Friday, March 25, 2005



Catblogging Deferred

The two I want to post are just large enough not to fit, leading to a mass of blank space, as they are bumped down below the bottom of the blogroll. And I have no clue how to manipulate the pictures so they'll fit...


Authentic Indian Name Thread!

Everyone, go here, find out what your Authentic Indian Name is, courtesy of the brilliant Dead Dog Cafe, and share in the comments, if you wish.


The Cabal

Make no mistake. They are motivated, and they are organized:
Top congressional leaders have promised to push the Religious Right agenda on judicial nominations, church politicking, abortion, marriage and the Terri Schiavo case, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Americans United today released audiotapes of closed-door addresses by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to a Family Research Council (FRC) gathering March 17-18 at Washington, D.C.'s Willard Hotel. The pair talked about a range of political issues, using the Schiavo case as a springboard.

"Religious Right leaders are determined to run all of our lives, from the moment of conception through the end of life," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "And top congressional leaders are conspiring behind closed doors in Washington to help them do it. It's appalling.

"Frist and DeLay have wrapped sanctimonious language around political posturing," said Lynn. "They are using Mrs. Schiavo's personal tragedy in Florida to burnish their credentials with an increasingly powerful component of the Republican Party. It's a sad, cynical political ploy."
During the FRC meeting, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) assured attendees that they would do what it takes to keep Schiavo connected to a feeding tube and also would exert great power to push a whole host of issues central to the Religious Right's agenda.

DeLay urged the gathering to contact lawmakers in both chambers to support legislation that would allow churches to become much more involved in partisan politicking. The Texas Republican blasted current federal tax law, which bars both secular and religious nonprofit groups from endorsing political candidates.

"It forces Christians back into the church and that's what is going on," DeLay claimed. "That's not what Christ asked us to do. We have to fight back."

Beyond swearing allegiance to the Religious Right's agenda, DeLay, who has faced increased attention for alleged ethics violations, also bemoaned "personal attacks" against him and other conservative leaders and said the Schiavo case would highlight those attacks.

"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America," DeLay told the crowd.

"This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others," DeLay said. Hecomplained that "the other side" was leading the attack, with a goal "to defeat the conservative movement."

According to DeLay, a "whole syndicate" of "do-gooder" forces are arrayed against him in "a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in."


Ohio Again Confirms That Homophobia Is Idiocy

This is what you get when you try to deny the rights, the dignity, and the humanity of one class of people:
A second Ohio judge has ruled that the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage means a law against domestic violence cannot be enforced unless the perpetrator and the victim are married.

It is the second time in two days that the ban has been used to have domestic violence charges in heterosexual relationships rejected.

In the latest case a Cleveland judge said that a man who beat his live-in girlfriend could not be charged because of the provision in the amendment that says the state cannot grant legal status to unmarried people living as spouses.


Bush: Losing

Not so much approval these days... sadly, I'd guess it has more to do with one woman in Florida than with thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis in the Middle East.
President Bush (news - web sites)'s approval rating has fallen to 45%, the lowest point of his presidency, according to a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Canada Leads

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin appointed Nancy Ruth to the Senate on Thursday. She becomes the second out member of the Senate. The other is Liberal Laurier LaPierre.

She was awarded the South African Women for Women Friendship Award in 2004; the Government of Ontario’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Human Rights in 1998; and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1994.

Ruth has also been instrumental in co-founding organizations that work for women’s social change in Canada like the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Toronto’s The Linden School, The Women’s Future Fund and the Charter of Rights Coalition.

Or, as my better half would say: Von den Kanadiern lernen heisst siegen lernen!


Real Humanitarians

No surprise, sadly enough. If they can play politics with Schiavo, why not this:
As the second hurricane in less than a month bore down on Florida last fall, a federal consultant predicted a "huge mess" that could reflect poorly on President Bush and suggested that his re-election staff be brought in to minimize any political liability, records show.

Two weeks later, a Florida official summarizing the hurricane response wrote that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handing out housing assistance "to everyone who needs it without asking for much information of any kind."
The records are contained in hundreds of pages of Gov. Jeb Bush's storm-related e-mails initially requested by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Oct. 13.

The governor's office finally released the documents Friday, after threat of a lawsuit by the newspaper.

Democrats in Washington said the records confirm suspicions that the federal government used the hurricanes to funnel money to Florida, a key battleground state in the presidential election. "They weren't really asking for information, yet they were just doling out this money like it was Christmas," said Lale Mamaux, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton.

"It's not surprising to learn that [Republicans] played politics with the hurricanes that tragically affected hundreds of thousands of Floridians last year," said Josh Earnest, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.


Gays and Lesbians Are Still Safe

If they end up trying to reinstate the draft after all, just come on to the appropriately gendered person on the draft board, and all will be well:
The US military is suffering a severe troop shortage and the Army announced this week that it will miss its recruitment goals for the next two months.
Much of the shortfall could be eliminated with the repeal of the ban on gays in the military, but, Harvey, in his first news conference since being named Secretary of the Army dismissed the idea.

"I don't see any need to change it," he said.

Harvey told reporters that he is considering all proposals for boosting troop strength without admitting gays into the military, and he was critical of legislation introduced earlier this month in Congress to repeal the ban saying it would harm unit cohesiveness.
A study done by the Government Accountability Office shows that more than 10,000 service members have been discharged over the last 10 years under the policy and that it has cost taxpayers more than $200 million to recruit replacements for LGBT enlisted service members who were discharged.

Seriously, though, the present policy is both deeply unjust and profoundly stupid.


Brazil Gets It Right

I hope they go through with this:
In its latest bid to reduce the cost of HIV and AIDS drugs, Brazil's government has threatened to break the patents of American pharmaceutical firms unless they share their technology with local drug makers.

Called "voluntary licensing," the policy is aimed at allowing government laboratories or Brazilian pharmaceutical manufacturers under government contract to produce generic versions of the drugs.

"To guarantee the sustainability of our [AIDS] program, we need to produce these drugs ourselves," Jarbas Barbosa, a high-ranking official with Brazil's health ministry, told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview Tuesday. "Even with recent price reductions that we obtained from drug producers, the total cost of retroviral [anti-AIDS] drugs is growing in an unbearable way."


Yet Another Bush Monstrosity

Pesticide tests on humans. Beautiful. This is who I want in charge of the EPA:
President Bush recently nominated Stephen L. Johnson, a 24 year veteran of the Environmental Protection Agency, to be the agency’s new administrator. Mr. Johnson has been the acting administrator since January, and prior to that oversaw the EPA office handling pesticides and other toxic substances. In nominating Johnson, Mr. Bush described him as “a talented scientist” and having “good judgment and complete integrity.”

Yet his record as the Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances casts serious doubt on whether Johnson is suited to lead the E.P.A., an agency directly affecting Americans’ health and many significant industries, including automobiles and agriculture. During President Bush’s first term, Johnson was a strong supporter of pesticide testing on humans.

During President Clinton’s administration, the E.P.A. would not consider the results of controversial trials that tested pesticides on people. But after Mr. Bush was elected, Johnson changed E.P.A. policy to resume consideration. However, a panel of scientists and ethicists convened by the E.P.A. in 1998 determined that these types of trials were unethical and scientifically unsuitable to estimate the safety of chemicals.

In 2001, the trials considered by the E.P.A. gave paid subjects doses of pesticides 100 to 300 times greater than levels that E.P.A. officials considered safe for the general public. The E.P.A. evaluated three studies that year from Dow Chemicals, Bayer Corporation, and the Gowan Company. The Bayer and Gowan studies were conducted in third-world countries, where volunteers were more readily available, while Dow conducted their study in Nebraska.

In the Dow study, human subjects were given doses four times the level that the E.P.A. knew produced adverse affects in animals. Although subjects suffered numbness in the upper arms, the Dow doctors ruled that this was “possibly” related to the pesticide. Other subjects complained of headaches, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps. Again, the doctors in the Dow study determined that these symptoms were “possibly” or “probably” related to the chemical. But in the final analysis of the study, Dow concluded that the pesticide did not produce any symptoms. And yet the E.P.A. considered it.

It’s wasn’t surprising then that in October of last year, Johnson strongly
supported a study in which infants will be monitored for health impacts as they
undergo exposure to known toxic chemicals for a two year period. The Children’s
Environmental Exposure Research Study, dubiously known as CHEERS, will analyze
how chemicals can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed by children ranging from
infants to three year olds. The study will analyze 60 infants and toddlers in
Duval County, Florida who are routinely exposed to pesticides in their homes.
Yet the E.P.A. acknowledges that pesticide exposure is a documented risk factor
for some types of childhood cancer and the early onset of asthma.


And Bush Is Intrigued...

If the Dems take back Congress in 2006, who knows?
Police fired tear gas into Ecuador's Congress before dawn Wednesday to disperse opposition lawmakers who refused to leave after a legislative session that cut short a debate on candidates for attorney general.


More Bad News for the IRR

You're going back in:
The U.S. Army is ordering more people to serve in Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan (news - web sites) involuntarily from a seldom-used personnel pool as part of a mobilization that began last summer.

They are part of the Army's Individual Ready Reserve, made up of soldiers who have completed their volunteer active-duty service commitment but remain eligible to be called back into uniform for years after returning to civilian life.

The Army, straining to maintain troop levels in Iraq, last June said it would summon more than 5,600 people on the IRR in an effort to have about 4,400 soldiers fit for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan after granting exemption requests for medical reasons and other hardships.

Lt. Col. Pamela Hart said on Wednesday the Army has now increased the number of IRR soldiers it needs to about 4,650, which means a total of about 6,100 will get mobilization orders.

The IRR differs from the part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard, whose soldiers train regularly as part of units. People on the IRR have no such training requirements.


Ah, Florida

With everyone focused on the Schiavo case, the Florida legislature is making a bold move to, well, do something extraordinarily stupid, even for Florida:
The Florida state Legislature is considering a "shoot first, ask questions later" law.

The potential Florida law would extend people's right to defend themselves not only in their homes but on their porches, in the street or in the car without fear of being charged criminally or civilly.

Trial lawyers say it is bad law, but victims say it would help to stop criminals not only in people's homes but on the streets.

"I think it is absolutely horrible," defense lawyer Andy Haggard said. "To pass a law like this is vigilante law. It is going to cause chaos."


Great News!

Domestic violence has just dropped dramatically in Ohio. Well done!

Domestic violence charges cannot be filed against unmarried people because of Ohio's new constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman changed a felony domestic violence charge against Frederick Burk to a misdemeanor assault charge.

If I sound bitter, it's only because I am.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Explosion Kills Four (Update: Fourteen), Injures Dozens in Texas


At least 40 people were injured with four unconfirmed deaths as a result of a mid-afternoon explosion Wednesday at the BP refinery on Highway 146.

Emergency crews from the refinery, the city and neighboring petrochemical facilities were gearing up for a “fairly large rescue” mission as of 3 p.m., said George Fuller, the city’s assistant emergency operations manager.

A shelter-in-place order issued shortly after the explosion was lifted shortly after 2 p.m., Fuller said. He said BP officials reported at least 40 people were injured in the 1:20 p.m. blast.
Many residents who live nearby the BP plant were away from home or at work when the explosion occurred and few stunned pedestrians lined the streets to gape at the blaze.

Others, however, were not so lucky. Keissha McFarland was babysitting at the home of her friend Wallace Christian in the 3200 block of 2nd Avenue when the blast blew in the home’s front windows.

“The plant just blew up, and the windows got blown in on her,” Christian said. “She got exposed to whatever it is in the air, and she said she started feeling sick and throwing up. The ambulance just took her to Mainland Medical Center.” Others in the area were uninjured by the blast and fumes but felt sick nonetheless.

By the by, here's a little story about this refinery from March 4 of this year:
A Texas City oil refinery on Friday was fined $109,500 for safety violations by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration after two employees were burned to death by superheated water in September.

BP North America also was cited for one alleged willful violation and seven serious violations after an inspection by OSHA's Houston South area office.

Employees were working on removing a 12-inch check valve from a high pressure hot water line without relieving the pressure within the line when the flood of hot water and steam engulfed three of them. The third employee was seriously injured.


Less Than Shocking

The Army is refusing to let the Italians examine the car in which the Italian journalist was killed:
The U.S. military command in Iraq has blocked two Italian policemen from examining the car in which an Italian intelligence agent was shot to death in Baghdad, a newspaper said Wednesday.

Corriere della Sera said that the policemen were about to leave when the Italian Embassy in Baghdad received an order from the U.S. command on Monday to abort the mission for security concerns.

The embassy in Baghdad reportedly alerted Rome authorities, who called off the trip.

The car, a Toyota Corolla, is reportedly still in American hands, at Baghdad airport where it was originally rented.
Italian authorities say that examining the vehicle is key to assessing what happened on March 4, when U.S. troops opened fire on the car carrying secret service agent Nicola Calipari, another intelligence officer and journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had just been released after a month of captivity in Iraq.

Calipari died on the spot, while the other two were wounded.


Good Episcopalians, Bad Episcopalians

The Scots are joining the Americans:
The Scottish Episcopal Church says that being a practicing homosexual is no bar to becoming a priest, a stance which puts it at odds with the Anglican Communion in other parts of the world.
It is believed to be the first time the Scottish church has publicly declared their position on gay clergy and blessings of homosexual couples, which have long been unwritten but commonly held acceptances.

The announcement comes at a delicate time for Anglicans worldwide and is in contrast to the Scottish Episcopal Church's sister body, the Church of England, which will ordain homosexuals only if they are not in a physical relationship.

At last month's crisis meeting of Anglican leaders in Northern Ireland, the issue of homosexuality threatened to split the international Anglican Communion.

Anglican leaders, meeting near Belfast, asked the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) for three years a move some fear could be the first step toward a permanent split in the communion.

Meanwhile, the Ugandans are behaving like idiots:
A gift of more than $350,000 to fight AIDS in Uganda has been rejected by an Anglican bishop because the Episcopal diocese which offered it supported the election of a gay bishop in New Hampshire.

Uganda has one of the highest per capita rates of HIV/AIDS in the world.

Jackson Nzerebende Tembo, the Bishop of South Rwenzori in Uganda, said the money was tainted.


Texas Says, Let 'Em Die

I can see the state capitol from where I now sit. If I could spit on it from here, I would:

The Texas Senate Finance Committee recently denied funding to the Texas Department of State Health Services for the Texas AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which assists thousands of low-income People living with HIV in receiving their medications.

This refusal comes at a time when nearly half of HIV-positive people aren't getting the drugs they need, and infection rates continue to climb for people of color and working class communities.

This funding refusal means ADAP would have to drop people who are currently receiving assistance, as well as refuse others who would otherwise qualify.

What You Can Do:
Contact the Senate Finance Committee members as well as your state senator and representative via email, phone call or letter. Tell them you disagree with the Senate Finance Committee's decision. Remind them of the incredible need to assist those living with HIV in Texas.

Find your Texas Senate and House representatives at

Texas Senate Finance Committee Members:Senators Steve Ogden (Chair), Judith
Zaffirini (Vice-Chair), Kip Averitt (member), Gonzalo Barrientos (member), Kim Brimer (member), Bob Deuell (member), Robert Duncan (member), Kyle Janek (member), Jane Nelson (member), Florence Shapiro (member), Eliot Shapleigh (member) and Todd Staples (member).

Capital address for the above Committee Members:

The Honorable (insert name of Senator)
Texas Senate
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711


And Speaking of "Right to Die"

It seems that not enough young American lads and lasses are exercising theirs these days:
The Army expects to miss its recruiting goals again this month and next, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey said Wednesday, and it is developing a new sales pitch that appeals to the patriotism of parents who have been reluctant to steer their children toward the Army.

"There is a forecast that we will not meet the monthly goal" for March and April, Harvey said at his first Pentagon news conference since becoming the Army's top civilian official last November.

In February the Army missed its monthly recruiting goal by 27 percent. That was the first time it had fallen short for any month since May 2000, and it underscored the difficulty the Army faces in signing up young men and women during time of war.


Killer of Cats, and Others

I personally am against keeping people hooked up to tubes and pumps for years on end when there is no hope of recovery and no legitimate sign of awareness, but Frist is for it, at least in this case.

Sheer political hypocrisy:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has championed the "rescue" of Terri Schiavo, is a renowned heart surgeon who has pulled the plug on a "regular basis," his office acknowledged yesterday.

But Frist (R-Tenn.) ended life support only when the patient was ruled brain-dead, and he is convinced Schiavo is not brain-dead.

"He certainly has a lot of clinical experience" in the withdrawal of life support, said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call.

Frist, the driving force behind the Senate bill to move Schiavo's case to federal court and a likely 2008 presidential candidate, is under fire for declaring she is not brain-dead after reviewing a video of Schiavo.

"On a regular basis, he's dealt with a diagnosis of brain death," Call said defending Frist, a heart and general surgeon.

Medical ethicists like Dr. Kenneth Prager, chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, say it's "inappropriate" for Frist to make an armchair diagnosis. "A diagnosis should be made bedside by a neurologist. He's not a neurologist, and he wasn't bedside," Prager said.
The other driving force behind the Terri Schiavo bill, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), is accused of using the Schiavo case to divert attention from his own ethics problems. A Texas grand jury has indicted three of DeLay's cronies and is now looking into his campaign finances.
Taegan Goddard sums the grotesque situation up nicely:
With the Republican-controlled Congress intervening in Terri Schiavo's medical care over the weekend, a Political Wire reader sends us these interesting items:

2000 Republican Platform: "Medical decision-making should be in the hands of physicians and their patients."

2004 Republican Platform: "We must attack the root causes of high health care costs by... putting patients and doctors in charge of medical decisions."

Weren't those same Republicans waving flip flops at the 2004 convention to taunt Sen. John Kerry?

Update: Dave Winer points us to an even more amazing example. "The federal law that President Bush signed early yesterday in an effort to prolong Terri Schiavo's life appears to contradict a right-to-die law that he signed as Texas governor, prompting cries of hypocrisy from congressional Democrats and some bioethicists."


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I'm Back!

Well, more or less. I have work to wade through, so blogging will likely have to wait till tomorrow or so.

But let me just say that the New Orleans honeymoon at the Royal Sonesta held its own for happiness, fun, and joy in comparison with the wedding day itself.

And that is saying a lot.