Saturday, July 30, 2005

Sweet Homeless Arkansas

Good times. Give those social workers big fat bonuses!

About 30 children, some as young as 3 months old, were left without their parents after immigration agents raided a poultry plant and took the parents away to face possible deportation.

By the by, I grew up in Arkansas, and huge swaths of the countryside are still feudal, in thrall of Lord Tyson.


Dying? Screw You!


The White House drug czar said Friday that medical marijuana is "dying out" after the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that federal authorities may prosecute sick people whose doctors prescribe pot to ease pain.

John Walters, the national drug policy director, said state legislative efforts to expand medical marijuana programs have stalled in the two months since the high court's ruling overrode laws in Hawaii and nine other states.

"I think it's dying out," Walters told reporters after a meeting with Hawaii drug treatment counselors and law enforcement officials. "The real issue here is, is it the safe and best way for medical treatment? We don't think the best thing for people who are really sick is to make them high and send them away."

To this I can only say: fuck you. Fuck what you think.


Bare Art

I have to say, this is a fine idea:
Vienna's prestigious Leopold Museum is usually a pretty buttoned-down place, but on Friday, some of the nudes in its marble galleries were for real.

Scores of naked or scantily clad people wandered the museum, lured by an offer of free entry to "The Naked Truth," a new exhibition of early 1900s erotic art, if they showed up wearing just a swimsuit — or nothing at all.

With a midsummer heat wave sweeping much of Europe, pushing temperatures into the mid-90s Fahrenheit in Vienna, the normally staid museum decided that making the most of its cool, climate-controlled space would be just the ticket to spur interest in the show.


A First Step

And, I have to say, shouldn't we alter the law, given our present President? I mean, "average intelligence" might be rather a bit beyond him, no?
A federal judge has ruled that some provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act dealing with foreign terrorist organizations remain too vague to be understood by a person of average intelligence and are therefore unconstitutional.


Friday, July 29, 2005

Bonus Cats!


Conscientious Objector Imprisoned

Being against war, and learning from one's mistakes, are dangerous these days:
Before being sentenced to 15 months for refusing to return to Iraq with his Army unit, Sgt. Kevin Benderman told a military judge that he acted with his conscience, not out of a disregard for duty.
Along with his prison sentence, Benderman will receive a dishonorable discharge and have his rank reduced to private.

The 40-year-old Army mechanic was embraced by anti-war advocates when he refused to go on a second combat tour in January, saying the destruction and misery he witnessed during the 2003 Iraq invasion had turned him against war.


Pushing It in Connecticut

Yes, the right-wingers' worst fears are true, it turns out! Gay couples want to be full citizens, not second-class:
Connecticut's decision to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples is being used in a lawsuit that seeks to force the state to allow gay couples full marriage rights.

Connecticut lawmakers legalized civil unions earlier this year, granting gay and lesbian couples the same legal rights as married couples but denying them the ability to wed.

Eight couples argue in a brief filed Thursday in New Haven Superior Court that if the state is willing to grant same-sex couples all of the legal rights and privileges of marriage, it has no reason to bar them from actually marrying.

"The civil union law undercuts any rationale the state ever could have had for denying marriage," said Ben Klein, a senior attorney with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. The group, known as GLAD, successfully challenged marriage laws in Massachusetts.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think the state has any place doing anything more than civil unions for anyone in the first place. But as long as there's state marriage, it should be for everyone.


Boosting Morale

I bet the soldiers in Iraq feel great when they see this going on:
A nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued Thursday reveals that the U.S. is spending as much as $33,000 per private security contractor per month -- some $396,000 per year on individual guards, RAW STORY has learned.

The report, entitled Rebuilding Iraq: Actions Needed to Improve Use of Private Security Providers, examined contractors hired directly by federal agencies to provide security in Iraq, as well as security subcontractors hired by other contractors to protect their personnel and reconstruction projects, and is viewable in PDF format here. This summary was prepared by the ranking member of the Government Reform Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).


Three for the Price of One Catblogging!

Apparently, it was Zora's turn to stand guard.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

"Minuteman" Leader Comes to His Senses

It took him a while, but he finally caught on to what he was doing:
The head of the Texas Minuteman Civil Defense Corps has quit, saying he has been unable to overcome racism among members in Goliad.
Parmley said he has become concerned that some of the Minuteman activists in his region have a vendetta against the Goliad County sheriff, who is Hispanic.

He asserted they also have made comments about shooting illegal immigrants or letting them die from dehydration.

"That's their mind-set, and I don't want my name and my reputation associated with a group of people who are racist like that," he said.


Shooting the Messenger

The thugs are active in California today:
An art exhibit in the cafeteria of the California Department of Justice is causing quite a stir. Actually, one particular piece of art: It’s a depiction of a map of the United States draped in a flag and going down a toilet.

The artist, California lawyer Stephen Pearcy, is used to controversy over his expressions.

But this time, it’s hotter than ever, with the California Republican Party demanding the removal of the artwork, and rightwing bloggers calling Pearcy a traitor, and one blog soliciting ideas for his assassination.
He mentioned a rightwing website called, which is run, he says, by Lynn Thomas of Streamwood, Illinois.

On that blog, Thomas, who goes by the name of Cao, is running a “Treason Hunters Contest.”

“I’m taking submissions for a contest about the anti-American left,” she writes. “I’m looking for a visual representation of what you would do if you were George Washington and someone like Stephen Pearcy was in your command. George Washington shot and hung ‘dissenters’ . . . people who went AWOL weren’t’ allowed to live.”

She provides a visual representation of her own on the site.

She displays a photo of Pearcy and has a blindfold superimposed over his eyes. Less than an inch from his forehead is a gun held by a masked soldier. Next to Pearcy’s torso are the words “Traitor” and “Infidel.”


The IRA Stands Down

I still cannot believe this is happening:
The IRA today announced its 36-year armed campaign was over, and that the paramilitary group will resume disarmament.

But in the long-awaited statement released at lunchtime, the republican group did not say it would disband.

The order said members were to pursue peaceful means and not to "engage in any other activities whatsoever" - a reference to the low-level paramilitary activities which have have angered not just unionists, but the London and Dublin governments.
The key passages of the lengthy statement read: "The leadership of [the IRA] has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign. This will take effect from 4pm this afternoon.

"All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means.

"Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever."


Malevolent Practice

The very notion that a health care professional would even attempt to deny care to someone because of their sexual orientation is so nauseating that any doctor or nurse making that argument should have their licenses revoked:
Community and health care groups are countering assertions by the California Medical Association and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations that doctors and medical clinics have the moral right to refuse treatment to gays and lesbians.

In a friend-of-the-court brief to the California Court of Appeal in San Diego a wide array of groups say it is unethical to pick and choose who receives medical services.

The case before the court involves fertility doctors who refused on religious grounds to inseminate their patient, Guadelupe "Lupita" Benitez, who is a lesbian.

"We think it's important for the community to recognize that the positions of the CMA and the CMDA in this case do not reflect generally accepted principles of ethics in the practice of medicine," said Joel Ginsberg, Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, one of the organizations which filed the amicus brief.

Benitez alleges that after she had received 11 months of preparatory treatment from the North Coast Women's Care Medical Group clinic in San Diego, and at "the critical and brief moment when Benitez needed to be inseminated", doctors Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton refused to inseminate her.

Both Brody and Fenton said that because of their personal religious beliefs about gay people, they would not administer the treatment Benitez had been promised. In court papers the doctors also say they object to treating unmarried heterosexual women and they claim that their fundamentalist Christian beliefs exempt them from California's civil rights laws.


Happy to Lose!

Another testament to the inability of Americans to form a coherent thought:
Most Americans don't believe the United States will succeed in winning the war in Iraq or establishing a stable democracy there, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll.

But an ambivalent public also says sending troops to Iraq wasn't a mistake, a sign that most people aren't yet ready to give up on the war.


Department of Justice Training Terrorists?

I for one tend to be on the side of absolute free flow of information, so I'm actually glad that the DoJ did this.

But I still am rather baffled as to what they were thinking. I find it hard to believe that they honestly agree with me, but that is what they claim:
The US Department of Justice has come under fire for posting an al-Qaeda training manual on its website.

The guide, found during a raid in Manchester, England, was used as evidence in an embassy bombing trial in New York, earlier this year.
The manual includes advice on how to go undetected on crowded public transport, how to communicate and avoid detection by the security services, and how to transport weapons and stop deterioration of explosives.

But a Justice Department official said parts of the manual had been withheld because the JD "does not want to aid in educating terrorists or encourage further acts of terrorism".

He told the BBC that the US public had a right to know "how these groups operate and some of the methods they use".


The Good Kind of Leak

Goddamn this administration for playing politics with, and for flat-out politicizing, so many government agencies. The latest is this, and three cheers for the staffer who sent it to the media:
With Congress poised for a final vote on the energy bill, the Environmental Protection Agency made an 11th-hour decision Tuesday to delay the planned release of an annual report on fuel economy.

But a copy of the report, embargoed for publication Wednesday, was sent to The New York Times by a member of the E.P.A. communications staff just minutes before the decision was made to delay it until next week. The contents of the report show that loopholes in American fuel economy regulations have allowed automakers to produce cars and trucks that are significantly less fuel-efficient, on average, than they were in the late 1980's.

Releasing the report this week would have been inopportune for the Bush administration, its critics said, because it would have come on the eve of a final vote in Congress on energy legislation six years in the making. The bill, as it stands, largely ignores auto mileage regulations.

The executive summary of the copy of the report obtained by The Times acknowledges that "fuel economy is directly related to energy security," because consumer cars and trucks account for about 40 percent of the nation's oil consumption. But trends highlighted in the report show that carmakers are not making progress in improving fuel economy, and environmentalists say the energy bill will do little to prod them.

"Something's fishy when the Bush administration delays a report showing no improvement in fuel economy until after passage of their energy bill, which fails to improve fuel economy," said Daniel Becker, the Sierra Club's top global warming strategist. "It's disturbing that despite high gas prices, an oil war and growing concern about global warming pollution, most automakers are failing to improve fuel economy."


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Unclear on the Concept

Rather a misguided work of art, I'd say:
A water company has given notice to a work of art which has already shed enough water to sprinkle half the lawns in Surrey.

The artist disconsolately conceded yesterday that his installation, The Running Tap, has probably run its course after pouring an estimated 800,000 litres (1.4m pints) down the drain during one of the worst droughts in the south-east in decades.

"Well that's it, isn't it?" Mark McGowan said miserably after a formal notice from Thames Water that if he does not turn the tap off, it will cut off the water to the entire gallery. "One way or another, I reckon it will be gone by Thursday.
He turned on the cold water tap, running into a sink in the kitchen space of the small artist-run House gallery in Camberwell, south-east London, on June 28.

He intended to leave it running for a year - to highlight, he insists, the way people waste water.

Next project: A five-story aerosol can spraying for a year, to protest the destruction of the ozone layer.


Cutting and Running

But I thought this administration was committed to remaining there until the Iraqis could maintain their own security? (Don't get me wrong, I think staying there is pointless at best for all concerned.)

Yet more hypocrisy, as the attacks continue, and Rummy starts talking about hitting the road quickly:
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld met with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari and the top U.S. commander in Iraq Wednesday and discussed specific steps to speed preparations for the withdrawal of some of the 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq beginning as early as next spring.

The tone of statements by Rumsfeld and Jafari, as well as the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, suggested a heightened determination and immediacy to planning for the U.S. troop reduction, despite the continuation of lethal daily attacks by insurgents in Iraq.



On the march, straight to the morgue:
If anyone had any lingering doubts about the full extent of violence in Iraq, they need only visit Baghdad's morgue.

The fridges and autopsy rooms of the beige stone block are crammed full of corpses, some of them so badly mutilated or decomposed that identification is nearly impossible.

Every day, around 30 new bodies arrive, the latest victims of a two-year wave of war, crime and insurgency that has left coroners struggling to keep up with the chaos.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The End of the IRA?


Will they or won’t they? For weeks, Northern Ireland has been locked in a waiting game over when and if the IRA will abandon its guns and renounce the armed struggle for “purely political” means, writes Angelique Chrisafis.

This afternoon speculation is mounting that a historic IRA statement on its future could come by the end of the week.


The IRA is not expected to use the word “disbandment”, but it could signal the completion of the long-running decommissioning process and announce a kind of semi-retirement in which members will form republican clubs.


Slow-Witted Administration

Took them long enough. Now, if only they'll change their actual policies, too:
The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, senior administration and military officials said Monday.



Asia's sick of the US:
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in Central Asia for discussions that could determine how long US forces use air bases in the region.

He is holding talks with leaders of the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Four Central Asian states, Russia and China have urged the US to give a timeframe for withdrawal of forces used to support operations in Afghanistan.
Central Asia's governments, afraid of instability, are closing ranks. And they have found backing from Russia and China.

The result is that the US is in danger of finding itself squeezed out of Central Asia, its rivals seizing the moment to dislodge it from the region.


Gramsci's Tale

Miriam has it up over at her place...


Monday, July 25, 2005


Will the military show common sense?
A report released Monday shows that if 'don't ask, don't tell' - the law that bars out gays from serving in the military - were repealed the armed forces could alleviate a critical troop shortage.

The report, prepared by the Williams Project at the UCLA School of Law, and released today by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network shows that without the ban, the military could expect to see 41,000 new recruits.

It comes as the Pentagon admits it will not meet its recruiting goal this year for the first time since 1999.


The Teamsters Have Hit the Road

Another chapter in the long decline of the American labor movement?
Two major unions representing 3.2 million workers broke away from the AFL-CIO labor group on Monday in a dispute over declining U.S. union membership and the future direction of organized labor.

The defection by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union was a huge blow to the 13 million-member AFL-CIO, which stands to lose more than one-third of its membership and may see an erosion in its influence over Democratic Party politics.



"Sexless marriage"? I mean, really:
THE Church of England will today give its blessing to gay clergy who want to enter into civil partnerships.

But the Church is refusing to accord civil partnerships the status of marital relationships and gay clergy will be told that they must remain chaste.

The “sexless marriage” code for gays, to be published today, has been prepared by a working group headed by the Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Miriam's very hairy armpit

The vet visit kinda freaked Gramsci out (though he's got a clean bill of health so far), but then he found a great place to hide...


Common Sense

Again, it's not a war, stupid:
Less than two hours after the first of the London bombings on 7 July, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, spoke on television about the attacks' immediate aftermath on the capital's streets. But though it now seems apparent that 7/7 was not an isolated atrocity but the start of an offensive which may be prolonged, his message since then has characterised the broader response of all Britain's counterterrorist agencies: don't panic. We're going to get on top of this. There is a plan.

There is much to be said for such traditional British phlegm. Whether it could withstand an attack on the scale of 11 September is an open question, but it is helping to produce much more practical strategies for reducing future risks than the extravagant 'war on terror' rhetoric once again being heard on the other side of the Atlantic.