Saturday, September 03, 2005

But Gosh, If He Hired Condoleezza, How Can He Be Racist?

girl blue has a good post on racism and its impact on hurricane response and coverage.

Full disclosure: She's also a good friend of mine. But I wouldn't post a link here if I didn't also think it was worth reading regardless of whether or not you know her!


Friday, September 02, 2005

Chavez, on the Move Again

This man has in the past couple of weeks endured a call for his assassination, and instigated an investigation of Roberston who made that call. And Venezuela under Chavez has returned large swaths of land to the indigenous people robbed during colonialism.

Robertson is the most repugnant sort of hypocrite.
Venezuela is preparing to take political control of private banks as part of a drive to spread “revolutionary” government control over the economy of the world's fifth largest oil exporter.
An attempt to extend government influence over the banks by installing official representatives rather than by taking equity control is part of Mr Chavez's drive to introduce what he describes as “socialism of the 21st century”.
The Chavez government is also implementing a programme to redistribute land from large estates to the rural poor.




Thursday, September 01, 2005

Subsidizing an Assassination

I find it utterly reprehensible that a government is directing people to Robertson's organization if they want to help in the wake of the hurricane. I mean, this man was advocating murder just a few days ago!
FEMA has released to the media and on its Web site a list of suggested charities to help the storm’s hundreds of thousands of victims. The Red Cross is first on the list.

The Rev. Pat Robertson’s “Operation Blessing” is next on the list.


Crying Out for Justice

I hope this works. When a state seizes your body, the only recourse, often, is to use your own body to shift the balance of power, on purely moral grounds.
Scores of detainees at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have begun a hunger strike, human rights lawyers have said.

The prisoners, many of whom have been held for more than three years without charge, are believed to be demanding an immediate trial or release.

Lawyers for the detainees say about 200 are refusing all food. Military officials put the number at 76.


The Nightmare Goes On

I have no words. The "War on Terror" has come home:
New Orleans descended into anarchy Thursday as corpses lay abandoned in street medians, fights and fires broke out, cops turned in their badges and the governor declared war on looters who have made the city a menacing landscape of disorder and fear.

"They have M-16s and they're locked and loaded," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said of 300 National Guard troops who landed in New Orleans fresh from duty in Iraq. "These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will."


Bosch and Goya Spring to Mind

Hell on earth.


The War of All Against All


Police in Hattiesburg, Miss., said a man fatally shot his sister in the head over a bag of ice.

Authorities say 35-year-old Antonio Page shot his sister with a handgun on a street corner Tuesday night.

Wynn said tempers are short, but he can't understand why a member of someone's family could take that step.


Hastert's Compassion Is Showing

I mean, how on earth can this man say things like this when there are still thousands of people trapped and dying in the city? Tactless, stupid, and cruel.
It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said of federal assistance for hurricane-devastated New Orleans.

"It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," the Illinois Republican said in an interview Wednesday with the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill.


Horror in the Superdome

Once again--why the hell didn't Bush do anything to prepare for this hurricane??
A 2-year-old girl slept in a pool of urine. Crack vials littered a restroom. Blood stained the walls next to vending machines smashed by teenagers.

The Louisiana Superdome, once a mighty testament to architecture and ingenuity, became the biggest storm shelter in New Orleans the day before Katrina's arrival Monday. About 16,000 people eventually settled in.

By Wednesday, it had degenerated into horror. A few hundred people were evacuated from the arena Wednesday, and buses will take away the vast majority of refugees today.

"We pee on the floor. We are like animals," said Taffany Smith, 25, as she cradled her 3-week-old son, Terry. In her right hand she carried a half-full bottle of formula provided by rescuers. Baby supplies are running low; one mother said she was given two diapers and told to scrape them off when they got dirty and use them again.

At least two people, including a child, have been raped. At least three people have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for.

One man tried to escape Wednesday by leaping a barricade and racing toward the streets. The man was desperate, National Guard Sgt. Caleb Wells said. Everything he was able to bring to the Superdome had been stolen. His house had probably been destroyed, his relatives killed.

"We had to chase him down," Wells said. "He said he just wanted to get out, to go somewhere. We took him to the terrace and said: 'Look.'

"Below, floodwaters were continuing to rise, submerging cars."

He didn't realize how bad things are out there," Wells said. "He just broke down. He started bawling. We took him back inside."


"Intelligent Design" Gets a Smackdown

Just beautiful. Read the whole thing, but here are some choice bits:
Why, then, would two lifelong educators and passionate advocates of the "both sides" style of teaching join with essentially all biologists in making an exception of the alleged controversy between creation and evolution? What is wrong with the apparently sweet reasonableness of "it is only fair to teach both sides"? The answer is simple. This is not a scientific controversy at all. And it is a time-wasting distraction because evolutionary science, perhaps more than any other major science, is bountifully endowed with genuine controversy.

Among the controversies that students of evolution commonly face, these are genuinely challenging and of great educational value: neutralism versus selectionism in molecular evolution; adaptationism; group selection; punctuated equilibrium; cladism; "evo-devo"; the "Cambrian Explosion"; mass extinctions; interspecies competition; sympatric speciation; sexual selection; the evolution of sex itself; evolutionary psychology; Darwinian medicine and so on. The point is that all these controversies, and many more, provide fodder for fascinating and lively argument, not just in essays but for student discussions late at night.

Intelligent design is not an argument of the same character as these controversies. It is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one. It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class. In those cases, the demand for equal time for "both theories" would be ludicrous. Similarly, in a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?
The weight of the evidence has become so heavy that opposition to the fact of evolution is laughable to all who are acquainted with even a fraction of the published data. Evolution is a fact: as much a fact as plate tectonics or the heliocentric solar system.
The seductive "let's teach the controversy" language still conveys the false, and highly pernicious, idea that there really are two sides. This would distract students from the genuinely important and interesting controversies that enliven evolutionary discourse. Worse, it would hand creationism the only
victory it realistically aspires to. Without needing to make a single good point in any argument, it would have won the right for a form of supernaturalism to be recognised as an authentic part of science. And that would be the end of science education in America.


Howell Raines Sums It Up

Although this editorial proves rather too bombastic at times--I just think that purple prose about "superannuated transvestite hookers" is not really relevant at the moment--Raines's conclusion puts it nicely:
The populism of Huey Long was financially corrupt, but when it came to the welfare of people, it was caring. The church-going cultural populism of George Bush has given the United States an administration that worries about the house of Saud and the welfare of oil companies while the poor drown in their attics and their sons and daughters die on foreign deserts.


Our Asshole President

This is how he attempts to help the people of New Orleans? By making empty threats and whining about people wanting him to have fucking prepared for this before the hurricane hit?
George Bush today promised the biggest relief effort to New Orleans in the history of the US government but said there would be "zero tolerance" for lawbreakers.

"I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this - whether it be looting, or price gouging at the gasoline pump, or taking advantage of charitable giving or insurance fraud," he told ABC in a live interview from the White House. "And I've made that clear to our attorney general. The citizens ought to be working together."

He acknowledged there were thousands still left in New Orleans who needed to be evacuated but said help was on the way. Many people have spent days on rooftops waiting to be rescued.

Between 50,000 and 100,000 are estimated to still be in the city including many of those that took shelter in the city's Superdome stadium, prison inmates and healthcare workers.

"I fully understand people wanting things to have happened yesterday," Mr Bush said. "I understand the anxiety of people on the ground ... So there is frustration. But I want people to know there's a lot of help coming."



I mean, it's a good idea and all, but...ouch!
A South African inventor unveiled a new anti-rape female condom on Wednesday that hooks onto an attacker's penis and aims to cut one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the world.
Ehlers said the "rapex" hooks onto the rapist's skin, allowing the victim time to escape and helping to identify perpetrators.

"He will obviously be too pre-occupied at this stage," she told reporters in Kleinmond, a small holiday village about 100km (60 miles) east of Cape Town. "I promise you he is going to be too sore. He will go straight to hospital."

The device, made of latex and held firm by shafts of sharp barbs, can only be removed from the man through surgery which will alert hospital staff, and ultimately, the police, she said.


Adding Insult to Injury

Once again, thank you Cindy Sheehan:
A woman who led an anti-war protest for nearly a month near President Bush's ranch said Tuesday that she's glad Bush never showed up to discuss her son's death in Iraq, saying the president's absence "galvanized the peace movement."

Cindy Sheehan's comments came as war protesters packed up their campsite near the ranch and prepared to leave Tuesday for a three-week bus tour.

"I look back on it, and I am very, very, very grateful he did not meet with me, because we have sparked and galvanized the peace movement," Sheehan told The Associated Press. "If he'd met with me, then I would have gone home, and it would have ended there."

Well done, W!


Stupid, Evil Bastards

Okay, now I just want to punch somebody. Hard:
An evangelical Christian group that regularly demonstrates at LGBT events is blaming gays for hurricane Katrina.

Repent America says that God "destroyed" New Orleans because of Southern Decadence, the gay festival that was to have taken place in the city over the Labor Day weekend.
"Let us pray for those ravaged by this disaster. However, we must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," Marcavage said.

"May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God," Marcavage concluded.


The New York Times Nails It

Better late than never, I guess, but Bush has never, ever shown any sort of leadership, so his failure regarding Katrina is unsurprising:
George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.
And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.


This Is What Neo-Imperialism Looks Like

Iraq has been "liberated," so they can do whatever they want as long as it's what we want:
Last June 30, the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada published the latest draft of the Iraqi constitution that was then being negotiated by Iraqi politicians. Its contents would have been enough to give former occupation authority chief Paul Bremer a heart attack.

The Iraqis - even those who were willing to cooperate with the United States - wanted, at least on paper, to build a Scandinavian-type welfare system in the Arabian desert, with Iraq’s vast oil wealth to be spent on upholding every Iraqi’s right to education, health care, housing, and other social services. “Social justice is the basis of building society,” the draft declared. All of Iraq’s natural resources would be owned collectively by the Iraqi people. Everyone would have the right to work and the state would be legally bound to provide employment opportunities to everyone. The state would be the Iraqi people’s collective instrument for achieving development.
In other words, the Iraqis wanted a country different from that for which the Americans had come to Iraq.

As direct occupiers, the US enacted laws that give foreign investors equal rights with Iraqis in the domestic market; permit the full repatriation of profits; institute the flat tax system; abolish tariffs; enforce a strict intellectual property rights regime; sell off a whole-range of state-owned companies; reduce food and fuel subsidies; and privatize all kinds of social services such as health, education and water delivery.

By the time the next version was leaked in late July, the progressive provisions in the draft constitution had disappeared.

I am somehow reminded of a scene from Terry Pratchett's Pyramids, in which the king's handmaiden refuses to drink poison when the king dies--doing so is customary, but is not mandatory. The high priest still wants to have her thrown to the crocodiles, but the new king doesn't understand why:
"It is customary for a dead king to take servants with him into the Netherworlds, sire."
"Yes, but it's not compulsory."

"Yes, sire, it is not compulsory."
"What exactly has she done wrong, then?"
"She has refused to take the potion, sire."

"Sorry. I thought you said it wasn't compulsory."

"Yes, sire. It is not, sire. It is entirely voluntary. It is an act of free will. And she has refused it, sire."


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Water = Fire
Guitar = Fiddle
New Orleans = Rome
Bush = Nero

Image via AmericaBlog.


FDA Official Resigns Over Morning-After Pill

Good for her. It just goes to show how infuriating it must be for any conscientious scientist to work under this "faith-based" administration:
Susan Wood, director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, announced her resignation in an e-mail to colleagues at the agency. The e-mail was released by contraception advocates.

The FDA on Friday postponed indefinitely its decision on whether to allow the morning-after pill, called Plan B, to sell without a prescription. The agency said it was safe for adults to use without a doctor's guidance but that young teenagers still needed a prescription and it couldn't determine how to enforce an age limit — a decision contrary to the advice of its own scientific advisers.

"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," wrote Wood, who also was assistant commissioner for women's health. "The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health."


Shutting Down the Economy

Ironic that this story comes out the very day that Bush sort-of admits that the invasion of Iraq was, in fact, driven by a desire to grab the oil fields. Well done, George:
Consumers can expect retail gas prices to rise to $4 a gallon soon, but whether they stay there depends on the long-term damage to oil facilities from Hurricane Katrina, oil and gas analysts said Wednesday.

"There's no question gas will hit $4 a gallon," Ben Brockwell, director of pricing at the Oil Price Information Service, said. "The question is how high will it go and how long will it last?"

OPIS tracks wholesale and retail oil prices and provides pricing information for AAA's daily reports on fuel prices.

Brockwell said with gasoline prices now exceeding $3 a gallon before even reaching the wholesale level, it "doesn't take a genius" to expect retail prices to hit $4 a gallon soon.


A Happy Note

Amid all the destruction and death going on along the Gulf, my brother-in-law sends me a bit of good cheer from Oakland, in the form of a picture of me holding my brand-new (well, 7 weeks old) niece.

Once again, well done D and G!


How Did This Happen?

Well, one fundamental cause of this disaster is probably the global climate change caused by the gas-guzzling Western world.

A more proximate cause for the misery of New Orleans and so many other Gulf coast communities is the Bush maladministration:
...since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA's Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half. Communities across the country must now compete for pre-disaster mitigation dollars.

As a result, some state and local emergency managers say, it's become more difficult to get the equipment and funds they need to most effectively deal with disasters. In Louisiana, requests for flood mitigation funds were rejected by FEMA this summer. In North Carolina, a state also regularly threatened by hurricanes and floods, FEMA recently refused the state's request to buy backup generators for emergency support facilities. And the budget cuts have halved the funding for a mitigation program that saved an estimated $8.8 million in recovery costs in three eastern North Carolina communities alone after 1999's Hurricane Floyd.
Last week's cover story "A Disaster Waiting to Happen" focused on changes that have occurred under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after it was absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security in 2002. FEMA insiders and emergency-management officials nationwide say the move spelled disaster for FEMA and for victims of catastrophic events. From 1993 until 2002, FEMA built a reputation as an effective, independent federal agency that responded to emergencies efficiently and made disaster mitigation a priority. But some FEMA employees and many who work closely with the agency say that when it became a subdivision of the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA's ability to handle natural disasters fell off significantly. Now, it must compete against anti-terrorism efforts for funding.

"Before FEMA was condensed into Homeland Security it responded much more quickly," says Walter Maestri, director of Jefferson Parish's Office of Emergency Management. Maestri has worked with FEMA for eight years. "Truthfully, you had access to the individuals who were the decision-makers. The FEMA administrator had Cabinet status. Now, you have another layer of bureaucracy. FEMA is headed by an assistant secretary who now has to compete with other assistant secretaries of Homeland Security for available funds. And elevating houses is not as sexy as providing gas masks."

Maestri is still awaiting word from FEMA officials as to why Louisiana, despite being called the "floodplain of the nation" in a 2002 FEMA report, received no disaster mitigation grant money from FEMA in 2003 ("Homeland Insecurity," Sept. 28). Maestri says the rejection left emergency officials around the state "flabbergasted."


California Gets It Right

One step forward:
The California Assembly has passed legislation banning discrimination against gays, lesbians and the transgendered in employment, housing and the delivery of goods and services.

Do I hear two?
The California Senate is expected to vote later today, or possibly Thursday, on legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.


And Still Worse

What a nightmare:
"We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come in," Mayor Ray Nagin said on ABC's "Good Morning America, "and the other issue that's concerning me is have dead bodies in the water. At some point in time the dead bodies are going to start to create a serious disease issue."

National Guard troops moved toward the French Quarter in an effort to stop rising unrest in flood-stricken New Orleans late Tuesday as police reported looting, attempted carjackings and shootings near the city's main shelter.

A day after being pummeled by Hurricane Katrina, the Crescent City had no power, little drinking water, dwindling food supplies and water rising in the streets.

I lived and worked in the French Quarter for years.

I'm distraught.


Telling the Truth

Oddly, Bush is doing just that, admitting that we invaded Iraq to take the oil fields:
President Bush answered growing antiwar protests yesterday with a fresh reason for US troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country's vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists.
''If Zarqawi and [Osama] bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks," Bush said. ''They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition."

I wish Bush would just open his beady little eyes for a moment. Iraq is a training ground for terrorists. The radical fundamentalists are using this stupid invasion as a classroom in which to study America's vulnerabilities. And they already are recruiting more terrorists because of this occupation.


More Death

It's getting rather overwhelming, really, with Katrina here and Operation Clusterfuck over there:
About 650 people - many of them women and children - were killed in a stampede Wednesday when panic engulfed a Shiite religious procession after rumors spread that a suicide bomber occupied the bridge they were crossing, officials said.

Scores jumped or were pushed to their deaths into the Tigris River, while others were crushed in the crowd.

The deaths appeared to be the single biggest loss of life in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite, declared a three-day mourning period.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bloody Hell

Worse and worse. This is just horrible:
Mayor Ray Nagin issued an urgent bulletin through WWL-TV at 6:30 p.m.

Nagin said efforts to stop the flow of water at the breach on the 17th Street Canal are failing, which means the floodwaters will rise again.

Nagin said the waters will soon overwhelm the pump, shutting it down. He said the water will rise to 3 feet above sea level - or 12-15 feet in some places of east Jefferson and Orleans parishes.

Nagin has advised residents who have not already evacuated to do so as soon as possible.


Hurray for Berlin!

And, more specifically, for its mayor:
German conservatives are blasting Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit for supporting the city's annual S&M fetish fair.

The Folsom-Europe Street Festival - named for a similar event in San Francisco - will begin Saturday. Wowereit wrote an official greeting in its official program.

"The first weekend in September stands for the pure zest for life," Wowereit wrote. "A warm welcome to Berlin!"
But, the frenzy is being dismissed by Wowereit who called it "narrow-minded".

The openly gay mayor said Tuesday that Berlin was a tolerant city and open to the world.


Americans: Still Stupid After All These Years

Depressing, really:
A new Pew Research Center poll finds that "about half the public (48%) says that humans and other living things have evolved over time, while 42% say that living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

Nonetheless, "most Americans (64%) say they are open to the idea of teaching creationism along with evolution in the public schools, and a substantial minority (38%) favors replacing evolution with creationism in public school curricula... Even many who are politically liberal and who believe in evolution favor expanding the scope of public school education to include teaching creationism.

"However, "an analysis of the poll also reveals that there are considerable inconsistencies between people's beliefs and what they want taught in the schools, suggesting some confusion about the meaning of terms such as 'creationism' and 'evolution.'"

Great. So the best case scenario is that people were too stupid to understand the question.


New Orleans Under Water

All yesterday, the reporters kept saying how fortunate it was that it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Today is the day when they take that back:
Martial law was declared in New Orleans midday Tuesday as the city continued flooding from at least two levees damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

WWL-TV, New Orleans, which evacuated its studios earlier, reported airlifts of sandbags had been ordered as water flooded along the city's landmark Canal Street. No one but emergency personnel was being allowed into the city, whose two airports were under water. Looting was reported.

Mayor Ray Nagin said bodies have been seen floating in floodwaters, although neither city nor Louisiana state officials had issued a preliminary death toll.

Nagin said the city's Twin Span Bridge is "totally destroyed" and that 80 percent of the city is underwater. New Orleans is 6 feet below sea level, and reliant on levees to hold back water from Lake Ponchartrain.

He also predicted there would be no electricity in the city for four to six weeks. Natural gas leaks were also reported throughout the city, CNN reported.


Two Americas

Rich getting richer:
In 2004, the ratio of average CEO pay to the average pay of a production (i.e., non-management) worker was 431-to-1, up from 301-to-1 in 2003, according to "Executive Excess," an annual report released Tuesday by the liberal research groups United for a Fair Economy and the Institute for Policy Studies.

Poor getting poorer:
The nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year, the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.


Let Them Eat Cake

It's good to see that Bush is so deeply concerned about the disasters left in Katrina's wake.


More Expensive Than World War I

This war is costing us greatly, in ways more profound than the merely financial. But the monetary expense of this unnecessary war is also infuriating:

Despite the relatively small number of American armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (140,000), the war effort is rapidly shaping up to be the third-most expensive war in United States history.

This conflict has already cost each American at least $850 in military and reconstruction costs since October 2001.


Bush's Policies Killing Africans

This is what happens when "faith" gets in the way of common sense. People die needlessly:
A senior United Nations official has accused President George Bush of "doing damage to Africa" by cutting funding for condoms, a move which may jeopardise the successful fight against HIV/Aids in Uganda.

Stephen Lewis, the UN secretary general's special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa, said US cuts in funding for condoms and an emphasis on promoting abstinence had contributed to a shortage of condoms in Uganda, one of the few African countries which has succeeded in reducing its infection rate.


"Security" Trumps Due Process

And America takes yet one more step away from democracy:
The judge in the case of a man accused of joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate President Bush said Monday he possesses evidence that could help the defendant, but that he can't turn it over to defense lawyers because they lack required security clearances.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said at a pretrial hearing that he received the classified material from prosecutors, who are required to turn over any evidence that's potentially beneficial to the defense.

Lee told the defense team for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali that ``from what I've seen, it's important information and it bears on your defense.''


Monday, August 29, 2005

Chavez Continues to Satisfy

Good stuff:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offered to send food and fuel to the United States after the powerful Hurricane Katrina pummeled the US south, ravaging US crude production.

Pointed out to me by watertiger.


Raping the Land

The Bush administration continues, unfortunately, to behave in expected ways:
Most of us think of America's national parks as everlasting places, parts of the bedrock of how we know our own country. But they are shaped and protected by an underlying body of legislation, which is distilled into a basic policy document that governs their operation. Over time, that document has slowly evolved, but it has always stayed true to the fundamental principle of leaving the parks unimpaired for future generations. That has meant, in part, sacrificing some of the ways we might use the parks today in order to protect them for tomorrow.

Recently, a secret draft revision of the national park system's basic management policy document has been circulating within the Interior Department. It was prepared, without consultation within the National Park Service, by Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant secretary at Interior who once ran the Chamber of Commerce in Cody, Wyo., was a Congressional aide to Dick Cheney and has no park service experience.

Within national park circles, this rewrite of park rules has been met with profound dismay, for it essentially undermines the protected status of the national parks. The document makes it perfectly clear that this rewrite was not prompted by a compelling change in the park system's circumstances. It was prompted by a change in political circumstances - the opportunity to craft a vision of the national parks that suits the Bush administration.

Some of Mr. Hoffman's changes are trivial, although even apparently subtle changes in wording - from "protect" to "conserve," for instance - soften the standard used to judge the environmental effects of park policy.


Eroding the Right to Choose

The states are steadily working to prevent women from getting abortions:
This year's state legislative season draws to a close having produced a near-record number of laws imposing new restrictions on a woman's access to abortion or contraception.

Since January, governors have signed several dozen antiabortion measures ranging from parental consent requirements to an outright ban looming in South Dakota. Not since 1999, when a wave of laws banning late-term abortions swept the legislatures, have states imposed so many and so varied a menu of regulations on reproductive health care.

Three states have passed bills requiring that women seeking an abortion be warned that the fetus will feel pain, despite inconclusive scientific data on the question. West Virginia and Florida approved legislation recognizing a pre-viable fetus, or embryo, as an independent victim of homicide. And in Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt (R) has summoned lawmakers into special session Sept. 6 to consider three antiabortion proposals.


Holding My Breath

Here's hoping New Orleans survives Katrina.


Hate Marches On

This new pope is, unsurprisingly, extremely offensive:
The new Pope faces his first controversy over the direction of the Catholic church after it was revealed that the Vatican has drawn up a religious instruction preventing gay men from being priests.
The document expresses the church's belief that gay men should no longer be allowed to enter seminaries to study for the priesthood. Currently, as all priests take a vow of celibacy, their sexual orientation has not been considered a pressing concern.



Political theatre at its finest. Chavez never disappoints:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday his government would take legal action against Pat Robertson and potentially seek his extradition after the U.S. evangelist called for Washington to assassinate the South American leader.