Friday, June 10, 2005

She Must Be Republican

And she's learned her lesson well: There's nothing quite as satisfying as screwing the next generation:

An Oregon National Guardsman who recently returned from a long tour of duty in Iraq was met with a rude surprise - someone had withdrawn more than $10,000 from his bank account without his knowledge.

Even worse: When police eventually arrested the suspect, it was his mother.


Idiocy Lives On

Hopefully, this papacy will be short-lived (I mean nothing more sinister than that he should retire):
Pope Benedict XVI told African bishops Friday that they must promote abstinence as the only "fail-safe" way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The directive dashed all hopes that the new pope would loosen the Vatican's position on the use of condoms, especially in the region of the world most devastated by AIDS.

"It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraceptive mentality, all of which contribute to a breakdown in sexual morality," Benedict told the bishops from South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho who were on a pilgrimage to the Vatican.

A "contraceptive mentality"?


Bush: Soft on Drugs

His drugs of choice are booze and cocaine, but apparently he doesn't mind helping out pot dealers too:

According to this DOJ press release, President Bush granted seven pardons this week. Law Professor Ellen Podgor of White Collar Crime Blog has the breakdown and analysis.

The pardons are mostly for "white collar" offenses, but one marijuana defendant from Texas is in the group. I wonder if an enterprising reporter or blogger will uncover a connection between Bush and this pardonee:

  • James Edward Reed Kaufman, Texas
    Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana; 21 U.S.C. § 846.
    Sentence:January 10, 1975; Northern District of Texas; 18 months imprisonment; two years special parole.


A Moment of Honesty

And I'm sure that all those brave right-wing bloggers are filled with righteous indignation:

A senior US military chief has admitted "good, honest" Iraqis are fighting American forces.

Major General Joseph Taluto said he could understand why some ordinary people would take up arms against the US military because "they're offended by our presence".

In an interview with Gulf News, he said: "If a good, honest person feels having all these Humvees driving on the road, having us moving people out of the way, having us patrol the streets, having car bombs going off, you can understand how they could [want to fight us]."


Thursday, June 09, 2005


What else can we expect from this man?
William Pryor, the man described as "the most demonstrably antigay judicial nominee in recent memory," was confirmed Thursday to a lifetime term on the Federal Court of Appeal.

"We cannot sit back and turn over the courts to extremists hostile to equality and civil rights," Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart said in a statement following the vote.

“The confirmation of somebody like William H. Pryor, who has a record of blatant hostility to fairness for gay people, underscores what’s at stake-the ability of all people, whether politically popular or not, to get a fair hearing in court."


Now That's Protestant

In the best sense of the term. This is the sort of protest that should occur again and again and again:

Crowds gathering in front of the famous Wittenberg Cathedral watched curiously as American theologian Matthew Fox walked to the building's great wooden doors and then nailed up a challenge to the Catholic Church just as Martin Luther did in 1517.

Like Luther, Fox believes that the church is in trouble and in need of a drastic change.

Fox's challenge was in the form an updated version of Luther's 95 Theses - applying them to today.

While Luther's protest was against indulgences and corruption in the administration of Pope Leo X, Fox's beef is more attuned to the injustices and power abuses he sees in the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI and the apathy epidemic present in Protestant Churches.

"I have great respect for what Luther achieved when he protested against corruption. I also believe the church needs a reformation more today than it did 500 years ago," Fox said.

Fox and the new Pope are old opponents who had intensive debates on theological issues in the 1980s. Fox and 100 other prominent theologians were silenced by then Cardinal Ratzinger. A year later, Fox was forced to leave the Dominican Order by Pope John Paul II and subsequently converted to the Episcopal church.

"Jesus said nothing about condoms, birth control or homosexuality," says one of the Theses. Fox said it is time for Christians to choose who the Church will follow: an "angry exclusionary God or the loving God who opens the path to wisdom."

Among his other theses are: "God is both Father and Mother" and "Religion is not necessary, but spirituality is."

German camera crews recorded the nailing of the theses to the church door and continued to roll as curious tourists read them - some proclaiming their agreement.


Deeply Disturbing

The Saudis get away with so much that it's hard to keep track. But in this case, I believe that we really should pay very close attention:

Saudi Arabia is seeking to permanently lower international scrutiny of its lone nuclear reactor, but a top Saudi official said Wednesday the request is not a prelude to development of nuclear weapons.

"We have no desire to acquire any type of weapon of mass destruction, period," Saudi foreign policy adviser Adel al-Jubeir said.

The Saudi request this spring set off alarm bells at the International Atomic Energy Agency and within the Bush administration, which has accused neighboring Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as cover to develop weapons that could be used against Israel or other U.S. allies in the Middle East.

He also said reports, some based on U.S. intelligence, that Saudi Arabia has sought possible nuclear weapons help from Pakistan are "not correct."


Rogue Nation

Yet another instance of the United States arrogantly ignoring any and all notions of justice:

Thousands of people are detained in Iraq without due process in apparent violation of international law, the United Nations said on Wednesday, adding that 6,000 of the country's 10,000 prisoners were in the hands of the U.S. military.

In Iraq, "one of the major human rights challenges remains the detention of thousands of persons without due process," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bush Lying; Planet Dying

Hardly surprising, of course, but to see such blatant disinformation is still rather striking:

A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.


Thinking Ahead

Now this is what I call foresight:
A German city is rushing to install a series of drive-in wooden "sex garages" in time for next year's Soccer World Cup and an expected boom in the local sex trade, a city official said on Wednesday.

Dortmund, one of 12 cities to host World Cup matches, is anxious to keep prostitutes and their clients off the streets by providing them with discreet places to do business.

Experts estimate as many as 40,000 prostitutes may travel to Germany to offer their services to fans during the tournament.

"The World Cup has put us under added time pressure, as we don't want a situation where prostitutes and their clients disturb residential areas," the official said.


Words Fail Me

FURIOUS South African women have called for a controversial new anti-rape device, dubbed a “rat trap”, to be banned by the Government.

The tampon-like device, invented by a woman, supposedly protects women from rapists by cutting into a man’s penis.

It has sparked an empassioned debate over the high number of rapes committed each day in the country and the authorities’ apparent failure to tackle the issue.

Activists are outraged and want to stop it going on sale alongside tampons in chemists and supermarkets next month.

Charlene Smith, a leading anti-rape campaigner, said: “This is a medieval instrument, based on male-hating notions and fundamentally misunderstands the nature of rape and violence against women in this society. It is vengeful, horrible, and disgusting. The woman who invented this needs help.”

The device, which Sonette Ehlers, its inventor, has patented, is worn like a tampon but is hollow. In the event of a rape, she said that it would fold around the rapist’s penis and attach itself with microscopic hooks. It is impossible to remove the clamped device without medical intervention.


It's Okay, He Wasn't Brown

Just weird:
On April 25, Gregory Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine, carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. U.S. customs agents confiscated the weapons and fingerprinted Despres. Then they let him into the United States.

The following day, a gruesome scene was discovered in Despres' hometown of Minto, New Brunswick: The decapitated body of a 74-year-old country musician named Frederick Fulton was found on Fulton's kitchen floor. His head was in a pillowcase under a kitchen table. His common-law wife was discovered stabbed to death in a bedroom.

Despres, 22, immediately became a suspect because of a history of violence between him and his neighbors, and he was arrested April 27 after police in Massachusetts saw him wandering down a highway in a sweat shirt with red and brown stains. He is now in jail in Massachusetts on murder charges, awaiting an extradition hearing next month.

At a time when the United States is tightening its borders, how could a man toting what appeared to be a bloody chain saw be allowed into the country?

Bill Anthony, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the Canada-born Despres could not be detained because he is a naturalized U.S. citizen and was not wanted on any criminal charges on the day in question.


Police State Progress

Another bit of civil liberty stripped quietly away:

The FBI would get expanded powers to subpoena records without the approval of a judge or grand jury in terrorism investigations under Patriot Act revisions approved Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Some senators who voted 11-4 to move the bill forward said they would push for limits on the new powers the measure would grant to law enforcement agencies.


Oil Whore

Anybody who held even the slightest hope that Bush might ever permit something to be done to counter environmental degradation can consider themselves officially disabused:
President's George Bush's decision not to sign the United States up to the Kyoto global warming treaty was partly a result of pressure from ExxonMobil, the world's most powerful oil company, and other industries, according to US State Department papers seen by the Guardian.

The documents, which emerged as Tony Blair visited the White House for discussions on climate change before next month's G8 meeting, reinforce widely-held suspicions of how close the company is to the administration and its role in helping to formulate US policy.

In briefing papers given before meetings to the US under-secretary of state, Paula Dobriansky, between 2001 and 2004, the administration is found thanking Exxon executives for the company's "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, and also seeking its advice on what climate change policies the company might find acceptable.

Other papers suggest that Ms Dobriansky should sound out Exxon executives and other anti-Kyoto business groups on potential alternatives to Kyoto.

Until now Exxon has publicly maintained that it had no involvement in the US government's rejection of Kyoto. But the documents, obtained by Greenpeace under US freedom of information legislation, suggest this is not the case.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Why Socialism

Socialism, we are told again and again, is stultifying nonsense. The notion that we should care for all of our fellow humans at the expense of "free trade" is anathema these days, in the United States, at least.

So I just want to lay out why I think that this argument is wrong.

And the funny thing is, I have pop culture on my side in this battle.

How many movies star a protagonist (often an anti-hero) who has, as they say, "nothing to lose." The very fact that he--it's almost always a he--cannot lose anything renders him free to do whatever he feels needs to be done. And we go along with it, and relish his exploits.

This is the thing that is squelched in all American discussions of socialism. The constant narrative is that "nanny state" measures will lead to stagnation and complacency.

May I offer a competing narrative?

Socialism doesn't suffocate innovation with its provisions for health care and education and unemployment. Rather, it gives us all a certain feeling of "nothing to lose." That is, if we know that we--and more importantly, our people--will be fed and clothed and housed today and tomorrow, we are free to go mad with creation.

Socialism in the 21st century stands to be the force that unleashes the greatest ingenuity and productivity since capitalism took hold in the 18th.

And it'll be more humane.

This, at any rate, is my hope.


Speaking the Truth

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton castigated President Bush and Congressional Republicans yesterday as being mad with power and self-righteousness, complained that the news media have been timid in taking on the administration, and suggested that some Washington Republicans have a God complex.


Family Values

As Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily (of all things) asks, can you imagine what the media would be doing if it were Bill Clinton, or any Democrat, dining with a porn star?

I want you to imagine the squeals of outrage we would have heard if, back in the 1990s, President Clinton spoke to a Democratic congressional fund-raising dinner attended by a porn star and a pornographer.

But the "family values" Republicans are mute about just such an event scheduled for next week – involving not Clinton, but President Bush.

Last week, Carl Forti, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, explained to WND that self-described pornographer Mark Kulkis and his date, porn star Mary Carey, will be attending the two-day event, "The 2005 President's Dinner and Salute to Freedom," next Monday and Tuesday because their money is just as good as anyone else's.

"They've paid their money," he said. "No matter what they do, the money is going to go to help elect Republicans to the House."

For $5,000, Cary and Kulkis will be in the same room as the president one day and presidential confidant Karl Rove another.

Via AmericaBlog.



Even as the Supreme Court re-asserts the state's right to refuse marijuana to people who need it to assuage suffering, one representative is stepping up to fight for compassion and common sense:
As the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws don't protect medical-marijuana users from federal drug prosecution, a U.S. House member said he would reintroduce legislation to prevent federal law-enforcement action against medical users of the drug.

The Hill reported June 7 that Rep. Maurice Hinchey (R-N.Y.) plans to introduce legislation barring the Justice Department from spending money to arrest and prosecute medical-marijuana users. The measure would be an amendment to a pending state, science, justice and commerce appropriations bill.

Unfortunately, the odds of it passing are slim at best.


Nail the Bastard

It's long past time to do so:
A Santiago appeals court on Tuesday lifted the immunity from prosecution of former dictator Augusto Pinochet, 89, opening the way for him to be tried for financial fraud after the discovery that he had secret accounts in the United States, court sources said.

Chile’s internal revenue service filed the suit seeking that Pinochet be stripped of his immunity as a former head of state. There is also a suit pending filed by relatives, who are seeking damages, of some 3,000 people abducted and presumed killed during Pinochet’s iron-fisted 1973-1990 regime.



More American industry melts into air:
General Motors Corp. plans to eliminate 25,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States by 2008 and close plants as part of a strategy to revive North American business at the world's largest automaker, its chairman said on Tuesday.



I don't know why, but science and technology stories have been catching my eye of late, from the universe in a box, to the underwater breathing device, to this:
After years of false starts, disappointment and delay, one of spaceflight's brightest hopes could be about to take to the skies. Cosmos 1, the world's first solar sailing ship, could be launched from a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea in two weeks.

On June 21, if all goes well, a Soviet Volna rocket originally designed to deliver nuclear warheads will push a 100kg (220lb) American-designed spacecraft to an orbit 500 miles high. The payload will open and like the petals of a flower, eight huge triangular blades 15 metres long will unfurl to reflect the rays of the sun.

Cosmos 1 - a dream of the late visionary astronomer Carl Sagan, his wife Ann Druyan and his friend Louis Friedman, a former Nasa scientist - will be the first practical test of science fiction technology.

In the vacuum of space, even light has force. Particles of light that slam against the fragile sails - only a thousandth of a millimetre thick - will begin to accelerate the space clipper.
The acceleration will be tiny, but in the course of a day the spacecraft may have gained 45 metres a second or 100 miles an hour. After 100 days in the sun it could get up to 10,000mph. In three years, such a spacecraft could be the fastest manmade thing in space, without using a drop of rocket fuel.


Smarter Than Us

It's a shame that a nation such as the United States, with all the resources necessary to enact programs to halt the spread of AIDS, is so bloody hamstrung by bullshit "morality" that it cannot bring itself to do so.

In an aggressive new anti- AIDS push, China's Health Ministry is urging the promotion of free condoms and needle exchanges — strategies previously considered taboo by the conservative communist government.
The most striking proposal calls for combining methadone treatment with needle exchanges to promote safe behavior among drug users — a group almost completely ignored in the past.



That seems to be the ultimate goal of the human race:
Spending on weapons around the world topped $1 trillion (£560bn) for the first time in 2004, a new report says.

A study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) found that countries around the world spent $162 on weapons for each person alive.

The US alone accounted for 47% of the global total, mainly because of soaring spending on its "global war on terror".



It'd take a smarter person than I to figure out what this means, in conjunction with the fact that the head of CIA is no longer invited to the weekly National Security Council meetings:

The CIA would be given authority to coordinate all human intelligence activities overseas, including those carried out by Pentagon and FBI personnel, under legislation proposed by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the fiscal 2006 intelligence authorization bill.

At a time when the CIA appears to be losing its preeminence in clandestine operations abroad, the House panel suggested language in the bill that it said was designed to clarify roles of the CIA director and the new director of national intelligence (DNI) regarding the collection of human intelligence outside the United States "by any department, agency or element" of the U.S. government.


Monday, June 06, 2005

See No Evil

That's DeLay's modus operandi, it would seem. Too bad for him that the exploited people sometimes have a voice:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says he found no victims of sweatshops, sex slavery or forced abortions on the Pacific island of Saipan in the mid-1990s. But Carmencita Abad says that’s because DeLay did not want to see them.

“My answer is, Mr. DeLay, I am that person,” Abad said in a telephone interview. “I am an example of an individual who can prove that the accounts of sweatshop labor and forced prostitution are not just allegations but true accounts of working conditions in the Marianas Islands when Mr. DeLay traveled there and turned a blind eye to our misery.”

Abad, a Filipino who worked in Saipan’s garment industry for six years, spoke at a press conference in Houston recently outside a business luncheon honoring the embattled DeLay.

The press conference was sponsored by the Campaign for a Clean Congress, a national organization, the Harris County AFL-CIO and Houston Interfaith Worker Justice.

It was called, in part, to counter claims DeLay made last month when he told The Daily News that there were no human rights violations taking place on Saipan in the 1990s.

As he entered Tuesday’s luncheon, DeLay was again asked about the allegations.

“The workers there were very well treated,” he said. “There may have existed some problems in certain instances, but not when I was there.”


More for the Science Geek

Science fiction becomes reality. Now we can begin our new lives, under the sea:
An Israeli Inventor has developed a breathing apparatus that will allow breathing underwater without the assistance of oxygen tanks. This new invention will use the relatively small amounts of air that already exist in water to supply oxygen to both scuba divers and submarines. The invention has already captured the interest of most major diving manufacturers as well as the Israeli Navy.


Crickets, Tumbleweeds

Serves me right for actually believing the reports that Kerry was going to hit Bush hard over the Downing Street Memo today.

Nothing but silence from him today, thus far...


What Is Wrong with Italy?

Strange tales. First, they really want to see your face:
Italy's justice minister, a member of the right-wing Northern League party, was accused of fueling anti-Islamic sentiment in Italy Sunday after saying he would fine women wearing the all-covering burka.

Roberto Castelli said an Italian law banning the covering of a person's face in public would be applied to women wearing the full-length religious robe that hides the head and face. "To go around with your face covered is a crime, you can't do it," Castelli told reporters.

Second, they seem to have resolved once and for all the burning question of whether gay people can drive:
A Sicilian court condemned road authorities on Monday for suspending the driving licence of a man after finding out he was gay.

The court on the Mediterranean island said being gay was merely "a personality disturbance" which had no bearing on a person's ability to drive, Ansa news agency reported.


Long Live Gay Anarchists!

The new pope is living up to expectations:
Pope Benedict, in his first clear pronouncement on gay marriages since his election, on Monday condemned same-sex unions as fake and expressions of "anarchic freedom" that threatened the future of the family.


Mr. Bush, Tear Down This Gulag!

The time has to get rid of Gauntanamo has undoubtedly arrived. Unfortunately, if Bush does indeed decide to do so, it will be merely symbolic. The gulag will continue to function in a quieter and less centralized fashion:
Senior Democrats are calling for the closure of America’s detention centre in Guantanamo, Cuba, saying that it has become a "propaganda and recruitment tool" for terrorists following continued allegations of prisoner abuse.

A leading Democrat Senator, Joseph Biden, of Delaware, suggested yesterday that the time had come to consider a gradual closure of the facility, arguing that its worsening reputation around the world was helping to recruit people bent on hurting the United States.

"This has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world. And it is unnecessary to be in that position," he told ABC television.


A New Low

That the Democrats have agreed to let these people take lifetime seats on the federal appeals court shows just how beaten they are:
Senators warred almost three years over the nomination of former Alabama attorney general Bill Pryor. This week Democrats and Republicans will honor a truce over the use of filibusters to block President Bush's court nominees (story) and allow Pryor's name to move forward.
As Attorney General of Alabama, he was the only attorney general outside of Texas to author an amicus brief in the Supreme Court defending Texas's anti-gay sodomy statute. Pryor argued that states have an interest in singling out same-sex relations for punishment, even though his own state's statute made no distinction between same-and opposite-sex relations. His brief also compared same-sex relationships to pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia.

While he served as A.G. of Alabama Pryor had links placed on the state website to anti-gay organizations and other conservative groups but not to groups with a neutral or differing views.

Also expected to be confirmed to federal appeals court this week is California Supreme Court justice Janice Rogers Brown who has almost as abysmal a record on LGBT issues as Pryor.

In 2003, Brown was the only justice on the California Supreme Court to rule against recognizing the right of gay Californians to legally adopt their children. Brown argued that allowing a gay parent to legally adopt the biological child of their partner "trivializes family bonds."

I say letting these two anywhere near a court building trivializes the notions of justice and rule of law.


Prohibition, Continued

Another stupid ruling from the Supreme Court, which will only lead to needless pain and suffering. Not to mention the continued waste of funds prosecuting those providing and using medical marijuana:
In a ruling that could have a broad impact on people with HIV/AIDS the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that federal authorities may prosecute sick people whose doctors prescribe marijuana to ease pain.

In its ruling the Court said that state laws don't protect users from a federal ban on the drug.

The decision is a stinging defeat for marijuana advocates who had successfully pushed 10 states to allow the drug's use to treat various illnesses.


Silver Lining

It is rather a shame that it takes a scandal to get Americans to read, but so be it:
US interest in the Muslim holy book Koran has risen after reports of its mishandling at Guantanamo Bay, a Muslim charity has said in Washington.

The Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it had received over 5,000 requests for free copies over the last two weeks.

One copy was being requested almost every minute, it said.

Reports of the Koran's mishandling led to violent anti-US protests last month.


Sunday, June 05, 2005


I don't know just how overstated this may be, but it is interesting to see the national security president once again playing divisive politics with intelligence:
A new White House memo excludes CIA director Porter Goss from National Security Council meetings. The biggest changes in Washington often come about with just a few strokes of the pen. And so a dry, one-page internal memo quietly issued by the White House is being viewed as a kind of eulogy for the once mighty Central Intelligence Agency. After nearly 60 years at the pinnacle of American intelligence—and at the elbow of Presidents—the CIA director is no longer automatically welcome at the President's National Security Council (NSC) meetings. John Negroponte, the new director of National Intelligence, has taken his chair.

It's the latest evidence that Negroponte is consolidating his power as the nation's intelligence czar. The May 2 memo, obtained by TIME and also reported late last week by, states that "effective immediately," Negroponte will participate in meetings of the NSC and its domestic counterpart, the Homeland Security Council (HSC). Meanwhile, CIA Director Porter Goss "will attend NSC and HSC meetings at the direction of the President."

That's the polite Beltway equivalent of saying, "Don't call us. We'll call you."


More Where That Came From

More documentation of those "isolated incidents":
A US judge has ordered the Bush administration to release more than 100 new photographs and videos of abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib, creating a fresh public relations nightmare for government officials as they seek to rebut accusations that the US is sponsoring torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.