capitalism--it sometimes overcomes the inanity of "morality":
Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has adopted a new definition of family that includes same-sex partners recognized under state law.

The new definition of "immediate family" was included in a conflict-of-interest policy for employees that the company filed yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The policy which lays out the terms under which workers would violate that policy says, "You are responsible for advancing Wal-Mart's business interests when the opportunity to do so arises. You may not take any opportunities or use any confidential information for your benefit, or for the benefit of your immediate family members, that you discover or obtain through your employment with Wal-Mart."

It then goes on to define immediate family members to "include (whether by birth, adoption, marriage or Domestic Partnership or Civil Union, if recognized by your state or other local law) your spouse, children, parents, siblings, mothers and fathers-in-law, sons and daughters-in-law and brothers and sisters-in-law."


Land of Torture and Propaganda

The idea of America is rapidly fading into memory. Since when do we debate torture? Since when do we need to pass laws saying the government shouldn't engage in propaganda?
In response to continued revelations of government-funded "journalism" -- ranging from the purported video news releases put out by the drug czar's office and the Department of Health and Human Services to the recently uncovered payments to columnists Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher,who flacked administration programs -- Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) will introduce a bill, The Stop Government Propaganda Act, in the Senate next week.

"It's just not enough to say, 'Please don't do it anymore,'" Alex Formuzis, Lautenberg's spokesman, told E&P. "Legislation sometimes is required and we believe it is in this case."

The Stop Government Propaganda Act states, "Funds appropriated to an Executive branch agency may not be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States unless authorized by law."

"It's time for Congress to shut down the Administration's propaganda mill," Lautenberg said in a statement. "It has no place in the United States Government." The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Jon Corzine (D-N.J.).
And if this doesn't pass...



Why don't we just tag them furriners' ears?

The US Department of Homeland Security has decided to trial RFID tags in an effort to make sure only the right sort of people get across US borders.

The controversial US-VISIT scheme for those visiting the US from abroad already fingerprints holidaymakers on their way into the country and is now adding RFID to the mix in order to improve border management, the department said.

RFID chips will be used to track both pedestrians and vehicles entering the US to automatically record when the visitors arrive and leave in the country.

So far, over 400 people have been turned away from the country or arrested as a result of US-VISIT checks.

US Under Secretary for Border & Transportation Security, Asa Hutchinson, said in a statement: "Through the use of radio frequency technology, we see the potential to not only improve the security of our country, but also to make the most important infrastructure enhancements to the US land borders in more than 50 years."


Texas: Land of Cake or Death

Death please. No, wait, I meant cake!

You're lucky you're in Texas and we don't know how to handle parole hearings!

Texas has been forced to release more than 500 inmates from prison since August because the state didn't give them proper advance notice of their parole hearings.

The releases have been forced by a 2004 court ruling that said Texas has violated inmates' due process rights by not giving them enough time to present the state parole board with evidence to bolster their case.


Pot, for All Generations

Earlier, I posted about Granny J, a woman in Britain who is planning to publish a book on how to cook with marijuana.

This post is for the children:
Looking for a way to explain your marijuana use to your kids? Or, perhaps you're just interested in offering the tots a glimpse into the scourge of pot that the federal drug narcos are trying (so earnestly and yet totally ineffectively) to wipe out? Maybe you're just looking for a new bedtime story. Whatever the reason, look no further than the new children's book It's Just a Plant, written and illustrated by Ricardo Cortes. According to the publishers (New York City's "pop culture collective" the Magic Propaganda Mill), the colorfully illustrated book aims to offer "accurate and reliable" information about marijuana to children. The story focuses on Jackie, who finds out about marijuana after seeing her parents toking a jay. Subsequently, Jackie's mom takes her daughter on an educational romp from farm to doctor's office to a street corner, in an attempt to teach her what the plant is really all about. The 48-page book is scheduled for release this spring, but an advance copy is already available for viewing at



Bush's substance would be repugnant to most Americans, if they only familiarized themselves with it...

But that's why the PR men make the big bucks!
The Bush administration has more than doubled its spending on outside contracts with public relations firms during the past four years, according to an analysis of federal procurement data by congressional Democrats.

The administration spent at least $88 million in fiscal 2004 on contracts with major public relations firms, the analysis found, compared with $37 million in 2001, Bush's first year in office. In all, the administration spent $250 million on public relations contracts during its first term, compared with $128 million spent for President Clinton (news - web sites)


American Torture, Cont'd

How vile can we become as a nation?

Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by touching them sexually, wearing miniskirts and thongs, according to an insider’s written account.

In one case a woman smeared a Saudi man’s face with fake menstrual blood, he claims.

A rough manuscript obtained by The Associated Press is classified as secret pending a Pentagon review for a planned book that details ways the US military used women as part of tougher physical and psychological interrogation tactics to get terror suspects to talk.


The Truth About the American Myth

I have studied American literature for a long, long time. And I've critiqued America's vapid capitalism for almost as long.

And yet, I didn't know the truth about Horatio Alger, a mediocre writer whose name has become a shorthand for the cliche American rags-to-riches tale, trotted out all the time to inform us that we don't need no stinkin' welfare system.

Attaturk sets it straight, using Wikipedia:
Poorly written and repetitive, the novels declined in popularity as Alger's target audience grew more sophisticated. Nevertheless, at the time of their writing they were bestsellers, and Alger's books actually rivaled those of Mark Twain in popularity. As the American dream took shape, Alger gave hope for a brighter future to millions of young men who were then living on the brink of society.

Alger was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts (now Revere, Massachusetts) to a stern Unitarian minister who wanted his son to follow him into the clergy. He attended Harvard where he studied under Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with the intention of one day becoming a poet. After graduation he found work as a journalist and schoolteacher. Rejected by the Union Army because of his asthma, he took a tour of Europe where he finally decided to pursue the ministry. He took a position in Cape Cod but left for New York City rather suddenly in 1866, ostensibly to pursue a career in writing. Church records uncovered after Alger's death indicate that he was quietly dismissed for having sexual relations with several boys in his parish (as a result, the New York City chapter of the North American Man-Boy Love Association is named after him).
The move to New York was a turning point in Alger's career. He was immediately drawn into the work of impoverished young bootblacks, newspaper boys, and peddlers, and even took a young Chinese immigrant named Sam into his home as a ward (Sam was killed in a carriage accident a few years later).
Despite his remarkable literary output, Alger never became rich from his writing. He gave most of his money to homeless boys and in some instances was actually conned from his earnings by the boys he tried to help.

Mm hmm. Yeah, those boys took advantage of poor Horatio...


Eggman or Walrus?

Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction:
'Spider-Man' creator Stan Lee has partnered with Ringo Starr to turn the former Beatle into an animated hero.

The man behind the comic books 'Fantastic Four', 'The X-Men' and 'The Hulk', will base his superhero on the personality of Ringo Starr and Ringo will voice the character.


They Get Paid for This?

Friedman's latest column, titled--I'm not kidding--"Read My Ears" demonstrates the absolute vapidity of the opining classes.

Here's a sample:
Let me put this as bluntly as I can: There is nothing that the Europeans want to hear from George Bush, there is nothing that they will listen to from George Bush that will change their minds about him or the Iraq war or U.S. foreign policy. Mr. Bush is more widely and deeply disliked in Europe than any U.S. president in history. Some people here must have a good thing to say about him, but I haven't met them yet.

In such an environment, the only thing that Mr. Bush could do to change people's minds about him would be to travel across Europe and not say a single word - but just listen. If he did that, Mr. Bush would bowl the Europeans over. He would absolutely disarm and flummox people here - and improve his own image markedly. All it would take for him would be just a few words: "Read my ears. I have come to Europe to listen, not to speak. I will give my Europe speech when I come home - after I've heard what you have to say."

If Mr. Bush did that none of the European pundits would be able to pick apart his speeches here and mock the contradictions between his words and deeds. None of them would comment on his delivery and what he failed to mention. Instead, all the European commentators, politicians and demonstrators would start fighting with one another over what to say to the president. It might even force the Europeans to get out of their bad habit of just saying, "George Bush," and everybody laughing or sneering as if that ends the conversation, and Europe doesn't have to declare what it stands for.

In a nutshell, Friedman's suggestion to Bush is: Shut the fuck up. That'll show 'em!


That Long, Nervous Wait...

for the brain to be implanted.


Lying, Abroad

It seems that the American oil industry is taking international opinion into account. Which means, of course...Propaganda!!
Lobby groups funded by the US oil industry are targeting Britain in a bid to play down the threat of climate change and derail action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, leading scientists have warned.

Bob May, president of the Royal Society, says that "a lobby of professional sceptics who opposed action to tackle climate change" is turning its attention to Britain because of its high profile in the debate.

Writing in the Life section of today's Guardian, Professor May says the government's decision to make global warming a focus of its G8 presidency has made it a target. So has the high profile of its chief scientific adviser, David King, who described climate change as a bigger threat than terrorism.

Prof May's warning coincides with a meeting of climate change sceptics today at the Royal Institution in London organised by a British group, the Scientific Alliance, which has links to US oil company ExxonMobil through a collaboration with a US institute.

Last month the Scientific Alliance published a joint report with the George C Marshall Institute in Washington that claimed to "undermine" climate change claims. The Marshall institute received £51,000 from ExxonMobil for its "global climate change programme" in 2003 and an undisclosed sum this month.

Prof May's warning comes as British scientists, in the journal Nature, show that emissions of carbon dioxide could have a more dramatic effect on climate than thought. They say the average temperature could rise 11C (link added), even if atmospheric carbon dioxide were limited to the levels expected in 2050.


In Celebration of Rice's Confirmation

A repeat post:

Confirm me...

Or so help me God, I'll gnaw your legs off at the knee!

85 Senators knew she was serious...



When you are drowning, sinking fast under the waves, your first instinct is to tear off all the clothing that is weighing you down...

A timely metaphor, for a story via Mercury Rising:
China has lost faith in the stability of the U.S. dollar and its first priority is to broaden the exchange rate for its currency from the dollar to a more flexible basket of currencies, a top Chinese economist said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum.

The dollar is becoming economic dead weight. Did someone say "Backwater"? (I did.)


Fight the Good Fight!

The only way that homophobic laws barring gay marriage will change is if we emulate the civil rights movement, and just keep hammering away at injustice, again and again and again. I was elated when the pictures started coming out of New Mexico and California and upstate New York, showing the beauty that ensues when common sense lets love express itself.

We cannot retreat. But I'm afraid we are...

Here, at least, is one ongoing battle:
They filed their lawsuit almost as an afterthought. But a legal challenge by a gay couple from suburban Orange County against laws banning same-sex marriage has suddenly become an important case in a thinning field of litigation on the issue.

Christopher Hammer and Arthur Smelt plan to be in U.S. District Court on Thursday as their attorney argues that the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 22 are violations of civil rights akin to slavery or denying women the right to vote.
The hearing comes two days after gay couples in Florida decided to drop their lawsuits, leaving the California case as the only federal court challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. (story)

"Certainly, eyes are going to be focused on this particular case," said Matthew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, an opponent of gay marriage involved in some 30 cases around the nation.

The only other same-sex marriage case pending in federal court, according to lawyers on both sides of the debate, is one in Nebraska that challenges a state law on same-sex marriages. The judge has not ruled yet in that case.


It's Worse

Yesterday, I posted half-jokingly about farmland in Antarctica. Well, we may need to break out the plows a bit earlier than expected:
THE largest ever climate-change experiment reveals that scientists may have dramatically underestimated the threat of global warming.

The study by British scientists, which is published today, found the planet's global temperature could climb by between 2C and 11C because of skyrocketing levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

That more than doubles the current prediction of a 1.4C to 4.5C rise this century.

"When we started out we didn't expect anything like this," said Oxford University's David Stainforth, chief scientist for

The project is a collaboration of experts at Oxford and Reading universities, The Open University, London School of Economics, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

"If this is the case, it's very dramatic and very scary," Mr Stainforth said.

Even rises that are more modest are expected to trigger disastrous changes, including melting glaciers, sea-level rises, shut-down of the Gulf Stream, and increases in droughts, cyclones and other extreme weather events. The new results follow two reports in last week's edition of Science, showing thatglobal warming probably caused the "Great Dying".

Ah, the next "Great Dying." And this one will happen to creatures that (ostensibly) have brains larger than a walnut. Ostensibly.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

OK, ok, some of us read Us...

I'm not sure that I want to post this, because it means admitting publicly that I (Miriam, not Rorschach) occasionally delve into some pretty trashy reading material. No, not "Those Who Trespass" - come on, I have some self-respect! - but Us magazine. (Look, we've been flooded and are living in a motel. Why not read about whether Brad cheated?) I mention it because of the following caption below a picture of Melissa Etheridge (in an article otherwise devoted to Ben Affleck's ever-so-interesting real estate plans):
Etheridge, 43, sold the property to Affleck after living there for two and a half years with her kids and wife Tammy Lynn Michaels.
Us magazine is a gossip mag and pretty much apolitical (as far as this infrequent reader can tell), and so it seemed worth pointing out that in its pages, gay marriage is not an issue - it's just a fact. In the face of rampant activism against gay marriage and same-sex couples in general, it just gives me some hope that a tabloid so matter-of-factly refers to Melissa Etheridge's wife as just that: her wife.


Society of the Spectacle

This website sounds repulsive in its celebration of killing and mockery of the dead, but shouldn't the outrage be more in regard to the killings themselves, than to the mere representation of the killings?

I know, I know. I am so early-last-century:

THE US Defence Department has been asked to investigate a website being used by American soldiers to post grisly pictures of Iraqi war dead.The site, which has been operating for more than a year, describes itself as "an online archive of soldiers' photos".

Dozens of pictures of decapitated and limbless bodies are featured on the site with tasteless captions, purportedly sent in by soldiers.

Captions include "plastic surgery needed", "road kill" and "I said dead".

Australian expat Iraqis, most of whom supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, have been angered by the website and called on the US government to ensure it was taken down.

UPDATE: American Leftist goes where I dared not go and finds the site. The grisly website is here, but I'd suggest not going.


What Would the Reagans Think?

Our Leader is oh-so-funny:
Q I seem to remember a time in Texas on another problem, taxes, where you tried to get out in front and tell people it's not a crisis now, it's going to be a crisis down the line -- you went down in flames on that one. Why --

THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I -- if I might. (Laughter.) I don't think a billion-dollar tax relief that permanently reduced property taxes on senior citizens was "flames," but since you weren't a senior citizen, perhaps that's your definition of "flames."

Q I never got my billion --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Because you're not a senior citizen yet. Acting like one, however. Go ahead. (Laughter.)

Q What is there about government that makes it hard --

THE PRESIDENT: Faulty memory. (Laughter.) Go ahead. (Laughter.)

Ah, the classic Alzheimer's joke! (Video here.)


Global Warming?

If you're stupid enough to believe in global warming, then I've got some nice farmland in Antarctica to sell you...
From an airplane at 500 feet, all that is visible here is a vast white emptiness. Ahead, a chalky plain stretches as far as the eye can see, the monotony broken only by a few gentle rises and the wrinkles created when new sheets of ice form.

Under the surface of that ice, though, profound and potentially troubling changes are taking place, and at a quickened pace. With temperatures climbing in parts of Antarctica in recent years, melt water seems to be penetrating deeper and deeper into ice crevices, weakening immense and seemingly impregnable formations that have developed over thousands of years.

As a result, huge glaciers in this and other remote areas of Antarctica are thinning and ice shelves the size of American states are either disintegrating or retreating - all possible indications of global warming. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey reported in December that in some parts of the Antarctic Peninsula hundreds of miles from here, large growths of grass are appearing in places that until recently were hidden under a frozen cloak.


Drowning in a Sea of Red

Seems as though just a few months ago, the Bushies were proclaiming that the deficit would be dropping by now.

Oh, right, they did say that:
The White House announced on Tuesday that the federal budget deficit was expected to rise this year to $427 billion, a figure that includes a new request from President Bush to help pay for the war in Iraq.

The White House's announcement makes it the fourth straight year in which the budget deficit was expected to grow; as recently as last July the administration had predicted that the deficit, which was $412 billion last year, would fall this year to $331 billion.

When are the liberal media going to start headlining every story and editorial about this administration, "Credibility Gap"? Any day now, I am sure...


Can We Import a New Government from Spain?

Would that our government would stand up to religious zealots, in defense of the rule of law.

Oh, wait, our government is a bunch of religious zealots, with little regard for the law. Not so in Spain:
Spain's Socialist government Tuesday told the Vatican to stop butting in on affairs of state. The warning came from Defense Minister Jose Bono.

The Vatican has publicly rebuked the government for bring in legislation on same-sex marriage and for streamlining laws on abortion and divorce.

"Faith is not something a government can impose. It is not something that it is up to the state, but rather to people," Defense Bono told Spanish radio.

That the criticism came from Bono was particularly noteworthy. He is the only practicing Catholic in the government.

In the radio interview Bono said some of the church's positions, such as its opposition to homosexuality and the use of condoms, go against the message of Jesus Christ.

"Today, Christ would be more worried about the 25,000 children who die each day of hunger or in wars. I think Christ would side with those who are peaceful," Bono said.


My Kind of Granny

Basic common sense leads yet another senior citizen to run afoul of the law:
A retired restaurateur has admitted raising a kitty with other pensioners to buy cannabis which she used in her recipes for "medicinal purposes".

Patricia Tabram, a grey-haired grandmother, turned to the drug in an attempt to offset the effects of tinnitus, mild depression and pains after a car crash.

She began using it in soups, cakes and hot pots in her country kitchen and introduced others to the secret ingredient. Police raided her stone-built cottage in the village of Humshaugh, near Hexham, Northumberland, after a tip-off.
She told police that she had clubbed together with a group of elderly people to obtain cannabis for various medicinal reasons. Carl Gumsley, her defence counsel, told Newcastle Crown Court: "She had purchased it on their behalf."

Tabram admitted possessing cannabis with intent to supply and sentence was adjourned until March 11 to await reports from a probation officer and psychologist. She appeared in court in spectacles and a black cardigan and was remanded on bail with a condition of residence.

Wearing a woollen shawl in her well-stocked kitchen after the hearing, she said that she was writing a book entitled Grandma Eats Cannabis.

She said: "If they send me to jail I can finish writing my book about the merits of medicinal, herbal cannabis. I want people to know NHS medicines are poisoning them instead of treating their illness. If Jeffrey Archer can write a book in prison, so can I."

Tabram added: "The first time I had it, it was a friend who gave me a cannabis cigarette, but that only gives you a high for about 30 minutes. I researched it on the internet and found that if you took just a little bit of it with your food the effects last for five hours or more.

"So I started to make cannabis chocolate cake and that covered all the pain I had so well. I cook for everybody, all the neighbours, and I am teaching them so they can cook some of the things themselves.

"The most popular recipes I have are for lemon and lime cheesecake and chicken and leek pie. I want to publish a cook book with all of them in."

And the question remains: Who would be such a jerk as to call the cops on this woman? For shame, ya wanker.


Propaganda Network

The number of columnists paid to shill for Bush without revealing that they are paid propagandists continues to grow.

The latest:
In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families.

"The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children."

But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.

"Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" Gallagher said yesterday. "I don't know. You tell me." She said she would have "been happy to tell anyone who called me" about the contract but that "frankly, it never occurred to me" to disclose it.

Okay, Gallagher, I'll tell you: You damn well did. And what is more, you damn well know it.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Fighting Revisionist History

Arkansas is the battleground for what has to be one of the most ridiculous homophobia-inspired initiatives in a while:
Proposed legislation banning any mention of gay families in Arkansas school books has been met with heavy criticism in state Legislature.

The bill, filed by Rep. Roy Ragland (R-Marshall) would force the state's school districts to purchase only textbooks which define marriage as between one man and one woman. Ragland said the legislation was aimed at bringing school books in line with the state Constitution when bans same-sex marriage.

The measure was endorsed by the House Education Committee last week, (story) but when it came to the floor of the House on Monday lawmakers balked.

"We need to think very, very carefully and move very slowly," argued Rep. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock)

Calling the legislation "the creep of censorship," Elliott warned that approving the bill could have a much greater effect than just on textbooks.

"There are schools across this state and across the country where all they use is the computer," she said. "That is the way they teach."

"If we decide that we can't put something in a textbook or that we have to put it in a certain way, how long will it be before it's the computer, the supplementary materials that we use, and every novel that we teach?"


Quid Pro Quo

This is just priceless.

Conservative groups to Bush: We won't let you fuck all Americans, unless you prevent some Americans from fucking each other (maritally, that is):
A coalition of major conservative Christian groups is threatening to withhold support for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.


AIDS Vaccine?

The day this comes to pass, we should all be dancing in the streets. I continue to be amazed and the progress being made against AIDS, and am delighted to hear of a potential vaccine entering the second stage of testing:
A potential HIV/AIDS vaccine developed by Merck & Co. that uses synthetic genes to prepare cells to fight the deadly virus is moving into the second stage of testing.

An approved vaccine would be about a decade away if the trial and a third study are successful, said officials with the international coalition that is collaborating on the work."

It is the most promising candidate that we've seen so far," said Sarah B. Alexander, associate director of the coalition, known as the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, or HVTN. She cautioned, however, "something better could come along tomorrow."

Volunteers began enrolling last month for the Phase II study, which will eventually give the potential vaccine's three doses to 1,500 people in North and South America, the Caribbean and Australia, the network and Whitehouse Station-based drug maker announced Monday.


Monday, January 24, 2005

This Is Nothing New

Ongoing torture. And here, I thought we were bringing change:
Iraqi authorities routinely torture prisoners, a leading human rights group said Tuesday, citing examples of abuse which will sound all too familiar to those who suffered under Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).

Prisoners have been beaten with cables and hosepipes, and suffered electric shocks to their earlobes and genitals, the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said. Some have been starved of food and water and crammed into standing-room only cells.

"The people of Iraq (news - web sites) were promised something better than this after the government of Saddam Hussein fell," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the group's Middle East and North Africa division.

"The Iraqi interim government is not keeping its promises to honor and respect basic human rights. Sadly, the Iraqi people continue to suffer from a government that acts with impunity in its treatment of detainees."

Human Rights Watch said it interviewed 90 Iraqi prisoners between July and October last year, just after the government of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi assumed power from the U.S.-led forces which toppled Saddam.

Seventy-two said they had been tortured or mistreated.

"Detainees report kicking, slapping and punching, prolonged suspension from the wrists with the hands tied behind the back, electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body ... and being kept blindfolded and/or handcuffed continuously for several days," the group said in a report.

"In several cases, the detainees suffered what may be permanent physical disability."


Happy Birthday...

To Granny D.


Bare Breasts=Child Molestation

This is how far things have gone as a result of the bizarre American revulsion at the sight of the female body. Sunbathe topless, and you'll have to inform all your neighbors that you are a sex offender:
As a Ventura County public defender, Liana Johnsson has handled many life-changing cases, but her biggest public crusade these days has been going topless.

For months, Johnsson has been fighting to allow topless women at California beaches and parks, and now the issue has made its way to the Capitol.

A group of lawyers, at Johnsson's request, has asked the Legislature to make topless sunbathing legal, saying the ban is the last criminal sanction that treats women differently than men.

The new movement has urgency: Because of a December court ruling, Johnsson and other attorneys contend, women convicted of indecent exposure could find themselves listed as sex offenders under Megan's Law, alongside rapists and child molesters."

At some point, men's breasts became liberated and women's didn't," Johnsson said Friday. "This is the only thing left that men are legally allowed to do and, for women, they have to register as a sex offender. The real issue is there should be equal protection under the law."


Let Slip the Dogs of War

So long, probable cause. Nice knowin' ya:
The Supreme Court gave police broader search powers Monday during traffic stops, ruling that drug-sniffing dogs can be used to check out motorists even if officers have no reason to suspect they may be carrying narcotics.

In a 6-2 decision, the court sided with Illinois police who stopped Roy Caballes in 1998 along Interstate 80 for driving 6 miles over the speed limit. Although Caballes lawfully produced his driver's license, troopers brought over a drug dog after Caballes seemed nervous.

Caballes argued the Fourth Amendment protects motorists from searches such as dog sniffing, but Justice John Paul Stevens disagreed, reasoning that the privacy intrusion was minimal.


The Fight Goes On

I know attention has shifted elsewhere, but here's a little reminder: The struggle against DeLay's machinations continues:
The legal battle over congressional redistricting focused in federal court Friday on whether one-man, one-vote constitutional protections were violated in 2003 when the Legislature used 3-year-old census data to redraw district boundaries.

Lawyers for Democrats and minority groups told a three-judge panel that major shifts in the state's population had occurred by the time the map was drawn, making it illegal.

But State Solicitor General Ted Cruz argued that the U.S. Census is the only legal population count that can be used for redistricting.

Cruz said because of births, deaths and people moving, the census is inaccurate the day it is completed.

The federal panel heard arguments Friday on whether courts should consider claims that the Texas redistricting plan was an excessive Republican gerrymander.


By the Numbers

Are you as sick and tired of all those "patriots" who insist that America is the best at everything, based on precious little in the way of evidence, as I am?

Here are some numbers compiled by Michael Ventura, of Austin's alternative newspaper, The Austin Chronicle:
• The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (The New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004).
• The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
• Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the Earth. Seventeen percent believe the Earth revolves around the sun once a day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005).
• Our workers are so ignorant, and lack so many basic skills, that American businesses spend $30 billion a year on remedial training (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004). No wonder they relocate elsewhere!
• "The European Union leads the U.S. in ... the number of science and engineering graduates; public research and development (R&D) expenditures; and new capital raised" (The European Dream, p.70).
• "Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest producer of scientific literature" (The European Dream, p.70).
• The World Health Organization "ranked the countries of the world in terms of overall health performance, and the U.S. [was] ... 37th." In the fairness of health care, we're 54th. "The irony is that the United States spends more per capita for health care than any other nation in the world" (The European Dream, pp.79-80). Pay more, get lots, lots less.
• "The U.S. and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all their citizens" (The European Dream, p.80). Excuse me, but since when is South Africa a "developed" country? Anyway, that's the company we're keeping.
• Lack of health insurance coverage causes 18,000 unnecessary American deaths a year. (That's six times the number of people killed on 9/11.) (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005.)
• "U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower" (The European Dream, p.81). Been to Mexico lately? Does it look "developed" to you? Yet it's the only "developed" country to score lower in childhood poverty.
• Twelve million American families – more than 10% of all U.S. households – "continue to struggle, and not always successfully, to feed themselves." Families that "had members who actually went hungry at some point last year" numbered 3.9 million (NYT, Nov. 22, 2004).
• "Sixty-one of the 140 biggest companies on the Global Fortune 500 rankings are European, while only 50 are U.S. companies" (The European Dream, p.66). "In a recent survey of the world's 50 best companies, conducted by Global Finance, all but one was European" (The European Dream, p.69).
• Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea hold 40% of our government debt. (That's why we talk nice to them.) "By helping keep mortgage rates from rising, China has come to play an enormous and little-noticed role in sustaining the American housing boom" (NYT, Dec. 4, 2004). Read that twice. We owe our housing boom to China, because they want us to keep buying all that stuff they manufacture.
• Sometime in the next 10 years Brazil will probably pass the U.S. as the world's largest agricultural producer. Brazil is now the world's largest exporter of chickens, orange juice, sugar, coffee, and tobacco. Last year, Brazil passed the U.S. as the world's largest beef producer. (Hear that, you poor deluded cowboys?) As a result, while we bear record trade deficits, Brazil boasts a $30 billion trade surplus (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
• As of last June, the U.S. imported more food than it exported (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).

That's right, my pretties. We are heading for "backwater" status, full steam ahead.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

God: Odd

Scalia's opinion of the matter:

"To believe in traditional Christianity is something else," Scalia said. "For the son of God to be born of a virgin? I mean, really. To believe that he rose from the dead and bodily ascended into heaven? How utterly ridiculous. To believe in miracles? Or that those who obey God will rise from the dead and those who do not will burn in hell?

"God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools ... and he has not been disappointed."

I am not here making any argument that such opinions mean that Scalia should not be a Supreme Court Justice.

But, first of all, how can a Supreme Court Justice in our non-theocratic society whine and whine and whine about how the believers are persecuted and deemed "fools" by these "wise people." Then again, why should I be surprised by conservatives adopting the stance of victim?

Further, I'm saying this: What manner of reasonable human being buys all this? What manner of reason, in the end, is this?

Isn't such a God as Scalia describes insufferably perverse?

To me, He is.


Sparse Posting

Not necessarily in the near future, given that I do a fair amount of this posting whilst at work.

But, to explain the nearly absent posting of this weekend: We've had people jackhammering holes into the foundation all around our house. And soon, they will install steel beams underneath the concrete slab supporting our erstwhile abode, and then jack the whole thing up eighteen inches, so as to avoid flooding in the future.

Meanwhile, Miriam and I have spent the vast majority of the past two days moving EVERYTHING out of our house, because we are also taking this opportunity to have the asbestos tile removed from the house, and would prefer not to have carcinogenic dust coating our possessions.

And we have a fairly substantive wine collection, most of which is in climate-controlled storage (especially that purchased for the imminent wedding), the rest of which has been moved with us to our present abode, to help dull the pain...

So, there you have it. Field report from the extended-stay Motel 6 in Austin--which is, thank goodness, cat friendly (and our cats are adjusting remarkably well for never having really known a home other than our house).



Nice to know that Rumsfeld doesn't trust other organizations within the US Government. That's the sort of unity we need in the face of the challenges of this century, yes?
The Pentagon has created a new spying agency that has already been operating secretly in Iraq and Afghanistan for two years.

The unit, called the Strategic Support Branch, has also been in operation in other places sources would not disclose, the Washington Post said, citing documents and interviews with participants.

A early planning memorandum to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, said the focus of the initiative was on "emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines and Georgia," according to the Post.

The secret spying organization is designed to provide Rumsfeld with tools to conduct so-called human intelligence tasks, such as interrogation of prisoners and recruitment of foreign spies.

Recruited agents may include "notorious figures" whose association with the US government would be embarrassing if revealed, the Post said, citing a Pentagon memo.

This is precisely what we need, especially in the wake of Abu Ghraib. Yet another American organization sent out to interrogate prisoners in violation of every principle of common decency.

And then to recruit potentially "embarrassing" "allies." Because there's no way that could come back to bite us on the ass, right?

I cannot believe that this pattern of behavior is accidental.


No Child Left Behind*


Some western Alaska schools that for decades have taught and helped preserve the Native Yupik language are in a quandary over meeting new federal testing requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act. In the Lower Kuskokwim School District, third grade children taught almost exclusively in the Yupik language may be required to pass federal tests written in English. In Alaska, where Natives speak 20 aboriginal languages and dialects, meeting a uniform federal law could ultimately be too expensive, conflict with Native cultural traditions as well as the local control that the rural villages treasure.

* Offer void on reservations or for indigenous peoples