Saturday, July 09, 2005

What I Learned Last Night

The best place in the world to sit and drink champagne in celebration of the birth of one's first niece is a front porch that you've spent several days building with your own father in 100-degree heat.

Congratulations, G and D!!


Fox: Network of Assholes

The Guardian is calling them on their bullshit:
Rupert Murdoch's Fox News channel was under fire yesterday for comments by some of its leading journalists in response to the London bombs.

Speaking about the reaction of the financial markets, Brit Hume, the channel's Washington managing editor, said: "Just on a personal basis ... I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought 'hmm, time to buy'."

The host of a Fox News programme, Brian Kilmeade, said the attacks had the effect of putting terrorism back on the top of the G8's agenda, in place of global warming and African aid. "I think that works to our advantage, in the western world's advantage, for people to experience something like this together, just 500 miles from where the attacks have happened."

Another Fox News host, John Gibson, said before the blasts that the International Olympic Committee "missed a golden opportunity" by not awarding the 2012 games to France. "If they had picked France instead of London to hold the Olympics, it would have been the one time we could look forward to where we didn't worry about terrorism. They'd blow up Paris, and who cares?" He added: "This is why I thought the Brits should let the French have the Olympics - let somebody else be worried about guys with backpack bombs for a while."

Media Matters for America, a watchdog and frequent critic of Fox, criticised the comments on its website. "I think it's absolutely sickening three Fox anchors had such callous reactions to the bombings that took dozens of lives," said the Jamison Foser, of the group.

The Fox News media relations office had not responded by the time the Guardian went to press yesterday.


Still Crazy After All These Years

Judith Miller has long been quite a piece of work. It's about time that she gets her comeuppance:

The scenario sounds somehow familiar: in support of a somewhat loopy Republican president's campaign against an Arab dictator, Judith Miller was willing to plant official US disinformation in the New York Times.

The year was 1986.

Nine years into her tenure at the New York Times, she participated in John Poindexter's disinformation campaign against Libya for the Reagan administration. As Bob Woodward later revealed in the Washington Post, Miller planted Poindexter's propaganda in her own writings: claiming that el-Khadaffi was being betrayed from within his own country, that he had sunk into depression, and had turned to drugs. Miller went on to claim Khadaffi had tried to have sex with her, but lost interest when she claimed Jewish heritage.


Oregon Victory


The Oregon Senate on Friday passed an omnibus LGBT civil rights bill that includes civil unions and the inclusion of gays and lesbians in Oregon's nondiscrimination act.

The bill would create a civil unions registry and grant same-sex couples many of the rights available to married couples including inheritance benefits, pensions, property rights when a partner dies, and the right to make medical decisions for a partner.

The bill, which has the support of Gov. Ted Kulongoski, also adds sexual orientation to a law that forbids discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion and several other factors.


Fighting for His Right to Par-ty

A truer patriot was never born:
A man arrested when police showed up to break up a New Year's Eve party at a friend's house has filed a lawsuit, arguing he had a constitutional right to get drunk on private property as long as he didn't cause a public disturbance.
"One thing people should be able to do is drink in their own house," Laverriere told The Boston Globe. "That's the beauty of the land of the free."


Family Values

A bit of a temper:

Evangelist Billy Graham's daughter was arrested and charged with domestic abuse after witnesses told police she choked her husband in a parking lot, authorities said.


Friday, July 08, 2005


With so many victories, I'm amazed that we haven't won:
U.S. and Iraqi forces have "mostly eliminated" the ability of insurgents to conduct sustained, high-intensity attacks in Baghdad, the top U.S. commander in the Iraqi capital said Friday.
Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr. said in a video-teleconference interview from Baghdad with reporters at the Pentagon that offensive operations by U.S. and Iraqi troops in recent weeks had sharply reduced the number of insurgent bombings. But he cautioned against concluding that the insurgency has been broken.

"It's very difficult to know it's over," Webster said.



This pisses me off more than I can express. Just one more example of Bush's "fuck everyone who isn't me" mentality:
U.S. groups fighting AIDS overseas are being given an ultimatum by the government: Pledge your opposition to sex trafficking and prostitution or do without federal funds.

The new rule has created confusion among health groups that wonder how it will affect them, and has drawn criticism from others who say it infringes on free speech rights and could do more harm than good.

It will affect about $2.2 billion in AIDS grants and contracts this year, according to Kent Hill, acting administrator for global health at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which recently issued a policy directive outlining the regulation.
Terri Bartlett, vice president for public policy at Population Action International, a health advocacy group for women's issues, said while she agrees with the idea behind the pledge, she thinks the government is infringing on health organizations' free speech rights by requiring it.

"There's a litmus test of issues and organizations' positions on those issues, and regardless of their ability, they will be judged by that position," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said that while she agreed with the pledge requirement's premise that prostitution is a harmful occupation, it may have the unintended effect of deterring prostitutes from seeking help by unnecessarily singling them out.

"We want to build trust and reduce stigma," Bartlett said of dealing with the high-risk population of prostitutes. "This policy flies in the face of what we know works."


Rightwing Madness

Dissent calls Rush Limbaugh for the madman that he is:
Can you imagine the feigned outrage on the right, if Howard Dean said this:

"Very powerful, excellent, and it was such a great contrast to what we were seeing in our own media this morning with the hand-wringing I was speaking about and the, "Oh, woe is us," and, "Oh, what did we do to cause this," and, "Oh, does this mean we're going to get hit?" and, oh, blah, blah, blah. It's like I said, 40 people dead, 150 seriously wounded, 1,000 wounded out of over a million people in that transit tube. It's not a successful terrorist attack, folks. They didn't succeed in doing anything."


Cleaning House in Venezuela

Wow. Chavez has some radical notions about, you know, national sovereignty and stuff:
A Venezuelan opposition figure who was received by US President George Bush is to go on trial with three colleagues, accused of conspiring to change the government using US funds.

Judge Norma Sandoval ruled on Thursday that Maria Corina Machado and three other members of her Sumate group - which helped organise a referendum against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez nearly a year ago - are being charged with "conspiracy to change Venezuela's republican system".


Defunding the Bigots

Good news:
A federal judge has ruled the Pentagon can no longer spend millions in government money to ready a Virginia military base for a national Boy Scout event typically held every four years, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning's June 22 order stems from a 1999 lawsuit by the ACLU of Illinois that claimed the Defense Department sponsorship violates the First Amendment because the Scouts require members to swear an oath of duty to God.

If only the Boy Scouts had the sense to realize that some people aren't theists. And that it's okay to be gay, for that matter...


Why You Should Never Crossbreed Sheep and Lemmings

First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.

In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported.

"There's nothing we can do. They're all wasted," Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of 26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd, was quoted as saying by Aksam.

The estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas, located in Van province in eastern Turkey, tops $100,000, a significant amount of money in a country where average GDP per head is around $2,700.


Another "Pro-Lifer" Jailed

A man who once claimed to be on a mission from God to kill abortion providers was sentenced Thursday to 19 years in federal prison for mailing hundreds of letters with fake anthrax to women's clinics.

Clayton Lee Waagner, 48, was convicted in 2003 of mailing the letters and of posting a message on an anti-abortion Web site claiming he'd been following clinic employees and was "going to kill as many of them as I can."

At his trial, Waagner called himself a terrorist and said people who provide abortions deserved to be shot.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Only Thing

The only thing worse than the deaths that occurred today are the deaths that will occur because of the deaths that occurred today.


On the Misuses of Science (Bisexuals Exist Damn It!)

Echidne has this on the recent study purporting to show that women just hurt more than men do:

The study appears to have used a test where the subjects first immersed their armin warm water and then in ice-cold water, and the tolerance of pain was measured bythe amount of time the subjects kept their arm in the icy water. On average, men kept their arm in longer.There have been several studies that analyse pain experiences by gender and many of them have had similar results. What the studies can't tell us is why these differences exist (if they do).
Echidne, always insightful, goes on to point out the foibles of such studies. My extrapolation is that when "scientific" studies manage to reinforce cultural stereotypes, they deserve a bit a scrutiny.

Which point brings me to yet another study, one which purports to prove that I don't exist. This one angered me so much that I couldn't even comment upon it when I first saw it a few days ago:

The study, by a team of psychologists in Chicago and Toronto, lends support to those who have long been skeptical that bisexuality is a distinct and stable sexual orientation.

People who claim bisexuality, according to these critics, are usually homosexual, but are ambivalent about their homosexuality or simply closeted. "You're either gay, straight or lying," as some gay men have put it.

Okay, let us first of all make note of the rhetorical tactic embodied in "as some gay men have put it." Divide and conquer, much? Oh, look, even some queers say that those bisexuals are kidding themselves, therefore...

Anyway, let's press on:
In the new study, a team of psychologists directly measured genital arousal patterns in response to images of men and women. The psychologists found that men who identified themselves as bisexual were in fact exclusively aroused by either one sex or the other, usually by other men.
The point of the story, let me remind you, is that bisexuals don't really exist as an "identity." I am not going to go into the fundamental problems with considering sexual orientation an identity here, but I just want to point out that this "story" debunking bisexuality is all about "genital arousal patterns."

And that pisses me off a bit. As it should you. No one's--and I mean no one's--sexual orientation can be boiled down to scientifically studied "genital arousal patterns." We're just rather more complex that that.

Anyway the story ultimately collapses upon itself, if you have the nerve to read through to the end, and shows that what is masquerading as science is once again bigotry beneath a rationalistic veil:
Although only a small number of women identify themselves as bisexual, Dr. Bailey said, bisexual arousal may for them in fact be the norm.

So, after all, bi men are nonexistent freaks, and women are, as they should be, nice and bi, ready, as it were, for their porn close-ups, Mr. DeMille.



Another Bloody Thursday

London has been hit hard:
Two people have been killed and scores have been injured after at least seven blasts on the Underground network and a double-decker bus in London.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was "reasonably clear" there had been a series of terrorist attacks.

He said it was "particularly barbaric" that it was timed to coincide with the G8 summit. He is returning to London.

An Islamist website has posted a statement - purportedly from al-Qaeda - claiming it was behind the attacks.

London's police chief Sir Ian Blair said there had been "many casualties" but it was too early to put a figure to those killed or injured.

More than 100 casualties and one of the dead were taken to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.

And St Mary's Hospital said it was dealing with 26 injured people, including four with critical injuries and eight in a serious condition.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bush: Gravity's Bitch

What is it with this guy? Somebody needs to keep him away from wheeled vehicles:
President Bush collided with a local police officer and fell during a bike ride on the grounds of the Gleneagles golf resort while attending a meeting of world leaders Wednesday.

Bush suffered scrapes on his hands and arms that required bandages by the White House physician, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

The police officer was taken to a local hospital as a precaution, McClellan said. The extent of the officer's injuries was not known, but he might have an ankle injury, the spokesman said.

And I have to say I wish the bobby would've bopped him.


Tribe Blocks Adoption

The issues are here are far too complicated for me to comment on right now, but it looks to be messy:
Kelly Buffalo, an American Indian from the Meskwaki tribe, believes her newborn son will have a better future if a white Indiana couple adopts him. Some in her tribe disagree.

Shortly after Buffalo gave birth six weeks ago, tribal officials temporarily took custody of her son, asserting the tribe's privilege under state law to protect the cultural heritage of the child and the tribe.

On Tuesday, a tribal judge reversed its decision and granted full legal custody to the mother, who says she will continue pursuing adoption for her son, Braven. But the first step involves receiving consent from the Meskwaki Tribal Council.

"This is really frustrating," Buffalo, 22, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "It's my baby and should be my decision. I'm probably more mad at what is happening than anything else."

Larry Lassley, executive director of the tribe, said the tribe has the authority under the Indian Child Welfare Act to intervene in adoption cases involving children of tribal members.

Lassley said the law was designed to prevent state and private adoption agencies from wrongfully taking away descendants of tribal members, as well as ensuring the option of keeping those children within the tribal community.

"The tribal council initially determined that the best interests of the child was to have the child remain within the boundaries of the Meskwaki settlement," Lassley said. "It can be a very important and serious decision to make ... and a determination could be made in spite of the mother's view on who adopts her child."



That's all I can say. Right-wingers are attacking Gonzales for being too soft on affirmative action and abortion. Meanwhile, the leader of the Senate Democrats is proclaiming Gonzales, who had a hand in America's policy okaying torture, to be "qualified" to serve on the Supreme Court. I need to go back to bed:
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday pronounced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, but added, "I don't know if he'd have an easy way through" Senate confirmation.
Reid also chided conservatives for criticizing Gonzales while Bush was overseas. "I think it's too bad the president has to respond in Denmark about statements from the far right," he said. "People here have gone a little too far."

Gonzales was confirmed as attorney general by a vote of 60-36 earlier this year as Republicans overrode Democratic critics who said he had helped formulate White House policies that led to torture of prisoners held overseas as part of the war on terror.


Casualties of War

The Palm Beach Post has a map of the United States detailing the number of US casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan by town. The map permits you to zoom in to find your own city and click on it to learn the names of soldiers from your own community who have been lost to these invasions.



For how long will the GOP keeping bringing up the inane and meaningless term "war on terror," given that the US is less than confident that we are, you know, "winning"? (Also, not the last half of the last sentence, which provides further prove that our educational system is shot to hell.)
The latest Gallup poll, released today, finds that not only is there increasing public frustration with the war in Iraq, but the public "is not too confident that the United States and its allies are winning the war against terrorism," Gallup reports.

About a third of Americans think the United States is winning the war on terror, while 20% say the terrorists are winning; 41% say neither side is winning. This is the second consecutive survey in which 20% of respondents say the terrorists are winning.

The number saying the U.S. is winning, 36%, is the lowest mark in more than two years.

Not surprisingly, Democrats are less likely to say the U.S. winning, while young people (age 18-29) are most likely, with nearly half of them believing it.


Hell Freezes Over Again

Pat Robertson--yes, that Pat Robertson--is doing the right thing for a change:
When asked if his group Operation Blessing would promote "the responsible use of condoms" along with abstinence in its AIDS education program in Africa, Robertson answered, "Absolutely." Pat Robertson!

"I just don't think we can close our eyes to human nature," he continued, adding that with regard to teaching proper condom use, "you have to do that, given the magnitude."


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Heteros Killed Marriage

A brilliant piece by Stephanie Coontz, giving the lie to all those morons who argue that the sorts of marriage they are "protecting" against same-sex couples are at all "traditional":
James Dobson of the evangelical group Focus on the Family has warned that without that ban, marriage as we have known it for 5,000 years will be overturned.

My research on marriage and family life seldom leads me to agree with Dr. Dobson, much less to accuse him of understatement. But in this case, Dr. Dobson's warnings come 30 years too late. Traditional marriage, with its 5,000-year history, has already been upended. Gays and lesbians, however, didn't spearhead that revolution: heterosexuals did.


Now More Than Ever...

considering the more-or-less imminent departure of O'Connor from the Supreme Court, we have to fight to keep abortion safe and legal. And to keep those who perform safe, legal abortions safe from murderous "right-to-lifers":
A suspicious fire damaged an abortion clinic, and federal agents launched an investigation, authorities said Tuesday.
It appeared that lighter fluid or some other accelerant was used to start the blaze, fire department spokesman Phil Kaplan said.



A little bit of absurdity to lighten the mood:
Marina Bai has sued the U.S. space agency, claiming the Deep Impact probe that punched a crater into the comet Tempel 1 late Sunday "ruins the natural balance of forces in the universe," the newspaper Izvestia reported Tuesday. A Moscow court has postponed hearings on the case until late July, the paper said.
The probe's comet crash sent up a cloud of debris that scientists hope to examine to learn how the solar system was formed.

Bai is seeking damages totaling $300 million — the approximate equivalent of the mission's cost — for her "moral sufferings," Izvestia said, citing her lawyer Alexander Molokhov. She earlier told the paper that the experiment would "deform her horoscope."


Chomsky Is Right Again

It's imperialism, stupid.


Dissing Dean

Yet one more reason to scorn the majority of Democrats in Washington:
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is trying to get voters to hold the Republican Party responsible for the "culture of corruption" he sees in Washington, but Dean is getting virtually no help from fellow Democrats in the House.

During the year since then-Rep. Chris Bell, D-Texas, filed the complaint that triggered the ethics investigation of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, not one Democrat has initiated another complaint, despite the pleas of outside watchdog groups.

House Democrats are victims of "a kind of mind-set that too often creeps in in Washington — to get along, go along," Bell said. "There's not a more adversarial act you can take in the House than an ethics complaint, and some people just don't have the stomach for it."
"Howard Dean is pretty much out there on his own (among Democrats) in trying to take on the 'culture of corruption,' " said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the nonpartisan group that drafted the complaint Bell filed against DeLay in June 2004.


Flypaper Has Become Magnet

The war on metaphors continues:
Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the prime training ground for foreign terrorists who could travel elsewhere across the globe and wreak havoc, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials and classified studies by the CIA and the State Department.
Iraq's emergence as a terrorist training ground appears to challenge President Bush's rationale for invading and overthrowing leader Saddam Hussein in March 2003.

"To complete the mission, we will prevent al-Qaida and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends," the president said in a nationally televised address last Tuesday.

But Iraq wasn't a source of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism under Saddam and played no role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Critics argue that the U.S. invasion harmed, rather than helped, the war on terror by acting as a magnet and recruiting tool.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Newsflash: Gov Perry Is a Dick

And this time, he was a dick to, of all people, war veterans:
Nearly 500 people - many of them LGBT veterans - demonstrated at the Texas Capitol in Austin Friday night to show their anger at Gov. Rick Perry.

Last month, after Perry signed a bill sending to voters a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage he referred to gays who were protesting outside as gripers. (story)

The governor was then asked at a press conference how he would tell Texas gay and lesbian war veterans that they cannot come home from the war in Iraq and get married.

"Texans made a decision about marriage and if there's a state that has more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's a better place for them to live," Perry replied.


Growth Industry

Arlington National Cemetery is adding 26,000 graves to the roughly 215,000 already in place on the sweeping lawns across the Potomac River from the nation's capital. An additional 77,000 remains are in columbariums, tombs for urns with cremated remains.

The primary reason, it should be noted, is the aging population of WWII veterans...


Our Torturers

Gruesome is putting it mildly. And a huge part of the responsibility lies squarely with us:

The video camera pans across Hassan an-Ni'ami's body as it is washed in the mosque for burial. In life he was a slender, good-looking man, usually dressed in a dark robe and white turban, Imam at a mosque in Baghdad's Adhimiya district and a senior official of the Muslim Clerics Association.

When I first interviewed him a year ago he was suspected of contacts with the insurgency. Certainly he supported resistance to US forces.

More recently, an-Ni'ami had dropped out of sight. Then, a little over a month ago, relatives say, paramilitary police commandos from 'Rapid Intrusion' found him at a family home in the Sha'ab neighbourhood of northern Baghdad. His capture was reported on television as that of a senior 'terrorist commander'. Twelve hours later his body turned up in the morgue.

What happened to him in his 24 hours in captivity was written across his body in chapters of pain, recorded by the camera. There are police-issue handcuffs still attached to one wrist, from which he was hanged long enough to cause his hands and wrists to swell. There are burn marks on his chest, as if someone has placed something very hot near his right nipple and moved it around.

A little lower are a series of horizontal welts, wrapping around his body and breaking the skin as they turn around his chest, as if he had been beaten with something flexible, perhaps a cable. There are other injuries: a broken nose and smaller wounds that look like cigarette burns.

An arm appears to have been broken and one of the higher vertebrae is pushed inwards. There is a cluster of small, neat circular wounds on both sides of his left knee. At some stage an-Ni'ami seems to have been efficiently knee-capped. It was not done with a gun - the exit wounds are identical in size to the entry wounds, which would not happen with a bullet. Instead it appears to have been done with something like a drill.

What actually killed him however were the bullets fired into his chest at close range, probably by someone standing over him as he lay on the ground. The last two hit him in the head.

The gruesome detail is important. Hanging by the arms in cuffs, scorching of the body with something like an iron and knee-capping are claimed to be increasingly prevalent in the new Iraq. Now evidence is emerging that appears to substantiate those claims. Not only Iraqis make the allegations. International officials describe the methods in disgusted but hushed tones, laying them at the door of the increasingly unaccountable forces attached to Iraq's Ministry of the Interior.


What is most shocking is that it is done under the noses of US and UK officials, some f whom admit that they are aware of the abuses being perpetrated by units who are iverting international funding to their dirty war.



If this warning is accurate, just imagine what such skrocketing energy prices would do to the American economy, especially during the winter, and the holiday spend-a-thon on which so many retailers and travel-based industries depend:
Oil prices could rocket to $100 within six months, plunging the world into an unprecedented fuel crisis, controversial Texan oil analyst Matt Simmons has warned.

After crude surged through $60 a barrel last week, nervous investors were pinning their hopes on a build-up in US oil-stocks to depress prices in the coming months.

But Simmons believes surging demand will keep prices bubbling well above $50. 'We could be at $100 by this winter. We have the biggest risk we have ever had of demand exceeding supply. We are now just about to face up to the biggest crisis we have ever had,' he said.


Rove Is a Traitor

Well, I'm jumping the gun a bit, perhaps (wild allegations aren't just for Republicans anymore!), but preliminary indications are that Rove may have good reason to be sweating a bit just now:

Its legal appeals exhausted, Time magazine agreed last week to turn over reporter Matthew Cooper's e-mails and computer notes to a special prosecutor investigating the leak of an undercover CIA agent's identity. The case has been the subject of press controversy for two years. Saying "we are not above the law," Time Inc. Editor in Chief Norman Pearlstine decided to comply with a grand-jury subpoena to turn over documents related to the leak.
The e-mails surrendered by Time Inc., which are largely between Cooper and his editors, show that one of Cooper's sources was White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, according to two lawyers who asked not to be identified because they are representing witnesses sympathetic to the White House. Cooper and a Time spokeswoman declined to comment. But in an interview with NEWSWEEK, Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove had been interviewed by Cooper for the article. It is unclear, however, what passed between Cooper and Rove.