Saturday, April 09, 2005

Our Beloved Ally

I'm sure that if Saudi Arabia had crossed the line and decreed 15,000 lashes, then the United States would immediately condemn this atrocity. But 14,200 is no big deal. After all, these men were dancing:
Dozens of Saudi men caught dancing and "behaving like women" at a party have been sentenced to a total of 14,200 lashes, after a trial held behind closed doors and without defence lawyers.

The men were also given jail sentences of up to two years.

They were arrested last month when the police in Jeddah raided a party which was described by a Saudi newspaper as a "gay wedding".

"Prosecuting and imprisoning people for homosexual conduct are flagrant human rights violations," Scott Long, of the US organisation Human Rights Watch said. "Subjecting the victims to floggings is torture, pure and simple."

HRW said it had established that 31 of the men received prison sentences of six months to one year, plus 200 lashes each. Four were jailed for two years with 2,000 lashes.

A further 70 men were released after the raid but summoned to a police station on April 3, where they were told they had been sentenced to one year's imprisonment.


Spain in the Vanguard Again

Not quite sure how much they are going to enforce this, but I find it truly amazing that they have the political will to do this in an historically "macho" and Catholic nation, when America cannot even pass the Equal Rights Amendment (not to mention still being all tied up in knots over gay marriage):
Spanish men will have to learn to change nappies and don washing-up gloves under the terms of a new law designed to strike a blow at centuries of Latin machismo.

The law, due to be passed this month, is likely to provoke a revolution in family affairs in a country where 40% of men reportedly do no housework at all. It will oblige men to "share domestic responsibilities and the care and attention" of children and elderly family members, according to the draft approved by the Spanish parliament's justice commission.

This will become part of the marriage contract at civil wedding ceremonies later this year.

"This will be a good way of reminding people what their duties are. It is something feminists have been wanting for a long time."

Failure to meet the obligations will be taken into consideration by judges when determining the terms of divorces. Men who refuse to do their part may be given less frequent contact with their children.

Spanish women spend five times longer on housework than their husbands. Even where both have jobs outside the home, Spanish women still do three times as much work in the house.


Friday, April 08, 2005

How Not to Spend Money on the School System

Just great. Our national school system is perennially underfunded and run by overworked, underpaid teachers, and Pennsylvania wants to spend a bunch of cash on this?

The national statement of faith, "In God We Trust," has been appearing on coins since 1864, and has been the country's motto since 1956. But should it be appearing in each of Pennsylvania's tens of thousands of public classrooms?

A proposed law, now awaiting action in the state House, would require the motto to appear in every public school classroom, auditorium and cafeteria in Pennsylvania.


Damn You and Your Nuanced Thought!

As usual, the Democrat shilly-shallies ambivalently while the Republican boldly charges ahead with idiotic assertions:
President Bush on Friday said that attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II was "one of the highlights of my presidency" and made clear that he disagrees with former President Clinton's assessment that the pontiff leaves a mixed legacy.

"I think John Paul II will have a clear legacy of peace, compassion and a strong legacy of setting a clear moral tone," Bush told reporters on Air Force One as he flew from Rome to the United States just hours after the funeral. He said he wanted to amend his remarks to add the word "excellent."

"It was a strong legacy," the president said. "I wanted to make sure there was a proper adjective to the legacy he left behind, not just the word clear."

Bush, the first U.S. president to attend a papal funeral, led a U.S. delegation to the 2 1/2-hour funeral Mass that included his wife, Laura, his father, former President Bush, former President Clinton and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Clinton, on the flight to Rome earlier this week, had said that John Paul "may have had a mixed legacy," but he called him a man with a great feel for human dignity.

"There will be debates about him. But on balance, he was a man of God, he was a consistent person, he did what he thought was right," Clinton said. "That's about all you can ask of anybody."

Bush spoke with reporters in the conference room of his plane. "I'm really glad I came," he said. "There was never any question I would come."

Bush talked about his time in Rome in extraordinarily personal terms, saying it strengthened his own belief in a "living God."

He remarked on how affected he was by the services, particularly the music and the sight of the plain casket being carried out with the sun pouring down on it. As he viewed the pope's body, Bush said, he felt "very much at peace" and "much more in touch with his spirit."

"I knew the ceremony today would be majestic but I didn't realize how moved I would be by the service itself," the president said. "Today's ceremony, I bet you, was a reaffirmation for millions."


Gay Rights=Common Sense

In this case, corporations have more sense than does the government:
Two major corporations based in Kansas say that despite a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage they will not end benefits for the partners of the gay and lesbian employees. The amendment was approved by voters in the state this week. (story)

In addition to banning gay marriage it says only couples in traditional marriages are entitled to the legal rights that go along with marriage. Supporters of the measure says that prevents businesses from providing domestic partner benefits.

In separate announcements Thursday Sprint and SBC Communications said they have no intention of canceling benefits.

Sprint spokesperson Jennifer Bosshardt says the company believes domestic-partner benefits are important for attracting and keeping good employees.

Conservative Christians say they may take the two companies to court. But, Attorney General. Phill Kline, a supporter of the amendment, said Thursday that the amendment does not affect private companies.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Words of wisdom from the radical right

(Miriam here.) This appeared in my hometown paper. My father scanned it in and sent it to me; presumably overwhelmed by the logic of the rest of the piece, he merely pointed out that 30 divided by 1/2 is 60, not 15. There's so much else to say... but I'll let Mr. Beamer the Second have his say:

Roe v. Wade has wrecked America.

Since Roe was decided in 1973, there have been estimates that there may have been as many as 30 million abortions in this country. 30 million divided by one-half is 15 million, roughly the number of males that were aborted. Divide 15 million by one-half and you get 7.5 million males. That number of males would make for a lot of Army divisions, and we would not be in the mess we are today with National Guard and Army Reserve units being called up - disrupting communities, local economies, and families.

Roe v. Wade has wrecked America. It remains to be seen if this is terminal to our country.

James F. Beamer II, Ann Arbor
I don't think I've ever seen a more eloquent argument for more school funding.


Let Stout Serve

But they won't, because of the idiotic policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

An Army sergeant who was wounded in Iraq wants a chance to remain in the military as an openly gay soldier, a desire that's bringing him into conflict with the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Sgt. Robert Stout, 23, says he has not encountered trouble from fellow soldiers and would like to stay if not for the policy that permits gay men and women to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret.

"I know a ton of gay men that would be more than willing to stay in the Army if they could just be open," Stout said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But if we have to stay here and hide our lives all the time, it's just not worth it."

Stout, of Utica, Ohio, was awarded the Purple Heart after a grenade sent pieces of shrapnel into his arm, face and legs while he was operating a machine gun on an armored Humvee last May.


Honoring Pedophilia

Vile beyond words:
Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in disgrace as archbishop of Boston over his role in the clergy sex abuse crisis, has been given a role of honor in the mourning for Pope John Paul II.
Some Roman Catholics in his former archdiocese immediately protested.

Suzanne Morse, spokeswoman for Voice of the Faithful, a Massachusetts-based reform group that emerged from the scandal, said Law's visibility since the pope's death has been "extremely painful" both for abuse survivors and rank-and-file Catholics.

"It certainly shows and puts a spotlight on the lack of accountability in the Catholic Church, that the most visible bishop in the clergy sexual abuse crisis has been given these honorary opportunities," she said.

David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called it "terribly insensitive."

"It rubs salt into the already deep wounds of victims and it allows the best-documented complicit bishop to exploit the pope's death for his own selfish purposes," Clohessy said. Law did not respond to a phone message left at the basilica.
Law stepped down as archbishop within months after a judge unsealed court records in January 2002 that showed he had allowed priests with confirmed histories of molesting children to continue working in parishes.

Among the records were letters Law had written to some of the predators expressing support and thanks for their service to the church.


Kristol, Buchanan,...Horowitz!

I have to say, he's far and away the most deserving so far:
A conservative activist who criticizes what he calls the leftist domination of college campuses was struck with a pie Wednesday night at Butler University.

David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, had just started a lecture at Butler when he was hit.

Horowitz's supporters followed the assailants out of the hall, and confronted them with what a witness called "pushing and shoving." However, the attackers got away.

"There's a wave of violence on college campuses, committed by what I'd call fascists opposing conservatives," Horowitz said. "It's one step from that to injury."

Poor, beleaguered David.

Thank goodness he's out there, warning us against the dangers of a meringue holocaust...


Shooting in Texas

High schools are in lockdown, and the shooter is still on the loose:
Police said a shooting on the campus of Canton High School has injured at least one man and left the school in lockdown.

Police would not confirm who was shot but did say that the shooting occurred in the field house behind the school at about 9:20 a.m.

The Tyler Morning Telegraph identified the victim as Gary Joe Kinne, the Canton High School athletic director. Kinne was transported by helicopter to a Tyler hospital, where his condition is unknown, the newspaper reported on its Web site.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says it's looking for 44-year-old Jeffrey Doyle Robertson. Troopers say he was last seen leaving the school in a black 2004 Dodge pickup truck with Texas license 64N-XW1.

The DPS said investigators suspect the Canton-area man is heading to Dallas. Troopers believe he is heavily armed.



The lengths to which Bush will go to try to destroy Social Security are astounding:
The Bush administration's ongoing Social Security blitz is unusual in scale in the selling of a domestic policy, mobilizing the president and vice president, four Cabinet secretaries and 17 lesser officials, down to an associate director of strategic planning for the White House budget office.

It also may be one of the most costly in memory, well into the millions of dollars, according to some rough, unofficial calculations.

House Appropriations Committee Republicans have quietly asked the administration for an accounting of its "60 Stops in 60 Days" blitz. And yesterday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee, formally asked the Government Accountability Office not only for the cost but also "whether the Bush Administration has crossed the line from education to propaganda."

"No one disputes the right of the President to make his policy recommendations known to Congress and the public," Waxman wrote in a letter to U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker. "Yet there is a vital line between legitimately informing the public, as the President did in his State of the Union address, and commandeering the vast resources of the federal government to fund a political campaign for Social Security privatization."


Hillary Gets It Right

This is exactly the sort of situation in which Democrats need to show some spine, and Clinton and Murray are doing it:
President Bush's nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration is being blocked from Senate confirmation by two Democrats who said Wednesday that they would hold up a vote until the agency settled the long-delayed question of whether an emergency contraceptive could be sold over the counter.

The Democrats, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington, met with the nominee, Dr. Lester M. Crawford, on Wednesday to discuss what they regard as foot-dragging on the issue of the so-called morning-after pill. An expert panel of scientists recommended over-the-counter sales in December 2003, but the agency has yet to issue a final ruling.

"I'm prepared to hold it for as long as it takes to get a decision made," Mrs. Clinton said. She added, "From everything we're able to determine, the agency has substituted politics and ideology for science and facts."



I fail to understand how the FDA can even consider permitting silicone breast implants again:
In documents made public on Wednesday, health regulators estimated that up to 93 percent of silicone breast implants ruptured within 10 years. The surprisingly high figure will further roil a debate next week about whether to lift the 13-year-old ban on silicone implants for breast enhancement.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Gay Rights Update

Connecticut may become the first state to legalize gay unions without court invention.

Texas comes halfway to its senses, stripping an anti-gay marriage amendment of clauses that would also ban civil union.

Kansas is still all screwed up.


Twisted Logic

Being an utterly corrupt politician is okay; reporting the actions of an utterly corrupt politician is not okay:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay defended his family Wednesday, saying newspaper articles about his wife and daughter and about his trip to Russia were "seedy" efforts by the "liberal media" to humiliate him.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that DeLay's wife and daughter have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by DeLay's political action and campaign committees, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Texas.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"Our" Opaque Government

Hardly surprising, this:
The federal government is keeping more secrets than usual — and keeping most of them under wraps far longer. The Information Security Oversight Office, a government agency that reviews security classification programs, says federal employees issued a record 15.6 million decisions to classify information last year, a 10 percent increase from 2003.

When employees could choose how long to keep information classified, they chose the longer period — up to 25 years — two out of three times, the oversight office said. From 1996 to 2003 they chose the shorter period — less than 10 years — about half the time, the office said.



Once more, the Republican Party displays it's fundamental(ist) view of science, that it is nothing more than one more tool to use to take and keep political power, and to reward themselves and their patrons:
The good news reached the Jamestown, N.Y., office of Dr. Rudolph Mueller in a fax from a congressman in Washington. Dr. Mueller had been named 2004 Physician of the Year.

"My secretary came running in and said, 'Dr. Rudy, look at what you've won, you're Physician of the Year,' " said Mueller, an internist.

But to receive the award in person at a special two-day workshop in Washington last month, Mueller found out that he would have to make a $1,250 contribution to the National Republican Congressional Committee. It was a disturbing discovery, he said.

"To actually buy your award and it's not from your peers or from your patients or from the community that you serve, it's really deceptive," said Mueller, author of "As Sick As It Gets: The Shocking Reality of America's Healthcare, A Diagnosis and Treatment Plan." "It's not being honest, it's just not right."

To see what the award process was all about, Mueller sent in his $1,250 contribution and ABC News paid for his travel to Washington for the scheduled events March 14-15, which included a tax-reform workshop as well as appearances by House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, and President Bush.

Mueller soon found he was not the only winner. There were hundreds of Physicians of the Year present, many of whom found the criteria for being selected equally as opaque.


A New Low from Bush

Yes, it's high time the media stop referring to Bush as a "popular president." It's just not true. In fact, he's the least popular since WWII at this point:

It's not uncommon to hear or read pundits referring to President George W. Bush as a "popular" leader or even a "very popular" one. Even some of his critics in the press refer to him this way. Perhaps they need to check the latest polls.

President Bush's approval rating has plunged to the lowest level of any president since World War II at this point in his second term, the Gallup Organization reported today.
Truman, 1949: 57%.

Eisenhower, 1957: 65%.

Johnson, 1965: 69%.

Nixon, 1973: 57%.

Reagan, 1985: 56%.

Clinton, 1997: 59% .

Bush, 2005: 45% .

Also, note who the next one up on the list is. Another "very popular president."


Well of Souls?

Here's your laugh of the morning:
A Texas oilman is using his Bible as a guide to finding oil in the Holy Land.

John Brown, a born-again Christian and founder of Zion Oil & Gas of Dallas, can quote chapter and verse about his latest drilling venture in Israel, where his company has an oil andgas exploration licence covering 96,000 acres.

"Most blessed of sons be Asher. Let him be favoured by his brothers and let him dip his foot in oil," Brown quotes from Moses's blessing to one of the 12 Tribes of Israel in Deuteronomy 33:24.

Standing next to a 54-metre (177-ft)-high derrick at Kibbutz Maanit in northern Israel, Brownsaid the passage indicated there is oil lying beneath the biblical territory of the Tribe of Asher,where the agricultural community is located.

Geological surveys and an attempt by an Israeli-based company to find oil at the same site 10years ago, a venture he said was abandoned for lack of funds, led Brown to pick the spot wherenew drilling will begin this week.

Brown said he raised money for "Project Joseph" from fellow evangelical Christians in theUnited States.

This is your brain on fundie religion...


America's Battle Plan

Apparently, our bold vision involves incapacitating our own soldiers, then recalling them at the last minute to go back into the combat theatre. This situation is both insane and grotesque:
After a two-year review in 1998, Defense Secretary William Cohen announced the implementation of an Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program for all active duty military personnel. As an active duty officer, Cordova was among the 455,000 soldiers who received the inoculation. Yet despite assurances as to the safety of the anthrax vaccine, these shots were anything but routine.

Soon after the first five of the required six injections were administered, he began experiencing excruciating physical ailments.

“There are times when I am just urinating,” says Commander Cordova with a matter-of-fact attitude, “and all of the sudden a thick fluid will come out, my testicles will be swollen, enlarged and very tender. Then the anthrax injection site in my waist becomes inflamed.”

According to Cordova, infectious disease doctors speculate that the vaccination may have entered his lymphatic system—primarily affecting nodes in his groin.

“When an episode occurs, and it does about two to three times per week, the pain becomes so unbearable I can’t even walk,” the commander told RAW STORY. “I just have to lay down with my legs spread open. It’s just awful.”

After completing nine years of active service, Cordova applied to the Veterans Administration for disability benefits in 2002. Citing his symptoms and linking them directly to the anthrax vaccine, the VA granted him a 10 percent benefit. This status means he is officially a disabled veteran.

Despite his service-related disability, Cordova received notice from the Army in June 2004 that he would soon be called back to duty for Operation Enduring Freedom, one of nearly 10,000 servicemembers who were recalled after successfully completing their active duty requirements. He has been assigned to report for active duty on May 1.

His ultimate destination? Afghanistan or Iraq.

To add “insult to injury,” as Cordova explains it, his initial commitment to the Army expires just 13 days later, on May 14. “They’re legally allowed to do that, they say,” he claims, “but I never saw the fine print which says that’s okay.”


Monday, April 04, 2005

California Victory

Well done:

California's sweeping domestic partner law was upheld today by a panel of judges on the state Appeals Court.

Two conservative groups opposing the law, which went into effect in January, sought to have it declared unconstitutional because it gave same-sex couples the most of the rights of marriage.

The appeals court said, "Contrary to petitioners' suggestion, the Legislature has not created a 'marriage' by another name or granted domestic partners a status equivalent to married spouses.''


Cornered Rat

DeLay, predictably, is lashing out:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has launched a characteristically defiant response to attacks on his ethics and leadership, even as the controversy threatens to compete with the Republican legislative agenda when Congress returns this week from spring recess.

As criticism of the 57-year-old Texan intensified last week with a blast from the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board and the unveiling of an anti-DeLay television ad campaign by nonprofit groups, he began a counterattack designed to shore up his backing in the Republican House caucus and among social conservatives.


Useless Idiots

Why am I reminded of the scene in Jaws when all the yokels converge to hunt the shark in the hope of getting the reward money?
Volunteers who have converged on the Mexican border to watch for illegal immigrants are disrupting U.S. Border Patrol operations by unwittingly tripping sensors that alert agents to possible intruders, an agency spokesman complained Monday.

Scores of participants in the Minuteman Project began assembling late last week and planned to begin regular patrols on Monday, in an exercise some law enforcement authorities and civil rights groups fear will result in vigilante violence. Many of the volunteers were recruited over the Internet, and some planned to be armed.

Over the past few days, they have set off sensors, forcing agents to respond to false alarms, said Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jose Maheda.

"Every sensor has to be addressed," Maheda said. "It's taken away from our normal operations."

Question: Shouldn't these "Minutemen" be arrested for endangering our precious Homeland Security?



Oy. Looks like Bush's plans to bankrupt the nation and hasten the dumbening of America is in full swing:

The reputation of this farming community, known as the Salad Bowl of the World, has been burnished by giants of American history like the civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, who organized the area's farmworkers, and John Steinbeck, a native son who borrowed images from the landscape and Depression-era residents in writing "The Grapes of Wrath."

The pride, fear and hope Steinbeck described were in evidence this weekend as residents, celebrities and best-selling authors gathered for a 24-hour emergency read-in to try to avert an unwelcome footnote to Salinas's legacy: the impending closing of the city's three public libraries.

Unless the city can raise $500,000 by June 30, the John Steinbeck, Cesar Chavez and El Gabilan Libraries will be shuttered, victims of the city's $9 million budget shortfall. If the branches are closed, Salinas will become the nation's largest city without a public library.