Saturday, December 03, 2005

Did I Say "Politicization of Government Agencies"?

Surely, I must be a crazy lefty on a par with Chomsky:
The State Department has been using political litmus tests to screen private American citizens before they can be sent overseas to represent the United States, weeding out critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, according to department officials and internal e-mails.

In one recent case, a leading expert on conflict resolution who's a former senior State Department adviser was scheduled to participate in a U.S. Embassy-sponsored videoconference in Jerusalem last month, but at the last minute he was told that his participation no longer was required.

State Department officials explained the cancellation as a scheduling matter. But internal department e-mails show that officials in Washington pressed to have other scholars replace the expert, David L. Phillips, who wrote a book, "Losing Iraq," that's critical of President Bush's handling of Iraqi reconstruction.

"I was told by a senior U.S. official that the State Department was conducting a screening process on intellectuals, and those who were against the Bush administration's Iraq policy were not welcomed to participate in U.S. government-sponsored programs," Phillips said.


Chomsky Was Right

I will never understand the need of many on the left in this country to use Chomsky as a symbol of "crazy leftism" so as to validate themselves. (Yes, Hesiod, I'm looking at you.)

Quite simply, Chomsky is almost always correct in his analyses. Much more so than most "moderates," that's for damn sure.

Anyway, his stand on East Timor has been officially vindicated:
THE US knew well in advance of and explicitly approved Indonesia's invasion
East Timor in 1975, newly declassified documents say.

Released this week by the independent Washington-based National Security Archive (NSA), the documents showed US officials were aware of the invasion plans nearly a year in advance.

They adopted a "policy of silence" and even sought to suppress news and discussions on East Timor, including credible reports of Indonesia's massacres of Timorese civilians, according to the documents.


Hanger Kitten!

This one looks remarkably like Tista, but s/he is not; the picture is from an e-mail my sister sent me, with a lot of pictures of cats and dogs in ridiculous sleeping positions. (If you want it, let me know.)


EPA Emulates Bush: Slow, Deceitful

The politicization of governmental agencies continues:
EPA's analysis "works in favor of" Bush's plan by overstating some costs of competing bills, said a report Friday by the Congressional Research Service. The 2002 Bush plan, dubbed "Clear Skies," remains stalled in Congress.

"Although it represents a step toward understanding the impacts of the legislative options, EPA's analysis is not as useful as one could hope," the report concludes.

It took three years for EPA to provide comparisons of Bush's plan with competing versions by Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and James Jeffords, I-Vt.

When it did in October, the EPA said its analysis showed the superiority of the Bush proposal, which relies on market forces to cut pollution from the nation's 600 coal-burning power plants but does not address global warming.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Open Letter to Target

Wrote this a while back, kept forgetting to post it. Given their snotty responses to others, I doubt we'll get anything different, but I'll post whatever responses we might get.

Dear Target Corporation,

I am disappointed and appalled that a Target pharmacist in Fenton, MO, refused to fill a woman's prescription for emergency contraception on September 30, and that the Target corporation supports this pharmacist's practice of refusing health care for women. Birth control is basic health care, and restricting access to prescriptions is nothing short of discrimination.

I have often shopped at Target, and until today, I had a wedding registry at I have now removed all items from our registry and asked people not to shop for us at Target, letting our wedding guests know why we have made this move, and will no longer be shopping at Target until you support your consumers' in-store access to all medications their physicians deem necessary, without delay and without personal judgement.

I understand that your company has claimed to be "respecting employee diversity" by supporting pharmacists' right to refuse to fill any medication that conflicts with their religious beliefs, but this strikes me as less than sincere. Why are you supporting only this Christian fundmentalist belief, rather than all the sincerely held beliefs of your staff? If you were sincere in this policy, the true diversity of deeply held religious beliefs in this country would require you to allow Catholic pharmacists to refuse to provide birth control to anyone. Your Hindu cashiers would have an equal right not to sell leather or beef products, while your Jewish and Muslim cashiers might refuse to sell pork products. Non-Christians would be well within their limits to refuse to sell copies of the Bible if it conflicted with their deeply held religious beliefs. Presumably, if you were sincere in your concern for all your employees' civil rights, you would allow all those pharmacists and cashiers who believe, because of their religion, that non-marital sex is sinful to check customers for wedding rings before ringing up birth control or contraceptives -- and that they would be entitled to refuse to sell diapers or baby food to unmarried men or women.

Your company has stated that you believe it is appropriate to allow your employees to impose their religious beliefs on your customers in this fashion, but this policy extends only to the religious fundamentalists among your pharmacists who believe that Plan B, which prevents contraception and is often used for victims of rape, is a type of abortion. Far from being supportive of civil rights, as you claim, this policy makes it clear that you lack respect for your customers, particularly women, and perhaps lack respect for your employees who are religious but who do not have a powerful fundamentalist lobby standing behind them. Your sincerity in claiming this is a civil rights issue is laughable unless you extend exactly the same protections to all your employees. It is clear that this policy, couched in the rhetoric of civil rights, is actually a capitulation to powerful anti-abortion and anti-woman groups. That a hypothetical rape victim, already traumatised enough, could be told by her Target pharmacist that he refuses to fill her prescription in-store, and that she must instead go elsewhere, is cruel and unusual toward a woman who has already suffered enough. And since the vast majority of other national store chains do not share your policy, I will from here on in be shopping elsewhere.

Unless and until we can be assured that your customers will be treated with respect and, in particular, that your customers can access medications prescribed by their physicians regardless of the personal judgment of their pharmacists, we have cancelled our registry at Target and will let our wedding guests know why, and ask that they purchase their gifts elsewhere. We will also continue to encourage friends, family, and the readers of our weblogs to take their business to other stores as well.


Friday KittyCapitalBlogging

What can one say?

Hello Kitty, the mouthless cat turned global icon of cuteness, will make a foray into the currency market with gold and silver euro coins showing her having the time of her life in Paris.


The Barbarians Are at the Slate

NTodd makes note of a review of The Watchmen (one of the sources of my nom de blog) by an absolute cretin at Slate.

NTodd remarks "I'm sorry, but this Slate review of The Watchmen is the stupidest fucking exercise in reviewership since the Hearst papers attacked Citizen Kane."

I cannot but concur. Not only does the reviewer, Tom Shone, name one of the more boring sequences about the least interesting character "the book's action highlight," he concludes his misguided critique thus:
The last time I looked, the only ones reading Ulysses and quoting Nietzsche were teenagers. No adult has time for aesthetic "difficulty" or "self-consciousness." Life is too short. Frankly, we'd much rather be watching The Incredibles.

No, Tom. We wouldn't.


Killer Russian Squirrels

A surreal beginning to the day:
Squirrels have bitten to death a stray dog which was barking at them in a Russian park, local media report.

Passers-by were too late to stop the attack by the black squirrels in a village in the far east, which reportedly lasted about a minute.

They are said to have scampered off at the sight of humans, some carrying pieces of flesh.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Goodbye, Cruel World

America continues to be left by its lonesome. (Cue Bush saying, "You forgot about Poland. heh heh heh."):
Two of America's allies in Iraq are withdrawing forces this month and a half-dozen others are debating possible pullouts or reductions, increasing pressure on Washington as calls mount to bring home U.S. troops.

Bulgaria and Ukraine will begin withdrawing their combined 1,250 troops by mid-December. If Australia, Britain, Italy, Japan, Poland and South Korea reduce or recall their personnel, more than half of the non-American forces in Iraq could be gone by next summer.


The Big Chill Begins

Deeply ironic. Global warming means the melting of glaciers and polar ice, which in turn desalinizes the oceans, which may soon mean a new ice age for northern Europe. I have mentioned the theory before; now there are data:
The Atlantic Conveyor, a life-giving ocean current that keeps Northern Europe warm, is slowing down, scientists said Wednesday.

If the 30 percent slowdown seen over the past 12 years is not just a blip, temperatures in Northern Europe could drop significantly, despite global warming, they added.

Scientists have long forecast that the Atlantic Conveyor that carries warm surface water north and cold deep water back to the equator could break down because of global warming.

According to the theory, rising air temperatures cause ice caps to melt, making the water less salty and therefore less dense so it can’t sink and flow back south.


There Shouldn't Even Be One

That this is going on--that this is even a matter of debate--is mindboggling:
A leading human rights monitor published the names of 26 "ghost detainees" that it accused the United States of holding and possibly torturing in secret overseas locations.


If Only...

the United States had a prominent monument resembling an obelisk, perhaps named after our first president, we too could call attention to AIDS.

The Obelisk of Buenos Aires is covered with a giant condom to commemorate World AIDS Day December 1, 2005.


Word Choice

Well, at least one person is basing his opinion of Bush on past experience:
President Bush could get a new title: juror No. 286. The president is among 600 potential jurors who have been summoned to report to court Monday in McLennan County, where his 1,600-acre Crawford ranch is located.

State District Judge Ralph Strother said he expects to get a response about the summons but doesn't expect Bush to report for duty.


Very Concerned

Of course, what he means is that Bush is concerned that this practice is being reported, not that it's going on:
President Bush's spokesman said Thursday "we're very concerned" about reports that the U.S. military is paying Iraqi newspapers and journalists to plant favorable stories about the war and the rebuilding effort.


Rat: Bastard

Utterly vile:
Pope Benedict XVI used his AIDS Day message to remind Catholics that the Church opposes the use of condoms and to suggest that gays are responsible, at least in part, for the growing AIDS crisis.
In a message issued by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, the Vatican blamed what it called a "pansexual culture that devalues sexuality" for the spread of AIDS.

The message said that only be keeping sex exclusive to marriage can the disease be prevented.
The papal pronouncement on condoms, gays and marriage came a day after the Church released its new regulations for seminaries that bans gays from becoming priests.



I'm sure this is just what Bush had in mind:
Iraqis have asked Saddam Hussein’s defence team to mull the possibility of fielding the ousted dictator as a candidate for future elections, one of his lawyers said in remarks published on Wednesday.

“Iraqis have asked the defence team to study the legal conditions to present Saddam Hussein as a candidate for elections, first as an MP then as president,” Jordan’s Al-Dustour daily quoted former Qatari justice minister Najib al-Nuaimi as saying.


Europe Shows Sense on World AIDS Day

Unlike the US:
Europe, led by the UK, last night signalled a major split with the United States over curbing the Aids pandemic in a statement that tacitly urged African governments not to heed the abstinence-focused agenda of the Bush administration.

The statement, released for World Aids Day today, emphasises the fundamental importance of condoms, sex education and access to reproductive health services. "We are profoundly concerned about the resurgence of partial or incomplete messages on HIV prevention which are not grounded in evidence and have limited effectiveness," it says.


We're Behind South Africa

That's right, the nation of apartheid is ahead of the United States when it comes to gay rights:
South Africa's highest court has ruled in favour of same-sex marriages, which are banned under current legislation.

The Constitutional Court ordered that parliament amend marriage laws to allow gay weddings within a year.


Rosa Parks

This morning, I once again rode the bus to work, my car having been totalled a few weeks back.

And on one of the seats was a flyer produced by CapMetro Austin pointing out that it was on December 1, fifty years ago, that Rosa Parks performed her critical action. Along with the flyer was a rose.

The bus filled up quickly, to the point that the center aisle was filled with people standing and holding the straps, and no one made even the slightest move toward the seat with the rose lying across it.

So there's hope.

And let me just once again point out that, contrary to just about every report produced on the occasion of her death, Parks's action was not "simple." It was not the "simple" action of a tired African-American woman. She was a thoroughly schooled political activist, and her action was calculated.

And as the flyer this morning said, "It all began on a bus." We should think about that. Would the civil rights movement have been able to make use of this incident so effectively had mass transit been privatized?

I think not.

Collective action works. And in this case it was applied to a service that is, and should be, provided by the government. Had transport been left in the hands of the free market, we might all still be walking.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bush Wonders...

Why we can't just invade Mexico and be done with it.
President Bush is shown a map of the El Paso Sector of the US/Mexico border by Deputy Chief Patrol Agent of El Paso Sector Border Patrol Paul Beeson, left, on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2005 in El Paso, Texas.


Who Needs Actual Human Contact Anyway?

Ah, progress:
Email and messaging over the internet may be great ways to communicate, but Singapore scientists are seeking a way to transmit hugs in cyberspace.

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have devised a prototype that allows "touch" to be transmitted over the internet by way of a vibrating jacket, a report in The Straits Times said.


Another Slap from Chavez

This guy just keeps on cracking me up. It is so good that there is a socialist leader in the world who profoundly enjoys mocking Bush:
Spain agreed to sell 12 military planes and eight patrol boats to Venezuela yesterday in its largest ever defence deal, worth $2bn (£1.2bn).

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez criticised Washington for trying to hold up the sale. "Venezuela was a colony of the US empire for a long time. Today we're free, and the world should know it," Mr Chavez said.


Homophobia Is Boring

A conservative Illinois group trying to collect enough signatures to have a gay marriage ban put to voters is finding little interest in the issue.

The Illinois Family Institute must collect about 280,000 signatures by April 20th. At the halfway point in their campaign they have collected fewer than 50,000.


Police State

I am one who tends to shy away from easy 1984 reference, but this administration is really testing me:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the unlimited detention of suspected terrorists saying, in an interview published on Tuesday, that it benefitted the United States and the entire world.

You can’t allow somebody to commit the crime before you detain them, because if they commit the crime, thousands of innocent people die,” she told the USA Today daily.


The Face of Anti-Imperialism
Members of a militant female organization, with their painted faces, shout slogans calling for justice for the rape of a filipino woman during an anti-U.S. rally timed for the second preliminary investigation hearing in Olongapo city, west of Manila Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2005. Five of six U.S. Marines on Tuesday denied raping a Filipino woman, with two of them saying they were not even present when the alleged assault happened, according to statements filed before prosecutors. A lawyer for a sixth Marine refused to answer the complaint filed by the 22-year-old woman, saying his client could not respond to 'piecemeal' submission of statements and evidence by the complainant and witnesses.


We Are Number One

Bush: The stupidest man in two thousand years!
There is a remarkable article in the latest issue of the American Jewish weekly, Forward. It calls for President Bush to be impeached and put on trial "for misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them".

To describe Iraq as the most foolish war of the last 2,014 years is a sweeping statement, but the writer is well qualified to know.

He is Martin van Creveld, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and one of the world's foremost military historians. Several of his books have influenced modern military theory and he is the only non-American author on the US Army's list of required reading for officers.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Heartland Values

Get the cash up front, like all smart prostitutes do.

(Found via Atrios.)


One Step Closer to an AIDS Vaccine?

The European Union is funding the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine that would be delivered on the tail of a shot against measles.

The European-wide collaboration brings together GlaxoSmithKline - the EU's largest drug maker - and France's acclaimed Pasteur Institute.
The measles vaccine, based on the Schwarz strain of the measles virus, is known to confer very long-lasting immunity. Scientists hope that using this vaccine as a carrier to deliver HIV proteins will allow them to produce a uniquely potent and long-lasting vaccine to prevent AIDS.


Bizarre Solutions to Non-Existent Problems

At least, I am assuming that there is not a wave of public, airborne child molestation going on in Australia and New Zealand of which I am unaware...
Air New Zealand and Qantas have banned men from sitting next to unaccompanied children on flights, sparking accusations of discrimination.

The airlines have come under fire for the policy that critics say is political correctness gone mad after a man revealed he was ordered to change seats during a Qantas flight because he was sitting next to a young boy travelling alone.
"At the time I was so gobsmacked that I moved. I was so embarrassed and just stewed on it for the entire flight."

The 37-year-old shipping manager, who has 2-year-old twins, followed the incident up with the airline and was told Qantas wanted to err on the side of caution.

"I felt that it was totally discriminatory. Besides the point of what the hell was I going to do on a crowded flight."


Schools: Not Out Forever

Another step forward for New Orleans:
Greeted by welcome signs hung over the door and in the hallways, students began returning Monday to the first regular public school to reopen since Hurricane Katrina hit three months ago.



I remember back when it would have surprised me that America hadn't done it first. Those days are over:
The Japanese space probe Hayabusa began its journey home yesterday after becoming the first spacecraft to successfully land on an asteroid and collect samples.


Hope in Africa

Médecins Sans Frontières and the Nelson Mandela Foundation once again prove themselves invaluable:
With its rolling green hills and traditional African huts, the landscape of Lusikisiki is idyllic. But it conceals a painful reality. Today, in Lusikisiki's antenatal clinics - in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa - one third of pregnant women test positive for the virus that causes Aids, a figure that suggests roughly 10% of the population are infected, a minimum of 15,000 people.

It is a remote, underdeveloped area, one of the poorest in the country, traditionally a recruiting ground for migrant workers. Here a remarkable project is under way: antiretroviral drugs are being distributed to the most sick - a potentially life-saving treatment that is commonplace in the west but available to only 8% of those who need it in Africa. The project, called Siyaphila La - "We are living here" in Xhosa - was set up by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Foundation (Mandela was born nearby) and the local health department.

Over the past two years the project has put more than 1,100 people on antiretrovirals. The hope is that most of the medical work can be carried out by nurses rather than doctors and a model will be established for bringing treatment to rural communities across Africa. Initially patients were given three separate pills; now they are given one generic pill containing three drugs, a much cheaper medication, costing $270 per patient per year.

Go read the individual accounts.

And look at the photos.



Yes, that's right, Bush supporters are the sort of people who enjoy mooning bereaved mothers.



Propaganda Time!

Thank heavens for such patriots as Bruce Willis! Note that Willis is cogent enough to be able to support the war in Iraq AND offer a bounty on Osama bin Laden, whom we likely would have caught by now had we not invaded Iraq for no reason. Lesser minds such as ours boggle at Willis's genius:
ANGERED by negative portrayals of the Iraq conflict, actor Bruce Willis is to make a pro-war film in which US soldiers will be depicted as brave fighters for freedom and democracy.
The 50-year-old actor said he was in talks about a film of "these guys who do what they are asked to for very little money to defend and fight for what they consider to be freedom". Unlike many Hollywood stars, Willis supports the war and recently offered a $US1million ($1.35million) bounty for the capture of any of al-Qa'ida's most-wanted leaders such as Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, its commander in Iraq.


Petulant Children

I seem vaguely to recall that the Republicans celebrated the end of the Clinton era with some phrase along the lines of "the adults are back in charge."

No surprise, really, to find that that was but one more lie, as we hear of Rumsfeld's hissyfits and Bush's hilarious bomb-the-press "jokes":
THE Middle Eastern news network Al-Jazeera was accused by Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary, of broadcasting “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable” reports about the war in Iraq the day before President George W Bush met Tony Blair at the White House and apparently suggested bombing the station’s headquarters.

Rumsfeld denounced the satellite television station at a Pentagon briefing on April 15, 2004 after Al-Jazeera had reported that America’s assault on the insurgent stronghold of Falluja was terrorising civilians. “They are simply lying,” Rumsfeld said.

It was on April 16 that Bush reportedly said during talks with Blair that he wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera’s offices in Doha, Qatar, although it is not known whether he was joking.