Saturday, June 25, 2005

On the Bandwagon

That headline refers to me, posting this story, which everyone else has already posted, but which is so funny and repulsive that it bears repeating. The headline does not refer to the hypocrites interviewed for the story, who are content to cheer the bandwagon on, without actually clambering aboard themselves:

Young Republicans gathered here for their party's national convention are united in applauding the war in Iraq, supporting the U.S. troops there and calling the U.S. mission a noble cause.

But there's no such unanimity when they're asked a more personal question: Would you be willing to put on the uniform and go to fight in Iraq?

In more than a dozen interviews, Republicans in their teens and 20s offered a range of answers. Some have friends in the military in Iraq and are considering enlisting; others said they can better support the war by working politically in the United States; and still others said they think the military doesn't need them because the U.S. presence in Iraq is sufficient.

"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that," said Vivian Lee, 17, a war supporter visiting the convention from Los Angeles,

Lee said she supports the war but would volunteer only if the United States faced a dire troop shortage or "if there's another Sept. 11."

"As long as there's a steady stream of volunteers, I don't see why I necessarily should volunteer," said Lee, who has a cousin deployed in the Middle East.

In an election season overwhelmed by memories of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military's newest war ranks supreme among the worries confronting much of Generation Y'ers. Iraq is their war.

"If there was a need presented, I would go," said Chris Cusmano, a 21-year-old member of the College Republicans organization from Rocky Point, N.Y. But he said he hasn't really considered volunteering.

"I'm in college right now, but who knows?" said Matthew Vail, a 25-year-old from Huntsville, Ala., who works with Students for Bush. He said he might consider enlisting after he finishes his degree at the University of North Carolina, but not until then.

"The bug may get me after college," he said.

A whole new generation of chickenhawks, ready to replace the old.


Hell: Calling Bush Home

Sure, Satan missed Crawford by a few hundred miles, but then, Bush invaded the wrong country. At least the devil got the right state...
A massive crack in the earth opened up last week in Claude, Texas and its creating a stir among geologists.


This Is How They Spend Their Time

While continuously proclaiming the exigence of the War on Terror, our leaders seem to be far more interested in...other matters, whether the possibility that someone, somewhere might burn red, white, and blue pieces of cloth, or this:
With barely a word about it, workers at the Justice Department Friday removed the blue drapes that have famously covered two scantily clad statues for the past 3 1/2 years.

Spirit of Justice, with her one breast exposed and her arms raised, and the bare-chested male Majesty of Law basked in the late afternoon light of Justice's ceremonial Great Hall.

The drapes, installed in 2002 at a cost of $8,000, allowed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to speak in the Great Hall without fear of a breast showing up behind him in television or newspaper pictures. They also provoked jokes about and criticism of the deeply religious Ashcroft.


Friday, June 24, 2005

Help Lift the Travel Ban!

As rorschach's post last week shows, it is high time to lift the travel restrictions to Cuba. There are amendments to pending legislation that do just that (or at least that end enforcement of the ban, which works out to the same thing on a practical level). And while I usually don't post petitions and such because I assume all y'all are on the same mailing lists as I am, Cuban stuff tends to get less airtime and I've only seen it on my Cuba mailing list. So, if you support lifting the restrictions, let your representative know - either on your own, or via Cuba Central's easy online message.

Go! Tell your representative!


The Vanity of Rulers

Paul Krugman spells out exactly why bygones are not bygones when it comes to Bush misleading the nation into war:
America's founders knew all too well how war appeals to the vanity of rulers and their thirst for glory. That's why they took care to deny presidents the kingly privilege of making war at their own discretion.

But after 9/11 President Bush, with obvious relish, declared himself a "war president." And he kept the nation focused on martial matters by morphing the pursuit of Al Qaeda into a war against Saddam Hussein.

In November 2002, Helen Thomas, the veteran White House correspondent, told an audience, "I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war" - but she made it clear that Mr. Bush was the exception. And she was right.
Still, some of my colleagues insist that we should let bygones be bygones. The question, they say, is what we do now. But they're wrong: it's crucial that those responsible for the war be held to account.
We need to deprive these people of their ability to mislead and intimidate. And the best way to do that is to make it clear that the people who led us to war on false pretenses have no credibility, and no right to lecture the rest of us about patriotism.


Italy Seeks to Arrest CIA Agents

It seems our illegal operations abroad, involving kidnappings and "extraordinary renditions," don't sit too well with Italy these days:
An Italian judge ordered the arrests of 13 people in the purported CIA abduction of an imam, who then was sent to Egypt, the Milan prosecutor's office said Friday. An Italian official said earlier the 13 were CIA officers involved in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.

The 13 are suspected of seizing Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, on the streets of Milan on Feb. 17, 2003, and sending him to Egypt, where he reportedly was tortured, Milan prosecutor Manlio Claudio Minale said in a statement.

The U.S. Embassy in Rome and the CIA in Washington declined to comment.

The prosecutor's statement did not name any of the suspects or mention the CIA by name, but an Italian official familiar with the investigation confirmed newspaper reports Friday that the suspects were working for the CIA.


The Truth Comes Out

Honestly, I never, ever thought this would happen. America is admitting that the detainees have been tortured, in Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq:
The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the ten-person panel, speaking on on condition of anonymity.

"They are no longer trying to duck this, and have respected their obligation to inform the UN," the Committee member told AFP.

"They they will have to explain themselves (to the Committee). Nothing should be kept in the dark."

UN sources said it was the first time the world body has received such a frank statement on torture from US authorities.

Of course, they're are still laying the blame on the grunts:
"They said it was a question of isolated cases, that there was nothing systematic and that the guilty were in the process of being punished."

The US report said that those involved were low-ranking members of the military and that their acts were not approved by their superiors, the member added.


A Laughable "Anniversary"

Or, "Sovereignty, My Ass!" How can they keep a straight face, I wonder?
President Bush met Friday with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to discuss political and military strategy at a time when U.S. public support for the war is waning, lawmakers are pressing for a timeline for U.S. withdrawal and televisions are flashing with unsettling pictures of deadly violence.

In an Oval Office meeting, both leaders planned to underscore work being done to train Iraqi security forces -- a precursor to bringing U.S. troops home -- as well as efforts to draft a constitution and rebuild a nation still wracked by a violent insurgency more than two years after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

Bush's meeting with the Iraqi leader came just ahead of the one-year anniversary, next Tuesday, of the transfer of sovereignty. Bush will mark the event with a speech at 8 p.m. EDT to several hundred troops at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.


Time to Resign

The Families of September 11 have weighed in on Rove's latest outrage:
FOS11 Statement on Comments Made By Karl Rove

As families whose relatives were victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, we believe it is an outrage that any Democrat, any Republican, any conservative or any liberal, stakes a "high ground" position based upon the September 11th death and destruction. Doing so assumes that all those who died and their loved ones would agree. In truth, some would and some would not. By definition the conduct is divisive and, because it is intended to be self-serving and politicizes 9/11, it is offensive.

We are calling on Karl Rove to resist his temptations and stop trying to reap political gain in the tragic misfortune of others. His comments are not welcome.


A New Era?

The Chinese Century is dawning, it would seem. They are gaining prestige, their economy is booming, and they are making grabs for energy resources around the globe, including within the US. America, meanwhile, is not faring all that well:
America's image is still so tattered abroad after the Iraq war that China is viewed more favourably than the US in many countries, a global poll finds.

Its image has not recovered in Western European countries, the US-based Pew Research Center found.

In none of the 16 countries surveyed, the US included, does a majority of the public think the war leading to Saddam Hussein's removal made the world safer.
"It's amazing when you see the European public rating the United States so poorly, especially in comparison with China," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which carried out the survey.
In most countries surveyed, Americans are seen as "inventive" and "hardworking", but they are also seen by many in both Western and predominately Muslim countries as "violent" and "greedy" - a judgement with which many Americans agree.



I love it when this sort of thing happens:

The United Farm Workers Union has announced its support for a bill to allow same-sex couples in California to marry.

"This is about one civil rights movement joining forces with another to affirm shared values of social justice. Our struggles for economic justice and equality are rightfully linked: the farm workers current boycott of Gallo wine and the battle to achieve equality for all," said United Farm Workers Southern California Political Director Christine Chavez in a statement.

The announcement by the mainly Latino union dispels a widespread assumption in California that most Hispanics oppose same-sex marriage.

"This announcement has special meaning for me," Chavez said.

"Beginning in the 1970s, before there was widespread public acceptance of gays, especially among Latinos, my grandfather, Cesar Chavez, spoke out strongly for gay rights. He attended gay rights rallies and marches. He brought with him the UFW’s black-eagle flags and farm workers who wished to participate."


Laying the Blame

It appears that Bush is finally starting to get what he deserves, at least as far as public opinion is concerned:
Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans say that President Bush is more responsible for starting the War with Iraq than Saddam Hussein. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 44% take the opposite view and believe Hussein shoulders most of the responsibility.

In late 2002, months before the fighting began, most Americans thought that Hussein was the one provoking the War. Just one-in-four thought the President was doing the provoking at that time.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Great News from Tennessee

Recently I blogged about a kid who had been sent to a camp by his parents to be re-programmed as straight. Now, that camp is feeling the heat:

The state of Tennessee has begun an investigation in response to allegations of child abuse at Love in Action, a Memphis facility that advertises homosexual conversion therapy for adolescents, according to the state department of health.

K. Daniele Edwards, a spokesperson for Child Services at the Tennessee Department of Health, confirmed an investigation is underway but declined to comment on the details. She noted that she presumes the Love in Action program would require licensing by the state.

Love in Action is not licensed by the Tennessee Departments of Health, Mental Health, Human Services, Child Services or Education, according to Rachel Lassiter of Gov. Phil Bredesen's communications office.


Daou Speaks

One of the best answers to Rove's disgusting claim that liberals want our soldiers to die that I've run across:
I'm devoting much of today's report to Karl Rove's vile comments denigrating half of the American public. My office overlooks Ground Zero, and I'm looking at the gaping footprint as I write this. My wife and I were in New York that day, on our way to the WTC for a morning meeting. A chance phone call dragged on a few minutes too long and most likely saved our lives. I lost friends in the towers, and when I walk past the site, as I do almost every evening, the pain is as real as it was on September 11th, 2001.

I spent my youth in Beirut during the height of Lebanon's civil war, and I fought the Syrian presence in Lebanon long before the "Cedar Revolution." I watched young boys give their lives and mothers cradle their dying children in blood-soaked arms. I've seen more bloodshed, war, and violence, and shot more guns than most of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists combined. I wouldn't presume to question the strength or dignity of a stranger, and I pity those who blithely push the right=strong, left=weak rhetoric. It says far more about their inadequacies than it does about the target of their scorn. Today, Karl Rove took that rhetoric to a new, filthy low.


Securing Oil Resources Abroad

Not us. China:
China’s third-largest oil producer made an unsolicited $18.5 billion bid Thursday for U.S. oil company Unocal Corp., marking the communist nation’s most ambitious attempt yet to acquire a Western company and setting the stage for a possible showdown with U.S. politicians concerned about potential national security issues.

The purchase by state-owned CNOOC Ltd., if completed, would be the biggest yet in a multibillion-dollar wave of foreign acquisitions by Chinese firms trying to secure a place in the top ranks of the corporate world.
Elsewhere, China has forged oil and gas deals in countries ranging from Sudan to Kazakhstan to Venezuela. Beijing is competing with Tokyo for access to Russian oil from a planned Siberian pipeline.

China used to meet its own needs from domestic oil fields but became a net importer in the 1990s and now is one of the world’s biggest consumers, along with the United States and Japan.


Reality-Based General

Apparently, Abizaid has opted to ignore the talking points. Will the right wing now declare him to be an America-hating traitor as well?
The top American commander in the Persian Gulf told Congress on Thursday that the Iraqi insurgency has not grown weaker over the past six months, despite a claim by Vice President Dick Cheney that it was in its "last throes."

Gen. John Abizaid's testimony came at a contentious Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at which Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld clashed with members of both parties, including a renewed call by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts for him to step down.

Citing what he called repeated "gross errors and mistakes" in the U.S. military campaign in Iraq, Kennedy told Rumsfeld: "In baseball, it's three strikes, you're out. What is it for the secretary of defense?"

"Isn't it time for you to resign?" Kennedy asked.


Killen Gets the Max

The judge does the right thing, somewhat making up for the fact that the verdict was manslaughter when it should have been murder:

Saying "each life has value," a judge on Thursday sentenced former Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen to the maximum 60 years in prison for masterminding the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers.


Beslan Syndrome

If it's an illness, then it's one Americans would do well to catch. What is going on in connection with this trial in Russia is something that I cannot really imagine happening here.

Those who lost loved ones in this tragedy are actually not allowing themselves to be blinded by grief and rage. They are mourning, but they are demanding real answers from their government, not meaningless palliatives or jingoistic rants, such as we seem to have been content with since 9/11.

These Russians are honoring their dead by seeking the truth about what happened; here in the US, we have Karl Rove mocking Democrats for seeking to understand, rather than embarking on a course of massive, misguided vengeance:
The Russian media, in disbelief, are calling it "Beslan syndrome".

When Nurpashi Kulayev went on trial in mid-May for his alleged part in the mass hostage-taking at the southern Russian school, families of those who died in the bloodbath screamed in loathing.

But now hatred among the victims' next-of-kin is giving way to pity -- and a desire to know the truth that only this pale, young man can tell them about how their families died.

One newspaper reacting to the sudden surge of sympathy for Kulayev dubbed it "Beslan syndrome".

Altogether 330 people, half of them children, died in the bloodshed after a gang of Chechen rebel sympathisers seized the school last September -- one of the blackest days in Russia's recent turbulent history.

But Kulayev's former hostages and their relatives say there is nothing unbalanced in the change of mood. They say Kulayev's comments at his trial on terrorism charges are their only chance of uncovering facts they believe the state is hiding from them.

Beslan residents are angry that no high ranking officials have been brought to book for a tragedy they say could not have happened if not for official incompetence and even connivance.
Kulayev, a 24-year-old Chechen, stands hunched in his defendant's cage, dark eyes fixed on the floor between his feet.

The families, several holding pictures of relatives killed at the school, watch him constantly.
Now they wait for a word or phrase that might help them understand how rebels got through several checkpoints to Beslan, and how the siege turned into a bloodbath.

"This court is pointless. It exists just to put all the blame on this Kulayev -- that he blew everything up, that he shot everyone," said Alma Khamitseva, who still wears the black of mourning for her sister Lema.

"It was Moscow that made this war, the politicians. Let them answer for it. The officials should be on trial, not Kulayev."


The Malling of America

Which is also the mauling of American property rights. This decision flies in the face of justice and lays waste to the people's right to exercise any control over their own communities:
A divided Supreme Court ruled that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth conflicts with individual property rights.

Thursday's 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.


And the Greatest Philosopher of All Time Is...

(No, Georgie, it's not Jesus. No! I said no! Sit down and be quiet, the adults are talking.)

Who else could it be? Karl Marx.

HIS influence may have waned on the global political stage, but Karl Marx seems certain to be voted the world’s greatest philosopher in a new poll.

He is racing ahead of rivals two weeks before voting ends in the poll of listeners to the BBC Radio 4 discussion programme In Our Time.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the British philosopher who was born in Austria, is lying second after almost a fortnight of voting. David Hume, the Scottish radical sceptic, is third, followed by Plato and Immanuel Kant.


A win for Marx, who wrote The Communist Manifesto, would delight Francis Wheen,the author of a recent biography of the German-born thinker.
Wheen said: “He’s far more wide-ranging than the others on the list. He was not just a philosopher but was also very much involved in politics, economics and history.Marxism is also still a continuing argument, so that helps to give him credibility and relevance.”

Link via Democratic Left Infoasis.


Deja Vu

If anyone ever writes a sweeping history of America's military misadventures of the early twenty-first century, I believe it should be called Always Closing In:
Afghan and U.S. forces surrounded an area in Afghanistan on Thursday where senior commanders of elusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar were thought to be hiding, Afghan security officials said.



For those of you who enjoy seeing the rhetorical dismemberment of Andrew Sullivan's self-serving inanity, Michelangelo Signorile is your best friend. Go read Signorile's scatching rejoinder to the latest pile of nonsense by Sullivan.

(An interesting point: Sullivan, who never misses a chance to link to himself, does not link to this piece, proclaiming the glories of being HIV+, from his Republican-frequented blog...)


They're Coming for Your Children

As if it weren't bad enough that military recruiters are hanging around (lower-class) high schools like a gang of pedophiles, now there's this:
The Defense Department began working Wednesday with a private marketing firm to create a database of all U.S. college students and high school students between 16 and 18 years old, to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches, the Washington Post reports Thursday. Excerpts follow:

The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include an array of personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Better Neighbors Than the US Deserves

Canada once again displays decency:

NDP MP Bill Siksay is lending his support to a campaign aimed at allowing a growing number of American military deserters to find refuge in Canada.

According to the British Columbia MP, the issue resonates with a lot of Canadians.

For example, Siksay told CTV's Canada AM early Wednesday, Canadians are widely opposed to the prison abuse reported at the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons.

"They're (also) outraged at the failure to produce any weapons of mass destruction, since that was one of the main reasons for going into this war," he added.

So far, that support has translated into 15,000 signatures on a petition organized by the community-based War Resisters Support Campaign.

"There's huge public support for these war resisters in Canada," Siksay said.


Failure in Spain

But it seems they will still be able to force the measure through, in spite of the reactionary Popular Party:
Spain's Senate on Wednesday defeated legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage - delivering a crushing blow to gay and lesbian couples and the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The opposition Popular Party and a small conservative party from the Catalonia region voted together to defeat the bill on a 131 - 119 vote.

The measure had passed the Congress, Spain's lower house, in April (story).

Following the vote a spokesperson for Zapatero said that the bill would now return to the lower house where the government would use an override provision in the constitution to force the legislation through.


American Bigotry in the Courthouse

Simply appalling. A man with so little understanding of the law should be immediately relieved of his position on the bench:
The decision by local court officials to deny the use of the Quran for oaths has garnered national media attention and the scrutiny of a Washington-based Islamic civil rights group.
Guilford Senior Resident Superior Court Judge W. Douglas Albright told the News & Record last week that an oath taken on the Quran is not a lawful oath under state law. The law refers to laying one's hand on the "Holy Scriptures."

"Everybody understands what the holy scriptures are," Albright said then. "If they don't, we're in a mess."

Albright, you clearly do not understand what holy scriptures are. And yes, we are in a mess.


Family Values

Something tells me this man is not quite clear on the concept of how one ought to go about asking for leniency:
A former Marine convicted of trying to contract his wife's murder says he deserves a light sentence because she squandered his money and wouldn't give him sex, dinner or clean laundry.
He claimed his wife deprived him of basic comforts such as laundry and marital intimacy, ignored his demands to prepare weekly menus for his approval, and played the TV loud in their bedroom at night, forcing him to watch the women-oriented ``Oxygen Channel.''

Prosecutors asked the court to give the former General Dynamics engineer 15 years in prison at sentencing next month for twice trying to have Jamie Stonier killed. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly said Stonier's ``angry diatribe'' shows he has no remorse and ``continues to be a serious threat to the community in general and to his wife in particular.''



Although Iraq fills the headlines these days, and is clearly the most visible of Bush's many foul-ups, his refusal to address the very real threat posed by a nuclear North Korea may very well be his most serious failure, in the long run. And it's not as though he didn't have opportunities:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attempted to engage President Bush directly on the nuclear weapons issue three years ago but the administration spurned the overture, two American experts on Asia said on Wednesday.

Writing in the Washington Post, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg and former journalist Don Oberdorfer expressed concern that Kim's November 2002 initiative was never pursued and urged Bush to respond positively to his current overture, made last week.

When Bush took office in 2001, U.S. officials estimated Pyongyang had fuel for one or two nuclear weapons. Now, that estimate is up to at least half a dozen and, the authors said, "many believe their claim to have fabricated the weapons themselves."


Whales 2, Japan 0

Another fortunate defeat for Japan:
Japan was dealt a double blow today when the International Whaling Commission rejected its proposal to abolish a whale sanctuary and urged it not to double its quota of killing whales for disputed scientific research.


A Disappointing Start (UPDATE: Catastrophic)

This is a bit of a downer. I hope they manage to find the thing:
Cosmos 1, the solar-powered spacecraft launched yesterday as a test of shorter, less- expensive space missions, may be lost.

Signals detected at tracking stations in the Marshall Islands, eastern Russia and the Czech Republic may have come from the craft, indicating Cosmos 1 may have made it into orbit, according to the Planetary Society, which organized the mission. The group is working with U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska in an attempt to find the vessel.

``We are probably in orbit, but it's not the orbit that we thought it was,'' Emily Lakdawalla, project operations assistant for the Planetary Society, said on the group's Web site. ``So now we search. It could take days to find.''

Cosmos, powered by light from the sun instead of fuel, is testing technology that may reduce the time and cost of space flight. The craft was to be propelled through space as particles of light called photons pushed on ultra-thin sails made of Mylar.


The world's first solar sail spacecraft crashed back to Earth when its booster rocket failed less than two minutes after Tuesday's takeoff, Russian space officials said Wednesday.

Damn it.


DeLay Is an Idiotic Liar

From the mouths of morons, we learn that Iraq and Houston are the same:
DeLay offered this response: "These things take time and they take a long time, and some people get weary of the constant barrage that we see in the media.

"You know, if Houston, Texas, was held to the same standard as Iraq is held to, nobody'd go to Houston, because all this reporting coming out of the local press in Houston is violence, murders, robberies, deaths on the highways," DeLay said.

"And if you took that as the image of what is a great city that has an incredible quality of life and an incredible economy, it's amazing to me. Go to Iraq. And see what's actually happening there.
"Everybody that comes from Iraq is amazed at the difference of what they see on the ground and what they see on the television set."

Yes, go to Iraq and see what's actually happening there. You will be horri-- I mean, amazed.


Bush Aids Terrorists

This entire snafu has played into the hands of al Qaeda from the start. Radical Muslims who wish to attack the West are reaping inestimable benefits from Bush's idiotic blunder:
A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.
The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.
They said the assessment had argued that Iraq, since the American invasion of 2003, had in many ways assumed the role played by Afghanistan during the rise of Al Qaeda during the 1980's and 1990's, as a magnet and a proving ground for Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries.

The officials said the report spelled out how the urban nature of the war in Iraq was helping combatants learn how to carry out assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other kinds of attacks that were never a staple of the fighting in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet campaigns of the 1980's.
The assessment said the central role played by Iraq meant that, for now, most potential terrorists were likely to focus their energies on attacking American forces there, rather than carrying out attacks elsewhere, the officials said. But the officials said Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries would soon have to contend with militants who leave Iraq equipped with considerable experience and training.


Fox: Toxic

Apparently, working at Fox News is as bad for your physical health as watching it is for your mental health:
Multiple Fox News employees have told TVNewser that their bosses are not being forthcoming with information about recent insesticide sprayings that allegedly led to the hospitalization of an employee. The anonymous tipster who first described how production and technical personnel at Fox News Channel were exposed to diazinon, a neurotoxin class insecticide banned by the EPA for indoor use, sent a follow-up message to TVNewser this morning.

"Management is attempting to keep this quiet by compartmentalizing the issue and keeping people in the dark. We are attempting to shed light on the situation for several reasons, one of which is that diazinon -- which disrupts the nervous and endocrine systems -- is highly suspect in one of the female producers here having a child with Down's Syndrome. That is a major liability that no company, however noble their corporate mission may be, should be allowed to cover up and escape the liability for."


A Sense of Shame

At least the Spanish are embarrassed by their homophobes, unlike the GOP here in the US, which is quite content to let Man-on-Dog Santorum and Box-Turtle Cornyn and Necrophilia Pryor run around spouting their bigotry at will:
The Spanish Senate began debate Tuesday on the government's legislation to legalize same-sex marriage after the leader of the country's conservative opposition party delivered an apology for remarks made the day before by one of its own witnesses at a committee hearing.

The President of the Popular Party said his party regretted remarks made by Aquilino Polaino, a psychology professor at Madrid's Catholic university, who told the Senate committee that homosexuality was a "disease" and that gay adoption would turn children gay.

Polaino told the committee that homosexuality is "learned behavior" and "pathological in nature".

"A violent, hostile, distant or alcoholic father" or "a cold, over-protective mother" are what "causes" homosexuality which can lead those so afflicted to depression and to seek solace in drugs, Polaino said.

He then told the committee that gays and lesbians would influence the sexuality of children in their homes adding that he would wager that in 10 years those adopted by same-sex couples would sue the government and demand compensation for "having agreed to allow the break up of their personal identity".
Popular Party President Pio Garcia-Escudero said Tuesday that he regretted that his party had called Polaino as a witness.

"I regret it - and I say so on behalf of my group and I say so on behalf of my party," Garcia-Escudero said, adding that although the party opposes same-sex marriage and gay adoption it does not endorse homophobia.


About Bloody Time

I've been horrified at the level of violence in Iraq for quite a while now, while Bush and his cronies keep smiling and talking of the "last throes of insurgency" and such (and did you see Bush actually start sniggering when asked about the insurgents during the clip aired on The Daily Show last night?).

It's about time a high-ranking US official opened his eyes and saw the horror:
The new US ambassador to Iraq expressed horror at the violence wracking the country and said Islamic extremists and Saddam Hussein loyalists are trying to start a civil war.

Unfortunately, he seems to be toeing the party line about how to proceed:
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who arrived from Afghanistan, said yesterday that militants are using Iraqis as “cannon fodder” in a quest to dominate the Islamic world.

“I will work with Iraqis and others to break the back of the insurgency,” Khalilzad promised on a day that saw more than a dozen gunmen launch an assault on a Baghdad police station, wounding two policemen.


In a Word, Exploitation

This study should hardly come as a surprise, but the italicized portion is enough to make me want to slap the researcher silly. Well, sillier, anyway:
Married men earn more than bachelors so long as their wives stay at home doing the housework, according to a report on Wednesday from Britain's Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER).

Academics Elena Bardasi and Mark Taylor found that a married man whose wife does not go out to work but is primarily responsible for the cooking and cleaning earns about 3 percent more than comparably employed single men.

But that wage premium disappears if wives go out to work themselves or don't do most of the housework.
He said analysis suggests there could be two explanations for the results:

A marriage might allow a husband and wife to focus their activities on tasks to which they are most suited. Traditionally, this would result in the man concentrating on paid work enabling him to increase productivity and in consequence his wages.

Taylor said another explanation could be that marriage may increase the amount of time a man has to hone work-related skills which could trigger higher wages.

The explanation is simple, if one has even a tad of Marxist understanding. Labor has value, and in the case of the unpaid, stay-at-home wife, the husband is exploiting her for her labor, the value of which results in greater profit for his employer and slightly higher wages for him.

(Yes, grossly simplified, but given that the researcher is still considering the notion that women are "more suited" to housework, I don't feel like I need to go too deeply into analysis.)


Tuesday, June 21, 2005


A pathetic spectacle, really. Nothing is going right for poor little Bush, so he goes running back to nice, safe homophobia. It is his comfort zone:
President Bush called on Congress Tuesday to pick up the pace and pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Addressing 11-thousand delegates at the annual Southern Baptist Convention next week in Nashville, Bush praised the denomination for its strong "family values" and support for the amendment.

"Building a more compassionate society starts with preserving the source of compassion - the family," told the convention.

"Strong families teach children to live moral lives and help us pass down the values that define a caring society. And Southern Baptists are practicing compassion by defending the family and the sacred institution of marriage. Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by local officials and activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage."


See No Evil

Sigh. No surprises here:
The White House on Tuesday rejected the proposed creation of an independent commission to investigate abuses of detainees held at the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.


Well Done

The Bush administration's constant--and inaccurate--insistence that most of the insurgents in Iraq are foreign rabble-rousers, rather than Iraqis, has had results:
Iraq's most feared terror group said Tuesday that it has formed a unit of potential suicide attackers who are exclusively Iraqis, an apparent bid to deflect criticism that most suicide bombers in Iraq are foreigners.

"In response to God's decree, and the heavy insistence of the (Iraqi) brothers and their longing for paradise, the Ansar platoon from the land of Iraq has been formed," the posting said.

"Dozens hurried to register their names to meet their God," the posting said. It told of one Iraqi youth who had rebuked his leader for failing to give him a suicide assignment, telling him he would complain to God on the Day of Judgment because "you prevented me from meeting my God."

The U.S. military has said foreign fighters are a small percentage — perhaps one in 10 — of the insurgents fighting the U.S. presence in Iraq.
Link via The All Spin Zone.


Delayed, Confusing Justice

Okay, I am more than happy that Edgar Ray Killen has been convicted of manslaughter, finally, for the slayings of three civil rights workers 41 years ago today. But it is rather odd that the jury deadlocked 6-6 yesterday, and then convicted today after just a few more hours of deliberation.

Did they just do it for the symbolism of convicting on the anniversary of the killings? Who knows?
An 80-year-old former Ku Klux Klansman was convicted of manslaughter Tuesday in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers — exactly 41 years after they disappeared.
The verdict was 41 years to the date after James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were ambushed, beaten, and shot.


Kristof Is Still on the Case

Man, he is a bulldog when it comes to Pakistan's horrific treatment of women and girls. And we all should thank him for his tenacity:
When Pakistan's prime minister visits next month, President Bush will presumably use the occasion to repeat his praise for President Pervez Musharraf as a bold leader "dedicated in the protection of his own people." Then they will sit down and discuss Mr. Bush's plan to sell Pakistan F-16 fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

But here's a suggestion: How about the White House dropping word that before the prime minister arrives, he first return the passport of Mukhtaran Bibi, the rape victim turned human-rights campaigner, so that she can visit the United States?
Yet it's crucial to remember that Ms. Mukhtaran is only a window into a much larger problem - the neglect by General Musharraf's government of the plight of women and girls.

Early this year, for example, a doctor named Shazia Khalid reported that she had been gang-raped in a government-owned natural-gas plant. Instead of treating her medically, officials drugged her into unconsciousness for three days to keep her quiet and then shipped her to a psychiatric hospital.

When she persisted in trying to report the rape, she was held under house arrest in Karachi. The police suggested that since she had cash, she must have been working as a prostitute.
On average, a woman is raped every two hours in Pakistan, and two women a day die in honor killings.
Then there are Pakistan's hudood laws, which have been used to imprison thousands of women who report rapes. If rape victims cannot provide four male witnesses to the crime, they risk being whipped for adultery, since they acknowledge illicit sex and cannot prove rape.

When a group of middle-class Pakistani women demonstrated last month for equal rights in Lahore, police clubbed them and dragged them to police stations. They particularly targeted Asma Jahangir, a U.N. special rapporteur who is also the head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Ms. Jahangir says the directions to the police about her, coming from an intelligence official close to General Musharraf, were: "Teach the [expletive] a lesson. Strip her in public." Sure enough, the police ripped her shirt off and tried to pull her trousers off. If that's how General Musharraf's government treats one of the country's most distinguished lawyers, imagine what happens to a peasant challenging injustice.


The Real Story

Riverbendblog has a new post up, providing another window into what life in Iraq is really like:
Detentions and assassinations, along with intermittent electricity, have also been contributing to sleepless nights. We’re hearing about raids in many areas in the Karkh half of Baghdad in particular. On the television the talk about ‘terrorists’ being arrested, but there are dozens of people being rounded up for no particular reason. Almost every Iraqi family can give the name of a friend or relative who is in one of the many American prisons for no particular reason. They aren’t allowed to see lawyers or have visitors and stories of torture have become commonplace. Both Sunni and Shia clerics who are in opposition to the occupation are particularly prone to attacks by “Liwa il Theeb” or the special Iraqi forces Wolf Brigade. They are often tortured during interrogation and some of them are found dead.

Winning hearts and minds, we are not. And if you want to hear the truth about how long the US plans to maintain a presence in Iraq, turn off Fox News and listen to one who knows:
A friend who recently got involved working with an Iraqi subcontractor who takes projects inside of the Green Zone explained that it was more than that. The Green Zone, he told us, is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future US Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it, to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations and government. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Republic of the Green Zone, also known as the Green Republic.

“The Americans won’t be out in less than ten years.” Is how the argument often begins with the friend who has entered the Green Republic. “How can you say that?” Is usually my answer- and I begin to throw around numbers- 2007, 2008 maximum… Could they possibly want to be here longer? Can they afford to be here longer? At this, T. shakes his head- if you could see the bases they are planning to build- if you could see what already has been built- you’d know that they are going to be here for quite a while.

The Green Zone is a source of consternation and aggravation for the typical Iraqi. It makes us anxious because it symbolises the heart of the occupation and if fortifications and barricades are any indicator- the occupation is going to be here for a long time. It is a provocation because no matter how anyone tries to explain or justify it, it is like a slap in the face. It tells us that while we are citizens in our own country, our comings and goings are restricted because portions of the country no longer belong to its people. They belong to the people living in the Green Republic.


Plenty to Hide

And Iraq's Justice Minister, Abdel Hussein Shandal, is getting tired of waiting:
Saddam, 68, has been jailed under American control at a U.S. military detention complex near Baghdad airport named Camp Cropper, which holds 110 high-profile detainees.

But Shandal alleged that U.S. officials deliberately are trying to limit access to Saddam because they have their own secrets to protect, including funneling money and support to Iraqi leader during his rule.

"It seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide," Shandal said.

"There should be transparency and there should be frankness, but there are secrets that if revealed, won't be in the interest of many countries," he said. "Who was helping Saddam all those years?"

Who, indeed?


The Queen of Hearts Is Doomed

Why, you ask?
The long-awaited film adaption of American McGee's Alice is finally about to go into production, with Sarah Michelle Gellar starring as Alice. Marcus Nispel, who did the Texas Chainsaw remake, is directing the film for Universal.

Adapted by Erich and Jon Hoeber, Alice returns to a dark and dangerous Wonderland after the murder of her family and the destruction of the home. It's in Wonderland that Alice must confront her fears before she can return to her normal life.


New Hope in California and Canada

Another chance for gay marriage:

Legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in California that died three weeks ago in the state Assembly has been reborn.

Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said Monday night that he intends to bring the measure back in the current session - this time as an attachment to a bill already before the Senate.

On June 2, the Assembly narrowly defeated Leno's first bill that would have legalized gay marriage in the state. (story) The measure lost by a slim four votes in the 80 seat Assembly after a quarter of the Democrats voted with Republicans to reject it.

Leno, one of six openly gay members of the Legislature, told the Associated Press he will attempt to use a legislative maneuver known as "gut and amend" to resurrect the bill.
Meanwhile, in Canada, the Liberal government has deployed the ultimate motivator to get Parliament to do the right thing: Keeping them from going on vacation until they do:
Canada's minority Liberal government has served notice it will ask MPs to extend Parliament's sitting indefinitely, which could bring same-sex marriage legislation to a vote.

In what amounts to a game of summer-vacation chicken, Liberal House leader Tony Valeri gave notice Monday of a votable motion to extend the Commons sitting beyond the scheduled June 23 recess.

Bill C-38, which would change the legal definition of marriage in Canada, is supported by a clear majority of MPs in the Commons.

But procedural wrangling has left the bill stalled in a legislative eddy.


National Insecurity

If you need more evidence that this administration is fundamentally unserious about actually making the nation (and the world) more secure, here it is:
Sixteen foreign-born construction workers with phony immigration documents were able to enter a nuclear weapons plant in eastern Tennessee because of lax security controls, a federal report said Monday.
the DOE inspector general's office said in the report issued Monday that its field agents found "official use only" documents "lying unprotected in a construction trailer which was accessed by the foreign construction workers" at the plant.

"Thus, these individuals were afforded opportunities to access ... (this) information," the inspector general wrote. "We concluded that this situation represented a potentially serious access control and security problem."

The report, initiated by a tip in 2004, said the workers had fake green cards that certified them to work in the United States. Their cases were turned over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for deportation.

The Y-12 plant, created for the top-secret Manhattan Project that developed nuclear bombs in World War II, makes parts for nuclear warheads and is the country's principal storehouse for weapons-grade uranium. The plant in Oak Ridge, about 25 miles west of Knoxville, has been criticized for losing keys to sensitive areas and purported cheating on security drills, weaknesses that officials say have been corrected.



Monday, June 20, 2005

Being Right-Wing Makes You Stupid

Oliver Willis catches a wingnut blogger being very, very stupid.

How stupid?

In his zeal to show just how un-American we leftists are, Marc of USS Neverdock (no, I will not link to that nonsensical site) posts pictures of "left-wingers" at the funeral of a fallen soldier, carrying signs that say "Thank God for 9/11" and "America Is Doomed." On top of all that, these American-hating lefties show their true stripes by carrying signs saying, "Fags Doom Nations."

The problem?

These protestors are followers of the renowned right-wing anti-gay bigot Fred Phelps.


A Victory for Whales

Japan (perhaps taking a lesson from the behavior of our glorious Senate regarding a certain lynching-related bill?) was going for secret ballots regarding whaling regulations.

They failed:
Japan suffered a major setback on the first day of the International Whaling Commission meeting in South Korea after losing a vote to allow secret ballots.

New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter said from the meeting last night that member countries had narrowly voted against the proposal, 30-27, despite Japan’s confidence it would succeed.

"Japan must be furious."

Japan wanted a secret ballot to take pressure off countries making unpopular decisions.


Lawlessness + Surveillance

How much more will it take before Congress begins getting at least a little upset at being ignored and kicked around by the Executive Branch?
A federal agency collected extensive personal information about airline passengers although Congress told it not to and it said it wouldn't, according to documents obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

A Transportation Security Administration contractor used three data brokers to collect detailed information about U.S. citizens who flew on commercial airlines in June 2004 in order to test a terrorist screening program called Secure Flight, according to documents that will be published in the Federal Register this week.


Re-education Camps in America

Absolutely vile:

The gay teen in Tennessee who “came out” to his parents last month and was promptly sent to a “Love In Action International Inc.” refuge for reparative treatment has to stay at the fundamentalist Christian institution for a further six weeks, DetourMemphis is reporting.

The sixteen-years-old known as “Zach” was expected to leave the “refuge” today (June 20). He is believed to live in suburban Memphis.
According to someone who claims to be a friend of Zach’s, the teen is staying another six weeks at the LIA refuge because his parents find it “necessary and effective.”

Love in Action International Inc. claims to be able to “cure” gays in most cases. But “…sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be altered. Groups who try to change the sexual orientation of people through so-called conversion therapy are misguided and run the risk of causing a great deal of psychological harm…” says Dr. Raymond Fowler PhD along with the vast majority of contemporary American – and world-wide – psychological opinion.

I shudder to think what sort of psychological damage they are inflicting on this boy. Child abuse, plain and simple.


Getting Ready to Cut and Run

Condi Rice is hinting at how Bush plans to withdraw without admitting defeat:
The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has begun to outline a withdrawal strategy for American troops in Iraq.
She did not comment directly on the claim but said Americans needed to understand Iraq does not need an army of hundreds of thousands, "because it isn't facing an enemy like that. What they face is an insurgency and they need to be able to run counter-insurgency operations. Once they can do that, we can begin to start a withdrawal process."

US troops would not need to stay in Iraq until the insurgency was defeated but Iraqi security forces would have to take over responsibility for beating the insurgents at some stage.
The Administration now accepts that US troops will not utterly defeat the insurgency and that if writing and approving a constitution can be completed in time for elections in December, withdrawal of some forces could begin early next year.

President George Bush will focus on Iraq in the next few weeks with a series of speeches and a prime-time television address designed to reassure Americans that progress is being made, despite the insurgency there.

That's right, Bush is going to give the insurgents a "timeline" so they can just "wait us out." Didn't he--repeatedly--proclaim that that would be a huge mistake?


Gay Rights Realpolitik

A smart move in Arizona:
In a bold move a gay rights group has organized to consider a drive to collect enough signatures to place a measure on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage but allow civil unions.

The aim is to provide an alternative to a proposed amendment already heading to voters to ban both marriage and any form of recognition of gay and lesbian couples.


The Next War

The war on Iran, according to Scott Ritter, who I think has earned the right to be trusted on such matters, is not a thing of the hypothetical future. It has already begun:
Americans, and indeed much of the rest of the world, continue to be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the fact that overt conventional military operations have not yet commenced between the United States and Iran.

As such, many hold out the false hope that an extension of the current insanity in Iraq can be postponed or prevented in the case of Iran. But this is a fool's dream.

The reality is that the US war with Iran has already begun. As we speak, American over flights of Iranian soil are taking place, using pilotless drones and other, more sophisticated, capabilities.

The violation of a sovereign nation's airspace is an act of war in and of itself. But the war with Iran has gone far beyond the intelligence-gathering phase.

President Bush has taken advantage of the sweeping powers granted to him in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, to wage a global war against terror and to initiate several covert offensive operations inside Iran.

The most visible of these is the CIA-backed actions recently undertaken by the Mujahadeen el-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group, once run by Saddam Hussein's dreaded intelligence services, but now working exclusively for the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

It is bitter irony that the CIA is using a group still labelled as a terrorist organisation, a group trained in the art of explosive assassination by the same intelligence units of the former regime of Saddam Hussein, who are slaughtering American soldiers in Iraq today, to carry out remote bombings in Iran of the sort that the Bush administration condemns on a daily basis inside Iraq.
To the north, in neighbouring Azerbaijan, the US military is preparing a base of operations for a massive military presence that will foretell a major land-based campaign designed to capture Tehran.

Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld's interest in Azerbaijan may have escaped the blinkered Western media, but Russia and the Caucasus nations understand only too well that the die has been cast regarding Azerbaijan's role in the upcoming war with Iran.


Times: Bush Has Jumped the Shark

Over three long years as an extraordinarily lame duck now lie before him:
Five months after President Bush was sworn in for another four years, his political authority appears to be ebbing, both within his own party, where members of Congress are increasingly if sporadically going their own way, and among Democrats, who have discovered that they pay little or no price for defying him.
In a few instances - most notably the centerpiece of his second-term agenda, his call to reshape Social Security - he is dangerously close to a fiery wreck that could have lasting consequences for his standing and for the Republican Party.
"The political capital he thought he had has dwindled to very little, and he overstated how much he had to begin with," said Allan J. Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington.
In the last week, Mr. Bush has responded by lashing out at Democrats, casting them as obstructionists, a strategy that carries some risk given that it seems to acknowledge an inability by Republicans to carry out a governing platform.
Mr. Bush has offered nothing new in the way of policy but is instead reiterating his views that the war in Iraq is worth the sacrifices it has demanded and that his approaches on issues like energy and trade are the best way of addressing economic jitters. But his message is being undercut somewhat by the more outspoken mavericks in his own party.
Hmmm. He's in trouble, so he lashes out at others while offering nothing new in the way of policy. Yeah, that's our Bush.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Some Verse for Georgie

I just ran across this Kipling poem, and I think it should be, if not engraved on Bush's tombstone, at least read at his funeral:
A Dead Statesman (1924)

I could not dig, I dared not rob,
And so I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue,
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale will serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)


Happy Father's Day

And here's a story about a man who knows what it means to be a father these days. Too bad we don't have a government that is as conscientious:

Marine Pfc. Jeremy Tod, 19, called home with news that his superiors were urging him and fellow Marines to buy special military equipment, including flak jackets with armor plating, to enhance the prospects of their survival. The message was that such purchases were to be made by Marines with their own money.

"He said they strongly suggested he get this equipment because when they get to Iraq they will wish they had," Tod said. Total estimated cost: $600.

Tod said his son's call about two weeks ago from the Marine Corps Air Station-Yuma was a sobering reminder that the military is not prepared to equip Pfc. Tod and fellow Marines with the best equipment.

Besides the essential flak jacket with steel "trauma" plates, the shopping list for the 5-foot-5 155-pound Marine included a Camelbak (water pouch) special ballistic goggles, knee and elbow pads, a "drop pouch" to hold ammunition magazines and a load-bearing vest.

Tod, 45, is picking up the tab for a son who blew most of his savings on a new pickup truck. And dad says he is tempted to forward the bill to the Pentagon. "Or maybe I can write it off in taxes," he said with a grin.


American Ingenuity at Work

Not enough illegals to work hard and take very little pay? Send in the kids! Truly, we are building a bridge to the nineteenth century:
Tighter controls of border crossings between the U.S. and Mexico have led to a shortage of strawberry pickers in Oregon, leaving some prized berries to rot on the vines during prime picking weeks.

Traditional seasonal workers from south of the border have not shown up this year, said Daniel Quiones, the migrant seasonal farm workers representative from the Employment Department.

``There's just not as many people,'' he said. ``There's fear about crossing the border and insecurity because of the Minuteman Project.''

The Minuteman Project involved civilian volunteers who patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border this spring by ground and air. Since then, the federal government has beefed up border patrols.

Jim Ludwick, president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, said he felt sorry for the farmers, but that the situation does not justify more immigration to the state.

Instead of clamoring for the cheap labor, farmers should be lobbying Oregon legislators to remove the restrictions on children working the fields, Ludwick said.

``A number of years ago, those strawberries would have been picked by Oregon schoolchildren,'' he said.


Recruiting Is Up

Once again, not for the US military, but for the forces opposing the occupation. Somewhere, bin Laden is laughing his ass off at George W. Bush. And justifiably so:
Islamic militant networks are on a recruiting drive across Europe for potential suicide bombers in Iraq, according to US and European police and security sources.
Evidence of the rise in recruitment in Europe has emerged as concern grows that sympathy for the conflict is spreading to mainstream Islamic communities that have thus far rejected violence. There are fears of an 'Afghanistan effect' in a new generation of young men, inspiring them to fight the Americans in Iraq in the same way that a previous generation flocked to fight the Russians.

In the past six months, old and dormant networks - including some that had been concerned with violence in north Africa, others with the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and others in criminality - have been reactivated across Europe.


Mukhtaran Wins

Kristof updates the story once more. You should read the whole thing, but the upshot is this:
Hats off to this incredible woman. President Musharraf may have ousted rivals and overthrown a civilian government, but he has now met his match - a peasant woman with a heart of gold and a will of steel.


Green Light for Gaybashing

Not a single day in jail for this brutality:
A 19 year old who participated in an attack on a gay high school student - beaten so badly he needed reconstructive face surgery - has been sentenced to probation.

The 18 year old victim still is so frightened for his safety that police will not release his name.

Police say the student had gone to a party being thrown by other teens. Soon after he arrived on of the three assailants asked him if he were gay or bisexual.

When he answered yes, he was struck in the face. When he fell to the floor the others then beat and kicked him until he was nearly unconscious. Two of the attackers - Calahan and Lathers - were wearing steel tipped shoes. Gibson was wearing tennis shoes.

Several girls at the party managed to drag him from the onslaught and help him to a hospital.


Calling Bush Out

Hagel's speaking out again:
Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

That's strikingly blunt talk from a member of the president's party, even one cast as something of a pariah in the GOP because of his early skepticism about the war. "I got beat up pretty good by my own party and the White House that I was not a loyal Republican," he says. Today, he notes, things are changing: "More and more of my colleagues up here are concerned."

Indeed, there are signs that the politics of the Iraq war are being reshaped by the continuing tide of bad news. Take this month in Iraq, with 47 U.S. troops killed in the first 15 days. That's already five more than the toll for the entire month of June last year. With the rate of insurgent attacks near an all-time high and the war's cost set to top $230 billion, more politicians on both sides of the aisle are responding to opinion polls that show a growing number of Americans favoring a withdrawal from Iraq. Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee and Lindsey Graham have voiced their concerns. And two Republicans, including the congressman who brought "freedom fries" to the Capitol, even joined a pair of Democratic colleagues in sponsoring a bill calling for a troop withdrawal plan to be drawn up by year's end. "I feel confident that the opposition is going to build," says Rep. Ron Paul, the other Republican sponsor and a longtime opponent of the war.