Friday, February 11, 2005

And More Catblogging!




Death of an Artist

Rest in peace, Arthur Miller:
Arthur Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright whose most famous fictional creation, Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman," came to symbolize the American Dream gone awry, has died. He was 89.

Miller, who had been hailed as America's greatest living playwright, died Thursday night at his home in Roxbury of heart failure, his assistant, Julia Bolus, said Friday. His family was at his bedside, she said.


I Wouldn't Trust These People to House-Sit for Me

Much less do I trust them to handle deadly radioactive materials in a responsible fashion:
A Halliburton Co. shipment of radioactive material went missing in October but the company didn't alert government authorities until this week, Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials said Thursday.

The material — two sources of the element americium, used in oil well exploration — was found intact Wednesday in Boston after an intense search by federal authorities. NRC and Halliburton officials say the public never was in danger.

The americium was being shipped from Russia to Houston, according to a report filed with the NRC by Halliburton.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said Halliburton did not notify the agency about the missing material until Tuesday. Depending on the material, government rules require notification either immediately or within 30 days.

"The focus through today was on trying to find the material," Sheehan said. "We're going to be pressing them why the notification was not more timely."

Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall blamed the company's shipper, saying it never alerted the Texas-based energy company that the material was missing until Tuesday. Halliburton then immediately contacted the NRC, she said.

She said Halliburton contacted the shipping company "multiple times" about the shipment and was told it was en route to Houston. She declined to identify the company on grounds that Halliburton did not want its shipments targeted.

Hall said the material was encased in a double-walled stainless steel cylinder, locked in a steel transport container designed to protect workers.

"All of this was found intact, and we have no information that leads us to believe that the public or environment were in danger," Hall said.

Um, but the point is that you didn't know whether the public or the environment were in danger or not for over four months and you didn't alert anybody! The fact that you got lucky this time is no justification, and it is certainly no reassurance. Not to me, anyway.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Arrogance of Power

This administration has no shame, and they've proved that fact yet again. The damage done to democracy should this bill pass will be immeasurable.

In the words of Oregonian Rep. Earl Blumenauer:

If this provision, the waiver of all laws necessary for quote improvements of barriers at the border was to become law, the Secretary of Homeland Security could give a contract to his political cronies that had no safety standards, using 12-year-old illegal immigrants to do the labor, run it through the site of a Native American burial ground, kill bald eagles in the process, and pollute the drinking water of neighboring communities. And under the provisions of this act, no member of Congress, no citizen could do anything about it because you waive all judicial review.


Social Justice

It's sad that we have to look abroad to see what is possible when there's a genuine will to help impoverished people live with a little more dignity. Just think what America, the wealthiest of nations, could do if we could summon that will:
The government of Peru, where over half the population scrapes by on $1.25 a day, said on Thursday it was planning a program of state handouts that would double the monthly income of up to 3 million of the country's poorest.

"There is too much hunger, too many people who are not vaccinated (against disease), too many children who don't go to school, too many people without work. We have to help," Prime Minister Carlos Ferrero told a news conference.

The article goes on to report that this plan may well be a cynical ploy by a very unpopular government, but if that's what it takes, so be it.


Mandatory Christianity

Interestingly, a rider on the bill goes one step farther and requires the display of Osama bin Laden's picture, for the daily Two Minutes Hate:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Some state senators want to make sure that every public school has the Ten Commandments displayed and that every school day begins with students and teachers reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bills that would put both requirements into law won approval in the state Senate Education Committee on Wednesday and now go to the Senate for consideration.

The committee voted 6-3 for a bill by Sen. Curt Lee, R-Jasper, that would require each public school in Alabama to display framed or mounted copies of the Ten Commandments, Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.

Lee said the documents provide the foundation for American government and they should be on display daily in every public school in Alabama.


Nuclear North Korea

It seems that they learned a lot from watching what we do to nations without a nuclear arsenal:
North Korea (news - web sites) on Thursday announced for the first time that it has nuclear arms and rejected moves to restart disarmament talks anytime soon, saying it needs the weapons as protection against an increasingly hostile United States.

The communist state's pronouncement dramatically raised the stakes in the two-year-old nuclear confrontation and posed a grave challenge to President Bush (news - web sites), who started his second term with a vow to end North Korea's nuclear program through six-nation talks.

"We ... have manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with the Bush administration's ever more undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the (North)," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.


Stellar Expatriate

I think it just shares my desire to get as far away from Bush as possible:
A star three times bigger than the sun has been seen fleeing our galaxy at over 1.5 million mph, according to astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
The star is currently 180,000 light-years from Earth. Based on its trajectory, the astronomers believe it will exit the Milky Way and scream through miles of empty space until it burns out.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Thank you to her eyes on for the book off of my wish list!

It'll help pass the hours as we sit here in the hotel room, waiting for the house to be repaired...


$41,667 Per Man

Bush certainly is a generous sort of fellow, is he not?
The $80 billion war funding request President Bush (news - web sites) will send to Congress next week includes $400 million to help nations that have troops in Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan (news - web sites). Poland, a staunch ally in Iraq, is earmarked to receive one-fourth of the money.

The White House announced the fund, dubbed the "solidarity initiative," after Bush's meeting Wednesday with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

"These funds ... reflect the principle that an investment in a partner in freedom today will help ensure that America will stand united with stronger partners in the future," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a statement. "This assistance will support nations that have developed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other partners promoting freedom around the world."

Poland has taken command of a multinational security force in central Iraq that currently includes about 6,000 troops _among them more than 2,400 Polish soldiers. Currently, Poland has more than 2,400 troops in Iraq. Polish officials say that a reduction this month will leave them with somewhere around 1,700 troops in Iraq.

"Poland has been a fantastic ally because the president and the people of Poland love freedom," Bush said in announcing that Poland is earmarked to receive $100 million. "I know the people of your country must have been thrilled when the millions of people went to the polls" in Iraq.


"No Court Shall Have Jurisdiction"

The slow, steady construction of a police state continues:

The House Democratic staff of the Judiciary Committee is preparing an extensive rebuke to a Republican immigration bill which would allow the Homeland Security Secretary to waive all laws in the construction of immigration barriers, RAW STORY has learned.

Among other provisions, the bill put forth by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner would give the Homeland Security Secretary “the authority to waive… all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.”

The bill also seeks to strip courts from being able to challenge any of the Secretary’s decisions.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law… no court shall have jurisdiction,” the Republican bill asserts.


Online "Education"

The power of digital communication holds tremendous potential for bringing education opportunities to those who might otherwise not be able to better themselves.

However, this is not the way:
With no grocery store or gas station and a population of 77 souls, this desert village seems an unlikely home for a fast-growing public school that has enrolled students from all across Colorado.

There are just 65 students attending Branson's lone brick and mortar school, but there are an additional 1,000 enrolled in its online affiliate. And with the state paying school districts $5,600 per pupil, Branson Online has been a bonanza. Founded in 2001, it has received $15 million so far.

The school district has used the money to hire everyone in town who wants a job, including the mayor, who teaches 15 students via e-mail. It has broadcast radio commercials statewide to recruit students and built a new headquarters here. But if the school has been financially successful, its academic record is mixed, and the authorities have put the school on academic probation.

Branson Online is one of at least 100 Internet-based public schools that local educators have founded nationwide in recent years, often in partnership with private companies, and many online schools share Branson's strengths and weaknesses, experts said.

Sadly, America tends to see education in simplistic and utilitarian terms, with "knowledge" being equated with the ability to pass a standardized test and with "wisdom" never even entering the picture. So, expect more of this.

At any rate, one simply has to admire such an elegant scam.


Deep Throat

Is this some sort of sordid harmonic convergence?

Deep Throat:

I have little doubt that one of my former Nixon White House colleagues is history's best-known anonymous source — Deep Throat. But I'll be damned if I can figure out exactly which one.

We'll all know one day very soon, however. Bob Woodward, a reporter on the team that covered the Watergate story, has advised his executive editor at theWashington Post that Throat is ill. And Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Post and one of the few people to whom Woodward confided his source's identity, has publicly acknowledged that he has written Throat's obituary.

And Deep Throat:
It was the film that stirred America like no other, arousing passions in everyone from teenage boys to evangelical Christians.

And now the infamous porn film Deep Throat - featuring Linda Lovelace, famous for her ability to perform certain acrobatic feats in relation to oral sex - is to be re-released in the US, and, according to industry insiders, is likely to reach UK screens.


He's My Kind of Crazy

Let's hear it for Mayor Newsom:
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom got a reception usually reserved for a head of state Tuesday when he addressed students at Harvard University.

Speaking at the John F. Kennedy School of Government Newsom dismissed accusations that his decision to allow same-sex marriages helped reelect President George W. Bush and motivated voters in 11 states to approve constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.

"That train had already left the station," Newsom said. "This was going to be used as a wedge issue regardless of whether or not some crazy mayor was sworn in in San Francisco or not."

In a speech frequently stopped by applause and cheers, Newsom said his issuing of some 4,000 same-sex marriage licenses last year was akin to the actions of Rosa Parks during the civil rights movement.

Damn right. And even more damn right:
Newsom wasn't afraid to bash his own Democratic party either.

"I can't stand my party right now. Is it political expediency? Is it accommodation that we're after? Or is it about standing up on principles and values?"


The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I swear, this blog would be so much the poorer without the almost-daily contributions made by the great state of Virginia:
The Virginia state house has voted to outlaw the trend of wearing trousers so low that underwear hangs over the top.

Delegates said the habit, popular across the US and in other Western countries, was "coarsening" society.

But others hit back, urging legislators to remember their own "fashion follies" and saying the law would be used mostly against black people.

The house adopted the "droopy drawers" bill by a margin of 60-34.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Setting Nature Straight

I'm sorry, but I must protest the injustice of Project Penguin Exodus. What about all the broken homes? What will we tell the egg-rock?
A German zoo is trying "to cure" three gay penguin couples using a form of aversion therapy. The Bremerhaven Zoo is splitting up the couples, and has imported four female penguins from Sweden which it will use to try to "turn" the penguins "straight".

The three gay couples are part of the zoo's 10 penguin exhibit. The others are apparently straight and coupled. But, for more than a year zookeepers were mystified why the three couples didn't have any offspring.

They did the usual courting dances, built nests together, appeared to have sex, and still no little penguins. Finally they did a DNA test to see if there was something genetically wrong. That is when they discovered the three couples were all male.
Gay penguins are not unusual. New York's Central Park Zoo, has Roy and Silo, who have been together for several years. As with one of the couples in Germany Roy and Silo put a rock simulating an egg in their nest and sat on it, keeping it warm in the folds of their abdomens.



Forget the so-called "nanny state." The private sector is stepping up:
A Michigan company's decision to dismiss workers who smoke, even if it's on their own time, has privacy and workers' rights advocates alarmed and is raising concerns about whether pizza boxes and six packs are the next to go.

Weyco Inc., an Okemos-based medical benefits administrator, said its offer of smoking cessation classes and support groups helped 18 to 20 of the company's nearly 200 workers quit smoking over the past 15 months.

But four others who couldn't — or wouldn't — no longer had jobs on Jan. 1.

"We had told them they had a choice," said Weyco Chief Financial Officer Gary Climes. "We're not saying you can't smoke in your home. We just say you can't smoke and work here."

Such policies basically say employers can tell workers how to live their lives even in the privacy of their own homes, something they have no business doing, said Lewis Maltby, president of The National Workrights Institute in Princeton, N.J., a part of the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) until 2000.

"If a company said, `We're going to cut down on our health care costs by forbidding anyone from eating at McDonald's,' they could do it," he said. "There are a thousand things about people's private lives that employers don't like for a thousand different reasons."


Exit Strategy?

Interesting that there has been no mention of this in the US media; it seems rather important, wouldn't you agree?
The British and US governments are set to publish their exit strategy from Iraq based on replacing coalition troops with Iraqi security forces, Tony Blair told senior MPs today.

Appearing before the House of Commons liaison committee as another 19 people were killed in Baghdad, Mr Blair revealed that the coalition was considering publishing a paper by retired US general Gary Luck on how to build up the Iraqi security forces.

General Luck's assessment, which was sent to the Pentagon last month, is believed to be the basis of an Anglo-American plan to gradually withdraw the 150,000 coalition troops in Iraq.

Mr Blair told the committee: "I think that we will be able to give some idea of what the next steps and over what period the 'Iraqi-isation' of security will take place."

But... but... I thought providing a timetable means the insurgents have won?


Monday, February 07, 2005

Supporting the Troops

One more time: If this surprises you, then you haven't been paying attention:
President Bush's budget would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government health care, administration officials said Sunday.


But Do You Have a Flag?

As a matter of fact, they do:
It's a tiny coral island off the coast of Australia but it could become the center of a major battle at the United Nations.

Cato Island is technically part of territorial Australia. But, last year, after the Australian government passed a law banning same-sex marriage (story) a group of gay activists in a bid to embarrass the government, sailed out to Cato and planted the rainbow flag, declaring it to be sovereign territory

The group renamed the island the “Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands”. Dale Anderson, the group's leader declared himself emperor. But, the Australian government failed to blink.

The stunt would have gone unnoticed except for the constant needling by Emperor Dale. The island is hardly of strategic importance, and it is only about 3 miles square.

There is no human habitation on the island - Emperor Dale lives in Australia.

But, now he is upping the ante by going to the United Nations.

Dale and his "subjects" are preparing to ask the UN to declare the island an independent nation, and they are doing it by using the world body's own rules to do it.

The group is preparing to submit a case to the International Court of Justice arguing that under Australian law the "gay Tribe" is an “oppressed people, and the island is ruled by an overseas colonial power. That overseas power is Australia. The submission argues that under the UN charter the Gay Kingdom has the right to self determination.”

The new nation is already issuing passports and postage stamps available through its Website. It says that the money raised will help its legal fees and "build an infrastructure" on the island.

After the establishment of the “gay homeland” the island leaders say that “our nation will welcome GLBT refugees from around the world like Israel does for Jews”.



Beautiful. True Revolution:

Two communist rebels in the Philippines truly became brothers in arms when the men were married in a jungle camp, a newspaper has reported.

Draped in a red flag with hammer and sickle in gold sequins, they exchanged vows, walked under an archway of assault rifles and were serenaded with revolutionary love songs by a choir of New People's Army comrades.

Ka Andres and Ka Jose, who both use the word for "brother" before their names, each held a bullet during the ceremony on the southern island of Mindanao to show their "commitment to the armed struggle", the Philippine Daily Inquirer said.

"What we have to do now -- with the help of the party -- is to work on our marriage and to be strong while serving the people," said Jose, who at 21 is 33 years younger than Andres.

Homosexuality is a largely taboo topic in the Philippines, with stereotypes of flamboyantly effeminate men reinforced in the media.
The communist movement -- waging a violent insurgency in poor, rural areas since the late 1960s -- has been more progressive, adding same-sex relationships and marriage to its guiding policy in 1998.

Still, Jose and Andres said they ran into the "patriarchal" culture of the Philippines when they decided to marry.

"We conducted painstaking discussions to make comrades understand gay relations and gay rights," Andres said.



Amazingly, as the United States continues to destroy its ability to achieve anything via diplomacy, and continues to overextend its military in an inane war, other nations are ignoring what America wants and doing things in their own best interests. Funny how that works.

Russia is preparing to sign a deal with Iran this month to start atomic fuel shipments for a Moscow-built nuclear reactor there, a Russian nuclear source said on Monday.

The move is certain to enrage the United States which says Iran can use Russian fuel to secretly make a nuclear bomb. Washington has long called on Russia to drop the plans.


On Sunday, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani said there was nothing the West could offer Tehran that would persuade it to scrap a nuclear program.


Monday Gratuitous Catblogging

Given that Miriam over at No Aura has composed a report of our recent goings-on, complete with many cat photos, I cannot but link to it, for all you readers who have grown fond of Zora and Tista. Plus, as a bonus, one photo includes a glimpse of rorschach's arm...